Kurt Helin

Report: Don’t be so sure Kevin Durant will sign a short-term deal, he likes stability

8 Comments

Here is the conventional wisdom around the league on Kevin Durant‘s free agency this summer:

After a deep and impressive playoff run by the Thunder, he will re-sign with the Thunder on a two-year contract with an opt-out after one (a one-plus-one, what LeBron James signed last summer in Cleveland). He’ll do it for two reasons. One, he can make one more serious run at a title in Oklahoma City with Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, Steven Adams, and the Thunder core. The second is financial: His base max salary this summer will be around $28 million per year, but because he will have been in the league 10 years and because of another salary cap spike, in 2017 that first-year base salary will be at least $37 million. That’s a lot of cash to leave on the table.

You can see the logic in why Durant does a one-plus-one.

But don’t bet on it, reports Sean Deveney of The Sporting News.

“He is not the kind of guy who wants to fiddle around in free agency and sort of play the system that way,” said one source who has worked with Durant. “That is not his personality. He likes stability and it is kind of a gamble to be taking a short contract and then trying to come back and do it all over again in a year. That’s the other thing. He is not someone who wants to go through this twice, I really don’t think. It’s no sure thing.”

That’s a common theme around the league, the notion that Durant wants to make a decision now, ensure his security and not have to worry about being a free agent again until he is in his 30s. During the Thunder’s end-of-season media session, Durant told reporters he has no interest in a high-profile free agency tour: “That’s not who I am. I’m not that type of person.”

Last summer a number of players — Kevin Love was the most prominent name — took the security of longer deals rather than chasing future money with shorter deals. There’s a risk of injury, and in the case of 2017 there also could be a lockout that will alter the economic landscape for players. For Durant, a five-year deal to stay in Oklahoma City would mean more than $150 million guaranteed.

Durant needs to sit down with Russell Westbrook and have a talk. If they both stay in Oklahoma City, that team will contend for years (even if players such as Ibaka or Dion Waiters are lost through free agency). But does Westbrook, who is a 2017 free agent, want to stay? If he’s leaving, does Durant want to stay? There are no simple answers.

I’d still bet on Durant taking the one-plus-one deal. But it’s far from a sure thing.

Adam Silver wants to see changes to flailing, Hack-a-Shaq rules; defends Two Minute Reports

Getty Images
11 Comments

OAKLAND — NBA Commissioner Adam Silver wants to see improvement in the NBA’s officiating.

Just probably not the changes many of you want to see.

Thursday night he defended the NBA’s officiating, the Two Minute Reports, and said he still hopes to push through a change to end Hack-a-Shaq.

“I’d say largely what these Last Two-Minute Reports are showing is that the referees get it right about 90 percent of the time,” Silver said in a press conference before Game 1 of the NBA Finals tipped off from Oracle. “Now, from a fan standpoint, the other side of the coin is so, in other words, they’re getting it wrong one out of 10 calls? And I accept that.

“So to your ultimate question, how do I feel about the officiating? My feeling is I’d like that to be 100%. I’d love to get zero errors. I don’t think we’re ever going to be there.”

Because it’s never going to be there so long as humans are involved — and fans of opposing teams are always going to see close calls differently — what Silver continues to preach is transparency.

“We’re in the second year of our Last Two-Minute Reports, and I still remain strongly behind them,” Silver said. “Now, I understand the criticism from some of the teams that, ‘What’s the point? Why are you telling the world that this call was decided incorrectly? May have gone in our favor, may not have. Nothing can be done about it after the fact.’

“My view, first of all, in terms of building confidence in the public, they want to see consistency. So they want to understand if we call something a foul, why we called it a foul, and we often give explanations for why we believe something was a foul, whether it was correctly called or incorrectly called. So it’s our hope that you take the Last Two-Minute Reports together with using a certain amount of replay that we’re building to build trust and integrity in the league.”

How much trust the league can build in a social media world is up for debate. Silver, as is his nature, is open to discussing just about anything.

“I had a team come in the other day and say we should look at a fourth official,” Silver said. “And that goes to the core of your question. Maybe the game is so fundamentally different now that we maybe do need to look at a fourth official. So that’s something maybe through our Development League or Summer Leagues that we’ll take a fresh look at.”

That the league is talking about these things now — and putting out the officiating reports — is an improvement over the Soviet-style denial and lack of information that had been the NBA’s modus operandi for many years. More information is a good thing, even if reasonable people can disagree about how a call was seen.

Silver wants to see some officiating and rule changes. That starts with hack-a-Shaq.

“I think you all know it is my hope that we are not far away from some reform,” Silver said. “This is an issue where I’m hoping we can strike some sort of a compromise. I mean, there is no doubt that there are particular teams, particular owners who have spoken out against any change whatsoever. And I also recognize from a competitive standpoint that largely three teams will be the beneficiary of a rule change. There’s three players in particular, and everyone knows who I’m talking about, and whatever team they’re on, if they’re going to play a lot of minutes and they’re poor free throw shooters, the ability to hack them away from the ball creates an advantage for the other team….

