Kevin Durant and Scottie Pippen beef over team basketball

Kevin Durant after Milwaukee Bucks v Brooklyn Nets - Game Seven
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Kevin Durant just played an all-time great playoff series.

His Game 5 was astonishing. He was nearly as good in in Game 7, making an incredible overtime-forcing buzzer beater.

But he air-balled late in the extra period, and the Nets lost to the Bucks.

Bulls legend Scottie Pippen, via Tyler R. Tynes of GQ:

It’s not an individual game, you can’t go into basketball and beat nobody with an individual record. And I used this example of what happened to Kevin Durant just the other day: this is the first time we’ve ever really seen Kevin Durant have to be the man and bring the team home. We ain’t never really had to see that because he’s had [Russell] Westbrook, Steph Curry, Klay [Thompson]. He’s been beating people, definitely in Golden State, by committee. With a team. He did that, but that team already knew how to win without KD. But you put KD in Brooklyn, and Kyrie [Irving] gets hurt and James Harden ain’t that guy, now KD not only has to score for them but also make plays for them. And this is no knock to KD, but they asked me, “Has he surpassed LeBron James?” And my answer was: LeBron James knows team basketball better than KD.

KD can score better than LeBron, probably always have been able to. But has he surpassed LeBron? Naw. He tried to beat the Milwaukee Bucks instead of utilizing his team. You see what I’m saying? LeBron James would’ve figured out how to beat them and he wouldn’t have been exhausted and he may not have taken the last shot. But LeBron ain’t KD, and KD ain’t LeBron. KD is a shooter, a scorer. But he doesn’t have what LeBron has.

He needs to learn how to utilize his teams. He has to learn how to set up his teammates to be better. That’s it. As great as he is, there’s a [cap] to his [talent]. He could’ve easily made that three, killed them in regulation, and we wouldn’t have been talking about this. But I knew going into overtime, he wasn’t gonna make it. He was taking all the shots. You done played the whole game, bro! And they’ve got guys physically wearing you down. You gonna lose. Giannis was under the same stress but not quite. Giannis got rest and he didn’t have to score every time. KD? He got no rest and pretty much had to put a bucket on the board every time they went down. And he did that, but that’s a lot. If he had a chance to do it all over again he would probably do it the same way. But he ain’t have no more. He shot that last shot and it was shorter than Giannis’ free throw shots. [Laughs.]

But, have you ever seen LeBron take a shot like that? He ain’t gonna take that shot. He’s gonna be smarter. He’s gonna force a double team. That’s what KD wasn’t able to do. He was so exhausted he couldn’t even go to the bucket.

Durant:

I’m glad Pippen acknowledged we wouldn’t be talking about this if Durant were inches back on his final shot in regulation of Game 7, making it a game-winning 3-pointer as opposed to the tying 2-pointer it was. That’s the difference between being celebrated as a winner and getting mocked for resembling Giannis Antetokounmpo on a free throw.

Seems pretty silly.

That said, Pippen makes some fair points.

Durant is great. LeBron has been better. A general assessment of Durant should be glowing. But by comparing him to LeBron, Pippen had to nitpick to separate the two – and sounded pretty harsh in the process.

(Pippen invoking LeBron might be one reason Durant was bothered enough to respond. Or not. Durant doesn’t need much provocation to call someone out on Twitter.)

Durant also does focus on honing his individual skills as opposed to finding whatever solutions necessary to lead his current team to a championship. Mastering individual scoring is a particular priority for Durant.

Of course, Durant improving as a player helps his team. But it’s a different mentality than we’re accustomed to from the biggest superstars – especially Michael Jordan.

Not that the other approach always works. Contrary to Pippen’s claim, LeBron has come up short at the end of many games.

Durant is also right: Pippen is a flawed messenger on team basketball.

Yes, Pippen did refuse to enter a game because Phil Jackson didn’t draw up the game-winning play for him to shoot. And Pippen still defends the decision!

Pippen also delayed surgery so he he could enjoy his summer, even though that caused him to miss games the next season.

I suggest reading the full interview. Pippen says A LOT, including claiming he was the Chicago’s real leader – which is why Durant got in the swipe about the Bulls following Phil Jackson.

