Old tweets: Kevin Durant uses gay slurs (including at Russell Westbrook), Damian Lillard rips LeBron James

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An imgur user has dug up old tweets of NBA players, many of the messages coming before the player or Twitter made it big (hat tip: Kevin Draper of Deadspin).

Safe to say, these players tweeted differently before it became apparent so many people were following their every message.

Here are a few examples that stood out to me:

These tweets came before and early in Kevin Durant’s second season. One is directed at Russell Westbrook and the other is directed at an account that used to belong to former Michigan basketball player Anthony Wright, who played with Durant at Oak Hill Academy before Durant transferred to Montrose Christian.

If Durant used that language today, the uproar would be much larger. It’s simply wrong for people to use that f-word and gay pejoratively. Those words in this context fortify a society in which gay people are second-class citizens, i.e. beneath straight people.

Alone, Durant’s words – clearly intended for friends as playful teasing – probably won’t have much effect. But when people who look up to Durant emulate his words, the harmful effect is multiplied. There’s a reason gays commit suicide at a disproportionately high rate, and their inability to find acceptance contributes immensely.

If you recall, Kobe Bryant and Joakim Noah have both been fined for using a gay slur. When announcing Kobe’s punishment, then-commissioner David Stern said in a statement (emphasis mine): “insensitive or derogatory comments are not acceptable and have no place in our game or society.” But both incidents occurred on the court, Kobe’s directed at a referee and Noah’s at a fan. The NBA, especially due to the unofficial statue of limitations, can pretty easily ignore this if it chooses – and that’s probably the league’s best course.

Durant could probably ignore it too, and it would likely go away. I’m not sure many media members want the uncomfortable assignment of questioning him about five-year-old tweets.

But I hope he addresses it. Durant – who supported Jason Collins – has matured since he was 21, and he could his platform to champion personal growth.

On a far less-important – though quite interesting – note, Damian Lillard, between his junior and senior seasons at Weber State, tweeted several times at LeBron James during the 2011 playoffs (the year the Heat lost to the Mavericks in the Finals). Lillard deleted the tweets last night, but they read:

@KingJames please get yo ass out of “too cool” mode and takeover . PLEASE nigga!!! Damn!!!

@KingJames I don’t feel bad for yo fake focused ass, I feel bad for dwade, and MYSELF cuz I wanted it more than you. #damnshame

@KingJames I may have been one of yo biggest fans. But THIS series u played like a straight pussy.

@KingJames talents to south beach? NIGGA!! You took the spotlight nd a ego. You left the talents haha. Them shits in Cleveland .

In case you’re wondering, the Cavaliers play the Trail Blazers on Tuesday. Somehow, I think Lillard is far more likely to be asked about his tweets than Durant is about his.

Scoot Henderson says he has skills to be No.1 pick but not hung up on it

Metropolitans 92 v G League Ignite
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Scoot Henderson came out like a man on a mission Tuesday night against the Metropolitans 92 and Victor Wembanyama — he was in attack mode. He used his explosive athleticism to get to the rim, his impressive body control to get off good shots, and his strength to finish with authority. And if the defender played back, he would drain the jumper over him.

A year ago, Jaylen Brown called him the best 17-year-old he’d ever seen. Scoot is better than that now.

Many years, Henderson would be a clear No.1 overall pick. But, not this year, Wembanyama has that crown because he breaks the mold with his size and skill set (in the NBA, height still wins out).

Kevin O’Conner of The Ringer asked Henderson why he should be the top prospect and got a confident answer.

There will be a lot of people making the Henderson case this season — and with good reason. He could be a franchise cornerstone player for the next decade.

Henderson, however, is trying not to get hung up on No.1 vs. No.2.

There’s a long list of legendary players selected No.2: Bill Russell, Kevin Durant, Jerry West, Jason Kidd, and that is just the tip of the iceberg. Henderson can be one of them.

Unless Wembanyama’s medicals come back with red flags, he is destined to be the No.1 pick next June. That, however, will not be the end of Henderson’s story. Instead, it will be just the beginning.

Doc Rivers says he wants Harden to be ‘a scoring Magic Johnson’

Philadelphia 76ers Media Day
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We’re not in Houston anymore.

