Draymond Green: Kevin Durant’s discontent with Warriors stems from LeBron praise, not our incident

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Warriors coach Steve Kerr endorsed the idea that Kevin Durant became restless because he didn’t get enough credit for besting LeBron James in the 2017 NBA Finals.

Draymond Green also subscribes to that theory.

Which, to Green, means too much stock is put into his infamous blowup at Durant nearly a year-and-a-half later. (You’re a b—, and you know you’re a b—. We don’t need you. We won without you. Leave.) Durant said the incident contributed to him leaving Golden State for the Nets last summer.

Green gave his fascinating perspective on “All The Smoke” (video warning: profanity).

Durant joined the Warriors in 2016, forming a rare MVP tandem with Stephen Curry. Initially, each superstar overly deferred to the other, throwing off Golden State’s rhythm. Durant told Curry to take the lead, and the Warriors surged. In Golden State’s victory over LeBron James and the Cavaliers in the 2017 NBA Finals, Durant asserted himself and won Finals MVP.

Green:

Kevin is happy as hell, not complaining about nothing, just enjoy playing good basketball.

You turn on the TV the next day, and the f—ing headline is “LeBron James still the best player in the world, question mark.” You’ve got Stephen A. You’ve got all these people debating it. And everybody still said LeBron James is the best player in the world. That’s when I kind of felt like it took a turn. And then we came back 2017-2018 season, and Kevin just wasn’t as happy.

Durant has given contradictory statements about his happiness in the aftermath of his first title. But he did say he felt LeBron passed the torch to him in 2017.

Green said Durant complained more about shot distribution between himself, Curry and Klay Thompson. Durant expressing misgivings about the Warriors’ offense would become a running theme

Green:

It wasn’t a problem in 2017. But now in 2018, it’s always an issue. And so that was a challenge, just trying to figure out, how is Kevin going to react to certain s— that would happen with the team or that Steve Kerr would do. Steve Kerr would call a play for him, and he’d be like, “I don’t f—ing want you to call a play. I want you to f—ing make them play the right way.” And it’s like, yo, what are you talking about? You you say you need the ball, and you want the ball. But then when I call the play for you. It ain’t that. So what is it? It’s obviously a much bigger problem than just you getting the ball.

I’m talking to Bob Myers. I’m like, “Yo, I don’t think Kevin coming back here.” And, you know, Kevin has said to me once before like, “They keep this bulls— up, I’ll get out of here.” And me and K was real close. So, I’m always in between everybody talking him off the ledge, f—ing telling Steph like, “Yo, we need to get K a touch.”

Remember David West’s cryptic comments about about how much Golden State went through internally en route to the 2018 championship? Green said it referred to this drama with Durant (not just a meningitis scare).

Green even thought Durant might leave during the 2018 offseason. But Green believes the lure of a three-peat brought Durant back. Green later said he wanted Durant to declare his plan – leave or stay in 2019 – before the season.

Green:

His heart wasn’t here no more. He was kind of one foot in and one foot out from the very beginning of the season.

But the one thing about Kevin is he loves the game of basketball. And he’s going to give it 100 percent every f—ing time he step on the floor. I don’t give a f— if it’s a game, if it’s a workout.

If you watch this dude work out, every rep he do, it’s f—ing game speed.

To watch him f—ing work out is like mesmerizing. Like the f—ing heart.

To go every rep game speed in a f—ing workout, it’s just not realistic. It’s not realistic. But he does.

The one thing you could always depend on is, no matter what, once he stepped on the court he’s going bust his ass, because that’s just who he is, that he worked his ass off.

But it was kind of always commotion all year. And so beginning of the year, I told Bob and Steve, I’m like, “Yo, I’m struggling with Kevin right now. He kind of not here. I need some help. I’m trying, and it’s frustrating. I need some help.” And everybody’s like, “Yeah, OK. We understand. We get it. Alright, cool.” But nobody did s—. And so I’m kind of stuck in this position.

Was Durant fully committed to the Warriors last season? Probably not.

