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Anthony Davis: “It’s just about winning for me, being the most dominant player in the league”

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Anthony Davis is a top three player in the NBA — and he would be the first to tell you that ranking is too low.

Most people (myself included) would have Kevin Durant and LeBron James ahead of Davis on the list. Why? Because they have done it longer, and their otherworldly gifts and work have lifted their teams to titles. Davis is elite on both ends, but his team has made the playoffs just twice in the past six seasons (something not wholly, or mostly, his fault) and last season was the first time Davis and his Pelicans made it out of the first round of the playoffs.

Davis is tired of waiting around to win and to be the best player — he wants his time to be now, he told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols.

Two big topics came up in the interview, let’s get to the one most of you readers care about first.

There are 29 teams preparing themselves for if the Pelicans make Davis available via a trade, and after that when he would become a free agent (the summer of 2020). This summer, Davis switched agents to Rich Paul, LeBron’s agent, which sparked a lot of rumors. Davis went to the expected place of “I ignore all that stuff” when asked about it.

“I think that’s a big part. Winning definitely helps everything, helps with your legacy, helps [you] be on the top of the list. But going to the playoffs every three years doesn’t help my case. At this point, it’s just about winning for me, being the most dominant player in the league, and whenever that time comes, I have a great team behind me that advise me on some decisions but my focus is on this year…

“You hear it everywhere, it’s funny, how did [the Lakers rumors] even happen? How does that correlate? You know, in my head, I don’t pay attention to it, I keep going back to it but it’s the truth, I look at what I have now and what I can do now and that’s helping my team win. You can’t listen to what somebody else is saying, all the white noise, ‘AD’s going here, AD’s going here,’ — AD’s playing for the Pelicans this year… the rest will take care of itself.”

How did the Lakers’ rumor start? You hired LeBron’s agent. Even before that, right now the Lakers are big game hunting, so their name is going to come up with every free agent superstar, even if it’s not going to happen (*cough, Kevin Durant, cough*).

What I’ve heard from sources is the Pelicans are not trading Davis anytime soon, they are going all in to win with Davis this season and then, next summer, will slap the five-year, $230 million designated player veteran extension in front of him and dare him to say no. You don’t switch agents to Rich Paul if the plan is to automatically sign whatever is put in front of you, but that is A LOT of money to walk away from, and we shouldn’t just assume Davis will. It’s more than $30 million more than Davis can make if he forces a trade to another team and they re-sign him at the max, and if in 2020 he jumps teams as a free agent he leaves $84 million guaranteed on the table. Again, that’s a lot of money, even for rich NBA players. The Pelicans are right not to move to trade him unless next summer Davis says he will not re-sign with them and to trade him while they can. So hit pause on your trade machine efforts for now.

The other key thing out of this interview: Davis wants to be seen as the NBA’s best player. Today.

“Honestly, I see myself as the best player in the league, most dominant player in the league. I just think it’s time for that step, you only get a short window, I don’t want that window to close so I think my time is now.”

Um… LeBron and KD?

“Those two are great players, I bring something unique to the table. My game is different from both of those guys, both ends of the floor. MVP and Defensive Player of the Year candidate so that’s why I feel like my name should be at the top of the list.”

Maybe he should be. He’s my prediction for MVP this season. He’s right there.

But ultimately, winning is part of the equation. Davis knows that, and he thirsts to win. Which makes the entire first part of this conversation more intriguing.

Russell Westbrook out vs. Clippers Friday night, second game he’s missed

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The Thunder offense struggled on opening night, scoring less than a point per possession (96.2 per 100 possessions, to be specific). While the Thunder got out and ran a decent amount, 18.6 percent of their possessions started in transition, they scored just 0.88 points per possession on those chances (stats via Cleaning the Glass). On spot-up jump shots, they shot scored just 0.67 points per possession (via Synergy Sports) and they shot 27.8 percent from three in the part of the game that mattered.

How much of that was the Thunder offense missing their engine in Russell Westbrook, and how much of that was going against the solid defense and length of the Golden State Warriors?

We may find out Friday night because Westbrook is out again, still recovering from arthroscopic surgery on right knee back on Sept. 12. Royce Young of ESPN broke the news.

That means again most of the offense will flow through Paul George, which worked reasonably well but he needs more help from other players. The Clippers’ defense was fairly good opening night, and they played Denver close, but couldn’t score enough and lost a lead down the stretch, dropping their season opener.

What really matters is this gives us another chance to watch Westbrook try to sneak-snack on the bench.

LeBron James: Team chemistry not “like instant oatmeal. It is not that fast.”

