Andre Iguodala

Kevin Durant gets into Twitter debate with reporter over White House comments

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Kevin Durant became the latest Warrior β€” joining Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston, that we know of β€” to say he would not visit President Donald Trump’s White House as NBA champion. Which is all kind of moot because it’s unlikely the White House invites them and outspoken Trump critic/Warriors coach Steve Kerr and his players any way. (The White House’s biggest concern should be that Kerr accepts the invitation and uses that platform to challenge the president’s policies and style in front of him.)

Durant’s comments led to plenty of talk on sports talk radio and around the sports world online about whether a player or team should decline an invitation from the president. It’s not a new debate, Tom Brady denied that politics is why he didn’t visit Barack Obama’s White House (although I’m not sure many believed him), but KD’s on a big stage now so it became a talking point.

Former ESPN reporter Britt McHenry questioned a player not visiting the White House, and Durant responded, leading to a little Twitter back-and-forth.

Durant had previously Tweeted in response “by doing the opposite, I am inspiring more people” but that Tweet was deleted.

There is no one correct way to protest a person/policy/action, McHenry may see things differently, but Durant has chosen to stay away. That’s valid β€” traditionally these “champions to the White House” things are tedious photo ops with a few bad jokes thrown in. Having a hoops fan/player in Obama in the White House made the NBA visits more entertaining the past eight years, there was some trash talk, but still, they are largely just a public relations moment. If KD doesn’t want to play the PR game with Trump, that’s a legitimate response.

This has all been a tempest in a teapot. Until/unless the White House actually invites the Warriors to come, it’s all kind of moot.

Russell Westbrook wins union’s Players Voice MVP

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The players union released its long-anticipated long-overdue awards, and there are some doozies. First of all, I still can’t figure out what Chris Bosh – who was announced as the “host” of the Twitter-released awards – has to do with this. But let’s get to the actual winners.

Here are the major awards, with the traditional award/Players Voice equivalent:

No surprise Westbrook won both MVPs. He deserved them. Still, James Harden could’ve hoped for a split result like in 2015, when Stephen Curry won actual MVP and Harden won the players’ version.

There’s obviously slight differences in the other categories. I think Green had the best defensive season and deservedly won Defensive Player of the Year, but I also think Leonard is the NBA’s best defender and therefore deserved this honor. I would’ve picked Andre Iguodala for Best off the Bench (and Sixth Man of the Year, for what it’s worth), though that’s a minor quibble. But how on earth did Joel Embiid not win Best Rookie? He was the best rookie in years, let alone this season. I picked Brogdon for Rookie of the Year based on his overall contributions in far more playing time, but there should have been no question about the best rookie.

The union also released several awards without a corresponding NBA honor:

  • Comeback Player of the Year: Joel Embiid
  • Hardest to Guard: Russell Westbrook
  • Clutch Performer: Isaiah Thomas
  • Global Impact: LeBron James
  • Player You Secretly Wish Was On Your Team: LeBron James
  • Most Influential Veteran: Vince Carter
  • Best Dressed: Russell Westbrook
  • Best Social Media Follow: Joel Embiid
  • Coach You’d Most Like to Play For: Gregg Popovich
  • Best Home Court Advantage: Warriors

LeBron winning Player You Secretly Wish Was On Your Team has to be an implicit slap in the face to Kyrie Irving. I’m glad to see Thomas and Carter deservedly recognized.

Lastly, the union awarded a Teammate of the Year on each team:

Dirk Nowitzki won the NBA’s Teammate of the Year – which is voted on by current players after a panel of former players selects nominees – then didn’t even win for his own team here? That’s just weird.

Kevin Durant gifted Warriors an absurdly good offseason

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I’m grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

The Warriors’ 2016 offseason sent shockwaves through the league, sparking questions about competitive balance and whether the entire system required reform. Think about that for a moment. The Warriors’ summer of 2016 was so incredible, it became a referendum on the NBA itself.