But, as Green said, that didn’t affect Durant’s effort level. Durant played hard and played well. He even rushed back from injury – and suffered a ruptured Achilles – to help Golden State in the NBA Finals.

The issues came primarily with team chemistry. Especially in hindsight, Myers and Kerr should have heeded Green’s plea for help. But Green is the Warriors’ emotional leader. He embraces that responsibility.

And he made the situation even worse.

Green berated Durant before overtime of a game against the Clippers in November 2018. At the end of the fourth quarter, Green grabbed a defensive rebound, dribbled up court and then committed a turnover. Durant said he was stunned Green didn’t pass to him.

Green:

When I get the rebound, what do I do? I get the rebound. I push the ball. I find one of them. So, I get the rebound. I take off. He clapped loudest s—. I’m like, “Yo, come on.” I’m taking off. I’m going. I start to cross over and go across court. And in my mind, I’m already thinking like, “Oh, he trailing. I’m about to cross over and take this guy standing here, and I’m going to just flip it back. He going to step into a 3. He step into a 3, it’s game over, and we out of here.

He stood back there clapping and kind of moseying up. So, when I go across, I’m waiting to flip. He kind of not there, and I turned it over.

It’s amazing how both big and small this argument was.

Durant wanted the ball in the backcourt. Green wanted to pass it to Durant in the frontcourt. That’s such a tiny dispute! It’s the type of thing to discuss briefly and get on the same page the next time. Green is a willing passer, and Durant is a lethal scorer. Both know their roles. It’s an issue of only when to throw the pass.

But it was also so much more. Durant’s looming free agency was always going to cause tension. It was unavoidable. The question was whether the Warriors could properly manage it. This incident revealed a clear no.

Afterward, Green met with Myers and Kerr.

Green:

They’re pretty much telling me, “You were wrong. You apologize.” And my thing for them was, “I told y’all this. So, yeah, it boiled over. But this shouldn’t be no surprise to nobody. I told y’all what it was, and nobody did nothing. I told y’all this was coming.” And so when that happened, they kept telling me like, “Yo, you need to apologize.” And I’m like, “I’m not f—ing apologizing. He one foot in and one foot out. I meant what I said. I’m not f—ing apologizing for something I meant to say. I’m not apologizing.”

After an hour and 45 minutes, they’re like, “You go home. You meet us in the morning. You sleep on it, and maybe you feel different.”

And we meet and they’re like, “So are you going to apologize?” I’m like, “I’m not apologizing!”

Myers told Green he’d be suspended one game.

Green:

I started laughing. And he’s like, “Well, that’s not the response I expected you to have.” I’m like, “Well, I feel like you’re suspending me to try to save Kevin, to try to make him feel good. Because that’s bulls—. I never seen no player get suspended for arguing with another player. So, you’re really trying to save him. It is funny to me.”

On this, Green and Durant agree: The Warriors mishandled the aftermath of the incident.

Green:

At this point, it just had gone from bad to worse. But we were so talented, that the outside world couldn’t tell that there was problems.

Durant said he decided midway through last season to leave Golden State. Durant said the argument with Green contributed to his decision, though Durant never pinned his exit solely on that.

Green:

You ain’t leave because of me. You’re f—ing Kevin Durant. You wanted to be here? I would have been out if I was the issue. I would have been long gone. And guess who would’ve understood that? I understand that. I understand the business of basketball. I understand how this s— works. If Kevin Durant wants to be somewhere and he don’t want me here, I’m out.

He was one foot in and one foot out. And he left because he wanted to leave. Because he wanted to be here and me being here was an issue, I would have been out. And that’s just the real.

Yes, Golden State would’ve traded Green if that meant Durant would’ve returned. But that’s an oversimplification.

Durant joined the Warriors in the first place because he liked their ball movement. Green was a big part of that.

On the other hand, Durant also chafed at Golden State’s offensive scheme. It’s difficult to tell what he really wanted. I’m not sure even he knew other than he wasn’t finding it with the Warriors.

