No. 1: Durant doesn't see himself leaving Warriors -- The draw of postseason glory and future championships are what helped draw Kevin Durant to the Golden State Warriors as a free agent last summer. The Warriors are two days away from the start of what they hope will be another Finals run and on a recent podcast, Durant reaffirmed his long-term loyalty to the franchise. William Lou of The Score recently transcribed some of Durant's comments and has more here:
Kevin Durant has no intentions to host another nauseating round of free agency pitch meetings with desperate suitors in the Hamptons.
Durant is set to become a free agent once again this summer, but this decision will be fairly simple: He will remain with the Golden State Warriors.
"I haven't even thought about it that much but I don't plan on going anywhere else," Durant said on the Warriors Plus Minus podcast.
Durant, Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston could all become unrestricted free agents this summer. Keeping all four at something near their market value would easily rocket the Warriors into the luxury tax.
The issue is further complicated by Durant's lack of Bird rights. The Warriors can exceed the salary cap to retain longtime stalwarts in Curry, Igudoala, and Livingston, but the newcomer in Durant would most likely need to be signed using cap space provided that he receives a raise over his current salary. This scenario will most likely require for the four players to sacrifice for one another.
Durant sees the entire situation being resolved in the summer, where the Warriors' key free agents can make a collective decision.
"Obviously you want to keep this group together, you want to see how far we can go. I'm sure once the season is over with we can figure out that stuff, everybody, and I'm sure it will all work out for the best."
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No. 2: Bradley basks in Celtics' run to top of East -- In his first three seasons in the NBA, Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley was a part of a veteran-laden crew that had its share of playoff success. After that came some rough seasons of rebuilding, but it has paid off as Boston stands this morning as the No. 1 team in the Eastern Conference playoff bracket. None of the journey's ups and downs have been lost on Bradley, writes Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald:
The Celtics won 40 games in coach Brad Stevens’ second year, 48 in the third, and now 53.
The Celtics coach goes into his third straight year looking for a way to get past the first round, this time with the top-seeded team in the Eastern Conference, and another first-round loss would be the first serious blemish of Stevens’ career.
But there’s something about breaking that 50-win barrier that hits Bradley now.
“That’s an accomplishment, for any team to get 50 wins,” he said. “An outstanding season is 60. But 50, that means you’re on your way to the kind of season that every team dreams of having. Usually if you have 60, that means you’re one or two in your conference.
“It’s a big goal, and I’m pretty sure he’s had that goal set. We’ve played well this year, and Brad has done an even better job.”
As process-driven as he is, though, Stevens never put a number on the improvement he wanted to see.
“No. I thought we were going to try and do our jobs to the best of our ability every day, stick to a process of focusing on growth and making sure we were getting better, and let the chips fall where they may,” said the Celtics coach. “I’ve always thought you start with a baseline of what is your competitive makeup as a team, and then it’s how you prepare. The results are a function of all those more important things.”
The climb that followed was steady, albeit with two straight years of early playoff exits. But Bradley took heart in the improvement in the win column each year.
“It’s hard, takes a lot of sacrifice, a lot of believing in the process,” Bradley said. “Me personally, being here since Day 1, you don’t know what to expect. All you can do is work hard, do your role and hope for the best. We’ve been fortunate to have a great group of guys.”
That doesn’t mean peace. Isaiah Thomas, sometimes frustrated with his use by Stevens, spoke out twice this year. Marcus Smart, late in a loss in Washington, argued on the bench with two assistants before leaving early for the locker room, where he punched a hole in the wall.
“One of the things about teams — we’ve seen it a couple of times this year — is that tensions have risen, or there’s been moments where guys are frustrated, and that’s part of it,” Stevens said. “That’s something I’ve always believed, you grow through those things. Those frustrations and tension expedites your growth.”
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No. 3: Nowitzki may play beyond next season -- Time and again over the last few years, Dirk Nowitzki has reaffirmed his loyalty to the Dallas Mavericks. He's also made it more than clear on several occasions that he plans to play out his current contract -- which expires next year -- and then perhaps retire. After a somewhat (individually) solid season in 2016-17, Nowitzki may be rethinking that last point, writes Dwane Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:
The good news for Dallas Mavericks fans is that superstar forward Dirk Nowitzki officially announced Thursday that he’ll return and play a 20th year next season.
