Kurt Helin

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Kevin Durant on going to Warriors: “I damn sure wasn’t going there if they’d won”

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Everyone sensed it. Kevin Durant finally admitted it.

If Draymond Green had been able to keep his hands to himself and not gotten suspended. If LeBron James hadn’t stepped up and had three of the best Finals game performances ever. If Andrew Bogut had been healthy. If Stephen Curry could have better defended all those pick-and-rolls he was dragged into. If Kyrie Irving had missed.

If the Golden State Warriors had closed out their 3-1 NBA Finals lead, Durant would not be in the Bay Area.

Durant admitted as much in a profile in Rolling Stone out this week.

Durant had wanted (Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals) so bad, he did something he never did: let himself savor winning before it happened: “Man, I saw us in the ball caps and T-shirts, with our fans going crazy and dancing. That town was so good to us, showed us love even when we lost. I wanted it more for them than even me.” He went home crushed, replaying his every miss – and there’d been plenty. He acquitted himself better in Game Seven, but Westbrook was strictly on fumes then. Some part of Durant knew he’d already punched his ticket. “It felt like that whole thing was set up for me to leave,” he says, “especially after they blew a lead in the finals, because I damn sure wasn’t going there if they’d won. But after Game Seven, I called up my agent and said, ‘Damn, dude, Golden State – what if?’ “

The Warriors were prepared for that “what if?” Like Pat Riley bringing LeBron and Chris Bosh to Miami, it took a lot of foresight and planning, then a lot of luck when it was time for things to fall into place. The Warriors had laid the groundwork, but it was still going to take some breaks along the way to make it happen.

Breaks such as the Warriors stumbling and the Cavaliers taking full advantage with three brilliant Finals games.

That was the big step on Durant’s path to the Bay Area. Like we all knew, if they win that Finals the NBA has a very different landscape right now. KD just finally confirmed it.

As a side note, it’s worth reading the entire Rolling Stone article to get Durant’s perspective of the sacrifices he made, both as a player and a person, that led him to his decision this summer, and other decisions in his life. This is a thoughtful man.

Report: LaMarcus Aldridge may not be happy with Kawhi Leonard getting Spurs spotlight

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As LaMarcus Aldridge was leaving Portland the rumors trickled out — he was frustrated being the No. 2 guy in the hearts of fans. Or, at least that’s how he saw it. First it was Brandon Roy, and right as his body betrayed him Damian Lillard became the star.

Now is it the same thing in San Antonio with Kawhi Leonard?

Of course, there will be denials from Aldridge and the Spurs coming. Yet, rumblings of frustration between Aldridge and the Spurs are bubbling up, which has led to some trade speculation. Don’t bet on a deal getting done this season — San Antonio just paid big money to Pau Gasol and Manu Ginobili to go all in for one more season, they are not just going to blow that up.

But the idea Aldridge is unhappy to some degree seems to have legs. From Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News:

Those close to the situation suggest Aldridge may not be happy at the moment. The belief is the Spurs pitched him on becoming the center of their offense when they recruited him in 2015, and that hasn’t occurred with the rise of Kawhi Leonard. However, a team source said there are currently no problems with Aldridge, adding he is apart of the Spurs’ future.

Aldridge likely was told he would be at the heart of the Spurs offense, but he got fewer touches and shots — both total and per minute — than he did playing with Damian Lillard. And Lillard likes to shoot.

That said, Aldridge knew he was signing up for the most selfless, team-first organization and coach in the NBA. It was always going to be about what worked, not feeding egos. And Leonard works — he deserves the touches. He’s efficient, can score a variety of ways, and will be in the MVP mix this season.

If that rubs Aldridge the wrong way, and the Spurs are not in the conference finals at least, then maybe something comes of this.

 

Marreese Speights: Warriors’ Draymond Green, Klay Thompson “got into it a lot”

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From the outside it looked like basketball heaven — the team played fast and loose, they had fun, the ball flew around the court like no other team, and they won. A lot. The Golden State Warriors won 73 games and seemed to have a good time doing it. It was what drew Kevin Durant to the Warriors last summer.

But pull back the curtain and it was not exactly a fairytale.

Draymond Green‘s hard-charging, heart-on-his-sleeve emotional leadership was at times abrasive and wore on teammates. While team chemistry was not terrible, there were plenty of rough spots. It a well-researched story at ESPN Ethan Sherwood-Straus lays out how Green is irreplaceable to the Warriors on the court but rubs teammates the wrong way at times off it. This quote from now former Warrior Marreese Speights sums the article up best (but you should read the entire thing).