Again, Durant never said Green was the sole reason for leaving. There were clearly other issues, too. Durant merely said Green’s blowup contributed. Even if Durant planned to leave, he still had time to change his mind. In fact, there’s evidence Durant’s opinion of the Warriors turned more favorable as they advanced through the playoffs.

But they had more ground to make up because of Green. Green has owned that.

Green also owns this:

I still love KD. His feelings about me may not be the same. But I’ll ride for him for the rest of my life. I got that type of love for that brother.

I obviously don’t agree with every way Green framed Durant’s experience with Golden State. But I appreciate Green’s ability to explore the nuance of a complex situation. That advanced understanding of interpersonal dynamics gives Green even more credibility. I highly value his perspective here and am glad he provided it.

PBT Podcast: LeBron chases history, WNBA superteam and trade talk

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It’s one of the craziest weeks in the NBA — the week before the trade deadline is always insane — yet that is maybe the third biggest story in the league right now.

First, in this edition of the PBT Podcast, we dive into LeBron James chasing history and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time scoring record — what does that say about LeBron and his legacy? And his conditioning to be doing this 20 years into his NBA career.

From there, Corey Robinson of NBC Sports and myself dive into the biggest move in the basketball world this week — Breanna Stewart shaking up the WNBA and choosing the New York Liberty in free agency. She formed a superteam in New York, and there is another one in Las Vegas, and this is an opportunity for the WNBA to grow – and get charter flights for their players. From there, it’s Corey’s Jukebox and time to talk some Damian Lillard.

Then we into trade rumors from around the league and everyone waiting on the Raptors to open up the market.

You can always watch the video of some of the podcast above (the Christmas games segment) or listen to the entire podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google Play, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please feel free to email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

Three things to Know: Breanna Stewart is headed to New York, WNBA must seize moment

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Three Things To Know is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out NBCSports.com every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks that make the NBA must-watch.

1) Breanna Stewart is headed to New York, WNBA must seize moment

The biggest free agent in WNBA history has chosen to form maybe the first super team in league history — and that’s a real opportunity for everyone.

Former league MVP and two-time WNBA champion Breanna Stewart has chosen to leave Seattle and play for the New York Liberty.

Just a few weeks ago, the Liberty traded for 2021 WNBA MVP Jonquel Jones to pair with Sabrina Ionescu, forming one of the best pick-and-roll threats in the league. Now add Stewart and her playmaking to a roster filled with quality players —  Michaela Onyenwere, DiDi Richards, Joceyln Willoughby, Kayla Thornton — and this is a team that’s a legitimate threat to win the WNBA title next season. This is a superteam.

New York’s move comes just days after two-time former MVP and WNBA champ Candace Parker chose to join the defending WBNA champion Las Vegas Aces with reigning MVP A’ja Wilson and quality players around her such as Kelsey Plum, Jackie Young and Chelsea Gray. This is also a superteam.

It’s not a coincidence Stewart and Parker chose to go to teams with newish WNBA owners willing to spend to win, Joe Tsai in New York (also the owner of the NBA’s Nets) and Mark Davis in Las Vegas (owner of the NFL’s Raiders). Two owners who came into the WNBA wanting to spend to pay players but also improve their experience — a new practice facility in Las Vegas, for example — and grow the sport that way. Owners with the vision to know they must spend money to make money — grow the league and its popularity and franchise values will skyrocket.

Stewart in her free agency pushed charter flights for players to the top of the list of ways to improve the league. Right now, the WNBA CBA requires teams to fly commercial. It’s part of a penny-pinching mindset from some quarters that sometimes feels like it will choke off the growing league. Charter flights for every team to every game — something common in professional sports and high-level college sports, including women’s college basketball — would cost about $30 million for the league.

There’s a divide among WNBA owners, not all want to pay that added charter flight cost out of their pocket, but the league has to find a way. As Corey Robinson of NBC Sports noted in the video above, this feels a lot like when his father — Hall of Famer David Robinson — wrote an open letter in 1991 to then San Antonio Spurs owner Red McCombs asking to fly charter to games because of the competitive advantage (McCombs agreed after the public pressure, now charter flights are just expected in the NBA).

