Tag: Kevin Durant

Dwight Howard

Report: Dwight Howard to attend Team USA mini-camp after all


Apparently Dwight Howard still might want a trip to Rio next summer.

USA Basketball’s mini-camp is coming up and players who do not attend are not likely to be invited to the tryouts for the Rio Olympics next summer (unless your name is LeBron, then you can pretty much do what you want). A few players frustrated with the USA Basketball process and decisions — Damian Lillard and John Wall in particular — have been hesitant in saying they would go.

Dwight Howard, on the other hand, seems to have had a change of heart, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

Howard, because of his defense and mobility, would stand a good chance to make Team USA because he fits Mike Krzyzewski’s style of play. Howard protects the paint, can cover out on the perimeter on defense, and knows how to run the floor and finish on offense. Tyson Chandler was on the roster in London, Howard could slide right into that slot.

Predicting who will be available a year from now is next to impossible, there’s an entire NBA season still to be played. But if you don’t show up to the mini-camp this season you probably miss out next year, so it doesn’t hurt to show up (even for guys like Kevin Love and Kevin Durant, who cannot participate due to injury). This is the smart play for Howard.

Jerry Colangelo sounds more forgiving of Kevin Love than Kevin Durant for skipping World Cup

Oklahoma City Thunder v Cleveland Cavaliers

Kevin Durant and Kevin Love committed two years ago to play in the 2014 World Cup, and the news thrilled USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo and Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski.


“This is a big day and a big announcement for USA Basketball,” program Chairman Jerry Colangelo said. “Because two of our players who have been so instrumental in our success in winning gold medals, Kevin Durant and Kevin Love, have officially announced that they will be part of our future going forward, including the World Cup next summer.”

“It means a great deal to us because of how committed they are to our program,” Colangelo said. “We’re very appreciative of their early commitment; we think it’ll certainly send a message to some of our other guys who have indicated they’re interested. So we’re very excited.”

Krzyzewski, referring first to Durant:

“The thing he told us last night, he says ‘Coach, I wanted to come here and look you in the eye and tell you that I’m doing it,” Krzyzewski said. “I get chills just thinking that a guy of his stature and his accomplishment, for these two guys to come here — it shows what they think of the program and the people involved to do it face to face, and we appreciate that very much.”

Durant and Love were part of the player pool released in January 2014. Durant even showed up to training camp in July, talking big about Team USA’s ability.

But Love withdrew shortly before the camp, and Durant followed suit a couple weeks later.

Colangelo, in a Q&A with Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports:

Q: How do you reflect on Kevin Durant and Kevin Love making a big public commitment to play on the 2014 World Cup team and then reneging on it?

Colangelo: In Kevin Love’s case, he really felt bad in not being there to participate after he said he would. That was more about advice he’s getting from legal counsel and his agent. That, too, is a variable. We have no control over that. If that happens next year with one or two players and they’re out, it’s not the end of the world. We have other players. The point is with the roster we have we can take hits like that and there are other guys to step in.

“Kevin Durant, a little bit of a different story. I think he was affected some by Paul George’s injury. I also think a lot of things were going on with Kevin Durant with his career and his contract. Things were changing. He wasn’t the same Kevin Durant who was wide-eyed and bushy-tailed when he first stepped on to the court for USA Basketball. He had a lot going on in his life. So when he said he was going to pull out, I wasn’t surprised. I could kind of see it coming. I didn’t see the same vigor. He was always so active and positive. He had a different look to him.

Love pulled out, because he was in trade limbo at the time. The Timberwolves and Cavaliers had agreed to a trade, but because Andrew Wiggins couldn’t be dealt so soon after signing a rookie-scale contract, everyone had to wait.

Durant initially cited a desire for rest, but he later admitted Paul George’s devastating injury freaked him out.

Both players functionally withdrew because they feared getting injured and it harming their NBA careers – and that’s fine.

I’m not sure why Colangelo is treating the decisions so differently.

We obviously don’t know everything that happened behind the scenes. Colangelo said Love was near tears when delivering the news to him. Perhaps, Durant didn’t handle the issue as gracefully.

But Colangelo also forgave Love because his agent advised him not to risk injury at that point. Does Colangelo think Durant withdrew without any outside put, though? Every NBA player who participates in USA Basketball has someone telling him it’s not worth the injury risk. It’s up to the player to determine when that advice is actually worth heeding.

Durant and Love reached the same conclusion: Playing in the 2014 World Cup wasn’t worth the injury risk. If there are significant differences in those decisions, I don’t see them. Love shouldn’t get any more of a break from USA Basketball because he didn’t want to jeopardize his exit from Minnesota than Durant should get scrutinized by USA Basketball for wanting to remain healthy to help the Thunder win the 2015 championship.

Reading between the lines – and it doesn’t take much supposing – Colangelo seems to view it differently. Maybe he has reasons we can’t see.