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We shouldn’t overreact to the opening night loss for the Lakers in Portland, there were a lot of things in there we should have expected. First, Portland is a superb team led by two All-Stars that is always tough at home. The  Moda Center is never an easy place to win for any team. Second, the shooting woes the Lakers had were too be expected when we looked at the roster, and while it’s going to be a lingering problem all season they will have better nights than 7-of-30 from three and 0-of-7 from the corners.

However, the biggest takeaway is this: The Lakers lacked continuity and chemistry, and in a one-point game in the fourth (101-100) that really started to show, while the Trail Blazers are primarily the same team running primarily the same system, and their chemistry fueled the win.

That also shouldn’t be a surprise. So LeBron James, how long is it going to take for the Lakers to find that chemistry? (As reported by Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN).

“Um, not as fast as you guys think it’s going to happen,” James said when asked how long it will take for the Lakers’ chemistry to develop. “I always kind of compare it to like instant oatmeal. It is not that fast. It takes a while to get to where you can close your eyes and know exactly where your guys are.”

LeBron has history on his side here. Both when he went to Miami to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, and when he returned to Cleveland, his teams got off to slow starts as they figured out their team chemistry. It takes player a while to adjust to playing with LeBron — who was working hard to set his Laker teammates Thursday rather than just taking over — and for him to adjust to them. Both those Cleveland and Miami teams went on to the NBA Finals.

The difference is this is the West and there is almost no margin for error, and early struggles could cost the Lakers’ playoff seeding. Or more.

Shirtless man berates Bulls center Cristiano Felicio on Philadelphia street: ‘You ain’t no Michael Jordan’

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Cristiano Felicio didn’t play in the Bulls’ loss to the 76ers last night.

But the center made an appearance in Philadelphia.

Josh Haber:

Plenty of well-articulated points here that are worth thoughtfully considering.

Steve Kerr: “I support Colin Kaepernick 100 percent,” says true patriotism is helping others

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If you’ve seen or heard Steve Kerr talking politics in the past few years, it’s no surprise the Warriors coach has Colin Kaepernick’s back — he’s blasted the NFL’s national anthem policy before

Kerr once again threw his support behind Kaepernick during a wide-ranging interview with Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area, which can only be seen in full on the new NBC Sports My Teams app (you can see part of the interview video above).

“I support Colin Kaepernick 100 percent, and I think he deserves a chance to play,” Kerr said to NBC Sports Bay Area. “And I was happy see Eric Reid was picked up recently — Kap’s teammate who also knelt last year. So I support their right to play.”

Earlier in the same interview, Kerr shared his qualms with the militaristic and nationalistic displays before sporting events. What if the NBA just did away with the anthem before games completely?

“It wouldn’t bother me. I’m not for it, nor against it,” Kerr said. “I believe patriotism is about doing something good for others, for other Americans. That’s the best way to be patriotic, to get out and volunteer and help others. That’s what drives me crazy about the uproar over the NFL players who have knelt in a fight for social justice. So many of them have given so much to their communities — given not just money but time. I read a lot about Malcolm Jenkins in Philadelphia and what he’s done in his community. And Chris Long. And people like Colin Kaepernick who have given a million dollars to charity.

“I’m so proud of so many athletes who are out there in their communities, knowing the power they have and the financial resources they have to make a change. That’s patriotism to me. The anthem is just kind of a symbol for that.”

The NBA has not faced the same national anthem issues as the NFL because no NBA players have taken a knee (they have locked arms on some teams). There are a lot of reasons for that, most of which have nothing to do with politics (or even the NBA’s rule that players “stand and line up in a dignified posture” during the anthem). For the NBA it’s more about  Commissioner Adam Silver and owners encouraging players to speak out on social issues, making the players feel heard (and cutting off the problem before it blew up). Besides, the player/owner power balance is different in the NBA than NFL, no NBA owner would dare cross a superstar player that way (the free agent backlash would be sharp). Of course, the biggest reason is the NBA’s core demographic is younger, more diverse, and more urban (read: bluer) than the NFL’s, and if an NBA player kneeled there would not be the same kind of vitriol from the fan base. Most would just agree.

However, protesting during the anthem is an issue that still hovers over the NFL. While Kerr wants to see Kaepernick get a chance to play, as a former general manager himself he understands why it has not happened (and it’s not about anything on the field).

“I also see this entire media frenzy that surrounds it,” Kerr said. “And if I’m a GM of a team, I know the minute I sign Colin Kaepernick, it’s like signing Tim Tebow. Or it’s like signing, you know, one of the Ball brothers. And that’s probably a bad analogy. But it’s going to come with a storm. So even if your heart’s in the right place, and you go, ‘You know what? This is all BS,’ I want my team to be able to function. And I want to bring in a backup quarterback. But I don’t want a news conference every single day. I could see a GM going, ‘Man, I don’t really want to deal with that.’ That’s modern media. That’s modern American life.”

Kerr plans to keep using his platform to speak out on American life. And some basketball.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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