Spurs could pursue Kevin Durant in free agency

May 6, 2016

Spurs wants Kevin Durant

The Kevin Durant sweepstakes understandably haven’t quite cranked up yet, just a few days into May, but they do share one notable trait at this embryonic stage with the rest of the NBA’s 2015-16 season.

The Golden State Warriors, whenever Durant’s future does come up, have been getting most of the attention so far.

When it comes to listing teams capable of stealing Durant away from the franchise he’s helped build into a perennial power — and from the fiercely proud and protective state that treasures him as one of its own — almost every list out there has Warriors at or near the top.

Just be sure to remember the following when you’re watching Durant, Russell Westbrook and the rest of the Oklahoma City Thunder play host to the San Antonio Spurs this weekend in a pivotal Game 3 on Friday and Game 4 on Sunday:

The stately Spurs, league sources say, are just as intrigued as Golden State by the thought of making a run at Durant come July 1.

As rough as the regular season was at times for the Thunder, amid a rash of a blown fourth-quarter leads and the tragic circumstances that snatched popular assistant coach Monty Williams from OKC’s bench, ‎Durant largely succeeded in his mission coming into the campaign to hush talk about his looming free agency as much as he could. We’re a mere 55 days away now from one of the game’s consensus top-five players hitting the open market, but the bulk of the discourse to date has focused on the teams planning to chase him as opposed to Durant’s presumed leanings.

Yet OKC suddenly can’t get through a single playoff game without being confronted by a foe playing for more than the mere W. As our own Zach Lowe also warned you in this series set-up piece, when he wrote of the Spurs “quietly discussing what kind of cap gymnastics it would take to get into the Durant derby,” standard postseason pressure is only a fraction of the burden weighing on the Thunder, even after they managed to rebound from a Game 1 no-show in San Antonio by stealing Game 2 on the road.

As well as Durant and his close-knit tandem of representatives, Rich Kleiman and Charlie Bell, have done in terms of keeping their intentions mysterious, there is a working assumption among KD’s would-be suitors that a second-round Thunder exit essentially cinches the notion that he’ll indeed walk away and look for the best external situation that positions him to win that elusive first championship.

The theory (stress: theory) also holds that OKC success in this round against the 67-win Spurs would be enough, no matter what happens in a presumed Western Conference finals showdown with the Warriors, to convince Durant, at the very least, to sign a new two-year deal with Oklahoma City ‎that contains a player option for Year 2. Going that route would thus allow Durant to not only give himself one more chance to win that breakthrough title in Thunder colors but also return to free agency in the summer of 2017 eligible for a contract that could be up to $40 million richer and do so alongside Westbrook, who’ll likewise have the opportunity to be aggressively courted by the masses for the first time after next season.

“That’s probably one of the first times I’ve heard that one,” Durant told us in February when our ESPN Radio team had the chance to sit down with him at All-Star Weekend in Toronto and ask about a short-term deal with the Thunder.

“I haven’t thought about contracts or free agency or none of that stuff at all really. … I haven’t thought about that one. I guess I have to.”

What seems certain, at this juncture, is that the forthcoming salary-cap spike that’s projected to take the cap ceiling beyond the $90 million threshold for 2016-17 and into the unprecedented stratosphere of nine figures for 2017-18 gives elite free agents all kinds of unforeseen options … while hurting the Thunder as much as any team on the map. The spike is going to be so drastic that both the Warriors and the Spurs, if they’re willing to shed key contributors from their respective current cores, have undeniable avenues to manufacture the requisite cap space to try to marry Durant with their existing stars.

In Golden State’s case, of course, rumblings about the Warriors’ intent to pursue that very trail come July 1 have been circulating as far back as November, even without any overt encouragement from Durant. There were whispers, going back to the Warriors’ ridiculous 24-0 start, about the bond Golden State stalwarts Steph Curry and Andre Iguodala formed with KD when all three were teammates on an unproven Team USA squad way back in 2010 that won the FIBA World Championship in Turkey that summer. There’s been a quiet yet unmistakable belief in the Bay Area, all season long, that the combined draw of those relationships and the Warriors’ stunning rise over the past 18 months to become the NBA’s it team would give them a chance — perhaps even the league’s best chance — of luring Durant away from the only franchise he’s ever known. Even if it means parting ways with the promising Harrison Barnes. And presumably more.

