AP

Warring Warriors? Draymond Green plays down heated moment with Kevin Durant

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Draymond Green approached Kevin Durant near the end of Golden State’s bench and quickly their discussion escalated into a heated dispute, both players punctuating their points with demonstrations. While the rest of the Warriors watched, a teammate eventually came over to keep the peace.

That flap during Saturday’s overtime loss at Sacramento wasn’t the first between the All-Stars, either.

Warring Warriors? Naw, no worries about a family feud for the NBA’s top team.

Green insists that’s all part of it from time to time and there is never any harm intended. Coach Steve Kerr considers it healthy and a positive once in a while.

“If you can’t, you’re probably on a losing team,” the fiery Green said Tuesday. “But everybody who makes a big deal out of it probably are losers. That’s how I view it. Anyone who knows anything about winning knows that that’s going to happen.”

Green and Durant squabbled on the court late in the third quarter after a mix-up led to a shot-clock violation. Soon after, Green could be seen on video walking toward Durant and yelling from close range while raising his hands in the air.

Green then took a seat on the bench and Durant came over to continue their argument, with Shaun Livingston playing peacemaker.

“We know it’s really nothing. It’s constructive to try to understand how we’re going to get better,” Warriors star Stephen Curry said Tuesday. “It comes from a place of respect between everybody on this team, including those two guys. So, nobody takes anything personal, nobody goes home and cries about it.”

“It’s about everybody wants to win, and in that moment it might get heated, it might happen in front of cameras, it might happen in the locker room, it might happen at practice, it might be a phone call, offline, whatever. Those kinds of conversations need to happen so that we continue to try to get better and challenge each other to not get complacent,” he said.

Green wouldn’t say exactly what was at issue moments after the Warriors’ 109-106 defeat, just that “it was actually a tactic, but that’s for us to know and for everyone else to figure out.” Green and KD also were teammates on the U.S. Olympic team that won gold in Rio last summer.

Kerr, meanwhile, was already long gone after being ejected with 3:34 left in the third quarter for a profanity-laden tirade directed at official Bill Spooner. The reigning NBA Coach of the Year apologized through the league to Spooner a day later. The NBA fined Kerr $25,000 on Monday.

Kerr called the defeat one of his team’s worst games. The Warriors, with an NBA-best 43-8 record, host Chicago on Wednesday night and will try to avoid consecutive regular-season losses for the first time since April 2015 during the franchise’s championship season.

“We had all kinds of arguments that game,” Kerr said. “Totally normal. You should have seen the Bulls back in the day, we had guys yelling at each other all the time. I equate it to if you have a lot of siblings and you’re in the house together every day and you love each other and you’d do anything for each other but you’re going to get in fights.”

“That’s what it’s like to be on a team. These guys are so close,” he said. “KD and Draymond are best of friends and they’re together every night laughing and joking. So when something happens on the floor, I don’t even bat an eye. It’s just competitive, heat-of-the-moment stuff. We played an awful game. I coached an awful game. It was a bad night for all of us.”

Green realizes there will be more tense moments with teammates along the way.

And everyone is after one thing at the end: another championship.

“If you’ve got to hide something from one of your teammates and you can’t say something, then you’re in a bad situation,” Green said. “And me personally, I don’t want to be in that situation. If you’re on a team where you can’t talk, where there’s moments where you need to yell at each other, maybe that yelling is to get each other going, like you don’t know what that is. No one else knows what that is, so if there is a team like that, please make sure I’m on the first thing smoking out of there because that team ain’t for me.”

NOTES: Klay Thompson was away from the team for a second straight day while attending his grandfather’s memorial service. … Neither F David West, out since suffering a non-displaced fracture of his left thumb Jan. 18, nor C Zaza Pachulia – sidelined with a strained right rotator cuff in his shoulder – will play against the Bulls. West still has some pain and will be re-evaluated in a few days, Kerr said. … The Warriors are four games ahead of San Antonio for the top record in the NBA.

Lakers’ recruiting pitch for Paul George leaks

AP Photo/R Brent Smith
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LeBron James doesn’t want elaborate pitches in free agency.

Paul George never said that, though.

So, the Lakers are apparently planning to put some showbiz into their recruitment.