Beyond just flights, this is an inflection point for the WNBA — it has to intensify its marketing, its outreach, and do whatever else it takes to grow the league.

Stewart, a recognizable face and name to any sports fan in America (even casual ones who only know her Olympics efforts) just formed a superteam in the biggest media market in the nation. They have a natural, high-profile rival in Las Vegas with their own superstars and big names. If you can’t sell this, you’re doing it wrong — this will be great basketball (and that’s not even mentioning Brittney Griner and the Phoenix Mercury, and other good teams out there).

New York vs. Las Vegas could be the 1980s Lakers vs. Celtics moment for the WNBA. Stewart vs. Wilson can be a version of Magic vs. Bird — a rivalry and must-watch matchup that took the NBA off tape-delayed late-night television and vaulted it into prime time, putting it on the course for what it is now. This feels like that moment for the WNBA, but will WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert be able to grab the opportunity the way David Stern did? Can she get her owners to buy in the way Stern did? The WNBA must spend, it must take advantage of this opportunity. Chances and players like this don’t come around very often.

2) Timberwolves outplay Warriors in clutch, pick up quality win

Right now, this Warriors team just does not have the aura of its championship teams of years past. Even last year’s team didn’t enter the playoffs as the favorites in the West (that was the 64-win Suns), but we had seen enough to know they could be a threat to win it all with a couple of breaks. Which they got.

This year’s team… the Warriors had a 13-point lead on the Timberwolves Wednesday night with less than 11 minutes left and then got outplayed the rest of the way. While D'Angelo Russell was draining key 3-pointers, Stephen Curry, Donte DiVincenzo and  Andrew Wiggins were missing theirs, and Jonathan Kuminga was committing illegal screens. The result was the Warriors blowing their lead and the Timberwolves took advantage of it — with some critical plays by Naz Ried.

“I thought we had control of the game and then I thought we just kind of gift-wrapped it,” Kerr said postgame, via NBC Sports Bay Area. “And not to take anything away from Minnesota, I thought they were great. They took advantage of our mistakes and lack of execution. [D’Angelo Russell] got hot and guys made big shots, but we missed box-outs, we threw the ball away, we took really difficult shots.

“So everything we had done to that point to have control of the game, we stopped doing. We got what we deserved.”

This year’s Warriors are 13-14 in the clutch (games within five points in the final five minutes), with a -1.8 net rating. Make that a game within three points in the final three minutes and the Warriors are 10-12 this season.

The Warriors had won 4-of-5 before this and it felt like they may be flipping the switch, but then games like this happen and it gives you pause. These Warriors are not there yet.

3) Celtics put on a show, romp past shorthanded Nets

Boston has cooled off following its hot start to the season, but there are nights when they get focused, turn the burner back on high, get hot and remind everyone why they are the title favorites this season.

The Nets ran into those Celtics on Wednesday — Boston outscored Brooklyn 46-16 in the first quarter, hitting eight straight 3-pointers to open the game.

From there the Celtics romped to a wire-to-wire 139-96 win. Boston stayed hot from deep and hit 48.1% from 3 for the game (26-of-54). Jayson Tatum scored 31 points,  Jaylen Brown added 26, and both got to sit in the fourth quarter and watch.

The Celtics needed a win like this.

The Nets… life is tough sometimes without Kevin Durant. This is a game Brooklyn can flush and move on, even with KD it would not have helped much the way the Celtics were shooting.

ONE BONUS THING TO KNOW (or see): Give Tari Eason credit, he did not give up. That is persistence.

Nuggets’ Michael Malone to coach Team LeBron in All-Star Game

DENVER NUGGETS VS LOS ANGELES LAKERS, NBA
AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images
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Denver is comfortably in first place in the West and looking like a contender.

Which is bad news if Nuggets coach Michael Malone purchased any non-refundable plane tickets for the start of the All-Star break, because now he is headed to Salt Lake City.

