NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Durant, Clippers’ Jordan share deep bond — In just about every sense of the word, the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors are rivals in the NBA. With Kevin Durant moving from Oklahoma City to Golden State this summer, that rivalry takes on added spice as the Clippers were one of the teams attempting to woo him. Yet despite the added aspects to that rivalry, Durant and Clippers center DeAndre Jordan remain as close as ever. Michael Lee of The Vertical details that bond as he catches up with the pair of Team USA teammates in Rio:
“If I were to get married today, he’d be in my wedding,” Durant told The Vertical about Jordan. “That’s how it is. That’s my brother.”
Numerically, Durant and Jordan were bound to be attached at the hip at some point during these Olympic games. Number 5 and No. 6, respectively, in your program for Team USA, the tallest players on the roster – don’t bother looking at the height listings in your program – are always side-by-side during the pregame introduction and national anthem.
But they have also been almost inseparable off the floor since the games began. They were seated next to each other, pumping their fists and cheering, and using their cellphones to record Michael Phelps collecting a couple more gold medals. They’ve joined teammates on trips to the Ipanema Beach to play volleyball, to Copacabana Beach to watch volleyball, to Olympic Stadium to see Usain Bolt scorch the track and to the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue to admire one of the world’s great wonders.
The newest Golden State Warrior and the longest-tenured Los Angeles Clipper are proving that players from those hated rivals can get along. It helps that they’ve been friends almost a decade – beginning when Durant failed in recruiting Jordan to Texas, growing stronger a few years ago when Durant decided to make Los Angeles his offseason home and continuing through now, as they try to bring a third consecutive gold medal back to the United States.
When relayed Durant’s comments about being in his whenever wedding, Jordan nodded and told The Vertical, “For sure, he’s going to be in mine.”
Durant first met Jordan shortly after he committed to Texas and tried to convince Jordan, who was a year younger, to join the program. Jordan wasn’t swayed because he had little confidence they’d ever be college teammates, and signed with rival Texas A&M.
“I said, ‘Why would I come there, when you’re going to leave after your first year?’ He said, ‘No, I don’t think I’m going to leave. I think I’m going to stay.’ And I was like, ‘I don’t know.’ He said, ‘I’m telling you.’ And obviously, you know what happened,” Jordan told The Vertical with a laugh. “Ever since then, we’ve been really, really cool and he’s one of my best friends in the world.”
This summer, Jordan was on the other end, heading up to the Hamptons, along with Steve Ballmer, Doc Rivers, Blake Griffin and Lawrence Frank, to make a recruiting pitch for Durant to join the Clippers. “I tried every day,” Jordan told The Vertical. “We had a shot. And if you ask him, he’d say we had a shot. People can be happy for him, mad at him, but at the end of the day, he did what was best for Kevin, and he can live with that.”
In addition to hanging out with Durant, the Olympics have also given Jordan the chance to connect with players whom he’d always viewed as the enemy. Those differences have been put aside in pursuit of a similar goal, quarrels that become more difficult to maintain once those guys have been to your home, dining on your mother’s cuisine. Before leaving for Brazil, Jordan invited his Olympic teammates over for dinner at his mother’s home in Houston.
“Six months ago, I never would’ve thought I would’ve invited Draymond [Green] to my house,” Jordan told The Vertical, adding that his relationship with Durant had no influence on befriending the other Warriors on the Olympic team. “Once you’re around these guys you realize, ‘Oh, they’re cool.’ Before, I only looked at Draymond as Draymond who played for the Warriors. We always clashed. So, now that we’ve been together for over a month, it’s been amazing. We hate each other during the season, but it’s bigger than those two teams. Winning a gold medal, representing your country. We don’t even think about that anymore. Which is crazy. I’m happy to be playing with these 11 guys and we’ll be bonded for life after this.”
With Griffin missing most of last season with a nagging quad injury and a broken hand from a fight with a former team employee, Jordan was able to earn some of the appreciation he has long sought when he made first-team All-NBA despite never making the All-Star team. “I could care less about the All-Star team now,” Jordan told The Vertical. “Yeah, I really don’t care about it anymore. I’d rather go on my week vacation, to be honest. And being an Olympian, and potentially a gold medalist, that’s better than that. It’s cool to be appreciated and highly valued by your peers. That, to me, is the biggest thing.”
Durant believes the recognition was long overdue. “As a basketball player, you an appreciate what someone like him does, he sets screens, does all the small things, rebounds, blocks shots, talks out there, he’s an anchor on defense,” Durant told The Vertical. “If you’re really into the game of basketball, you can really appreciate him. That’s why he’s paid like a max player, because the Clippers know what he brings and how he helps the team. He helps everyone win.”
Fom the Donald Sterling fiasco, to Paul and Griffin both getting injured in a first-round loss to Portland last season, the Clippers haven’t been able to catch many favorable breaks, but Jordan is undeterred.
“Every team goes through ups and downs, and some dark times, but you’ve got to keep fighting through and find a way,” Jordan told The Vertical. “That makes for a better story for me. This is my ninth season, and I definitely want a chance at winning something that’s never happened before, with the Clippers. It’s big. I want a chance at the title.”
Jordan said there wasn’t any more urgency to win next season, simply because Paul and Griffin can both become unrestricted free agents in the summer of 2017. “They’re both extremely talented players,” Jordan told The Vertical. “I believe whatever decision they make is going to be a great decision. I’m not worried about it right now. I don’t expect it to be a distraction during the season. I can’t speak for them, but at the end of the day, they’ve got to make the best decision for themselves and their families. Whatever happens, happens.”
