Kevin Durant, Warriors stifle Cavaliers

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With the Warriors leading the Cavaliers by three points in the final minute of their Christmas showdown, LeBron James drove on Kevin Durant.

This is what the NBA dreams of for its premier regular-season date – the biggest stars on the best teams matched up in the biggest moments.

Durant stuck with LeBron and blocked his shot at the rim after some contact during the drive. Though a referee signaled Cleveland would keep the ball, which had gone out of bounds, Durant aggressively nodded, pounded his chest and pointed for possession to go the other way.

LeBron, still smarting about losing the ball out of bounds amid far more uncalled Durant contact on previous possession, briefly raised his arms incredulously. Then, he retreated back on to his defensive end as a review ultimately proved Durant correct.

The Cavs hope they’ll have another opportunity to challenge Golden State’s supremacy in a fourth straight NBA Finals meeting, but it didn’t happen today.

The Warriors bested Cleveland, 99-92, in the lowest scoring game between these teams in their eight matchups dating back to their Christmas classic last year.

Golden State held the Cavaliers to 13-of-52 shooting on 2-pointers (25%) behind an imposing frontline of Durant, Draymond Green and Jordan Bell. Led by Durant’s five, the Warriors blocked eight shots, keeping them near the all-time record. Golden State has blocked 8.65 shots per game, behind only the 1985-86 Washington Bullets’ 8.73.

Durant’s transformation has been key.

“He takes on every challenge,” Green said. “With LeBron driving to the hole, it’s hard for anyone to stop that play one-on-one. He was able to get us the ball back. That’s one of the things that makes our defense great, is, when Kevin is flying around active as he is, we’re hard to score on.”

Green – the reigning Defensive Player of the Year himself – had a triple-double with 12 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists. Durant led the Warriors with 25 points, and Klay Thompson added 24 to make up for an injured Stephen Curry.

LeBron (20 points, six rebounds, six assists and seven turnovers) looked relatively pedestrian for his superstar standards. Kevin Love (31 points and 18 rebounds) came up big, and Cleveland hung around by sinking 3-pointers, crashing the glass and even defending energetically.

Still, the Warriors left the Cavs flustered once again.

These teams will play again Jan. 15 in Cleveland, and that game will draw significant attention. But it’s tough to escape that these regular-season games are merely a prelude to the main even in June.

Report: Suns declining Jimmer Fredette’s team option, Warriors say he’ll join them in summer league

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The Suns signed Jimmer Fredette late last season, including a team option for next season in case he played well.

In a surprise to nobody reasonable, he didn’t.

So, Phoenix will move on and Fredette will fall to a lower level.

95.7 The Game:

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Even with his option declined, Fredette is still under contract with the Suns until June 30. So, Larry Harris’ public revelation looks like tampering.

But the NBA’s tampering rules are vague and arbitrarily enforced. A key consideration: Whether the aggrieved team presses for action. I can’t imagine the Suns doing that.

Fredette, 30, might light up summer league – which is primarily for rookies and other young players. If he does while playing for Golden State’s team, the Stephen Curry comparisons will be inevitable.

They’ll also be misguided. Curry is a superstar. Fredette didn’t translate to the NBA, though there remains a fascination with him because he scored a lot at BYU a long time ago and still fills a great-white-hope narrative to some.

Report: Nets interested in signing Kevin Durant’s friend, DeAndre Jordan

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The Nets are hot on the heels of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

What could put Brooklyn over the top to land those star free agents?

Maybe DeAndre Jordan.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

If Jordan would help the Nets attract Durant and Irving, great. Sign Jordan.

But Jordan would also fit well at center if Brooklyn signs Durant and Irving.

The Nets need another center with Jarrett Allen, as Ed Davis hits free agency. They could ideally use someone bigger, like Jordan. Though Allen has positioned himself well as Brooklyn’s long-term center, Jordan could even start – if he comes motivated.

Jordan has drifted lately. He fell out of favor with the Clippers, never meshed with the Mavericks then finished last season with the losing Knicks rather than taking a buyout. Jordan has ability as a finisher and rim-protector, but he’s not as active as used to be, and energy is important for playing that style.

The Nets’ room exception, which projects to be worth nearly $5 million, might be the right amount for him.

Andre Iguodala’s exit line on CNBC: “Nobody’s going to the Knicks. Sorry.”

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Andre Iguodala is a smart businessman who is heavily invested in tech startups (as are several Golden State Warriors players). That — and the fact he’s a famous NBA player — made him a good guest on CNBC’s Power Lunch show Monday.

Iguodala also has a few good connections to the thinking of the Golden State Warriors’ free agents Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. Here is his response when asked about free agency and the Warriors on the show.

Of course, he said he expects Durant and Thompson to come back to the Warriors, what did you expect him to say? However, it was the exit line that got noticed:

“Nobody’s going to the Knicks. Sorry.”

More and more it’s looking like that.

Sources have said Thompson is staying with the Warriors since the start, he was never in play. Durant and the Knicks have been linked all season, but suddenly rumors of him going to Brooklyn with Kyrie Irving (and maybe Durant’s good friend DeAndre Jordan) have gotten a lot louder around the league. Brooklyn may be the frontrunner, with the Clipper still on the fringes of the conversation. The Warriors may be on the outside looking in.

The Knicks want a meeting with Kawhi Leonard, but that is a two-team race between the Raptors and Clippers, with Toronto seeming to have the edge after winning a title.

The smart play by the Knicks, if this happens, is not to spend wildly on the next tier of free agents but rather to sit on their cap space, develop and add to their young core, and wait for another star. That seems to be the plan, but how long before James Dolan gets impatient and forces something stupid to happen. For the Knicks, that’s always a concern.

Atlanta trades Kent Bazemore to Portland for Evan Turner

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Portland is always on the search for some quality play and shot creation at the forward spots (something that is a long-running weak spot), and with this trade the Trail Blazers get a little better.

Atlanta is sending Kent Bazemore to Portland in exchange for Evan Turner in a straight up, two-player trade. The story was broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and has since been confirmed by the teams.

Both players are in the final year of their somewhat overpaid contracts, Bazemore will make $19.3 million while Turner will pull down $18.6 million. Atlanta does save about $640,000.

This trade makes a lot of sense for Portland. Bazemore is a quality wing rotation player who averaged 11.6 points per game, is athletic and can create shots. Last season Bazemore was on his way to a career year until a mid-season ankle injury, and while he did come back to the court he was never healthy and the same player. He’s not a knock-down three-point shooter but he has usually been at around 35 percent or a little higher five of the past six seasons (he was down to 32 percent last season because of the ankle injury). This is more than just Rodney Hood insurance, this is an upgrade.

Turner was the guy Portland counted on as another shot creator, but he could not do that consistently or under pressure. He averaged 6.8 points per game last season, shot 21.2 percent from three, and is not a great defender. He is a popular teammate and good in the locker room (something useful with a young Hawks squad), but this is not an upgrade for the Hawks.

Then why did Atlanta make this trade?

“We are happy to add Evan to our team, a veteran who we believe can help our club,” Hawks GM Travis Schlenk said in a statement. “The versatility he has shown throughout his career will be valuable for us this season.”

Beyond that, the franchise does save $640,000, which is helpful but not earth-shattering. Also, it’s a favor to Bazemore to get him on a team that went to the Western Conference Finals a season ago and is a threat going forward. However, the best reason may be the Hawks have three young players they like — Kevin Huerter, plus just-drafted DeAndre Hunter and Cam Reddish — at the same spot and this frees up minutes for them to play.

Whatever the reason, the deal is done.