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.

NBA G League cancels remainder of season

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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
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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)

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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

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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: