Andre Iguodala

Getty Images

Kobe Bryant on best NBA duo: ‘I think it matters what they put around those two guys’

1 Comment

James Harden and Russell Westbrook. LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Eventually there will be Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, plus Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

The NBA is stacked with elite duos that are NBA contenders, and figuring out which twosome will fit best together has become part of making a prediction for who will win the NBA title.

Kobe Bryant was asked that in an interview by ESPN and he went another direction (hat tip Hoop Rumors).

“It doesn’t matter. I think it matters what they put around those two guys, and then what is the offensive and defensive system they’re going to be executing. You could have marquee names and put those marquee names together, and guess if they could play together or not, but it ultimately comes down to what system do you have them in and how does that affect the rest of the guys.”

He’s right. The Warriors had a big three but do they win without Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, solid bigs, and everyone there buying into Steve Kerr’s system? LeBron and Irving in Cleveland needed Kevin Love and J.R. Smith (pre-meltdown mistake) to win in 2016. The big three of LeBron/Dwyane Wade/Chris Bosh had Ray Allen and other guys to hit big shots, plus they lost before they all bought into Eric Spoelstra’s system. The Spurs won five rings with Tim Duncan/Tony Parker/Manu Ginobili but always were the ultimate system team under Gregg Popovich.

It’s why a lot of pundits lean toward the Clippers when looking at the coming season — this was a 48-win, hard-to-play-against team well coached by Doc Rivers last season before Leonard and George showed up. But, will the Clippers be the same team and play with the same passion this season? Do the Lakers have the guard play needed to contend, and can Frank Vogel get them on the same page (can he keep his job)? Do the Rockets have the depth after their starting five? Will any of those teams fully buy into the coach’s system?

What makes this NBA season so fascinating and wide open is that every team has plenty of questions, there is no juggernaut. But next June, we may be talking less about the best duo and more about what Kobe said — which supporting cast and system worked best?

Kevin Durant: I never fit in like other Warriors

Harry How/Getty Images
6 Comments

Kevin Durant‘s time with the Warriors was both extraordinary and extraordinarily short.

In his three years there, Golden State won two championships and made another NBA Finals. Durant made an All-NBA first team and two All-NBA second teams. Usually, when a player and team reach anywhere near that level of shared success, they stick together.

But Durant, who signed with the Nets, left the Warriors this summer.

Why?

Durant, via J.R. Moehringer of the Wall Street Journal:

“I came in there wanting to be part of a group, wanting to be part of a family, and definitely felt accepted,” he says. “But I’ll never be one of those guys. I didn’t get drafted there.… Steph Curry, obviously drafted there. Andre Iguodala, won the first Finals, first championship. Klay Thompson, drafted there. Draymond Green, drafted there. And the rest of the guys kind of rehabilitated their careers there. So me? Shit, how you going to rehabilitate me? What you going to teach me? How can you alter anything in my basketball life? I got an MVP already. I got scoring titles.”

“As time went on,” he says, “I started to realize I’m just different from the rest of the guys. It’s not a bad thing. Just my circumstances and how I came up in the league. And on top of that, the media always looked at it like KD and the Warriors. So it’s like nobody could get a full acceptance of me there.”

His tenure in the Bay Area was great, he says, but because of media speculation, fan anxiety, “it didn’t feel as great as it could have been.”

This is a sound assessment. It’s a toned-down version of the report he felt disrespected with the Warriors, but it still hits similar notes.

Durant was never going to be as beloved as his teammates who lifted the franchise from the cellar to a championship before he arrived. He just didn’t have that type of equity with the fan base.

It didn’t help that so many assumed Golden State would’ve won the 2017 and 2018 titles even without Durant. Nearly all champions are appreciated. But to many, Durant felt superfluous.

Another complication: Durant preferred a different offensive system to the one other Warriors, including coach Steve Kerr, favored. That led to analysis that naturally separated Durant from the rest of the team, which trickled into feelings of greater divide.

If Durant wanted to have a comfortable fit, he could’ve re-signed with the Thunder. He was royalty in Oklahoma City. It sounds like he doesn’t regret leaving, though.

He also could’ve been instantly beloved by signing with his hometown Wizards. He didn’t sound interested in that, either.

