Morning Shootaround

Shootaround (Nov. 4) -- Kevin Durant knows he can't escape 'ghost of your past'

NBA.com Staff

Durant reflects on Thunder showdown | Lue confident James could average triple-double | Green upset over reason for techs

No. 1: Durant takes business-like approach to Thunder showdown — Undoubtedly, the build up for Kevin Durant’s return to Oklahoma City as a member of the Golden State Warriors in January will have immense build-up and chatter. But his game last night in Oakland against the Thunder wasn’t exactly an evening at the library. As talk raged before and during the game about how Durant would react to facing his old team, his old running mate Russell Westbrook and more, a different vibe emerged once the game began. Michael Lee of The Vertical has more:

For nearly five months, Kevin Durant has been a reluctant villain, a failed fence-mender and a repeated explainer – so much more that he never wanted and couldn’t quite understand, all because he chose to play basketball somewhere else. But when the Oklahoma City Thunder came to town on Thursday, Durant’s former team finally allowed him to simply be a Golden State Warrior.

Durant had already played four games in the uniform and experienced the hate that his presence in blue and gold has yielded. But there is something about showing up to an arena, where familiar faces reminded him that he is now the enemy – either by mocking him through cryptic clothing choices or trash talk rooted in too-close-for-comfort familiarity – that can make moving on that much easier.

The emotion Durant thought would be overwhelming, the nostalgia he thought would be distracting quickly dissipated. He hadn’t come to reminisce on an eight-year run with a city and a nine-year overall run with a franchise; he came to handle his business and leave all of that behind.

“Those eight years, you can’t erase. You’re always going to have the ghost of your past, just always lingering around,” Durant told The Vertical after scoring a season-high 39 points in the Warriors’ 122-96 victory. “It’s something I’m never going to forget. Something that’s never going to go away. I’m just trying to move forward, look forward, but also realize how important the past was and that formed me into who I am today. I’m not throwing that part of my life in the trash. But now I’m on to something new, trying to keep growing in this situation, trying to keep getting better overall, as a basketball player, man, everything. Just keep moving forward, that’s the most important thing in my life.”

Whatever mental edge Westbrook tried to hold over Durant, or that he has held in the aftermath of Durant’s crushing departure – from posting photos of cupcakes on Instagram, to taking veiled swipes in commercials – were all moot because the Thunder were simply overmatched.

Oklahoma City still has talent. Westbrook remains one of the game’s most dynamic players, and has a chance to contend for MVP if he can drag this inexperienced crew into the postseason. But Durant left a hole the size of Chesapeake Energy Arena with the Thunder – one that won’t be replaced – and a pain that will only heal, if ever, in time. Right now, it all seems too raw, too soon for reconciliation. And no matter how many times Durant tries to make right the exit he wishes was executed better, no words or actions will bring back that love. He’s gone now. He belongs to someone else.

“I wouldn’t say I was defensive, just trying to be delicate with the organization I was with, the fans. I know they’re super emotional and upset about it,” Durant told The Vertical. “When I talk, I also want to be considerate of the fan base here. So it’s kind of hard to juggle everything. I’m only human. I’ve made mistakes. Definitely some things I would relax on, and think about more, than what I did. But for the most part, I don’t have any regrets. I learn from every situation. And my heart was always in the right place, so whoever doesn’t believe it, that’s on them. I know where I’m at with that.”

Before the game, Westbrook and Durant both attended chapel to hear a message entitled, “Called by God.” The first time they shared a room since Durant sent Westbrook a goodbye text message wasn’t much for reconciliation or sentimentality. Those in attendance said the two players acknowledged each other’s presence but didn’t interact, even as Westbrook was first to leave the room, towel covering his head, and Durant followed, hoodie swooped over his head.

Enes Kanter, who had some amusing reactions to Durant’s defection last summer on Twitter, started spouting off the mouth from the bench late in the second period. But he only seemed to inspire more fury, both in Durant’s feisty words and explosive, inspired play. Afterward, Durant burned Kanter some more.

“How many minutes did he play? Three minutes. I’m trying to focus on whoever is on the court. He’s trying to talk to me on the sideline. I’m sure he’s going to put something on Twitter,” Durant said. “I know those guys over there, and they know me. Trash talking is part of it. If you talk, I’ll talk back. I don’t really say much, but if you start it, I’ll finish it. It was a fun game. No ill will. It’s a part of playing. Talking trash is part of the game. We leave it on the court.”

Durant’s new teammates were prepared to have his back, knowing how much the game meant. But instead, Durant put his teammates on his back with a cleansing performance, displaying that while he has been uncomfortable with the reaction to his decision, he has always been secure with continuing his career with Golden State. The overreactions and second-guessing of his every move have been unnerving but Durant isn’t concerned with creating some cartoonish, superhero persona.

“We are real people,” Durant told The Vertical. “And I’ve learned in life, it’s easier for me when I act like I don’t have everything together. I can’t come out and just act like I’m super tough all the time, or have this huge shell up. Because I’m in this environment more than I’m with family, friends. So it’s easier for me when I own up to who I am, my flaws, my insecurities, portray it, get better from it and inspire someone who is feeling the same way and don’t want to show who they are. It’s a great space to be in at this age.”

