Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Steve Kerr endorses idea Kevin Durant became restless because he didn’t get credit for besting LeBron James in 2017 Finals

7 Comments

Kevin Durant dominated the 2017 NBA Finals. In Game 3, he made a go-ahead pull-up 3-pointer over LeBron James and called it “the best moment I ever had.” Durant led the Warriors to the championship and won Finals MVP.

Just two years later, Durant left Golden State for the Nets – an abrupt end to a tenure that rarely deviated from those incredible heights.

What went wrong between Durant and the Warriors?

Golden State coach Steve Kerr and Bill Simmons of The Ringer discussed on the “Book of Basketball 2.0” podcast.

Simmons:

My theory – I’m not sure if I’m right – but I think he thought when he won the title that first year, and he really outdueled LeBron, I think leaving that series, people were like, “Wow, that guy was just better than LeBron in a Finals.” And he thought that was going to be it. He never – them saying, “KD made the right move.” And instead people were like, “F— that guy. We’re still not giving it to you.” And I think I could feel it in him in the interviews, this kind of, “What else do I have to do? I just went toe-to-toe with LeBron James, and I won.”

Kerr:

I think you nailed it. You nailed it. It really came down to, the same reason we got Kevin in the first place was the reason we lost him. He was restless. Maybe he wanted to play a little different style. His first year with us, he was a sponge, and he would ask questions constantly. What about this situation? What do I do here? It was a very different style of play, and he was playing with different players. And so I think he embraced it and he enjoyed it. And that team was unstoppable between the ball movement and the off-ball movement of cutting players, guys who were setting screens for each other. With the isolation brilliance of Kevin, the team was unstoppable.

We were getting great shots every time down the floor, because they were – everybody was so unselfish. And they were so gifted. Klay had some monster games where everybody is concerned with Steph and KD, as they should be. And all of a sudden, Klay’s coming off a weakside pin. We had so many smart players, too – guys like Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, David West, Zaza. Screeners, ball movers, guys who understood how to play.

So, to get back to Kevin, the following year, in 17-18, we lost some of that. And it started to drift. And I felt like Kevin started to drift. And my feeling was he started to get restless, like “This is all there is? We won the title last year. We’re rolling again this year. But whatever it is I’m searching for, I’m still not finding it.”

I definitely left the 2017 NBA Finals suspecting Durant had become the greatest player in the world. Though he had far more help, Durant significantly outplayed LeBron. Durant’s combination of talent, athleticism, basketball intelligence, role and hunger to win his first title intersected so beautifully at that point in his career.

That was always going to be difficult to recreate.

Maybe Durant’s concerns about his place in the game – especially relative to LeBron – further complicated the situation. Durant definitely didn’t receive much public credit for his championship. He was widely criticized for taking the easy route by leaving the Thunder for the already-elite Warriors.

By his second season in Golden State, Durant no longer appeared driven by a title pursuit. That goal almost seemed too easy. Most onlookers certainly treated a Warriors championship as a forgone conclusion. (Golden State did repeat in 2018.) Durant spent time experimenting with his individual game. Now with the Nets, he wants to work even more on his individual skills.

It’s almost as if people spent years judging players by championships then changed the rules on Durant when he took a drastic step to get himself a ring. Not only did he not get the usual acclaim, he got criticized for how he won a title. After that, it’s understandable he found a new focus.

I’m unsure how happy Durant ever was with the Warriors. His tenure started with sullenness and reached real bitterness.

Hopefully, he finds whatever he’s seeking in Brooklyn.

NBA G League cancels remainder of season

David Becker/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

The NBA G League shut down play in mid-March, at the same time the NBA did after the positive coronavirus test of Rudy Gobert. However, without a big television contract or much gate revenue, there wasn’t the motivation to restart the G League season, as the NBA is doing.

Thursday the G League made the expected official, canceling the remainder of its season. It will finish without crowning a champion.

“While canceling the remainder of our season weighs heavily on us, we recognize that it is the most appropriate action to take for our league,” G League President Shareef Abdur-Rahim said in a statement. “I extend my sincere gratitude to NBA G League players and coaches for giving their all to their teams and fans this season.  And to our fans, I thank you and look forward to resuming play for the 2020-21 season.”

The Wisconsin Herd (33-10) and Salt Lake City Stars (30-12) finished the season with the best records.

The G League did take care of its players, which was the right thing to do.

With the NBA starting next season in December, the G-League will follow that schedule, with games through the winter and spring. There is a real possibility of expanded NBA rosters next season due to coronavirus fears, which will impact G League rosters as well, but there are a lot of details still to be determined.

