Blogtable

Blogtable: Biggest team turnaround with new coach?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Thoughts on away-from-play rules changesBiggest turnaround with new coach?Incoming rookie destined for NBA stardom?


> Which team is poised to have the most dramatic jump in winning percentage next season: Tom Thibodeau’s Timberwolves, Scott Brooks’ Wizards, Luke Walton’s Lakers, Dave Joerger’s Kings, Nate McMillan’s Pacers, David Fizdale’s Grizzlies, Jeff Hornacek’s Knicks, Mike D’Antoni’s Rockets, Frank Vogel’s Magic or Kenny Atkinson’s Nets?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Thibodeau’s Timberwolves will improve the most. No one coaches harder in the 82-game regular season, and Minnesota’s three youngest core players — Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine — would naturally take a step or two in their development under almost any coach. Combine that, along with a pretty easy act to top (29 victories in 2015-16) and I’m expected an improvement of 10-15 games.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comThe 17-win Lakers have the most room to work with, but the Lakers are also the farthest away. Frank Vogel’s solid defensive base will make the Magic jump if they can sort out the sudden glut of big men. But I’m making it a two-team race for biggest improvement. The Grizzlies and David Fizzle with a healthy Marc Gasol should go from 42 back to their customary 50-plus level. But I’ll give the nod to Minnesota. All that young talent combined with Thibs’ defensive chops will have the Wolves howling with a possible leap from from 29 to 40+ wins.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comLuke Walton’s Lakers, but in large part because they have the most realistic room to grow. It’s not hard to see L.A. adding 10 wins based on the energy of the coaching change, the experience D’Angelo Russell and (basically) Julius Randle didn’t have last season, the arrival of Luol Deng as a veteran presence and the addition of Brandon Ingram in the Draft. Ten wins is close to a 60-percent jump. A lot of the other options you mention will improve — Minnesota, New York, Orlando — but the Magic, for example, aren’t going to be 60-percent better in the standings. They will have more wins than the Lakers, just not a bigger increase.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: I’ll say the Lakers only because they were mostly dreadful and won just 17 games. Only one way to go, and if they win 30, which is somewhat realistic, that almost a 50-percent jump. Can’t see anyone else in this group pulling that off (where are the Sixers?) But again, it’s a backhanded compliment to the Lakers, who if nothing else should be exciting to watch even in defeat.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: The Wolves are going to the playoffs next season. Tom Thibodeau will have them improve at least 10 spots in defensive efficiency, where they ranked 27th last season. The development of their young players — along with, hopefully, Zach LaVine playing a lot more shooting guard than point guard — should have them improved offensively as well. Karl-Anthony Towns is the league’s next star and should do well with his first summer of work after finding out what the league is all about. He could make a huge leap.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: As entertaining as I believe the Minnesota Timberwolves could be under Tom Thibodeau, I’m going to have to go with Luke Walton’s Lakers. They’ve got as much ground to gain (in percentages and raw numbers) as any team in the league, given their dreadful performance last season and the fresh new look they’ll have under Walton. David Fizdale’s Grizzlies, however, will go into the season as my potential surprise team in the Western Conference (provided they have a healthy roster to work with), where things could shift dramatically with all of the changes that have occurred in free agency.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comThe Timberwolves may reach the playoffs next season because of Thibodeau, who will hasten their development defensively and turn their athleticism into a force. D’Antoni has a history of elevating the value of his players and the Rockets appear to be in the mood to rally around him after embarrassing themselves last year.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogI don’t know if there is a “most dramatic” winner out there. Scanning past those names, I don’t see any one team that immediately jumps out at me and looks like sudden a title contender. If I had to pick one, I’d pick a team in the East, where improvement may be easier to come by, and say either the Knicks (if they are healthy, which is a gigantic if) or maybe Frank Vogel’s Magic show in Orlando.

Blogtable: Incoming rookie that’s destined for NBA stardom?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Thoughts on away-from-play rules changesBiggest turnaround with new coach?Incoming rookie destined for NBA stardom?


