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.

Returning to Finals, LeBron James talked about motivation from doubters

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LeBron James is headed back to the NBA Finals for the 10th time.

The Los Angeles Lakers are headed back to the NBA Finals for the first time in 10 years, the longest the iconic franchise has ever been off of the league’s biggest stage.

When last season ended all of that seemed a long shot.

The Lakers had just missed the playoffs for the sixth straight season (the longest drought in franchise history), LeBron had missed 17 games with a groin injury leading to questions about his durability as he was about to turn 35, and the fit between LeBron and a young core of Lakers players seemed off.

What LeBron heard through all of that was doubters, and that fueled him.

“This is what I came [to the Lakers] for,” LeBron said after the Lakers’ eliminated the Nuggets in a game he took over late. “I heard all the conversations and everything that was said about why did I decide to come to L.A. — the reason I came to L.A., it was not about basketball. All those conversations, just naysayers and things of that nature. I understood that, with the season I had last year and my injury, it just gave them more sticks and more wood to throw in the fire to continue to say the things that they would say about me.

“But it never stopped my journey and never stopped my mindset and never stopped my goal.”

All season long LeBron has said he was fueled by doubters, even when they weren’t really there. He said he was motivated by the people calling him washed even if nobody outside of Twitter trolls did that. Creating strawmen motivations is something Kobe Bryant did for years with the Lakers, LeBron continues on that tradition — and the tragic passing of Kobe was another motivation for LeBron as well.

It took a lot more than LeBron James’ willpower to get the Lakers back to the Finals. The Laker roster underwent an overhaul, with most of the young players going to New Orleans in exchange for Anthony Davis. Then those roster spots were filled in by veterans that other teams were slow to snap up — Rajon Rondo, Dwight Howard, JaVale McGee — and appeared to give the Lakers unpredictable chemistry.

Then there was the coaching change, with Luke Walton out and Frank Vogel — with a veteran staff of assistants led by Jason Kidd — in.

“He’s been great,” LeBron said of Vogel. “He’s been unbelievable. I mean, we’ve faced, it’s been a crazy obstacle course for our franchise this whole year. I’m not going to sit here and give all the details, but you guys, everyone can go back and just see from the start of the season all the way up until now what we’ve gone through as a team. He’s been able to manage it the whole time. Bringing in guys, losing guys. He’s just always been the anchor, and our coaching staff has been right behind him. I can’t say anything more than that.”

LeBron brought it all in line and kept everyone focused on the goal.

That goal was not just to reach the NBA Finals but to win it. LeBron hasn’t lost sight of that. Now his body gets a few days off before that final journey starts.

And he has time to find a few more doubters to motivate him.

 

Minnesota’s Malik Beasley arrested, charged with receiving stolen property

Malik Beasley arrested
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Malik Beasley — the Minnesota Timberwolves guard heading into free agency this offseason — has been arrested at his home in Minnesota and taken into custody, facing a couple of charges: receiving and concealing stolen property, and marijuana possession.

Shams Charania and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic broke the story.

Police arrived at Beasley’s home in Plymouth, Minnesota, on Saturday night and took the 23-year-old into custody. Beasley was being held without bail at Hennepin County Jail until he sees a judge, which could be another 24 hours, sources said…

Steve Haney, Beasley’s attorney released the following statement to The Athletic: “At the time of the incident, multiple individuals were present at the residence. The allegations against Malik will be defended vigorously.”

“We’re aware of the situation with Malik and are gathering more information,” Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders said Sunday morning.

He added that Beasley — a restricted free agent this offseason — had worked out at the team facilities in previous weeks but had not been with the franchise this week as they moved into 5-on-5 play and scrimmages. The Timberwolves are in the middle of their off-season, voluntary training camp.

Beasley played the best basketball of his career in the 14 games after being traded to Minnesota (before the coronavirus shut down the league). He was the floor-spacing wing the Timberwolves desperately needed with D'Angelo Russell at the point and Karl-Anthony Towns at center. Beasley averaged 20.7 points a game, and he brought a needed feistiness to the lineup.

Beasley is in line for a big payday as a restricted free agent (he turned down a three-year, $30 million extension offer from Denver before the season and that looked like a smart move). Timberwolves GM Gersson Rosas said he wanted to bring Beasley back next season and he has the right to match any offer.

If or how Beasley’s arrest changes his free agency and the demand for his skills remains to be seen.

Boston focused on Miami three-point shooters heading into Game 6

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — There have been two undeniable truths about the Miami Heat this season.

They must make 3’s to win.

They aren’t invincible with sizable leads.

The Boston Celtics have scouting and analytics teams that undoubtedly know these trends. But, really, so would anyone who simply can read a boxscore.

