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Steve Kerr: ‘We’re not moving the ball;’ Kevin Durant: ‘We pass the ball too much’

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When he took over for Mark Jackson as Golden State coach, Steve Kerr emphasized pace, spacing and ball and player movement offensively. The Warriors’ scoring skyrocketed, and they became the juggernaut we now know.

Then, they added Kevin Durant.

Ever since, there has been a give and take. Kerr and the Warriors – including Durant – still like to run, spread the floor and share the ball. But Durant is also great in isolation and sometimes reverts to that. Remember, Durant’s and Draymond Green‘s infamous argument earlier this season stemmed from a play where Green wanted to push the ball up-court then pass to an open player while Durant wanted to control the ball himself.

The latest disconnect in offensive style came after Golden State’s 108-103 loss to the Jazz last night. The Warriors had just 266 passes and 18 assists, marks that would rank last or near last per game in the NBA this season.

Kerr, via Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle:

“We’re not moving the ball,” Kerr said after watching his club shoot 40 percent from the field, including 10-for-31 (32.3 percent) from three-point range. “We’re not playing the way we’ve played the last few years, where the ball is really moving and we’re taking great shots.”

Mark Medina of The Mercury News:

Durant and Kerr have disagreed after a loss before, and they still came together to win a championship. It’s a long season. This needn’t necessarily blow up into something huge.

But this is the most detached Durant and Kerr have seemed on this issue. With Durant’s free agency looming, his alignment with Golden State justifiably gets put under the microscope. This shouldn’t be ignored.

Durant views basketball a certain way. He values getting buckets in a way that doesn’t neatly overlap with Kerr’s philosophy. I’m not sure that will ever completely change.

But both sides can continue to work to meet in the middle. Durant reportedly left the Thunder, in part, due to frustration over Russell Westbrook commandeering the offense. Yet, Durant must do more to get the ball within a free-flowing system. He can be too stagnant. Durant has shown an eagerness to expand his game, and maybe Golden State can sell him on this being the next skill to develop.

The Warriors are at their best when running Kerr’s equalitarian offense. Green and Klay Thompson particularly perform better in that structure. Stephen Curry too, though he’s good enough to play multiple ways. But, as Durant said, opponents have become more adept at stopping it. Everyone has copied the Warriors, so defenses have adjusted. Durant isolating is a great alternative against defenses slowing Kerr’s preferred system. But Durant is also far too talented to be pigeonholed as Golden State’s last resort.

To some degree, these are first-world problems. Whatever the Warriors are doing, it’s working.

They still lead the league in assists per game (27.6). They still rank fourth in passes per game (309.8). They still rank second in points per 100 possession (113.0, just behind the Bucks’ 113.2).

And, of course, Golden State has won two championships in Durant’s two years there. The Warriors are favored to win another this season.

Most teams would kill to have these offensive problems.

But with Durant’s impending free agency, how he feels matters greatly. Golden State must continue to work to get on the same page with him.

They’re clearly not there yet.

Is FIBA’s decision to move World Cup to year before Olympics reason for USA drop outs?

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FIBA made a mess of World Cup qualifying moving the games from the summer to during the season for the NBA and all the major European leagues. The USA qualified thanks to a team of G-League players coached by Jeff Van Gundy, but the process was not pretty. For anyone.

Now it could be another FIBA decision that has led to the rash of stars — James Harden, Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard, and others — deciding not to play for Team USA this summer.

Traditionally, the FIBA World Cup took place every four years, on the even-numbered year between Summer Olympic cycles. For example, the last World Cup was 2014, the Rio Olympics were 2016 with the Tokyo games in 2020. However, FIBA pushed this World Cup back a year to 2019 (instead of 2018) and that has changed the calculus for players, something Michael Lee of The Athletic speculated about.

For American players, the Olympics are the bigger draw, when more people watch. We grew up with the Dream Team at the Olympics, not the World Championships. That means if players have to choose, despite the allure of the Chinese market, they will choose the Olympics next year.

The other factor: The NBA feels wide open, with as many as eight teams heading into the season believing they can win the title. A lot of those contending teams have new players, which is leading players to prioritize club over country this time around.