Goodbye NBA regular season, hello NBA ‘seeding games’

Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo
Mark Blinch/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

The NBA regular season is over.

The league’s statement on its plan to resume the season made that abundantly clear.

The 22 continuing teams will play exhibitions, eight “seeding games” (not regular-season games) and maybe play-in games.

NBA release:

Each returning team would play eight seeding games, as selected from its remaining regular-season matchups.  At the conclusion of the seeding games, the seven teams in each conference with the best combined records across regular-season games and seeding games would qualify for the playoffs.

The 14 NBA Lottery teams would be the eight teams that do not participate in the restart and the six teams that participate in the restart but do not qualify for the playoffs.  These teams would be seeded in the lottery and assigned odds based on their records through games of March 11.  The 16 playoff teams would draft in inverse order of their combined records across regular-season games and seeding games.

Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press:

So, the lottery odds are set for the Warriors, Cavaliers, Timberwolves, Hawks, Pistons, Knicks, Bulls and Hornets. The Wizards can’t tank their way past Charlotte and Chicago.

That’s a good setup, which raises a question: Why doesn’t the NBA freeze records for the lottery with a month left in normal seasons? By not doing so, the league creates conditions for an annual tanking wasteland.

Calling these “seeding games” also positions the league to hold award voting soon. The NBA’s major awards – Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Most Improved Player, Sixth Man of the Year, All-NBA, All-Defense, All-Rookie, Coach of the Year – are regular-season awards. If the regular season is over, those can be picked now. That could be a good way to fill time and attract attention before play resumes.

This is probably mostly semantics.* The term “seeding games” allows the NBA to differentiate these games for the lottery and awards.

*It could also allow the league to cancel more regular-season games and expand force majeure. But owners would still have to negotiate with players on how to pay them for these new “seeding games.” So, that’s probably a wash.

The term also makes enough sense. The 22 continuing teams are playing for seeding.

But what happens if two teams clinch certain seeds before their scheduled seeding game? Would that game still be played?

I’m confident the answer would be yes, even if “seeding game” would no longer be accurate.

“Tune-up games to generate more revenue” just isn’t as catchy.

Report: NBA sets dates for draft (Oct. 15), free agency (Oct. 18), next season (Dec. 1)

Leave a comment

NBA owners have decided to finish the season by holding games between July 31 and Oct. 12.

Now, the surrounding key NBA dates for training camps, free agency, NBA draft and the start of next season are filling in.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The NBA’s reported tentative plan to open next season on Christmas? It was apparently pretty tentative.

A Dec. 1 start to next season would mean an incredibly short break for teams that advance deep in the playoffs. But the NBA is already spending a lot of time not playing games and making money. There’s an urgency to getting revenue flowing.

There will also be a massive disparity in time off between the eight done teams and continuing teams for the key NBA Dates. Who knows how that will affect next season? This is an unprecedented situation.

Which is a good reminder: Coronavirus can disrupt the best-laid plans.

NBA owners approve 22-team format for resuming season with only Trail Blazers opposing

Leave a comment

We already knew many key details of the NBA return format plan for the season:

  • Only the top 22 teams will continue.
  • Games will be held at Disney World in Orlando.
  • Each team will play eight more games (maybe with this schedule).
  • If the ninth-place team is within four games of the eighth-place team after those eight games, there will be a play-in series between the eighth- and ninth-place teams. To advance, the ninth-place team must win two games before the eighth-place team wins one.

Now, that plan is one step closer to becoming reality.

Per Shams Charania of The Athletic, the NBA approved a 22-team playoff format:

It’s shocking the Trail Blazers, owned by Jody Allen, cast the protest vote. Portland – currently outside playoff position – will resume with a real chance to make the playoffs. What more did the Trail Blazers want?

Players must still approve the NBA return format plan. National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts said they wouldn’t necessarily vote on it. Union leadership has worked closely with NBA commissioner Adam Silver, certainly agreeing on the system before having owners vote on it.

However, given the NBPA’s haphazard methods for polling the larger membership, I’m not sure how widespread support is. There is room for significant disagreement on how players – continuing vs. non-continuing – will have their salaries affected.

Still, I expect players approve the plan, maybe tomorrow.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

Everything is just too far down the road to turn back now. The financial incentives are too high not to keep trying to play. Silver has successfully rallied nearly everyone toward uniting.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Most of the remaining issues are minor details… like codifying a plan for health and safety.

Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press: