Kevin Durant on Thunder: ‘I was tired of having to be the only guy that can make 3s’

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Kevin Durant fortified a super team and torpedoed his own reputation in one fell swoop.

Why did he leave the Thunder for the Warriors, who had just beaten Oklahoma City in the 2016 playoffs?

Durant on All The Smoke:

The Warriors were so intriguing, because I always – with OKC, I played with a lot of athletes. I didn’t play with a lot of skill guys, not like shooters, ball-handlers. So, after a while, my game started to grow. I was like, I need a change. This was before the season even started. You know what I mean? It was like, I’m going to play out my last season as hard as I can. And I’m not telling anybody I want to leave. I’m not packing in. I’m trying to win as much as we can and try to end this out right. That was my thinking going in before the year.

And obviously I had a few teams, but the Warriors was a team I wanted to play for, because the movement they had, the passing. They led the league in assists. When Scott Brooks was my coach, that’s all we talked about, is wanting to lead the league in assists. And so playing with that team, that’s what I was thinking about.

So, when we got to the playoffs, it was just like, let’s see what happens.

Then, we get to the Warriors. It’s just a whole different series. You know they’re going to sell out to stop me. I mean, they’re going to leave Andre Roberson.

He was great for our team in that series, because he can guard. But he knew that he wasn’t going to help us shoot 3s. And everybody in the world knew that. And it’s easy for a team to guard us when we’ve got guys that they’re not going to respect you from 3. Know what I’m saying?

So, I was tired of playing in that system. I was tired of having to be the only guy that can make 3s, make jump shots, consistently make them.

So, my mind was already thinking about, how can I develop my game? More so than Warriors vs. Thunder, that rivalry. Even if that was a rivalry, I didn’t give a f—. I just wanted to keep developing my game. And on top of that, we only played them one time in the playoffs. So, I didn’t really feel like a genuine deep hatred for the Warriors. You know what I’m saying? It was just like they’re a new fresh team. They’re on the rise. I f— with them. And I’m going to play hard against them. I know some of their players. It is what it is.

The Warriors, they was just like another team to me. So, me going there and playing for them, it didn’t matter if we would’ve won or lost the series. I wanted to play there and live in the Bay.

Durant is right. For a championship contender, the Thunder were short on other players who shot dependably from the perimeter. Russell Westbrook in particular received blame for hogging the ball and clogging spacing.

But the situation was more complex.

Durant was skilled enough to shoot efficiently against even elite defenses. Westbrook had the supreme athleticism to attack through even tight spaces. (Durant absolved Westbrook in third-person tweets that Durant said were sent deliberately.)

The individual capabilities of those two superstars allowed Oklahoma City to surround them with role players who’d do dirty work like defending, rebounding and screening. The result: An elite team.

The Thunder pushed Golden State harder than anyone had all season. Even the Cavaliers, who won the championship, didn’t outscore the Warriors by as much in the NBA Finals as Oklahoma City outscored the Warriors by in the Western Conference finals.

Except, it was apparently even more complex, because Durant didn’t like the Thunder’s style of play. That matters, too. It’s important to keep a superstar happy entering free agency.

Durant said he wouldn’t have signed with the Warriors if they won the 2016 title. This doesn’t directly contradict that. But Durant is now insinuating postseason results didn’t affect his thinking.

I believe Durant wanted to win with Oklahoma City. But given… Durant now admits he began considering leaving before his final season there… Draymond Green recruited Durant throughout the season (bothering Thunder players)… Durant later revealed he decided to leave Golden State midway through his final season there… it’s fair to question Durant’s commitment to the 2015-16 Thunder. I don’t blame him for considering a life-altering move in advance. That’s totally natural. But compartmentalizing, staying focused on winning amid a wandering eye, can be difficult.

Durant got what he thought he wanted with the Warriors, winning two championships and playing on a team that emphasized ball and player movement.

But as Golden State coach Steve Kerr said, Durant got restless. Durant, who has always revered high-level individual scoring, wanted to isolate more. So, he left the Warriors for the Nets.

Stephen Jackson speaks passionately at a rally in remembrance of his “twin” George Floyd

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Stephen Jackson, the former NBA player and current ESPN analyst, knew George Floyd from when he pair grew up near each other in Texas.

