Posts Tagged ‘Oklahoma City Thunder’

Morning shootaround — Oct. 5

VIDEO: Clippers superstar Chris Paul put in the work in preparation for the 2015-16 season


LeBron wants Cavs, Thompson to “get it done” | Kobe’s (preseason) return lasts 12 minutes | Williams counting on comforts of home to help rejuvenate career | Room to grow for Westbrook? | Warriors will hold each other accountable in Kerr’s absence

No. 1: LeBron wants Cavs, Thompson to “get it done” — The leader of the Cleveland Cavaliers spent his weekend doing what needed to be done, speaking publicly on what he called the “elephant in the room.” Tristan Thompson‘s holdout has officially become a distraction for LeBron James and the rest of the Cavaliers in their quest for a championship. Yes, it’s early in the process. But James is calling for both sides to do whatever it takes to get Thompson back in the fold so the Cavs can get back to the business of trying to finish what they started last season.’s Dave McMenamin has more LeBron clearing the air after practice Sunday…

“I’m not here to talk about numbers, things of that nature, because that’s for them, for both sides to figure out. The last thing you need is a distraction when you try to make a championship run. And we have that right now. And it’s unfortunate for both sides that we’re going through it right now as a team. It’s not an excuse, we will be ready to go but hopefully something happens in the near future.”

James and Thompson both attended the wedding of Todd Leebow, a mutual friend, in Miami on Saturday. The pair’s agent, Rich Paul, was also in attendance. James said he decided to post his message via social media after spending “the majority of the day” with Thompson.

Last week, James told reporters that he wouldn’t be addressing Thompson’s holdout ad nauseam. After making his comments Sunday, he said it was “probably my last time” speaking up about Thompson.

“I know he wants to be here, I believe this franchise wants him to be here, and so on and so on,” James said. “So, like I said, hopefully something gets done soon so we can really get down to it.”

James maintained that his Instagram post was not meant to be a directive aimed solely at the Cavs’ front office.

“Throughout the negotiation process, it’s always both sides,” James said. “It’s not just one-sided. I’ve been a part of negotiation before, and making deals and things of that nature, not much in the NBA but in other businesses, so, it’s always for both sides to figure out.”

Paul recently vacated a five-year, $94 million max contract demand for his client in favor of a preferred three-year, $53 million deal, league sources said. The Cavs already have tendered a five-year, $80 million offer to Thompson, according to sources.

Beyond taking to social media and speaking to reporters about Thompson, James said he will not interfere any further with the negotiations. Meaning, don’t expect him to knock on the door of general manager David Griffin’s office.

“I’m not going to go to them and tell them what they should do,” James said. “That’s their job, they know to do it very well, and they’ve done that to this point. They’ve brought in and did what they had to do for us to be a contending team, and, so, obviously Tristan is a big part of that run we want to make. I believe that something will happen.”

VIDEO: LeBron James addresses Tristan Thompson’s contract situation


No. 2: Kobe’s (preseason) return lasts 12 minutes — No one said it would last forever, or even two quarters. And fireworks were not expected in Hawaii for Kobe Bryant‘s long awaited return to action with the Los Angeles Lakers. But a 1-for-5 shooting effort in a 90-71 loss to the Utah Jazz was not the fairy tale comeback Kobe’s biggest fans might have hoped for in his 2015-16 debut. But it was just fine by Kobe and Lakers coach Byron Scott, who has no plans to push it at this stage of the process. ESPN’s Baxter Holmes of explains…

After his first game since late January, when he tore the rotator cuff in his right shoulder, ending his 2014-15 season after 35 games, Bryant said he felt “pretty good” and that it was “good to get out there.”

He added that his legs feel strong and that he didn’t feel any fatigue.

“It’s just getting the timing,” said Bryant, whose past three seasons have all been cut short by injury. “Getting timing. Getting acclimated to that again.”

Lakers coach Byron Scott seemed pleased with Bryant’s performance.

“He was pretty good,” Scott said. “He moved well.”

Scott said the plan of playing Bryant 12 minutes was agreed upon before the game.

“I told him before we went out, let’s just play the quarter and then let’s shut it down and see how you feel [Monday], we’ll go through practice and then get ready for Tuesday,” Scott said.

