NEWS OF THE MORNING
Durant responds to talk of him leaving OKC | Rivers explains why Clips covered Lakers’ banners | Report: Jazz, Hayward closing in on deal | Lakers concerned about Nash’s health | Report: Granger out opener
No. 1: Durant chimes in on chatter about his future –The ESPN tandem of Jalen Rose and Bill Simmons over at Grantland.com have been rattling through their previews of every team in the league. In the course of doing so, there was a one-off video in which Rose predicted that Thunder star Kevin Durant will leave Oklahoma City for another destination such as Washington or Houston. Durant sat down for a Q&A with Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman and responded to Rose’s prognostication:
Q: Did you hear what Jalen Rose said about the Houston thing?
Do you have any thoughts on that?
Nah, I’m here for the Thunder (laughs). I mean, that’s all I can say. I’m not thinking far down the line at all. It’s about today. Today we got better against the Chicago Bulls. I can’t tell the future. I can’t speak on that. That’s his opinion. I’m just going to keep playing for the Thunder. I love playing here.
People probably will continue to say that for the next three years.
How do you deal with that?
I mean, just let them know I’m not thinking that far down the line, I guess. I mean, I love my teammates. I love where I live. I love playing for this organization. So I’m just taking it a day at a time.
No. 2: Rivers explains why Clips covered up Lakers’ banners — When Doc Rivers announced in the preseason that the Clippers would be covering up the Lakers’ championship and retired-player banners at Staples Center during Clipper home games, it drew quite the response. From current Lakers player (and Los Angeles native) Nick Young to Lakers and NBA fans everywhere, the opinions — both positive and negative about the move — were flying around the NBA universe. So what led Rivers to make the banner move? He explains it during an interview with the Los Angeles Times‘ Melissa Rohlin:
Lakers fans have yet another reason to groan at the thought of Boston.
A Boston guy came up with the idea of covering the Lakers’ championship banners and retired jerseys at Staples Center during Clippers games, according to Clippers Coach Doc Rivers.
Here’s how it went down.
“Last year when the Clippers were blowing us out, obviously I was sitting there with Eddie Lacerte, our trainer in Boston, and he taps me on the leg and says, ‘Look at that,’ ” Rivers said before Wednesday’s preseason game against the Utah Jazz.
“I didn’t want to look at anything at that point, we were down by 30 points, and I look up and you see all the banners. He said, ‘Man, I would never have that.’ This is what Eddie said. And I thought ‘Well, he’s right.’ Again, the Lakers can blame a Boston guy.”
Rivers said that since the Clippers announced the move, he’s received mostly positive feedback.
“The other day I was in a drug store and a Laker fan said, ‘I can’t believe you covered up our banners, but I was always wondering why you hadn’t done it in the past,’ ” Rivers said.
“It’s the Clipper court and that’s the way we feel. Again, it’s not a disrespectful thing at all, it’s not intended that way at all, it’s more that when we play our game it should be about us and only us.”
No. 3: Report: Hayward, Jazz working on extension — Last week, the Jazz locked up big man Derrick Favors with a multi-year extension and appear to be on course to do the same with swingman Gordon Hayward. ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reports that the sides are discussing the finer points of a deal that they hope to have worked out before the Oct. 31 deadline for teams to offer extensions to eligible players:
The Utah Jazz, with less than a week to go before the league deadline, remain in talks with swingman Gordon Hayward on a contract extension, according to sources close to the process.
The Jazz have already struck a deal with big man Derrick Favors and have until 11:59 p.m. on Halloween to come to terms on an extension with Hayward or see the player widely regarded in Utah as the next face of the franchise become a restricted free agent in July.
Sources told ESPN.com that Hayward remains likely to land an extension before the deadline, with negotiations expected to pick up in pace this weekend after the team returns from a weeklong road trip in Southern California.
Official numbers on Favors’ extension obtained by ESPN.com show that 2010′s No. 2 overall pick received a four-year deal that guarantees just over $47.7 million. Sources indicate that Hayward’s deal could still wind up higher than Favors’ contract, given the strong interest leaguewide in the former Butler star and the fears in Utah that Hayward would attract even more lucrative offer sheets in free agency from rival bidders next summer if he gets that far.
Five players from the 2010 draft have received extensions since July 1. Washington’s John Wall and Indiana’s Paul George landed five-year max extensions that are expected to exceed $80 million. Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins received a four-year max extension worth in excess of $60 million. And Milwaukee’s Larry Sanders, similar to Favors’ range, scored a four-year deal worth $44 million.
Other 2010 draftees besides Hayward who remain alive for deals before next Thursday’s deadline include Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe, Memphis Grizzlies forward Ed Davis and Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley.
No. 4: Lakers wondering if Nash will be healthy all season — In his first campaign as a member of the Lakers, point guard Steve Nash‘s season was limited to 50 games as various injuries sapped him of playing time. He entered training camp healed from the injuries of last season, but as he’s worked himself into shape, there are growing concerns amongst some of the Lakers that Nash may not be healthy all season again. ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Dave McMenamin has more on the Lakers’ concerns about their No. 1 point guard:
After giving his 39-year-old body some time to rest during the summer, Steve Nash has been walking a fine line all preseason of trying to round into shape without pushing too hard and risk falling back into the cruel injury cycle that sabotaged his first season with the Los Angeles Lakers.