Take away Miami’s 3’s, and the Heat are easier to beat. The Celtics proved that again in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals when they extended their season with a victory — and will aim to take the same tact Sunday night when they meet the Heat again in another must-win for Boston.

“They’re going to hit some shots, they’re going to make some plays,” Celtics forward Jayson Tatum said. “They’ve got some good players. We’re just trying to make it as tough as we could.”

The Heat have played 87 games this season and shot below 20% from 3-point range in just three of them — one of them being Friday night, when the Celtics prevailed 121-108 to cut Miami’s lead in the series to 3-2.

Miami was 7 for 36 from deep, just 19%.

For whatever reason, 31.1% is the magic number for Heat 3-pointers this season. When the Heat shoot 31.1% or worse from beyond the arc, they’re 2-17 (.105). When they shoot better than that, they’re 53-15 (.779).

“Regardless of whether it’s going in or not, that can’t affect your commitment on the other side of the floor,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “And it felt like it did.”

The Celtics confined most of their Saturday plans to a film session; the Heat were doing the same along with some optional workouts. Heat center Bam Adebayo, who blamed himself for the Game 5 loss despite teammates saying otherwise, said he would spend some of Saturday on the floor looking for answers.

“This team has good resolve,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Saturday. “I thought we showed that last night. We’ll have to continue to show the ability to be able to handle good and bad throughout a game.”

Even though the disappointment was clear Friday night, the Heat still understand where they are: a No. 5 seed, one that didn’t even make the playoffs last season, one win from the NBA Finals. Miami needed two tries before ousting Milwaukee in the second round, saying then it learned at what level a team needs to be to win a closeout game.

The Celtics provided them another reminder of that Friday night, when they outscored Miami 70-50 after halftime and erased a 12-point second-quarter deficit.

“As you go on, the wins get harder and harder,” Heat guard Duncan Robinson said. “And doing what we want to do and advancing from this round is going to be the hardest thing we’ve done all season and our in our athletic careers for many of us. Fortunately, we have coaches and guys that have been there and know what it takes.

“But this is certainly a reminder — to think that we were just going to have a good first half and just kind of coast to a victory in this stage of the playoffs, we’re misguided for thinking that.”

Miami is 55-32 this season, and 18 of those losses have come in games where the Heat held a double-digit lead. Boston has beaten Miami four times this season, rallying from at least 11 points down in three of those games — including a pair of 12-point comebacks in this series.

Miami has lost games this year where it led by 10 points once, 11 (four times), 12 (five times), 13 (once), 14 (twice), 15 (once), 20 (once), 22 (twice) and 23 (once).

 

Jamal Murray: Had bone bruise on foot, “didn’t have the energy I needed”

Jamal Murray
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It ultimately may not have changed anything, not the way LeBron James was playing, but the Jamal Murray in Game 5 did not look like the Jamal Murray who had helped lift the Denver Nuggets to that point. He was clearly bothered and not moving with the speed and fluidity he had throughout the playoffs.

“I have a big bruise on my foot. Just hurt me all game,” Murray said after the loss that eliminated Denver from the playoffs. “I changed shoes and that didn’t help. Yeah, I have a bone bruise. I don’t like to tell everybody what I got. I just like to play through it. Yeah, I was in pain, but it’s cool.

“I was out there. I was struggling a little bit today. Eighty-something days in the bubble and a lot of minutes, I didn’t have the energy I needed to have for my teammates today. Without me moving as hard or cutting as hard or scoring as much… I could have played a lot better this game.”

Murray finished the game with 19 points on 7-of-17 shooting and dished out eight assists, and part of what slowed him down was the Lakers’ assigned LeBron to guard him for stretches. That said, Murray was not moving like the guy who carved up Utah or who dropped 40 on the Clippers in Game 7. Still, he was out there still trying.

“He was our leader,” Nikola Jokic said of Murray. “His energy through the whole playoffs. He was banged up. He was injured before, even when I came here [to the bubble], he was a little bit banged up… But he’s a dog. He’s a fighter. He’s a competitor. He’s an amazing shooter. He played amazing.”

Like his coach and teammates, Murray was frustrated to be going home but looked back with pride at the leap the Nuggets made this postseason.

“We proved we can challenge the Clippers, who were the favorites. We proved we can challenge the Lakers,” Murray said. “And it’s only our second year in the playoffs. I wish things went differently, but I’m just proud of our guys, proud of everything we have done, everything we have accomplished. It’s not the end goal, but to make it this far and surprise as many people as we did, it’s a good feeling.

“So just try to come back next year and try to come back stronger.”