The Spurs, though, are said to have harbored similar fantasies for months in their famously stealthy manner. As with Golden State, San Antonio won’t have close to max cap room to spend without a willingness to lose multiple members from its Boris Diaw/Danny Green/Patty Mills supporting cast. Yet you’ll recall how swiftly the Spurs jettisoned Tiago Splitter last summer when the opportunity arose to sign LaMarcus Aldridge.

Is it fair to describe the Warriors or the Spurs as likely destinations for the game’s most feared pure scorer?

Is Durant truly prepared to be branded as the biggest bandwagon-hopper of all time by ‎bolting the Thunder for an established championship outfit that, in either case, would make LeBron James’ formation of a superteam on South Beach in the summer of 2010 seem almost modest by comparison?

Only KD and his closest confidants know.

The sure thing, at this stage, is that the Spurs — like the Warriors — are primed for the chase. Like Pat Riley and the Miami Heat last summer with Aldridge, San Antonio wants to book the face-to-face chance to pitch Durant in early July 1 … and then worry about where the cap space comes from.

These are, after all, the new Spurs. After shunning big-ticket free agency for more than a decade in the wake of their unsuccessful run at Jason Kidd in the summer of 2003, Gregg Popovich was positively Riley-esque last summer in his pursuit of Aldridge to partner with Kawhi Leonard and set them up as co-heirs to the two decades of elite basketball sustained with Tim Duncan as the Spurs’ focal point.

It would be premature to suggest that any team apart from the Thunder is in the Durant lead at the minute. Nor is anyone claiming that the Warriors and Spurs are the only two threats to OKC.

All signs continue to point to Washington, Miami, Boston, Houston, New York and naturally both of the L.A. teams doing everything they can to romance Durant as if he were coming out of Montrose Christian School in Maryland all over again.

You can likewise rest assured more known threats will emerge as free-agent season draws closer.

The lure of a move to the more forgiving Eastern Conference, as well as the very real prospect of Durant ultimately deciding on his own that the Warriors or Spurs are simply too good without him to attach himself now, serve as realistic counters to the idea that the two clubs immediately in Oklahoma City’s postseason path should be the Thunder’s two biggest concerns.

The Thunder could also complicate things in a thoroughly beneficial manner to their own cause by beating San Antonio three more times, ensuring themselves a follow-up shot to then stun Golden State in the next round, which would only give No. 35 tons more to think about. With Durant serving as a true pioneer in planting big-time pro sports in the region, Oklahoma City sports a winning percentage of .616 since KD and Russ first joined forces in the 2008-09, bettered only by San Antonio (.714) and Miami (.623) in the NBA and, purely for discussion purposes, matched by not a single team in Major League Baseball in the same span.

Just consider much of the above another one of those not-so-gentle Don’t Sleep On The Spurs reminders that are still strangely necessary in Year 19 of the Pop-&-Timmy Show.

And if you think it would somehow scare them to try to find room in the same offense for Durant, Leonard and the increasingly dominant Aldridge …

Don’t bother.

As one rival GM half-jokingly told me this week, immediately haunted by picturing what those three could be capable of in the midst of the NBA’s small ball revolution: “Because they’d win every game.”

Credit ESPN

Video: Sports Illustrated

Thunder ties series against Spurs in Game 2

Thunder ties series: Kevin Durant walked out of the locker room to midcourt and stopped. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Sports News.
May 3, 2016

Thunder ties series

As the lights came back on following some strange halftime show, Kevin Durant walked out of the locker room to midcourt and stopped. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

Ahead was the biggest second half of his season, and one of the biggest of his career. So much was on his shoulders as the Oklahoma City Thunder clung to a three-point lead in the cauldron of the steamy AT&T Center, a place where the San Antonio Spurs had lost only once this season (and that was to the greatest regular-season team of all time, mind you).

Just two days ago, the Spurs blitzed the Thunder in a 32-point evisceration that left plenty of doubts not just about OKC’s chances in the series but about their future in general. As free agent-to-be Durant absorbed that fourth quarter from the bench, what could he be thinking? And if more of the same was to come in Game 2, as so many expected, what then?

The second half was about to start and Durant walked back on the floor, patting his chest, then his back, then pointing to where his friends and family sat courtside, as he always does. Twenty-four minutes ahead to try and dodge every haymaker the Spurs were about to throw. Twenty-four minutes to try and wipe away Game 1 and leave San Antonio with the desired result.

