Morning Shootaround

Shootaround (Nov. 18): Kevin Durant says he has 'no attachment' to Boston

NBA.com Staff

Warriors ready for showdown with Boston | Lillard offers frank assessment of Blazers | Report: Barea out 6 weeks | Green wants to win DPOY

No. 1: Warriors, Durant prep for big game in Boston — As Kevin Durant went through his free-agency tour last summer, the Boston Celtics were one team flush with salary cap space that thought it had a more than decent shot of landing him. As it worked out, of course, Durant ended up with the Golden State Warriors. Still, there were some hurt feelings in Boston over the move and as the Warriors visit the Celtics tonight (8 ET, ESPN), Durant is ready for a chilly reception. Anthony Slater of The Mercury News has more:

This summer, for about a 24-hour period, the Celtics fanbase — or at least the most optimistic among them — convinced themselves that Kevin Durant, just maybe, was on his way to Boston.

Al Horford signed a day before Durant’s decision. Reports surfaced that the Celtics’ brass was optimistic. Was everything falling into place?

Nope. Durant decided to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder, but chose the Warriors, forming a highly-criticized superteam that takes its traveling road show to Boston on Friday night, spicing up an already intriguing cross-conference matchup on what’s sure to be a liquor-infused night in Beantown.

How does Durant expect to be received by one of the most rabid fan bases that, however irrational, perhaps feels a bit spurned by his summer decision?

“What can they be mad about?” Durant said. “I never played there, I never said I was going there. They’re going to support their team. It’s one of the best fan bases in the league. Top five, easily. So no matter who goes in there, they’re going to boo them. But I have no attachment to Boston at all.”

Golden State beat the Celtics in that thriller in Boston, but lost to them at home later in the season. Then this summer, a couple weeks after Durant’s decision, Celtics forward Jae Crowder, in an interview with Mass Live, called Durant’s move to Golden State “a slap in the face,” saying the Celtics had delivered Durant the secrets on how to beat the Warriors in their free agency pitch and he had taken those files to the enemy.

“We played him clips from both games and told him basically the scouting report of how we guarded Steph (Curry) and Klay (Thompson),” Crowder said. “Our game plan, basically. That’s what made me mad. We (expletive) told him everything we do to beat these guys and we beat them and he went and joined them. … Like maybe after you sit back, you shouldn’t have told him everything, but who the (expletive) thought he was going to Golden State, realistically?”

Crowder didn’t stop there, saying, of all the NBA teams, he was looking forward to beating the Warriors the most.

“That team is for sure the villain of the league,” Crowder said. “Every other NBA guy, friends of mine, are really disgusted from how the league is turning on that standpoint. Everybody is joining together. Everybody wants to go to Golden State or Cleveland.”

Asked this past Wednesday about those summer comments, Durant shook them off. He’s used to it. For months after his decision, former and current players railed against it, questioning his competitiveness.

“Nah, it don’t bother me,” he said. “All these guys that you ask the same questions, you know what you’re going to get from them. Why am I going to be mad about a guy who has an opinion? I respect all these players. If they don’t respect what I did, I can’t control that.”

“I got nothing but love and respect for Jae Crowder and how he approaches the game and how he plays,” Durant continued. “But we disagree on me coming here. That’s just how it is. It’s all good. We’re going to compete no matter what. That’s one thing, you can say a lot of stuff in the media or wherever you are, but we’re going to compete when we’re in between the lines. That doesn’t change anything.”

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No. 2: Lillard on Blazers: ‘We kind of suck right now’ — Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard is one of the best in the NBA at his position. He’s also a pretty honest guy about just about any topic and when asked about the state of his team after Thursday’s loss in Houston, he once again didn’t pull any punches. Joe Freeman of The Oregonian explains how communication issues and other problems continue to raise their head for the suddenly slumping Blazers:

After the Trail Blazers took another step toward mediocrity thanks to yet another beat down at the hands of a winning team, a frustrated Damian Lillard offered his harshest and perhaps most honest assessment of his team’s season so far.

“We kind of suck right now,” the All-Star point guard said. “It’s that simple.”

James Harden torched the Blazers with 26 points, 14 assists and 12 rebounds, recording his third triple-double of the season, and the Rockets blew open a 62-62 halftime nail-biter with a third-quarter onslaught, using a 38-21 edge to put the game away early. Outside of a solid outing from CJ McCollum (26 points, four assists) and some timely shooting from Moe Harkless (19 points on 8 of 12 shooting), the Blazers’ offense wasn’t anything to write home about. But it was their defense, yet again, that raised the biggest concerns.

The Rockets reached triple digits in scoring late in the third quarter and led by as many as 25 points. It probably would have been worse — Houston fell one-point shy of equaling Golden State’s season-high 127 points against the Blazers — but things got out of hand so early, Portland coach Terry Stotts emptied his bench with 5:39 left, prompting Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni to soon do the same.

The Blazers’ defense has been a mess much of the season, with issues ranging from shoddy pick-and-roll play to leaky transition coverage to inattention to scouting reports. The only consistency has been inconsistency. And it was more of the same Thursday.

Houston’s guards — Harden in particular — routinely blew past Portland’s perimeter defenders to create easy scoring chances for themselves or teammates, the Rockets swarmed the Blazers with fast breaks (25 points) and took turns punishing them inside (56 points in the paint) and out (14 three-pointers). And, in what should no longer be a surprse, the Blazers were yet against outrebounded (54-41).

All the while, the team that is so close and chatty off the court, continued to have communication issues on it.

