Morning shootaround — Aug. 12


VIDEO: Steve Smith and Stu Jackson review the first day of Team USA mini-camp

Durant returns for Team USA | Lillard understands why Aldridge left Portland | Anthony a fan of Knicks’ offseason | Report: LeBron may participate in Wednesday’s practice | Markieff Morris wants trade from Suns

NEWS OF THE MORNING

No. 1: Durant returns for Team USA — Oklahoma City Thunder star and 2013-14 NBA MVP Kevin Durant hasn’t played in a basketball game since Feb. 19 when he was shut down for the season as he needed foot surgery. But word circulated yesterday that Durant would take part in some drills as Team USA holds its ini-camp in Las Vegas this week. Durant spoke to reporters after Tuesday’s mini-camp opener and says he’s feeling good and just happy to be playing again, writes our Steve Aschburner

Durant, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s All-Star forward and the NBA’s 2014 Kia Most Valuable Player, had been sidelined by a right foot fracture that required bone-graft surgery. He played his last game of the 2014-15 season on Feb. 19, limping into the sunset with more than a third of OKC’s schedule remaining.

While the Thunder sank in the standings and missed the playoffs, while head coach Scott Brooks got scapegoated and fired, while teammates Russell Westbrook won the scoring title and attracted MVP votes, Durant was left to recuperate, rehab and reflect on the game he loved and missed like never before.

“You remember Christmas as a kid? It’s like that,” Durant told reporters after Team USA’s first session Tuesday.

“I can go 100 percent. I’m not going to play 5-on-5 just yet, but everything else is no restrictions,” he said. “I’ve got to play against some guys to see. But I feel like I’m back to myself.

“I haven’t played since February. So of course, I’m human. I’ll go through a little bit of rust. But I think after two trips down, I’ll be all right.”

“You take it for granted a little bit,” he said of the game to which he’s devoted so many hours. “I missed the routine the most. Getting up, going to practice, getting my shots up before practice, I missed all that part. Hanging out with the guys in the locker room before the game, I think that’s what I missed the most. You can take that type of stuff for granted. I think I did and I learned my lesson.”

OKC trainer Joe Sharpe is one of three NBA trainers working with Team USA. That should reassure Thunder fans that Durant won’t overdo things even in this controlled environment. Besides, the 6-foot-10 forward doesn’t want to go re-setting his own recovery clock.

“It’s a long process, man,” Durant said. “I just tried to stay patient with it. … I have my days where I’m like, ‘Man, it’s not getting any better. I’m sick of working out. I’ve been working out for a year, I’m ready to play.’ … Feels good to stretch my legs a little bit.”

Durant, 26, said that his layoff has been made to feel even longer by the number of strangers or acquaintances who suddenly seemed interested — with him way less than 100 percent — in testing him.

“So many people been trying me though,” he said. “I walk down the street, everybody wants to play me 1-on-1. … The competitive juices are just boiling in my body and I’m just ready to play.”

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No. 2: Lillard understands why Aldridge left, hopes to be in Portland whole career — This offseason has been a unique one for Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard for a variety of reasons. First, he signed a five-year maximum extension with the team earlier this summer. Then, as the summer wore on, he watched as the Blazers starting lineup he knew — comprised of himself, Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews, LaMarcus Aldridge and Robin Lopez — was scrapped thanks to everyone but himself leaving via trades and free agency. In a chat with BasketballInsiders.com’s Alex Kennedy, Lillard discusses his new deal and Aldridge’s departure for the San Antonio Spurs:

Basketball Insiders: The Blazers have been very active this summer, adding Mason Plumlee, Ed Davis, Al-Farouq Aminu, Noah Vonleh, Gerald Henderson and Maurice Harkless among others. What do you think of the new additions and how they’ll fit alongside you?

Damian Lillard: “I like all of them. I’ve always been a huge fan of Moe Harkless. I really like Ed Davis. Overall, put all of them together, and I love the size and length and athleticism that they offer. Obviously all of them are younger, which means we can all grow and get better together. We’ll have time to get more familiar with each other and get comfortable with each other, so I like that part of it.”

Basketball Insiders: You signed a five-year extension with Portland this summer – congratulations, by the way. Lately, a lot of players have been signing shorter deals so that they can hit free agency again sooner. Why did you want to lock in the longest deal possible with the Blazers?

