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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-

Rockets focused on basketball after fallout from Daryl Morey’s tweet

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HOUSTON (AP) The Rockets are back home in Houston, looking to leave behind the distractions from their trip to Asia.

Their two games in Japan were overshadowed by the aftermath of a tweet by general manager Daryl Morey in support for anti-government protesters in Hong Kong, angering fans and officials in China.

In their first practice since returning, the Rockets insisted they wouldn’t let the fallout distract them from preparing from the season.

“Guys can handle it,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We still got good work in. Everything’s fine, but you know what happened (is) regrettable, and it happened, but as I said, our work will get done.”

Veteran P.J. Tucker denied that dealing with this situation has been a distraction to this team trying to contend for its first title since winning back-to-back championships in 1994-95.

“Not really, honestly,” he said. “This time of season, everybody’s getting in shape, getting ready for the season, focusing in. So with all of the things that go on in life, and whatever, this is still our job, so we still come in and do our job every single day.”

The Rockets were in Hawaii on Oct. 4 to play a preseason game against the Los Angeles Clippers on the first leg of a trip that included two games in Japan when Morey tweeted an image that said: “Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong.” His tweet was in reference to pro-democracy demonstrations in the semiautonomous Chinese territory that has been mired in escalating violence between protesters and law enforcement.

The tweet was deleted soon after it was posted, and Rockets owner and billionaire casino and restaurant owner Tilman Fertitta quickly rebuked his GM with a tweet saying that Morey does not speak for the team. He added: “Our presence in Tokyo is all about the promotion of the NBA internationally and we are NOT a political organization.”

Despite the swift response from Fertitta, the damage was already done. Former Rockets star Yao Ming took offense to Morey’s support for the anti-government protesters and as president of the Chinese Basketball Association, suspended its ties to the Rockets over the tweet.

Events in China promoting the Lakers-Nets series were canceled, NBA media partner Tencent said it was evaluating its plans to cover the league, and China state broadcaster CCTV did not air either preseason game.

The tweet also caused some Chinese corporations to suspend relationships with the NBA and it is unclear what can be done to mend the relationship.

D’Antoni was asked if there is anything the coaches and players can do to help repair things with China.

“We’ve just got to keep playing and keep trying to be good ambassadors for the game, that’s all the players can do,” he said. “And then we’ll let the NBA and the Houston Rockets sort things out.”

Morey hasn’t spoken publicly since the tweet, with his only comments on the issue coming in two more tweets on Oct. 6. In those tweets he did not apologize for his initial tweet but did say that his tweets “in no way represent the Rockets or the NBA.”

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver backed Morey’s right to express his opinion and said: “We are not apologizing for Daryl exercising his freedom of expression.”

Morey was at the Toyota Center on Sunday but did not speak to reporters and was not at the small portion of practice that media was permitted to attend. While Morey stayed out of the spotlight it was up to the players and D’Antoni to address how the Rockets can move past what happened.

James Harden understands that as the face of the team, people want him to be a spokesman for the Rockets in all issues, but right now he wants to keep his comments on basketball.

“We’ve just been focusing on us and getting better,” he said. “Whatever is going to happen is going to happen. We focus on what we can control in this locker room … we had an unbelievable road trip, a great experience in those cities, and now we’re back and just trying to get better.”

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AP Sports Writer Stephen Hawkins contributed to this report.

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More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Tacko Fall reportedly earns two-way contract with Celtics

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Internet goobers can now rejoice, Tacko Fall will be joining Boston Celtics on a two-way contract this season.

The 7-foot-6 Fall, who played college ball at USF, has quickly become an internet darling based on his sheer size. His lanky frame and ability to shoot the 3-pointer hasn’t hurt Fall’s reputation as a fan favorite, either.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Fall will be signed to a two-way contract but is expected to spend most of his time in the NBA G-League.

Via Twitter:

Who knows if Fall will spend how much time with the Celtics this season. It’s not clear whether he’s actually ready for an NBA role just yet, particularly for a team in Boston that is looking to take over the Eastern Conference in the absence of Kawhi Leonard with the Toronto Raptors.

The Celtics are looking to make an NBA Finals run in 2020, and PFallaul will be an unlikely candidate to play a factor in that goal. Still, it’s a fun story and great to see a fan-favorite make it through and earn a contract.

Jayson Tatum doesn’t think Kobe Bryant taught him any bad habits

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There have been a lot of jokes about how Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum worked with Kobe Bryant two summers ago, and how that may have affected his performance in 2018-19. Tatum increased his shooting in segments between three and 16 feet by a combined 8% last season over his rookie year. Those midrange shots were largely attributed to Bryant’s influence by the social media sphere.

This regression went so far that Tim Bontemps recently wrote a story at ESPN about trying to de-Kobe-ify Tatum this year in Boston. But Tatum has heard those rumors, and he doesn’t believe that Bryant gave him any bad habits. To that end, Tatum said he’s still going to shoot the midrange jumper and he’s not putting Kobe at fault for his lack of progression last year.

Tatum’s comments were… well, just read them below.

Via MassLive:

“I’m still going to shoot the mid-range,” Tatum said after the Boston Celtics blowout of the Orlando Magic. “I seen all the people talking about the de-Kobe-ing. No, Kobe didn’t teach me anything bad. Everything we talked about and he showed me was great.”

“Last year, the jump that I didn’t make that everybody expected was not his fault,” Tatum said. “He’s one of the greatest ever. Everything he taught me was — I’m very grateful and it helped me. I gotta take responsibility for how I played last year and not being that big a jump that people thought. I’m still going to shoot mid-range.”

“I got better last year. Just not what people expected, not what I expected, and I take full responsibility,” Tatum said. “That’s why I’m excited for this year. But Kobe didn’t teach me any bad habits. I didn’t say that.”

Tatum’s problem wasn’t just his shot distribution, it was his shot selection. Not only did he shoot more buckets from three to 16 feet, but Tatum performed significantly worse from 16 feet out to the 3-point line, where he dipped by seven percentage points. He also saw a six percent drop in his 3-point shooting.

Combined with his shot distribution, Tatum’s percentages dropping in key areas made him a much less effective offensive player. Then again, if you watched any of the Celtics the last year — or paid attention to Boston pans online — you would know that they were fed up with some of the forced, Kobe-ish buckets Tatum would take at inopportune moments.

Even if Tatum ends up being a very good midrange shooter, that would cap his potential at DeMar DeRozan. That’s not what Danny Ainge and Boston are looking for, so perhaps someone can talk some sense into Tatum before it’s too late.

Leave it up to a former Laker to ruin the Celtics from within.

Spencer Dinwiddie announces date for investment in his contract

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Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie wanted to create a security out of his next NBA contract. The NBA said no. But then reports surfaced that Dinwiddie was going ahead with the plan anyway. Now it appears that Dinwiddie has made that public, and he is proceeding with his plan to create a digital token and give fans an opportunity to invest in his contract.

In a series of tweets on Sunday, Dinwiddie outlined that he would go ahead and use his next contract as planned. Specifically, folks will be able to invest in Dinwiddie’s guaranteed money, giving him cash up front in exchange for a return of their principal plus interest at a later date.

For his part, Dinwiddie said that the plan is legal and does not violate the CBA.

Via Twitter:

In his tweet thread, Dinwiddie also said that the transaction is between himself and fans, and that the NBA does not have any control over a third-party transaction in this fashion.

This could be a very interesting back-and-forth between the Brooklyn star and the league. If he’s ready to go ahead with his plan, it’ll force the NBA to respond.