Dan Feldman

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - DECEMBER 25: Fans cheer for Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder as he plays the Chicago Bulls during the first quarter of a NBA game at the Chesapeake Energy Arena on December 25, 2015 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by J Pat Carter/Getty Images)
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Report: Kevin Durant disliked attention he received in public while playing in Oklahoma City

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Why did Kevin Durant leave the Thunder for the Warriors?

His free-agent decision, the NBA’s biggest since LeBron James‘ Cleveland-to-Miami-to-Cleveland moves, has been and will be dissected.

Did Durant clash with Russell Westbrook? Was Durant swayed by his friends already on Golden State? Did Durant just want the team most capable of winning a championship?

There’s certainly multiple reasons. Here’s another potential one.

Royce Young of ESPN:

Durant always appeared to be the perfect fit with Oklahoma City, with his humble nature and down-home demeanor. But he also was drawn to a bigger city, not necessarily for the brighter lights, but for the ability to blend. In Oklahoma City, Durant carried a larger-than-life burden everywhere he went. He’d privately lamented to friends an inability to be in public.

This is an under-discussed feature of playing in a small market, and it could even help explain why Westbrook is staying with the Thunder longer. If he’s as hungry for the spotlight as commonly suggested, Oklahoma City might provide plenty of attention. He’d be less likely to get his own day in a bigger city.

Meanwhile, Durant is now no longer the biggest star on his own team, and San Francisco/Oakland is more accustomed to celebrities.

Cavaliers sign Kay Felder

Oakland's Kay Felder (20) goes to the basket against Wright State's Mark Alstork (23) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Horizon League tournament Monday, March 7, 2016, in Detroit. Wright State defeated Oakland 59-55. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
AP Photo/Duane Burleson
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The Cavaliers need a new backup point guard after letting Matthew Dellavedova leave for the Bucks.

They’ll try to find a suitable replacement between old (Mo Williams) and young (Kay Felder).

Williams opted in, and now Felder – the No. 54 pick in this year’s draft – is under contract.

Cavaliers release:

The 2016 NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers have signed guard Kay Felder, General Manager David Griffin announced

Felder, according to Tony Paul of The Detroit News:

has signed a three-year contract with the Cavaliers that guarantees him at least $1 million.

The deal is worth a maximum of $2.49 million.

Felder’s minimum the next three years is $2,498,982, so it sounds like he got that. But he still took advantage of favorable conditions for second-round picks. Only two players picked in the 50s under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement received such a large guarantee the offseason they were drafted: Tornike Shengelia (No. 54 pick in 2012 from Nets) and Kris Joseph (No. 51 pick in 2012 from Celtics). Both got two fully guaranteed seasons.

The Cavaliers are facing the luxury tax again, so they were probably reluctant to raise Felder’s salary. But they’ve shown their faith in him by paying the Hawks $2.4 million for the No. 54 pick and now by guaranteeing $1 million of his salary.

I rated Felder a late first-round pick due to his smooth passing and scoring. But his 5-foot-9 frame will create challenges.

It’d be ideal for Cleveland if Felder won the primary backup job, but at least Williams provides a higher floor for the role.

Terry Stotts: Evan Turner will shoot better on 3-pointers for Trail Blazers

CAMBRIDGE, MA - JULY 27:  NBA player Evan Turner of the Portland Trail Blazers speaks to members of AS Roma during a friendly match against the Boston Bolts at Ohiri Field on July 27, 2016 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
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The Trail Blazers signing Evan Turner to a four-year, $70 million contract was curious at best.

Not only is Turner probably not worth that much to any team, he appears to be a poor fit in Portland.

The Trail Blazers excelled last season when Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum led the offense from the backcourt and Al-Farouq Aminu moved to power forward. With Lillard and McCollum handling the ball so much and the team going small, a sharp-shooting small forward got plenty of good looks beyond the arc. Allen Crabbe excelled, and even Maurice Harkless found a groove.

But Turner is a far worse 3-point shooter than Crabbe, and older, Turner has less upside than Harkless.

Portland coach Terry Stotts has a different view.

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

The Blazers will give Turner the green light, and they’re confident he’ll hit enough catch-and-shoot looks in Stotts’ free-flowing system. “People make such a big deal out of his 3-point shooting,” Stotts said. “He’ll shoot it better for us.”

Turner shot 24% on 3-pointers last season. His career mark, 30%, is better but still not encouraging.