> Based on the very small sample size that we call Summer League, which incoming rookie is a can’t-miss, bonafide NBA star in the next 2-3 years?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comIt’s hard not to see stardom for Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons, based on his play in Las Vegas as well as the greater likelihood for a guy picked No. 1 overall. But I’ll include Boston’s Jaylen Brown because, hey, I saw Brown actually get a “star” whistle from one of the referees late in a summer game. Down the stretch against Milwaukee, I think it was, some very questionable contact was adjudicated in his favor. Brown’s floor game was impressive, his above-the-rim game packed some intimidation. He averaged 22 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 3.6 steals in his final three appearances.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comThere’s no reason to doubt No. 1 pick Ben Simmons. He has the talent, the flair and seems to want to embrace the challenge of resurrecting the once-proud Sixers franchise.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: There isn’t one. Obviously a lot depends on the definition of “star,” but Ben Simmons has the best chance. He is not a can’t-miss star until he gets a jumper, though, and teams are forced to play him for something other than drive and pass. Simmons has a chance to be special in time, especially when (if) the 76ers give him some scorers to pass to.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comThe answer is “none” in terms of being a star (my definition of “star” is stingier than most) in such a short amount of time. I will give the edge to Ben Simmons, who’s able to impact games without scoring many points. He has such a special skill-set, which won’t be fully realized until he gets better teammates to pass to in Philly. Oh, and a special shout-out to Tyler Ulis. It’s astonishing to me why some NBA general managers drafted Eurostash in the first round over this kid. He can play. Forget the size. And he’s gonna make those GMs look foolish.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Based on the extremely small sample size, I’m buying Kris Dunn stock. He’s got the edge to his game that I think translates and he’s going to be in an incubator in Minnesota with several other youngsters who are already locked in and headed for big things during the same time span. That entire young cast — led by Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and one of my personal faves Zach LaVine — should give Timberwolves fans plenty of hope for the immediate future now that the Thibodeau program is in place.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comBased on the accelerated development of Kawhi Leonard, Dejounte Murray looks like the next young star for the Spurs. Though he was the No. 29 pick, Murray has the length, athleticism and instincts for scoring and playmaking that can enable him to take over for Tony Parker — so long as he embraces the program.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogWell, Ben Simmons was the best rookie in Summer League and one of the best players overall, so I’d say you have to consider him the leader. There were other rookies who I thought were impressive, such as Brandon Ingram, and I also really like Jamal Murray‘s game. But those guys probably need some time to develop. Simmons can play right now against anyone you put him out there against. And the Sixers are going to be pretty great to watch because of it.

Blogtable: Thoughts on the NBA’s away-from-play rules changes

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Thoughts on away-from-play rules changesBiggest turnaround with new coach?Incoming rookie destined for NBA stardom?


> Last week the NBA announced some rules changes for away-from-the-play fouls. Do you think these changes went too far, didn’t go far enough, or were just right?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comDid not go far enough. This was clearly a compromise, trying to satisfy the players-need-to-make-their-free-throws purists as well as the this-is-unwatchable critics of “Hack-a-…” tactics. It will cut down on the number of incidents but it won’t eliminate it. I’m not a big fan of different rules for different parts of the game. So I’m hoping what we get in the final two minute of each period now, we’ll soon get for all 48 minutes.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comI’m fine with it as long as guys like Isaiah Thomas, Chris Paul, Ty Lawson, Darren Collison, D.J. Augustin, Aaron Brooks and J.J. Barea get to use a step-stool because the basket is too high. And now that I think about it, Dwight Howard should also be permitted to shoot at a basket that is twice as large in diameter all throughout the game because, in addition to his horrible free throw shooting, he also can’t make any kind of shot more than 2 feet from the basket. To paraphrase a famous cartoon character: “Let’s make the NBA dumb again.”

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comJust right. The rule change they got especially right was the automatic for jumping on a player’s back. That’s very reasonable. But altering the away-from-the-play fouls to the final two minutes of every quarter, as opposed to just the fourth period, is a good step. Adopting the D-League rule of every minute of every quarter would have been an option, but also an extreme move. I still say there is no need for that dramatic of a move to address three or four players. Let’s start with this and re-assess.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Just about right. I cringe at the idea of making rule changes just because a small sampling of players can’t perform one of the more fundamental facets of the game. And so the league essentially made a compromise of sorts. It’s going to be good enough for some people, and not enough for Jeff Van Gundy.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comNot far enough. An intentional foul is an intentional foul, no matter when it occurs in the period. And on other levels of basketball, it’s penalized with free throws and possession. Away from the play intentional fouls, as well as intentional fouls meant to stop a fast break, should be penalized as such. And with the latter, we can get rid of the time-wasting and confusing clear path rule.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: The rules changes feel as close to just right and reasonable as we’re going to get for fundamental flaws that plague a select few players in the league. I never like to see a league legislating for the few at the expense of the masses, but I agree that something had to be done. With all of the time players spend in the gym in the offseason, I just wish certain guys would fine-tune their free throw shooting mechanics so no one would have to tweak or change the rules.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comI disagree with the fundamental point of view. This little issue is not about whether players can or cannot make free throws. As I see it, these are fouls against the spirit of the game. If you wish to commit a foul cynically, away from the play, then you are committing a foul against the game. Your cynicism should not be rewarded. These fouls are not committed in the spirit of basketball. And so when a coach acts cynically, he should be punished: The other team should retain control of the ball after one or two free throws.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogWell, I was firmly in the camp of not wanting anything to be done, because I felt like changing the rules was in some way rewarding/protecting the small minority who can’t make free throws. So considering the size of the change that was announced, maybe it’s just right? Although part of me suspects if teams really want to Hack-A-Whomever, they’ll figure out a way to do it. I am particularly interested to see how Mike Budenholzer adjusts to it, since last season he used it several times against teams like Detroit to grab a lead, and now he’ll have Dwight Howard on his own team.