Robin Lundberg of Sports Illustrated, citing a “Hollywood source,” revealed a Lakers pitch for George. The direction:

Less Morgan Freeman/Denzel Washington, and more Jamie Foxx. A bit more edge an attitude to their voice, and a bit less aspirational

The text:

When you were just a kid

In your room
Dreaming from Palmdale

We were dreaming too.

While you dreamt, we built – built for your arrival

And while we dreamt, you built too
Becoming one of the world’s greatest.

Life’s most powerful dream are the one we realize ourselves.

The ones that turn us into legends.
That kid from Palmdale always knew it
Now the world will, too

Who wrote this, noted storyteller Kobe Bryant?

My bigger question: Did or did not the Lakers, who’ve gone to great lengths to make their interest in George known, want this to leak before the official start of free agency?

Report: No divide between Chris Paul and Rockets over contract

AP Photo/David J. Phillip
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That rumor of tension between Chris Paul and the Rockets over his contract?

Sam Amick of USA Today:

As for the recent report from Fox Sports’ Chris Broussard that there are rising tensions between the two sides because Paul wants the full max and isn’t sure if he’ll get it, two people with knowledge of the situation refuted the idea there is any friction between the sides.

Remember, everyone who leaks something has an agenda. But I find this report far more credible than the initial rumor.

Paul’s max projects to be about $205 million over five years. That’s a lot to commit to a 33-year-old, but Paul took a discount to facilitate an opt-in-and-trade to Houston last year. He expects to be made whole.

Until Broussard’s report, all indications were the Rockets would appease him. Barring more information, that should remain the expectation.

Report: LeBron James not planning to sit for elaborate pitch meetings in free agency

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LeBron James held court in Cleveland in 2010, listening to pitch after pitch as teams flew in to recruit the superstar during free agency. That approach became a model, and Kevin Durant followed it in the Hamptons in 2016.

But maybe once is enough.

Durant announced months ago he’d stay with the Warriors. And now LeBron – who could definitely leave Cleveland – is making clear he doesn’t want the hoopla, either.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

sources close to the situation tell ESPN that he has no intention of hearing elaborate pitch meetings from teams.

league sources believe he and his agents Rich Paul and Mark Termini have enough understanding of the stakes and NBA landscape to handle the process without much fanfare.

LeBron is still haunted by The Decision. He’s a great player and philanthropist and does plenty to connect with fans. Yet, people still dislike him purely because of how he changed teams eight years ago.

If I wielded as much power as LeBron, I’d want suitors wining and dining me. He wants to avoid more backlash.

This will probably look similar to 2014 – LeBron’s agents hearing out teams then LeBron meeting with only the most serious options, though the final announcement will likely come via Uninterrupted rather than Sports Illustrated.

The Lakers, Cavaliers, Rockets and 76ers are commonly viewed as the favorites for LeBron. This approach makes it less likely for a longshot to emerge – though, for what it’s worth, we don’t know those four teams are his favorites right now.

Report: Nuggets re-signing Nikola Jokic to five-year max after declining team option

AP Photo/Matt Slocum
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The Nuggets are building around Nikola Jokic.

But a second-round pick turning into a franchise player so quickly creates complications. Denver is resolving one by declining Jokic’s team option, which will send him into restricted free agency (as opposed to unrestricted free agency next year) and paying him.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

This ought to please Jokic. He would have earned just $1,600,520 next season if Denver exercised his team option.

Jokic is one of the best-passing full-time centers ever. He also shoots and rebounds well, though he must improve his defense to become worthy of this contract. At just 23, he’s worth betting on.

That said, I’m surprised the Nuggets didn’t get him on a slight discount. Though they clearly didn’t want to risk him testing unrestricted free agency next year, they gave him a MASSIVE raise (about $24 million) next season when they didn’t have to.

Jokic’s exact max salary won’t be determined until the salary cap and luxury-tax line are set this month. But this clearly puts Denver in cost-cutting mode now.

As constructed, the Nuggets are in line for about $24 million in luxury-tax payments. That’s without considering Will Barton, who’ll be an unrestricted free agent. Expect Denver to look to unload Kenneth Faried, Darrell Arthur, Wilson Chandler and/or Mason Plumlee.

Jokic was always going to be in Denver next season. The Nuggets have now secured him far longer. It will cost them next year – an important season to them – but they also clearly value a future with Jokic.