Tag: Kevin Durant

Miami Heat v Oklahoma City Thunder

Kevin Durant was back on court, swatting kids shots, at youth camp


If you’re looking for positives in Oklahoma City, Kevin Durant was back on the court and swatting shots again this week.

Of course, he was blocking the shots of five-year-olds (give or take). Again. It’s his thing (hat tip Dan Devine at Ball Don’t Lie).

He wasn’t done there.

I pity the future for Durant’s own kids in driveway games.

Durant is expected to be cleared for contact in the next month. While you can bet Scott Brooks takes it easy on him during training camp, Durant should be fully ready to go by the start of the Thunder’s season.

Brandon Bass: Kobe Bryant is “arguably the best player in the game still”

Cleveland Cavaliers v Los Angeles Lakers

We know what Kobe Bryant still thinks of his skills. Last year, when ESPN ranked him the 40th best player in the NBA right now, because he was 36 years old and coming off an Achilles injury, he said they were idiots. Then Bryant missed more than half of last season due to injury (and Byron Scott wearing him down with heavy minutes early).

So where does Bryant rank now?

If you ask newest Laker Brandon Bass right at the top. Turns out the New Orleans Times-Picayune did ask Bass that question.

“…we have arguably the best player in the game still,” Bass said. “When he is healthy he is a monster still. If he is healthy he’s right up there with the best players in the league, that’s LeBron or whoever the best players in the league are. When Kobe is healthy, 19 years in the game he is still elite.”

What did you expect him to say?

But is Kobe still elite?

All-time, no doubt Kobe is elite. He will go down as one of the game’s all-time greats. He deserves the retired number in the rafters and the statue out in front of Staples — none other than Jerry West called Kobe the greatest Laker. He’s an intense, old-school competitor, a guy with amazing fundamentals and footwork, a high hoops IQ, and back in the day some impressive athleticism. He’s got five rings because few players in league history have gotten as much out of their natural gifts as Kobe. He will be missed when he walks away.

But right now?

To quote Seth and Amy, “Really?”

Last season Kobe wasn’t surrounded by much talent so — as he has done in the past — he took on an incredible load in the offense, putting it on his back. The results were inefficient and physically wore him down (his shooting percentages dropped the deeper into the season he got). Kobe can’t carry that kind the same way as he did a decade ago. He can’t get to the rim the same way (and defenses packed it in on the Lakers) which led to 55 percent of his shots coming from 16 feet or farther out, and those shots were not falling. Kobe shot just 29.3 percent from three last season and had a true shooting percentage of 47.7 percent, well below the league average. Kobe still can pass and play a smart game (if he trusts his teammates), he also still made some plays, and he was certainly above average (which should give Lakers fans hope as Kobe will have better talent around him this season).

But elite? As in LeBron James, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kevin Durant kind of elite?

Sorry, but Bass is just spinning what his new team and its fans want to hear. Just like the idea the Lakers can make the playoffs.



Team USA announces 34 expected minicampers: DeAndre Jordan and Michael Carter-Williams in, Derrick Rose out

Chicago Bulls v Los Angeles Clippers

Team USA started with a 28-player pool for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.

That was narrowed for the World Cup with two players added, bringing the total to 30.

A few more players were added during World Cup tryouts, increasing the pool to 33.

A report last month listed seven newcomers, giving the Americans 40 known candidates for Rio.

Today, Team USA announced 34 players – including two previously unknowns – were expected to attend next week’s minicamp, which USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo called mandatory for Olympic consideration:

  • Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks)
  • LaMarcus Aldridge (San Antonio Spurs)
  • Harrison Barnes (Golden State Warriors)
  • Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards)
  • Jimmy Butler (Chicago Bulls)
  • Michael Carter-Williams (Milwaukee Bucks)
  • Mike Conley (Memphis Grizzlies)
  • DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings)
  • Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)
  • Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans)
  • DeMar DeRozan (Toronto Raptors)
  • Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons)
  • Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder)
  • Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets)
  • Rudy Gay (Sacramento Kings)
  • Paul George (Indiana Pacers)
  • Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors)
  • Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers)
  • James Harden (Houston Rockets)
  • Tobias Harris (Orlando Magic)
  • Gordon Hayward (Utah Jazz)
  • Dwight Howard (Houston Rockets)
  • Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers)
  • LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers)
  • DeAndre Jordan (Los Angeles Clippers)
  • Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs)
  • Kevin Love (Cleveland Cavaliers)
  • Victor Oladipo (Orlando Magic)
  • Chandler Parsons (Dallas Mavericks)
  • Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers)
  • Mason Plumlee (Portland Trail Blazers)
  • Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors)
  • John Wall (Washington Wizards)
  • Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder)