In the aftermath of Game 1’s embarrassment, Durant was steely, not sharing his emotions, not letting anyone know what he was feeling. His message was simple: That’s over — we move on. He didn’t go around and try and coach up his teammates. He didn’t have any rah-rah speech planned. He had an expectation of his teammates and a hope that they’d follow his lead. His demeanor in Game 2 toed the line between “odd” and “focused.” His first real fist pump didn’t come until Dion Waiters splashed a corner 3 to put the Thunder up five with 2:29 left.

He let out a slightly bigger one when he hit what appeared to be the dagger, an awkward leaning jumper with 33 seconds left to put the Thunder up five.

But knowing what the Thunder have endured down the stretch in close games this season, with the well-known stat of 14 blown fourth-quarter leads and their negative clutch-time plus minus, Durant didn’t release his emotions until that final horn sounded. With a manic final 20 seconds that featured Serge Ibaka fouling LaMarcus Aldridge on a 3, then an OKC turnover that gave the Spurs a chance to win it, the Thunder nearly unraveled.

Instead, with the ball rolling all over the floor, the buzzer sounded, allowing the Thunder to walk away with their split, 98-97, Durant balled both fists and unleashed a roar. In the locker room, before he walked to the podium, he joked to Russell Westbrook about wanting to be asked about how he was feeling after this one. The first question granted his wish.

“I’m not telling you,” he said, before cracking a small smile, a call back to his response following Game 1.

“It was an up-and-down game, all game, it was a grind-it-out,” he said. “I don’t really know what happened on that last play. I just know we were able to come out on top.”

There’s no way to really summarize how the game ended. Calling it chaos is like calling preschool recess organized. It was a complete malfunction of basketball, starting with Manu Ginobili crowding Waiters, who as the inbounder pushed Ginobili. Waiters’ arching pass to Durant was stolen, with jerseys being grabbed everywhere, before the Spurs failed to convert on a 3-on-1 with Patty Mills air-balling a corner 3, sparking a rugby scrum for the rebound as the clock expired.

Those last 15 seconds are the conversation, they’re what will be digested throughout the news cycle Tuesday. But they’ll overshadow the brilliant bounce-back performance from the Thunder, responding to one of the franchise’s lowest days with a resounding road win.

They led by one entering the fourth quarter, and expanded the lead to nine after the first five minutes. Danny Green hit two 3s to trim the lead to three with 6:40 left, and it was on Westbrook, Durant and the Thunder to conquer one of their greatest enemies. Not the Spurs — crunch time.

Those final six minutes are what they’ve worked all year for. Those final six minutes are a primary reason why Scott Brooks was fired and Billy Donovan was hired. The Thunder have always stalled into a predictable isolation offense, watching tight postseason games get away from them in the final few minutes. But on Monday, behind brilliant shot-making by Durant, the trust of an extra pass to the open man in the corner, and the hyper-speed transition jets of Westbrook, the Thunder found a way.

“We never say ‘Here we go again,’ because honestly we don’t think we gave away leads in the fourth quarter as many times as you may think,” Westbrook said. “We came out and competed at a high level like we’ve been doing all season long. Made plays, made shots and came out with the win.”

It’s one win for the Thunder, and now the series transfers to Oklahoma City. They’ve accomplished the toughest part of the quest, winning the required one game in San Antonio. But even with the brief celebration and exhale of emotion, Durant and Westbrook were quick to reset focus. Asked if they feel like they accomplished their mission by walking away with a split after a 32-point loss in Game 1, Westbrook sarcastically laughed. Then Durant joined in with a chuckle.

“Yeah, good win,” Westbrook said.

“Good win,” Durant echoed. “We move on.”

Credit ESPN

Video: Sports Illustrated

Oklahoma City fearing Kevin Durant era end

OKC Thunder fearing Kevin Durant era end: The truth is that Kevin Durant faces a crossroads for his career as he and the Thunder head into Game 2. NBA News.
May 2, 2016

OKC Thunder fearing Kevin Durant era end

Kevin Durant is trying to maintain that he’s been here before, but the truth is that Durant faces a crossroads for his career as he and the Thunder head into Game 2 against the San Antonio Spurs on Monday.

Twelve hours after the Spurs jumped up and down on the Thunder’s collective head in Game 1, Durant said that the experience of being in this position helps in trying to recover from the stomping.

“Just being in this position before,” Durant said, “losing the first game, going on the road, we just know to try and go out and get one. That’s the mindset we have going into this series, and we’re just excited about the opportunity.”

