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Report: Kevin Durant to opt out of contract, restructure deal with Warriors

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Kevin Durant is going to be a free agent this summer.

That is just a technicality, however. Unlike LeBron James or Paul George or DeAndre Jordan — free agents whose landing spots this summer are to be determined — Durant isn’t going anywhere. He wants to stay a Warrior.

However, after doing the team a favor and not bleeding them dry last summer in a new short-term deal (allowing the Warriors to retain Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston), Durant now is going to opt out negotiate something longer-term and for more cash, reports Chris Haynes of ESPN.

A nine-time All-Star and the reigning NBA Finals MVP, Durant will be turning down a salary of $26.2 million, a figure well below that for a player of his caliber, in order to restructure a new deal with the Warriors, sources said.

It has yet to be decided what contractual route Durant will take, sources say, but there are no real incentives — for himself or for the team — to take such a drastic reduction in pay this time around.

Maxed out, Durant can make north of $35 million next season, with his contracts going up from there. The Warriors will pay him whatever he asks, the only question is how deep it will take the Warriors into the luxury tax. Even without Durant on the books, Golden State has about $102 million in salary locked in for nine roster spots. The salary cap is estimated to be about $108 million, with the luxury tax line at about $130 million — with Durant the Warriors will be into the tax, and they will still have to round out the roster with four or five (likely at a minimum salary). Their free agents include David West, Kevin Looney, Zaza Pachulia, Nick Young, and JaVale McGee.

Durant could get a four-year deal worth around $158 million (final numbers will depend on the final salary cap number), or take a shorter deal that gets him out sooner and into the free agent market again. As a third option, he could sign four-year with player options after the first two or three years, which would let him jump back in the market sooner.

He also could take less money again, but don’t bet on it. KD has earned the right to get paid.

Jazz use big third quarter, pull away from injured Warriors

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Utah Jazz know they might have to contend with the Golden State Warriors again on the big playoff stage.

A different version of the defending champions by then, most certainly – a far healthier version.

Rudy Gobert had 17 points and 15 rebounds and the Jazz pulled away from the undermanned, injury-plagued Warriors in the third quarter on the way to a 110-91 victory Sunday night.

Utah wants to make sure the rest of the regular season goes smoothly before thinking too far ahead.

“We know it could be a rematch,” Gobert said of another playoff series after Golden State swept the Jazz in last year’s Western Conference semifinals. “We’re focused on the moment.”

Quinn Cook had 17 points and eight assists as defending champion Golden State played without its four injured All-Stars and was forced to use yet another makeshift starting lineup.

Before the game, Warriors coach Steve Kerr ruled out Stephen Curry for the first round of the playoffs because of a sprained left knee – while Curry vowed to do everything in his rehab power to prove Kerr wrong and return sooner.

Donovan Mitchell scored 21 points for the Jazz, coming off a four-point overtime loss at San Antonio on Friday. Joe Ingles added 14 points with four 3-pointers, eight assists and six rebounds.

This marked just the second time Golden State played without its four All-Stars after Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson all sat for a 107-85 loss on March 11, 2017, at San Antonio. But, that time, Durant was the lone injured one of the group rehabbing a left knee injury while the other three simply rested.

“I thought we hung in there pretty well,” Kerr said. “We just didn’t have enough firepower, but I like the way we fought.”

Green had been set to return Sunday, but was ruled out with flu-like symptoms.

Kerr expects both Durant and Green back as soon as Tuesday against Indiana, while noting “Klay’s coming along well” as he nurses a fractured right thumb.

“Well, we’ve got to hold down the fort,” Kerr said. “We’ve got enough. We’re blessed with a great roster, a lot of depth and so, let’s get going. Let’s play and let’s compete and hold down the fort. There’s no reason why we can’t come out and really play well down the stretch and be ready for the playoffs and then maybe we get Steph back and we’ll see what happens.”

Cook, Nick Young, Patrick McCaw, Kevon Looney and JaVale McGee started.

Cook went to the locker room late in the half after two crashing drives but returned for the third quarter, when the Warriors shot 8 for 20.

Golden State began the game 5 for 16, but Utah was just 4 of 16.

