Since before training camp opened, the Warriors — players and management — have been mentally prepared for this being Kevin Durant‘s last season with the team (Durant is expected to opt out next summer and become a free agent). That doesn’t mean they want it to end. The front office, in particular, will do whatever it can to keep him. It’s just that everyone senses the reality.
That reality was pushed into the spotlight after the end of regulation in an eventual loss to the Clippers when Draymond Green chose not to defer to Durant and pass him the ball, instead trying to do it all himself (Green fumbled the ball away and the Warriors didn’t get a shot off). Durant called out Green for the decision (as did other teammates later), Green stood his ground and called Durant a “b****” and said he was making the season about himself with how he has handled his pending free agency.
Where does that leave the Warriors? Not in a good space, one veteran told Marcus Thompson II in a must-read piece at The Athletic.
“With what was said, there is already no way Durant is coming back,” one player said. “The only hope is that they can say this summer, ‘See, KD. We’ve got your back. We protected you from Draymond.’ ”
Hence the suspension, rather than just a fine for Green. The Warriors wanted the punishment to be public, not just internal. Just to show Durant they have his back.
It’s very likely not enough — and it very likely would not have mattered anyway. Whatever you may think Durant is saying on the court, the stage has already been set for next July. It feels like Durant wants to win one more title, then to go try to pad his legacy with his “own team” somewhere else.
The Warriors players, including Green and Durant, are professional enough to put all this aside to win. None of this means the Warriors are not still the heavy title favorites.
The challenge now for Steve Kerr and everyone else is to just keep focused, keep their eye on the Larry O’Brien trophy and not all the distractions. So, they will keep playing what happened down.
With his recent outburst at hecklers in Utah, Russell Westbrook ignited a long-overdue discussion of how fans interact with players during games. The Jazz even recently banned a fan who repeatedly called Westbrook “boy” last year.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t an isolated case of that racist language being used toward a player.
Pistons Blake Griffin confronted a fan in Minnesota in December.
Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:
The fan was seemingly ejected. The Timberwolves didn’t respond to questions whether he faced additional punishment.
I’m all for good-natured heckling. Racist taunts are completely unacceptable – and maybe still more common than we realized. Because Griffin didn’t get as enraged as Westbrook on video, this got swept under the rug.
It shouldn’t be Griffin’s responsibility to fix this. Teams must do a better job holding accountable fans who cross the line.
Jim Boylen is making friends within the Bulls.
Outside the organization? Not so much.
Boylen and Doc Rivers got ejected for yelling at each other during the Clippers’ win over Chicago on Friday. Rivers blamed Boylen for instigating.
Then, Boylen called timeout with the Bulls up 14 and 40 seconds left against the Suns last night. Phoenix coach Igor Kokoskov appeared to take exception.
The Suns intentionally fouled, stopping Chicago from running its after-timeout play. As the game ended, Boylen gave the customary wave to the opposing coach – and was clearly rebuffed.
Kellan Olson of 98.7 Arizona Sports:
Was Boylen trying to rub in the victory? He pulled his starters during the timeout, giving him plausible deniability. It’d also be reasonable to use the timeout as a teaching opportunity for running an after-timeout play.
But the Suns don’t have to like being used for practice. They’re in the midst of a trying season, especially Kokoskov. His bitterness is understandable.
I don’t think either coach was wrong here. Both were doing what was best for their teams. The Bulls should get experience running situational plays. The Suns should find motivation to no longer get treated like a pushover.
Boylen strayed further from the accepted norms, but I rarely support unwritten rules. If the Suns didn’t like it, they should have done something about it – which they did by fouling to stop Chicago’s play. It was petty, but it was well within their rights. Just like the Bulls were calling timeout.
LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo are the NBA’s most popular players. They led the league in All-Star fan voting the last two years. Antetokounmpo is favored to win MVP this season, and LeBron is generally recognized as the best player in the world.
So, tonight’s Lakers-Bucks game is losing a lot of luster.
This is what happens when you get a game-winner blocked by Mario Hezonja. You must take a seat for at least one game.
The Lakers are apparently going through with a plan to rest LeBron James in one game of back-to-backs. This isn’t that. The Lakers were off yesterday then have tomorrow and Thursday off.
LeBron missed 18 games earlier this season with a groin injury. That’s the type of injury he could play through – while at risk of aggravating it. Maybe he came back before fully recovered in order to make a playoff push.
LeBron’s activated playoff mode went nowhere. The Lakers are almost certain to miss the postseason. At this point, it makes sense to be cautious with the 34-year-old LeBron.
The Bucks should also be cautious with their superstar – but for the opposite reason. Milwaukee is 2.5 games up on everyone else in the league.
Antetokounmpo injured his ankle against the 76ers on Sunday. He stayed in that game, scoring 52 points in a loss. Hopefully, this is minor. The Bucks also play the Cavaliers tomorrow, so maybe Antetokounmpo will play the other half of the back-to-back.
J.R. Smith got suspended for throwing soup – chicken tortilla, to be precise – at Cavaliers assistant coach Damon Jones last season. Smith’s anger reportedly stemmed from him not sharing Jones’ joking mood that day.
Now, Jones – whom Cleveland fired with Tyronn Lue earlier this season – is revealing his side of the story.
Jalen & Jacoby:
It was the bowl plus the soup.
It was the first bowl out of the pot, so it was hot as hell. Yes, it was hot, very hot.
It went everywhere.
I was standing up, and it hit me in the shoulder, arm, everywhere. It hit the wall. I mean, it was a mess.
We didn’t talk to each other for probably three months, not one word. And then, I remember it was a night after a back-to-back. We was in Philadelphia, and we had a conversation and said, “You know what? Brothers have quarrels. I’m sorry. I apologize. Let’s move on.”
Kudos to David Jacoby for asking the important questions. This interview revealed a lot – the soup temperature, where it went and whether the bowl got tossed. Unfortunately, Jones dodged Jacoby’s question about whether Smith threw overhand or underhand. Relatedly, we don’t know the distance of the throw. There’s still a lot to uncover.
Additional context: That game in Philadelphia was just over a month after the soup throw. So, the rift didn’t last quite as along as Jones described. It might have felt like three months, though. Even one month is a long time to ignore someone you see every day.
At least the Cavs had experience with a player not talking to anyone.