The Lakers face the Jazz again Tuesday, and Bryant is expected to play limited minutes in that game as well, though Scott said they’ll likely increase Bryant’s minutes gradually throughout the preseason.

VIDEO: Kobe Bryant says he still has some rust to work out of his game


No. 3: Williams counting on comforts of home to help rejuvenate career — He wouldn’t be the first NBA player to retreat to the familiar to recharge himself, to jumpstart his career. But Deron Williams went home to Dallas to do more than that. He went home to rejuvenate an All-Star career that has stalled in recent seasons, basically since his ugly departure from Utah in the wake of the Jerry Sloan drama to his injury-filled tenure in Brooklyn with the Nets. No longer mentioned at or even near the top when the conversation turns to the best point guards in the league, Williams aims to change all of that in his first season back in Dallas since high school. Dwain Price of the Star-Telegram explains…

That pressure could become magnified again now that Williams is playing for his hometown team. A 2002 graduate of The Colony, Williams must deal with having friends and family members around him more than usual, along with the constant requests for tickets to games.

But he sees a bright side to this (family) reunion.

“My kids are in school and in their activities, and their grandmas get to come and see them play, play soccer and play volleyball,” Williams said. “And when we need a break we can send them over to her house, so it’s definitely a lot of advantages to it.

“My family mainly has always been my biggest supporters. They know what I’m capable of.”

A two-time Olympic gold medal winner, Williams shot a career-low 38.7 percent from the field last season. Both he and the Mavs know he’s capable of a better performance.

“The important thing there is his health,” said Carlisle, whose team opens the preseason at home Tuesday against Denver. “With the beginning of last year he was coming off double ankle surgery, so it limited him.

“Late in the year he had a really good run and his health was very good. We’ve got to help him continue the momentum with good health.”

As he attempts to rejuvenate his career, Williams would like nothing better than to prove a lot of people wrong. And that includes the person he sees in the mirror.

“I want to prove myself wrong because I started to doubt myself in the past,” Williams said. “That’s what I was talking about — mentally, it just took a toll on me.

“I’ve just got to get out of that rut that I was in the last couple years mentally, and I look forward to this situation. I think it’s going to be better for me.”


No. 4: Room to grow for Westbrook? — Russell Westbrook was a revelation last season in Oklahoma City with Kevin Durant out with an injury. But could there be even more to his game? Certainly, writes Erik Horne of the Oklahoman

“He’s reaching a level where it’s hard to make strides, it’s hard to make gains,” Thunder GM Sam Presti said.

Until now, “small” and “incremental” have not defined the progression of Westbrook’s career. As much as Kevin Durant‘s greatness has defined the Thunder, it’s been Westbrook’s continual quantum leaps of development and production that has driven Oklahoma City’s rise.

So, what’s the next step for a player with a seemingly limitless ceiling?

The details.

“You have to be looking for the small and incremental,” Presti. “And that I think again is part of the aspect of where our team is.”

“Smaller,” Westbrook said when asked if his game has come down to large or small improvements. “It’s important each year you find different things, different nits in your game that you want to get better at. Working on your balance, working on different things that I can do to be more effective.”


No. 5: Warriors will hold each other accountable in Kerr’s absence — Draymond Green‘s not worried about the Golden State Warriors losing their way while their coach, Steve Kerr, is away taking care of his surgically repaired back. Green insists that, to a man, the Warriors will hold each other accountable to stay on course and do things the right way. The same way, he says, any championship team would with their leader missing. And there is plenty of leadership within the locker room, writes Carl Steward  of the Bay Area News Group writes…

Kerr’s absence during training camp and the preseason may be the first mini-test in the Warriors’ quest to repeat, and Draymond Green knows the kind of mentality that can seep in if the players, particularly the veterans, don’t pay heed.

“It’s like if your boss leaves work, everyone relaxes,” Green said Saturday. “It’s like a weight off your shoulders. When your boss checks out, it’s like, ‘Oh, man, what’s up, now we can chill.’ It’s just human nature. So it’s a challenge for us to not do that.”