At this point, there aren’t many surprise inclusions. The two big ones: Jordan and Carter-Williams, neither of whom had previously been mentioned for the player pool. Jordan has emerged as one of the NBA’s best centers, and he could definitely make the Olympic roster. The road will be much more difficult for Carter-Williams, who has a strong crop of point guards in front of him.

Carter-Williams’ additions probably has something to do with the players previously in the pool who aren’t expected to attend the minicamp:

  • Tyson Chandler (Phoenix Suns)
  • Andre Iguodala (Golden State Warriors)
  • Kyle Korver (Atlanta Hawks)
  • David Lee (Boston Celtics)
  • Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers)
  • Derrick Rose (Chicago Bulls)
  • Deron Williams (Dallas Mavericks)

Utah Jazz point guard Trey Burke was reportedly extended a minicamp invite but he’s not on the list of expected attendees. It’s unclear whether the report was inaccurate or Burke declined.

Lillard and Rose are the big losses. Lillard seems fed up with USA Basketball, so his no-show will be no surprise. Rose’s is a little less expected, though we saw the possibility coming. Rose played in the World Cup, and it seemed his relationship with Team USA assistant coach Tom Thibodeau helped secure him a roster spot. Since the Bulls have fired Thibodeau, maybe that distanced Rose from USA Basketball. More time off could certainly help the point guard after his multiple serious injuries.

Bottom line: This player pool is strong, and Colangelo will have no trouble assembling the best roster in the world before the 2016 Olympics. The key is finding the ideal roster – the one that best blends talent and fit. This minicamp will be mostly ceremonial, but that process will continue there.

Dante Exum injury revives debate about risk, reward of playing for national teams

Dante Exum

It was one of the big topics of last summer, sparked by the injury to Paul George at a Team USA exhibition:

Can these national team injuries be avoided? Should players be potentially risking their careers over this? Where is the line between the reward of playing for one’s country and the risk of injury?

Those injuries hit NBA teams much harder than they do a national team (particularly a deep USA basketball roster). George missed most of what was a lost season for the Pacers because of that gruesome leg injury, all to play in a FIBA World Cup that draws yawns from fans in the United States (winning it did earn the USA an automatic berth in the 2016 Rio Olympics). That has long been Mark Cuban’s issue — if he and the Mavs have to assume the risk of Dirk Nowitzki getting injured playing for Germany, they should get some of the financial rewards of the event. That doesn’t happen.

The potential ACL injury to Utah’s Dante Exum playing for Australia this summer has revived this discussion.

That injury hasn’t slowed the more than 40 players who will be in Las Vegas for the Team USA mini-camp this summer because guys still want to make the Olympic squad. That is the event we care about stateside, plus it is a massive platform internationally to grow a brand. Players are not giving that up. However, a number of name players coming off injury or just feeling tired — Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving, among others — will attend but not participate in drills during the camp.

Bottom line: Exum’s injury — a setback for an up-and-coming Jazz team — has people talking.

The big issue is wear and tear. It’s a question of rest.

Guys can suffer injuries anywhere — in a pickup game at UCLA, working out at a Las Vegas gym, during the NBA season, or trying to get out of their car. Injuries happen. The fact is with national teams (particularly Team USA) and international competitions, these guys play fewer minutes and have very good training staffs around them. Injuries are going to be caught faster, and the player taken care of better with Team USA than at private workouts. USA basketball’s staff and facilities are top notch.

And if you are a player who wants to learn from and test yourself against the best, USA Basketball is the place to do it.