Friday, Jackson spoke about the man he called his “twin” at a rally Minneapolis City Hall Rotunda (an event with Timberwolves players Karl-Anthony Towns and Josh Okogie in attendance. (Video via Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic, there is NSFW language involved.)

“I’m here because they’re not gonna demean the character of George Floyd, my twin. A lot of times, when police do things they know that’s wrong, the first thing they try to do is cover it up, and bring up their background, to make it seem like the bulls*** that they did was worthy. When was murder ever worthy? But if it’s a black man, it’s approved.

“You can’t tell me, when that man has his knee on my brother’s neck — taking his life away, with his hand in his pocket — that that smirk on his face didn’t say, ‘I’m protected.’ You can’t tell me that he didn’t feel that it was his duty to murder my brother, and that he knew he was gonna get away with it. You can’t tell me that wasn’t the look on his face.”

There has been a powerful reaction across the NBA world — and across the nation — in the wake of the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery (a 25-year-old black man killed while jogging in a Georgia neighborhood) and Floyd. In a sport with many black players, the murders of these men were reminders of the systemic race issues still part of American culture. LeBron James captured the feelings of many players and others when he took to Instagram.

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STILL!!!! 🤬😢😤

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Derek Chauvin, the man pictured kneeling on Floyd’s neck — which he did for more than eight-and-a-half minutes — was fired from his job in the Minneapolis Police Department and was arrested on Friday and charged with third-degree murder.

Vote on NBA restart format expected next Thursday, here are four plans on the table

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver
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The NBA is almost guaranteed to return to action in July, with the games taking place in Orlando.

What format the return takes is undecided, but the owners are expected to vote on that next Thursday, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

On Friday’s conference call with owners, Adam Silver reportedly laid out four options for them, something Shams Charania of The Athletic reported.

There was no consensus behind any one option, teams are all lobbying for what they want to see. Come next Thursday, Adam Silver is going to have to make a recommendation and get everyone to line up behind it, something the owners and players will do. This is Silver’s call.

Let’s break those options down.

• 16 teams going directly into playoffs. This is the cleanest, most straightforward option, and it has support from a number of owners. This keeps the number of people in the bubble relatively small, making it easier to maintain the safety of players, coaches, staff, and everyone involved. The league likely would keep the conference format rather than go to 1-16 seeding (many owners from the Eastern Conference and coastal cities reportedly are not fans of 1-16 and fear if they do it once, even in this unique season, it would become a regular thing).

One downside is players have asked for some regular season games — or games with meaning — before the playoffs to get their legs under them, this does not provide any (increasing the risk of injury). The other downside is this takes almost half the NBA’s markets and tells them “you’re done, no games from March until Christmas (the expected date for the tip-off of next season, or maybe a week or two earlier). That’s a long time without games and can hurt momentum for those franchises.

• 20 teams, group play for the first round. This is the World Cup soccer idea, with four groups of five teams each and the top two teams in each group advancing to the playoffs. Some fans and teams backed this idea because it provided a bit of randomness to the mix — soccer sees a lot of upsets in this format. On the flip side, the top teams were not fans of this plan for the same reason.

The buzz around the league is this format is basically dead to the owners.

• 22 teams with regular season games to determine seeding, followed by a play-in tournament to the 16-team playoffs. This idea, in a couple of different forms (one with just 20 teams, some with 24) has some momentum. The idea is the 22 teams — all teams within six games off the last playoff spot in each conference, which is the Wizards in the East and the Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Kings, Spurs, and Suns in the West — would play eight regular season games, then standings at the end of those games would set up the play-in tournament for the eighth seed. After that, the playoffs would start. This gets more markets involved, gets some regular season games (helping some regional sports networks), and still has a full playoffs.

There are downsides. It brings more people into the bubble and is that risk worth the reward? There are going to be some meaningless regular season games here, both by teams eliminated and teams locked into their playoff spots (the Lakers and Bucks will treat these games like exhibitions). It also adds a couple of weeks to the season and pushes the end-date back deeper into September and maybe October.