Blogtable: More surprising move — Durant to Warriors or Wade to Bulls?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: More surprising move: Durant’s or Wade’s? | Your lasting memory of Duncan? | Assessing Duncan’s meaning to Spurs?


> More surprising move: Kevin Durant leaving the Thunder to join the Warriors, or Dwyane Wade leaving the Heat to join the Bulls?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Wade leaving Miami after 13 years was the bigger surprise. Durant’s decision wasn’t entirely unexpected (although I was in the majority of folks who thought he would re-up with OKC on a short-term deal). But Wade taking his business with the Heat into the street struck me as a leverage ploy rather than an actual disintegrating relationship with Pat Riley & Co. Given the Bulls’ slide toward irrelevancy before they landed him, it makes sense that Chicago provided a comfortable landing spot for Wade and gave him the Kobe Bryant Golden Parachute contract for all he’d done … for a rival team?

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Wade to Chicago, for sure. Because it just doesn’t make sense. I’m not talking about leaving Miami or anything to do with his legacy. I just don’t know what the hell they’re doing in Chicago and don’t see how this move makes the Bulls better. First time Wade’s legs act up, all the homecoming good feeling goes right out the window.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Wade leaving the Heat. Durant’s move is more rim shaking for the league, but was an option all along, even if what seemed to be a slight one at times. Wade taking a one-way ticket out of South Florida never seemed like a real possibility, though, maybe because he had been there about as long as the Everglades and maybe because there had been previous July staring contests with the Heat and everything worked out. They needed him there and he wanted to be there. The same thing would happen this time, right? Wrong.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Wade leaving the Heat isn’t as seismic as Duncan leaving the Spurs prior to retirement, but close. Few players identified more with a city than Wade with Miami, and I’ll even say Wade, three titles later, is the No. 1 athlete in South Florida history, ahead of former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino. But he did the Heat a favor. Pat Riley didn’t want to tie up three years on an aging star. Riley’s allegiance is to owner Micky Arison, the guy who signs the checks, not Wade. So there are no bad guys here. Riley did what he had to do while Wade looked out for himself, even if he left Miami for just $3 million, the difference of his 2-year deal with Chicago and what Miami offered (no taxes in Florida).

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: As shocking as Kevin Durant’s move to Golden State might seem to some, the rumors of the two sides eying each other in free agency cranked up last summer. Dwayne Wade leaving the Miami Heat for his hometown Chicago Bulls was much more surprising, especially when you consider his final season in a Heat uniform. Wade was fantastic, vintage Wade even, as he guided the beat down Heat to the Eastern Conference semifinals. It’s hard to imagine either side wanting things to end the way it did. He’s one of those players you figured would finish his career with one team, a practice of yesteryear it appears in today’s free agent climate.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: I always, always thought Wade would remain in Miami — that both sides would see the bigger picture and come to yet another contractual understanding for one another’s benefit. But it’s less and less that kind of world anymore. Which really puts Tim Duncan’s career with the Spurs into perspective.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: Wade to Chicago. While I suspected Durant was likely to stay in Oklahoma City and was rather surprised to hear he was leaving, I don’t think most people even believed a Wade departure was anywhere near the table. In many ways, Wade *is* the Miami Heat, and his departure over a few million dollars is shocking. The Thunder haven’t even been in Oklahoma City all that long, but the Heat and Wade have won titles and made real history together in South Florida, a relationship which is now literally history.

Blogtable: What is your enduring memory of Tim Duncan?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: More surprising move: Durant’s or Wade’s? | Your lasting memory of Duncan? | Assessing Duncan’s meaning to Spurs?