Either way, this probably won’t keep Durant off the 2016 Olympic team if he wants to play. His talent gives him a lot more leeway than Love. Even if Colangelo downgrades his overall opinion of Durant based on his World Cup withdrawal, it’s hard to see Durant not ranking as one of the 12 most-deserving candidates for Rio.

Thunder sign domestic draft-and-stash pick Josh Huestis

Josh Huestis
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A year ago, the Thunder selected Stanford forward Josh Huestis with the 29th overall pick, and he quickly became a pioneer in NBA circles. He was essentially a domestic draft-and-stash player — the Thunder didn’t offer him a rookie scale contract after drafting him. Instead, they assigned him for the entire season to the Oklahoma City Blue, so they wouldn’t burn a roster spot or salary cap space on him.

Now, a year later, they signed him to a standard four-year rookie scale deal, the team announced in a press release:

The Oklahoma City Thunder have signed forward Josh Huestis to a contract, it was announced today by Executive Vice President and General Manager Sam Presti. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“We are excited to add Josh to our roster as he allows us to continue to increase our depth through his athleticism and versatility,” Presti said. “Josh knows our culture and our organization as a result of his time with the Blue and we look forward to his continued development with the Thunder.”

Huestis likely won’t play much — he plays the same position as Kevin Durant, who is expected to be healthy. But the Thunder took an unorthodox approach with drafting him in the first round and then sending him down to the D-League. If they’re happy with his development and decide the experiment was a success, it could be the first in a trend.

Report: Serge Ibaka not yet cleared to play after March surgery

"Son Of The Congo" - 2015 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival

Serge Ibaka had knee surgery in mid-March and was expected to be sidelined four to six weeks.

Nineteen weeks later, the Thunder power forward – who was named to Team Africa for the NBA’s first exhibition game on the continent – reportedly still isn’t ready to play.

Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports:

That’s a little concerning, though it shouldn’t cause panic for a couple reasons:

1. There’s still plenty of time before training camp opens.

2. Ibaka’s originally scheduled return was right around playoff time. There should be a higher standard of clearance for an exhibition game than a postseason game. It’s unclear whether Ibaka could play if this contest had higher stakes.

Still, it’s obviously not great news that Ibaka isn’t cleared.

The Thunder have been sidetracked in recent years by injuries to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Ibaka isn’t at their level, but his defense and floor spacing means a lot to Oklahoma City. Ibaka is just a tick below All-Star level.

If everyone is healthy, the Thunder should contend for a championship. Once again, though, the status of at least one of their top players is in doubt.

At least, this time, it’s in the summer rather than spring.

Lakers’ coach Byron Scott says Kobe Bryant will “probably” play some power forward

Kobe Bryant, Byron Scott

We knew that with a guard rotation of Jordan Clarkson, D’Angelo Russell and Lou Williams, the Lakers were going to slide Kobe Bryant over to the three for stretches this season. And when Lakers’ trainer Gary Vitti discussed it with him, Kobe’s reaction was “I can do that.” Which is probably Kobe’s reaction to every question he is ever asked — “Hey Kobe, could you land a 747?” — but in this case he certainly can do it if healthy.

But how about Kobe at as a small four?

Not sure how Kobe feels about it, but Lakers’ coach Byron Scott is thinking about it, he told David Aldridge of NBA.com (hat tip to NBA Reddit).

“The one thing that we wanted to do and accomplish through this draft and through free agency was to try and be a little more versatile, have some versatility. So I think (Clarkson, Russell, Williams) can definitely do that. Kobe can play one, two and three. There’s no doubt in my mind. And there’s some games. against some teams, where he’ll probably play four. With his tenaciousness, the way he guards people and when his mind is set, if I say ‘Kobe, you’ve got him,’ he takes that as a challenge. You know how he is. He’ll compete.”

This is a decent idea, one worth exploring, if it is situational (the Lakers tried it very, very briefly last season).

If the Lakers are playing the Toronto Raptors and they’ve gone small with DeMarre Carroll at the four, the Lakers can match that with Kobe. Same with the Wizards if they go small and slide Jared Dudley to the four. Orlando if they go small with Tobias Harris at the four. There are matchups where this could work for the Lakers — not for long stretches, playing against bigger guys would take a toll on Kobe’s body, but for 5-10 minutes it could work.

However, notice all the teams noted above are in the East. The problem is that in the West most of the teams have fours Kobe would simply not be able to match defensively — Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin, Serge Ibaka (or the Thunder go small with Kevin Durant), LaMarcus Aldridge, Zach Randolph, Dirk Nowitzki, Draymond Green, and the list goes on. The West is simply a different animal with the forward spots.

That’s why most of the Lakers’ minutes at the four will be split between Julius Randle and Brandon Bass. Still, I could see a short stretch with three shooters to space the floor, Kobe at the four and Bass at the five. It’s worth taking a look at in preseason and early in the season. Scott is right, versatility matters more and more in the NBA. We’ll see if he puts that plan into action.