Kurt Helin

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Kevin Durant, why didn’t you meet with Knicks last summer? “Because I didn’t want to”

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Kevin Durant conducted his free agent meetings in the Hamptons last summer, and a number of teams got to come in and make their pitch: Oklahoma City, Boston, L.A. Clippers, San Antonio, Miami, and obviously Golden State.

The Knicks are not on that list. Despite all but having Phil Jackson grovel for a chance to make his pitch.

Why no Knicks? Stephan Bondy of the New York Daily News asked and got this answer:

“Uh, because I didn’t want to….

“I didn’t want to lead anybody on,” Durant said. “I got a lot of friends in the league. I got calls throughout the summer. But I made the best decision I wanted to make, the best decision for me, I’m happy I’m here. All that stuff is in the past. Melo and I remain great friends. That’s what’s most important. We didn’t let that get in between the friendship.”

Durant was only going to meet with teams that had a chance to land him. Where the Knicks franchise is in their rebuilding efforts, and where Durant was in his career, were very different places. This is basically the same reason the Lakers didn’t get invited to the Hamptons, either.

Durant, obviously, chose to head to Golden State, where he is having his most efficient season ever on the best team in the NBA so far. You can see why he’s happy with his choice. And he doesn’t really care what everyone else thinks about it.

Three things we learned Thursday: We will miss you, Craig Sager

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It was a sad day around the NBA as we all feel we lost a friend. Here are the takeaways from the Thursday.

1) We will miss you Craig Sager. After a valiant nearly three-year battle with a rare form of leukemia, beloved and brightly dressed sideline reporter Craig Sager passed away Thursday at the age of 65.

Love and tributes poured in from around the NBA Thursday, from players on social media to the Bucks’ Sager Strong warmups pregame Thursday night.

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There are a lot of things worth watching, such as the HBO Real Sports interview with Sager. But my favorite was the TNT tribute. Well done gentlemen.

Rest in peace, Craig.

2) Giannis Antetokounmpo drops 30, shows us how scary a world it will be when his jumpers fall. Which player leads the NBA in points in the paint per game? DeMarcus Cousins? No. Anthony Davis? No. Hassan Whiteside? Try again.

It’s Giannis Antetokounmpo. Attacking the basket both in transition and in the half court, he has taken 54 percent of his shots this season in the restricted area and is hitting 69.7 of those (well above the league average. As for outside the paint… just look at his shot chart for the season.

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Then in the first quarter Thursday night, the Greek Freak 4-of-6 from the outside, including both attempts from three on his way to 12 points, and showed us flashes of what could be. And it should terrify the rest of the league.

Antetokounmpo went on to have 30 points and 14 rebounds, Jabari Parker added 28 points on 19 shots, and the young core of the Bucks led them past the Bulls 108-97 in a game that wasn’t that close, save for a late rally by Chicago. (The Bulls are having some issues, but that’s another post for another day.)

3) Golden State put on a passing clinic — 36 assists on their first 36 buckets. That’s not fair. It’s not that their just loaded with three of the top five shooters in the game, it’s that the Golden State Warriors are selfless and share the rock. Which makes them impossible to defend.

The Warriors had 36 assists on their first 36 buckets Thursday night — including all 26 in the first half — and finished the night with 41 in a route of the shorthanded Knicks, 103-90. The outcome of the game was about as big a surprise as a Donald Trump early-morning tweet storms, but it’s how the Warriors got there that was impressive.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker lead Bucks to 108-97 win over Bulls

Associated Press
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MILWAUKEE (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 30 points and Jabari Parker added 28 to lead the Milwaukee Bucks to a 108-97 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Thursday night.

Milwaukee led the entire game and held a 24-point advantage early in the fourth quarter but had to hold on to snap a three-game losing streak, its longest of the season.

Antetokounmpo has totaled 88 points and 35 rebounds in his last three games, and Parker has reached at least 27 points in four of his last five.

Chicago lost for the fifth time in seven games and dropped its third straight on the road despite 21 points from Jimmy Butler and 20 from Dwyane Wade. The Bulls also got 19 points from Taj Gibson in the opener of a home-and-home between the teams on back-to-back nights.