Some even better news from Nowitzki : He may play even longer than that.
As the Mavs had their exit interviews Thursday following a disappointing 33-49 season, Nowitzki didn’t sound like a player ready for retirement any time soon. In fact, Nowitzki, who turns 39 on June 19, acted and sounded like he’s ready to play well enough the age of 40.
"I have to see how the body responds next year," Nowitzki said. "If I feel like this, like I did at the end (of this season), I think I can play another (season) after that, but I’ll just leave all that open."
Nowitzki will leave all the particulars open because he knows it’s too soon to make any long-term commitments.
"When I signed on for two more years (at $50 million) last summer that was the plan," Nowitzki said. "I just signed to play for two more years and then we’ll sit together again with family and some of my obviously close ones and (owner Mark) Cuban and obviously all these guys and we’ll make a decision what makes sense for me and the franchise. But I’m definitely playing next year."
Nowitzki said there have been no talks of him possibly extending his contract beyond next season. But this season he did become the sixth player of all-time to score at least 30,000 points in an NBA career.
Nowitzki joined the 30,000-point club during a Mar. 7 game against the Los Angeles Lakers. He needed just 20 points to obtain that milestone, and went out and scored 18 of the eventual 25 points he scored that night in the first quarter.
But an injury to his right Achilles slowed Nowitzki and was the primary reason he only played 54 games this season. Although he was spectacular at times, the 7-footer wound up averaging just 14.2 points and 6.5 rebounds in 26.4 minutes per game.
"The Achilles just wasn’t right there for a long, long time and basically I had to fight my way back from scratch," Nowitzki said. "All the work I did last summer was basically out the window and I had to fight my way back in the middle of the season.
"So it was time tough at times, I was frustrated, disappointed at times, it wasn’t going quick enough for me. But the last couple of weeks felt good, I felt good moving, basically until the end."
Whenever Nowitzki writes the final chapter on his storied career, he won’t let the masses know ahead of time so he can take a final tour and receive gifts from many well-wishers across the NBA. That’s just not his style.
"I think my body is going to tell me when it’s time, so I’m not really going to see the year before that it’s time to go," Nowitzki said. "I’m going to play next year as hard as I can and see how the body responds after that and we can all make a decision after that, and you guys will be the last ones to know."
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No. 4: Pacers owner opens up about George, Bird and more -- No team owner in the NBA has been at it longer than the Indiana Pacers' Herb Simon. Through the years, he's seen his franchise rise, fall and rise again several times and in a recent Q&A with Nate Taylor of the Indianapolis Star, Simon shared candid thoughts on Paul George, team president Larry Bird and other topics:
Question: What are thoughts on Paul George’s performance this season and his future with the team?
Answer: This guy has taken over the team and pulled us up. I think very highly of him. I think he was incredibly personable at our breakfast in New Orleans during the All-Star weekend. He was very open. He wants to be a champion. He wants a winning team and it’s our job to get him one. He’s got that desire to be a special player, which he is, and to have a special team. We’re all on the same wavelength. It’s just a matter of we both have to produce. He has to produce and we have to give him the players to produce with.
Q: Was there any real consideration in trading George before the deadline in February?
A: Basically, we were offered a lot of things. We didn’t even think of taking any of them. (President) Larry (Bird) will give you a better feel for it, but the answer is you can’t stop people from making offers. But it wasn’t any question of accepting any of them.
Q: Do you believe you can win a championship with George?
A: Of course.
Q: What has it been like work and give the basketball decisions to Bird?
A: I’ve been lucky. I’ve had two great basketball minds the most of my career: Donnie Walsh and Larry Bird. You can’t get much better than that. They’re both different, but they’re both passionate. They both know basketball, so I’ve been fortunate that way. Larry is very special, tremendous integrity. His word means something. I talk to Larry a lot. I’m going to see him right after this. I saw him this morning. I talk to him mostly after a victory as opposed to a defeat.
Q: Why was now a good time to bring Lance Stephenson back, and what are your thoughts about what he’s done the last six games?
