Wizards rookie Chris Singleton shows some perspective on the lockout

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The NBPA hasn’t done the best job of managing their PR front. David Stern has done his damnedest to control the public message of the lockout, all while the factions that have reportedly formed among the players threaten to decertify the union entirely and rip the 2011-2012 season apart.

Yet individually, the lockout has provided certain players a chance to show their reasonable perspectives, in spite of the ridiculous actions and comments of their peers and negotiating opponents. For every JaVale McGee there is a Shane Battier or a Raja Bell – a player in a non-leadership role who demonstrates an awareness and an understanding of the negotiations and the lockout’s sticking points.

Among that group is Wizards rookie Chris Singleton, who, in an interview with Jared Zwerling for TrueHoop, gave some thoughtful answers to questions about the players’ position in the lockout, and the nature of an inevitable deal that they’ll eventually have little choice but to accept:

Are any of the players saying to each other, “Let’s just get this thing over with and earn your stripes on the court to make that extra million or two you think you deserve?” 

I mean, that’s in some peoples’ minds, but our board members are just trying to do the best for everybody. You know the superstars are going to get their money. We’re trying to see how much the max contracts are going to be. I feel like the superstars are going to be fine, but it’s just how much money are the owners wiling to put out now? They’ve given 15 to 20 million — some ridiculous amount — to some people who don’t even play 85 percent of the season. You’ve got to go out there and earn it; that’s how I feel. But, I mean, we’re together and I’m behind whatever they do.

Do you think the owners are trying to get the players to cave in? Is there any thought from the players that you won’t get the best deal once you start missing paychecks? 

I mean, we’re not going to get the best deal. We’re not going to get the deal we hoped for. It’s a business, I know that. I’m just hoping that it’s something that works out for both sides.

What has the experience of the lockout taught you? 

I don’t take for granted the opportunity that I have every day to be able to go out and showcase my abilities to the fans who are watching. I just take it all in and just try to be the best person I can be, the best player I can be. You grow up faster, especially because you don’t have anything. You’re depending on a check. That’s why you get a job; you try to earn a living. I have a job, I have a title, but I don’t get compensated by the league.

There’s nothing groundbreaking here, but that in itself may be notable. The NBA’s PR front would love nothing more than to have us all believe that the players are not only the problem, but oblivious to the actual goings-on of the negotiating process and the economics of a deal. Demonizing the locked out party — or at least framing them as inept — is one of the only ways to justify the league’s actions without being tagged as “greedy.” If the public thinks that the players just don’t get it, they’ll naturally side with the financially sound businessmen who are shackled from success by an allegedly broken system. Players salaries are rising! Look at the difference between the Lakers and Kings! We’ve heard it all before, framed so conveniently to exclude pesky facts and context.

Singleton, and his many informed peers, stand antithetical to the perception that the league strives for. The players may have conflict within their ranks, but that dissensions shouldn’t be confused with incompetence, even if it does stifle their efficacy. The players have reportedly made concessions in almost every area of the negotiations. They’ve made legitimate strides toward a potential deal. Yet Singleton knows and willingly tells us that the players aren’t going to get the kind of agreement they had hoped for — a softer contrast to the owners’ hard line. He may not be deeply involved in the negotiating process, but he shows flexibility and perspective, things which — although the league’s spin machine would have you believe otherwise — aren’t at all uncommon among the player ranks.

Are the Clippers, Knicks really equal threats to sign Kevin Durant?

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Is Kevin Durant going to stay with the Golden State Warriors? Is he going to sign with the New York Knicks? How about the Los Angeles Clippers? We just don’t know whether Durant will stay with the best team ever assembled, or strike it out on his own with several championships under his belt.

Durant is not currently playing for the Warriors, having injured his calf and missed the entirety of the Western Conference Finals against the Portland Trail Blazers. However, a new report says that there are rumblings that the Los Angeles Clippers are a serious destination for Durant should he decide to opt out of his contract and leave Golden State.

The only caveat? According to Mark Stein, all of the aforementioned teams have been rumored as the “favorite” for Durant by people he trusts.

Via NY Times Newsletter:

Within the last month, very smart and plugged-in people I have consulted say that the Los Angeles Clippers have emerged as an equally dangerous threat to the Knicks to sign Durant away from Golden State. And I believe it.

Problem is, at various points during the season, I have heard trusted insiders state with conviction that Durant is already planning to join the Knicks … and then that he is likely to consider the Nets as well … and now that he is eyeing the Clippers just as intently as New York.

It leads one to conclude that maybe the best forecast, at least for the moment, is that nobody but Durant and his business manager Rich Kleiman know.

Durant is one of the more tiring personalities in the NBA, and his constant need for ego-stroking has worn thin despite the Warriors’ success. If he decides to leave — and it just sort of feels like he will at this point — no doubt it won’t be the last we hear of this story.

Tim Connelly eager to finish what he started with Nuggets

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DENVER (AP) The prospects of a return home to Washington were undeniably appealing to Tim Connelly.

Not nearly as alluring as this: Finishing what he’s started.

The Denver Nuggets president of basketball operations elected to stay in town even with the Wizards calling. Things are booming these days with a Nuggets team that boasts a young nucleus led by big man Nikola Jokic and that won 54 games in the regular season. They were the No. 2 seed in the West before losing to Portland in Game 7 at home during the second round of the playoffs.

There was just too much work left to be done in Denver to consider taking Washington’s front office job even if it would’ve been with the organization where Connelly got his start and in the area where he and his wife are from.