Damian Lillard: “First of all, as much as you want to have the greatest financial situation possible, I don’t play the game for money. I’m not trying to have a plan like, ‘Oh, I can make this much money and I can do this and this.’ I know right now I qualified for what I signed for and I know that I’m playing where I want to be playing at, and I know that the team I’m playing for wants me here. I think both sides just committed to another. It wasn’t about free agency and all those things like that. I don’t play that game.”

Basketball Insiders: I know Blazers fans were thrilled when you signed that deal. If all goes as planned, can you see yourself finishing your career in Portland?

Damian Lillard: “Definitely. I mean, I love it here. I love living here. I love the people here. This is just my kind of place. After growing up where I grew up, you just want to be in a nice, peaceful place. You want to be somewhere where people respect you and somewhere that you have built something. And I feel like I’ve built something great in my first three years here and I will continue to build on it. I consider this a second home. As long as they’ll have me, I’ll be here.”

Basketball Insiders: How much of an adjustment will it be not having guys like LaMarcus, Wesley, Nic and Robin around on and off the court? I know you were close with some of those guys.

Damian Lillard: “I mean, it’s definitely going to be an adjustment because you take a four-time All-Star out of the picture, you take a small forward who can do everything out of the picture, you take a shooting guard who is a lights out shooter and great defender out of the picture you take out a center who is as low maintenance as they come, who just wants to rebound, protect the paint and just cares about the team wining. You take guys like that away and of course everything changes. But like I said, the position we’re in, it’s all a part of growth. We just got to embrace that. Embrace the fact that the challenge is in front of us and this is what we’re faced with. We just got to step up to it like men and if it does work out, great; if it doesn’t go perfect, then that’s what it is. We just got to be ready to embrace the challenge.”

Basketball Insiders: Were you surprised to see LaMarcus leave to go to the Spurs?

Damian Lillard: “No, it didn’t surprise me. He spent nine years of his career in Portland. Last year we went to the second round, and this past year we lost in the first round and he’s at that point in his career where he’s thinking about a championship. Not that we couldn’t win it, but it’s not uncommon for a guy at his age to make changes for themselves and for what they want for their careers, so I wasn’t surprised by it at all.”


VIDEO: Watch every Damian Lillard dunk from 2014-15

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No. 3: Anthony a fan of Knicks’ offseason, denies talk he didn’t want Porzingis — A glance at how the New York Knicks fared in free agency shows they made several moves, but none of them were for a blockbuster free-agent name. Although the Knicks tried to land a big fish, that goal eluded them once again and, instead, recovered with a series of smaller moves. Star forward Carmelo Anthony, speaking at Team USA mini-camp in Las Vegas, says he had no problem with that strategy and insists that talk he didn’t want New York to draft forward Kristaps Porzingis is off base. ESPNNewYork.com has more:

“Honestly, I thought we did a great job just as far as putting the pieces that we need to put together,” Anthony said Tuesday at the Team USA minicamp in Las Vegas. “We didn’t get DeAndre [Jordan], we didn’t get LaMarcus [Aldridge] and Greg Monroe, but [Robin] Lopez is a great addition. Arron Afflalo, I played with him a long time in Denver. [Kyle] O’Quinn is a great pickup; I think guys will like him. He’s a big guy, power forward. Derrick Williams, we’re going to get him right. He seemed focused. And then rookies, KP [Porzingis], I had him with me last week working out at my gym. We’re just trying to start this thing off right.”

Asked about reports that he had reservations about the Knicks’ free-agent pickups and their decision to draft Porzingis, Anthony replied, “I never said that s—. Whatever rumors that you guys heard about me or about Phil [Jackson], about Porzingis, about anybody — it’s all false.”

On Tuesday, Anthony acknowledged that he would have liked the Knicks to add a star player this summer.

“You always want the top guys that’s out there. That’s anybody, not just myself … but I feel good about the pieces that we’ve got,” he said.

Anthony also had high praise for Porzingis, the 19-year-old Latvian big man drafted by New York with the fourth overall pick.

“He’s a down-to-earth guy, a humble guy,” Anthony said. “You can tell that he’s got a chip on his shoulder, which I love that. … You kind of have to have that being in New York.”

