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Warriors secure stars after Kevin Durant Experience

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NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

When Kevin Durant signed his first one-year contract with the Warriors, they were just happy to have him. His second one-year contract led to some jokes that masked real internal concern.

By the time Durant signed a third one-year contract in Golden State, the tension was inescapable. Durant left money on the table to ensure another free agency. The writing was on the wall.

And it contributed to so much tension.

Draymond Green most infamously addressed it, reportedly telling Durant, paraphrased, “We don’t need you. We won without you. Leave.” Durant brooded at times, lashing out at the media and publicly criticizing Steve Kerr. It seemed untenable.

It was. Durant signed with the Nets, ending the Warriors’ dominion over the league.

Golden State recuperating by seizing control of stars’ future. It has come at a substantial cost. But the team is back in charge.

The Warriors signed Klay Thompson to a five-year max contract, signed Draymond Green to a four-year extension with a player option and acquired D'Angelo Russell on a four-year max contract. They’ll join Stephen Curry, who has three years remaining on his super-max deal.

Few stars are locked in that long.

Setting rough criteria for stars, let’s look at players who were an All-Star last season or both of the preceding two seasons. Here’s how many years they’re each under contract before their contracts expire or they can opt out:

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By team:

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The Warriors’ best move was signing Green to a four-year, $99,666,363 extension. He could’ve hit unrestricted free agency and sought a max contract from another team, which projects to be worth $151 million over four years. Or he could’ve pushed for even more from Golden State, way more if he qualified for the super max by winning Defensive Player of the Year or making All-NBA next season. Instead, he took the security of an extension now. Nothing is assured as Green ages. But best I can tell now, this is a bargain for the Warriors.

Signing Thompson to a five-year max contract was another must-do deal. There’s risk. Thompson has a torn ACL and will likely turn 30 before he plays again. But he’s an excellent two-way player whose sweet outside shooting should age well.

Getting Russell was the most controversial acquisition. He doesn’t fit cleanly in a backcourt with Curry and Thompson. There’s already talk of Golden State trading him. A max salary isn’t cheap, and the Warriors had to send the Nets a potential first-rounder.

Acquiring Russell a sign-and-trade also hard-capped Golden State, creating significant limitations. The Warriors traded a first-round pick to dump Andre Iguodala, who’s still a good player. They were also restricted in filling out their roster.

Why go to all that trouble?

Because Russell is a young star. Those are rarely available.

Russell is the youngest established All-Star ever to change teams via free agency (including sign-and-trades and, in a previous era, signings that included compensation).

Here’s every established All-Star to change teams via free agency before turning 26:

 

Player Year From To Age
D’Angelo Russell 2019 BRK GSW 23 years, 4 months, 14 days
Jamaal Wilkes 1977 GSW LAL 24 years, 2 months, 9 days
Shaquille O’Neal 1996 ORL LAL 24 years, 4 months, 12 days
Otis Birdsong 1981 KCK NJN 25 years, 5 months, 30 days
LeBron James 2010 CLE MIA 25 years, 6 months, 10 days
Sean Elliott 1993 SAS DET 25 years, 7 months, 29 days
Andrew Bynum 2013 PHI CLE 25 years, 8 months, 22 days
Kenny Anderson 1996 CHA POR 25 years, 9 months, 14 days
Bernard King 1982 GSW NYK 25 years, 10 months, 18 days

Pressed by the hard cap, Golden State gave the biggest chunk of its remaining money to Kevon Looney (three years, $14,464,287). That’s solid value for a player comfortable with the Warriors.

The most interesting low-cost addition is Willie Cauley-Stein, who got slightly more than the minimum on a 1+1. He could be a heck of a finisher around other high-gravity players.

Maybe one of the Warriors’ young players will pan out. But No. 28 pick Jordan Poole, No. 41 pick Eric Paschall, No. 39 pick Alen Smailagic and Omari Spellman (2018 No. 30 pick acquired in a trade for Damian James) aren’t exactly thrilling prospects.

As for minimum-salary free agents, I’m higher on Glenn Robinson III than Alec Burks. But both are minimum-salary players for a reason.

Golden State could have built a deeper roster better-suited for contending this year. Without Durant and Iguodala, the Warriors have a massive hole at small forward.

Instead, Golden State acquired Russell and accepted the hard-cap burden. That might pay off in the long run. Next season, it probably reduces the Warriors’ championship odds.

Maybe a title wouldn’t have happened next season, anyway. Thompson is injured, and the team could need another year to build back up after losing Durant.

Golden State and Durant had three great years together. Losing him is a huge setback. The Warriors as we knew them are finished.

But all this star control gives them a good chance to rebound.

Offseason grade: C-

Report: Brooklyn near deal with Lance Thomas for restart

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Still rounding out their roster for the NBA restart in Orlando, the Brooklyn Nets have reached out to bring back veteran forward Lance Thomas.

Thomas, who went through training camp with Brooklyn but was cut right before the season, will sign as a substitute player for Brooklyn, reports Alex Smith with SNY.TV.

Thomas is an eight-year NBA veteran who spent the last four of that with the Knicks. He can play the three or a floor-spacing small four, with New York using him more as a power forward in recent years. He’s averaged 5.2 points per game in his career and is known more as a good player to have in the locker room and guy who can soak up 15-20 minutes a night and not hurt a team. Brooklyn had Thomas in at training camp and liked his fit, but they didn’t have a roster spot for him.