Green said the players have to be more accountable to one another than they were last season. Walton and the club’s other assistants, while fully qualified, can only do so much. Players must carry more responsibility to “keep the ship sailing,” as Green put it. It’s another lesson he learned from Michigan State coach Tom Izzo.

“That’s myself, that’s Steph (Curry), that’s (Andrew) Bogut, that’s Andre (Iguodala), that’s us as leaders,” he said. “If something isn’t going right, we have to step up. At the end of the day, Luke can do it and he will do it, but anytime you can get something from another player, it’s better. Coach Izzo always had a saying, ‘A player-coached team is always better than a coach-coached team.'”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Former Phoenix Suns legend Neal Walk has died at 67 … Mark Price is fired up to coach in Charlotte (the 49ers now after leaving the Hornets for the college game) … One prominent Chicago columnist says surgery cannot fix what ails Derrick Rose … Jerry Stackhouse “happy” to add NBA flavor to Raptors’ staff … Wizards rookie Kelly Oubre isn’t running short on confidence in his game … The Suns finished camp with a chemistry boost … Eric Gordon knows he has to have his healthiest and best season this year … So who fills the void in Detroit left by Greg Monroe‘s departure?

ICYMI: An all-access look at the launch of NBA2K16:

VIDEO: A behind-the-scenes look at the launch of NBA2K16

Morning Shootaround — Sept. 30

VIDEO: Stephen Curry looks ahead to the upcoming season


Derrick Rose injured…again | Next man up in Cleveland…again | Durant back in action | Bennett back home in Toronto

No. 1: Derrick Rose injured…again Just hours after an unprompted Derrick Rose discussed free agency during Chicago Bulls media day, which brought up a whole range of emotions for Bulls fans, Rose unwittingly became involved in another storyline familiar to Bulls fans. During the first practice under new Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg, Rose caught an accidental elbow and suffered a facial fracture that required surgery. More importantly, it means Rose will be out for time being, although the Bulls are holding out hope he can return for the season opener. For a guy who has battled injuries seemingly non-stop the last few years, it’s yet another tough break, writes K.C. Johnson in the Chicago Tribune

Derrick Rose caught an accidental elbow to his face halfway through Hoiberg’s first session and left for tests that revealed a left orbital fracture. The team said Rose, who turns 27 Sunday, will undergo surgery at Rush University Medical Center on Wednesday. A timetable for his return will be determined after the procedure.

Absences following surgery for orbital fractures have run the gamut recently with players missing anywhere from five to 28 games. Whatever the case, Rose’s injury piles on top of Mike Dunleavy’s back surgery last Friday. Dunleavy’s rehabilitation process could sideline the veteran forward eight to 10 weeks.

Suddenly, 40 percent of Hoiberg’s projected starting lineup will miss most, if not all, of training camp. A source said there is optimism Rose will be ready for the Oct. 27 regular-season opener against LeBron James and the Cavaliers.

And while this setback pales in comparison to the three knee surgeries Rose has endured, it’s yet another mental challenge for a former most valuable player who tried to remind all of his greatness during Monday’s media day.

“I know I’m great,” Rose said then.

Since becoming the youngest MVP in NBA history in 2011, Rose has missed in chronological order — deep breath here — five games each to a sprained toe and strained back; 17 games to groin, ankle and foot issues; the entire 2012-13 season to a torn left ACL; 71 games to a torn right meniscus; eight games to ankle and hamstring issues and 20 games to a second right meniscus tear.

In all, Rose has played in 100 games over the last four seasons.

Suddenly, Jimmy Butler’s boast he can play point guard may not be a far-fetched idea. If Rose does miss any regular-season time, the Bulls have Aaron Brooks, Kirk Hinrich and E’Twaun Moore at the position.

Three players who addressed the media said they didn’t know whose elbow caught Rose.

“Might have been me,” Taj Gibson said. “It’s one of those plays where everybody’s going so hard.”

At least Gibson, who is coming back from offseason left ankle surgery, practiced fully. But with Dunleavy not sure when he’ll return and now the Rose injury, there has been more bad news than good on the Bulls’ injury front.

Whether Rose wears a mask upon his return has yet to be determined. At the very least, he will have to overcome the fear of getting struck in the face again.

