Kurt Helin

Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant says he’s focused on defense this season

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When you’re a former MVP, the greatest shooter on the planet, and a guy who averaged 32 points a game your last full season, people think offense when they think of you. With good reason.

But Kevin Durant knows if the Thunder are going to compete for a title, it is their middle-of-the-pack defense from last season that has to improve. And Durant told Erik Horne of the Oklahoman he’s going to be the change he wants to see.

“I think that’s an underrated part of my game,” Durant said Tuesday. “I feel like I can guard 1 through 4. I can switch with bigs and point guards, and I can use my length a lot….

“Shotblocking I think is one of my strong suits as well. I just have to be totally focused every single possession on it, and I haven’t done a good job of that. But once I’m locked in and focused on what I have to do as a defender, I think I’m pretty good.”

Durant is an underrated defender — he’s right in that he’s good at using his length to disrupt on that end. The issue in the past has been focus, but during his MVP season he played well on that end. He’s also a good rebounder.

How new coach Billy Donovan will set up the Thunder defense is something to watch as the season gets rolling, but he’s got a lot of good chess pieces to work with. Things look a lot better when Serge Ibaka is patrolling the paint. The Thunder getting their defense into the top 10 will be one of the keys to them getting out of the West and contending for a title.

Oh, and Durant will score plenty, too. He’s a guy you may want to try to get on your fantasy team.

Derrick Rose suffers orbital fracture near eye, surgery Wednesday

Derrick Rose

So much for Derrick Rose and the Bulls having better luck with injuries.

Rose suffered a left orbital fracture — a fracture of the eye socket — during practice Tuesday, taking an elbow from an unidentified teammate, the Bulls announced. He will have surgery on Wednesday, after that a timetable for his return will be announced.

How long Rose is out depends on the location of the fracture (is it near the eye and causing vision issues?), but it could cause him to miss the start of the season. He likely will wear a mask upon his return as well. This means the Bulls will have to lean on Aaron Brooks and Kirk Hinrich to run the point in his absence.

Rose has played in just 100 games total the last four Bulls seasons, due to a variety of injuries including surgeries on both of his knees. Part of the reason Tom Thibodeau is out and Fred Hoiberg is in as Bulls coach was the hope of reducing injuries and wear and tear on players by reducing workloads. Rose’s latest injury obviously is a fluke that has nothing to do with minute usage, but it’s not the way the Bulls wanted to start the season.

Jared Dudley: Adam Morrison “never took showers”

Portland Trail Blazers Media Day

Jared Dudley remains one of the best interviews in the NBA. Easily. You can talk Xs and Os with him about the game, or just random topics, and he’ll be honest — he was the guy that said most players don’t want to play with Kobe Bryant, and he called Carmelo Anthony the most overrated player in the NBA (then apologized).

Dudley was on the Grant and Danny Show on 106.7 The Fan in our nation’s capital and they started to throw random questions about former teammates at him, and then got to: Who is the worst dressed, most disgusting teammate he had. (Transcribed by the Washington Post, hat tip SLAM and wizhappyhour.com)

“Adam Morrison. Remember Adam Morrison? He never took showers, he did the chewing tobacco that he spit all the time, and he wore the same three polos the whole year. This is a guy who made a lot of money, too, at that time. He was the face of diabetes, he was doing everything, he was on the cover of college games, he was [everywhere], and he was by far the worst and [most] disgusting.”

Is this really a surprise?

Dudley and Morrison were teammates on the 2008 Bobcats, and some things stick with you a while. Like that smell.


Bosh and McRoberts back on floor as Heat open training camp

Chris Bosh
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BOCA RATON, Fla. (AP) — Chris Bosh was the final Miami Heat player to leave the court after practice Tuesday.

It was unintentionally symbolic.

Bosh insisted the first Heat practice of training camp carried no extra significance to him, not after his 2014-15 season was cut short by a blood clot that was potentially life- and career-threatening. But to the franchise, perhaps the biggest takeaway from Day 1 was how Bosh and Josh McRoberts – who were lost to illness and injury a year ago – were finally back on the floor.

“I’ve been blessed to put that situation behind me,” Bosh said. “That’s the best part about all of this. I have no worries. I’m just able to go out there.”

