This morning's headlines:
- Durant took pay cut to help teammates get paid
- Parker still targeting January return
- Waiters chimes in on Kyrie trade talk
- Turner aiming for playoffs in 2017-18
Durant took pay cut to help teammates get paid -- When Kevin Durant opted out of his deal with the Golden State Warriors this summer, most everyone knew he wasn't going anywhere. What most everyone didn't know is that Durant would accept a pay cut with his new deal, a surprising move considering he was just named NBA Finals MVP. In an interview with Anthony Slater of TheAthletic.com, Durant revealed why he took less on his deal this summer:
On Thursday, Durant, who is now back in the U.S., took time to chat with The Athletic about his trip and much more.
Included: His first public comments about his decision to take nearly $10 million less than he could've gotten this summer, plus he dissects some of the off-season's biggest moves, including Chris Paul shifting to the Rockets and Paul George joining Russell Westbrook and the Thunder.
Q: OK, let's go back to the beginning of the summer. First of all you win the title. You're now two months removed. Does anything daily feel different finally being an NBA champ?
DURANT: Nah. It doesn't. I mean maybe more people know who I am, but my life didn't change. I didn't change anything. I still do the same stuff.
Q: Let's shift to free agency a few weeks later. Everyone knows what you did, taking that nearly $10-million paycut. Was it an ‘Oh, if Andre (Iguodala) needs this much, I'll take this much' kind of situation? How did that decision come together?
DURANT: Well, I'm a smart guy and I want to keep this thing going and looking at Andre and Shaun (Livingston) and Steph (Curry) — they all should make the most money that they can make and get what they deserve. Because they were all underpaid and I knew at some point they'd want to get what they deserve. So I just took a step back and let the chips fall where they may. Then I took it in my hands. I wanted to keep the team together and I thought it was going to help the ownership bring all the guys back. And on top of that, it's my money. It's my decision. I can do what the hell I want with it.
Q: Were you surprised by some of the blowback?
DURANT: They only (criticized) it because it's the Warriors and it's me and they love to hate anything we do right now. A lot of players have (taken pay-cuts). It wasn't that I wanted the praise. I've learned from Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki and how it has helped them over the years and I thought, if they did it, why can't I? Why shouldn't I sacrifice? People wanted the money to break us up and I didn't want that to happen.
Q: I'm sure you got quite the reaction from Bob Myers and the front office when you brought them the number.
DURANT: Yeah, like I said, I'm a grown man in this league and I'm at the point of my life and career where I'm able to dictate what I want to do with my future. So me and my business partner (Rich Kleiman) talked about it and when we brought it to them we knew they'd be excited because it'll definitely help the whole group.
Q: Will you enlist Andre as your agent for your next negotiations after what he got this summer?
DURANT: Nah, he got that all by himself. He got all of that. We kept him and Shaun and were able to sign Nick Young and keep JaVale (McGee).
Q: So you guys are intact with 12 returning players including your entire core, plus a couple of other nice pieces. But the landscape around you out west has shifted a ton. I assume you've been following. What have you thought of all these moves?
DURANT: Yeah. You're just seeing a lot of these GMs buckling down and saying, you know what, let's swing for the fences. Let's see what we can do. Anything can happen. You gotta respect it. Before, you've seen GMs be conservative, try to save money or build through the draft every year. Just try to be OK. But teams aren't just settling for that. They're trying to win and trying to win now and they want to put the best players together.
Q: A couple of the specific moves that I want to ask you about, starting with Houston: Chris Paul and James Harden. It's an interesting pairing. What do you think?
DURANT: It is interesting. You have two guys that really enjoy handling the basketball but really know how hard it is to do that for 40 minutes a night, 82 games, plus 16 in the playoffs. They love handling the ball, but they know how tiring it is. They need each other to take the pressure off.
James wants to catch and shoot. I think that's what all great players want to do. They don't want to dribble 100 percent of the time. They want to go 50/50, sometimes catch and shoot and let teammates create. I feel they both want to do that now and I think it's going to work extremely well because they're both unselfish and can shoot. They've got real skills, so I think it's going to be great for the league and obviously great for Houston.
Q: The other move is one you know well: Paul George going to OKC. I believe he said he reached out to you to ask you a little about the organization.
DURANT: Nah, me and PG didn't talk much about the organization at all. I texted him congrats and told him he was going to love it there. It's just a matter of what type of team they're going to be, who's going to do what, who is going to step up.
But they got Russ and PG and Steven Adams to be their Big 3. I think if they feed off each other, it could be great. I'm a fan of the game. So I can see if something is going to work or not and I think that's going to be a really, really great pairing. It's going to suck for us and the rest of the league. But as a fan of the game, it's going to be tight to see how they work that thing out.