“Everything is not perfect always, but when you’re in your good space you can deal with things better,” Durant told The Vertical. “It’s not even about who I play for. It’s not about how many points I score. But when you start to figure out yourself, what you like and not caring what other people got to say, it’s a good space and I hope everybody gets there.”

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No. 2: Lue: LeBron could average triple-double ‘if he wanted to’ — Few players in the NBA today or in NBA lore at large boast the multi-skilled prowess LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers possesses. With career averages of 27.2 points per game, 7.2 rebounds per game and 6.9 assists per game, James is always a triple-double threat. According to his coach, Tyronn Lue, James could do what Oscar Robertson once did — average a triple-double for a season — if he felt like it. ESPN.com’s Dave McMenamin has more:

his season, he could achieve something that hasn’t been done by any NBA player in 54 years: average a triple-double.

“I think he could if he wanted to,” said coach Tyronn Lue before the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 128-122 win over the Boston Celtics on Thursday.

James had 30 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds against Boston to bring his season averages to 22.4 points, 10 assists and 9 rebounds through the Cavs’ 5-0 start. He started off the season with a triple-double on opening night (19 points, 11 rebounds, 14 assists). It was the first time James did that in his 14 seasons in the league and the first time any player did it on an opening night since Jason Kidd in 2006.

The one and only player ever to average a triple-double for a season was Oscar Robertson in 1961-62, when he put up 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists for the Cincinnati Royals.

James claims he did not set out to average a triple-double when he was putting together his goals for the season on his cell phone, something he does at the start every year.

“It’s not on there and I never thought it would be possible again after obviously The Big O did it, but if you see the game today, you see guys like [Russell Westbrook] and what he’s doing every night and I’ve come close a few times this season,” James said. “I don’t know if it’s just more possessions or guys are just in the right place at the right time, but it’s not something that I’ve typed down [in my phone]. But I’ve always told you guys I want to be a triple threat for my team every night and that’s scoring, rebounding and definitely getting my guys involved, and if it results in that then I’m fine with that.”

James’ teammate Kyrie Irving, who would hypothetically have to work off the ball more than he’s accustomed to in order for James to reach the requisite assist mark for the stat, didn’t rule it out.

“Anything’s possible, man,” Irving said. “Anything’s possible. As you see, he can do amazing things out there, so anything’s possible. Especially for that guy.”

Robertson was asked last week about the possibility of Westbrook, not James, averaging a triple-double by The Oklahoman, the newspaper based in Oklahoma City, and he did not shut the door on the possibility.

“I first will ask this: Why do [people] think he wouldn’t do it?” Robertson told the paper. “It’s not impossible. I think he has all the tools to do it.”

Robertson added that he felt like rebounds are the toughest category to secure — as James’ and Harden’s early averages would suggest — but conceded he thinks “it can be done” and that “I thought it would have happened sooner.”

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No. 3: Green frustrated over why he’s getting techs — Golden State Warriors big man Draymond Green is one of the most talented (and emotionally charged) players in the NBA. He’s off to a slow-ish start this year stats wise (9.2 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 2.0 bpg) compared to last season, but is racking up technical fouls in the early season. In a candid chat with The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears, Green thinks he’s being T’d up for simply showing emotion on the court:

Green told The Undefeated after the Warriors’ 122-96 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday that he received an unwarranted technical foul for screaming in excitement after a dunk by teammate Kevin Durant. Green also believes he was accessed an unwarranted technical foul for screaming after a dunk of his own during a season-opening loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Oct. 25.

The fifth-year NBA veteran said he is confused as to whether he will be able to yell in excitement for anything that happens in games going forward.

“I got two techs this year for yelling, ‘Ahhh’?” Green told The Undefeated. “At this point, do I need to wear a mask? Am I allowed to show emotion on the floor? That’s who I am. I play with emotion.

“I love this game, so I’m going to show emotion. But if you yell, ‘Ahhh,’ after a dunk … I’ve never seen anyone get a tech for that.”

He accumulated 12 technical fouls during the 2015-16 regular season. The 2016 All-Star was also suspended for Game 5 of the 2016 NBA Finals after accumulating his fourth flagrant foul point of the postseason when he hit Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James in the groin.

With his technical troubles in mind, Green said he has made a point not to speak to the referees this season.

“At a certain point, you kind of get a reputation and you’re judged off that reputation,” Green said. “I think I’ve gotten a reputation for arguing calls. That’s what I got techs for [last season]. I understand that. Now I don’t argue calls, so why am I getting techs for yelling?”

Green has not received any other technical fouls this season for the Warriors (4-1), who next face the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday.

“I look forward to getting an explanation on the first and the second one,” Green said. “You can’t yell after a good play? So I’m looking for an explanation for both. I think they both should get rescinded. They said I was disrespecting the referees.

“All right, I’m not talking to them no more. But now you want to give me a tech for yells? It’s not like I’m standing in someone’s face yelling.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Utah Jazz big man Boris Diaw is likely to miss two weeks with a right leg contusion … ICYMI, here’s the latest edition of Shaqtin’ A Fool … Jerry Colangelo is stepping down as USA Basketball chairman, and here’s who might replace him … Brooklyn Nets guard Jeremy Lin (strained hamstring) out at least two weeks … Denver Nuggets showed some good resilience in defeating the Minnesota Timberwolves last night … Speaking of the Wolves, they continue to be baffled by third quarters …

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