No. 2: Report: LeBron, Cavs plan to workout together in September — The Cleveland Cavaliers are just a few short months away from officially beginning their defense of their first NBA championship. While camps won’t officially open until sometime in late September, superstar LeBron James has plans to do what he has done the last two seasons — host a team workout in Los Angeles. Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com has more:
LeBron James will host his annual pre-training camp workouts for his Cavaliers teammates in Los Angeles in September, multiple sources told cleveland.com.
Since James returned to Cleveland in 2014, he’s gathered the Cavs to prepare for the upcoming season with a series of informal workouts that typically start around Labor Day. Last year the workouts were in Miami, where James filmed a documentary chronicling his personal preparations for what ended up being a championship season.
In 2014, the workouts were in Independence, where the Cavs practice near James’ home in Bath Township. Hosting the sessions in Los Angeles this summer makes sense – that’s where James has spent most of his break, living in his new, $21 million Brentwood mansion.
Many Cavs players and coaches – including Kevin Love and coach Tyronn Lue – has spent the summer in southern California. Most if not all Cleveland players are expected to attend James’ workouts, including Kyrie Irving, who will likely attend despite playing this summer for Team USA in the Rio Olympics, according to a source.
Cavs support staff can also attend the workouts and are making plans to be in Los Angeles in September, another source said. Lue is bringing back all but one of his assistants from last year’s team. Many, if not all, could be hanging around in L.A. next month.
The Cavs’ first practice of actual training camp is Sept. 27.
The pre-camp workouts James hosts are not uncommon in NBA circles, but Cavs players have nevertheless pointed to them as tone setters for the season to come – both of which ended in the Finals.
The question now is whether J.R. Smith will be there. Smith, like James and Cavs center Tristan Thompson, is represented by agent Rich Paul. James, in fact, just signed a three-year, $100 million deal to return to the Cavs last week (though his return was guaranteed). Unlike his last two contracts with the Cavs, this one has a no-trade clause, a source said.
Like Thompson last summer, Smith is a free agent and remains unsigned.
No. 3: Lakers’ Young making peace with Russell — One of the key storylines in Lakerland last season came at the end of the season after rookie D’Angelo Russell used social media to broadcast a conversation with teammate Nick Young that was thought to be private. The aftermath of the incident created an uncomfortable situation for both players as well as the team at large. Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News recently caught up with Young, who says he is trying to move on from the situation:
Uncertainty hovers over Nick Young regarding his future with the Lakers. His personal life also has played out like a soap opera on celebrity gossip sites.
Despite that backdrop, Young walked out of Los Angeles Southwest College on Sunday evening bearing his signature smile. The reasons went beyond helping his Drew League team secure a playoff victory that ensures another postseason appearance next week.
Young also seemed at peace surrounding an incident that fueled frustration throughout a taxing 2015-16 season. Young maintained he no longer harbors animosity toward Lakers second-year guard D’Angelo Russell, who secretly recorded Young on his phone admitting to infidelities with rapper and former fiancee Iggy Azalea. When the video accidentally became public late last season, Young was not initially receptive toward Russell’s efforts to apologize.
Young has since dismissed concerns on whether he could coexist with Russell, who represents a significant part of the Lakers’ young roster.
“We’re teammates,” Young told the Southern California News Group. “It’s been so long, so it’s kind of old.
“We’ll be able to work it out. We’ve already been working it out. It is what it is. I can’t be mad forever.”
He averaged 7.3 points last season on a career-low 33.9 percent clip. Young and Azalea then announced this summer on social media they had broken up.
Young sounded uncertain whether the Lakers will buy out his two-year contract worth $11 million before training camp starts in late September.
Young indirectly outlined reasons for the Lakers to consider giving him another chance. He reported devoting plenty of his offseason toward improving his strength and conditioning. After clashing the past two seasons with then-Lakers coach Byron Scott about his public criticisms and role, Young sounded thrilled about Luke Walton’s subsequent hiring.
“It’s a breath of fresh air for me,” Young said of Walton, who spent the past two seasons as a Golden State Warriors assistant. “Luke is a big-time coach and came from a championship team. I think I have the tools that we can use as a shooter.”
Young added he sensed “good vibes” after talking with Walton a “couple of times” about his possible role. But does that mean the Lakers might plan on keeping Young?
“I left the conversations feeling good. But at the end of the day, I don’t know,” Young said. “We’ll see. I hear so much. You don’t know what to believe.”
No. 4: Report: Grizzlies tried to sign Teodosic — Serbian standout Milos Teodosic remains one of the more solid playmaking guards in international play. In the 2016 Olympics, he’s averaging 11.4 points and 5.0 assists as Serbia will take on Croatia in the Olympic quarterfinals tomorrow. But what about an NBA stop for Teodosic? According to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, one NBA team tried to lure him over to the U.S. a few years ago:
The Memphis Grizzlies tried to sign star European point guard Milos Teodosic in the summer of 2013, but the architect of Serbia’s near-upset of Team USA at the Rio Games rebuffed that chance to come to the NBA, according to league sources.
Sources confirmed to ESPN that the Grizzlies offered Teodosic a two-year deal in the $5 million range in an attempt to lure him to the NBA.
But Teodosic elected to sign a contract instead with CSKA Moscow that has one more season remaining. His current deal has no NBA outs, so the summer of 2017 is the earliest that Teodosic would be a free agent.
Yet there figures to be strong NBA interest in the 29-year-old when he does become available again after Teodosic has shown yet again in these Olympics that he is as good as any player not currently playing in the NBA.
“As good a player, as good a guard, as there is in Europe,” Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
Asked last week by ESPN if he still has NBA aspirations, Teodosic was non-committal, saying “that’s not up to me” and, when pressed, adding that it was his goal “a long time ago.”
But there is a belief in league circles that Teodosic will indeed explore his NBA options next summer.
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