Parker planning to return in 4-5 months -- Aside from adding Rudy Gay, the San Antonio Spurs were pretty quiet in free agency. They brought back guard Patty Mills and big man Pau Gasol as well, but more or less the core of the team remains the same. They'll have to turn to that group to stem the tide while Tony Parker recovers from his quadriceps injury and Parker, for his part, is still aiming for a January return. Jeff Garcia of News4SA.com has more on Parker's plans:
San Antonio Spurs' Tony Parker is on the mend after suffering a left quadriceps injury in last season's playoff run. However, since then, he is having himself a speedy recovery and is optimistic he'll he back on the court in 4-5 months time in a sit down interview with Argentinian TV LPG TV.
"It's OK. It's OK. It's getting better and better. I'm starting to run like a little bit. I'm walking pretty well. I think it's still going to be a long process. It's still going to take like another four or five months but I am very happy in with the progress. I am in advance in my rehab."
Parker also touched on the return of Manu Ginobili and is hoping the team can win a title for Manu if next season is his last.
"Hopefully we can finish with the championship for Manu's last year hopefully but we never know if it's going to be Manu's last year. Maybe he's going to come back again. As long as he keeps playing, everybody's going to be happy."
Check out the full interview as Parker also speaks about the defending champs Golden State where he says it will be hard to dethrone them, Head Coach Gregg Popovich, the future of the team, becoming a team owner and much more.
Waiters chimes in on Kyrie-to-Heat talk -- Dion Waiters career revival with the Miami Heat last season has been well documented -- both by others and the man himself. Fresh off signing a new contract with the Heat, Waiters was interviewed by a Philadelphia radio station recently and opened up about the Kyrie Irving trade rumors and how he'd fit in with the Heat. Manny Navarro of the Miami Herald has more:
Waiters’ “Made in Philly” star studded bash, which he’s been throwing since he entered the league, was attended by rapper Meek Mill, a close friend of his, and several NBA players including the Heat’s Tyler Johnson, James Johnson, Okaro White and fellow Philly native Wayne Ellington.
Aside from his party, Waiters, 25, also had plenty to say about his new contract with the Heat, Kyrie Irving’s desire to leave Cleveland and the possibility of that happening with the Heat. As usual, Waiters did it with plenty of his signature Philly Cheese style.
“It would help – I’m not against that,” Waiters told HipHopSince1987 of a possible move by the Heat to acquire Irving, a four-time All-Star whom he played with for two and a half seasons in Cleveland.
“Just know there’s an alpha male over there too in myself.”
Waiters said he wasn’t at all surprised to hear Irving wanted out of Cleveland.
“We talk, we have talks,” Waiters said. “I’d be lying if I said I’m surprised. At the end of the day, I knew what’s up. I respect him. He won one. It’s time for him to go take on a bigger role, be that leader, be that guy. He wants to be that guy I guess. There’s nothing wrong with that. I ride with that. I respect that decision. He knows what it takes to win. He learned all that from Bron, from playing with him for four years. He knows what it takes. That’s how I was. When I played Bron I soaked everything in. I was a sponge. Bron took me under his wing from day one. Every little thing, how to take care of his body, he’s a pro's pro, a true professional.
“When I went to OKC it was even worse with KD and Russ. KD took me right under his wing, everyday we were going at it, things like that. Like I tell everybody I had the best of both worlds. I learned so much. It made me ready for this situation I’m in now. I needed to take steps back. At the end of the day I don’t call them steps back. I was really just [building] step by step. When I got my chance, like I said, no looking back.”
Turner expecting playoff push from Pacers -- With their leading scorer (Paul George) gone via trade and their starting point guard (Jeff Teague) having bolted in free agency, playoff hopes in Indiana seem far-fetched. Don't tell that to young big man Myles Turner, though, who said in an interview Thursday he's expecting nothing less than a playoff berth for the Pacers in 2017-18. Matthew VanTryon of the Indianapolis Star has more:
Myles Turner is the longest tenured player on the Indiana Pacers. Yes, he's 21. Yes, he's just now entering his third season in the league. But that's the current state of the team.
That being said, Turner recognizes that he needs to step into more of a leadership role this season. He spoke about his expectations for himself and the team in an interview on SiriusSM NBA Radio.
"I want to start establishing myself as a leader in this league and on this team," he said. "I know I’m quite young compared to a lot of guys on this team, but the best time is to start young.”
He also has high expectations for the Pacers, and says that naysayers on the outside provide extra motivation. Vegas has them at 30.5 wins while CBS Sports has them at 34.1. Bleacher Report has them at .500. Forbes says they're 100-1 odds to win the NBA Finals.
“I feel like we’re definitely going to be overlooked this year," he said of the Pacers. "A lot of people look at us as young team that’s going to rebuild, but we’re a young team that’s trying to compete. We’ve got a lot of guys who can come in and make an impact right away. I expect to make the playoffs this year.”
* * *
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Those Carmelo Anthony/Houston Rockets trade talks are back on again, it seems ... What do you think of the LA Clippers' new-look unis for 2017-18? ... How Elvis inspires Grizzlies star Marc Gasol ... Thunder big man Patrick Patterson had surgery on his left knee ... Kings veteran Zach Randolph got arrested on a pot charge Thursday ... Kick back and enjoy the top 10 circus shots from last season ... Ish Smith says Reggie Jackson is getting back to his hold form ...