Kobe Bryant said a couple years back that every year he does not win another NBA ring is a “wasted year of my life.”
Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder came into this season thinking NBA title. They had made it to Game 5 of the NBA finals last season and they wanted to take the next step.
But when Russell Westbrook went down with a torn ACL in the playoffs, the question became when they would be eliminated, not if. The answer turned out to be in the second round to the Grizzlies.
Durant was asked if this was a wasted year for the Thunder because of that, but he told Royce Young of Daily Thunder it was not.
“Nothing’s ever a wasted year for me. It’s basketball,” KD said. “I’ve grown so much as a man since the beginning of the season. I’ve grown so much as a leader. Nothing is ever wasted. Of course the ultimate goal in this league is to win a championship. But I’m never going to say I wasted a year. I’m blessed to even wake up and do something I love every day. So it’s never wasted. We take that for granted a lot. But that’s something I’m not going to do. I enjoy playing this game. I enjoy playing for this city, my teammates. So every day I get to see those guys and go through some tough times and laugh and argue it’s never wasted. I’m just blessed to be here. And I’m never going to take it for granted.”
That is a great answer. A guy who gets life.
As a society and as sports fans we tend to glorify people who care a lot about one thing — we idolize Jordan for his single-minded focus on winning rings. We want the rest of our sports stars to fit that mold. Durant will get some heat from some for not answering like MJ or Kobe Bryant would. Durant doesn’t care.
“I don’t give a damn. I’m going to be who I’m going to be,” Durant said. “I’m not Kobe Bryant. I’m not Michael Jordan. I’m not LeBron James. I’m not Magic Johnson. I’m me. I’m not ever going to compromise myself and my integrity and what I believe in for winning some basketball games or winning a championship. That’s just not how I was brought up. I’m always going to fight for the game I love. I’m going to claw until the last buzzer sounds and if I win a championship, of course I’ll be happy. I’m not satisfied to be in this league and losing, I’m going to work as hard as I can to get to that mountaintop. I enjoy playing the game, I enjoy being here, but I’m never come out to the media and say I wasted a year because we lost a championship. Like I said, I don’t have to be Kobe Bryant.”
Go ahead and rip him in the comments, some of you will. To me, I’d rather raise a son who gave Durant’s answer than Kobe’s.
Zion Williamson will probably be the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft.
He’s a generationally good prospect. The rest of this draft also looks relatively weak.
In fact, Williamson has such a stranglehold on the top pick, some have suggested he sit out the rest of his freshman season.
His injury during Duke’s game against North Carolina tonight will only heighten those calls.
Hopefully, Williamson is OK.
And hopefully, the system changes. The NCAA is a cartel in which schools conspire to cap compensation for athletes at a scholarship plus some expenses. In a free market, Williamson would earn far more.
Unfortunately, it probably can’t be both. If Williamson escapes this without major injury, the status quo will likely endure.
But, if this injury even allows him to play again this season, it might be a warning shot that causes him to sit until he can enter the NBA draft.
Again, I hope he’s healthy enough to make that decision for himself.
Friday morning, Jayson Tatum guaranteed the U.S. team would beat the World team in the Rising Stars game that night. The U.S. team won.
So, Tatum was asked Saturday morning whether he wanted to guarantee anything for that night. He guaranteed he’d win the Skills Challenge. He won.
So, then ESPN’s Rachel Nichols asked Tatum whether he wants to guarantee anything else. And he really let it ride.
We’re going to win the Finals this year. February 16th, mark it. Jayson Tatum says we’re going to win the Finals this year.
Obviously, Tatum wasn’t going to pick against Boston. But this wasn’t that. He could have easily avoided such a grand proclamation.
Instead, even if he were just caught up in the emotion of an All-Star Saturday Night victory and taking the interview especially seriously, Tatum put a little more attention and pressure on the Celtics.
I’m not convinced that’s what this team needs.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said Kristaps Porzingis will sign long-term with Dallas this summer, and Porzingis he was on the same page.
But he will be a free agent. Restricted, but a free agent, nonetheless.
Porzingis’ exit from the Knicks provided a clue about where he’d want to go if he explores leaving the Mavericks.
Marc Stein of The New York Times in his newsletter:
The four teams Porzingis had on his wish list of trade destinations were the Nets, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors, according to two people with knowledge of the list who were not authorized to discuss it publicly.
Porzingis had little leverage to get to any of these teams. Because he’ll be a restricted free agent, the Knicks or any team acquiring him would retain immense team control over him.
The Nets and Clippers project to have cap space this summer. The Heat and Raptors don’t.
But even if Porzingis signs an offer sheet elsewhere, Dallas will will likely match it.
Still, Porzingis will become an unrestricted free agent someday – 2020 in the unlikely event he accepts his qualifying offer or a future year if he signs a multi-year deal this summer. It’s probably best to file away this list until then.
The Knicks opened double-max cap space for next summer. Kevin Durant‘s company is moving to a new office in New York. Kyrie Irving backed away from his commitment to re-sign with the Celtics.
Plenty of people were already connecting dots when this video emerged of Durant and Irving talking at the All-Star game (in which, not for nothing, they jelled).
Ben Stinar of Amico Hoops:
Irving, via MassLive (warning: language in the above video):
It’s a video of me and one of my best friends talking. And then it turns out to be a dissection of a free agency meeting? Do you get that? Like, do you get that? And then I’m asked questions about it? That’s what disconnects me from all that s—.
That wasn’t a denial.
Still, it’s hard to believe Durant and Irving really discussed free agency in a hallway with so many people passing. There are far more discreet places to have that conversation.
Like a restaurant in Miami where they were spotted together:
I understand Irving’s exasperation with this, just as I understood Durant’s testiness over constant speculation. They should be allowed to spend time together as friends without it turning into a bigger deal.
But there is immense interest in where they play next year. People will continue to search for clues – some that prove insignificant, some that might prove significant – about the stars’ futures.
So, I’m at least glad Irving addressed this. It’s going to get discussed either way. Better for him to enter his perspective into the conversation.