In case you hadn’t seen it, here are Kevin Durant’s two blocks to save the game for Team USA against Spain. In a very smart move, the USA switched defense to a zone on the final possession, and that caught Spain by surprise and cut off the drive. Check out a great breakdown of that last possession over at NBA Playbook. (Funny that a Duke guy like Mike Krzyzewski wins a game switching defenses on the last play, which is something Dean Smith liked to do.)
There have been reports out of the Houston Rockets organization that both James Harden and Chris Paul are upset with each other. The situation has reportedly become untenable, with Harden as the franchise cornerstone apparently hoping that general manager Daryl Morey will be able to ship Paul off somewhere else.
It was already expected that Morey would be trying to move Paul’s contract this summer. Paul has fallen off, and the rift between the two players was noticable. Still, it’s a tall task to move CP3’s deal — it’s enormous, and his skills are clearly in decline.
But at least one player things that all of this talk is just… talk.
According to Rockets swingman PJ Tucker, there aren’t big issues between Paul and Harden. In fact, speaking to The Athletic Sam Amick this week, Tucker called the supposed conflict “fake news” and that the tension after the team’s Game 6 loss to the Golden State Warriors wasn’t anything out of the ordinary given the circumstances.
Via The Athletic:
“I’m sick of the fake news man. It’s fake. Everybody – I argue with Chris and James more than Chris and James argue.
“It was what it was. Everybody’s mad. Everybody’s pissed. You can’t – I’m sick of all the highlight of whoever this person is trying to come up with all this crap, like I argue with Chris and James more than Chris and James argue with each other. Like, I’m the center, focal (point) of the argument because I’m always yelling at somebody and they’re yelling at me. So for me, it’s like ‘If you’re not arguing…’ You don’t think Kobe and Shaq argued?”
The problem here is that reports have said that Harden is sick of Paul trying to coach the team. Meanwhile, Paul has found that Harden’s ability to generate offense for himself isn’t necessarily what he thinks is best for the squad. It’s an impasse.
And of course, Kobe and Shaq hated each other so much they broke up a dynasty. Paul and Harden don’t compare to that tandem in their prime right now, and Tucker’s example is ignoring the fact that Shaq got shipped off to the Miami Heat.
It’s possible that Tucker is giving out the information he knows to be true. It’s also possible that he’s simply being a good teammate for the Rockets. And, begrudgingly, I will admit it’s also possible that the discourse between Paul and Harden is par for the course for stars of their stature and competitive nature.
Still, I won’t hold my breath for things to get smoothed over in Houston.
Most everyone has expected that Klay Thompson will return to the Golden State Warriors next season. That seemed even more of a lock after Thompson tore his ACL, which might scare off outside teams.
Thompson is certainly a max-level player, and the Warriors will need to decide whether they are going to offer him that contract this summer. It’s not clear whether Thompson would be willing to take a discount, or if he’s finally ready to cash out in a big way.
Golden State will have a hard time keeping their core intact as everyone continues to get more expensive. Finding some leeway with Thompson’s contract has been seen as one way for the Warriors to at least limit their luxury tax bill.
But according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, there are other teams interested in giving Thompson a hefty sum if the Warriors decline to offer him a max deal.
Via ESPN’s “Woj & Lowe” special:
“The one team that I think — my information is — he would be very open to going down to sit down with are the Clippers. And if they have a chance to sell Kawhi Leonard with Klay Thompson, certainly that’s an appealing sell for any free agent.”
It seems unreasonable that the Warriors would not try to max both Thompson and Kevin Durant. Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe said as much during their special.
But we have seen made promises to spend in the past, and often that decision has been reversed. Golden State might end up choosing a handful of their core players to keep, and either Durant or Thompson could be left looking elsewhere.
There will be plenty of suitors for either of these guys, and both are still max-level players despite their catastrophic injuries. Whether both, one, or neither will be in San Francisco next year is the question heading into July 1.
