Kurt Helin

Kevin Durant: “I just made a decision based on where I wanted to go. Simple as that.”

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LAS VEGAS — “We got one goal and one goal only: to win. Nobody cares about stats or whatever, we’re just trying to come out there and win. You try not to put too much pressure on yourself, it’s a game, but we’re not going to be halfway about the process.”

That is Kevin Durant, talking about Team USA heading into the Rio Olympics, a team where he has been passed the torch and is the clear leader.

It also could be Durant talking about his move to Golden State.

As Team USA opened its training camp in Las Vegas Monday, Durant spoke about the change of scenery in terms of it being his decision, his desire, not something pushed on him by outside forces or internal strife.

“No, no it wasn’t,” Durant said of the reports Russell Westbrook’s style of play helped push him away from Oklahoma City. “Obviously that’s coming out now that I’ve gone, of course it’s going to come out, but I can’t really control that. I just made a decision based on where I wanted to go. Simple as that. You can think about all the reasoning and the factors, but the fact is it’s that simple.”

Long a golden boy in terms of image, Durant was hit with a wave of criticism for the move, not just on social media but from some of the biggest voices in NBA commentary — Charles Barkley and Reggie Miller. They echoed the criticism of many that Durant took the easy way to a title.

Durant shrugged it off.

“I respect the hell out of them two, they can say whatever they want to about me,” Durant said. “I went to do something that I wanted to do. They had their careers, they did what they wanted to do. I respect the hell out of Reggie Miller and Charles Barkley, there were hell of players, they’re two guys I look up to, so I can’t control how they think or how they feel. Or anyone else for that matter. I’m excited about the future….

“Those guys have a big voice in our game, they have a megaphone. If Charles Barkley says it it must be true. If Reggie Miller  says it it must be true. They have such a big platform and people respect them, so it seems bigger than it is. I got support, I got my family around me, they love me, they support me no matter what I do — I could be playing tennis right now and retire from the game of basketball and they would love me. I think about that.”

Becoming a villain in the eyes of many is a big change for Durant and he knew what was coming with this choice. But that wasn’t going to sway him.

“I thought about it,” Durant said of the criticism coming his way. “But in life when you make decisions based on everyone else I think it’s mistake. I made a decision in my mind, and I knew people were going to be upset about it. I just told myself to put me first and do what I wanted….

“I haven’t changed who I am, people haven’t changed their mind about me as a person, I just focus on the people that are positive, hold me accountable, and push me past my limits. And life goes on at some point.”

That doesn’t mean he thought it was easy.

“For a few days after I didn’t leave my bed (later he clarified, his rented house in the Hamptons) because I was like ‘if I walk outside somebody might just hit me with their car, or say anything negative to me.’ Like I said I never had this reputation, and so many people who don’t even watch basketball are telling me congratulations, and good luck going forward, it’s crazy how big I got and how big this got…..

“I was hurt for a few days because I knew I hurt so many people.”

Now, Durant says the Warriors will figure out how to make all these stars fit — this is different than the Boston big three or the Miami trio with LeBron. What they have in common with those teams is a willingness to sacrifice.

“We’re going to have our own path, we’re going to have to figure out how to play on our own,” Durant said. “So all these players are going to have to sacrifice to play. Golden State, Oklahoma City, anywhere else — it’s all about the sacrifice to play winning basketball.”

In the short term, he and other stars will sacrifice to try and win a gold medal.

Report: Nets’ Bojan Bogdanovic escaped Turkey during failed coup by taking boat to Greece

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Brooklyn’s Bojan Bogdanovic was just trying to get in a little R&R. He had helped his native Croatia qualify for the Rio Olympics, so he and his girlfriend went on a little vacation before he had to report to camp and get ready for playing in Brazil.

La Ga No…Par dana odmora prije nastavka misije Rio #sretnanovagodina #elbabo #bzb #rioparty #cacemicopcabana

A post shared by Bojan Bogdanovic (@44bojan) on

That translates as “A few days of rest before continuing the mission to Rio.”

The couple went to the Turkish coastal resort area of the Bodrum Peninsula. Just so happens that’s where Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan was staying at the same time.

Then the attempted coup in Turkey came.

We will let Nets Daily recap what happened next, translating a report Greek sports talk radio station sport-fm.gr.

Turkish air force planes flew low overhead and Erdogan claims dropped bombs on the hotel where plotters believed he was staying.

Time to leave. Eurohoops and sportfm.gr report Bogdanovic got out via boat, crossing the Aegan to the Greek Island of Rhodes with the help of his agent and Greek team officials on the Rhodes end.

The “escape” was arranged via his agent in collaboration with the team manager of the Greek team Colossus, George Gkotzogiannis and a member of the club board. The trip between Bodrum Peninsula and Rhodes takes an hour. The 27-year-old Croatian arrived safe, spend a few hours in Rhodes and then left for Zagreb, the Croatian capital. He heads to South America this week for the Olympics.

Good news that he got out of what is clearly a dangerous situation.

As an aside: Turkey has one of the stronger, better paying professional basketball leagues in Europe, but if you’re an American player would you take less right now to play in a safer location in Europe?