We didn’t even fully understand how incredible it was until this summer.

Forget the attention and pressure. Ignore industry-specific factors, like who beat whom in the playoffs. The Warriors wooed Kevin Durant with many of the same reasons we choose jobs – pay, work environment, location. Durant picked a max salary from one of the NBA’s most successful teams in the trendy Bay Area. It was a reasonable decision.

Golden State followed that with an unreasonably good 2017 offseason.

The Warriors impressed Durant so much, they didn’t even need to pay the max to keep him.

Everything fell into place from there for Golden State, which secured its place as a budding dynasty. The defending champions enter next season even stronger.

Durant’s discount from his max salary ($34,682,550) to the Non-Bird Exception ($31,848,120) allowed the Warriors to retain Andre Iguodala‘s and Shaun Livingston‘s Bird Rights. Durant’s discount from the Non-Bird Exception to his actual salary ($25 million) effectively serves as a wealth transfer from the millionaire player to the team’s billionaire owners. His $6,848,120 concession, based on the current roster, will save Golden State more than $30 million in salary and luxury tax.

So, now the Warriors are more equipped to win and turn a bigger profit.

Stephen Curry re-signed on a five-year super-max deal, and he didn’t even get a player option. Golden Sate signed the NBA’s two best free agents, and the only drama was over just how team-friendly their contracts would be. At least Curry got every last dollar.

The Warriors also signed Nick Young (taxpayer mid-level exception) and Omri Casspi (minimum) – luxuries for a team already running circles around the rest of the league. Young has become a 3-point specialist who tries defensively, and he’ll provide excessive firepower in limited minutes behind Klay Thompson. A combo forward, Casspi fits well in the small-ball lineups Golden State has popularized.

Zaza Pachulia (Non-Bird Exception), David West (minimum) and JaVale McGee (minimum) re-signed. A formidable big-man rotation for less than most teams spend on a single moderately helpful center. The Warriors are just operating in a different world than everyone else.

Case in point, Jordan Bell. The Warriors paid the Bulls a record $3.5 million for the No. 38 pick to get Bell, a versatile defender who’s perfectly cast as Draymond Green‘s understudy. But because drafted players can count less toward the tax, signing a rookie free agent to a minimum deal instead of acquiring Bell would’ve cost Golden State $2,131,243 more in luxury tax. Deduct that from the $3.5 million and consider Bell’s talent, and it’s a clear win for Golden State.

The Warriors just keep getting all those moves, big and small, right.

The repeater tax and raises for Thompson and Green loom. Guaranteeing the 33-year-old Iguodala $48 million and 31-year-old Livingston $18 million limits flexibility. Teams don’t remain elite forever.

But Golden State is riding its wave – on and off the court – higher than maybe any team ever.

Offseason grade: A

Kevin Durant on pay cut: “It’s my money… I can do what the hell I want with it”

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Kevin Durant told the Golden State Warriors he was going to save a little money this summer β€” then he saved them nearly $10 million, taking a pay cut from what he made last season ($1.5 million less) when he could have gotten aΒ raise. It was all in the name of keeping a title team together while letting Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, and others get paid.

Durant took some criticism for this, mostly because there are people still bitter he joined the Warriors the year before. (If you say rings are the most important factor in a player’s legacy, then criticize him for going to the team where he’s most likely to win a ring, then sacrificing to keep that team together, you are a hypocrite.)

Durant addressed his pay cut in an interview with Anthony Slater for The Athletic Bay Area (which has put together a heck of a staff and is worth subscribing to).

DURANT: Well, I’m a smart guy and I want to keep this thing going and looking at Andre and Shaun (Livingston) and Steph (Curry) β€” they all should make the most money that they can make and get what they deserve. Because they were all underpaid and I knew at some point they’d want to get what they deserve. So I just took a step back and let the chips fall where they may. Then I took it in my hands. I wanted to keep the team together and I thought it was going to help the ownership bring all the guys back. And on top of that, it’s my money. It’s my decision. I can do what the hell I want with it.