“What we’ve seen even since last year is a two and a half times increase off last year of the number of these off-ball fouls, away-from-the-ball fouls, intentional fouls. Looking back just even at the last five years, it’s now up 16 times from five years ago.”

It has become a common strategy, and it is something both fans and the NBA’s broadcasters do not like or want. You know, the broadcasters about to start paying a lot more money for the rights to show NBA games.

“I’ve said it before, for example, when Hack-a-Shaq has done something like more than roughly ten times a game, it adds about 15 minutes to the length of the game,” Silver said. “Not only is that something that is bad for our network partners, but for all of the fan research we have shows that the fans hate it. You know, so there may be a compromise in there where we can cut it down significantly.”

The other officiating change will be a new enforcement on flailing, something that has become a hot topic in the playoffs ever since Draymond Green kicked Steven Adams in the nether regions in the Western Conference Finals.

“So in terms of the flailing, and we’re seeing a lot more late kicks and, frankly, players flailing their arms as well, it’s clear what they’re doing. They’re trying to sell calls. They’re trying to make contact,” Silver said. “They’re trying to demonstrate that they’re getting fouled on particular plays. It’s not something new in the league, but as we track it, it’s becoming more prevalent….

“It’s not something we want to see. In terms of flagrant fouls and potential suspensions, one of the things we look at is the intent of the players. Obviously it’s very difficult to discern intent. We want to find a way to discourage players from flailing….

“We’ve been talking about it throughout the season. Obviously (there is) a very controversial play that you just mentioned, and it’s on the agenda for the Competition Committee when we meet this summer.”

The competition committee is going to be very busy this summer.

Watch Matthew Dellavedova hit Andre Iguodala in the, er, groin

15 Comments

It wasn’t Draymond Green in the middle of this conversation for a change. Although he had his own controversy (we’ll get to that in another post).

But we shouldn’t be surprised it was the Cavaliers’ Matthew Dellavedova.

Late in the third quarter Andre Iguodala was bringing the ball up in transition when  Dellavedova hit him square in the, er, groin. considering how far he was away from connecting it’s hard to say he was making a play on the basketball, but the refs let this go with a common foul.

It’s what we’ve come to expect from Delly, the play was at least reckless — or you can call it dirty, if you want.

Either way, Iguodala hit a three after play resumed and the Warriors soon started a 15-0 run that decided the game.

Cavaliers see reasons for optimism in Game 1 loss

Getty Images
15 Comments

OAKLAND — Here is the conventional wisdom after Game 1 of the NBA Finals: “If the Cavaliers can’t win on a night Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are both off, when can they win?”

The Cavaliers don’t see it that way.

They saw a game where they did some good things — like keeping the Splash Brothers in check, attacking the rim, and getting some offensive rebounds. The things that got them a brief lead in the third quarter. They believe just need to finish better in the paint and take better care of the ball. Oh, and slow that Warriors bench a little.

“We missed 28 shots in the paint,” Cavaliers’ coach Tyronn Lue. “We didn’t finish around the basket, so we’ve just got to keep playing the same way we were playing. I thought we were fine. I feel good about how we played. The outcome wasn’t great for us, the score, but to get to the basket missing 28 shots in the paint, that’s not us. So we’ll be better next game.”

“But don’t matter what you do with Steph and Klay, don’t matter what you do with Draymond. Give up 45 points off the bench and 25 points off turnovers on the road, it’s not a good ingredient to win,” LeBron James said.

While the Warriors shot better than 50 percent for much of the game (they finished at 49.4 percent) and carved the Cavaliers up at times with back cuts and dives to the basket, Cleveland seemed fairly happy with their defense. They saw the other end as the big issue.

“I think defensively we had a game plan and we followed it as much as possible,”  LeBron said. “Well, as great as we could for 48 minutes. We had some breakdowns, which we know we can get better with. Offensively, we’ve got to be much better. We’ve got to be much better moving the ball, moving bodies.”

The Warriors switching — particularly with the “death lineup” and other smaller rotations — threw the Cavaliers off their game plan. They saw that and slowed down trying to find mismatches, and in doing so settled for too many isolation plays. Which were defendable.

That and some transition defense lapses — plus just making their shots — are things the Cavaliers see as correctable.

We stayed aggressive no matter what, kept attacking the paint,” J.R. Smith said. “Even though we had some missed shots, some missed threes, we didn’t let that discourage us. We did a pretty good job in transition. We’ve got to do a better job at finding the bigs and guys at the basket. I think we overcompensated for those guys at the three-point line, which is to be expected. We just got to be smarter Game 2.”