With Rose leaving practice early, teammates were left to answer if Rose’s curious and unsolicited comments about his 2017 free agency from Monday were irksome.

“I don’t care what the guy talks about as long as he’s helping us win games,” said Butler, who signed a $92.3 million deal this offseason. “Whatever he’s focused on let him be focused, but I think his objective is to win a championship. I’m pretty sure he talked about that as well — and how he wants to help this team win. Everything else, he is who he is.

“He can talk about unicorns and rainbows for all I care. Just help us win some basketball games.”


No. 2: Next man up in Cleveland…again The Cleveland Cavaliers made it to the NBA Finals despite a seemingly non-stop series of injuries, including season-ending stoppages to All-Stars Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. Four months later, the Cavs entered training camp heading in the right direction, with everyone healthy or at least nearing full health. And then Iman Shumpert suffered a wrist injury and, as the Cavs announced yesterday, Shumpert will miss the next 12-14 weeks following surgery. As Chris Haynes writes for, the Cavs are relying on the same mantra they have for months: Next man up

This wasn’t the best way to begin Day 1 of training camp.

“It’s ‘next man up’ for our team,” LeBron James said. “It’s a big blow for our team. He’s a guy that we wanted around here long-term, and he still will be around here long-term obviously, but the next man up will be ready to go until he gets back.”

Cavs coach David Blatt echoed those sentiments.

“He will eventually be back and in the meantime, we will follow the same philosophy that we had all last year: Face the adversity, next man up and play the game that we know how and the way that we should,” Blatt said.

With Shumpert sidelined, Griffin said there are no immediate plans to tinker with the roster due to the team’s depth. But he’s keeping his options open.

“We’re going to give people a chance to kind of absorb it from within,” he said “but obviously we’re paying a lot of attention to opportunities that we may be able to improve the group. We’ll just play it by ear.”

J.R. Smith will likely get the starting nod in the backcourt along with Mo Williams at the start of the regular season. The acquisition of Richard Jefferson should also play a key part in stabilizing the rotation.

Griffin said Shumpert worked “incredibly hard” this off-season to come into camp in top shape.

Injuries are something that all 30 NBA teams have to deal with at some point. The Cavs know first-hand that injuries at the wrong time can hinder them from reaching their ultimate goal.

“Injuries will probably be the only thing that can stop us long-term, [but Shump] is a short-term thing,” James said.


No. 3: Durant back in action One day after he turned 27 years old, Kevin Durant went through his first full day of practice with the Oklahoma City Thunder after missing 55 games last season following three foot surgeries. While the team announced Durant was fully cleared to return to action, as Durant explained yesterday, there’s a difference in being cleared to play and being in game shape. But, as Durant told ESPN’s Royce Young, he’s the same player he was before the injury

“I feel great, actually,” Durant said. “It’s really different being out there in a practice setting. I haven’t been there in a while. It’s definitely going to take me some time to really get comfortable out there again.

“I’ve been injured, but I’m healed now. So I try not to think about it. If I’m on the court, I’m OK. So I’m the same player I was.”

Despite the frustrations of last season, Durant enters his ninth NBA season full of the confidence. Asked about how long it’ll take to rediscover his rhythm, the 2014 MVP says his game isn’t back — because it never left.

“The most humble way I can say it is I’ve always got feel,” Durant said. “Every time I step on the court I feel great. I know how to play the game. My body might say a little different, but I always feel like I’m in rhythm. That’s just from me being a skill player and knowing what it takes to go out there and showcase my fundamentals of the game. I always feel like I’m in feel, but my body has to catch up, I guess.”

The one area Durant said may take a bit of time is his conditioning, though he said he felt like he was in already in a good place.

“My conditioning feels great,” Durant said. “I know it’s gonna take some time for me to really get back to feeling great and mid-season form, but I’m on my way.”

Monday’s practice was also the first for new head coach Billy Donovan, who said the focus was working to establish an identity, specifically on the defensive side.

“I think it went well,” Donovan said of his first NBA practice. “Guys were obviously very, very excited, certainly a lot of teaching to do in the first couple hours just to try and get a defensive system and a philosophy, trying to break down and teach. I thought we got a lot in, especially considering it was the first day.”