With Portland beating Memphis on Wednesday, it ensured that the Nuggets will have the best record in the West on Sunday ( two weeks out from the All-Star Game, meaning Malone is now the head coach of Team LeBron.

This is Malone’s second All-Star Game as a coach, but the captains should be familiar to him. In 2019 he coached Team LeBron to a win against Team Giannis 178-164.

Boston’s Joe Mazzulla will coach Team Giannis.

The coaches do not know which players they will coach — Malone doesn’t know if he will be coaching Nikola Jokić or not. This year team captains LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo will pick their teams live, just before the game. We know the pool of starters the captains will pick from, with the reserves being announced Thursday.

LeBron James NBA all-time scoring record tracker

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has held the NBA all-time scoring record at 38,387 points since he retired in 1989. It is one of the most iconic records in sports and one thought by many that would never be broken, but LeBron James is on the verge of breaking that scoring record and doing it at age 38. How many more points does LeBron need to take over the scoring record? When is it projected to happen? Let’s break down the latest numbers (this will be updated after every Lakers game until the record is set).

How many points does LeBron James need to set the scoring record?
89

Abdul-Jabbar career points: 38,387
LeBron career points: 38,299

Lakers’ upcoming schedule:

Feb. 2 at Pacers
Feb. 4 at Pelicans
Feb. 7 vs. Thunder
Feb. 9 vs. Bucks
Feb. 11 at Warriors

When is LeBron projected to set the all-time scoring record:

LeBron is averaging 30.2 points per game this season, at that pace he would set the record on Feb. 7 at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder, although that would be by one point, so Feb. 9 against Milwaukee is certainly a possibility.

News and notes on LeBron’s quest for the record:

• LeBron had his first triple-double of the season — and became the first player ever with one in his 20th season — scoring 28 points with 10 rebounds and 11 assists — to help lead the Lakers past the Knicks in overtime on Tuesday night. With those 11 assits LeBron moved past both Mark Jackson and Steve Nash to be fourth on the NBA’s all-time assists list.

• LeBron James did suit up to play Tuesday night against the Knicks (in Madison Square Garden on national television, that shouldn’t have been a surprise). Anthony Davis was cleared to play as well.

• After sitting out against the Nets on Monday, LeBron is officially questionable to play Tuesday in Madison Square Garden against the Knicks and will be a game-time decision. Lakers coach Darvin Ham said LeBron has “really significant soreness” in his left foot (after playing 44 minutes against Boston). LeBron and the medical staff will speak after LeBron starts to warm up Tuesday to determine if LeBron can play in Madison Square Garden, a game he hates to miss because he loves playing in that venue.

• The Lakers have officially listed LeBron (and Anthony Davis) as out for the game Monday night in Brooklyn. That is the first game of a back-to-back for the Lakers, and they have rested LeBron in half of those for most of the season. This will push back the date he breaks the record, making it likely it happens at Crypto.com Arena.

• LeBron scored 41 points — and felt he should have had a couple more — in the Lakers’ overtime loss to the Celtics Saturday on national television.

• Sixers Doc Rivers on what impresses him in LeBron’s run to this record: “LeBron has done it so differently to me [thank Kareem]. Because LeBron is not a natural scorer. LeBron is a playmaker. He got criticized early in his career for making the right decisions. And the fact that he’s now about to break the scoring record, it really points out his greatness.”

• LeBron scored 20 points in the Lakers’ win over the Spurs, a game in which Anthony Davis returned from injury and Rui Hachimura made his debut as a Laker after being traded from the Wizards.

• What has Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said about LeBron passing his record? There has been a bit of frostiness between the two men, but Abdul-Jabbar was gracious in comments to Marc Stein back in 2021 about the possibility of his record falling: “I’m excited to see it happen. I don’t see records as personal accomplishments, but more as human achievements. If one person can do something that’s never been done, that means we all have a shot at doing it. It’s a source of hope and inspiration. Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile back in 1954. Since then, not only have 1,400 runners beaten that time, but the new record is 17 seconds less. We all win when a record is broken and if LeBron breaks mine, I will be right there to cheer him on.”