Draymond Green: Kevin Durant should’ve said before last season whether or not he’d return to Warriors

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Kevin Durant wanted to hit free agency in 2019, not be locked in longer with the Warriors.

Especially in hindsight, it’s easy to see why. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irvingwho’d been discussing it for a while – reportedly decided before last season to sign with the same team last summer. They ultimately both joined the Nets.

Even at the time, clues were apparent. Despite stating reluctance about taking another discount, Durant signed a contract in 2018 that didn’t maximize his earnings, because that was the only way to structure a shorter deal. Durant’s company moved to New York.

The result?

The Warriors played last season under the cloud of Durant’s looming free agency.

Everything he said and did was viewed through the lens of him staying or going. Golden State braced for his exit.

Draymond Green, via Uninterrupted:

What should have happened was Kevin come out and say, “Hey, man, this is it.” Like, “So, let’s do this.” Or, “This isn’t it.” But you can’t just leave the elephant in the room.

Because what happened was, the question came to us every day. Every time we spoke to the media, Klay and myself was asked about our contracts, and it was strictly due to Kevin. Because while that was going on, Klay was saying, “I want to be a Warrior forever. I want to be here. We started this thing. This is where I want to be.” I’m saying, “I want to be here for my career. We started this. We built this. I want to finish my career here with the guys I started it with.”

And then you kind of had Kevin like, “I don’t know what I’m going to do next year, and it don’t matter.” But it does matter, because you’re not the only person that has to answer that question.

And to be quite frank with you, you’re honestly the last person that has to answer the question because you don’t really say s—. You don’t say much to the media. If anything, you tell them to shut the f— up. Well, I don’t tell them to shut the f— up. I kind of have a conversation. And so I’m stuck answering that question all the time.

And due to that, there was always an elephant in the room amongst us.

This is so unfair.

If Durant said he were going to leave, that would have created an even more toxic situation. Durant’s devotion to the Warriors would have been widely questioned. How much would he help the team with one foot out the door? I doubt Green would have respected that one bit.

If Durant said he were going to stay, he would have boxed himself into an impossible corner. He earned the right to free agency in 2019. There was no good reason for him to relinquish that a year earlier just to temper media inquiries. Or Durant could have lied – said he’d stay then departed, anyway. I bet Green would have respected that even less.

Even if Durant planned before the season to depart, he had a right to change his mind. In fact, late in the season, signs emerged Durant was giving more consideration to staying. Did Green really want a highly talented teammate anchored to the idea of leaving? The best thing for the Warriors would have been Durant keeping an open mind.

The situation was going to be awkward last season no matter what Durant said. It was unavoidable.

But both Green and Durant handled it especially horribly at times. Green infamously blew up at Durant during a game, profanely telling the superstar that the Warriors didn’t need him and that he should just leave. Durant lashed out at the media for writing things Durant would later corroborate.

It was also unfair to pin the burden of relieving tension solely on Durant.

More than anything, it was circumstantial. All contracts eventually expire. As that point nears, there will be questions.

But the Warriors also leaned into suspicions. In 2018, Durant said he’d re-sign. Yet, some within the organization didn’t believe him. The 2018 championship parade got awkward with jokes about Durant leaving.

Contrary to what Green said, Durant repeatedly talked about free agency. Yes, in the most infamous incident, Durant vilified the media. He was also often accommodating.

So was Green, and I’m sympathetic to him repeatedly having to answer questions about Durant’s free agency. That can be wearing.

But no matter what Durant said, he was going to be a free agent in the summer of 2019. People care where one of the NBA’s best players plays.

There was no way around that.

Writer recants report that Larry Bird resigned as Pacers president because team didn’t spend enough

Pacers executive Larry Bird
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The report from ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan that Larry Bird resigned as Pacers president because the team didn’t spend enough?

Never mind.

Pacers release:

Statement from Larry Bird

“A published report indicated that I left my position as President of Basketball Operations in 2017 because ownership was not willing to spend “big money” and that it frustrated me enough to step aside. Nothing could be further from the truth. I want everyone to know I left there because it was time for me to move on from the Pacers.

“I had worked with Kevin Pritchard and at that time I felt Kevin was ready to take over and he has proven that. I can’t thank Herb and Mel Simon, along with Pacers Sports & Entertainment, for the opportunities to, at first, coach, and then later move into the front office.”

Statement from ESPN senior writer Jackie MacMullan:

“About three weeks ago during a discussion on the podcast The Hoop Collective, I misspoke when I expressed my opinion regarding the business practices of the Indiana Pacers, and inferred that Larry Bird had been frustrated during his time as team president. It was a careless remark, based solely on my opinion, and therefore should have never been said. Larry Bird never expressed those feelings to me, and I apologize to both Larry and team owner Herb Simon for poor choice of my words.”

I don’t know why the Pacers bothered quoting Bird, who still works for the organization as Advisor to the President of Basketball Operations. MacMullan’s clear recantation says everything necessary (and speaks to her integrity and humility).

It’s good this story got cleared up.

Some things that remain true:

Three Things to Know: Is it time to worry about the Laker offense?

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack — especially with games spread out every day in the bubble — so every weekday during the NBA restart we are here to help you break it all down. Here are three things you need to know from yesterday in the NBA.

1) Is it time to worry about the Laker offense?

The Los Angeles Lakers have the worst offense in the bubble.

We’re not just talking about the 86 points on 35.2% shooting in Wednesday’s loss to Chris Paul and the Thunder, although that was a low point.