Said Durant of adjusting to a new coach: “It’s the first day. We’ve still got to figure it out. It’s just the first day. We’re smart players, and we know how to figure things out.”


No. 4: Bennett back home in Toronto The Cleveland Cavaliers made him the first pick of the draft in 2013, but since then Anthony Bennett has struggled to find a home in the NBA. After one season in Cleveland he was traded to Minnesota, and this summer his contract was bought out, making him a free agent. But for Bennett, his latest team is the Toronto Raptors, which is actually home. And as Bennett told CBS’s James Herbert, that’s a good thing

After Bennett walked into the practice court at the Air Canada Centre wearing a Raptors shirt — apparently his new No. 15 jersey wasn’t quite ready, and when he put it on a short while later, there was no name on the back — he called playing in Toronto “the perfect situation for me.” It was “definitely not an easy decision” to leave the Minnesota Timberwolves, but when he got back from the FIBA Americas in Mexico City, his agency and his former team were working on a buyout. Other teams were interested, but he knew where he wanted to be.

“It has been something I’ve been thinking about growing up, watching Vince Carter play,” Bennett said. “And now I’m back here. It’s surreal, but at the same time it’s work. I’m just ready to go all out.”

Playing for the Canadian national team, Bennett had a solid summer. He was perhaps the team’s best player at the Pan-Am Games in Toronto, and he had his moments at the FIBA Americas in Mexico City, too. Unsurprisingly, fellow Canadian Raptor Cory Joseph believes he can build on that.

“I feel like it’s a new beginning here,” Joseph said. “I think he’ll do great for us, for the city, for the country. I think he’ll revive his NBA career.”

While the homecoming angle is nice, Bennett’s redemption story has been written before. He looked in shape and confident at last year’s summer league, where he said he was having fun again after a rookie year filled with adversity. Just like with Team Canada, in Vegas he showed off the athleticism that made him such a great prospect, screaming into the stands to punctuate his dunks. He didn’t play much in his second season, though, and it wasn’t pretty when he did. Bennett missed way too many midrange jumpers and often looked lost on defense. He has a long way to go, and there are proven players in front of him.

As Raptors training camp begins, Bennett will find himself battling Patrick Patterson and Luis Scola at power forward. DeMarre Carroll is also expected to spend some time at the 4, and James Johnson could be in the mix, too. Given Toronto head coach Dwane Casey‘s preference for veterans and his dedication to defense, it seems unlikely Bennett will be a regular part of the rotation.

“This is an opportunity,” Casey said. “This is a good place for him. It’s home. He should feel comfortable. But, all the [playing] time and everything else, he’s going to have to come in and earn it, which I’m sure the other players would be happy to hear.”

For the Raptors, there was little risk in signing Bennett. He’s on a one-year contract for $947,276. Where he was selected doesn’t matter anymore.

“It didn’t work out in a couple places,” Toronto general manager Masai Ujiri said. “I think he’s moved past that. I think the experiences he’s gone through will help him. For us to get a Canadian 22-year-old power forward that is athletic and can play at the minimum? We’ll take it. He’ll have a chance.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Paul Allen says the Blazers have moved on from losing LaMarcus AldridgeBen Gordon went vegetarian and now hopes to make the Golden State Warriors roster … In Denver, Kenneth Faried is the Nuggets’ biggest wild card … The Brooklyn Nets want Brook Lopez to take more of a leadership role

Morning Shootaround — Sept. 29

VIDEO: Stephen Curry looks ahead to the upcoming season


Warriors ready to get back to work | Kobe has more questions than answers | Hawks back to chasing the process | Knicks and Anthony return, with expectations low

No. 1: Warriors ready to get back to work Last season, in Steve Kerr‘s first year as a head coach, the Golden State Warriors struck gold, winning the franchise’s first NBA championship in four decades, thanks largely to the play of NBA MVP Stephen Curry. After winning the NBA Finals, the Warriors clearly enjoyed the offseason, as members of the team popped up all over the media landscape, often with the Larry O’Brien Trophy in tow. But as our own Scott Howard-Cooper writes, at media day yesterday the Warriors reconvened in the Bay Area ready to get back to work defending their chip

Day 1 of the new season as defending champion and reigning MVP, and Curry already has a challenge: Show he got enough down in the alleged offseason to be ready to again drive the Warriors into June.

