What is next in Kevin Durant trade saga? Test of wills at training camp.

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The Kevin Durant trade saga is stalled out.

Durant first asked to be dealt the day before the start of free agency — requesting to go to Phoenix or Miami — and through early July the Nets listened to offers from those two and a host of other teams. No offer met the Nets’ steep demands, so they waited. A frustrated Durant met with Nets owner Joe Tsai within the last two weeks and tried to ramp up the pressure to get a deal done by throwing down a “me or the coach and GM” ultimatum. Tsai shrugged. Marc Stein says a source told him Durant would rather retire than play for the Nets again, but nobody thinks it will come to that (as if KD would walk away from $192 million).

Now here we are in mid-August and nothing is going on. In the wake of Durant’s ultimatum, teams did not up their offers and the Nets didn’t decide to take less. Brian Windhorst of ESPN summed it up nicely on “Get Up”:

“I think what we have here is really a study of leverage. First off, the Nets do not have leverage in trade talks with other teams. They are not giving them the offers that they want. They see no reason to increase them. And so they’re not making any progress there. And Kevin Durant clearly does not have leverage with the Brooklyn Nets. He is asking for things: ‘Get me traded. Fire the coach. Fire the GM.’ He is being told no. So when you have denied leverage, you have a stalemate.”

What happens next?

A test of wills come training camp. The stalemate is not going to break before that.

Media day for the Brooklyn Nets is scheduled for Sept. 26, and it is going to be a dumpster fire.

The first question is: Will Kevin Durant be there, or will he hold out? Or, might he show up but “hold in” and not participate in anything? Only Durant and his team know the answer, although there is a growing sense around the league a holdout could happen. How big a disruption is he willing to be to get his way (think Jimmy Butler in Minnesota)? The problem for Durant is all of that flies in the face of the reputation he has worked to build of the superstar who just loves to hoop. The guy who puts the game first, something that has always felt genuine with him. It’s always been about basketball. However, hold out of camp and suddenly basketball isn’t No.1 anymore. It changes the vibe.

The next question is, how will the Nets handle the pressure as the season gets close?

The whole New York and national basketball media will descend on Nets media day and pepper coach Steve Nash, GM Sean Marks (we’ll assume he speaks) and every player with questions about Durant and what his absence means. Especially Kyrie Irving, who is expected to play for the Nets this season whether Durant is there or not (would anyone be surprised if Irving skipped media day?). Ben Simmons is getting ready for his first NBA games in more than a year — and questions about his physical and mental state — will almost be an afterthought. The Kevin Durant saga will be a distraction for the Nets until it is resolved.

Last season, Daryl Morey and the 76ers handled a similar distraction with Ben Simmons and waited out the market (until James Harden forced his way out of Brooklyn). Do Marks, Tsai and the Nets have the same comfort with being uncomfortable that Morey and the 76ers showed? Or does it all get to be too much and they just take the best offer on the table at the time to get the whole thing in the rearview mirror?

There are so many questions and so few answers around the Durant trade saga, but settle in folks, this bumpy ride is far from over. It’s heading to training camp in six weeks.

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.