This is different from 2004, when the NBA’s top players stayed home from the Athens Olympics because of a combination of terrorist concerns and players not liking coach Larry Brown. Today’s players love Gregg Popovich, but other concerns are weighing on them more.

It has left team USA without the biggest stars of the game — Kemba Walker is the only All-NBA player on the roster — but USA Basketball has such a depth of talent that they are still the World Cup favorites. The margin for error just got a lot smaller, however.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was working on jump shot with Kyle Korver (VIDEO)

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Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s jumper is getting better. Last season after the All-Star break he shot 31.5 percent from three (up from 22.3 before the ASG) and in the playoffs that jumped to 32.7 percent. He struggled on catch-and-shoot threes in those final 19 games after the ASG, shooting just 16.7 percent, but off the bounce he shot 33.8 percent after the break. Also, all of last season he didn’t take many long twos, but when he did he shot 41 percent on them.

What would make his jumper better? Working on his shot with the newest Buck, Kyle Korver.

Which is happening.

Be afraid NBA. Be very afraid.

Antetokounmpo recently said he is only at about 60 percent of his potential. If he can start to consistently hit threes off the bounce when defenses sag back off the pick-and-roll (trying to take away his drives), he might become unstoppable. Or, more unstoppable. If that’s a thing.

Zion Williamson signs shoe deal with Nike’s Jordan Brand

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Russell Westbrook. Jimmy Butler. Blake Griffin. Chris Paul.

And now Zion Williamson has joined them as a Jordan Brand athlete. Williamson announced that he had signed with Jordan on his Instagram.

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Let’s Dance #JUMPMAN

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Williamson was probably the biggest shoe free agent on the market this summer. While still a rookie, he already is a huge marketing presence — Summer League in Las Vegas sold out to see him the first two nights (people ended up disappointed) — and it was estimated he would make north of $10 million a year on his rookie shoe deal.

While we have not heard official numbers yet, the rumors are he did get that money.

If true, this is the second-largest rookie shoe deal in history. LeBron James got seven-years, $87 million, however, Williamson is second and bumps Kevin Durant to third (seven years, $60 million).

There are rumors Puma had offered even a larger contact, but Williamson wanted to be a Jordan brand guy.

“I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of the Jordan Brand family,” Williamson said in a statement. “Since I was a kid, I dreamed of making it to the league & having the type of impact on the game Michael Jordan had & continues to have today. He was one of those special athletes I looked up to.”

“Zion’s incredible determination, character and play are inspiring,” Michael Jordan said in a statement. “He’s an essential part of the new talent that will help lead the brand into the future. He told us he would ‘shock the world,’ and asked us to believe him. We do.”

Nike continues to dominate the NBA and basketball shoe market, with more than two-thirds of NBA players wearing Nikes. Even still, landing Williamson — who will play for the New Orleans Pelicans — was such a big score that Nike stock jumped up one percent on the news. He has the potential to be the next LeBron or Durant for Nike, if he can live up to the hype and weight of being the most discussed No. 1 pick in a decade.

He’s the kind of player who could sell a lot of shoes, and Jordan is betting on just that.

Al Horford calls Celtics’ reported tampering allegations ‘ridiculous’

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The Celtics have reportedly complained about the 76ers tampering with Al Horford.

Horford opted out, and it seemed he could return to Boston. But more than a week before free agency officially began, a report emerged he’d leave the Celtics while expecting a four-year, $100 million contract elsewhere. He committed to the 76ers on the first day of free agency, getting $97 million guaranteed and up to $109 million over four years.

What did Horford make of tampering allegations coming from Boston, where Danny Ainge runs the front office?

Horford on The Dan Patrick Show:

It’s pretty ridiculous. But it is what it is. Danny – I love Danny. Danny was always really good to me. I know that he’s definitely frustrated with things didn’t work out with us.

Notice the lack of a denial.

But Horford is right: It’s ridiculous. Because the Celtics are hypocrites who locked up Kemba Walker before free agency officially began.

Though Boston’s specific complaints don’t hold water, there are legitimate issues with the wider landscape.