> Spurs great Tim Duncan retired on Monday after an illustrious 19-year career. What will be your lasting memory about Duncan?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comTempted to say his incredible ability to play all those games, log all those minutes and win all those titles in San Antonio without ever committing a personal foul. At least that’s how it looked, given his wide-eyed reaction to every whistle against him. But I’ll play this more straight and go with Duncan’s bank shots. Those backboards that we stare at and through in NBA arenas are there for a reason, and no one in the past 20 years put them to better use. His turnaround jumper off the glass is as much a lasting image and patented weapon for him as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar‘s sky hook, Dominique Wilkins‘ slam-back or Stephen Curry‘s 28-footers.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Sheer professionalism, willingness to do anything for the team and an eternal image of that sweet, old school bank shot.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: How much the nickname fit: “The Big Fundamental.” Duncan was so sound in almost every way. Offense. Defense. Attitude. Keeping himself ready to play, consistently reaching the high-70s in games. His grounded personality and understated style of play while others preferred trash talking and antics was the ultimate in dependable production speak for itself.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comI’m not sure I’ll see another superstar like Tim Duncan in my lifetime, in that he made so many sacrifices: money, ego, etc., for the sake of the franchise. He played for one coach in 19 years and allowed himself to be coached. He also used the glass constantly — nobody does that. My lasting memory is really an invisible memory. He didn’t take a retirement tour, nor did he hold a press conference to say good-bye. He was a ghost. In this era of look-at-me stars, it was so refreshing, so perfect … so Duncan.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: There are so many memories of Duncan that flood your brain now that we know his playing career is over. He piled up so many specials games that it’s not even reasonable to choose one from the thousands. But the thing that sticks out to me is the way he handled himself, win or lose, on the biggest stage. The anguish on his face after the Spurs lost to the Miami Heat in The 2013 Finals and then the pure joy he wore a year later when the Spurs avenged that loss and won what would be the last title of his illustrious career will always resonate with me. For a guy who always did his best to keep his emotions bottled up, it was interesting to see him in both instances during the twilight of his Hall of Fame career. The contrast, from one the all-time greats in any sport, was something to see up close and personal.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: When Duncan missed the layup near the end of Game 7 of The 2013 NBA Finals, he was never more sympathetic. The reason that image defines him is because he refused to give into it. He increased his focus, the Spurs followed his lead as always, and one year later they were playing to the highest level of championship basketball that many of us have ever seen. Duncan’s professionalism was unmatched.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogOf course, there are dozens of on-court memories of Duncan that I share with millions of other NBA fans. But as someone who has had the good fortune to spent some time with Timmy, I also have off-court moments that come to mind, and one in particular that I think speaks volumes about the type of person that Duncan is away from the game. About five years back, Duncan had agreed to sit down with me for a one-on-one interview when the Spurs were in New York City. Duncan suggested I come to a Spurs shootaround the morning before a game and spend some time with him following the shootaround. So I showed up and waited and waited, until every single player finished and left to return to the hotel. Finally, the last person to leave was Duncan, who walked out drenched with sweat, hustling to board the last bus back the hotel. Duncan saw me and asked if I would mind postponing our interview until that night at the game. It was at this point I reminded the greatest power-forward of all-time that in the midst of the whirlwind of the NBA season, perhaps he had forgotten that it was Valentine’s Day, and I had long-standing plans to take my wife out to dinner that evening. But it was fine, I said: This was my job, and if Duncan wanted to talk that evening, I would be there. Duncan said no. He grabbed his phone and asked me for my number, and a few days later, Duncan called and did the interview over the phone during some of his personal time off. It was a small gesture, but to me it was demonstrative of exactly many of the personal traits which made Duncan so great: empathy, self-awareness, sacrifice. Also, it made my wife really happy, so there was that.

Blogtable: Assessing Duncan’s meaning to Spurs?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: More surprising move: Durant’s or Wade’s? | Your lasting memory of Duncan? | Assessing Duncan’s meaning to Spurs?


> Has any NBA player meant more to a franchise than Duncan has to the Spurs? How about any pro athlete, in any sport?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comDuncan and the Spurs are inseparable, based on longevity – one player, one team, one coach over 19 years?! – but I’d go with Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics for everlasting impact on a franchise. Eleven titles in 13 seasons is hard to top. As far as opening this up to other sports, Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees set up the Evil Empire for decades to come. I’m not sure how the Spurs will do, post-Duncan, over the next 10 or 20 years.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comOne might almost think the blogmaster hails from San Antonio. There’s also Bill Russell to the Boston Celtics; Michael Jordan to the Chicago Bulls; Magic Johnson to the Los Angeles Lakers; Larry Bird to the Celtics; Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio and Derek Jeter to the New York Yankees; Sandy Koufax to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tom Brady to the New England Patriots. And don’t forget Joe Montana to the San Francisco 49ers, Bob Lilly to the Dallas Cowboys, Gordie Howe to the Detroit Red Wings and Wayne Gretzky to the Edmonton Oilers. Let’s just say Duncan belongs on the list.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Not in recent years in the NBA that I can think of. That would require not only finding someone even close to his level of franchise success, but also in a smaller market. That was part of the Duncan impact, after all. He was brilliant in a city where the team was the team, the one major-league organization in town and therefore part of the community. Duncan was a guy who made fans proud to root for the Spurs. He set the right example to teammates, took less money to make it easier for management to maneuver the salary cap and was the driving force on the court behind year after year of winning. Within the model franchise, he was the model player.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comWell, I’m not so sure he beats Babe Ruth and the Yankees, Cal Ripken Jr. and the Orioles, Joe Montana and the 49ers, because football and baseball are far more ingrained in the American sports landscape than basketball. But off the top of my head, only Magic Johnson and the Lakers beats Duncan and the Spurs, because Magic essentially made the Lakers into a now-billion-dollar brand.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Given the duration and infinite, championship-level excellence, I don’t think anyone in any sport can compare. No other all-time great superstar spent more time with one team and had said team competing at the level the Spurs did during Duncan’s tenure. Think about it: we’re talking about two decades of individual and team excellence. Had LeBron James stayed in Cleveland for his entire career and won title(s) in a Cavaliers uniform only, that might have come close to matching what Duncan has meant to the Spurs and San Antonio. But we’re talking about the entire culture of an organization and city resting on this man’s shoulders. It is truly unprecedented when you put his career in context. It’ll take another 19 or 20 years post-Duncan to truly appreciate what he’s meant to the franchise, its fans and the city of San Antonio … and to see if there any titles won after he’s exited the stage.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: We can’t say that he means more or less. What we can say definitely is that Duncan joins the exclusive NBA room that includes Bill Russell, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Michael Jordan. They occupy a larger building shared with the likes of Tom Brady, Dick Butkus, Jim Brown, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth and on and on. There may be no higher praise.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: Michael Jordan in Chicago is the first name that comes to mind. Or perhaps Bill Russell in Boston. Outside of the NBA, maybe Chipper Jones with the Atlanta Braves, although he only won one title. Derek Jeter with the Yankees. Tom Brady with the Patriots. No matter how you look at it, not many people have had that much success with one franchise.

