Report: Durant reiterates trade demand, gives owner Tsai ultimatum: Me or Nash, Marks

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Kevin Durant still wants to be traded, telling that directly to Nets’ owner Joe Tsai in a face-to-face meeting over the weekend in London, plus giving him an ultimatum of me or coach Steve Nash and GM Sean Marks.

The meeting was “professional,” according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, who broke the news.

Durant stated he does not have faith in the team’s direction, sources said…

The Nets have direct knowledge of the reasons behind Durant’s request, sources said, and understand that the 12-time All-Star will continue to be resolute in his stance. Durant is believed to want a change of scenery heading into his 16th season.

If this situation drags out, will Durant skip Nets training camp? (Yes.) Could the Nets seriously consider firing their coach and GM to keep their superstar happy? (Tsai hasn’t acted like a guy wanting to go that route, but in the NBA never say never.)

Durant trade talks have stalled out because teams were not offering what Marks and the Nets believed was fair market value for an MVP-level player under contract for four more years (getting a third team involved in the deal has proven difficult). This newly reinforced public trade demand hurts the Nets’ trade leverage even more — why would Boston or Miami increase their offers now? Those teams are still two of the frontrunners to land KD, according to Charania.

The Celtics, Toronto Raptors and Miami Heat remain the most significant candidates to acquire Durant, sources said, with Boston’s package centering around All-Star forward Jaylen Brown seen as a viable deal. Tsai and the Nets have made clear privately that they will take every last asset from a team that trades for Durant, sources said.

Durant’s initial request was to be traded to Miami or Phoenix. After the Suns matched the offer sheet for Deandre Ayton, they removed their only reasonable path to a Durant-level trade (Ayton can’t be traded until Jan. 15 and has veto power over any trade until next summer). Miami’s offer, based around Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson plus up to three first-round picks, has not impressed Brooklyn. Miami has not put Bam Adebayo in any trade talks and shouldn’t be expected to. The Nets have asked for Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes in any Durant trade with the Raptors. Toronto rejected that idea out of hand.

Jaylen Brown may be the biggest name available to Brooklyn, but the Nets reportedly also asked for Marcus Smart to be part of the trade and that’s where talks ended (the Celtics first offered Brown, Derrick White, and a first-round pick, reportedly adding a little more to the deal later). The Celtics are title contenders without Durant, they don’t need to up their offer to have a good shot at banner No. 18. It’s not a team the Nets can easily leverage in talks.

One of the reasons teams were hesitant to make massive offers for KD — or increase the ones on the table — has been concerns about how long they can keep Durant, despite the four years left on his contract. Marks was the GM who brought Durant and Kyrie Irving to Brooklyn, extended Durant at the max, and did pretty much everything his stars asked, from giving DeAndre Jordan an oversized contract to trading picks and promising young players for a third superstar in James Harden. In large part, Nash is the coach in Brooklyn because Durant and Irving liked him better than Kenny Atkinson (although there are plenty of people in league circles not convinced Nash is up to the job). If the Nets can’t keep Durant happy, who can?

A Durant trade could impact an Irving trade — almost certainly to the Lakers in a package involving Russell Westbrook and a third team — but the Nets have wanted to finish their Durant business before moving on. Irving reportedly wants to play for Brooklyn this season.

 

 

 

Presumptive No.1 pick Wembanyama set to make stateside debut

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson have been linked constantly over the last couple years, with just about every prognosticator anointing them as the top two picks in the 2023 NBA draft.

Thing is, they don’t know each other.

That’s about to change. Wembanyama – officially listed at 7-foot-2 but scouts often say more like 7-foot-4 – and the Paris-based club Metropolitans 92 are in Las Vegas to take on Henderson and the G League Ignite in a pair of exhibitions, the first on Tuesday and the second on Thursday.

“We’re playing against an NBA team, with NBA rules, on an NBA court,” Wembanyama said Monday. “This is really going to be a first for me. I’m curious to know how it’s going to go. I know it’s going to go well, but I’m still curious.”

Victor vs. Scoot. Scoot vs. Victor. They’re not playing 1-on-1, but they are the clear headliners and the reasons why these first-of-their-kind games were put together.

Wembanyama is listed as a center but plays all over the floor with guard skills in a big-man frame; Henderson is a point guard who has been getting tons of attention for years.

“Out of all the prospects I’ve heard about in our class, I think he’s my favorite one,” Wembanyama said. “I think he’s the most reliable that I’ve seen. He’s really a great player. If I was never born, I think he would deserve the first spot.”

Henderson – a five-star recruit from Georgia who signed with the Ignite last year and played in 10 games – sees these two games as an opportunity, downplaying the 1-on-1 storyline.

