Was Kevin Durant ever even close to being traded?

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Kevin Durant blew up the NBA’s summer with his June 30 trade demand. It became the story of the summer, dominating headlines and even holding up some trades.

But was Durant ever really close to being traded?

Not if you listen to the fallout after Durant agreed to return to the Nets this season.

When Durant made his first trade demand, two places were attached as his preferred destinations: Miami and Phoenix. When Shams Charania of The Athletic went on the Miami-based Le Batard & friends “STUpodity” podcast, he said the Heat were never close to a deal (hat tip Hoopshype).

The last time, Stugotz, the Heat called the Nets [about Kevin Durant] was right around Summer League or even maybe even before that. They never really aggressively pursued a deal because I think at the end of the day, they knew they would have had to gut multiple players.”

Translation: It would take Bam Adebayo being on the table for Miami to get a deal done. While Heat beat writer Ira Winderman has said in the past some in the organization may have been open to the idea, key voices were not. Bottom line, the Heat were never going to include their 25-year-old All-Star, All-Defensive player because they needed him with Durant and Jimmy Butler to truly contend. The offer never got above a Tyler Herro-based package, which was not of great interest to Brooklyn.

As for Phoenix, Monty Williams told Justin Termine & Eddie Johnson on NBA Radio that he didn’t talk to the Suns’ players about the rumors and didn’t necessarily want to see his team broken up (hat tip Dana Scott of the Arizona Republic).

“When I first heard about the Kevin Durant stuff, I was kind of blown away by it just because, you know, we’ve been so blessed here to have guys want to come.

“At the same time, ‘At the expense of what?’ was my thinking. And I like our team. I love our guys. But I wasn’t going to have conversations that didn’t need to be had.”

Things never got serious enough to warrant Williams talking with a player about it. The Suns were never going to put Devin Booker in an offer (and the Nets would have had to trade Ben Simmons away due to the designated rookie contract rule to get Booker anyway). That left a Deandre Ayton-based trade, which was not enough to get a deal done, then was off the table when Ayton signed an offer sheet with the Pacers that the Suns instantly matched. A Mikal Bridges-based offer was never close.

Boston may have been the closest to getting a deal done, with a reported offer of Jaylen Brown, Derrick White and one first-round pick. However, the Nets came back asking for more (reportedly Marcus Smart and more picks) and the talks quickly died. They may never have been all that serious.

Durant tried to up the pressure on Brooklyn, but the Nets kept their asking price for Durant sky-high — an under-25 All-Star level player, plus more quality rotation players and multiple picks — leading some around the league to think the Nets never really wanted to trade Durant. If so, Brooklyn got its wish and Durant returns with Kyrie Irving, Sijmons and a quality set of role players — this could be a contending team if everyone is focused and engaged.

But nobody expects a drama free season in Brooklyn, and when it gets tense expect the trade rumors to return. Maybe next time a deal will be closer.

 

Giannis Antetokounmpo says Stephen Curry is the best player in the world

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Giannis Antetokounmpo is at the top of pretty much every “best player in the world” list right now.

Except his own.

For Antetokounmpo, the best player in the world is the one that leads his team to the title, so today, it is Stephen Curry (hat tip to Lance Allen of NBC Milwaukee).

It’s easy to see where Antetokounmpo is coming from, but basketball is a team game. The best player may not be on the best team, despite his skill set, and that team may not win. Curry was spectacular in leading the Warriors to their fourth banner since he arrived, he’s near the top of the best in the world list, but it’s not all about winning.

The takeaway from what Antetokounmpo said is how much he wants to win — he wants a second ring.

The Bucks enter the season as one of the favorites to win that ring, but it’s going to take a lot of things going right for that to happen.

Including Antetokounmpo showing he is the best player in the world.

 

Is Matisse Thybulle ready for a big step forward with 76ers?

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Matisse Thybulle brings a valuable NBA skill to the table — he is an elite perimeter defender. Two-time All-Defensive Team in three years in the league.

But when the 76ers got up against Miami in the playoffs, Thybulle’s role shrank dramatically. While Doc Rivers needed his defense, Thybulle’s lack of an offensive game became a problem — the Heat largely ignored him and helped off him, allowing Miami to muck up the Philly offense (he was limited in the Toronto series because he was not vaccinated and could not play in road games). The 76ers tried to solve that problem this offseason by bringing in DeAnthony Melton, Danuel House and P.J. Tucker — solid role-playing defenders who can contribute on offense, too.

Thybulle wants to be part of the solution, too, and told Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer he spent the summer focused on his offensive game.

“I’m really proud of what I did,” Thybulle said of his offseason. “I’ve worked harder than I’ve worked. And I had a meeting with [Sixers coach Doc Rivers] early this week and was telling him I feel more bought in than I’ve been before.”

No doubt Thybulle put in the work, we will find out soon if it paid off — and if that will get Thybulle paid.

Thybulle is entering a contract year — the 76ers can extend him up until Oct. 18, after which he would become a restricted free agent next summer. Thybulle said his goal is to remain in Philadelphia (and he’d like an extension).

“At this point, I would always want to stay in Philly,” he said. “And if it’s up to me, that’s always going to be my choice.

“But considering that I’ve realized the reality of how far out of my control it is, if I do get traded or something does end up happening, I can look at myself in the mirror at the end of the day.”

With a win-now Sixers team, Daryl Morey may be in a wait-and-see place with Thybulle, letting the market set his price next offseason. If he signs now, it will likely be on a team-friendly deal (but maybe one that still works for the 25-year-old).

If Thybulle gets on the court this season and shows an improved offensive game, one where he can make teams pay for helping off him, his price goes up and there may be multiple teams bidding for his services next summer. And Doc Rivers would be happy in the short term.

It’s up to Thybulle to prove it 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.