James Harden in Philadelphia will not be chasing scoring titles and dominating the game in quite the same way. Instead, he’s been asked to be more of a facilitator — but not too much of one. Doc Rivers told the team at ESPN’s NBA Today he wants scoring to go with the facilitating. Just like one of the all-time greats.

“I think we’ve talked so much about him being a facilitator… I need him to be James Harden too. If I had to combine, I would say a scoring Magic Johnson, I don’t know, but that’s what I want him to be. I want him to be a James Harden, but in that, I want him to also be the facilitator of this basketball team too. So in a lot of ways, his role is growing bigger for our team, and I just want him to keep thinking, ‘Do both.'”

Just play like Magic, no pressure there. For his career, Magic averaged 19.5 points a game (with four over 20 PPG) with 11.2 assists.

Harden can get close enough to Rivers’ lofty goals to make Philly a real threat, so long as defenders still fear his first step and step back. Harden can get his shot and get to the line, and he’s long been a great passer who has averaged 10.5 assists a game over the past two seasons. Now it’s just a matter of finding the balance of when to set up Joel Embiid, when to turn the offense over to Tyrese Maxey, and when to get his own shot.

Philadelphia is a deep team poised to win a lot of regular season games — the Sixers being the top seed in the East is absolutely in play. The questions Harden — and, to a degree, Embiid — have to answer come in May, when the second round of the playoffs start and Harden has faded while Embiid has had poor injury luck. In a deep East with Milwaukee, Boston, and maybe Miami and Brooklyn in the contender mix, there is no margin for error.

A Magic-like Harden would be a big boost for the Sixers in that setting.

As he chases record, LeBron says he has ‘no relationship’ with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Sacramento Kings v Los Angeles Lakers
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Later this season, health permitting, LeBron James will pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer.

Kareem has said LeBron has earned it, but also has called out LeBron on COVID issues (something Abdul-Jabbar apologized for). Have the two legends started to build a relationship as LeBron marches toward the record? Not so much.

“No thoughts, no relationship.”

This question was asked of LeBron days after Abdul-Jabbar slammed former LeBron teammate Kyrie Irving in a Substack newsletter, calling him a “comical buffoon” and saying he is a poor role model. Abdul-Jabbar has been a vocal proponent of getting the vaccine, Irving remains unvaccinated, and LeBron has posted on social media questioning the severity of the virus and the response. Plus, LeBron and Irving are friends, which could have sparked LeBron’s terse response (as could the fact he was ready to get out of the arena after a dull preseason game).

A week earlier at media day, LeBron had been kinder when discussing Abdul-Jabbar and chasing his record.

“And you know, obviously Kareem has had his differences, with some of my views and some of the things that I do. But listen, at the end of the day, to be able to be right in the same breath as a guy to wear the same [Lakers] uniform, a guy that was a staple of this franchise along with Magic and Big Game [James Worthy] over there for so many years, especially in the 80s, and a guy that does a lot off the floor as well,” LeBron said. “I think it’s just super duper dope for myself to be even in that conversation.”

Abdul-Jabbar has been more of a public persona in recent years, both around the game of basketball and discussing social justice issues through his writings. The NBA named its new social justice award after him. With that has come new relationships around the league.

One of those is not with LeBron. Will Abdul-Jabbar be in the building when LeBron does break the record?

We’ve got months for this relationship to evolve — if it does — before that big day.

 

Watch Zion Williamson score 13 in return to court for Pelicans

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Zion Williamson is back.

He certainly looked in better shape and flashed his insane explosiveness on his way to 13 points and four rebounds in 15 minutes Tuesday night against the Bulls, his first game after missing all of last season following foot surgery.

There was some rust, and the Pelicans are wisely bringing him along slowly and not breaking out the entire playbook for a preseason game, but in the moments we saw Zion looked like he was all the way back.

The questions now are can he sustain it, and how to the Pelicans mesh him with other scoring options in CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram.

And maybe we shouldn’t leave rookie Dyson Daniels off that list, he looked good in his first NBA preseason game.

The Pelicans are one of the most intriguing teams this season, a team that made the playoffs last season with a push after McCollum arrived, and now they add the elite interior scoring and athleticism of Zion to Ingram’s outside shot and slashing, not to mention and a solid core of role players. This team has top six potential if it can get stops. But in a deep West, nothing will be easy.