Kurt Helin

Report: If Kevin Durant leaves Thunder, Warriors leading candidate


Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson — and Kevin Durant?

It sounds like a daily fantasy sports roster, or something you try to pull together with NBA 2K trades. However, it’s something the Warriors have been thinking about for some time as a possibility.

The smart money is still on Durant staying put with the Thunder when he becomes a free agent this summer (at least on a short deal). But if he changes his mind, the Warriors are at the front of a very long line, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of the Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The truth is that (the Warriors are) the most intriguing destination to him. If Durant leaves the Thunder, the Warriors are the significant frontrunners to sign him, league sources told The Vertical…

Make no mistake: Durant isn’t close to gone in Oklahoma City – no decision, no leaning, sources said – but the real threats on the summer market are beginning to reveal themselves. Durant is determined to win – to be an immediate championship contender at 27 years old – and that keeps bringing him back to the Warriors should he make the decision to leave Oklahoma City.

Durant has said he hasn’t even thought seriously about this summer, he’s focused on winning this season. No doubt there’s truth to that. But other teams have to start their planning now. And KD knows where he stands as of today.

Durant is at the legacy point in his career — he knows he needs rings to be thought of among the game’s all-time greats. It’s part of what lured LeBron James to Miami.

That need to win now makes the pitch from teams that would get an interview such as the Lakers and Knicks a hard sell. The Lakers, even with Durant, are a few years away from winning at best, plus there will be a coaching change and other organizational questions, and finally the Warriors and Spurs are still in that conference. The Knicks have a better foundation of players (with Kristaps Porzingis and Durant’s friend Carmelo Anthony), and they are in the East, but are they really in a better spot to win than the Thunder? Does that move get KD closer to a title? The same question is true for Washington, Houston, Miami, and every other suitor.

Except Golden State.

My guess is that this summer Durant signs a two-year extension with the Thunder that has an opt-out after one season — he stays put for one more season to see if OKC can win with this core, he also becomes a free agent in 2017 when the salary cap will be even higher (an estimated $108 million) and by the Durant will have 10 years in the league, so his max salary goes up. Durant makes a lot more money that way.

But a move to the Warriors this summer is possible. Not likely, but possible.

The Warriors would have a lot of salary cap dancing to do make this happen, as former Nets executive Bobby Marks lays out in another article at The Vertical. It involves trading Andre Iguodala, letting Harrison Barnes walk for nothing, and using the stretch provision to release Andrew Bogut, but it can be done.

If you’re Golden State — and especially if you win another title this June — you have to ask yourselves if breaking up this team after back-to-back titles is a smart move? It’s not a simple question.

But if the answer is Kevin Durant, the Warriors will make the moves.


Joe Johnson will not ask Nets for trade, unsure about buyout

Dallas Mavericks' Wesley Matthews (23) defends as Brooklyn Nets' Joe Johnson (7) drives to the basket in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Jan. 29, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Associated Press
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Come Feb. 19, the day after the NBA trade deadline, the smart money is on Joe Johnson still being a member of the Brooklyn Nets. Mainly because as of right now they don’t even have a general manager in place to set up and approve a trade. But even if they did, moving Johnson’s $24.9 million salary for a rental player (he’s a free agent after this season) is going to be next to impossible.

Johnson would love to be on a winning team — which is not the Brooklyn Nets, his current home — but don’t expect him to go pushing for a trade, he told Andy Vasquez of the Bergen Record.

Of course, if Johnson publicly said he wanted to be traded, fines and the wrath of the NBA would rain down on him, so he will not say that publicly. If he pushed for a trade, it would be a back channel communication, but one that would be clear to the Nets. Of course, this brings us back to the Nets not having a GM.

If he doesn’t get moved, what about a buyout? He takes less of his money owed and is released as a free agent, where there would be a demand for his services from contending teams (just not at his current price).

A buyout is a possibility if Johnson and his agent get word that a playoff bound team (a high level one) would snap him up. And if Johnson was willing to take less cash to get out of Brooklyn. None of that is certain.

What is certain is Johnson doesn’t want to walk away from the game.