The day wasn’t perfect for Miami. It was supposed to be the first time that this season’s projected starting five of Bosh, Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng and Hassan Whiteside were all on the floor together. That never happened last year, since Dragic was acquired on the same day that Bosh was deemed out for the season.

And it still hasn’t happened. Whiteside missed the first practice after straining a calf muscle while conditioning last week, and will be re-evaluated before camp resumes on Tuesday.

“I’m just taking a couple days off, just to take it day-by-day,” Whiteside said.

He didn’t sound worried. After what the Heat went through last season, they also didn’t sound overly concerned.

McRoberts was considered one of the key signees in the summer of 2014 after LeBron James left Miami to go back to Cleveland. He missed most of camp with a toe problem, then appeared in only 17 games before being shut down in early December because of knee surgery. But like Bosh, who missed the final 30 games last season because of the clot, McRoberts was back on the floor Tuesday and moving without any apparent issues.

“The first day of training camp isn’t always the day you’re looking forward to most, just because it’s a tough day and getting back in the swing of things,” McRoberts said. “But just to be out here, I missed it, I missed it a lot. To be out here with everybody and competing again, running up and down, it was a lot of fun.”

That word – fun – isn’t always necessarily tied to the first day of camp, especially Heat camp. The first session went on for more than two hours, was virtually all about defense and the lone stretch of offensive drills toward the very end of practice might be best described as a shot-clanging, sloppy-playing, turnover-fest, which is exactly what Heat coach Erik Spoelstra expected.

Spoelstra entered last season with a playbook that was 70 percent filled with things to run through McRoberts and Bosh. That playbook was basically thrown out early last season, though now some of those concepts can return.

“They both make the game look a whole lot easier, because of their skillsets,” Spoelstra said. “Anything you’re trying to do, how you envision it when Josh or C.B. is on the floor, it flows a lot better, it goes a little more to design and that shows and speaks to their versatility.”

Spoelstra clearly liked what he saw from the first 2-1/2 hour practice.

“This is what we do,” Spoelstra said. “We’re wired to get out here and work. Coaches and staff, we like practices more than anything.”

Notes: Spoelstra changed the first day’s schedule in part because of lessons learned from former Heat coach Ron Rothstein – who passed along some tips he picked up long ago from former Detroit coach Chuck Daly. The evening on-court practice was scratched, replaced by a team meeting and evening classroom teaching session. … Dwyane Wade’s assessment of the first practice of his 13th season: “No matter how many times you go through training camp, you just want to get that first day out of the way. There’s always a little nervous energy that first day. It’s good, man. This is what you’re born to do … the start of what everyone hopes will be special.”

Tristan Thompson skips Cavs first practice; LeBron not discussing it

2015 NBA Finals - Game Five

Missing media day was one thing — he didn’t get to record any cool promotional bits, but that’s about it.

Tuesday was another — Tristan Thompson skipped the Cavaliers first practice. He’s still is in a battle with Cleveland over his contract extension, he wants a max deal, and the Cavaliers are offering something closer to $16 million a season (although they might go higher).

Coach David Blatt played it off, as you would expect. Here is what he said, via Chris Haynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Cavs coach David Blatt said Thompson’s missing practice wasn’t “too, too much (of a concern) right now,” and “obviously we hope to see him as soon as possible.

“But as I know Tristan, he’s maintaining great condition and he will hopefully be with us as soon as possible,” Blatt said. “For a coach it’s every day (wanting Thompson back). I’d rather not think about the bad end of the expectation. I’m just hoping to see him here sooner than later.”

LeBron James said yesterday he was not involved in the negotiations (he and Thompson share an agent), and Tuesday LeBron wouldn’t even open the door to talking about it.

“Play my clips from yesterday, I’ve already addressed it,” James said tersely, following the Cavs’ first practice of the 2015-16 season. “I probably won’t address it too much more. Like I said I’m optimistic both sides will get something done and he’ll get here sooner than later.”

Thompson and the Cavaliers are trying to reach a deal, if they do not he will play for the qualifying offer — “just” $6.8 million — and become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Paul seems willing to bet that next summer, in a market where two-thirds of NBA teams will have the money to sign a player to a max contract, that someone will throw more money at Thompson.

We will see soon if he and Thompson and willing to take that risk, or if the two sides reach a compromise.