The Bucks went up 95-71 on a dunk by Antetokounmpo with 10:01 remaining. But then Chicago cut the deficit in half by scoring the next 12 points, with 10 of them coming from Wade. His two free throws trimmed the margin to 95-83 with 7:14 to go.

Milwaukee led by at least eight the rest of the way.

The Bucks’ biggest lead of the night was 27 on a dunk by Tony Snell that made it 58-31 with 3:40 left in the second quarter.

The advantage was 64-45 at halftime, as Antetokounmpo (20), Parker (17) and Mirza Teletovic (10) combined to outscore Chicago by two points.

Milwaukee shot 80 percent (8 for 10) from 3-point range while Chicago was 1 for 9 (11.1 percent) from beyond the arc in the first two quarters.

TIP-INS

Bulls: Rajan Rondo returned to the starting lineup after missing Tuesday’s game against Minnesota because of a right ankle sprain. . Butler has 79 points in his last three games. . Chicago lost at Milwaukee for just the fifth time in the last 15 games.

Bucks: There was a moment of silence for the death of longtime TNT sideline reporter Craig Sager, and Milwaukee players wore Sager Strong T-shirts during pregame warmups that resembled the outfit he wore at the recent ESPYs. Even mascot Bango donned a funky blue sport coat and plaid pants in Sager’s honor. . Michael Beasley missed his first game of the season with a left foot sprain.

 

Sixers’ guard Jerryd Bayless out for season after wrist surgery

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Signing veteran guard Jerryd Bayless was one of Sixer GM Bryan Colangelo’s first significant moves of free agency. It showed the Sixers were committed to Ben Simmons at the point (Bayless is a combo guard). Also, this was a part of Colangelo’s push to bring in some experienced players that would help the young Sixers rack up a few wins and change the culture of the team.

However, Bayless has gotten on the court for just three games this season due to injury, and he’s not going to get on any more — the Sixers announced on Thursday Bayless had wrist surgery to repair a ligament and is done for the season.

“While it’s unfortunate Jerryd will miss the remainder of the season, we feel confident that today’s procedure will resolve his wrist injury and related discomfort,” Colangelo said in a statement. “Jerryd is to be credited with his committed and professional approach in making every effort to avoid this outcome.”

Bayless’ deal has two more seasons on it after this one, for a total of $17.5 million (with the salaries going down each year, something that makes it more tradable should Philadelphia want to go that route).

This doesn’t change anything with the Sixers’ rotations, Bayless wasn’t playing anyway.

In surprise move Rockets will outright release Donatas Motiejunas. He is free agent.

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Did not see this coming.

After a summer of back-and-forth that intensified in the past few weeks after he signed an offer sheet with Brooklyn that the Rockets matched, Houston will outright released Donatas Motiejunas, the team announced Thursday. From the team press release:

Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey announced today that after extensive discussions with Donatas Motiejunas, his representatives, and the NBA league office, the Rockets will renounce Motiejunas and he will become an unrestricted free agent.

“Donatas was a true professional throughout his four seasons with the Rockets,” said Morey.  “We wish Donatas the best moving forward and want to thank him for his contributions both on the court and in the community.”

This is a sign that whatever the Rockets found in their latest physical with him, it hit them hard. They could have simply failed him at the physical, and he would have been a restricted free agent again, giving Houston some leverage. Instead, they let him go.

He can now sign with any team except Brooklyn (he cannot sign with them for one year after signing the offer sheet with them before).

The Rockets will sign Bobby Brown to fill that roster space.

Motiejunas has battled back problems, which is why there was not much interest in him as a restricted free agent last summer. He didn’t sign the qualifying offer from the Rockets, and essentially held out from Houston at the start of camp. Houston shrugged, knowing they could match any offer. Brooklyn eventually made a four-year, $37 million offer, but the Rockets matched the $31 million of it they were required to (no incentives). Motiejunas didn’t like that and refused to sign. The Rockets and Motiejunas agreed to a four-year, $35 million deal (which gave the Rockets a later opt-out date for next season’s contract, mid-July). Motiejunas came in for his physical, and something was amiss. The Rockets, Motiejunas’ agent, and the NBA league office all talked, and this is where things landed.

He’s going to get offers, but not for the kind of money he was hoping for.