Teammate Andrew Bogut, noting the Golden State whirlwind since beating the Cavaliers in the Finals, said, “It feels like the championship parade was last Tuesday.” And he played for Australia in a tournament to qualify for the Olympics but mostly got to recharge. Imagine how fast the summer streaked by for Curry. He played in a POTUS foursome — Curry shot a 76 — had another daughter, hit China, the Philippines and Japan to promote Under Armour, and chatted with Jimmy Fallon in L.A. and Jimmy Kimmel in New York. And there were more talk shows, more appearances to help open the practice facility at Davidson, his alma mater, more other long days.

“All that stuff is fun, but at the end of the day I’m still the same person, still do the same stuff in my spare time that keeps me grounded, keeps me normal,” Curry said Monday as the Warriors officially reconvened for media day in advance of opening camp Tuesday at their practice facility. “Me and my family had an opportunity to get away and spend time with ourselves and just try to be as normal as possible. It’s obviously been different, especially here in the Bay Area. Going out and doing things, you get recognized a lot more. The world’s kind of gotten smaller. But for the most part, the way that we kind of live and do our daily routine, we find time to get away from the game and the noise. That’s helpful to handle all the good that’s gone on on the court and everything we’ve been able to accomplish.”

This now becomes about all the Warriors figuring out how to handle the champion’s spotlight, but no one more than Curry and his new status of superstar-in-demand. There are the many reasons to feel good around Warriors Ground. He is a tireless worker who puts a priority on being ready to play. He is 27, young enough to have the recovery powers that will eventually elude him. He has a coach, Steve Kerr, with a firm understanding of finding opportunities to cut back on players’ minutes. And Curry is mature enough — thanks in part to a father who lasted 16 NBA seasons — to understand the importance of rest.

Except that it doesn’t matter how Curry felt Monday. April matters, and there is no way to predict how his summer in a shrinking world will hit him when the next playoffs begin. (A lot will depend on the other Warriors. They recorded so many blowouts last season, becoming just the eighth team in league history to outscore the opposition by an average of double digits, that Curry was able to rest a lot of fourth quarters. That undoubtedly made a difference in the 2015 postseason.)


No. 2: Kobe has more questions than answers Kobe Bryant is in the final year of his contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, but as he prepares for his 20th NBA season, there seem to be more questions than answers. For many months now, it has been assumed that this will be Kobe’s final season in the NBA. But now, on the even of training camp, as our own Shaun Powell writes, despite reports that Kobe plans to finish his career as a Laker, Kobe is either playing coy, or perhaps he honestly doesn’t know what the future holds

Here’s what we can surmise about Kobe at this very moment: His bread and butter move isn’t a step-back jumper or a floater in the lane or a 25-footer with a hand in his grill. His signature move is a shrug.

“Not sure,” he said. “Big question mark.”

That’s his stock answer right now to the most pressing training camp questions involving him and, to a lesser extent, the short-range view of the Lakers, who did not and could not surround him with enough championship-level talent here in what could be his walk-away season. Once again, then, Kobe is one of the league’s most fascinating players even if he isn’t the best or among the best anymore.

Maybe it’s just Kobe being coy, or maybe, as he insisted, he’s as stumped as ever.

“I’m as excited for this season as I’ve been any season,” he said, before adding that it’s also the most unsure he’s ever felt in an NBA uniform. He has played only 41 games the last two seasons mainly due to a repaired Achilles and suddenly, the most durable of stars appears vulnerable. He’s also on the final year of his contract which, of course, invites heavy speculation about retirement next spring.

“Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t,” he said.

Or maybe you can go another route, as his former coach Phil Jackson did when he volunteered to throw a log on the fire by suggesting Kobe could play in another uniform next season.

“Everybody’s going to have an opinion,” Kobe said. “That’s his opinion.”

And Kobe’s opinion?

“Hell if I know.”