Blogtable: More impressive Warriors feat — winning 73 or 3-1 comeback?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: What’s next for Durant, Thunder? | Warriors’ most impressive feat so far? |
Who wins The Finals and why?


> More impressive feat: Winning 73 games in the regular season, or coming back from 3-1 in the conference finals?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: Coming back from 3-1 against a committed opponent is incredibly impressive, but teams have come back from such deficits (though it’s been very rare). Plus, Golden State had the advantage of having two of the last three games of the series at home. No one has ever won 73. And considering how much good fortune and consistent play were required to do it over a full season, the Warriors’ regular season mark stands taller.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comHow many NBA teams have recovered from a 3-1 deficit to win a seven-game series? Ten. Now, how many NBA teams have won 73 games in a season? There’s your answer. The Warriors’ specialness across six months, from the 24-0 streak to start the season to the way they embraced the challenge of chasing down the ’96 Bulls, will be remembered a lot longer than what they accomplished in a week against a fierce opponent in a conference finals. Even if Stephen Curry, Steve Kerr and crew did that in The Finals, it would simply cap their magnificent overall year.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Two completely different things that are historic, equally impressive and should be appreciated separately, kind of like juggling chainsaws while walking a tightrope.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: The comeback. Winning 73 out of 82 is impressive and should not be brushed aside, but the Warriors didn’t face the Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns, Philadelphia 76ers of Brooklyn Nets while winning three in a row to reach another Finals. Golden State didn’t just beat a championship contender three in a row with the season on the line, Golden State did it with two clutch finishes and one victory in a very tough road setting. As I wrote after Game 7, beating OKC in the final four was more impressive than beating Cleveland in The 2015 Finals. Not more important, because it’s about the rings, but more impressive because of the opponent and the uphill climb.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comOne was historic, the other was done nine previous times. So I’ll go with the 73 wins, even though, on the scale of importance, it’s second to winning the West and advancing to The Finals. I must admit that rallying from 3-1 against Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook was impressive. But not historical.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Winning 73 was more impressive, because it took six months of focus through a grind of a season that included 20 back-to-backs and almost every opponent giving you their best. But coming back from 3-1 was more important, especially if it leads to another championship.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Folks love to talk about the regular season being meaningless once the playoffs begin. That’s foolishness. The 73-win regular season the Warriors compiled was a most impressive feat, something never done before in the NBA. The Warriors are the 10th team in NBA playoff history to come back from 3-1 down. As impressive as it was to see them rebound against the Thunder, it won’t come close to topping 73 wins anytime soon.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: Other teams have recovered from 3-1, but no one else has ever won 73. As impressive as the last three wins have been, the regular-season record was the result of six months of focused, discipline work.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogDo they have to be mutually exclusive? I thought both of these feats were impressive, and in some ways, I’m not so sure the second one happens without the first. That drive for 73 had to prove to the Warriors their remarkable resiliency and ability to overcome adversity, and I’m sure it was useful trying to come back from down 3-1. If I have to pick one, and I suppose I do because otherwise we wouldn’t be here Blogtable-ing, I’ll go with the 73 wins. Coming back from 3-1 was certainly tough, but they came back from 2-1 twice in last year’s playoffs. Winning 73 required a long-term focus unlike any team, ever, has ever been able to sustain.

Blogtable: What’s next for Oklahoma City Thunder and for Kevin Durant?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: What’s next for Durant, Thunder? | Warriors’ most impressive feat so far? |
Who wins The Finals and why?


