Shootaround (Feb. 17): Steve Kerr mum on how he'll play Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant
No. 1: Kerr won’t say if Westbrook, Durant will play together — The first half of the NBA season is officially in the books and the festivities at NBA All-Star 2017 in New Orleans are rolling now. That being said, the question on most folks’ minds is whether or not Golden State’s Kevin Durant and Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook — former Thunder teammates until last summer — will play at all on the court in Sunday’s All-Star Game. Western Conference All-Star squad coach/Warriors coach Steve Kerr refuses to tip his hand about that, writes Marc Stein of ESPN.com:
“I’ve definitely considered it,” Kerr told ESPN Radio on Thursday.
“The only thing that you have to do as a coach in the All-Star Game is to parcel out the minutes. That’s it. You don’t draw up any plays. At least I don’t; I didn’t two years ago.
“So we’ve got to figure out the minutes, and I have thought about it, and I’m not going to share it with you here today.”
Kerr, Durant and Warriors All-Star guard Stephen Curry all sat down Thursday with ESPN Radio for interviews that will air Saturday at 5:30 p.m. ET.
Said Durant of the inevitable media focus looming in New Orleans as he and Westbrook become teammates again for a weekend: “Everybody loves drama, man. It feels like we’re in a big soap opera. A reality TV show. So many people want to know about our relationship, or a phone call, instead of worrying about the game, which is the most important thing. And I’m sure both of us and the rest of the players feel the same way.”
Kerr previously had said there would be a point in Sunday’s game when all four Warriors All-Stars — the others being Draymond Green and Klay Thompson — would be on the court together.
Asked Thursday who he’d like to see Kerr choose from the West squad to team with the quartet, Durant said with a laugh: “Haven’t thought about that one. I know that’s the million-dollar question. Whoever he throws out there, man, I’m sure it’ll be fun.”
Curry said the player most likely to act as an icebreaker this weekend is Green, because “he’s going to come in and just probably crack jokes and do something real loud and make it a locker room scene.”
Green told ESPN on Thursday that he’d welcome that role.
“I definitely look forward to being an icebreaker in a situation like that,” he said. “You know, we’re All-Stars. Steve Kerr is coaching the All-Star Game, and everyone has earned the opportunity to be an All-Star. I don’t think you take any tension, if you will, or anything from the regular season into an All-Star locker room. At the end of the day, you’re 12 guys who have earned a right to be an All-Star in this league, which we all know it’s not easy. There’s a lot of great players in the league.
“I don’t pay attention to all the hype — Russell Westbrook is in with the Warriors. Yeah, he plays for OKC. We play for the Warriors. However, we all play for the West this weekend.”
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No. 2: Cousins hoping to sign extension with Kings — Just about a month ago, a report surfaced that the Sacramento Kings and their All-Star center, DeMarcus Cousins, were working on a max-level extension that would keep him around for a long time. Cousins doubled-down on that notion during an interview with ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne and sounded resolute in the idea he will be a King for many years to come:
DeMarcus Cousins says he intends to sign an extension with the Kings this summer, because he wants his “legacy to end in Sacramento” and his “jersey to be in the rafters in Sacramento.”
In an interview with SportsCenter on Thursday, the All-Star center said he considered Sacramento to be his home after seven years in the NBA.
“I’m very happy,” Cousins said. “It’s where I want to be.”
“I think we’re on the right path this season,” Cousins said. “We’re playing the best basketball of the season so far. Our team is extremely confident. We believe we can make this push and make it happen. We’ve been preaching it all year. It’s on us to make it happen.”
Cousins acknowledged the trust issues that have hurt his relationship with Kings management in the past but said he has found a way of dealing with it.
“I’m a guy that’s all about loyalty and honesty,” he said. “It’s hard, but at the end of the day you gotta remember that this is a business. Your expectations can’t be too high when it comes to trust and loyalty. I realize that. I know it’s a business. At the end of the day I’m not always shocked. It still catches me off guard sometimes, but I’m not shocked.”
Whom does he trust?
“I trust my circle. My family, my friends. [Former Kentucky teammates] John Wall and Eric Bledsoe,” he said. “[Trust] is hard to come by. It’s a rare quality these days. You’re not going to find a lot of loyal people. These days it’s all about self. When you can find those people are all about the next person and showing love no matter what the next situation is, you gotta keep them close.”
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No. 3: Report: Simmons’ foot may not be fully healed — Just yesterday word came down that Philadelphia 76ers coach Brett Brown is expecting No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons to play sometime this season. That came days after Brown made it sound like Simmons might not play, so which one is true? According to Keith Pompey of Philadelphia Inquirer, Simmons hasn’t suited up yet because his injured foot may not be fully healed:
Now we have a better idea why Ben Simmons hasn’t played yet for the 76ers.