No. 3: Hawks back to chasing the process Last season the Atlanta Hawks caught the NBA by surprise, reeling off 60 wins and taking the regular season Eastern Conference crown. This season they return with not only the element of surprise removed from their arsenal, but with their style of pace and space basketball exposed for the rest of the NBA to scheme against. As our own Sekou Smith writes, the Hawks understand last season was only a step in the pursuit of a larger goal

A historical season, for the franchise and the city of Atlanta, is just history now. There will be no chasing the ghosts of the recent past and no measuring this season by the last, at least not around here, where the Hawks are as married to the process of the present as any team in the NBA.

“Last season was just a step,” All-Star shooting guard Kyle Korver said Monday during the Hawks’ Media Day session at Philips Arena. “It was a giant step, a huge step and great for this franchise and the city, but just a step. We didn’t win a championship, so it’s not like we accomplished our ultimate goal.”

Winning it all would have been considered crazy talk around here before last season. Yes, the Hawks have been an Eastern Conference playoff staple for years but never a serious contender.

But one season, one colossal season where seemingly everything fits into place, can change wild expectations into a reality at the tip of your fingers.
“We don’t have any doubts about who and what we are,” All-Star point guard Jeff Teague said. “We’ve worked hard as a group the past few years and this is the result of that hard work. We know who we are and what we’re capable of. We’ve shown what we can do. And now it’s about consistency.”

The Hawks return four All-Stars — Korver, Al Horford, Paul Millsap and Teague — and other members of their core group that are entering their third training camp under Mike Budenholzer, who added the permanent title of President of Basketball Operations to his official title during offseason that saw the Hawks get a new ownership group.

The departure of defensive ace and emotional leader DeMarre Carroll (Toronto via free agency) is the only significant departure the Hawks will have to deal with heading into the start of training camp Tuesday at the University of Georgia. And even that comes with the added boost of producing some competitive fire from the players vying to replace him, a group that includes Thabo Sefolosha, Kent Bazemore and Tim Hardaway Jr.

It’s just the sort of training camp wrinkle Budenholzer is looking for to shake things up for a group that is confident in the body of work produced in his first two seasons, but still hungry for bigger and better things going forward.

“I think there is going to be a team effort to bring the energy and the competitiveness and the edge that a guy like DeMarre Carroll brings,” Budenholzer said of replacing Carroll. “So I don’t know that there is going to be any one individual who does that. But I think there are guys on our team, the core group that’s been here, they are probably going to raise their level of energy and intensity. But when you have Thabo and Kent who have both been here and I think are both elite wing defenders and have have proven that in the NBA, it may look and feel a little bit different, but I think their ability to have a similar impact is something that gives us a lot of confidence.”


No. 4: Knicks and Anthony return, with expectations low Carmelo Anthony missed more than half of last season after knee surgery, which was a major reason the Knicks finished with a franchise-low 17 wins. Now Anthony is healthy, and Knicks team president Phil Jackson has made several moves to fortify the roster, as the Knicks’ rebuilding project begins the task of actually getting off the ground. How long will it take Anthony and rookie Kristaps Porzingis to help mold the Knicks into a team with more wins than losses? As our own Lang Whitaker writes, at media day yesterday Anthony was quick to point out that it’s too early to have expectations at this point

“It’s going to take some time to kind of figure out what our expectations are,” says Anthony. “It’s good not to have any expectations at this time. It gives us a chance to kind of have a fresh start, and get our identity and where we want to end up. It starts tomorrow. I don’t think you’ll be hearing about expectations from any of the guys right now. It’s too early at this point.”

This isn’t to say Anthony thinks the Knicks shouldn’t have any aspirations whatsoever. As he enters his 13th season, the 31-year-old Anthony has been to the Conference Finals just once (in 2009 with the Nuggets), and still hopes to change the narrative advanced by some that while he’s clearly a gifted scorer — averaging 25.2 points over his career — he’s not much more than just a bucket collector. With Anthony under contract with the Knicks for at least three more seasons, the clock is ticking louder and louder on the prime of his career.

“My window is open,” he says. “I don’t think it’s closing. For the most part, coming into this year, I think we get a chance to write our own destiny right now. That’s a good thing — we can start off fresh, start off with a clean slate. We can write whatever story we want to write, whether good or bad. I think guys are excited about that, to have a chance to start off fresh, to put the past behind us and move forward.”

