This morning's headlines:
- Durant says he and Westbrook still friends, but they don't talk
- Irving has big shoes to fill for Celtics
- Pacers excited about new practice facility
Durant says he and Westbrook are still friends, but they no longer talk -- One of the storylines of interest around this time a year ago was how Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook would react in their first game against each other. Overall, no moments stood out as particularly icy in last season's Warriors-Thunder matchups between the two ex-teammates. In a recent interview on The Bill Simmons Podcast, Durant talked about the state of his friendship with Westbrook:
Kevin Durant recently reiterated his respect for Russell Westbrook in a way that might intrigue NBA fans.
Much has been made of the former Thunder teammates’ relationship since KD left for Golden State and, on The Bill Simmons Podcast that posted Thursday, the Warriors star rejected the idea that his friendship with Westbrook ever ended.
“I don’t think we ever stopped being friends,” Durant told Simmons. “We just stopped talking — but I don’t think we stopped being friends.”
Simmons asked if KD and Westbrook are speaking again.
“Not talking, nah, but I mean, I don’t think any… there’s no problems,” Durant said. “But I don’t think we ever stopped being friends.”
Irving has big shoes to fill in Boston -- The aftershocks of this week's Kyrie Irving-Isaiah Thomas trade are still being felt across the NBA and, particularly, in Cleveland and Boston. Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald knows just how beloved Thomas was in the city and community and opines on just how Irving will have a bigger role to fill than his on-court one:
But let’s put down the depth chart for a moment. Let’s toss out the playbook and the short- and long-range projections. Let’s do what Ainge cannot and should not do. And let’s pose a question:
Though Kyrie Irving has replaced the player that is Isaiah Thomas, can he replace the man that is Isaiah Thomas?
What matters is that Celtics fans liked Isaiah Thomas who, incredibly, was a member of the Green for just a little over two seasons. They liked the way he electrified the offense. They liked the way he persevered during the playoffs following the tragic death of his sister in a car wreck. They liked the way he played in physical pain as well, this after loosing some teeth after getting his face smashed in and then injuring his hip.
Celtics fans also liked the work he did in the community. He was a presence. He resonated.
And be honest, Celtics fans: You also liked it that Isaiah Thomas is a little guy. The 5-foot-9 stat that’s been stamped into the media guide? That’s fake news. I’ve read that he himself has said he’s only 5-8, and I’m not even sure about the 5-8.
Thomas didn’t play on a title team. He wasn’t around long enough to get his number retired. Hall of Fame? He’ll need to have several more seasons like the one he just had in order for that discussion to become meaningful.
But he connected with Celtics fans. Man, did he ever. And I hope what we now must call the Century of Dominance hasn’t become so intoxicating and be-all-end-all that we can’t take a moment to admire a guy who, while he didn’t contribute to the dominance, did contribute in ways that don’t call for mayoral proclamations and rolling rallies.
In that respect, Kyrie Irving has some big, big shoes to fill, whether or not he leads the Celtics to a championship.
Pacers pumped about new practice facility -- First, it was the Milwaukee Bucks. Now, another Central Division team has fancy, new practice digs to trump up as the 2017-18 season nears. The Indiana Pacers officially unveiled their new St. Vincent Center, which the team's players and coaches can't stop raving about. Clifton Brown of the Indianapolis Star has more:
Located across the street from Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the facility's features include two NBA-regulation courts, an enormous weight room, saunas, whirlpools, a video room featuring movie theater-style seats, a locker room, a player’s lounge and a training room.
With the team retooling its roster this offseason after trading Paul George, the organization wanted a practice facility that would set a positive tone for a franchise headed in a new direction.
“It’s a place that will encourage everybody to get better together, probably get to know each other a bit more, especially with a new team this year,” said center Myles Turner. “It’s top notch. I haven’t seen any one better. Phoenix had a pretty good one. Sacramento just got a new one, but ours has everything.
“It just shows that the Pacers are fully invested in their player development. They’ll do anything for us. Anything we want, anything we ask for, they’ll make sure it happens for us, as long as it goes toward building for the future.”
“Indiana is not a small market; it’s not a big market,” said team president Kevin Pritchard. “What it really is is a good market, and this (facility) matches the market. You’ve got the (Bankers Life) Fieldhouse which has aged perfectly, and is an elite place to play games. Now you have a training facility that matches the fieldhouse. Us and our relationship with St. V is going to be phenomenal.
“It feels like a little bit of an arms race, in terms of facilities and sports performance. Indiana is basketball; basketball is Indiana. You look at how competitive the league is, the way the salaries are going, the way the salary cap is. We want to make sure our advantage was taking care of players and sports performance.
“We want players walking in here thinking about a couple of things: One, how can they be their best? And then our coaches, how can they get the best out of our players? That was the thought behind designing this building.”
St. Vincent will provide care and treatment in the new facility not only for players, but for the public. The new facility will begin treating patients next week.
Many believe the Pacers are facing a rebuilding season, but McMillan thinks the practice facility will help a young team with many new faces.
“The timing is perfect for what we’ve gone through this offseason, all the change,” McMillan said. “Everything that they need to prepare themselves, and to perform during the season, is here. Once you come in here, you don’t want to go.”
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