Players are so often trying to avoid any cracks in the armor. Durant bristled at the idea of urgency later, trying to assert that Monday’s Game 2 isn’t a must-win for the Thunder. It’s meant to try and stabilize the pressure. After all, the Thunder went down 2-0 vs. the Spurs in 2012 and won the series, and went down 2-0 vs. San Antonio in 2014, then came back to tie it up before losing the series in Game 6 in overtime.

However, this Thunder team isn’t that Thunder team, this Spurs team isn’t that Spurs team and OKC’s situation is nothing like what it was in 2014. Specifically, Kevin Durant’s situation is radically different.

Durant’s free agency casts a shadow over the franchise, even if the players aren’t consciously aware of it. Durant could say what he wants about how this playoff series or any other will not determine his decision, but we’ve seen too often players influenced in free agency by frustration with their team’s inability to get over the obstacles in front of them. If Game 1 was an indication of what’s to come, if the Thunder are to not only lose to the Spurs, but lose in humiliating fashion, then Durant may simply not be able to stand that reality. That can lead to rash decisions. Durant has always had a good head on his shoulders, but he’s a competitor. That’s a blessing … and a curse.

Two years ago, Durant said he was tired of being No. 2 behind LeBron James. Now he’s not even No. 3 in most people’s minds. His prominence is sliding backward. This is exacerbated by the expectations which come with the talent OKC has, a complicated matter that isn’t easy to suss out. On the one hand, the Thunder have Westbrook and Durant, and therefore should be title contenders. On the other, we’ve seen that team chemistry and overall versatility have been more important in a Western Conference ruled by the Warriors and Spurs.

The Spurs didn’t dominate Oklahoma City in Game 1 with superior talent, they dominated with superior execution and versatility. The Thunder need the ball in the hands of Durant or Westbrook; they’re the team’s best players. Relying on them means that the other players aren’t ready to step up, and the money they command has restricted OKC.

There’s been a feeling from some that Durant is certain to stay, at least for a year. Not only does it make the most financial sense, but it’s hard to imagine him leaving Westbrook. However, we tend to overlook the fact that players are human, and therefore emotional. The frustration of not only losing, but being totally dominated has to weigh heavy on Durant as a competitor. Free agency comes in two months. That’s not a lot of time to process and get perspective. That’s dangerous.

The biggest problem is that the Thunder were so close in 2011, and again in 2012 and again in 2014. They weren’t quite ready, then they didn’t quite have the weapons because they were too old against the Spurs two years ago. Now they have younger weapons … but they lack the experience. The Thunder decided Scott Brooks wasn’t the answer, and Durant was complicit in that decision. If he didn’t want Brooks gone, he wouldn’t be in Washington now. Except Billy Donovan hasn’t been an upgrade. And there’s not as much of a bond between him and Durant. All of this factors in.

Is this premature? Sure. It was one game. Maybe the Thunder come back and steal Game 2 vs. San Antonio. But the gap in Game 1 wasn’t concerning because of the scoreboard’s horror show. It was scary because the Spurs were so much better in every facet. Execution. Talent. Flow. Feel. Offense. Defense. Attitude. Intensity. Check after check went to the Spurs.

There’s a lot of story left to be written, but in the first game of the most important series in franchise history, the Oklahoma City Thunder felt the air go out of the room. They just have to hope that their future with Kevin Durant didn’t go out with it.

Credit CBS Sports

Kevin Durant ties dubious Michael Jordan mark with 26 misses

Kevin Durant ties dubious Michael Jordan mark: Kevin Durant tied Michael Jordan for the most misses in a postseason game since 1997 with 26 on Monday.
April 19, 2016

Kevin Durant ties dubious Michael Jordan mark

With an “uncharacteristic” off shooting night, Kevin Durant tied Michael Jordan for the most misses in a postseason game since 1997 with 26 on Monday.

Durant finished with 21 points on 7-of-33 shooting from the floor in the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 85-84 Game 2 loss to the Dallas Mavericks. Durant went 2-of-11 from 3-point range.

Durant’s 26 misses are the most he has ever had in a game in his career, playoffs or regular season.

“Just missed ’em. Just missed ’em,” Durant said. “Everything looked good for me. Coach drew up some good plays. Teammates set great screens. Russell [Westbrook] delivered the ball perfect. It’s on me after that. I’ve just got to make ’em next game.”

Durant’s final missed shot came with three seconds left. It was a potentially game-winning layup attempt that was blocked by rookie Justin Anderson. Steven Adams recovered the miss and put it back, but it came after the buzzer.

