Kurt Helin

durant westbrook

Kevin Durant: “I love Russ… I never back-stabbed him in real life”


Thursday night, Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder go into Oracle Arena and take on Kevin Durant‘s Warriors. It’s the first time Durant and Westbrook will have been opponents in a basketball game, and it promises to be dramatic — Westbrook is on a tear averaging a triple-double this season, while the Warriors have played well enough to win but have struggled defensively (26th in the NBA) and haven’t looked like a team with much grit.

But much of the drama about Westbrook and Durant has been off the court — reports of their relationship being a reason KD chose to go to the Bay Area, that Durant only texted Westbrook when he made his decision.

Durant did a couple very honest and revealing Q&As released Tuesday, where Durant opened up about his relationship with Westbrook. He told Sam Amick of the USA Today Thursday night will be emotional.

“Hell yeah it will be. Yeah, it’s going to be emotional, seeing people on the sideline that I haven’t seen in a while. Yeah, it’s definitely going to be emotional, but I’ve got a job to do. I’ve got to go out there and be me in between the lines. I’d be a fraud if I go out there and say, ‘No, it’s not going to mean nothing. It’s just another game.’ It’s not. It’s not another game.”

With Anthony Slater of the San Jose Mercury News, Durant opened up about his relationship with Westbrook.

“I love Russ. I don’t care what nobody say. I don’t care what he say or what the fans say. Like, this is a tough time right now in our relationship. But I love Russ. I love his family. They all know that. I never did anything morally wrong. I never back-stabbed him in real life, never did anything behind his back, never told anyone anything about his character.”

On informing Westbrook that he was going to Golden State via text:

That’s something me and him will talk about. I’m not saying I’m right. I’m not saying I did it the right way. I’m owning up to that. We’re not going to go through this in the media though. I’m not going to say I should’ve did this, should’ve did that. We’ll figure our differences out as men 1-on-1…. We’re going through a tough time right now in our relationship. But we’re brothers at the end of the day. When I say that, where I come from, I mean it. You know what I’m saying?

Durant said the reports of he and Westbrook not getting along, not being brothers, was from people who benefited from the drama.

All that stuff I hear is lies. All that stuff that I’m taking shots at the Thunder or Russell. It’s just there to try to separate us. They did it when we were playing together. They tried to separate us. So obviously they’re going to do it even more now. C’mon. I don’t have nothing against Russell. As I shouldn’t. And I don’t think he have nothing against me. I don’t think he’s taking shots at me. I don’t think he’s doing anything that everyone is putting out there. It’s for your entertainment, your pleasure, your joy. I see it all the time. They want us to beef because of the game on Thursday.

Westbrook has acted more like the jilted one in this relationship, and you can’t blame him for that. But I don’t doubt Durant still sees Westbrook as his brother, and for him this was not a personal slight — however Westbrook saw it.

We are on the outside, we don’t know how they feel. We can infer and speculate, but anyone who says they know for sure is selling something.

I expect Tuesday night the two will give each other a brief hug before and after the game, as KD will do with a number of former teammates. I also expect between the lines the Warriors are going to have a hard time slowing Westbrook down.

PBT Podcast: Kobe Bryant biography “Showboat” with author Roland Lazenby


There may be no more fascinating person to come through the NBA than Kobe Bryant. He was both captivating and polarizing from the start.

There were the clashes with teammates and Phil Jackson struggling to hold things together on a three-peat team. There was Kobe pushing people in his life away from him — family and friends. There were the down years with the Lakers, followed by a second string of a couple of titles with Pau Gasol. Then, there was the very Kobe-like final chapter when he had to leave the game on his terms.

Author Roland Lazenby of the new Kobe biography “Showboat” sat down with Kurt Helin of NBC Sports to talk all things Kobe, from his relationship with his parents through his one with Phil Jackson. Lazenby’s detailed research and fantastic writing paint a complex, engaging picture of one of the NBA’s greats, and they talk about it all in this podcast.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunes (check there to see all the NBC Sports podcasts), subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out our new PBT podcast homepage and archive at Audioboom.com.

Draymond Green: If it’s a Finals rematch, “I want to destroy Cleveland”

Associated Press

What else would you expect Draymond Green to say? “If it’s Cleveland and us in the Finals again, I’d like to sit down with LeBron and share some tea and crumpets; he seems quite the dashing fellow.”

Draymond Green is a competitor and the emotional leader of the Golden State Warriors. We expect fire from him, on the court and sometimes off it. Like all real competitors — Michael Jordan, Jerry West, Kobe Bryant, etc. — he hates to lose. Last year the Warriors lost to the Cavaliers in the Finals, and he was at the heart of why. He deserves blame.

So when NBA.com’s David Aldridge talked with Green about a potential rematch, Green said exactly what you’d expect him to.

“I want to win the Western Conference, try to beat everybody in the Western Conference — which is a tough task. There are so many good teams. So that’s got to be our only focus, to win the Western Conference. And then, if Cleveland comes out of the east, I want to destroy Cleveland. No ifs, ands and buts about it. But I also know that there’s steps to get to that point. And if and when we get to that point, I want to annihilate them….