“I think it’s just communication issues a little bit,” Harkless said. “A little bit of attention to detail. We’ve just got to keep our focus and execute on defense. We’re scoring enough. That’s not the problem. We’ve got to get stops.”

“We can’t get no worse, right?” Evan Turner said. “It’s got to go somewhere. Obviously, communication just has to pick up. As a unit, we just have to be accountable and, once again, draw the line with stuff. Just continue to take it more personal and draw the line. It’s not OK for teams to go on 10-0 runs or go on 15-0 runs. That’s never good.”

And, right now, neither are the Blazers.

It hasn’t helped that they’ve played the last five games without their best defender, Al-Farouq Aminu, who is sidelined with a strained left calf. His versatility and tenacity is vital to their defensive schemes and. But even with a healthy Aminu, the Blazers — who entered Thursday’s game allowing the second-most points in the NBA (111.3 per game) — revealed plenty of defensive holes.

As the Blazers shuffled out of the visiting locker room at the Toyota Center, bound for a Friday matchup in the second game of a back-to-back at New Orleans, they carried a noticeable feeling of frustration and anger with them.

“We’re just not very good right now,” Lillard said. “We’ve just got to keep fighting. It’s important for our team to stay together and I think that’s one of the biggest strengths of our team is we stay together. If we try to stay positive and we just keep working and keep fighting, I think at some point it’ll click. We’ll get it right and things will be fine. But I think everybody’s frustrated.”

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No. 3: Report: Barea to miss at least 6 weeks — Injuries and poor play have put the Dallas Mavericks at 2-8 this season and more bad news may be on the way for them. According to the El Nuevo Dia newspaper, point guard J.J. Barea — who is off to a career-best season — will be out at least six weeks with a left injury. ESPN.com has more on the report and what it means for the team:

In the midst of his best start to an NBA season, J.J. Barea said Thursday he will miss about a month and a half of action with the Dallas Mavericks due to a left leg injury.

Shortly after being evaluated by the organization’s medical staff, Barea spoke with El Nuevo Día and revealed he suffered a tear in a muscle connecting his left calf to his Achilles tendon.

Barea said he will need to rest for an entire month, adding that he will use a special walking boot for the next few weeks. Barea was hurt in Wednesday night’s 90-83 loss to the Boston Celtics.

“Thank God there is no damage to the Achilles tendon and no surgery is required. I have a tear in the muscle between my calf and the tendon. I will have to use a walking boot for two weeks and won’t partake in any physical activity for the next month. I estimate that I will be out for about a month and a half. It could have been worse,” Barea said, after suffering the noncontact injury while dribbling.

“The timing of the injury is horrible because I was playing the best basketball of my career, taking advantage of every minute. It’s a matter of resting and trying to return as quickly as possible,” said Barea, whose team is off to a 2-8 start.

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No. 4: Warriors’ Green driven to win Defensive Player of Year — Golden State Warriors All-Star forward Draymond Green is one of the most versatile players in the league, capable of double-digit totals in points, rebounds and assists. He’s also no slouch on defense and is capable of guarding a wide variety of players. Last season, he finished second to Kawhi Leonard in Kia Defensive Player of the Year voting and tells ESPN.com’s Chris Haynes he wants to end Leonard’s run on the award this season:

For the last two seasons, Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green has been the runner-up for the Defensive Player of the Year award behind San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard.

Personal accolades aren’t what Green is about, but that’s one elusive honor he desperately wants to obtain.

“That’s something that I want to win,” Green told ESPN in an exclusive interview this week. “And if there’s anything I’ve ever been selfish about, it’s that award. Like, I want that award.”

He’s eighth in the league in total blocks with 19, and his average of 1.7 blocks per contest is ninth. At 6-foot-8, he’s the shortest shot-blocker in the top 15.

Green also has a knack for takeaways, ranking fifth in steals with a 2.3 average.

“That doesn’t bother me to say I’m selfish in that regard. I want that award bad,” Green reiterated to ESPN. “And that’s because I view myself as a defender. It’s like if I view myself as a scorer then I want to win the scoring title. If I am a scorer and I say I’m a scorer and that’s what I do, I want to win the scoring title because it says I was the best in this year at what I do. So that is something that I want to win.”

During Wednesday’s game against the Toronto Raptors, in particular, Green put his defensive prowess on display.

Raptors All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry caught Green on a switch in the first half and elected to go isolation near the top of the key. Lowry dribbled in place before penetrating toward the goal with Green connected to his hip. When he elevated for a difficult layup attempt, Green swatted away his shot.

Not long after that, Lowry eluded Stephen Curry on the baseline and appeared to have a clear path to the basket. But Green left his man and sprinted over for a spectacular chase-down block.

He ended the night with 11 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocks and 2 steals. Green’s aggressiveness spearheaded a second-quarter defensive surge that limited the Raptors to 15 points in the quarter on 5-of-24 shooting (21 percent).

“He’s been great all year,” Kevin Durant said of his frontcourt teammate. “He sets the tone for us, defending, making the right play, being aggressive on the offensive end and defensive end. He’s just a basketball player. You can’t hold him to just one thing. He does it all.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Chandler Parsons is expecting the boo-birds tonight as he returns to Dallas … Joel Embiid has apparently registered the trademark for “The Process” … Former Atlanta Hawks standout Josh Smith put up 18 3-point attempts in a game in China recently … The entire Memphis Grizzlies office decided to do that weird Marc Gasol dance … Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who is part of the group trying to bring the NBA back to the city, says he wants to be part-owner of the team if it does return … Pat Beverley made his season debut for the Houston Rockets last night … Guard Patrick McCaw continues to impress on the Golden State Warriors …

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