Kevin Durant: I isolated myself after Warriors swept Draymond Green incident under rug

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You’re a b—, and you know you’re a b—. We don’t need you. We won without you. Leave.

That’s reportedly a paraphrase of what Draymond Green told Kevin Durant during a November 2018 in-game spat. Those sharp words loomed over the rest of the the Warriors’ season and Durant’s eventual exit from Golden State.

It’s also worth remembering everything that surrounded the heated argument.

The Warriors and Clippers were tied in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter. Green beat Durant to a defensive rebound. As Durant clapped for the ball, Green dribbled up-court himself, fumbled the ball and didn’t even get off a shot. Durant looked agitated. He and Green – mostly Green – jawed on the bench.  As Durant took the court for overtime, he appeared to say, “That’s why I’m out.” Golden State lost in the extra period.

The Warriors suspended Green one game. Steve Kerr reportedly decided the punishment at the behest of his players, who found a fine insufficient. Durant reportedly challenged Green to better control his emotions. Durant said he and Green agreed to move on.

But after signing with the Nets, Durant said the incident contributed to him leaving Golden State.

Now, he’s expanding on what wrong:

Durant on All The Smoke:

That play happened. I was going to grab the rebound. He came and grabbed it. I’m thinking he’s just going to toss it to me, and we’re going to run up court, and I’m going to shoot the shot.

Everybody knew that, and we all figured that would happen. And then when it didn’t, I was kind of shocked. And then I was just, “Whoa, Dray. Let me see that.” Like, “What you doing?” Then he turned it over. And I’m just so confused at that point, because he never, ever did nothing like that before. And everybody on the bench was confused, too. And then when we came back, I just heard him screaming. And I was like, “Hold up.” He’s usually screaming when he comes back to the bench. But what is he saying? Then, he started going off. And I’m just like – maybe it’s because I was f—ing p—ed that he didn’t give me the rock. Because I didn’t say nothing. It was just in my body language. I was just clapping and like, “F—.”

Then, he started coming off the top with all of that stuff. And I’m just thinking, “Draymond is actually my friend, somebody I can call when I’m going through anything.” Like, “Yo, bro, come through.” Like, “Damn, bro, let’s hang out tonight.” And for him to say that type of s— to me just threw me for a loop. And I just started isolating myself after that, because I didn’t feel – they suspended Draymond. But it was just like they had to so it wouldn’t look bad to everybody else. And then nobody talked to me about it or really – we never really came to an agreement. We didn’t voice our opin – nobody as a whole – because it happened in front of the whole team, and nobody really talked about it. It was just swept under the rug. And to me, it was just like, we a family. We’re supposed – even if he said that, we can move past it. But let’s all talk about it. Let’s just say how we all felt about moment, because that was a huge moment in this whole dynasty. Don’t just sweep it under the rug because we want to win. That’s the reason why we’re not going to win. So, I was just like, “Let’s all talk about this.” It’s not that big of a deal. Just put it out on the table. We can move past it. And when that didn’t happen, I was just like “F— it. Let me just hoop and worry about myself.”

We all know what Draymond is. It’s fine that you want to do that, that you want to show your emotions and wear them on your sleeve. But when it’s over the line sometimes, let’s just talk about it, so next time you can tone it down just a bit. And I feel like we didn’t have an opportunity to do so. Because we were so focused on just trying to move forward and win. And I get that, too. But if we’re a family…

We done won two chips together, it’s bigger than – this some s— we can sit down and talk about.

Me and him sat down and talked about it, and we kind of, I gave him my piece on it. He told me how he felt on it. But it happened in front of the whole team. So, everybody got to talk about it.

We know, s—, turnovers happen. S— happens.

Green recruited Durant to Golden State. They definitely once appeared close.

But there were also other examples of Green pushing the limits with Durant. It’s not totally shocking Green went over the line. He’s an intense competitor with minimal filter.

Green is also such a smart player. For him to hold the ball with Durant on the floor was stunning. (That’s why one interpretation of Durant saying “That’s why I’m out” was he was saying that why he’s out on the court.) It’s underdiscussed the frame of mind that put Durant in even before hearing Green’s jarring personal attack.

Durant reportedly discussed teaming up with Kyrie Irving years before they actually did. Durant looking toward New York was an open secret, even if people predicted the wrong team (Nets, not Knicks). It was Durant’s right to change teams. But positioning himself to do so added tension within the Warriors.

I appreciate Durant acknowledging that he understands Golden State’s desire to move on. He’s willing to see another viewpoint.

For what it’s worth, so was Green after the fact. Once Durant signed in Brooklyn, Green expressed remorse about harming his relationship with Durant.