“Draymond f—ed up practice and s—,” then-Warriors center Marreese Speights says. “Draymond’s a good guy, but I think at the end of the day, it hurt the whole chemistry of the year.” One player in particular, he says, took much of the heat: “Draymond and Klay got into it a lot.” (Thompson declined to comment for this story.

A code of conduct exists within the NBA. Some yelling is expected, but vets do not accept frequent Bobby Knight — style haranguings from younger players. Or, as Speights puts it, “Guys don’t respect you if you yell at them in front of all these fans. We’re not trying to lose the game. F — .”

If your thought is, “Maybe the Warriors would be better off without Green,” go back and watch Game 5 of the Finals last season (not that the return of Green changed Games 6 and 7, but the Warriors in Game 5 were not the same). The game where Green was suspended because he couldn’t stop from hitting LeBron James in the nuts, the Warriors lacked enough fight. The Warriors are not the same team without him — all those pretty shooters on the perimeter like Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson need someone in the paint doing the dirty work. Someone who makes their defensive switching schemes work. Someone who brings grit and fire. Green does all of that and better than anyone in the league. They need him.

But that kind of fire and passion comes with a cost, both in the locker room and off the court. Remember this summer Green was involved in a bar fight in East Lansing, then sent out a picture of his, um, “privates” to the world. That was after he was in the middle of the Warriors historic blown Finals lead.

The most competitive guys in the league do rub teammates the wrong way sometimes — Kobe Bryant certainly did, Kevin Garnett did at times, Chris Paul can grate on teammates — but the best teams need that passion. What the Warriors would hope to see, however, what Kobe and Garnett and CP3 can do, is separate the on-the-court guy from the guy off the court. They have a level of maturity and control Green has yet to display consistently.

For Green, it’s a goal. Outside of injuries, only chemistry issues could keep these Warriors from at least a return to the NBA Finals. They are that talented. If there are going to be chemistry challenges, it could start with Green. He’s not the best player on the Warriors, but he’s important to what they do. They need him right, and right with the team.

Derrick Rose rape lawsuit trial heading to Los Angeles jury

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — The rape lawsuit trial of NBA star Derrick Rose is heading to the jury.

A Los Angeles panel is scheduled to begin deliberating Wednesday in a civil suit that claims Rose and two friends gang-raped his ex-girlfriend in 2013 at her Los Angeles apartment after she passed out from drugs or drink.

Rose’s attorneys call the sex consensual and contend the woman is simply seeking a $21.5 million payday.

In closing arguments Tuesday, Rose’s lawyer argued that the 30-year-old woman was suing for money and for revenge because the New York Knicks point guard ended their relationship.

However, the woman’s lawyer told jurors that she was the victim of a “classic” gang rape.

51 Questions: Which team will take biggest step back this season?

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We are in the home stretch of PBT’s 2016-17 NBA preview series, 51 Questions. For more than a month (and continuing through the start of the NBA season) we tackle 51 questions we cannot wait to see answered during the upcoming NBA season. We are entering the prediction portion of the preview season, today the PBT staff is tackling:

Which team will take the biggest step back this season?

Kurt Helin: Oklahoma City Thunder

In terms of the raw numbers, the Miami Heat may well take the title; they could lose 15 or more games this season compared to a year ago (thanks to no Chris Bosh or Dwyane Wade). But Miami’s slide is not as painful as Oklahoma City’s for the fan base — the Thunder will fall out of contender status. I expect OKC will win 7-10 fewer games than a season ago, but still make the playoffs. However, with Kevin Durant they were legit title contenders, without him they are likely a one-and-done postseason team at best. That’s  a real blow for the team’s fans.

Dan FeldmanOklahoma City Thunder

Could it be any other team? Losing Kevin Durant took them from legitimate championship contender to uncertain playoff team. Even if Russell Westbrook leads Oklahoma City to the highest end of its potential, there’s a huge drop knowing a title is no longer realistic.

Dane Carbaugh: Miami Heat

It’s hard to look at losing Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade and not think the Heat are in for a big step back. The Eastern Conference playoff teams from last season got tougher: Boston added Al Horford; the Hornets are building; Detroit is in Year 2 of Stan Van Gundy; Chicago is … well, they have Wade at least. The Heat re-signed Hassan Whiteside, and Justise Winslow will continue to grow. But if things go poorly for Miami to start, Goran Dragic could be an early trade piece and with him gone a Miami slump out of the playoffs would be almost guaranteed.