NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Durant praises LeBron’s move, stays mum on own future — With LeBron James returning to his hometown of Cleveland over the summer, there’s been some buzz in the NBA world about whether or not Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant will pull a similar move come 2016. Durant will become an unrestricted free agent that summer and there’s hope among some in his hometown of Washington, D.C., that he’ll perhaps sign with the Wizards. ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Ramona Shelburne caught up with Durant during Team USA’s practice in Las Vegas:
Kevin Durant made a point not to ask his friend LeBron James any questions. He gets enough of those already. Besides, James answered just about every question asked of him with the letter he penned in Sports Illustrated, in which he explained his decision to leave the Miami Heat and come home to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
But Durant did reach out to congratulate James soon after he announced his decision.
“I thought it was well-thought-out. It was classy. It was a great move to do it as a letter,” Durant said after a training camp session with USA Basketball on Tuesday. “That was pretty cool. It’s funny seeing guys think about more than just basketball for once. He thought about the city where he comes from, about Northeast Ohio and how he can affect so many of the kids just being there playing basketball. I love that. So many guys get criticized for making the decision that’s best for them, instead of what’s best for everybody else. He’s a guy that did that. You gotta respect that. I applauded him, I texted him and told him congratulations on the decision and told him I was happy for him. As a fan of the game, it’s going to be pretty cool to see him back in Cleveland.”
Asked Tuesday if he might make a similar homecoming when he can become a free agent in two years, Durant said that was too far in the future to discuss in a serious way right now.
“I’m going to do what’s best for me,” Durant said. “It’s hard to talk about that right now when I’ve got two years left in Oklahoma City. I’m just going to focus on that. I’m not going to make a decision based on what anybody else does. I grew up watching the Bullets/Wizards. I grew up taking the train to that arena, all the time, to watch Georgetown, the Bullets, the Washington Mystics. That whole city is a part of me. It’s in my blood. I love going back home, seeing my family and playing there, but I love Oklahoma City too.”
Still, the speculation is hard to escape. Durant said he went home this summer for a family reunion but didn’t go out much. Asked if that was because he’s constantly asked about coming back to the D.C. area someday, Durant smiled and laughed.
“Look, we going to put it out on tape,” Durant said. “It’s been talked about. Everybody’s asked me about it every time I go on Instagram or Twitter. All my friends ask me about it. So I’m not going to sit here and act like I’m naïve to the fact that people think about that stuff. But I just tell everybody that I’m here in Oklahoma City, [and] I love it here. Who knows what will happen? I never close the door on anything. But I like where I’m at right now, so I can’t answer that question.”
No. 2: Report: Relationship between Suns, Bledsoe nearly ‘irrepairable’ — If you missed it yesterday, our Jeff Caplan spelled out some of the issues that might be keeping the Phoenix Suns and rising star guard Eric Bledsoe from agreeing to a contract. According to Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com, the relationship between Bledsoe and the team might be deteriorating fast as the two have trouble ironing out a deal:
According to league sources, an “ominous development” has arisen with sides still “very far apart” in contract negotiations. It has even escalated to the point where the “relationship is on the express lane to being ruined,” a source with knowledge of the situation informed CSNNW.com.
The Suns offered Bledsoe a four-year, $48 million deal with declining salaries each year, two sources said. That proposal was quickly turned down. Bledsoe’s camp is putting a max price tag on the player Suns Head Coach Jeff Hornacek called “a Top-10 player in the NBA in coming years”, another source said.
Phoenix has made it known publicly and repeatedly that they intend to match any offer sheets competitors issue out to Bledsoe. This tactic has succeeded in scaring away any potential suitors so far. However, the effort by the Suns to undermine Bledsoe’s market is what has angered Bledsoe and his reps and led to a standoff in which the relationship is now on the verge of being irreparable, we’re told.
Other teams that are/were in the process of dealing with their own restricted free agents (Utah, Detroit, Houston) chose not to use the public scare tactics this summer, another factor that has Bledsoe feeling chilly at the thought of a return to the desert, a source said.
No. 3: Parker glad he took summer off — Much like his San Antonio teammate Manu Ginobili, Spurs guard Tony Parker has more often than not had busy offseasons participating in international basketball with his home country of France. But like Ginobili — who was recently advised by the Spurs to not participate in the FIBA World Cup — Parker took the summer off and also won’t be in the FIBA World Cup this summer. The time off has been just what Parker hoped it would be, writes Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News:
It is Tony Parker’s first full summer off in four years, and he is taking full advantage.
The six-time All-Star recently returned to San Antonio from a jaunt to Las Vegas. He’s got another trip planned to an undisclosed destination with his fiancee and infant son Josh, followed by a visit to France before the Spurs begin training camp in October.
“It’s great,” he said Tuesday during his appearance at the Spurs’ summer basketball youth camp. “I’m enjoying every moment, having a lot of fun.”
But there’s also a bittersweet twinge, knowing that France has begun preparations for the upcoming FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain without their captain, who begged off international duties for the first time since 2010. Parker played a total of 27 games for France over the previous three summers, including last year’s championship at EuroBasket 2013 for his country’s first major title.
So as much as Parker would love to be with Les Bleus getting ready for the World Cup, he’s more than happy to have some time off.
“Obviously it’s always tough to see my teammates start without me,” he said. “It feels like my second family is playing right now. But I have to be smart. I think it’s the right decision for me, for the Spurs if I want to play a long career. I want to play two more summers (with France) and then I’ll be done.
“I think for all those years, being with San Antonio, (Spurs coach Gregg Popovich) has always been great with me and the national team. I felt like this was a summer I can give back to the Spurs.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Dan LeBatard‘s radio program tried to buy a LeBron-bashing ad in The Plain Dealer … It’s likely we’ll see Cavs vs. Heat on Christmas Day … The Mavs may end up signing Rashard Lewis after his knee surgery is done … Metta World Peace could be closing in on a deal with the Chinese Basketball Association … Ex-Pistons reserve guard Peyton Siva will sign an unguaranteed contract with the Magic … Hawks forward Mike Scott might be closing in on a deal with CSKA Moscow … Former Knicks star Earl Monroe thinks New York can be a top-four team in the East this season … Arron Afflalo hopes to take on a leadership role with the Nuggets this season