Getting more open shots probably won’t rescue his efficiency. Here’s Turner’s 3-point shooting the last three seasons based on defender distance, per NBA.com:

  • Very tight: 1-for-5 (20%)
  • Tight: 4-for-30 (13%)
  • Open: 50-for-168 (30%)
  • Wide open: 48-for-155 (31%)

He’ll probably shoot better with more open looks, but that alone won’t turn him into an even average 3-point shooter.

And it’s not as if Brad Stevens’ offense with the Celtics put players in poor spots. To the contrary, Stevens positioned Turner to excel – using Turner as a point forward. But those distributing skills will be less valuable in Portland, where Lillard and McCollum are far better with the ball. The Trail Blazers succeeded by rarely playing without at least one of those guards last season.

Maybe Stotts sees a correctable flaw in Turner’s shot. Good coaching and player development could pay off.

But believing in [insert team] exceptionalism usually leads to disappointment.

Russell Westbrook for MVP? Not so fast

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook is greeted by fans as he arrives for a news conference to announce that he has signed a contract extension with the Thunder, in Oklahoma City, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
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Russell Westbrook taking a raise of more than $8 million has turned him into a folk hero.

He’s seen as the antithesis of the Warriors’ super team – a loyal superstar who will put the Thunder on his back without Kevin Durant. Gun-slinging in the powerful West, Westbrook will fill the stat sheet and make Oklahoma City a formidable threat.

In some circles, Westbrook has even become a trendy MVP pick. Betting odds have him third behind LeBron James and Stephen Curry.

But hold your horses.

All but the most ardent Westbrook supporters believe the Thunder rank somewhere in the West’s third tier, behind the Warriors and Spurs/Clippers. A middling seed rarely produces an MVP.

The last 17 and 32 of the last 34 MVPs have led a top-two seed. The exceptions – Karl Malone in 1999 and Michael Jordan in 1988 – played for No. 3 seeds. No player on a lower seed has won since Moses Malone on the sixth-seeded Rockets in 1982.

Wins tell a similar story. Every MVP since Jordan in 1988 has played on a team that won at least 54 games (or was on a 54-win pace in a lockout-shortened season). Malone, again, hit the low-water mark since the NBA-ABA merger with Houston’s 46 wins in 1982.

Westbrook will have a tough time meeting that bar. ESPN’s forecast panel pegged the Thunder for 44 wins and the No. 6 seed.

Here’s how those marks – represented by the orange lines – would compare to every MVP since the NBA adopted a 16-team playoffs (blue):

By seed:

image

By wins (adjusted to an 82-game season):

image

So, history is firmly against Westbrook – unless he can lift the Thunder to unexpected heights.

But this could be an ahistorical season.

Even if the Warriors surge to the league’s best record, Durant and Curry could split votes. Plus, they’ll have to share the load with Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.

LeBron, playing for the East-best Cavaliers, has paced himself during the regular season lately, and MVP is a regular-season award. He also must share the load with Kyrie Irving, who looks primed to reach the next level of stardom.

The consensus No. 2 in the East, the Celtics, are known for their balance.

Kawhi Leonard faces fewer complications, and the Spurs are widely pegged as second in the West. He might be the strongest traditional candidate.

Yet, maybe voters tweak their criteria and pick Westbrook even if he can’t win the uphill of battle of leading the Thunder to a top-two seed.

Narrative has always mattered, too, and sentiment appears firmly behind Westbrook.

Mark Cuban calls Kings ‘dysfunctional’

SACRAMENTO, CA - JANUARY 14:  Owner of the Dallas Mavericks Mark Cuban (L) laughs with owner of the Sacramento Kings Gavin Maloof during an NBA game at ARCO Arena January 14, 2008 in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
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I know the Kings were dysfunctional last season. You know the Kings were dysfunctional last season.

But it reaches another level when a rival owner says it.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban on ESPN Radio 103.3 on Seth Curry, whom Dallas signed this summer, as transcribed by The Dallas Morning News:

A dysfunctional team in Sacramento at the end of the year he played team ball. He struggled some to stick within kind of a dysfunctional system. But when he got the minutes and when he started he put up great numbers.

Perhaps, Sacramento escaped its dysfunction by firing George Karl and hiring Dave Joerger.

But there are signs of the dysfunction remaining.

Owner Vivek Ranadive and general manager Vlade Divac remain in place, and they seem to drive many of the Kings’ problems. The coaching change might help, but Sacramento must address its bigger issues to really make a difference.

Meanwhile, teams like Dallas will take advantage. As Cuban said, Curry looked good in a bad environment – and I’d much rather have Curry than Garrett Temple, whom the Kings signed as a replacement guard. That swap was not a sign of progress in Sacramento.