“People always try to compare and contrast whoever. I don’t look at it like that,” Henderson said. “I look at it as two good ballplayers.”

The Ignite program exists to develop young prospects in preparation for the NBA Draft, mixing them with veteran talent to help guide them along the way. It has featured three eventual top-10 picks – Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga last year, Dyson Daniels this year – in its first two seasons.

Henderson is a huge draw for the Ignite this year. The Ignite also have Shareef O'Neal, the son of Shaquille O’Neal. But much of what the Ignite would ordinarily be doing right now would be barely noticed nationally; hence, the games against Wembanyama were put together.

The Los Angeles Lakers are playing in Las Vegas this week, a pair of preseason matchups against Phoenix and Minnesota. Wembanyama is going to those as a fan; he’ll have a slightly different view of NBA games next season.

“He’s one of those type of players, honestly, where you say like there’ll never be like another Shaq or there’ll never be another that,” Ignite coach Jason Hart said. “He’s that. You’ll never see another one of those. The scouting report on him is tough. … I’m honored that I’m getting to play him at 18, because at 24, he’s going to be something different.”

Wembanyama has been a pro for three seasons already, spending last season with ASVEL in France – a club owned by San Antonio Spurs legend Tony Parker. He made the decision this year to join Metropolitans in part to be coached by Vincent Collet, who also coaches the French national team.

Collet is welcoming the chance.

“I think he’s the best prospect we’ve ever had in our league,” Collet said. “He’s amazing, not only by his size, but incredible skills. Despite that, he still needs to learn the game. He’s very young. … We will try to give him this experience. That’s the deal we have together, him and me. We want to give him the experience before he gets to the league. It’s most important to get him ready for what will follow next year.”

Watch Jamal Murray, Kawhi Leonard score first buckets in returns

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It’s only preseason. But if you’ve sat out an entire season with an ACL injury,  just getting on the court feels like a milestone.

And getting your first bucket back feels memorable.

That happened for the Nuggets Jamal Murray and the Clippers Kawhi Leonard on Monday night.

For Murray, the bucket came on a corner 3 in transition.

Murray also showed flashes he’s getting his handle and wiggle back, something that made him a great fit with Nikola Jokic.

Leonard wasted no time, scoring the Clippers’ first bucket by lulling his defender to sleep and then shooting the pull-up 3.

I feel we’re going to see a lot more of that this season.

The NBA is just better with these two back on the court.

 

Cavaliers Evan Mobley out 1-2 weeks with sprained ankle

2022-23 Cleveland Cavaliers Media Day
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The Cleveland Cavaliers might have the best frontcourt in the East this season with All-Star Jarrett Allen and the emerging star Evan Mobley, but it may be a few weeks before we see them together.

Mobley is out 1-2 weeks with a sprained right ankle, the Cavaliers announced a couple of days before their preseason opener. Mobley stepped on a teammate’s foot and rolled his ankle during practice, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com.

Mobley, who finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting, averaged 15 points and 8.3 rebounds a game in his first campaign, but his more significant impact was on the defensive end. Mobley earned All-Defensive Team consideration as a rookie — an incredibly rare feat — and with Allen formed an impressive backstop for teams trying to drive the paint.

Reports out of Cavaliers training camp rave about the improvements made in Mobley’s offensive game, but we’ll have to wait a few weeks to see that for ourselves now. Mobley, with a more consistent face-up game and jumper, has the potential to develop into a top 15, maybe even top-10 player in the league. The Cavaliers are banking on the young core of Mobley, Allen, Darius Garland and the just acquired Donovan Mitchell to be able to take the team far in the next few years, with Mobley’s improvement key to just how far they can go.

It sounds like Mobley will be good to go for the start of the season.

Karl-Anthony Towns just cleared to walk Saturday following non-COVID illness

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Karl-Anthony Towns has not been in camp with the Timberwolves, sidelined by a non-COVID illness. Beyond that, there were not a lot of details other than his girlfriend Jordyn Woods saying on social media that she had taken him to the hospital.

Towns spoke to the media for the first time this season on Monday and said he was just cleared to walk again on Saturday, but did not get into detail about whatever illness he is dealing with.

First, it is Towns’ right if and when to disclose what he went through. This is not an on-court injury leading to a loss of playing time, and it is his call to talk about.

Towns has been sidelined before by illness, including COVID. After losing his mother and other family members to the disease, he also had a long battle with it. Fortunately, this is not that virus, but whatever it was it sidelined him for a couple of weeks.

That missed training camp is a setback as the Timberwolves try to get used to a two-big lineup with KAT and Rudy Gobert, plus some other new faces. Still, Towns and Minnesota should be good to go by the start of the season, a team thinking playoffs and much more after spending big this offseason.