Johnson is averaging 11.3 points a game and shooting 39 percent from three, his skills are declining, but he still has value. As a veteran role player off the bench, he could help a quality team, he’s going to get offers. Just at $20 million or so less than he made this season.

Johnson becomes a guy to watch after the trade deadline. If the Nets get a GM.

Tony Parker could miss Olympics because of wife’s pregnancy

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PARIS (AP) — San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker could miss the Olympics because of the expected birth of his second son.

Parker told French radio station RMC that his wife is due at the end of July, shortly after France’s Olympic qualifying tournament from July 4-10. The Olympic basketball tournament in Rio de Janeiro will be held from Aug. 6-21.

Parker says he has yet to decide whether his wife’s pregnancy will force him to cancel his commitments with the national team.

Parker says “this is big news. I will need to talk with the France team. And negotiate with my wife, too. The schedule is very, very difficult.”

French federation president Jean-Pierre Siutat and technical director Patrick Beesley both say they were unaware of Parker’s situation.

Dwight Howard suspended one game for contacting official; Bickerstaff fined


In the fourth quarter of the Rockets/Wizards game Saturday, Dwight Howard shoved Nene after the two squared up. The referees stepped between them (as is their job) and in moment Howard swiped away the arm of a referee, contacting the official. That earned him a technical, his second of the night, and Howard was ejected. (Nene also got tossed from the game.)

Players can’t push/shove/touch an official like that, so Dwight Howard has been suspended one game because of it, something first reported by Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle and since confirmed by the NBA.

This may seem like a relatively minor infraction, but the NBA (and all sports leagues) draw a hard line when it comes to touching an official.

The Rockets host the Heat on Tuesday. Clint Capella will get the start in Howard’s place.

After that Saturday game (a Wizards’ win), Rockets’ coach J.B. Bickerstaff said:

“We don’t like to blame referees. Tonight, there were too many calls that were critical missed and they went the other way,” Bickerstaff said. “There was a phantom Pat Beverley foul. There were our plays getting to the rim. Tonight, the referees had a lot to do with the outcome and it shouldn’t be that way. Referees should be invisible. These weren’t.”

That’s going to cost him $10,000.

Bickerstaff has been around, he knew the price when he said it. But he stuck up for all the “dirty” play against Howard, which is what a coach is supposed to do.

Paul George adjusting to new role

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 30: Paul George #13 of the Indiana Pacers looks on against the Denver Nuggets in the second half of the game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on January 30, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Pacers defeated the Nuggets 109-105 in overtime. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using the photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Back in November, when the NBA world was marveling at his comeback, Paul George was scoring 29.5 points a game with a usage rate of 33.1 percent — he was the Pacers’ offense.

In January, those numbers were down to 21.4 points and 29.8 usage rate, and on Monday he had just 11 points (on 15 shots), but he had a team-high eight assists. As defenses have focused more on stopping George from scoring, his role in the offense has shifted to facilitator and occasional decoy.

He admitted after the game his role has changed, but how comfortable is he with it? Here is what George said, via Candace Buckner of the Indy Star.

“Before it was, I had the confidence just being out there. I knew what I could do and I was comfortable in doing that. Then it was like slowly ‘you can’t do this, you can’t do that, too much of this, too much of that,’ so I had to change it up a little bit. Kind of opened it up for our other guys to be aggressive and have opportunities. So I’m not sure what to call it….

“It’s changed, it’s definitely changed (since the) start of the year,” George said. “Just kinda felt like I had the confidence and coach was giving me the confidence with the green light. I’m still confident, guys are still making the right plays. Just seems like a transition a little bit.”

George has come back and resumed his place near the top of the NBA pecking order, which considering his leg injury and where he came from is incredibly impressive.

But if the Pacers are going to take the next step it will be about George trusting and helping the other talent on the team find their places, too. It’s what LeBron James has learned to do, it’s what Jordan and Kobe Bryant eventually learned to do, it’s what Tim Duncan seemed to instinctively knew how to do. Saying he needs to “make the players around him better” is a cliche, but it’s accurate, too.

We know Monta Ellis can score, Myles Turner is emerging, George Hill can have a role, and the Pacers need to add to that depth. But it only all fits together if George continues down this path.