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

Leave a comment

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.

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

Leave a comment

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)
Leave a comment

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

Leave a comment

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)
Leave a comment

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.