LAS VEGAS — Kevin Durant knows you’re talking about him. Specifically, where he might play starting in the fall of 2016 after he becomes a free agent and signs a new contract.
“It’s been talked about. Everybody’s asked me about it every time I go on Instagram or Twitter. All my friends ask me about it,” Durant said at Team USA Camp in Las Vegas. “So I’m not going to sit here and act like I’m naive to the fact that people think about that stuff. But I just tell everybody, ‘Look, I’m here in Oklahoma City. I love it here. Who knows what’ll happen?'”
That’s not exactly going to quiet the chatter. Nor is it going to tamp down the hopes of Wizards fans (Durant is a Washington D.C. native) or other fan bases from New York to Los Angeles that believe they have a shot at Durant in 2016.
Durant was pressed by reporters to talk about his future Tuesday after another day of Team USA practice in Las Vegas. To his credit, he didn’t dodge the questions, he answered them seemingly honestly.
Durant genuinely doesn’t seem to know what he’s going to do in two summers — nor should he. That’s a long time away. He very well may decide to stay with the Thunder (especially if they win a ring). But two years is a couple lifetimes in the NBA and, as Durant said, who knows what will happen.
If you’re looking for clues to how Durant is thinking, you can try to parse out what he said when asked what he thought of LeBron James’ decision to return to his home and play for the Cavaliers again.
“It was class act,” Durant said of LeBron’s letter. “Great move to do a letter, that was pretty cool. It’s fun to see a guy think about more than just basketball for once, or themselves. I’m not saying LeBron always thinks about himself. But he thought about ‘where do we come from?’ Northeast Ohio. How he can affect some little kids and be an advisor for them. I love that. I love that. So many guys get criticized for making their decision on what’s best for them instead of what’s best for everybody else. We got to respect him. I applauded him. I texted him to tell him congratulations on his decision. I was happy for him.”
Expect Durant to take a big picture view like that when it’s his turn. What does that mean? It’s impossible to say two years out.
Which means the speculation and chatter are just going to grow. For a long time.
The battle has, stupidly, raged on between supporters of Michael Jordan and LeBron James. Both sides seem to believe their preference is irrefutably the choice for the best player in NBA history.
And because they did not play in the same era, the question will never be answered. No doubt in 50 years they will write columns about Jordan vs. LeBron, just like their fathers, and their father’s fathers before them.
James has certainly seemed to take a bit of a leap in the eyes of the NBA community this season, likely because of his wonderful performance at age 33. He’s also single-handedly won two playoff series this year. It’s been incredible.
But LeBron rising above Jordan has also brought out some more reasonable takes. Former Chicago Bulls legend and Jordan running mate Scottie Pippen spoke up recently about the debate, giving a measured analysis that I think is pretty strong.
In short, Pippen basically said you can’t compare the two because of the eras, the style, and the fact they just don’t play the same position (if LeBron even has a position, that is).
That sounds right to me.
Chewbacca was at Game 3 in Cleveland Saturday. Sitting courtside.
Why? Because growing up on Kashyyyk he played a little hoop and admires LeBron James‘ skill? Because Drake gave him the tickets? Maybe. I mean, it’s not like that was just a clever little publicity stunt for a movie.
After the Cavaliers’ win, Kevin Love decided to make a little joke of it with noted humorist Kendrick Perkins, and it went over as well as expected (with Dave McMenamin of ESPN catching it).
That’s vintage Perkins.
Cleveland dominated Game 3 Saturday night. They played harder, to start. The Cavaliers’ defensive pressure on the ball was better, they were sharper rotating out to shooters and covering passing lanes. Cleveland’s role players stepped up and helped LeBron James.
Boston, meanwhile, wilted in the face of that pressure Saturday, something it has done a few times on the road these playoffs. The Celtics got away from the things that got them to the Eastern Conference Finals. Guard Terry Rozier put it more bluntly, via A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston:
“I feel like we needed this (loss) to get us back … to get us ready for Monday,” Rozier said.
Rozier later added, “We needed to get our butts whipped. Come back to reality and take care of business on Monday.”
Cleveland is a championship team — from LeBron James on down through the core guys, they all have rings. They have been down before, and heading home it was expected they would play with force. Cleveland’s back was against the wall and they responded.
From the Celtics’ perspective, they also got a little too fat and happy and were not ready for what the Cavaliers came with in Game 3.
Now the pressure is on Boston to push back, to get back to their level of execution and do it under pressure. Make the Cavaliers prove the improved defensive effort was not a one-off game. The Celtics must move the ball and play with some pace, then see if the Cavaliers can keep it together in the face of crisp play.
When this series heads back to Boston Wednesday, it will either see the Celtics in control up 3-1, or the series will be a best of three (with the Cavs still having to figure out if they can win on the road). At home, the Cavaliers are going to play with force again and have some depth. We’ll see if Game 3 was enough of a wakeup call for Boston.
Houston found its blueprint to beating Golden State in Game 2: Strong defensive pressure on the ball, quick switches and communication on defense, getting out in transition when possible, and starting sets earlier in the shot clock and attacking downhill with James Harden and Chris Paul.
Now can they do that on the road? Against a more focused and sharper Warriors’ team?
That will be the question in the next two games of the Western Conference Finals, and it’s what I discuss in this latest PBT Extra.