Kurt Helin

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Report: Kevin Durant sets up free agent meetings including Thunder, Warriors, Spurs

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There are 30 teams that would like a meeting with Kevin Durant.

But only a handful of them are going to get one, and even of those only a few likely have any chance of landing one of the best pure scorers on the planet.

That short list starts with the three best teams in the West — Oklahoma City, Golden State, and San Antonio — reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

The Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs and incumbent Oklahoma City Thunder are the first three known teams to secure face-to-face meetings with free agent-to-be Kevin Durant, starting next weekend, according to league sources.

Sources told ESPN that the list of teams that get to pitch Durant directly will grow before NBA free agency officially commences July 1 at 12:01 a.m. ET, but the list of confirmed suitors for now features the Thunder and their two main rivals in the Western Conference….

Other teams hopeful of getting their own opportunity to make a recruiting pitch to 2016’s most coveted free agent but whose status is not yet known include the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers.

Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports reports that three other teams — the Heat, Celtics, and Clippers — have meetings as well.

Durant’s representatives at Roc Nation are working to solidify invitations with the Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs and Thunder, league sources said.
The meetings are expected to take place in New York, but teams are still awaiting word on a location.

The Thunder remain the frontrunners to re-sign Durant, likely on a one-plus-one-year deal that will allow Durant to return to free agency in the summer of 2017, league sources said. But more than any other rival suitor, the Warriors have Durant’s attention, league sources said.

Durant has said this will be a “basketball decision,” so seeing three of the four best teams in the league on the list isn’t a shock. The most likely outcome remains Durant re-signing with Oklahoma City for two years, with an opt-out after one year — even if in 2017 he left for another team his next contract would be worth about $45 million more (because the cap goes up again and he becomes a 10-year veteran in the league getting him to the next max contract tier). He would get the same money with a one-year opt out with another team as well.

The sense around the league has been for a while that the Warriors are the front runners if Durant leaves OKC. Those teams still on the outside — the Knicks and Lakers in particular — are long shots in this race. Notice that Houston and Durant’s hometown Washington are not mentioned, he remains uninterested in them as landing spots.

The Heat and Celtics may make part of their pitch about how much easier a path to the Finals Durant would have in the East (Durant in Miami/Boston makes it the second best team in the East, with just Cleveland in their way). But as Matt Moore of CBS noted on Twitter: How many intense competitors like Durant say, “I will seek out the easiest path?”

That’s why the top teams in the West are at the top of the list.

Serge Ibaka thanks fans of Oklahoma City on Instagram

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Serge Ibaka felt his role was getting squeezed in Oklahoma City with the emergence of Steven Adams and Enes Kanter. He’s got a bigger role now — in Orlando. He was traded on draft night, and now Frank Vogel has Ibaka, Aaron Gordon, and Nikola Vucevic to move around the chess board (the question there are the guards).

Ibaka spent seven seasons in Oklahoma City, made the NBA All-Defensive team three times, led the league in blocks four times, and over that time developed a three point shot that turned him into one of the best fours in the NBA.

On his way out the door, Ibaka did the classy thing and thanked the Oklahoma City fans and organization.

Derrick Rose says all the right things when introduced as newest Knick

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If you know the history of Derrick Rose, you know the fact he nailed a press conference is no small thing. Throughout his career, he has phrased things that left a different impression than what he meant, or said things that were left open to interpretation by others. It created mini-firestorms in Chicago — and since Rose is not a social media guy nor is he particularly concerned with people think of him, sometimes those fires were unchecked. This has been particularly true through his years of injuries — he was never malicious or mean, just a little verbally clumsy.

Not Friday, when he was introduced as a Knick.

Rose hit all the right notes.

There are a lot of questions about this move for New York. Can Rose stay healthy? Can Kristaps Porzingis handle more time at the five with Robin Lopez gone? Can two notorious ball stoppers like Rose and Carmelo Anthony co-exist in Jeff Hornacek’s offense? How much will the Knicks’ miss Lopez’s screens (he was the best at setting them by a mile)? Where does the rim protection come from? We could go on, but you get the idea.

That said, Rose is certainly an upgrade at the point. The Knicks got better in the short term and could be a playoff team next season in the East. Contract-year Rose could turn a few heads.

Celtics GM Danny Ainge isn’t worried about fan reaction to Celtics draft

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WALTHAM, Mass. (AP) — Celtics general manager Danny Ainge’s biggest regret from draft night is that he didn’t go out and face the boos from the Boston fans personally.

Ainge said he had no regrets about drafting California forward Jaylen Brown with the No. 3 overall pick Thursday night. But the fans wanted someone else – like Providence guard Kris Dunn. And they were also hoping that the Celtics would trade some of their record eight picks for an established NBA star.

Ainge said he was busy getting ready for the next pick when owner Wyc Grousbeck got an unpleasant reception from the several thousand fans at the TD Garden draft party. Otherwise, he would have welcomed the chance to explain himself.

Ainge said he would have enjoyed being booed, saying, “It’s what I love about Boston.”

LeBron’s iconic Cleveland/Nike banner to come down during Republican National Convention

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During the NBA Finals, the beautifully redone town square in the middle of downtown Cleveland was still blocked off from pedestrians. The streets around the Quicken Loan Arnea were torn up and soon will get a fresh layer of asphalt and a new paint job. Everywhere you look, downtown Cleveland is getting cleaned up and spruced up.

It’s amazing how local politicians can find money for these things when their more powerful and influential friends are coming to town — the Republican National Convention is coming to Cleveland this July.

One other change, the iconic, football field-sized LeBron James Cleveland banner near the arena, a huge Nike ad on the Sherwood Williams building, is coming down during the convention, reports newsnet5.com (hat tip Eye on Basketball).

Officials said a red, white, and blue proclamation was made for the spot on the Sherwin Williams headquarters where LeBron now stands, arms up, over the city. Early Monday it was unclear whether the Cavs sign would stay since Cleveland won the NBA championship with James chosen as MVP.

Hopeful speculation was out that it might stay if enough RNC-goers want their picture with the king. But later in the day, Sherwin Williams confirmed that LeBron is coming down for the RNC. But it said the banner is going to stay up for the time being so that fans could see it with the words “Champions” added.

To be clear, this is one thing you can’t blame on Donald Trump — this was not a decision that the RNC was involved in making.

There was an online petition to leave it up, but it had about as much influence as most online petitions.

LeBron’s banner will be back up before the Cavaliers tip-off defense of their title next fall.