The question is how much should guys do for their national teams? When will they get enough rest and let their bodies recuperate? We already know that the NBA is working to adjust its schedule — doing away with four games in five days, reducing back-to-backs — because of concerns about the body needing rest. That marathon grind is seen as the reason for the rash of high-profile injuries that plagued the NBA last season.

“Of course it’s a concern when players are getting injured. It’s not necessarily worse than it’s been historically. But it’s to the point, especially when you see star players going down and missing serious numbers of games, it’s something that we’re focused on…” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said at the NBA Finals (not long before Irving suffered his knee injury).

“We’ve revamped the entire scheduling process this year to try to do everything to clear more windows at our arenas, to clear more broadcast windows,” Silver said. “… I think the science over time zone travel has gotten much better, where moving four time zones, we think, may have an effect on players’ bodies that we may not have understood historically.”

Since there is no chance the league and players will agree to shorten the NBA season (nobody is giving up that revenue), these are at least some smart steps.

But if players are with their national team during the summer, are they getting enough physical down time? This is not a new concern — China never let Yao Ming rest, he played every summer for the national team, until his body started just to give out on him. Foreign players — such as Marc Gasol and Pau Gasol of Spain, or Exum in Australia — face added pressure because, unlike Team USA, there isn’t the same depth of talent. If the Gasols don’t play for Spain, that team is not nearly as good, there are no comparable replacements.

Cuban wants the NBA to put on its own World Cup, so at least they get paid. That seems unlikely.

But the NBA and FIBA need to talk and come to an understanding. One major tournament every four years — the Olympics — is enough. Soccer, where the World Cup is the biggest event, turned Olympic soccer into an under 23 tournament. There is still some good young talent out there, and these are younger players who can handle the additional training and games more easily, but the big name veterans get to rest more.

There are real challenges in getting this done — all centered around money, of course — but it’s the direction basketball needs to go. We’ve seen the data and it’s clear — players need more rest. International competitions cut into that, and there need to be some limits.

And even if they do all that, injuries will happen. It’s part of the game.



Can Washington get Bradley Beal to take less than a max contract extension?

Charlotte Hornets v Washington Wizards

Is Bradley Beal a max player?

The answer isn’t simple. Remember that there are levels of max player (nobody is saying Beal is Anthony Davis). Beal is both looking for an extension of his rookie deal and is certainly a core part of Washington’s future. Those kinds of guys get max money. On the down side, he was inconsistent last season and has missed time for three straight seasons due to a stress reaction in his leg. On the upside, he shot 40.9 percent from three last season, and he led Washington with 23.4 points a game in the playoffs. This is a guy invited to Team USA mini-camp this month — Mike Krzyzewski sees his value.

The sides are talking, and you can be sure Beal and his agent Mark Bartelstein are asking for the max.

But for Washington there is another complication — Kevin Durant. The Wizards need the cap space to try to bring next summer’s biggest free agent home to play in the nation’s capital (although that is a longshot), and a max deal for Beal makes that difficult, as Zach Lowe explains at Grantland.

The Wizards need about $25.5 million in room to fit Kevin Durant on a max contract, and if they sign Beal to a max-level extension, they would have almost precisely that amount left over. Playing the math that tight is dangerous, and makes it hard to fill a workable roster unless ring-chasers come aboard at massive discounts. The Wiz would be safer following the path San Antonio took with Leonard, only they haven’t built up the cachet that allowed the Spurs to say, essentially, “Trust us. Hold tight as a cheap cap hold, and we’ll make it worth your while.” Washington needs to nurture the good vibes, and that means at least coming to the table.

Beal may want his money now, and his side will surely propose a max-level extension. He hasn’t played up to that level yet, but 22 year olds with silky strokes and some grit on defense don’t readily accept less.

You can be sure this is where the negotiations are right now. The Wizards are likely offering just less than the max by a few million, just to give them some financial flexibility. Beal is asking for the max.

Will Beal take a little less for financial security, considering that stress reaction history? If he stays healthy this season, other teams will throw max money at him next summer when the system is flush with television money teams need to spend.

But is Beal going to bet on himself to stay healthy and have a big year? Or does he take a little less and four years of security?

The lesson of this free agent summer was guys went for security over potentially slightly larger paydays down the line. Don’t be surprised if Beal does the same.