Four games into the NBA’s restart, the Lakers are scoring less than a point per possession while shooting 39.4% overall and 25.2% from three. Their offense has been worse than the Wizards in Orlando — and how many Wizards starters could you name right now? The Lakers’ starting five — LeBron James, Danny Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Anthony Davis, and JaVale McGee — have a dreadful 74.4 offensive rating though four games (and a -30.1 net rating).

Or, since a picture is worth 1,000 words, take a look at the Lakers’ shot chart in the restart.

That’s a lot of red.

Should Lakers’ fans be worried?

Probably not. This is some small sample size theater with just four games. Coach Frank Vogel has been playing around with the lineup rotations, things haven’t been playoff tight. Plus, after the Lakers beat the Clippers opening night they had the top seed all but sewn up, there hasn’t been real motivation for L.A. to play its best.

More importantly, don’t worry because this team still has LeBron James (although he shot just 42% overall and 27.3% from three over the last four games). They still have Anthony Davis, who has been one of the MVPs of the bubble so far. Those two form the best pick-and-roll combo in the league, and so long as they are on the roster the Lakers have a chance to win it all.

The shooting is a concern — and not a new problem. The Lakers were a below-average shooting team in the season before the shut down (21st in the league on open look three-point percentage). We’ve watched LeBron’s play cover up the flaws in a team and take them to the Finals for years, and it certainly could happen again, but the Lakers shooting — and right now their entire offense — is a concern.

2) Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons leaves game with a knee issue

Non-contact injuries keep fans and coaches up at night, which is why Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons walking off the court with a limp and going straight to the locker room with a knee issue Wednesday was very concerning.

Simmons did not return to the game after that.

The good news is there is reportedly no swelling and the MRI came back clean, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic. Officially, Simmons is day-to-day.

Simmons had eight points on 2-of-10 shooting when he left the court. Through three games of the restart — where he is playing more off the ball as a power forward — he’s averaged 11.7 points and seven rebounds a game.

3) Memphis lost again, now 0-4 and could fall out of the eighth seed

The Grizzlies came to the NBA’s restart in Orlando with a 3.5 game cushion for the eighth seed, all they had to do was hold on to that through eight games. Now, after and 0-4 start, that lead is down to just one game over Portland.

On Wednesday, Memphis couldn’t slow down what had been a previously struggling Utah offense and lost 124-115.

The Grizzlies next four games? The Thunder, Raptors, Celtics, and Bucks. Memphis is going to have to find a couple of wins in there without Jaren Jackson Jr., who is out for the rest of this season with a torn meniscus in his left knee.

Before games started in the bubble, the idea of two teams passing Memphis — meaning the Grizzlies would fall even out of a play-in series for the eighth seed — seemed impossible. Right now, both the Pelicans and Spurs are just two games back, and both have soft schedules the rest of the way.

Memphis wanted to get some playoff experience for their talented young roster during the restart. Well, this is it — every game becomes must-win now for the Grizzlies. They need to be a focused team that finds another gear. For them to hold on and get in a play-in series will require a couple of wins in their last four.

The race for eighth in the West remains the best thing at the NBA restart. On Thursday Portland faces Denver, while New Orleans takes on winless Sacramento.

LeBron James: On behalf of basketball community, we won’t miss Donald Trump’s viewership

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NBA players kneeled for the national anthem.

President Donald Trump called the protest – which is meant to call attention to racism, particularly through police brutality – “disgraceful” and said he stopped watching games.

And in yet another predictable turn in this news cycle, Lakers star LeBron James fired back at Trump.

LeBron:

I really don’t think the basketball community are sad about losing his viewership, him viewing the game.

And that’s all I’ve got to say. I don’t want to – I’m not going to get into a – because I already know where this could go, where it could lead to for tomorrow for me. I’m not going to get into it.

But I think our game is in a beautiful position. And we have fans all over the world. And our fans not only love the way we play the game – we try to give it back to them with our commitment to the game – but also respect what else we try to bring to the game and acknowledge what’s right and what’s wrong.

And I hope everyone – no matter the race, no matter the color, no matter their size – will see what leadership that we have at the top in our country and understand that November is right around the corner. And it’s a big moment for us as Americans. If we continue to talk about we want better, want change, we have an opportunity to do that.

But the game will go on without his eyes on it. I can sit here and speak for all of us that love the game of basketball. We could care less.

LeBron has frequently criticized the president. Trump has also criticized LeBron. That’s how it goes.

In this case (and others), LeBron has the moral high ground. Kneeling during the national anthem is a patriotic act designed to make the United States a better place for all its people to live – something far more noble than saluting a piece of cloth during a song.

However, LeBron is wrong to speak for the entire basketball community. A lot of people love basketball. They don’t all hold the same political views. Some care about remaining in the good graces of the president of the United States, whomever that is. Some even care about the approval of Trump specifically.

Is there a limit on how much you love basketball if you’d stop watching because of a peaceful protest before a game? Obviously. But there’s still room to love basketball and also care about other things.

LeBron doesn’t have to personally dignify people who care both about basketball and Trump. But LeBron shouldn’t try to speak on their behalf, either.

LeBron’s rebuke would have been powerful enough (and more fair) on its own.

 

Jazz forward Joe Ingles joins Grizzlies huddle, drapes arms over Memphis players (video)

Jazz forward Joe Ingles vs. Grizzlies
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Jazz forward Joe Ingles has no boundaries with huddles.

Ingles invaded the Grizzlies huddle today, even putting his arms around – and some weight on – Dillon Brooks and Grayson Allen. Gorgui Dieng appeared to notice the intruder just before the video cut away:

Beyond the hijinks, Ingles also scored 25 points – including 12 in the fourth quarter – to lead Utah to a 124-115 win.