Kevin Durant, flawed and perfect

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kevin_durant_team_usa.jpgKevin Durant has yet to disappoint. He had a fantastic rookie year, has grown in each of his three seasons in the NBA, and emerged as one of the top players in the game. KD’s also riding a hell of a PR typhoon after the tectonic shift known as The Decision changed, well, everything. LeBron James’ hubris has cut him down from favored status, and in his place now stands Durant, the do-no-wrong king of the upstart Thunder and most recently, medaled national hero.

Not that KD has surpassed LeBron on the court. Whether that’s even a possibility is still to be determined, but at present, no NBAer’s star is more likely to supernova. Durant is that good, and right now he’s sitting on top of the basketball universe.

Unfortunately, that leaves Durant with an awfully long way to fall.

Even if KD’s game is only getting better and better, it’s possible that this is the best it gets for Durant’s image. He’ll win some, he’ll lose some. He’ll fall short of some expectations and shatter others. Yet the longer Durant stays in the NBA, the more time the now-adoring public will have to pick him apart. Even the great ones have their flaws, and in case those flaws aren’t flammable enough on their own, the sports sphere is never short on gasoline.

Durant is the type of talent and person that should be enjoyed. He deserves to be praised, and it’s not surprising that NBA fans have latched on to him as they have. He’s also exactly what he’s pegged as being: just a normal guy.

KD isn’t a megalomaniac, but he’s also mortal, even if his game hints otherwise. The limits and quirks that make Durant so endearing are the same ones that will eventually tarnish him, just as they did with LeBron, and for that matter, with just about every other prominent star that ever laced ’em up. We love NBA players for their flaws, even if with Durant, we haven’t quite realized it yet.

His range is unbelievable, but sometimes he leans too heavily on his jumper as a result. He’s confident in his own abilities, but sometimes tries to do just a bit too much. He’s neck-deep in the game he loves, but maybe that makes him just a bit detached.

Can KD drop 40 with a flick of his wrist? Surely. Is his work ethic so intense that he refuses a proper vacation? Certainly. That doesn’t mean we haven’t been down this road before, with other remarkable men and remarkable athletes. The lesson in all of this isn’t that Durant is spectacularly flawed, even if he ends up being so. It’s not even that the ever-present disconnect between fan and athlete (or media and athlete, for that matter) precludes us from ever really knowing players like Durant.

The takeaway is that the fall is a part of the game (not the game, but the game), and the flaws spotlighted in the process are typically par for the professional athlete course — bloated egos, the obsessive need to control, etc. However, when the beams dim a bit and the glare disappears, we find comfort in those same traits under gentler light. If I can shift metaphors from the stage to the screen: those flaws that endure, through the ups and the downs, put the stars of the NBA in vivid technicolor.

Durant is brilliant, but only because his flaws make him so. Perfection is boring. Limits are everything, even if they exist solely to be bent and broken, set and reset.

Watch best of Wendell Carter Jr. at Summer League

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I will own my mistake: Coming into the NBA Draft I was not high on Wendell Carter Jr., particularly how well he would defend at the NBA level.

I missed on that one — he has impressed me and everyone else in Las Vegas at Summer League. While nobody should ever read too much into Summer League perormances, he has shown potential on both ends of the court. Check out his highlights above

His offensive game is everything that was advertised — versatile and polished. He has nailed turnarounds in the post, can score with either hand, has a jump shot with real range, and he is a smart and willing passer. Defensively he has been physical, works hard and uses his athleticism to be dispruptive.

We will see how he fares against NBA-level competition (and how he pairs with Jabari Parker and the rest of the Bulls frontcourt), but the work ethic and tools are there. The Bulls may have something in Carter Jr.

Stephen Curry nailing putts, doing shimmy at American Century Championship

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If there’s one thing Stephen Curry loves as much as draining a 28-foot three over the outstretched arms of a defender, it’s golf. Curry is a golf fanatic.

Which is why he never misses — and always has fun at — the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe. And when he makes a putt, he will do a little shimmy, as you can see above.

Curry is currently tied for 19th in the tournament. The highest NBA player on the leaderboard is retired sharpshooter Ray Allen at seventh, and on top of the leaderboard heading into the final day is San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski.

You can watch the final round live on NBC at 3 ET Sunday.

Here’s Curry and his father Dell talking a little golf and family.

And here is Curry talking a little golf before the tournament.