Anthony, 31, was asked about the notion that, by drafting Porzingis, the Knicks showed they are no longer building a team that will be ready to win while he is in his prime.

“When you look at the draft, you want somebody that you can develop right away. Porzingis is a guy who has some upside to him. Did we get one of the top three [draft picks]? No, we didn’t get one of the top three. Whoever we drafted, it was going to be an issue anyway,” Anthony said. “That’s just what happens in New York and the draft. But I’m good, man, mentally, physically, spiritually. I’m excited about the new team that we have and I look forward to leading them.”

Anthony added that he was “bothered” by reports that he was unhappy with the Knicks’ offseason.

“You know [why] I’m bothered about that? Because I haven’t said none of that. That’s why I’m bothered. It’s always speculation,” said Anthony, who is entering the second year of a five-year, $124 million contract. “I try to use the summer time to myself, get away from the media. Let you guys have your time … but then someway, somehow it always come back to me. I expect that. I don’t get mad at that.”

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No. 4: Report: LeBron may take part in Wednesday’s practice — Any players on the 34-man Team USA mini-camp roster looking to be a part of the 2016 Olympic Games must attend this week’s festivities in Las Vegas. Players such as Paul George of the Indiana Pacers are simply just attending and have been excused from drills. Then there are players like LeBron James, who is healthy but not expected to practice because, well, he doesn’t really need to. However, Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio News Group reports James may end up practicing today after all:

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James is reconsidering his initial plan of sitting out Team USA’s minicamp in Las Vegas this week, league sources told Northeast Ohio Media Group.

According to sources, James may partake in parts of Wednesday’s morning non-contact session at the campus of UNLV before heading back to Cleveland for a LeBron James Foundation event on Thursday.

He’s seriously contemplating joining the practice, one source said.

Originally the idea was for James to appear at the camp to satisfy requirements set by the Director of USA Basketball, Jerry Colangelo, for roster consideration in the 2016 Brazil Olympics.

Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks surprisingly decided to participate in a practice or two.

James, 30, has been mum on whether he’ll play for his country next summer. He has competed in three Olympics.

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No. 5: Markieff Morris demands trade from Suns — Roughly a month ago, the Suns traded Marcus Morris to the Detroit Pistons in a deal that netted Phoenix some salary-cap room and future picks. In the aftermath of the deal, Marcus Morris said he was never informed by Phoenix that he was being dealt. In addition to being traded, he was no longer teammates with his twin, Markieff Morris. The brothers enjoyed some success with the Suns — and some troubled times as well — but Markieff Morris is now saying he wants out from Phoenix, too. Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer has more on Markieff Morris’ demands and Marcus Morris’ thoughts on the Suns, too:

Markieff Morris wants out of Phoenix.

The Suns power forward said he feels disrespected by the way the team handled the July 9 trade of his twin and former teammate, Marcus Morris, to the Detroit Pistons. Now he is demanding a trade of his own.

The North Philadelphia native, who starred with his brother at Prep Charter and Kansas, is determined to be dealt.

“One thing for sure, I am not going to be there,” Morris said Tuesday after a morning workout at Competitive Edge Sports in King of Prussia.

“If you want to put that out there, you can put that out. ” he added. “I don’t give a [freak]. I am not going to be there at all. That’s just what it is.”

In September 2014, Morris signed a four-year, $32 million contract extension that kicks in this season. His brother signed a four-year, $20 million extension. The two settled for less money than they would have received as free agents in order to remain teammates.

If Markieff Morris refuses to play, the 6-foot-10, 245-pounder knows that the Suns can suspend him without pay if they’re unwilling to release or trade him. He is scheduled to report to training camp at the end of September.

“I’ve got to show up. No question.” said Markieff Morris, who is scheduled to make $8 million this season. “You can’t do that. I will be a professional. Don’t get me wrong.

“But it won’t get that far. … I’m going to be out before then, should be.”

Of the latest deal, Markieff said he’s not disappointed that the Suns traded his brother to the Pistons, where he is likely to get more opportunities to succeed. But he is disappointed in how the twins were notified.

They said they learned of the trade while on vacation out of the country with their girlfriends. Marcus Morris, Reggie Bullock, and Danny Granger were traded to the Pistons in exchange for a 2020 second-round pick.