With the regular season set to tip off in less than a week, some of Nash’s teammates are starting to wonder when, or even if, they’ll have the full services of the surefire Hall of Famer in their lineup this season.
Coach Mike D’Antoni brought it up first after the team’s exhibition game against the Sacramento Kings in Las Vegas, suggesting that Nash would be in and out of the lineup all season. Pau Gasol followed this week, saying he was “concerned” about Nash after the point guard played only 15 minutes in the Lakers’ win over the Utah Jazz, sitting out the second half because of a neck injury.
“Steve hasn’t been able to complete a practice yet, so that’s the bigger issue,” Gasol said of Nash, who is averaging just 3.5 points and 3.5 assists in 16.7 minutes per game in the preseason, sitting out one of the exhibition games altogether. “I’m a little bit concerned because I want him to be healthy, I want him to play. I want him to play and I want him to do well. I want him to help us. I hope that he can.”
D’Antoni said Nash was able to make it through a full practice Thursday but cautioned that he could hold Nash out of the preseason finale Friday in Anaheim.
The Lakers aren’t necessarily lost without Nash — they have two viable backups at point guard in Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar — but there are intangibles that are hard to match from the former two-time MVP.
“We’ll just try to manage it as best we can,” D’Antoni said. “But we did add Jordan Farmar, who is going to give us a lot. So, we’re trying to cover our bases a little bit. But, again, you don’t substitute a Nash or a Kobe or Pau. They’re still going to have to carry a lot of the load.”
Nash recognizes there are capable players behind him, but he doesn’t look at it as a preferred fallback plan.
“I think the luxury is there, but that’s not my mentality,” Nash said. “Definitely, we’re in good hands with three point guards. I’m not going to give an inch, but at the same time, our team does have that luxury.”
Nash is admittedly having to teach himself to adjust to life as the oldest player in the NBA.
“It’s a different stage in my career,” Nash said. “I used to be able to get out, run up and down and feel like a world-beater every day, and now I have to try and get myself into some sort of form to try and execute for my team. It’s a different frame of mind. It’s a different challenge, but like I said, I’m up for it. I’m positive about it, I feel optimistic, I’m inspired by my teammates and I’m going to keep pushing through.”
No. 5: Report: Granger likely out for Pacers’ opener — Fans in Indiana have to be hoping they’re not looking at their own version of the Derrick Rose saga with their own hobbled star, Danny Granger. Rose missed all of last season as he recovered from ACL surgery despite at times teasing Bulls fans with the prospect of his return. Granger missed all but five games last season as he dealt with lingering knee issues. He played in five of the Pacers’ seven preseason games, but has been troubled by a strained calf and is expected to miss the season-opener against Orlando, writes Michael Pointer of the Indianapolis Star:
Danny Granger’s return to the Indiana Pacers likely will be delayed a bit longer — although no one knows exactly how long.
Pacers coach Frank Vogel said after practice Thursday that the strained calf suffered by Granger last week is worse than previously thought and he doubts the former All-Star forward will play in the team’s regular-season opener against Orlando on Tuesday.
The calf strain, suffered Oct. 16 against Dallas, is not directly related to the knee injury, but Granger has not practiced for more than a week and Vogel is concerned that has kept the knee from being as strong as it needs to be.
“That could be what makes this more than a day-to-day thing,” Vogel said.
Granger refused to rule himself out for Tuesday, however.
“That’s why we keep saying ‘day to day.’ ” he said. “They’re kind of bringing me in to see how I’m feeling, so I don’t know.”
Granger had been the Pacers’ leading scorer for five consecutive years before last season. He is in the final year of his contract. Entering camp, he was in a close battle with Lance Stephenson — who replaced him in the starting lineup — for the fifth starting spot this season.
The setback with the calf ensures Stephenson will start, Vogel said.
“We’ll see where Danny is as he heals and that could change down the road,” Vogel said. “If Danny was healthy and playing great, and Lance is healthy and playing great, I could see stretches throughout the season where Lance was starting, and I could see stretches where Danny is starting.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Sixers have parted with troubled forward Royce White … The Grizzlies’ Tayshaun Prince lost 12-15 pounds due to a stomach illness … Bulls star Derrick Rose has some advice for Russell Westbrook as the OKC guard continues his rehab … Al Jefferson expects himself to be ready for the Bobcats’ season opener … John Wall‘s shooting stroke has taken a bit of a step back in the preseason …
ICYMI Of The Night: For a four game night, we had a ton of fancy dishes from Kyle Singler (to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope), James Harden (to Chandler Parsons) and Will Bynum (to his favorite target, Andre Drummond). But our favorite is this nice little behind-the-back number on the fast break from Draymond Green to Klay Thompson.