“Bad shooting night for me,” Durant said. “It’s a part of it. I wish it didn’t happen tonight, but it’s a part of it. Got some great looks all night and just didn’t knock ’em down. Just stick with my routine, don’t do too much extra, and go out there tomorrow and get ready for practice.”

Durant said he was “surprised” that he couldn’t get shots to drop, but he remained optimistic throughout the game, encouraging his teammates as his teammates encouraged him.

“You constantly keep feeding him,” Westbrook said. “He’s the best player in the world. You have nights like that. My job is to find him and find a way to get him an easy basket. He missed easy ones tonight, but I know Kevin. I’ve been with him for too long, and that won’t happen again.”

Durant went 4-for-14 in the first half and 3-for-19 in the second. His seventh make was a big one that cut the Mavericks’ lead to one point with 9.5 seconds left. After Raymond Felton missed two free throws, Durant had a chance to win the game, but Anderson got a piece of his layup.

“I thought it was a really, really physical game for both teams,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “Everybody on the bench was trying to encourage Kevin. The guy works so hard every day. When you see him, the time he puts in, I think he has great expectations for himself.”

According to ESPN Stats & Information, 22 of Durant’s shots were contested, 18 came outside the paint and eight were in the fourth quarter, including three in the final 24 seconds. Durant shot only five free throws (and made all five), which was a source of frustration for the team.

“Just one of those nights for him,” Donovan said. “Probably throughout his career, he hasn’t had very many of them. I thought he worked to get open. I thought he worked to get shots. I think everybody is used to him making them, but it was one of those nights. … For a guy that’s been as great a scorer as he has his entire career, for him to shoot the ball the way he did was really uncharacteristic.”

Mavs guard Wesley Matthews, who was Durant’s primary defender, said he “was just trying to expend all my energy on the defensive end.”

“Not one individual can slow somebody like that down,” Matthews said. “He’s arguably the best scorer in the league. My team was great behind me, and he was probably missing some shots, some good looks. My offense wasn’t there, but I was going to be damned if I was going to let that lead to an L for us.”

The series is tied 1-1 with Game 3 on Thursday in Dallas.

Despite Durant’s shooting struggles, the Thunder kept feeding him in the fourth quarter, and Donovan said the team never considered changing that strategy and looking to someone else to score.

“I have all the confidence in the world in Kevin shooting the basketball, and even though he was struggling — I think at one point I saw in the stat sheet he was 5-for-23 — I was never going to tell him not to shoot,” Donovan said. “He’s a guy that can turn it on pretty quickly and get on a roll.”

Jordan went 9-35 in a 1997 NBA Eastern Conference Finals game against Miami. He scored 29 points in an 87-80 loss. Two days later, the Bulls closed out the Heat, with Jordan scoring 28 points, but missing 20 more shots (he was 11-31).

Credit ESPN

Nike’s Kobe Commercial talks about Bryant’s Legacy

Kobe Bryant Latest News: LeBron James. Kevin Durant, Elena Delle Donne, Roger Feder and Rafael Nadal expand their thoughts on the legacy of Kobe Bryant
April 13, 2016

Kobe Bryant Latest News

Nike athletes LeBron James. Kevin Durant, Elena Delle Donne, Roger Feder and Rafael Nadal expand their thoughts on the legacy of Kobe Bryant before his final NBA game.

Ist not a secret that in the Kobe Bryant Latest News you have to see how this 6′ 6″ Shooting Guard changed a lot the gameplay on the NBA, and its obvious that a lot of the young talent that we see today in the league has been inspired by Kobe Bryant.

Kevin Durant, LeBron James and a lot of players wanted to be like him and have the skills that Kobe had.

In this Nike Ad you can see how this players talks about the Legacy of Kobe Bryant.

Credit Sports Illustrated

Chris Paul Hits Kevin Durant in the Nuts

Chris Paul Hits Kevin Durant: The Oklahoma City Thunder may have beaten the Los Angeles Clippers soundly on Wednesday, but Kevin Durant likely left the game
Marzo 11, 2016

Chris Paul Hits Kevin Durant

Chris Paul Hits Durant: The Oklahoma City Thunder may have beaten the Los Angeles Clippers soundly on Wednesday night, but Kevin Durant likely left the game in a form of pain only a male can know.

Late in the second quarter, he took a shot to the nuts from Chris Paul. Innocent, right?

Credit The Fumble