The first overall pick in the draft last summer is scheduled to visit the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York next Thursday to determine if his right foot is fully healed, according to several sources.
Sources said that a CT scan on Jan. 23 showed that his foot was not fully healed.
Sixers president Bryan Colangelo addressed the report on Thursday.
“We continue to monitor the recovery of Ben’s injury and are employing a conservative and thoughtful approach to his rehabilitative program, basing his return to full basketball activity on the advice and direction of medical professionals,” Colangelo said in a statement. “His next CT scan is scheduled for February 23, after which our medical team will thoroughly review and evaluate his status moving forward. Ben’s long-term health remains our primary concern.”
Sources said in October that the injury would sideline Simmons for only about three months, in which case he would have returned around January.
A source reiterated that the lack of full healing is not a result of the on-court drills in which Simmons participates. However, the Sixers have held him out of five-on-five scrimmages for fear of further injuring the foot.
The Sixers have said that they wanted him to participate in four to five scrimmages before he plays. But only 26 games remain in the season. So if the doctor isn’t comfortable about where Simmons is in the healing process, his ability to scrimmage would most likely be further delayed.
At that point, the Sixers might decide that it’s not worth playing him this season because of the possibility that he’ll reinjure the foot. With a Jones fracture, there’s a higher probability of refracturing the bone compared with a Zone 1 fracture, also known as an avulsion or “chip” fracture.
Simmons would join Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid as recent Sixers players to miss their entire rookie seasons with injuries if he remains sidelined.
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No. 4: Perkins attempting NBA comeback — Kendrick Perkins made his bones in the NBA as a defensive-minded big man, call-it-like-it-is teammate and solid role player on just about every team he was on. Perkins, who hasn’t played in the league since April 13, 2016, says he’s waging a comeback and had thoughts to share, too, on the Russell Westbrook-Kevin Durant dynamic. Darnell Mayberry and Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman have more:
Q: What’s going on with the comeback attempt? You still trying to get back in it?
A: I’m still trying to get back in. I’ve been working two-a-days over the last couple of months. Just been going hard. Got a couple of calls, just a few teams say they want to start trying me out and working me out before the free agency’s over with. So, just trying to get back in and see what it do. One more push.
How are you feeling physically?
I feel good. I’m light. Weight down. I been training hard, so I’m just ready to get back to work.
Is there a certain place that you feel like you fit?
I feel like I fit here. From me walking in the facility earlier (Wednesday), all the love and stuff that I got and then coming here tonight, and then after talking with Sam and Mr. Bennett, you just know that it’s genuine. It ain’t like I got that many options that I can just pick and choose, but I feel like this would be a good place.
Is something in the works?
I don’t know. I don’t know. You know Sam. He keeps stuff private, even from me. Even if it is, I hope so.
What do you miss the most about it?
You miss the camaraderie with your teammates, the competitiveness. I think that’s mainly it right there.
Obviously the whole thing that happened here Saturday, we wanted to get your thoughts on that. I have to ask about the cupcakes. Being the guy who originated the term, what were your thoughts as you watched that Saturday night?
Man, it was crazy. It was different. But at the end of the day, it’s part of it. This was KD’s first time coming back after he made his decision, so you knew it was gonna happen. I ain’t know it was gonna be to that extreme, but, like they say, it’s a thin line between love and hate. So at the end of the day, he made his decision and he knew what was gonna happen when he came back, but he’s all right with it. It happens, and I think he was just ready to get it over with.
Were you surprised he went to Golden State? A lot of people around here were surprised not necessarily that he left, but that he went there of all places.
I was. I was surprised. I thought maybe if he would have left, I thought he probably would have ended up back in D.C. or maybe even with the Spurs. That move, it surprised me just like it surprised everybody else. But like Kevin said – when I talked to him, he said he made a decision that made him happy. Obviously the Golden State Warriors must have made him feel wanted, like they wanted him. They must have done a hell of a job recruiting him and he just made a decision for himself. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he be back here in the near future.
One last thing about their relationship, him and Russ. You told Adrian Wojnarowski that it’s sad for you to see that, you hate that it’s come to that. What do you think it’s gonna take for those guys to get back to what they had?
I don’t think it’s a real beef there. I think it’s just more so maybe feathers being ruffled, just feelings being hurt. I don’t think either one of them got hard feelings. I done been around them for going on four, five years – numerous group messages to dinners to card games to whatever – and I know both of them really care about each other. And I think more so it’s the outside world that kind of blow it up and keep adding fuel to the fire. If you look back on it, either one of them never commented and said nothing negative about either one of them. I think in due time, they’ll mend. I was just talking to Russ, and Russ don’t have any hard feelings toward KD, and KD feel the same way. So I think in due time, they’ll get back on point where they’re talking again and get that relationship back.
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