“And they get there, I want to completely destroy them. No ifs, ands or buts about it. That won’t change. I’m not saying we’re going to look forward to that. Like I said, there’s a long road ahead. And it’ll be a tough, tough road to get there. Nonetheless, if we get there, and they get there, I want to destroy them. Really ain’t no other way to put it.”

Again, this is precisely what he should say.

Green is passionate. Emotional. Confident. And willing to say what he’s thinking. I’m sure a lot of the Warriors players would love to get a rematch — a rubber match — in the Finals with the Cavaliers. If that never crossed their minds, I’d be more worried.

But June is a long, long time off. They need to get their own ship — and defense — in order first.

Three Things We Learned Monday: DeMar DeRozan putting up 35 a game without threes

Getty Images

It’s still very early in the NBA season — we’re still watching small sample size theater — but we are starting to learn some things. Here is what we learned on Sunday while deciding maybe not to hand out those last couple packets of Skittles to the little kids because damn, they are good…. 

1) DeMar DeRozan is averaging 35 points a game — and has yet to hit a three. Toronto held off Denver north of the border Monday night in a game that required 33 points from DeMar DeRozan and 29 from Kyle Lowry — the Raptors gold-medal, All-Star backcourt just keeps getting it done, and the Raptors are 2-1 (with the only loss a close one to Cleveland).

DeRozan is averaging 35 points a game through three this season and is doing it old-school — he has yet to hit a three, and he has dished out only four assists. Brook Lopez has attempted more threes than DeRozan. He’s just putting his head down and getting to his spots — and it’s working. For now. He’s shooting 53.8 percent through three games with an impressive (and career best) true shooting percentage of 59.6. Look at his shot chart and you see a guy finishing at the rim (12-of-15 inside the restricted area) and in the midrange on the right side of the court.

DeRozan shotchart

It works because most modern NBA defenses want to protect the rim, run opponents off the three-point line, and try to contest but give up the midrange. DeRozan is old school and can just beat you from there. And we do mean old-school.

Can DeRozan keep these numbers up? It’s tempting to say no on the face of it, but last season he made a three about every other game and averaged just four assists a night (he’s at 1.3 a game now) — he’s done this before. That scoring average is going to come down a little this season, but on the whole, he can likely keep this up.

At least until the playoffs start.

2) Eight players from the 2013 NBA draft got rookie contract extensions. Monday at midnight was the deadline for teams and players from the 2013 NBA Draft Class — one of the weaker classes in years — to get extensions to their rookie deals. In the end, eight did, and here are the numbers, all of them four-year deals:

C.J. McCollum (Portland): $107 million
Rudy Gobert (Utah): $102 million
Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee): $100 million
Steven Adams (Oklahoma City): $100 million
Victor Oladipo (Oklahoma City): $84 million
Gorgui Dieng (Minnesota): $64 million
Dennis Schroder (Atlanta): $62-70 million
Cody Zeller (Charlotte): $56 million

Best deal for the team may be the Bucks getting Antetokounmpo for a little less than the max — but to do that they did not give him (or get him to take) a fifth year. That means he’s a free agent a little sooner, something the Bucks could regret. Gobert also took a little less and could have pushed for more.

Remember, most of the guys who did not get an extension will be restricted free agents next summer — their teams have the right to match offers. Teams only are likely to lock up true cornerstone players (Antetokounmpo, Gobert, etc.) or guys they can get on what they see is a good deal (Dieng, Zeller).

The No. 1 pick in the 2013 Draft was Anthony Bennett, who is getting another shot with the Nets this season but who was never in consideration for an extension (he is in consideration for worst No. 1 pick ever, which is one of many reasons Chris Grant is no longer the Cavaliers GM). The next highest pick without an extension is Otto Porter in Washington, the Wizards are wisely going to let the market set his value. Same with the Sixers and Nerlens Noel — maybe they want to keep him, but they need to see how he fits with Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and the rest of their young front line. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope wanted more than $20 million a season from Detroit, Stan Van Gundy likes him but wisely didn’t agree to pay that. Caldwell-Pope is now playing for his payday next summer.

3) Paul Pierce as Rick James is the best NBA Halloween costume.
There is no debate — he wore it on the Clippers’ bench during the game.

Timberwolves Ricky Rubio out indefinitely with sprained elbow

Associated Press

Most people expected that at some point this season Kris Dunn would take the Timberwolves starting point guard job over from Ricky Rubio.

It happened fast — the third game of the season.

That’s because Rubio has a sprained elbow that will keep him out indefinitely, the team announced Tuesday night. The injury happened in the fourth quarter of the team’s loss to the Kings Saturday night.

Rubio has played more than 30 minutes a night, averaging 4.5 points (and shooting just 33.3 percent) but dishing out 6.5 assists. Dunn, in 17 minutes a game, is averaging 6 points a game on 62.5 percent shooting, and he is dishing out 2.5 assists. There was a sense that once Tom Thibodeau really came to trust the rookie he would turn the team over to him.

That time is now. The Timberwolves next game is Tuesday against Mike Conley and the Grizzlies.