Kevin Durant on his fiancée, loneliness and loyalty

12 Comments

The countdown to Kevin Durant’s free agency in 2016 begun long ago, the Thunder and Wizards clearly occupying the role of frontrunners.

Where will he sign?

These excerpts from Zach Baron of GQ clearly show why Durant will stay with the Thunder:

Take the conversation we’re having right now. Two guys on stools in a coffee shop talking about girls. His heart still not quite right after hurting someone he loved. “I had a fiancée, but…I really didn’t know how to, like, love her, you know what I’m saying? We just went our separate ways.” Monica Wright, WNBA player, something like a high school sweetheart. One night Kevin got so full of feelings he just up and proposed to her. “We was just hanging out, chilling. And I felt the energy. I felt, I need to do this right now. And I just did it. I was like…We’re engaged right now? We’re about to get married? So I was just like, cool! I love this girl. But I didn’t love her the right way.”

Outside this coffee shop, there are multiple millions of people representing multiple millions of dollars—shoe companies, league executives, agents, little kids with big KD posters on their walls—with opinions on what he should and should not be saying at this particular moment. A whole universe bending to be like: Talk about your will to succeed. Your work in the community. How you know what it takes to win.

But what he wants to say right now is this: “I go to sleep at night, like, ‘Am I gonna be alone forever?’ ” A whole ocean of regret. His life too hectic, and too surrounded by money, to trust, let alone love, the next person who comes through that door.

“Am I gonna be alone forever? Am I gonna have kids?”

And why would D.C. be the promised land, anyway? He was so lonely there. Mom just 21 when she had Kevin. Dad lived in the neighborhood but not there. “I remember we were driving home one day, and I look over out the backseat, and I see him in a car with his homeboys at the light. I wanted to be like, ‘Ma, that’s Dad, right?’ ” But he didn’t say anything. Mom didn’t want to talk about it. Her son tall, shy, good at ball but lost away from the court. “I had no friends at 12 years old, 13 years old.”

Except these excerpts from Baron clearly show why Durant will sign with the Wizards:

He heard the Sterling tapes like everyone else. “When that came out, we was just like, ‘Oh, so that’s how they feel about us?’ ” All this rhetoric about team, about loyalty. And then guys like Sterling basically acting in private like their players are property. “When players do stuff that benefits them, they’re looked at as unloyal, selfish,” Durant says. “But when a team decides to go the other way and cut a player, or not bring him back or not re-sign him, it’s what’s best for the team, and that’s cool. But what we do is frowned upon, you know?”

Don’t forget, Kevin Durant was not selfish: He signed a full extension in 2010, no opt-outs. He remembers that, even if no one else does, even as he anticipates the lurking storm of recrimination that awaits him if he doesn’t re-up again. “I was loyal. If it comes down to that, I mean: I was. My deal’s up in 2016. I’ll have been here nine years. I could have easily wanted out. I could have easily not signed the extension after my rookie contract. I could have not played as hard every night. But people tend to forget.”

Has the team ever really given Durant what he needs to win? Durant has been asked this question so many times he may not realize that he’s begun answering it honestly. “Players are paid to do their jobs, no matter who’s on the court. And as superstars, you gotta lead what you have. You gotta make them better. Some players might be better than others. Some teams might be better than others. You gotta do your job, and you gotta trust that the front office is going to do their job. It’s hard, though. You know what I’m saying? Because it’s like, shit, I want win. Obviously our players aren’t as good as, you know, than they were before. But you have to figure it out.”

They’re part of a longer article about Durant coming into his own in front of our eyes. It’s well worth a read.

In the piece, Durant expresses some frustration about how we view him – frustration that came out in his recent bashing of the media. One example: Durant didn’t appreciate his genuine “You the real MVP” moment with his mother being turned into a silly meme.

And I get that. I’m sure that’s not pleasant for Durant.

But outsiders see him as a basketball player first and a human-being second, if at all. That’s why I can’t help but look for fee-agency tea leaves while the article.

Durant is a human being, though. This article is a decent look into his humanity and a good reminder it even exists.

Re-read those excerpts above – not with an eye on free agency, but thinking of Durant as a person. Jump right back to commodifying him afterward if you wish, but at least you’ll have a little more perspective before you do.

Report: Rockets exiled Anthony rather than just dropping him from rotation ‘because his name was Carmelo’

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
1 Comment

Why isn’t Carmelo Anthony in the NBA?

That’s the question everyone obsesses over, but the answer is quite simple: He’s washed up. Anthony played poorly for the Thunder then even worse for the Rockets. He’s now 35. Occasionally, washed-up players still land on NBA rosters, but they usually don’t. It’s not worth fretting over the common outcome happening.

The question that really intrigues me about the latter stages of Anthony’s career:

How did Houston go from giving Anthony a major role to deciding he suddenly couldn’t be with the team at all?

Baxter Holmes of ESPN:

Still, the Rockets know they can’t just take him out of the rotation; doing so would cause a media firestorm. “Because his name was Carmelo, we treated it differently,” one team source says.

The Rockets hope that parting ways with Anthony quickly might allow him to join another team.

This is a strange explanation.

What made a “media firestorm” so inevitable? Even if it were inevitable, what made a “media firestorm” so difficult to deal with? The Rockets couldn’t handle a few questions about Anthony?

If Anthony protested about a reduced role, that would’ve been one thing. But by all accounts, he did what Houston asked of him while there. He didn’t even get a chance to show whether he could’ve helped as a non-rotation player.