“It’s safe to assume, and maybe it’s me being overly optimistic, that we’re going to see a better version of us next year,” Connelly said Tuesday. “I don’t know if that means more wins. I don’t know if we’re going to win a playoff series and advance, but I don’t think there’s any reason to think there will be any regression next season.”

A Baltimore native, Connelly appreciated the audience with Wizards owner Ted Leonsis. He said he was flattered by their recent “exchange of ideas” as the Wizards look to fill the role of team president after Ernie Grunfeld was fired in April.

“The relationships that have been built up here and the hard times we’ve been through – it was very hard to envision leaving something that has been so hard and so long coming in its build,” said Connelly, who broke into the NBA with the Wizards as an intern in the basketball operations department, then as an assistant video coordinator and as a scout.

Connelly was hired as Denver’s general manager in July 2013 and it took a while for the team to take off. Team President Josh Kroenke stayed patient with him. Connelly brought in coach Michael Malone before the 2015-16 season and they’ve steadily progressed since – from 33 wins in Malone’s first year to 40 wins in ’16-17 to 46 in ’17-18 and finally to 54 this season, including a league-leading 34-7 home mark.

“We did not get off to a good start by any stretch, and (Kroenke) doubled down on what easily could have been perceived as an initial mistake because he liked the processes and liked how we attacked our job day to day,” said Connelly, who was promoted to president of basketball operations in 2017. “Loyalty and patience is such a rarity in professional sports and that’s here in spades. So those things matter to me.”

Connelly and his staff have struck it rich in the draft, taking Jokic with the 41st pick of the second round in 2014. They’ve also selected Jamal Murray, along with up-and-comers Juancho Hernangomez, Malik Beasley and Michael Porter Jr., who sat out this season as he recovered from back surgery.

The biggest offseason decision remains this: What to do with veteran leader Paul Millsap. The team holds a $30 million option, which could be restructured.

“I fully expect Paul to be back in a Nuggets uniform,” Connelly said.

On the free agency front, Denver hasn’t exactly been an attractive landing spot in recent summers. But Connelly sees that starting to change and believes the unselfish play of Jokic could be an enticing selling point. Denver could be in the market for another shooter and a power forward in order to take the next step.

“It will be fascinating to make those calls” in free agency, Connelly said. “If they say it’s about winning and the answer is about winning and they don’t talk to us, then I think it’s a disingenuous answer.”

The Nuggets definitely turned some heads throughout the regular season as they challenged Golden State down to the wire for the best mark in the West. They beat San Antonio in seven games in the first round before falling to the Trail Blazers.

“We sent a pretty loud message,” Malone said. “I think there were questions about our team all year long, for whatever reason: How legitimate are they? Are they really a No. 2 seed? Can they take their game into the playoffs with so many young guys that’ve never been there before?

“We answered so many questions about our team in the best way possible.”

NOTES: Malone said Jokic’s race horse, Dream Catcher, recently won a race in Serbia. “He made sure I knew about it, because the last race he won I was at,” Malone said. “I thought I was a good-luck charm but obviously I’m not.”

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Watch Kawhi Leonard dunk all over Giannis Antetokounmpo

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Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors took Game 4 against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday, 120-102.

Things started off okay for Milwaukee but started to peter off as the hometown Toronto crowd got behind their Raptors. The bench continued to show up for Leonard’s squad, and it was Kyle Lowry dueling it out with Antetokounmpo in the first quarter.

Leonard scored 19 points to go with seven rebounds and four steals, and perhaps his most impressive play of the night came early in the third quarter. Running a little two-man game with Marc Gasol, Leonard cut to the basket and wound up dunking all over the Milwaukee star.

Via Twitter:

Leonard appeared to hobble a little bit after his dunk, but he should be ready to go for Game 5 on a Thursday night. Meanwhile, the series heads back to Wisconsin all tied up at 2-2.

The victor of this series will get to take on the Golden State Warriors in the 2019 NBA Finals.

Andre Iguodala says Stephen Curry is the second-best PG ever

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The Golden State Warriors are moving on to the NBA Finals yet again, thanks in large part to the efforts of Stephen Curry. Golden State’s point guard is now heading to his fifth-straight finals, and without Kevin Durant he was a big reason why the Warriors were able to beat the Portland Trail Blazers in just four games.

Of course there is a real worry that Durant won’t be able to play in the NBA Finals, either partially or fully, thanks to a calf injury. If that’s the case, and the Warriors can take home another championship trophy, it could mean great things for Curry’s legacy.

Curry is currently chasing Magic Johnson as the best point guard ever in the eyes of many folks. What might help solidify Curry’s place in history would be an NBA Finals MVP, which he would likely wind up with if Durant is unable to impact the Finals the way he has.

At least for Andre Iguodala, Curry is already the second best point guard of all-time.

Via The Athletic:

“I think he’s the second best ever,” Iguodala said. “I always thought that about him. I knew but other people didn’t know. So I wasn’t surprised when he took over that series. But I always gave Tony Allen credit. Playing against him made you understand the grind of how hard it is to win. It’s supposed to be hard. You’re supposed to have to find another way. It’s supposed to be uncomfortable. He just embraced that. Just ingrained that into his system and it’s been there ever since.”

The real question is what Curry’s legacy will be after these Finals, particularly if they win without Durant. Some people aren’t keen to compare eras, and might never move off of Johnson for that spot. It seems reasonable to say that Curry is already the best shooter of all-time, but June could elevate him even further.