A:I always knew Larry, especially, had a special feeling about Lance. Larry is a patient guy. When he felt it was the right time, and he was available, it worked out. Had (Rodney) Stuckey not gotten hurt, we might not have seen (Stephenson) this year. Sometimes you get lucky. It’s not the end-all, be-all, but it certainly was a spark to the team. Even the players say that. He gave them energy.
Q: Why did you decide not to sell the team in the aftermath of the brawl?
A: When there came a time when there was pressure to sell, I just didn’t feel comfortable selling. I didn’t think selling for the highest bidder and someone moving the team out of the city was what my obligation to the city that’s been so good to me and gave me the opportunity to buy the team at the right time. There was no way, if it was in my power, I wasn’t going to sell the team at that time. It was a tough period. We were losing many, many dollars a year, and now things have turned around. Values, on paper, have gone up. They don’t mean anything until you sell it. To me, this is my responsibility to whatever happens with this team to stay in this city as long as it and the city want it to be here. That’s more important than the sale price. When we were losing all that money, my financial people thought I was crazy to take on the full responsibility of the team. I didn’t have a long-range plan, but I knew that I can save the team. I was lucky enough, so far, to do it.
Q: What does it mean to be the longest-tenured owner in the NBA?
A: You grow up for most of your life being the youngest guy in the room. And then sometimes you become one of the oldest guys in the room and you don’t even realize it because you’re used to being one of the youngest guys. The answer is that my ownership is broken up into two parts. In the beginning, I was busy running a business. I had a lot of interest, but little time. Now I have more time and I’m more involved and I’m enjoying it every much.
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No. 5: Anthony's future in New York seems to be nearing end -- Since he forced a trade from Denver to New York in 2011, Knicks star Carmelo Anthony has played in 19 total playoff games (after 45 playoff games in seven playoff runs with the Nuggets). This postseason again does not feature Anthony nor his squad and with a season's worth of trade talk behind him, perhaps his days in New York are through. Ian Begley of ESPN.com took a long look at Anthony's future there:
In a season littered with low points, the 2016-17 New York Knicks appeared to find rock bottom on March 12.
In Brooklyn, the 11-win Nets sank 14 3-pointers in the first half against the Knicks, effectively ending New York's playoff hopes in 24 painful minutes. And head coach Jeff Hornacek wasn't happy.
Hornacek lit into the Knicks in the visitors locker room of the Barclays Center, and according to people familiar with the matter, Hornacek's diatribe was expletive-filled and delivered at a high decibel level.
It's not uncommon for a coach to go off on his players after a pathetic showing. But what happened next was a bit surprising.
Carmelo Anthony, whose default demeanor is relaxed and easygoing, responded with anger and expletives of his own. For those accustomed to seeing Anthony live by his oft-used idiom, "Stay Melo," it was jarring.
Anthony's R-rated rant essentially questioned the direction of the entire organization, according to sources. Associate head coach Kurt Rambis fired back, calling out Anthony's effort on defense.
On the surface, some version of that incident has played out in dozens of NBA locker rooms over the years. But the way things unfolded on that Sunday afternoon in Brooklyn spoke to two glaring issues within the Knicks organization: a chasm between some veteran players and the coaching staff/management and, more importantly, Anthony's uncertain future with the organization.
Those with knowledge of the dynamic between Anthony and the Knicks believe that, while no final decision has been made, Anthony is leaning strongly toward waiving the no-trade clause at this point. Anthony said on Wednesday night that he'd "love" to be back, but wants assurances that the Knicks are committed to winning.
Barring something unforeseen -- such as a highly unlikely scenario in which Jackson and Anthony find common ground during their exit meeting on Thursday -- the Knicks remain committed to moving Anthony this offseason, according to league sources.
If they do execute a trade for Anthony, it will be one of the most important transactions in Jackson's presidency. Some executives around the league believe that Anthony's trade value would be higher if Jackson hadn't endorsed a column that was critical of Anthony in February.
Despite the challenges facing the franchise -- and the fact that they've lost at least 50 games in each of the past three seasons -- Jackson is said to be extremely excited about the future of the Knicks.
It seems like Jackson's version of the future is unlikely to include Anthony. But the player -- and not the team president -- will have the final say.
"I have a lot of thinking and reflecting to do," Anthony said shortly before walking out of the Knicks locker room and into an uncertain offseason. "It's all on me at this point."
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