Kevin Durant: I decided midway through last season to leave Warriors

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In February 2019, Ethan Strauss of The Athletic heightened discussion about Kevin Durant leaving the Warriors, writing:

Insiders around the league think Kevin Durant is leaving the Warriors for the Knicks. Most people within the Warriors either think Durant is leaving or profess not to know one way or the other.

Durant appears to outwardly sulk. Beyond the exasperated on-court gesticulations and media avoidance, he’s made a habit of drifting far from the huddle during timeouts, electing to stand alone by the stanchion.

Durant was in a long stretch of not talking to the media. When he finally spoke, he lashed out:


You’ve got a dude, Ethan Strauss, who comes in here and just give his whole opinion on stuff and make it seem like it’s coming from me. And he just walk around here, don’t talk to nobody, just walk in here and survey then right something like that. Now, y’all piling on me, because I don’t want to talk to y’all about that.

I’m trying to play basketball. Y’all come in here every day asking me about free agency, asking my teammates, my coaches. You rile up the fans about it. Let us play basketball. That’s all I’m saying. And now when I don’t want to talk to y’all, it’s a problem with me. C’mon, man. Grow up. Grow up. Yeah, you. Grow up. C’mon bro. I come in here and go to work every day. I don’t cause no problems. I play the right way – or I try to play the right way. I try to be the best player I can be every possession. What’s the problem?

The Knicks prediction was obviously off base. Durant signed with the Nets last summer.

But Durant just basically confirmed the rest of Strauss’ assessment.

When did Durant decide to leave the Warriors?

Durant on All The Smoke:

I knew just about halfway point through the year. I could feel the separation between the two. You just feel like everybody was just waiting on me to make a decision in free agency. Even from coaches to my teammates to the media just like – everybody was like, “KD, what are you going to do?” It’s just like January. And I’m like, “I’m just trying to hoop. That’s all I want to do is play basketball every day.” I came in every single day, kept my head down. I didn’t say much. I wasn’t too excited about much. So, my coaches and my teammates thought something was wrong with me. But I was just like, I’m really focused on the end goal, which is to win the third championship in a row. And my methods may not be welcoming to other people. But it’s just how I do things, how I approach the game.

Durant tipped his hand even sooner, signing a 1+1 rather than a 2+1 contract in 2018. That showed he prioritized the flexibility to leave Golden State last summer over maximizing his income.

As a result of that and other indicators of Durant’s impending departure, the Warriors spent last season under a cloud of speculation. Don’t blame Durant. Those were unavoidable circumstances.

But it weighed on everyone, and it sounds as if Durant made the tension worse than necessary. Attitudes are contagious. If Durant wasn’t excited to be at work, that’d make it harder for everyone else to maximize their enthusiasm. It’s exhausting to go through a long season that way, especially for a team that mentally fatigued from four prior long playoff runs. Golden State was talented enough to overcome that obstacle, but it was an obstacle, nonetheless.

If he already decided by January, it’s fair to question Durant’s commitment to the Warriors. Of course, he wanted to win. But how focused was he really on the task at hand with one foot already out the door?

That said, in the end, Durant proved his devotion to helping Golden State win.

Then, as he apparently planned for months, he left.

Pacers All-Star Domantas Sabonis has 20 and 11, leads Pacers past Blazers

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INDIANAPOLIS — Domantas Sabonis had 20 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Indiana Pacers to a 106-100 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night.

Malcolm Brogdon had 17 points, eight assists, and six rebounds while T.J. Warren and Victor Oladipo scored 15 points each for the Pacers, who have four of their last five.

CJ McCollum had 28 points and eight assists, Gary Trent Jr. had 20 points, and five rebounds, and Hassan Whiteside had 18 points and 16 rebounds for the Trail Blazers, who have lost five of six.

The Pacers were able to hold off the Blazers’ late push.

After Brogdon made a jumper to give Indiana a 103-93 lead with 1:54 remaining, Portland went on a 7-0 run. McCollum’s floater made it 103-100 with 30 seconds to go.

Myles Turner drilled a 3-pointer with 9 seconds remaining to seal it.

The Trail Blazers went on a 10-1 run late in the first half to push ahead.