One USA Basketball tradition continues: Blocking our non-Nike shoes in team photo

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LAS VEGAS — USA Basketball has a number of traditions they would like to focus on: Victories, gold medals in the Olympics, getting elite stars to play for their country, great player development.

There is another one that continued in Las Vegas Monday, where USA Basketball’s men’s Olympic team opens training camp. From Nick DePaula of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Never underestimate Nike’s sway with Team USA (the relationship is far deeper than just making the uniforms). There was no way they could keep (or would want to keep) Klay Thompson, Kyle Lowry, and DeMar DeRozan off the team, but they can help limit brand exposure.

Fun question, would Stephen Curry let them do it to Under Armour? Maybe we’ll find out in 2020.

Tyus Jones named Summer League MVP, heads All-Summer League teams

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LAS VEGAS — There is only one game left in Summer League, the championship game between the Timberwolves and Bulls on Monday night.

Tyus Jones, fresh off a 29-point performance to get the Timberwolves into the finals, will star in that game.

Jones was also just named the Summer League MVP.  Jones averaged 19.4 points on 45.7 percent shooting, plus 6.3 assists, 4 rebounds, and 1.3 steals per game. He won the award, voted on by select media members.

The list of former Summer League MVPs includes Blake Griffin, John Wall, and Damian Lillard. It also includes Josh Selby and Glen Rice Jr. Last season it was the Spurs’ Kyle Anderson.

Jones, a point guard out of Duke, will be entering his second NBA season after getting in just 37 games for Minnesota last season. With the Timberwolves drafting Kris Dunn — who looked very good in two games in Las Vegas before suffering a concussion — and having Ricky Rubio on the roster, Jones needs to impress to get his minutes next season.

Jones headlines the All-NBA Summer League teams (also selected by the media). Here is who made the teams:

All-NBA Summer League First Team
Tyus Jones (Minnesota)
Jordan McRae (Cleveland)
Bobby Portis (Chicago)
Ben Simmons (Philadelphia)
Alan Williams (Phoenix)

All-NBA Summer League Second Team
Jaylen Brown (Boston)
Thon Maker (Milwaukee)
Kelly Oubre Jr. (Washington)
Norman Powell (Toronto)
Tyler Ulis (Phoenix)

Report: Westbrook hasn’t told Thunder he wants to leave. But can they bet on that?

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Talk to people around the league and they are beyond convinced Russell Westbrook is not long for Oklahoma City. Many thought he was more likely than Kevin Durant to leave as a free agent, and that was before Durant bolted for Golden State. Beyond that, teams are convinced the Thunder can’t take the risk of losing Westbrook for nothing, too.

But around Oklahoma City, there is still optimism — maybe guarded optimism, but optimism — that Westbrook stays, something most recently reported by Anthony Slater at The Oklahoman.

Westbrook has given the Thunder no indication that he currently wants out. To the contrary, one source described him as ticked off about the Kevin Durant departure, determined for this new challenge and eager for the season to start: “He’s ready.”

Does anyone doubt the fierce competitor that is Westbrook plans to take advantage of the situation, play like a beast, put up crazy numbers (he’s a smart bet to lead the league in scoring) and take OKC as far as he can while he’s there? Of course he will.

That’s not the question, the dilemma facing Oklahoma City: Not saying you’re leaving is not the same as saying you are staying.

The Thunder would love for Westbrook to sign a contract extension, but he’s not going to do that — even if he wants to stay with OKC playing this season, becoming a free agent, then re-signing nets him two more guaranteed years and more than $75 million more guaranteed dollars.

The problem for the Thunder is this: Even if he wants to stay right now (and that’s up for debate), his mind could change. Or maybe he heads into free agency next summer like Durant did this one: He probably stays, but he just wants to listen to what other teams have to say. The Thunder can’t take that risk; they can’t lose two Hall of Fame level players for nothing.

Of course, trading Westbrook is not that simple, either. Westbrook can still be a free agent next summer. A source speaking to Celtics’ Blog laid it out perfectly:

“No team is going to pay a hefty price without getting a commitment from Westbrook,” the source said. “Someone may pay a cheaper price without a commitment, but OKC probably doesn’t do a deal like that.”

Westbrook probably wants to leave his options open for next summer. Which puts the Thunder in a bind. But hypothetically let’s say Westbrook’s agent finds a team that wants him and where he wants to be, and they privately assure said team Westbrook will re-sign: Then the question is the price it takes to get Westbrook. Think Carmelo Anthony leaving Denver — he got where he wanted to go, but the team was gutted, notes Slater at the Oklahoman.

But that’s where the Carmelo case serves as a cautionary tale for Westbrook. He’s hyper competitive and obsessed with winning. Forcing a trade could inhibit the future of his future team.

Let’s take the Lakers for example. He’s from Los Angeles and many have speculated about his desire to live and play there. The Lakers have a batch of young pieces that would intrigue any trade partner — such as DeAngelo Russell and Brandon Ingram. But wouldn’t Westbrook prefer to join a Laker team with them, not one that just gave them up? He could opt to wait until next offseason.

For Westbrook, if he is going to leave, it would be better to do so via free agency. Which comes back to the bind the Thunder find themselves in — move him now for less than he’s worth, or roll the dice that he stays. There are no easy answers.

But the sense around the league is the Thunder are most likely to move him before the season starts, if they are going to do it at all.