> So what now for free agent Kevin Durant? And what now for the Thunder?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: You’d be crazy to guess at this point, but the trend lines seem to be going in Oklahoma City’s favor, at least for one more year. As detailed in the Morning Tip on Monday, if Durant signs a two-year deal this summer with the Thunder with a one-year out, he’d set himself up for a potential five-year contract with OKC in the summer of 2017 for more than $200 million. Now, money isn’t the only thing driving Durant’s decision making, of course (and especially given the $250-plus million he’s already banking from Nike), but that’s not a sum you dismiss out of hand. More importantly, OKC’s rapid development the second half of the season and in the playoffs surely gives the Thunder more than a fighting chance of keeping its superstar. Coach Billy Donovan was more than comfortable matching Xs and Os with top-shelf coaches. Steven Adams went Beast Mode on opponents. Andre Roberson carried his weight offensively against the San Antono Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder. Serge Ibaka again asserted himself as a defensive force and Dion Waiters and Enes Kanter gave the Thunder one of the league’s best benches. And, oh yeah, Russell Westbrook was Russell Westbrook. So, if you’re Durant, and you already like living someplace where people basically leave you be, and your team showed itself a legit title contender…where can you go that’s better? The Los Angeles Clippers’ core is older and the Miami Heat’s future is uncertain with Chris Bosh‘s health concerns. The Spurs already have an All-Star small forward in Kawhi Leonard. OKC already had the power of incumbency. After its playoff run, I’d put its chances at retaining Durant at 3-1.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: If Kevin Durant is interested in pursuing a championship, he should stay right where he’s at. That team has the talent and depth to contend again next season, and the Thunder surely can find ways to complement Durant and Russell Westbrook‘s firepower in a more balanced attack. Durant won’t find a more committed organization or adoring fan base, either. Now if it’s lifestyle he’s seeking, then fine, go live and work where you want to, the way 99 percent of America’s workforce does it — or could, if people really looked at their options. I don’t think he can get much more famous or ever spend any difference in off-court income that a bigger market might provide, but that would be Durant’s choice. For theatre, it would be fun to see Durant land on one of about a dozen different rosters, just to feel the NBA landscape shift. But for sheer balling, OKC seems to suit Durant fine. And vice versa.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com The Thunder simply wait on Durant. They don’t campaign or twist his arm or send him love letters. They just wait for Durant to reach the conclusion — and he might already be there — that there is no better place for him than Oklahoma City, where he is appreciated, adored and, most importantly, has the pieces already on hand to come right back next season and make another championship run. Where does he find another Russell Westbrook to be his sidekick? Steven Adams, Serge Ibaka, Andre Roberson all are the real thing. And coach Billy Donovan showed he has the chops. Does Durant sign a long-term deal in July or take the LeBron James one-year option and cash in even bigger next season? That’s for him to figure out. But one way or another, I believe he stays in OKC. For good.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Nothing’s changed. Durant comes back for one season plus an option and goes through free agency for real in the summer of 2017. That has been my belief since before the playoff started, and nothing that happened in the postseason alters the opinion. There are a ton of reasons to stay in OKC well beyond 2016-17. He knows it and does not take the positives there for granted. What now for the Thunder? Respond to the ache of that elimination. How it changes them, if at all, will be one of the early storylines to watch for next season.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: The Summer of Durant will fall flatter than OKC did late in Game 6 when Durant decides to return to OKC for at least another year. So much for drama. That’s the safe route, one that leaves him an out, if he so wishes to use it in 2017 when Russell Westbrook‘s deal is up. Meanwhile, OKC will be OK, provided the Thunder find a shooter (and he isn’t Dion Waiters, either). Folks need to calm down about this team. OKC beat a 67-win San Antonio Spurs team and took the 73-win Golden State Warriors to the brink. No shame in that, even if they were up 3-1.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comLogic says that he should sign a two-year deal with the Thunder that gives him the option to be a free agent again next summer, when the max salary is projected to be higher than it is this year. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he signs a long-term deal to remain in Oklahoma City. I would be surprised if he leaves after coming so close to a return to The Finals. The Thunder don’t need much to get over the hump. It would help to have a wing who can both shoot and defend at a high level.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Kevin Durant knew the day would come when he could no longer duck the free agency questions. Yet he still found a way to do so even in the moments after the Oklahoma City Thunder completed their collapse in the Western Conference finals. He insisted that he hadn’t given free agency a thought. Sure. Just go ahead and sign the two-year deal with the player option for the second season so we can get not to the free agents that might actually be in play for all of these teams with cap space to use up. The Thunder have no choice but to wait Durant out and see what his final decision will be. They’re clearly closer to championship level right now that many of us thought prior to their playoff run. So they should feel much better about a future that includes Durant.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: Doesn’t Durant have to return for at least one more year? Midway through the conference finals he and Russell Westbrook were playing the best basketball of their careers. It makes no sense to give up on their longterm investment when it is so close to paying off.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogI’ve seen numerous people say that if Kevin Durant wants his best chance at winning a title, he would leave OKC and go to the Eastern Conference. Which I don’t think is correct. To get to The Finals in the East you have to go through LeBron James, and that is one heckuva roadblock. To me, as we just saw, as presently constructed the Thunder are nearly good enough to get to The Finals. So I think KD stays, at least for a year. Although, I feel like the Thunder are still one rotation player away, some sort of swingman type who can score when needed and reduce the land on KD/Westbrook. (An interesting name who might be motivated to make a fit work? How about Carmelo Anthony?) They just need one more contributor. For so long the Thunder had Derek Fisher as their off guard in crunch time, and this year they made a reach for Randy Foye who they couldn’t really use in crunch time. Making this an even tougher situation is that they don’t have time to develop a young player — this a team needs to win now. Good luck balancing all of that, Thunder GM Sam Presti.