They do now. Three Nets players — Spencer Dinwiddie, DeAndre Jordan, and Taurean Prince — tested positive for the coronavirus and will not be at the Orlando restart. Wilson Chandler opted out of playing. All four of them can be replaced by substitute players for the remainder of this season, so the Nets signed Jamal Crawford, Michael Beasley, and Donta Hall. Thomas rounds becomes the fourth member of that group. (Note: The Nets cannot sign players to substitute for Kyrie Irving or Kevin Durant because they are out due to injury; substitute players are only for players missing due to coronavirus issues.)

Thomas will be a free agent this offseason.

Lance Thomas and Brooklyn enter the bubble in Orlando as the seven seed in the East.

Like LeBron, Anthony Davis also to wear own last name on jersey in Orlando

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Anthony Davis will wear his own name on the back of his jersey when the Los Angeles Lakers return to action.

Davis confirmed his decision Sunday in a conference call from Orlando, where the Western Conference-leading Lakers are beginning team workouts.

Davis and LeBron James both declined to choose a social justice message to replace their names on the back of their jerseys during the NBA restart.

Davis, a seven-time NBA All-Star, said he was “torn between” choosing from among the 29 approved messages and sticking with his name.

“For me, I think the name ‘Davis’ is something I try to represent every time I step on the floor,” he said. “I just think my last name is something that’s very important to me, and also social justice as well. But (I’m) just holding my family name and representing the name on the back to go through this process … and people who have been with me through my entire career to help me get to this point, while still kind of bringing up things that we can do for social injustice.”

James said he decided to forgo a social justice message because the available options didn’t “resonate” for him or his particular feelings about the movement. James would have liked to choose his own slogan, but wasn’t angry that it wasn’t allowed.

Both James and Davis have been outspoken about social justice causes in the past, although the younger Davis is less vocal than James.

The Lakers open play in Orlando on July 30 against the Clippers.

 

Lakers’ Rajon Rondo fractures thumb, out 6-8 weeks

Rajon Rondo injury
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The Lakers guard depth is getting hit hard. First, Avery Bradley chose to stay home from the NBA restart in Orlando for family reasons. Now this:

Rajon Rondo fractured his thumb during practice on Saturday and will need surgery that will sideline him 6-8 weeks, the team announced.

On the optimistic side, that timeline should have Rondo back for most or all of the conference finals and NBA Finals. Rondo has a history of hand injuries.

The Lakers cannot sign a substitute player to replace Rondo (that is only for players with COVID-19 related absences, or who opted out, but not injuries).

Rondo came off the bench for the Lakers this season, averaging 7.1 points and five assists a game. More importantly, he was the guy running the offense when LeBron James was off the court, something that will be difficult to replace. He is not the defender and player he once was, but he fit with the Lakers.

Alex Caruso and Quinn Cook will get some extra run, plus it opens up room for veterans Dion Waiters and J.R. Smith.

The Rondo injury is not going to put the Lakers in danger in the first two rounds of the playoffs, but if he is not back and 100% in the conference finals (very possibly against a deep Clippers team) and the Finals, this will be a blow to L.A.

Stephen Curry, Charles Barkley join “Race and Sports in America: Conversations” on NBC family

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In the wake of the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, and the protests that followed, citizens of the United States have started to have a long-overdue and challenging discussion of race and systemic racism in America. Black celebrities — guys such as Stephen Curry and Charles Barkley, plus other NBA stars — have stepped into the middle of that conversation and are using their voices.

That discussion, along with Barkley and Curry, comes to the NBC Sports family of networks Monday in “Race and Sports in America: Conversations.” The roundtable discussion show airs at 8 p.m. ET simultaneously on NBCSN, the Golf Channel, the Olympic Channel, and every member of the NBC Sports regional broadcast network.

The wide-ranging conversation (recorded in Lake Tahoe) included discussion both of the recent protests that swept the nation and the calls for police reform — Barkley said he wants to see that.

“The first thing we need, listen, we need police reform.  We need to, listen, I got in trouble for defending cops.  And I’m always going to defend cops.  I don’t want them out there killing unarmed Black men, but we need cops…” Barkley said. “But we need good cops.  We need to hold cops accountable.  If they do something wrong — the way the system is set up now, if cops do something wrong, other cops judge them.  That’s not fair in any aspect of life.  If you are a cop and you saw what happened to Mr. Floyd and you think that was all right, you shouldn’t be a cop.”

Curry spun the discussion of police reform into the need for people to vote for change — particularly at the local and state level.

“Same concept around reforming police, getting the bad ones out, is in every form of leadership in government in terms of how important voting is.  Not just at the national presidential level, but in our local, city, state elections…” Curry said.

“That’s where the real change happens.  So when it comes to voter suppression which we’ve seen since George Floyd’s passing in Georgia, we’ve seen long lines; people have been standing there for 12, 13 hours trying to vote.

“And that’s where a local election, as we look forward from a year from now and beyond, every single cycle, how do we continue to let our voices be heard, not just what we’re saying and crying for and asking for help, but how can we actually use our given right to go vote, to go put people in positions of power that they’re going to look out for us in a very meaningful way that’s going to make a true difference.”

Beyond the two NBA stars, Kyle Rudolph, Anthony Lynn, Troy Mullins, James Blake, Jimmy Rollins, and Ozzie Smith take part in the discussion.

Tune in Monday night across the NBC Sports family of networks for a can’t miss discussion of race and sports in America.