McCollum made a 3-pointer to give Portland a 42-40 lead with 3:13 to go in the second quarter. After a free throw by Oladipo, McCollum made another three and then a fadeaway to put the Trail Blazers in front 47-41.

Portland led 49-43 at halftime.

Report: Magic and Pistons talked trading for Nets Spencer Dinwiddie

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Leading up to the NBA trade deadline, at least two NBA teams talked about making a trade for Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie. SNY’s Ian Begley reports that the Detroit Pistons and Orlando Magic had internal discussions about trading for Dinwiddie.

Dinwiddie started his NBA career with Detroit before being traded to the Chicago Bulls. After being waived following his only training camp with the Bulls, Dinwiddie signed later that season with the Nets.

That signing has proven to be one of the best finds of Sean Marks’ diamond mining process in Brooklyn. With the Nets, Dinwiddie has become a key rotation player. Last December, Brooklyn inked Dinwiddie to a three-year contract extension that started with this season.

This past summer, Dinwiddie was a key part of the recruiting process to bring free agent Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to Brooklyn. Dinwiddie did that recruiting even though the addition of Irving cost him a spot in starting lineup.

Oddly enough, it’s the presence of Irving on the roster that could lead Marks to consider trading Dinwiddie. With Irving, Durant and Caris LeVert, that’s three players who need the ball a lot. And there is a lot of overlap in position there as well. With a hole at power forward, Begley posited that a Dinwiddie for Aaron Gordon swap might make sense for both Brooklyn and Orlando.

While no trade agreement was reached prior to the deadline, it’s possible that either Detroit (who projects to have $34 million in cap space this summer and needs to add talent) or Orlando (who needs offensive creators) could engage Brooklyn in trade talks this summer. It’s much easier to make a deal that involves big salaries in the summer when teams have more roster flexibility.

Report: Joel Embiid out at least one week with shoulder sprain

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NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Serena Winters reports that Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid will be out at least one week due to a sprained left shoulder.

Embiid underwent further evaluations Thursday after being injured the previous night in a game at the Cleveland Cavaliers. Those evaluations showed no structural damage. Embiid will be re-evaluated in one week.

That timeline makes it likely that Embiid will miss the entirety of the Sixers upcoming west coast trip, including games against both Los Angeles teams. Embiid’s absence, combined with that of Ben Simmons, will make it hard for Philadelphia to improve upon their woeful 9-21 road record.

With Simmons out due to an impingement in his back, and Embiid joining him on the sidelines, the 76ers have returned Al Horford to the starting lineup. Horford started with regulars Tobias Harris and Josh Richardson, and fill-ins Glenn Robinson III and Shake Milton in Philadelphia’s home victory over New York on Thursday. That group is likely to continue to open games for Brett Brown until he gets his All-Star duo back in the lineup.

Report: Clippers would like to re-sign Montrezl Harrell and Marcus Morris as free agents

(AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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The Los Angeles Clippers will have to focus on building their roster around Kawhi Leonard and Paul George moving forward. They locked up several role players to long-term contracts over the summer, but face two critical free agent situations this offseason with Montrezl Harrell and Marcus Morris. Jovan Buha of The Athletic reports that the Clippers would like to re-sign both players.

Harrell has blossomed into a Sixth Man of the Year candidate while with the Clippers, and will be one of the better big men on the market this summer. Only six to seven teams project to have cap space this summer, but all of them have a need for a player like Harrell. That means LA will likely need to pony up this summer to keep their reserve big man.

The Clippers likely face the same sort of situation with Morris. They acquired him at the trade deadline and gave up a first-round pick to do so. With several picks and swap rights pending to the Oklahoma City Thunder from the Paul George trade last summer, that was a heavy price for Los Angeles to pay.

With the team capped out and lacking draft picks moving forward, LA has little ability to replace either Harrell or Morris if they leave. On the other hand, it could push the Clippers deep into the luxury tax if they retain both Harrell and Morris. Steve Ballmer has the deepest pockets in the NBA, but every owner has their limits. In the end, everything might come down to just how the Clippers season ends. Winning a title, or at least making the NBA Finals, would make it a lot easier to pay to keep the team together.