Blogtable: Who wins The 2016 Finals (and why)?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


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> Cavs or Warriors? Who you got and why?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: Man. This should be great. Obviously Cleveland is at full strength this year compared to last, and presents far greater challenges for Golden State’s defense. But the Cavs don’t have the collective length and defensive athleticism that the Thunder has. Kyrie Irving is a nightmare with the ball, but the Warriors just survived seven games of Russell Westbrook‘s attacks, and Westbrook is a much more active defender than Irving. The Cavs’ bench is more experienced than OKC’s, but again, it isn’t as athletic. Size with quickness is what gave the Warriors problems. Stephen Curry looked better and better as the series with the Thunder went on; he’s not 100 percent, but he’s closer. I think this series comes down to a couple of things: 1. can Kevin Love really hurt Golden State offensively, to the point where the Warriors would have to do more than single-cover him with Draymond Green?, 2. can Cleveland score and/or protect the ball enough to keep the Warriors from getting out in transition, where lethal results almost always follow? My guesses are not quite enough of either. Warriors in 7.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comMaybe I’m bringing some Eastern Conference bias to this – I was basically embedded in Cleveland’s playoff run through Detroit, Atlanta and Toronto – but the way this team has played at its peak, the fit LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love have found, coach Tyronn Lue‘s grasp of the reins and artful tweaks along the way, and the confidence the Cavs have in the 3-ball have won me over. Golden State will be facing a vastly different opponent this time around – and keep in mind, backup point guard Matthew Dellavedova hasn’t recklessly rolled over anybody’s ankle yet in these playoffs (cue ominous organ chord). Mostly, though, I’m thinking that LeBron With Help is a mighty force. There’s also an underlying urgency to his push back to The Finals, because this championship-to-The-‘Land business is going to be getting harder, not easier, with each passing season. Cavaliers in 6.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comHave you seen 73-9? Have you seen the comeback from 3-1? They have extraordinary talent, a still under-appreciated inner drive and just find a way. The Warriors will win it.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comGolden State has come too far — through the long, challenging regular season, through the comeback against the Oklahoma City Thunder — to stop now. Home court will pay off. Being able to throw multiple quality defenders at LeBron James, from Draymond Green to Andre Iguodala to the other help that will come on the double, will pay off. And, of course, the brothers Splash. The Warriors still have a little too much for the Cavs. Warriors in 7.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: A healthy Cavs team would’ve beaten the Warriors last year. Now? It could be wrong place, wrong time for the Cavs. Three critical players on the Warriors are better: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. And they still have a functional Finals MVP in Andre Iguodala. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are more cohesive but both will clearly defer to LeBron James when things get tight, turning the Cavs into a predictable outfit. I see it going seven games, but in the end, we’ll be scraping what’s left of Cleveland’s battered image off the sidewalk once again. Warriors in 7.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comThis will be a much more enjoyable series than it was last year, when the Cavs scored less than a point per possession in all six games. Cleveland is a lot tougher to defend than they were a year ago, not only because Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are healthy, but also because they have a second unit that spreads the floor around LeBron James. But no team is more qualified to defend the Cavs than the Warriors, who will be impossible to stop over 4-7 games themselves. Warriors in 6.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: I continue to believe that the Warriors are the superior team and the best shooting team I’ve seen in all of my years watching the NBA. And in this instance, I still believe them to be the superior team to the Cavaliers. That said, this series went six games last time with LeBron James playing without Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love for basically the entire series. It goes seven games this year with the Warriors still on top. In a battle of the best 3-point shooting teams in the game, I’m going with who is No. 1. Warriors in 7.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comAs a rule it is wrong to pick against the Warriors. They are the NBA’s most competitive team and its toughest out. And yet here comes LeBron James with a healthy roster to make amends for The 2015 Finals. The leading player of his generation returned to Cleveland to win the championship, and I think that’s going to be happen in Game 6 on his home floor. Cavaliers in 6.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: On the heels of my near-triumphant Thunder in 7 prediction, I’m not sure my voice holds much weight. But I digress. The Warriors hit a speed bump the last two weeks, and then righted the ship in a very public and impressive way, just in time to roll into The Finals against Cleveland. The way the Thunder were able to compete against Golden State was by playing lock-down defense, and I don’t think Cleveland can reach that level, or at least sustain it for four games. As good as Cleveland has been this postseason, I think the Warriors pick up where they left off and keep on running and shooting. Warriors in 6. 