Maybe it’ll be different in Brooklyn. Unlike the Warriors, the Nets were only just beginning to establish their identity when he arrived.

But he still comes with baggage – the notoriety of ring chasing with the team that eliminated him the prior season, having already established his greatness elsewhere, a torn Achilles that could keep his play from meeting expectations. At minimum, Durant will never be the homegrown star in Brooklyn. At worst, he’ll never be a star at all in Brooklyn.

Most likely, he’ll find a middle ground. Will he be happy in it? I’m not sure. It at least sounds like he has learned how to handle those circumstances.

Grizzlies reportedly refusing to talk buyout with Andre Iguodala

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
4 Comments

Golden State’s roster got a shakeup this summer with Kevin Durant leaving, and they needed to get younger and more athletic around their remaining big three (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green).

That meant Andre Iguodala was out, given a heads up by the team then traded in a salary dump to Memphis. The conventional wisdom around the league was that the Grizzlies would buy out Iguodala, who is likely playing his final NBA season and wants to do so on a contender.

Except, nothing is ever as easy as it should be in Memphis, as Shams Charania of The Athletic notes in this report.

This sounds like a leverage play from an agent.

From the Grizzlies’ perspective, why buy Iguodala out now? Wait until the trade deadline, see if you can trade him and get an asset back to help your rebuild, and if not buy him out then. In the interim, a veteran leader and consummate professional such as Iguodala would be welcomed in a young Memphis locker room with players such as Jaren Jackson Jr. and Ja Morant.

However, that’s not what Iguodala would want. He would want to be with whatever contending team he’s going to join for the full season. He wants a buyout sooner rather than later.

Maybe that means Iguodala will have to give up more than just the price of a minimum contract to get a buyout done. We’ll see how this all plays out. But someone is trying to gain a little leverage with this leak.

Andre Iguodala recalls Draymond Green doubling Kevin Durant in practice: ‘He was mad. We was tryna win.’

David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images
1 Comment

Devin Booker complained to his opponents for double-teaming him during a pick-up game.

That has sparked a Great National Debate: Is it right or wrong to double-team during pick-up games?

Kevin Durant:

That’s a reasonable conclusion. The primary defender is missing an opportunity to work on his defense by getting help. But I also think it fails to address the main point. Booker wasn’t complaining to help the defender. Booker wanted the ideal training environment for himself, the offensive player.

How should the offensive player feel about it?

It’s a reasonably interesting question that’s getting taken far too seriously because the NBA is in a dead period. But to give it more juice, let’s add the Kevin Durant-Draymond Green relationship to the equation.

Andre Iguodala:

Durant:

It seems Durant can laugh it off now, but this story feeds into what so many people think they know about these players – that Green is a relentless competitor (accurate) and that Durant is soft (inaccurate).

NBA players spend so much time playing basketball. Sometimes, it’s helpful to face game-like conditions, where double-teams can happen at any point. Other times, it’s helpful to have more-relaxed conditions.

I don’t know enough about Booker’s pick-up game or the Warriors’ practice to say what was appropriate in each.

Andre Iguodala on possible boycott after Donald Sterling audio: ‘I was all-in. Like shut down the whole season’

Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images
4 Comments

In 2014, the Clippers were playing the Warriors in a first-round series when then-Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s racist rant became public.

Among the most pressing questions: Would players boycott?

The Clippers were having one of their best seasons ever, and they were in the playoffs. Nobody knew how a boycott would affect the team.

Would the Clippers have to forfeit? Would the game just be rescheduled? Would players get punished? Would a boycott even be effective?

This was uncharted territory.

But apparently the Clippers weren’t in it alone.

Andre Iguodala, via Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

“I was all-in. Like shut down the whole season,” then-Warriors forward Andre Iguodala said. “Maybe that was too far, but as far as that game that day, you can reschedule it, you gotta sort this thing out, because there’s some deep-rooted stuff with him that had to be addressed.”

It’s far easier to talk about boycotting than actually doing it.

I get the outrage over Sterling’s comments. But we’ll never know what would’ve happened if NBA commissioner Adam Silver hadn’t take the drastic step of banning Sterling.

Clippers players protested with their warmup uniforms. That apparently helped send enough of a message for Silver to act.