But in the moment, emotions were more raw. If he wasn’t already totally set on departing, this incident distanced Durant further from Golden State. It was a big deal.

In the aftermath of the incident, Durant tersely told a reporter to stop asking about his relationship with Green. Now, Durant calls it a “huge moment in this whole dynasty.” Occasionally, the media correctly identifies which storylines warrant more attention – even when an involved player pretends otherwise.

The time Shaq peed in Suns teammate Lou Amundson’s shoes – and worse!

Suns players Lou Amundson and Shaquille O'Neal (Shaq)
Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images
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Gilbert Arenas has earned a reputation as the NBA player who relieved himself in a teammate’s shoe (Wizards forward Andray Blatche’s).

But Arenas’ tactic wasn’t unique.

Shaquille O’Neal got into a prank war with Suns teammate Lou Amundson during the 2008-09 season. It got intense as Phoenix, coached by Alvin Gentry, reached the final game of its season.

ESPN’s Amin Elhassan on “The Dan Le Batard Show With Stugotz” local hour, hosted by Mike Ryan:

Shaq is the big prankster, the big joker. But if you do something against him, there’s no tit for tat. There’s tit for nuclear war.

He goes to Lou’s locker, grabs his sneakers, pees in them.

That’s the start, right? He then goes and let’s just say “messes with” some of Lou’s haircare devices, like his brush and his comb and stuff. Messes with them. Let me put it this way: Messes with them in a way that – I was comfortable telling you he peed in the shoes. I’m not comfortable telling you what he did to the hair stuff. And then this part, I will tell you: He tampers with Lou’s mouth guard.

He tampers with it.

He tampers with it.

Lou shows up at like 8 or whenever he usually shows up. And he’s skittish and nervous. And Suns.com is there like, “What do you think Shaq is going to do?” “I don’t know. I think he’s going to do something, though.”

So, I’ll never forget this. He’s sitting at the locker, and he opens – he starts to reach for the sneakers and then looks at them and says, “Nah, something doesn’t feel right.” Opens the door up, pulls out a fresh pair of sneakers for the last game of the year, right? Again, this is irregular behavior. Usually, you have a couple of sneakers. You break them in for the year, and you switch between two or three or three or four, whatever. So to break out a whole brand new pair … was weird.

Most of the time when you’re an NBA player, you don’t put on the mouth guard immediately. You have it in a case, and you give the case to the trainer. Then, you go out to the bench. Then, when you’re about to come into the game, that’s when you grab your mouthpiece.

There’s no funnier image than Alvin drawing up a play, kneeling down, coaches standing around him. Lou is sitting there, because now he’s in the game. The guys who are in the game are usually seated. Sitting there just staring at the clipboard, like, “OK, coach. I got you.” And everyone else is just staring at Lou. No one’s paying attention.

Puts the mouth guard in. One, two [sounds of disgust], takes the mouth guard out and flings it with tremendous accuracy at the bench. Everyone starts dying. I remember going back and watching the broadcast, “Oh, Suns bench seems to be getting a lot of fun.” They had no idea what’s happening.

What did Shaq do to Amundson’s mouth guard? My imagination is running WILD.

Elhassan also explains why Grant Hill took 25 shots – his most in four years – in that game. Hill needed to score 26 points to average 12 points per game for the season, which would trigger a large bonus in his shoe contract. Hill’s gunning got him 27 points.

It’s a good podcast with other fun anecdotes and worth a listen.

Magic: Mo Bamba out for playoffs, undergoing post-coronavirus evaluation

Magic center Mo Bamba
David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images
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Mo Bamba contracted coronavirus, fell out of shape, recovered, joined the Magic in the bubble then struggled to contribute on the court.

Now, he’s departing the bubble for good.

Magic:

The Magic are huge underdogs in their first-round series against the Bucks. This doesn’t really change the equation. Bamba had already fallen from the rotation, which is now comprised of Nikola Vucevic and Khem Birch at center.

But it raises thorny long-term questions.

Bamba was the No. 6 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. Though he has underwhelmed so far, the Magic were still hoping he’d grow into a quality NBA player. Bamba at least improved from his rookie season.

His progress has obviously been halted. For how long? Will he face lasting effects?

Everyone is trying to get to the bottom of these difficult questions.

Reported Bulls coaching candidates: Kenny Atkinson, Stephen Silas, Darvin Ham, more

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The Bulls fired Jim Boylen. 76ers assistant Ime Udoka was reportedly frontrunner for the job, but Chicago will conduct a full search.

Who else is in the mix?

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:

The broad search is expected to include former Nets coach Kenny Atkinson, Nuggets assistant Wes Unseld Jr., Mavericks assistant Stephen Silas, Bucks assistant Darvin Ham and 76ers assistant Ime Udoka, among others, sources said.