• 30 teams, a regular season to get to 72 games, then a play-in tournament followed by the playoffs. This is the idea to “finish” the regular season. We’re not going to waste time on it because my sources, and those of other reporters, have called this one dead on arrival.

Silver is going to get lobbied all week by different factions backing different plans, but by next Thursday he has to pick a one he can sell to owners and to players. There are no good options, he has to choose the least bad one.

From there, players will get called back to market for workouts and the clock will start.

So long as the league can keep everyone safe.

Bradley Beal: Contract extension gives Wizards opportunity, me flexibility

Wizards guard Bradley Beal
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Bradley Beal, through word and action, has shown an incredibly strong commitment to the Wizards.

But is there an opening to pry him from Washington?

Beal on his contract extension, via “All The Smoke“:

It was definitely tough. I came down to damn near the deadline on my decision, because I kind of play devil’s advocate. The whole year, I’m weighing pros and cons of staying or leaving, signing and not signing. Do I wait and try to sign this summer? Or do I wait and try to get traded? Or do I wait and play my contract out? So, I had a bunch of options.

I secured two more years. I have two more years here. Well, three. And, so for me, it was like that puts me – to me, I don’t think I’m going to hit my prime until I’m – what? – 29, 28, 29, 30? And so I feel like – at the end of this extension, it puts me right there. And it so kind of puts me in the prime time of my basketball. And so it still gives me the flexibility with also giving my respects and loyalty to the organization that drafted me. So, I’m still giving you all an opportunity here to make it with work with John, to make it work with everybody. So, here we go. We’ve got a couple more years. And granted, I think my extension is the length of John’s contract, as well. So, this is the time we’ve got. We’re going to see what we can do, and we’re going to make it work.

Beal on the Nets being interested in trading for him, via Jackie MacMullan of ESPN:

“It’s not the first time I’ve heard this kind of talk,” Beal told ESPN. “It’s interesting. To me, I look at it as a sign of respect, that I’ve been doing good things and guys want to play with me.

“That’s an unbelievable feeling. When you hear that Kyrie [Irving] and KD [Kevin Durant] want you, s—, that’s amazing. At the same time, you don’t know how much there is to it, or how easy it would be to do. And I’ve put down roots in D.C. I’ve dedicated myself to this town, this community. I love it here, and it would feel great to know I could grind out winning here instead of jumping to another team.

“But I’d be naive to say that I don’t think about it when these stories come up.”

Beal, 26, is locked up two more seasons. Both he and John Wall have player options for 2022-23. Beal’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, declared: “There are no Beal Sweepstakes.”

Everything Beal has said and done about staying in Washington is far more concrete than anything he has indicated about leaving.

But…

It’s interesting how close he came to not signing his extension. It’s interesting he publicly admitted to thinking about trade interest from other teams.

To me, Beal sounds like Anthony Davis – after years of stating loyalty to the Pelicans – subtly hinting he was dissatisfied in New Orleans. The key: Davis requested a trade only after the Pelicans kept struggling to build around him.

Beal is giving the Wizards an opportunity. Maybe they can assemble a winner around him. But even if Wall gets healthy, that’s a tough job.

If Washington becomes successful in the next couple years, great. That’s easy. Beal seems to be looking for reasons to stay.

But if the Wizards keep losing the next couple years, other teams will definitely line up to acquire the star shooting guard. Many players in that situation have greased the wheels of their exit by saying they won’t re-sign or even outright requesting a trade.

We’ll see how Washington does. We’ll see what Beal does at that point.

Considering Beal previously said he’d finish his career with the Wizards if he can control it, these recent interviews leave the door cracked slightly – only slightly – more ajar for Beal to depart.

Report: NBA targeting July 31 to resume games

Raptors guard Kyle Lowry and Nets center Jarrett Allen
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Only one key question about the NBA’s resumption – Where? (Disney World) – had a fairly clear answer.

Who? Why? How?

Those all remain up in the air.

But we can now pinpoint: When?

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

July 31 is a Friday. So, that could begin a fun weekend of basketball.

But remember: Coronavirus can upend the best-laid plans. So, while feels like the resolution we’ve all been craving, it’s only a goal.

Still, it’s nice to have a date to look forward to.