It sounds good on paper.

Executing it against a Warriors team that is likely to have their stars hitting more shots — and cleaning up some execution flaws of their own — is going to be the real test.

On night Splash Brothers are cold Warriors still win by 15, take 1-0 Finals lead

26 Comments

OAKLAND — It was a night where the Splash Brothers barely made a ripple in the water.

Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combined for 20 points on 8-of-27 shooting, including 4-of-13 from three — and those numbers are inflated by a couple of late dagger threes.

And yet, the Warriors won. Convincingly.

Shaun Livingston had 20 points and three assists, Harrison Barnes started hot and finished with 13, Andre Iguodala had 12, and Draymond Green had 16 points, 11 rebounds, and seven assists. The Warriors were balanced — and were the team playing vastly better defense.

Because of all that, Golden State now leads the NBA Finals 1-0, with Game 2 Sunday in Oakland.

“The one thing we’ve talked about all year is if we defend and take care of the ball, then we’re always going to have somebody score enough points for us, whether it’s the starters or the bench,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.

“I missed some shots, and didn’t get a rhythm, but the way they defended I’ll be able to find some adjustments for Game 2,” Curry said.

This felt like a game the Cavaliers needed to win.

“I just thought in the second half we came back in that third quarter, really got physical, really got aggressive, and we were able to take a three-point lead,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said after the game. “Like you said, their bench came in and did a great job. We took LeBron out towards the end of that third quarter, and a couple minutes in the fourth quarter, and the game kind of got away from us.”

With the Warriors’ best shooters cold, the Cavs were able to erase an eight-point halftime deficit, and take a lead couple times in the second half of the third quarter. They were attacking the paint (all night), getting to the free throw line, and getting offensive rebounds. This looked like a game Cleveland could win with that formula.

Then the Warriors bench came in.

Starting with a 15-0 run that went from late in the third through the middle of the fourth, the Warriors’ bench (with Green and Barnes) stretched the lead out to 20 at one point. They got stops, got buckets by moving the ball and moving off the ball, and generally played the way Golden State has through their last championship and 73-win season.

“We’ve talked about our depth for the last two years,” Kerr said. “We rely on a lot of people. We play a lot of people, and we feel like we have a lot of talent on the bench that can come in and score when we need it. So it’s a great sign, obviously, that we can win in The Finals without those two guys having big games, but it’s not really that surprising to us. This has been our team the last couple of years.”

The Warriors are not going to win a series with their best shooters unable to throw a pea in the ocean, but that’s not going to happen. The Cavs did everything they could to take the Warriors starting backcourt out of the game, but at some point those guys will get hot. Just ask Oklahoma City

Through three quarters the Splash Brothers had 14 points on 6-of-21 shooting, just 2-of-10 from three, and the Cavaliers were controlling the glass plus getting to the line more. Cleveland did a lot of things well, and still trailed 74-68.

“We missed 28 shots in the paint,” Lue said. “We didn’t finish around the basket, so we’ve just got to keep playing the same way we were playing. I thought we were fine. I feel good about how we played. The outcome wasn’t great for us, the score, but to get to the basket missing 28 shots in the paint, that’s not us. So we’ll be better next game.”

The key reason the Cavaliers’ trailed most of the game was their defense struggled — they lacked the focus not to lose Warriors with their constant motion and crisp passing. Kevin Love got burned three times on Bogut back cuts, and Kyrie Irving lost track of his man off the ball numerous times. Also, as a team they did not help the helper enough — they made the first defensive rotation, but not the second. For most of the game the Warriors were shooting better than 50 percent (they finished at 49.4 percent), but even still the Warriors only hit 33.3 percent from three on the night.

In the first half Cleveland showed their game plan — switch nearly every pick, and show way out on Curry and Thompson, do not let those two get hot and beat them. It’s a good strategy — Curry and Thompson combined for just 10 first half points.

However, that strategy requires the Cavs to stop the Warriors ball movement and other players cutting to the rim and getting looks. They didn’t do that nearly as well, either in the first half or for the game. The result was balance — Harrison Barnes with nine first half points, Green and Bogut with eight each, and Leandro Barbosa with some highlight plays on his way to seven.

Meanwhile, Kyrie Irving was 3-of-12 in the first 24 minutes on his way to 13 points. For the game, Irving had 26 points on 7-of-22 shooting, while LeBron had 23 points on 21 shots, and Kevin Love had 17 points on 17 shots.
Propelled by their bench the Warriors led by as many as 14 in the second quarter, but they couldn’t put Cavaliers away. The Cavs grabbed the offensive rebound on a third of their missed shots in the first half, plus they got to the free throw line 11 times (compared to twice for the Warriors). That kept it relatively close, 52-43 at the half.

It got closer in the third. But inconsistent defense and the Warriors depth eventually changed everything.