NBA Summer League down to elite 8 in tournament format

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — The NBA Summer League has its elite eight.

The quarterfinals were set by the end of play Saturday, and include a few surprises.

Philadelphia and Toronto, the two lowest seeds in the 30-team tournament, both pulled out close games Saturday to stay alive. Toronto, the No. 29 seed that was winless in the preliminary round, has put together two straight wins in the tournament and will face 12th-seeded Cleveland and rookie Collin Sexton, who like Lonzo Ball last year is a highly touted point guard trying to win a summer title.

No. 27 Memphis is next up for Philadelphia. Detroit, the No. 25 seed, is also still alive.

The top-seeded Lakers and No. 2 Portland had byes into the quarterfinals. No other single-digit seeds remain in the field.

Saturday’s results:

76ERS 91, BUCKS 89

Furkan Korkmaz scored eight of his 19 points in the final 40 seconds, including the go-ahead points on a three-point play with 3.6 seconds left for the No. 30 seed 76ers (2-3).

Jonah Bolden added 13 points and eight rebounds and Isaiah Miles scored 12 points for Philadelphia.

Christian Wood had 27 points and 12 rebounds for the 14th-seeded Bucks (2-3). Sterling Brown added 15 points, Trae Bell Haynes scored 13 and Tim Quarterman 12.

The 76ers will play the Grizzlies in the quarterfinals.

CAVALIERS 92, ROCKETS 87

Collin Sexton shook off a 5-for-17 night to score 17 points for the Cavaliers (4-1). The No. 8 pick in the draft had scored 25 in the first round of the tournament.

Scoochie Smith also scored 17, Jamel Artis had 13 and Billy Preston 12 for Cleveland.

Danuel House finished with 30 points for the fifth-seeded Rockets (4-1) in their first loss of the summer.

RAPTORS 87, HORNETS 84, OT

Rawle Alkins made a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 32 seconds left in overtime and finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds for the Raptors (2-3). Rookie Malachi Richardson added 14 points.

Dwayne Bacon had 28 points and rookie Miles Bridges added 18 points and 11 rebounds despite shooting just 5 for 20 from the field for the Hornets (3-2).

CELTICS 74, HEAT 72

Pierria Henry scored 15 points and Guerschon Yabusele had 12 points and 10 rebounds for the 10th-seeded Celtics (4-1).

They advanced to meet second-seeded Portland.

Boston turned to its defense again, limiting Miami to fewer than 20 points in all but the fourth quarter, when the Heat scored 22.

Derrick Walton Jr. finished with 15 points for the Heat (2-3), but missed a long 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have sent the No. 6 seed to the quarterfinals.

PISTONS 72, BULLS 66

Henry Ellenson scored 21 points and No. 25-seeded Detroit (3-2) advanced to a quarterfinal matchup against the top-seeded Lakers.

Antonio Blakeney scored 24 points for the Bulls (2-3). Rookie Chandler Hutchison had 11 points for the No. 24 seeds.

Rookie lottery pick Wendell Carter Jr. grabbed 16 rebounds but shot just 1 for 8 for six points.

GRIZZLIES 92, JAZZ 86

Second-round pick Jevon Carter had 16 points, eight rebounds, six assists and two steals for Memphis (3-2). Markel Crawford scored 19 points, hitting 5 of 8 from 3-point range, and first-round pick Jaren Jackson Jr. had nine points, nine rebounds and seven blocks for the No. 27 seed Grizzlies. Kobi Simmons added 13 points.

Georges Niang led 22nd-seeded Utah (2-3) with 18 points and nine rebounds, Trey Lewis was 4 of 6 on 3-pointers and finished with 16 points. Naz Mitrou-Long scored 14.

Jackson made a layup and then Crawford and Carter hit back-to-back 3s to spark an 11-2 run that gave Memphis a 91-81 lead with 24 seconds left.

The Grizzlies will play No. 30 seed Philadelphia in the quarterfinals.

 

Sixers’ Furkan Korkmaz comes up huge in clutch for Summer League win

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Furkan Korkmaz played a total of 80 minutes for the Sixers since the 2016 first-round pick joined the NBA.

But in Summer League he came up huge in the clutch for Philadelphia n Saturday.

Korkmaz had a series of crucial late plays and finished with a team-high 19 points on the Sixers win. That includes the and-1 game winning drive — check it out above in a highlight package.