Atkinson is the only former head coach on that list. Like Tyronn Lue for win-now teams, Atkinson is the top available coach for rebuilding teams. (If fired by the 76ers, Brett Brown could supplant Atkinson.) Atkinson had a strong record of player development before Brooklyn shifted priorities.

The Bulls – with Zach LaVine, Coby White, Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr. and a high first-round pick in the 2020 NBA Draft – could use someone like him.

But Atkinson could have options, and Chicago might not be the most desirable opening.

Udoka, Silas, Ham and Unseld are all rising assistants who have earned head-coaching consideration. Interviews should help determine whether they’re ready for that step.

PBT NBA All-Bubble Awards

Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard and Rockets star James Harden
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
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The NBA will announce seeding-game awards tomorrow.

But the play-in is already set. Other playoff matchups are already set. The final seeding games today are just glorified scrimmages.

So, why wait to name the top performers in the bubble?

Here are our picks using the same format as the league – a Most Valuable Player, two five-player teams (no positions) and a coach:

Bubble MVP

Kurt Helin Dan Feldman
Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers) Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers)

Kurt Helin: It isn’t simply that Damian Lillard led the bubble in scoring at 37.6 points per game. It wasn’t how he got those points, with ridiculously deep threes and driving layups. It was when he did it that makes him bubble MVP: When the Trail Blazers had a rough outing (as did Lillard) and looked like they might fade from postseason contention, he came back next game and dropped 61. Then 51 the game after that. Then 42 in the final bubble game with the playoffs on the line. Lillard was the ultimate leader and willed his team to the play-in series, and that’s what makes him MVP of the seeding games.
Dan Feldman: James Harden was more consistently good and even sometimes great. But nobody hit higher levels than Lillard, who stepped up in the biggest moments to lead Portland into the play-in with the eighth-place advantage. Lillard set an emotional tone for a team constantly vulnerable of falling from the playoff race, and he delivered on the court with brilliant offense. He wasn’t perfect, but he went to great lengths to ensure the Trail Blazers met their goal. That’s the bubble MVP.

All-Bubble teams

First team

Kurt Helin Dan Feldman
Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers) Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers)
Devin Booker (Suns) James Harden (Rockets)
T.J. Warren (Pacers) Devin Booker (Suns)
Luka Doncic (Mavericks) T.J. Warren (Pacers)
James Harden (Rockets) Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks)

Second team

Kurt Helin Dan Feldman
Jayson Tatum (Celtics) Luka Doncic (Mavericks)
Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks) Michael Porter Jr. (Nuggets)
Kawhi Leonard (Clippers) Kawhi Leonard (Clippers)
DeMar DeRozan (Spurs) Paul George (Clippers)
Kristaps Porzingis (Mavericks) Kristaps Porzingis (Mavericks)

Kurt Helin: It was difficult leaving Antetokounmpo off the first team, he played brilliantly but his team was in cruise control (plus he took himself out of the last game by headbutting Moe Wagner). A few players such as Fred VanVleet and Michael Porter Jr. also almost made the cut.

Dan Feldman: Lillard, Harden, Booker and Warren were first-team locks. Antetokounmpo was absolutely dominant when he wanted to be, which was limited with the Bucks locking up the No. 1 seed early. Derrick White, DeMar DeRozan, Chris Paul, Gary Trent Jr. and Fred VanVleet were among the contenders for the final second-team spots.

Coach of the Bubble

Kurt Helin Dan Feldman
Monty William (Suns) Monty William (Suns)

Kurt Helin: Every young team talked about it heading into the restart (and developing teams not invited to the restart begged for the same opportunity): Using the bubble games as a chance for a young core to grow and take a step forward. Except teams like Sacramento and New Orleans didn’t do that. Phoenix, behind Monty Williams did — they became the story of the bubble at 8-0. Devin Booker exploded and got himself in MVP talk, Deandre Ayton played brilliantly, and the Suns came from six-games back of Memphis to almost make the playoffs. Williams set the Suns up to be a playoff team in the West next season.

Dan Feldman: Phoenix went 8-0! That alone is pretty darned impressive, and the context reflects even more favorably on Williams. The Suns entered the bubble with the lowest playoff odds among the continuing 22 teams. Needing to make up 2.5 games and – more significantly – jump four (!) teams, Phoenix could have easily arrived unmotivated and ripe for distraction. Instead, Williams had the Suns playing fearlessly, cohesively and joyously. Williams even leaned heavily on his young players rather than his veterans, taking excellent advantage of a player-development opportunity and positioning Phoenix to ascend next season.