Durant dismisses concerns about minutes, “I want to play basketball”

Brooklyn Nets v Dallas Mavericks
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Kevin Durant played 40 minutes Tuesday night against Dallas, including the entire second half.

That is no one-off occurrence, Durant has played at least 37 minutes in eight straight games. He is sixth in the NBA playing 36.2 minutes a game, and in the top 20 in the league in total minutes played. Durant, in his age 33 season and with a significant injury history, is on pace to play the most minutes he has in a season since he was in Oklahoma City, and that is coming off a summer where he played big minutes in the Tokyo Olympics. It’s the same situation for James Harden (minus the Olympics), who is 10th in the NBA in total minutes played and seventh per game at 35.9 minutes a night at age 32.

Critics have said that’s too much, that Nets coach Steve Nash is risking injury to his two best players by wearing them down in the first half of the season. Tuesday night, after the Nets beat the Mavericks 102-99, Durant and Harden fired back at that argument — they want to be on the court as much as they can. Here’s the quotes, via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“I know people might be concerned about my minutes and I got injured before and all this extra s***, but we’ll figure it out if I get there,” Durant said… “Right now, I want to play basketball.”

“One thing about me and KD, we love to play basketball,” Harden said. “So it don’t matter. We could play the whole 48. Even if we’re exhausted. Coach says something — nope. We wanna stay in the game. We wanna play.”

Durant and Harden are hoopers — they love the game, they want to stay in and play as much as they can. Sometime’s its the coach’s job to protect a player from himself, to think big picture — and Nash needs to be thinking May and June, not just beating Dallas in December.

However, Nash was honest last week about his situation: “It’s not ideal to have [Durant] have such a burden, but I don’t know what options we have other than to play him less and lose more.”

This is where the absence of Kyrie Irving this season hits the Nets — their margin for error is gone, their third star who can dominate a game has chosen not to be with his teammates. Brooklyn is 17-7 on the season, but only four of those wins were by 15 points or more, the kind of blowouts where the bench is in and KD is icing his knees midway through the fourth quarter.

At some point Nash will need to steal some rest and maybe a few night’s off for KD, but that is easier said than done. In part because Durant loves the game, missed more than a year of it due to injury, and wants to be out there as much as he can now.

Markelle Fultz will miss start of training camp, at least, with broken toe

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The basketball gods continue to turn their backs on Markelle Fultz.

A torn ACL had limited him to 26 games over the past two seasons, but he was healthy and ramping up to a larger role this season with a young and interesting Magic team. Then came the news he fractured his left big toe during a training session. As a result, he will be out for at least the start of training camp, the team announced. From the official announcement:

“He has been placed in a walking boot and his return to play will depend on how he responds to rehabilitation and treatment. Fultz suffered the injury during a preseason workout prior to returning to Orlando and imaging confirmed the fracture.

He will not need surgery, according to the team.

Fultz was set to split point guard duties with Cole Anthony, this injury means RJ Hampton could see more run at the point for now. Fultz should be able to return either during the end of the preseason or early in the season.

Fultz was the No.1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft but never found his footing with the 76ers (in part due to injury). However, since getting out of that spotlight and allowed to develop in Orlando he’s been a solid rotation point guard when healthy. Last season in 18 games he averaged 10.8 points and 5.5 assists a game, and while he’s still not an efficient shooter he can run a team.

How Anthony and, eventually, Fultz will work off the ball as rookie Paolo Banchero gets the opportunity to create more offense will be just one of the interesting things to watch with this Magic team this year. We’ll have to wait a little while to see Fultz.

 

Vintage Kobe: Redeem Team recalls him running over Pau Gasol

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If the goal of a trailer is to get you to want to see the movie, then well done Netflix. I’m in.

Netflix released a trailer for its upcoming Redeem Team documentary on the 2008 Olympics, featuring some vintage Kobe Bryant. Just as a quick refresher, in 2008 the USA’s toughest opponent would be a deep Spanish team led by peak Pau Gasol but also with Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio, José Calderón, Rudy Fernández, Juan Carlos Navarro and more. This was a legitimately dangerous team and one the USA would face first in group play.

Kobe wanted to set a tone — and did by running through his friend Gasol. (Warning: There is NSFW language in the video clip below.)

“‘First play of the game I’m running through Pau Gasol.’ And we was like, ‘What?’ He said, ‘First play of the game, I know what they’re gonna run.’ And he knew Pau was gonna be the last screen and he said ‘I’m running through him,'” Dwayne Wade said

Spoiler alert: The USA thrashed Spain in group stage play. However, come the Gold Medal game it was a lot tougher for the Americans to beat the Spaniards, with Kobe having to have a big fourth quarter and — what often goes unremembered — a master class from Chris Paul in game management to control the tempo and flow.

I’m all in for the documentary, which drops on Oct. 7 on Netflix.

Spurs’ Keldon Johnson to miss start of training camp with shoulder injury

San Antonio Spurs v Denver Nuggets
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Keldon Johnson is poised to have a monster season on a rebuilding Spurs team.

Except he’s going to miss the start of training camp and the team’s preseason games. And could be out longer.

Johnson suffered a “right shoulder posterior dislocation during Spurs open gym” the team announced Saturday. Posterior dislocations are rare (less than 5% of all dislocations) and are usually from a fall on an extended arm. Recovering from the injury depends on many factors but can extend out for months. However, the Spurs said Johnson is expected to be available for the start of the regular season less than a month from now.

Johnson averaged 17 points and 6.1 rebounds a game last season, and is an elite perimeter shooter off the catch-and-shoot (39.8% from 3 overall), who also can put the ball on the floor and finish at the rim. He was the team’s second-leading scorer last season (to Dejounte Murray, who is now in Atlanta).

The Spurs will be cautious with bringing Johnson back. Even in what could be Gregg Popovich’s last season as coach the Spurs are looking more to be part of the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes than push for a playoff spot. Johnson is a quality player who helps San Antonio win games, which both is why they want him back healthy and why they are not going to rush him.

Cavaliers reportedly extend Dean Wade for three years, $18.5 million

Pregame of Cleveland Cavaliers and Philadelphia 76ers
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This could be a steal for the Cavaliers — Dean Wade could be the starting three for the Cavaliers by the end of this season and he’s got a genuine upside.

The Cavaliers have extended Wade for three years, $18.5 million, a story where multiple sources were on top of it, including Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Wade’s counting stats aren’t eye-popping — 5.3 points a game and shooting 35.7% from 3 — but he is a quality wing defender who has improved as a floor spacer (sometimes setting picks and popping out). He’s a two-way player who has put in the work and could pass Isaac Okoro on the depth chart this season.

The Cavaliers have four All-Stars who will undoubtedly be starting for them — Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell in the backcourt, Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley up front — and the looming question is at the three. Wade has a chance this season to step into that role.

Which makes extending him at a little over $6 million a season a potential steal for the Cavaliers.