The Rockets gave him 20-39 minutes in each of his games with them. If he deserved that much playing time, he couldn’t have helped at all in situational spot minutes? Maybe Anthony’s awful defense would have been at least tolerable if he could’ve conserved his energy for smaller bursts on the court.

If Houston tried to do him a favor, it failed. Anthony never landed with another team. His abrupt and confusing end with the Rockets certainly didn’t instill confidence around the league.

Anthony has expressed resentment for how Houston exiled him. He deserves some blame for the predicament. His prior objections about coming off the bench in Oklahoma City contributed to everyone being on pins and needles about his role.

But it remains strange the Rockets handled the situation in such an extreme manner.

Report: Lakers player lost $1 million endorsement deal in China

Scott Varley/MediaNews Group/Torrance Daily Breeze via Getty Images
3 Comments

LeBron James publicly criticized Daryl Morey and reportedly pressed NBA commissioner Adam Silver on punishing the Rockets general manager.

Why is LeBron so upset with Morey, who merely tweeted support for Hong Kong protesters trying to expand and maintain their freedom?

Following the money often provides an answer.

Due to Chinese backlash, the NBA will reportedly lose millions of dollars of expected revenue, which affects players’ salaries. Lakers players also felt even-more-direct consequences while in China for preseason games.

Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

James, Anthony Davis, Kyle Kuzma and Rajon Rondo — to name a few — had appearances canceled. One Lakers player, sources told ESPN, had agreed to a $1 million endorsement deal with a Chinese company prior to the trip. When he arrived — poof — it was gone. A seven-figure payday went out the window.

It’s understandable someone would be agitated by losing a $1 million endorsement deal because of someone else’s tweet. I can’t even imagine how frustrating it’d be to miss out on that money.

Morey chose to take a political stand. Others are paying the price. He definitely rankled people around the league.

But perhaps scorn for Morey is misdirected.

This is the peril of chasing money in a place where an endorsement deal can fall apart because of someone else’s tweet. Maybe a bigger problem is a business environment where free expression is so stifled.

Report: Kings offer four-year, $90M contract extension to Buddy Hield, who wants $110M

Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images
2 Comments

Buddy Hield is making noise about leaving the Kings in free agency next summer if they don’t sign him to a contract extension by Monday’s deadline.

Where do negotiations stand?

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

The Kings have an offer for Hield on the table for four years and $90 million, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Hield and his agent, Brandon Rosenthal, are seeking a number closer to $110 million, sources said.

This will primarily come down to two factors – Sacramento’s willingness to bend and Hield’s appetite for risk.

A four-year, $90 million extension seems quite fair. I bet many players of Hield’s caliber would’ve already accepted it.

But in a weak free-agent class, he has a chance to get much more next summer. He could even draw a max offer sheet, which projected to be worth $125 million over four years (though that was before the NBA began losing China revenue).

Of course, the Kings would have matching rights on Hield, who’d be a restricted free agent without an extension. So, Hield can’t unilaterally leave Sacramento next summer. The Kings also have another good young shooting guard in Bogdan Bogdanovic (who has his own extension offer on the table). These factors all give Sacramento reason not to pay Hield generously now.

If the Kings up their offer, that’d make it easy on Hield. He and Sacramento are trending in the right direction together. A big payday would clearly satisfy him.

If the Kings hold firm at less than Hield’s desired $110 million, he faces a choice: How much risk is he willing to incur to bet on himself?

With those numbers so close, perhaps there’s room for compromise. In addition to salary, guarantees, incentives and options could help bridge the gap. But evident by the lack of a signed extension, a significant divide clearly remains.

Report: LeBron James pressed Adam Silver on Daryl Morey repercussions, perceived double standard for players

Zhong Zhi/Getty Images
5 Comments

Lakers and Nets players – who were meeting with Adam Silver in China – reportedly told the NBA commissioner they would’ve been punished for a tweet as costly as Daryl Morey’s and asked Silver what he’d do to Morey. LeBron James reportedly spoke up in that meeting. LeBron also later criticized Morey.

It wasn’t difficult to connect the dots.

But in case you wanted confirmation LeBron was among the players questioning Silver on Morey…

Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

Silver opened the floor. James raised his hand.

His question was related to Morey — and the commissioner’s handling of the Rockets’ GM. James, to paraphrase, told Silver that he knew that if a player caused the same type of uproar with something he said or tweeted, the player wouldn’t be able to skate on it. There would be some type of repercussion. So, James wanted to know, what was Silver going to do about it in Morey’s case?

Silver pushed back, reminding the players that the league never doled out discipline when they publicly criticized President Donald Trump. Morey was exercising the same liberty when he challenged China. Regardless of the financial fallout of one versus the other, that’s not what should matter. Silver might have disliked the ramifications of Morey’s tweet, but he would defend the right to say it.

We can’t know what would’ve happened if a player tweeted like Morey. But Silver is right: The NBA has a track record of allowing players – including LeBron – to speak unchecked on social issues. I think a player would’ve gotten the same treatment as Morey. Still, as the WNBA showed, there might be limits for players’ freedom of expression.

This line of questioning also reveals something about LeBron. There are many possible responses to this situation. Seemingly suggesting Morey – who supported Hong Kong protesters, who are trying to maintain and expand their freedoms – deserved punishment is, um, one way to go.