 

Report: Spurs held players-only meeting imploring Kawhi Leonard to play

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Gregg Popovich’s thinly veiled attempt to pressure Kawhi Leonard into playing apparently had an effect – on Leonard’s Spurs teammates.

They, apparently led by Tony Parker, confronted Leonard.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The San Antonio Spurs held a players-only meeting to implore All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard to return to the lineup and help the team in its push for the playoffs, league sources told ESPN.

Spurs guard Tony Parker, a four-time NBA champion, quarterbacked the meeting with his teammates and Leonard after Saturday night’s victory over Minnesota, league sources said.

The conversation was described as tense and emotional at times, league sources said.

Several teammates spoke up, expressing frustration and confusion over a growing divide with Leonard that has created significant tension between the franchise star and the Spurs, league sources said.

Leonard, 26, was resolute in response, insisting that he had good reason for sitting out all but nine games with a right quad injury this season, league sources said.

That optimism around Leonard? It just went up in flames like Nick Young‘s Forever 21 clothing.

The Spurs have cleared Leonard to play, but he and his medical team don’t feel he’s ready. That’s an uneasy disagreement, but not necessarily illegitimate. Players know their own bodies and can sometimes sense problems doctors can’t identify. As of a few weeks ago, Popovich said Leonard was doing what he’s supposed to do.

So, a locker room full of players telling Leonard to play anyway sounds pretty unhealthy. It’s a shocking development in San Antonio, where the Spurs’ culture is recognized as arguably the NBA’s best and where the team is known for erring on the side of caution with injuries.

Fairly or not, Leonard probably invited this showdown with his handling of the injury. He told teammates he’d return to play then repeated the message publicly while adding soon. He reportedly targeted last Thursday, but a week later, he remains out. The disconnect between him and the franchise certainly didn’t help his teammates understand his point of view.

That disconnect was largely pinned on Leonard’s quiet nature, which makes it so rattling to imagine him facing a room of frustrated and confused teammates. Good for Leonard for standing up for himself if he truly isn’t ready to play.

But his teammates’ questioning will only increase the belief he’s just malingering. After all, if anybody could relate to him, it’s other professional athletes – especially Parker, who had a similar injury and recovered much more quickly (which doesn’t prove anything about Leonard, but certainly could influence opinion).

After the meeting, Manu Ginobili said, via Michael C. Wright of ESPN:

“He is not coming back,” veteran guard Manu Ginobili said. “For me, he’s not coming back because it’s not helping [to think Leonard is returning]. We fell for it a week ago again. I guess you guys made us fall for it. But we have to think that he’s not coming back, that we are who we are, and that we got to fight without him. That shouldn’t be changing, at least until he is ready for the jump ball.”

That sounded as if Ginobili were just trying to talk him into that mindset, so he’d stay sharp while Leonard remained out and wouldn’t be disappointed by a continued absence. But after knowing Ginobili got information straight from the source, that comment looks much more telling.

Nick Young holds pose, tricks announcer into saying air-balled shot was good (video)

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Warriors guard Nick Young did everything he could to make this shot look pretty – except actually make it or even hit rim.

He succeeded in fooling the legendary Bob Fitzgerald, though.

NBC Sports Bay Area:

This would be the perfect Nick Young highlight if we didn’t already have one.

Report: NBA won’t punish Zaza Pachulia for fall onto Russell Westbrook

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Russell Westbrook called Zaza Pachulia dirty after the Warriors center fell onto him. Kyrie Irving called on the NBA to look into Pachulia.

Apparently, the league did and… found nothing punishable.

Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post:

Did Pachulia intend to hurt Westbrook? Was Pachulia reckless? Clumsily knocked over by slight contact from teammate Nick Young?

I don’t know, and I’m OK with the league not issuing punishment when it’s unclear. Perhaps, Pachulia is just taking advantage of that plausible deniability, and that would stink. But the NBA should need more than an educated guess to issue suspensions and fines.

Pachulia’s reputation won’t get him any of the benefit of the doubt. Especially with the league not punishing him, it’s only a matter of time until opposing players use these plausibly deniable dirty tricks on Pachulia himself.