Knicks’ Obi Toppin out at least 2-3 weeks with knee fracture

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Obi Toppin is a fan favorite and Knicks faithful were hoping to see more of him as the season progresses.

However, they are not going to see any of him for at least the next 2-3 weeks due to a fractured knee, the team announced.

Toppin suffered the injury in New York’s win Wednesday over Atlanta, the same game that saw Dejounte Murray sprain his ankle leading him to be out for a few weeks.

Toppin — the reigning All-Star Weekend Slam Dunk contest champion — is averaging 7.7 points in 25 games off the bench. With him out, coach Tom Thibodeau suggested he could lean more on RJ Barrett, asking him to play up at the four.

Report: Zach LaVine not available for trade from Bulls

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Front offices of potential contenders from Los Angeles to Philadelphia have their eyes on the Chicago Bulls — will the struggling Bulls pivot to chase Victor Wembanyama and the top of the lottery, making them sellers at the trade deadline? Teams have interest in Chicago’s three stars: Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic.

Except just-extended LaVine isn’t currently available, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said Wednesday on his network’s pregame show discussing the Knicks.

“The Knicks will be watching Chicago. Is Zach LaVine a player who before the deadline possibly can become available? He certainly isn’t now.”

Chicago is not yet ready to pivot to tanking, so none of its stars are truly available. That said, the Bulls don’t look like a playoff team, they miss Lonzo Ball, and even if things do come together where do they stand in the East hierarchy? If the Bulls do become sellers, they aren’t going to tear this team down to the studs, it would likely be trading just one star. Possibly a second if the offer was strong enough.

LaVine — who signed a five-year, $215 million extension this past summer — is the least likely to be available, league sources have told NBC Sports. The expectation is that Vucevic would be the Bull first made available if the Bulls decide to start seriously listening to offers. And that remains an “if.”

That said, front offices around the league have their eyes trained on Chicago.

Dejounte Murray added to growing Hawks injury report, out 2-3 weeks with sprained ankle

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John Collins is out for at least another week with a sprained ankle. DeAndre Hunter has been out with a strained hip flexor.

Now you can add Dejounte Murray to the Hawks’ growing injury report, he is out at least 2-3 weeks with a sprained ankle, Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic report.

The injury happened on a closeout from RJ Barrett of the Knicks.

The Hawks have already had chemistry and fit issues this season, and missing key players for an extended period only exacerbates the problem. Atlanta looked flat getting their doors blown off by the Knicks Wednesday night, 113-89, a game that added to a string where they have lost 5-of-7. Now they will have to find a way to right the ship without their second-best playmaker.

There also is an update on the Hawks’ play-by-play announcer Bob Rathbun.

NBA, WNBA players react to news Brittney Griner coming home

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Brittney Griner is finally coming home.

The WNBA and USA Basketball star has spent 10 months in Russian prisons — including being convicted and sent to a Russian penal colony — for having vape canisters with small amounts of cannabis oil in her luggage as she went through Russian airport security back in February. She became a political pawn in the tensions between the United States and Russia, mostly surrounding Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, and was freed via a prisoner swap announced Thursday.

The basketball world — WNBA players in particular — had worked to keep her name front and not let Griner be forgotten during this ordeal, pushing President Joe Biden and the government to reach a deal. With the news Griner was freed, NBA and WNBA players took to social media to react.

“Brittney has had to endure an unimaginable situation and we’re thrilled that she is on her way home to her family and friends,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “We thank the members of the NBA and WNBA community who never wavered in their efforts to raise awareness of Brittney’s unjust circumstances.”

“We are overwhelmed with relief and gratitude that our sister Brittney Griner is finally coming home,” the NBPA said in a statement. “Her strength and courage throughout this last year have been truly remarkable, as have the efforts of her wife Cherelle, our WNBPA sisters, Terri Jackson and the WNBPA staff, who have been relentless in their call to bring Brittney home. We know this homecoming would not have been possible without their unwavering support and continued work to keep BG always top of mind, and our players are honored to have contributed to those efforts. While this is a celebratory moment for our sisters and us, we must not forget the other political prisoners who remain in dire circumstances all over the world. These individuals must be remembered and fought for every single day as BG was so that they too can have this moment. Welcome home Brittney, we are so happy to have you back! #WeAreBG”