“If you are going to do something, do it,” Markieff Morris said. “The GM, I’ve been there longer than him, the coaches, everybody. I’ve been there the longest, and I don’t get the respect to be like, ‘Yo Keef, we are going to trade your brother. You are our future power forward.’ I’m the future power forward. I’m the premier player of the team. … That’s just how business is done I guess.”

But as Markieff Morris sees it, this is one of many moves that turned a potential playoff team into a rebuilding squad.

“I can’t put my finger on it, honestly” Markieff Morris said of the Suns breaking up the team. “Stuff wasn’t that bad. Phoenix is trying to make it seem like people were in there just acting the [freak up. heck] no.  We had everything under control.

“They were trying to make it seem players weren’t getting along, we had a great time. When Goran [Dragic] was there, too.  Even though Goran wasn’t happy, we still had a great time. A lot of team chemistry we had all of that.”

And the twins don’t want anyone to believe that they’re only upset due to being split up.

“I’m a grown man,” Marcus Morris said. “I can stand on my own. I play on my own. It’s just the disrespectful side. What we did for the Suns, the pay cuts we took and for them to trade me without consent is what made me more disappointed and is what made me more upset.”

The bother feel betrayed due to being the leaders of the team.

“The voices we brought to the locker room and how we kept the guys together.  We were a passion of that team.

“And for them to not have the respect to call me and tell me that’s why we are going to trade you,  it’s just disrespectful.”

But he is ready to move on.

“As far as I’m concerned, I never was a Phoenix Sun,” Marcus Morris said. “It’s a new start for me. I’m ready to go. I’m ready to take care of business, expand my game and get the height I know I can get to.”


VIDEO: Marcus Morris is introduced as a member of the Pistons

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Former Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has ‘no regrets’ about his time with the teamPrayers and thoughts for Minnesota Timberwolves coach/president Flip Saunders as he battles cancer … A team in China may soon make former No. 1 overall Draft pick Greg Oden a contract offer

25 Comments

  1. Tk tan says:

    Hope kd can regain his mvp form. Then there will be no stopping okc. Westbrook is a genetic freak of nature with those hops. Please posterize Mr. Najis the malaysian Marcos like money grabbing pm who will soon be hounded out of the country he is ruining. Leave some nut juice for rosmah as well

  2. John says:

    I am so sick of all these overpaid whiners.
    You never had to work for a living. You disrespect those who have to, day after day. 32 million and complaining about disrespect ? Get a life.
    Play Basketball, do your job.

  3. Zangangapon says:

    Ignorant, immature and spoiled brats. That’s what these brothers are.

    Yes they have God-gifted talent, but apart from that they do nothing to hone it. I’d say the Suns should let him rot on the sidelines until he comes to his senses. Or just trade him to a team which will really whip him into shape, if Hornacek can’t do it.

    Hope they rot like their manners did.

  4. denny says:

    pacers need to jump on this a line up of :
    hill
    ellis
    george
    morris
    j.hill

    could be a nice starting 5 in the east

  5. Regarding Morris, I wish the Suns would “disrespect” me with a $32 million contract. He needs to shut up and play basketball.

  6. david says:

    thinking your missing all missing the point the twins sacrificed millions in an agreement so they could play together.. it’s a pretty fresh deal, and they got burned and traded them after they sacrificed i would say 4 yr at least 50 million for one, and other around 8 miiion per yr is what they would minimum at least got..so over 4 yrs they probably scarificed around 50 million, now this is why they are mad

  7. fashoom says:

    The Suns have basically given their team away. Do they think this is a fantasy league?

  8. dustydreamnz says:

    2. Damien Lillard has a good attitude, all power to him. Gonna be tough for the Blazers this year, anyway.
    3. I’m not sure the Knicks are on the right track but at least they’re trying things. If it’s broke, you gotta try something different and they are.
    5. There does seem to be a communication problem at the Suns, hopefully they can sort it out because they have the makings of a good team with Bledsoe, Knight, Chandler, Len etc.

  9. Andy says:

    If I said to my boss what Morris said to his I wouldn’t get a transfer, which is essentially what he’s asking for, I’d be fired. Sounds like he needs to learn some respect too.