Q: Were you surprised by some of the blowback?

DURANT: They only (criticized) it because it’s the Warriors and it’s me and they love to hate anything we do right now. A lot of players have (taken pay-cuts). It wasn’t that I wanted the praise. I’ve learned from Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki and how it has helped them over the years and I thought, if they did it, why can’t I? Why shouldn’t I sacrifice? People wanted the money to break us up and I didn’t want that to happen.

Isn’t taking less and prioritizing winning what we want athletes to do? Yes, he makes a lot off his shoe deal (and winning rings will help raise his and his shoe’s profile), but there’s a mindset among many elite players to squeeze every dollar they can get out of ownership. Durant didn’t.

Durant could have opted out and gotten a contract starting at $34.7 million a year, but had said from the start he wouldn’t do that, he would save the team some money. It was expected he would take the max 20 percent raise the Warriors could give him off his old contract, which would have been at $31.6 million next season.

Instead, he signed a two-year, $53 million deal and will take a pay cut this year down to $25 million. That cap space allowed the Warriors to keep its core together β€” Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, and Zaza Pachulia will be back, and the team added players such as Nick Young and Omri Casspi. The Warriors should be improved next season, better than the 67-win, NBA champion they just were. Durant’s sacrifice was part of that.

And if you don’t like it, he doesn’t care.

Rumor: Warriors to pursue Paul George

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Remember when Klay Thompson‘s dad/Los Angeles sportscaster Mychal Thompson brought up the Warriors chasing Kevin Durant more than a year before they actually signed him?

It seems Tim Kawakami and Marcus Thompson of The Athletic are doing something similar with Paul George and Golden State.

Kawakami on Posting Up:

Marcus and I have teased this for more than a year. We think they’re going to go after Paul George, somehow. I think Joe Lacob is going to try to find a way to get Paul George. I don’t know how that would happen, but I didn’t know how it was going to happen when they were – three years ago, when they said they were go after Durant. Well, they didn’t say it. But they might have whispered it.

The Warriors could have had George already – if they would’ve traded Klay Thompson to the Pacers. But there’s obviously a huge difference between acquiring George on an expiring contract and signing him outright in free agency next summer.

As far-fetched as Golden State landing Durant seemed, the impending salary-cap spike always made it plausible. The Warriors had to dump Andrew Bogut and let Harrison Barnes walk, but that was small potatoes for getting Durant.

Signing George would almost certainly require very large potatoes.

A little perspective: The salary cap projects to be $102 million next summer, but it won’t be determined until then. Even if they trim their roster to just Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, the Warriors wouldn’t have enough cap room to pay George his max unless the salary cap eclipses $118 million. The NBA’s salary-cap projections can fluctuate, but a $16 million increase within a year is nowhere near heard of. And that would leave just the room exception – which would be about $5 million in this scenario – for Kevin Durant, who would have presumably opted out. He might be taking an unexpectedly large discount this year, but that’d be a monumentally large sacrifice by Durant next year.

More realistically, Golden State could use Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston to sign-and-trade for George. But that’d require appeasing the Thunder, no easy task. The Warriors would also have to stay below the hard cap – which is barely feasible, unless George and/or Durant take large discounts. Even then, it’d be a tough squeeze.

Golden State could also try to trade for George before the trade deadline, acquiring his Bird Rights then spending any amount to re-sign him and Durant. But Oklahoma City would have even more leverage than the offseason. How could the Warriors entice the Thunder? If good enough, Oklahoma City might not be at-all willing to deal Russell Westbrook‘s co-star. (This could be a reason Westbrook has yet to sign a contract extension. If he waits to re-sign until next summer, he implicitly demands the Thunder not sell during the season – or leads to them trading Westbrook, too).

If George hits free agency, Golden State’s realistic chances of landing George likely evaporate. The Warriors would probably have to trade one of their top four players to get George. But doesn’t that kind of defeat the purpose?