Blogtable: Your advice for Tim Duncan?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


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> You’re Tim Duncan’s closest friend, his confidant. When he asks for advice regarding next season, what do you tell him?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: I tell him it’s time. Could he squeeze one more year out of those knees? Maybe. Could the Spurs make one last stand next season and make one more Finals? Perhaps. But what would the point be? You’re on the shortest of short lists of greatest big men to ever play the game. After Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who’s definitely ahead of you? You have five rings, and you led one of the greatest comebacks from the emotional dead in league history, after blowing that 3-2 lead to Miami in the 2013 Finals. They will write books about how your team rallied from that devastating loss to crush the Heat in The Finals rematch a year later. You are (were) the key man in a dynasty that has spanned almost two decades of excellence. Your kids love you; you can do anything you want in San Antonio the rest of your days, in the relative anonymity you crave.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: The biggest thing I would tell Tim Duncan is, think five years out from now: do you want to share the stage at the Hall of Fame with all the Kobe Bryant hoopla? Given Duncan’s near-reclusiveness, relative to Bryant’s love of the spotlight, maybe that’s the simplest way for the San Antonio legend to slip into Springfield with little more than a “thank you” as his acceptance speech. As far as basketball-related advice, the show biz ethos of “Always leave ’em wanting more” applies only if you plan to keep doing what you’re doing and hope to attract future audiences. With athletes, I’d advise sticking around a year too long rather than leaving a year too soon, because once you go, you’re pretty much gone. If Duncan still enjoys the life, he can contribute plenty to the Spurs off the court and still have some moments on it.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: After all these years, I am long past the point of telling players when and how to retire or play on. It is a very personal, very different set of factors for each individual. If Tim Duncan still gets joy out of playing the game and is comfortable going forward as more of a mentor than an on-court force, I’m all for it. If he wants to quietly fade away, I’m for that too.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: “Follow your gut.” That’s obvious. “If you feel like you want to keep going, do it. If this feels like the right time to get off the ride, do it.” Most of all, though, I make sure he takes all 2015-16 into consideration, not just the bad ending. So many people are focusing on the playoff struggles as a sign that it is time to retire, but Duncan played at a high level in the regular season. He can still be an important part of a championship contender. I saw months and months of a guy who was anything but breaking down.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: “Timmy, you’ve done everything in this league. Your place in history is secure. You don’t need the money, I’m assuming. There’s nothing to prove. Do you really want to spend another season as a glorified ornament, kept in the freezer for 82 games until the post-season, with no guarantee you won’t struggle as you did this spring? Aren’t your standards higher than that? If so, then retire as only you can — quietly, with a one-sentence press release next month, while wearing flip-flops and shorts.”

John Schuhmann, NBA.comI would tell him that, after 19 years, nobody knows better than he does what it takes to get through an NBA season, the work that goes into it, and the rewards that come out of it. It’s a personal decision, one for only Duncan to make. Though he’s not the player he was in years past, the Spurs would still benefit from having him, his basketball IQ, and his leadership around.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: “Big fella, how do you feel, physically and emotionally? You need to take stock of these things and sit back and take your time making a decision on what to do next. If anyone that’s played this game has earned that right, it’s you. As the backbone of the Spurs’ organization, you have always put the franchise and the team first. But this one time, I need you to think about Timmy and what will satisfy you at this late stage of your career. If you think you have more to give, go for it. If not, you don’t owe anyone another second of your time. In the end, do you!”

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com I’m telling him, “If you have any doubt, then keep playing.” But in the end, aren’t the doctors going to provide the crucial opinion here? Duncan’s knee may be making the decision for him.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogAm I also a robot? Kidding! No, if Tim came to me and asked me for my advice, I’d ask just one question: Do you still enjoy it? Because at the end of the day, that’s all that really matters. It’s not even a question of productivity, because Duncan can surely still get you a couple of points and rebounds a game. I think it’s more about whether Duncan has the desire to drag himself to the gym every day and break a sweat every day, or if he’d rather take a break and just sit around and play video games and read comic books and work on his cars and wear oversized work shirts. The camaraderie and being part of a team is the stuff almost other player has trouble walking away from. That’s the part guys genuinely like and miss when they’re finished. And despite his singular greatness on the floor, I don’t think Tim is all that different from anyone else in that regard.