The Toronto Raptors are your 2019 NBA champions. For some folks, this title comes with a caveat thanks to injuries suffered by Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. Many fans feel as though there should be some kind of asterisk next to their championship in the record books.
This is, frankly, is sour grapes at best and patently insane at worst.
What-ifs are some of the more fun things to contemplate in a league like the NBA, but reality is inescapable. What has come to pass is the truth, and in front of our very eyes we saw the Golden State Warriors go down in six games to Toronto. And should have been five.
Raptors guard at Danny Green shares the same sentiment, saying is much too the New York Times Marc Stein in his newsletter this week. When asked about the prospect of adding an asterisk to the Raptors championship in light of Golden State’s injuries, Green disagreed.
In a phone interview Monday night, Toronto’s Danny Green forcefully scoffed at the asterisk question before I could even finish the sentence. “We don’t care,” Green said. “Doesn’t matter to us.”
Should I be surprised that this is an actual conversation happening between NBA fans in 2019? Probably not. I’ve been around for too long. But here I am, and the incessant idiocy of excuses remains ever-present.
Now, if only we knew with this kind of certainty where Kawhi Leonard was going to sign this summer.
It is fully expected in league circles that come Sunday evening, when free agency opens, the Philadelphia 76ers are going to offer Jimmy Butler a five-year max contract at $189.7 million. Considering the Sixers are contenders, plus the facts Butler will be 30 next season and has a building history of injuries (not unexpected considering his hard-charging style of play), he may well jump at that offer.
That’s been reported for a while, but Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN added details and emphasis to that on Tuesday:
Once free agency starts on Sunday, the Rockets are planning to recruit Jimmy Butler to push the Philadelphia 76ers for a sign-and-trade deal that would allow the All-Star forward to join James Harden and Chris Paul in Houston, league sources tell ESPN.
The Rockets don’t have the salary-cap space to sign Butler, so they’d need the threat of the Sixers losing him for nothing to a team with the available room to motivate Philadelphia into a trade. The Rockets also would potentially need to make this a multiteam deal to satisfy the rules of base year compensation that would cover Butler’s outgoing salary…
Butler would be eligible to sign a four-year, $140 million contract on the way to the Rockets, but Houston likely would need to include two of these players — center Clint Capela, guard Eric Gordon and power forward P.J. Tucker — to make the financial deal work, sources said.
A few thoughts here:
• If Philadelphia balks at giving Butler a fifth guaranteed year on his new contract — which is reasonable, sources from other teams told me they would be scared of the fourth year of a max with him — that could push this closer to reality. If that fifth year is on the table, then Butler has a different choice to make.
• The other question here: Does Butler want out of Philadelphia? Because to head to Houston he would give up guaranteed money and leave a team clearly a contender for a more uncertain situation.
• As noted by Woj, Philly would only agree to a sign-and-trade if Butler told them he was leaving anyway so the Sixers might as well get something for him.
• Under the new CBA, Butler can sign “only” a four-year, $140 million contract for a sign-and-trade, he cannot get that fifth year and the larger raises the Sixers can offer then trade that contract to Houston. A sign-and-trade can only be for what the team receiving the player could have signed him for as a free agent.
• Jimmy Butler, James Harden, and Chris Paul all in one locker room with a lame duck coach. What could possibly go wrong?
• If Butler forced this to happen, it would not be the worst result ever for the Sixers. Eric Gordon would be a great fit (especially if J.J. Redick leaves in free agency) and Capela could be platooned with Joel Embiid up front, or traded for another player the Sixers see as a fit. Capela has real value around the league.
• Houston, however, would be giving up a lot to go all-in for the season the Warriors are down due to injuries (and maybe defections). This trade would hurt Houston’s depth and make them top heavy (how did that work for the Warriors this past Finals?), but with that big three they would need to be mentioned among the contenders in the West, no matter how the rest of free agency shakes out.