    • Balbos (Balkan Boss) says:

      100% this: the Morris brothers aren’t Kobe, Dirk, KG – no “no trade clauses” present – they must have forgotten that this is a business.

  10. Neji Hyuga says:

    Dude you think the Morris twins apiece aren’t worth 8 Million a year then you don’t watch them play. Them cats got game and every year they got bigger and better they are underrated and was the centerpiece for Phoenix Basketball.

  11. Raptor4Life says:

    “Only Lebron has a right to through hissy fits,
    8 million a year for Markeef… seriously… what has this nba turned into…”

    Markieff *IS* worth 8 million a year in today’s NBA, and will seem like an incredible “bargain” by the end of 2016.
    There are already bench players making that kind of money for the upcoming season.
    Yes, this is what the NBA has turned into. Welcome to hyper-inflation. I don’t like it either, but it is only going to get more ridiculous!

    Why does LeBron have the exclusive “right” to throw hissy fits ???
    I thought he was an “employee” too….

  12. Lucas says:

    Hoping the cavs can use their trade exceptions to get in on maybe a three team trade involving the clippers?
    Clip get: Kief
    Cavs get: Crawford
    Suns get: Trade exception, 2nd round via cavs

    I’m sure there will need to be fillers to make math work, but I can see how all parties would benefit.

  13. M.Dalgart says:

    Re. Markieff Morris. Unfortunately, most professional Athletes in any Sports, knows, at any time they are suspect for trades.
    Teams very rarely tells players in advance, nor prepare them in advance. How naïve can he be? He knows it’s a Business,
    yet he failes to act professional about it. He said he can stand his own, yet shows his immaturity making ignorant comments.
    Should be Thankful that he has the God-given talent to go on, while making these obscene salaries in the NBA.

  14. xleanenergy says:

    If I’m the Suns, I’m not trading him…suspend his — without pay, and let him rot. I can’t imagine teams will be lining up to trade for that type of attitude….and premiere player? Really?

  15. Abdulrahman says:

    Dragic brothers left mad, Morris brothers left mad, good work Suns.

  16. RickJ says:

    You know, maybe the Suns felt disrespected when neither Morris would take direction from coach by adding up dozens of technical fouls and costing us games because of them because Hornacek had to bench Kieff for getting tech after tech. Then, maybe they felt disrespected when Marcus screamed at coach, then Markieff called the fans bandwagon and not supportive enough of the team at home games. Then, maybe the Suns felt betrayed when Kieff and Marcus decided to beat the tar out of someone at a bar. That’s a great way to say thanks to the team that did everything they could to keep you together and take a very good contract based on your level of talent and production to that point.

    • wow! I didn’t know that.. but yeah theres too much drama for the twins.. bled and knight are the faces of the franchise. and yeah maybe kief is a rising star. but the way these guys acting. they’re not worth it. just let them go. and what? let them play in nbdl or overseas.

  17. Franck says:

    booo hooo
    Seriously its a bussiness, get used to it.
    respect or no respect,
    I m sure his words were twisted by the media but come on.
    Get over yourself.
    too many players who think they are lebron.
    Only Lebron has a right to through hissy fits,
    8 million a year for Markeef… seriously… what has this nba turned into…

    • EPaul says:

      Agree! I think we’ve come to a point where we’re rewarding a bunch of man-children to continue acting like kids, bouncing balls for millions as other starve around the world!

    • Marcus says:

      But come on a little bit of communication would have been nice…
      Any player can *throw a hissy fit I don’t know Lebron isn’t above everybody if he was he would have won a ring 6 times but he won only 2 but you know the greatest player in the world does that…

    • Houston Fan says:

      Erm, T.T is trying to get 90mil/5yrs and your crying about 32mil/3yrs for Markieff?!

    • I agree with you, not the Lebron thing because I despise him, but he is acting like a millionaire baby, just think if he had a minimum wage job and had to work overtime/

    • kobefanforlife says:

      Dude they took less money with the agreement that they would remain on the team together…. I remember when they signed that was made public. Not only was it a bad move for the suns but it was unprofessional of the Suns to do it. The Suns as an organization will start to create a bad reputation with players and it will be harder to sign the best players because players want to play with player friendly organizations and bigger markets.