A large part of New York’s future looks to rest in the hands of first round draft pick Kristaps Porzingis, the 19-year-old seven-footer from Latvia that the Knicks drafted fourth overall. Porzingis has clearly learned how to appeal to area fans, with several vague but laudatory maxims down cold: “Best city in the world,” Porzingis notes. “No better place to win.”

According to Porzingis, he and Anthony played one-on-one, “for like a week straight, every day. As I played against him, he was showing me all his moves, and I was just trying to learn from him, asking him how he did this, how he did that, how he moves his feet, all that kind of stuff.”

(By the way, rookie, who won the bulk of these games? “Melo is Melo. He beat me more than I beat him.”)

After being selected 4th overall by the Knicks in the 2015 Draft, Kristaps Porzingis got off to a solid start in the Las Vegas Summer League.
Anthony said he hopes to be a “big brother” to Porzingis, and he clearly sees some similarities in his own journey to the NBA: Anthony entered the league as a 19-year-old in 2003 after being the third overall pick.

“I’ve showed everybody I support Porzingis,” Anthony says. “As long as me and KP know our relationship, that’s all that really matters, and it doesn’t matter what somebody might speculate out there. As far as him coming into this season, I kind of feel bad for him, because there’s so much pressure on him at this point, and this guy hasn’t played not even one minute in the NBA… I don’t think he knows what he’s about to get himself into. So I’ve got to kind of be that wall for him.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: When LeBron James and his Cavs teammates met up in Miami this summer, they used the informal workout as a motivating sessionKevin Garnett still hates playing centerJimmy Butler says the Bulls belong to everyone … How the Clippers ended up signing Josh Smith … The Orlando Magic and Evan Fournier have reportedly had initial discussions about a contract extension … The Lakers have hired James Worthy to help coach their big menSteven Adams can’t wear a headband

Presti: Durant fully cleared for training camp

From staff reports

VIDEO: Kevin Durant talks with NBA TV during Summer League play

Oklahoma City Thunder fans saw the team fail to make the playoffs last year in large part because reigning Kia MVP Kevin Durant didn’t play again after Feb. 19 due to a right foot fracture that required surgery and cost him his season. Durant had surgery, started his rehab and by Team USA’s mini-camp in August, was on the court practicing with that collection of superstars.

Today, Thunder GM Sam Presti held his preseason news conference with the local media and delivered some good news for OKC and its fanbase: Kevin Durant has been cleared to participate in all drills in training camp. According to Presti, Durant has been involved in 5-on-5 lately and has not had any limitation in his on-court activity.

“Kevin is cleared and has been playing without restrictions in 5-on-5 drills,” Presti said. “We’ll manage his recovery time and he may not play in all of our preseason games, but he has no limitations.”

Thunder sources had previously indicated they expected Durant would be fully recovered from three surgeries to repair a Jones fracture in his right foot by the time training camp begins Tuesday. Durant declared himself to be 100 percent healthy about a month ago, but Presti’s statement is the first time he’s addressed the issue since June.

“It’s great to have him back on the floor,” Presti added.

Last season Durant missed 55 games because of the surgeries. He averaged 25.4 points in the 27 games he played, his lowest per game average since the 2008-09 season when he averaged 25.3. The previous season, when Durant was named MVP after averaging 32.0 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5.5 assists.

Presti also said the other Thunder players are fully cleared now, too. Forward Serge Ibaka missed the last several games of last season with knee surgery and rookie guard Cameron Payne missed Summer League games with a broken finger.’s Royce Young and The Oklahoman‘s Anthony Slater were on hand for the news conference and have more details …


Thunder training camp begins Tuesday in Oklahoma City.’s Randy Renner also contributed to this report




Blogtable: New coach with the most challenging job?

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: New coach with toughest gig? | Best international player today? | Mozgov or Thompson?

VIDEOFred Hoiberg talks about the Bulls during Summer League

> Including George Karl — who joined the Kings more than halfway through last season — which of the league’s six new coaches faces the biggest challenge in 2015-16?

Steve Aschburner, It’s tempting to say Karl because gawkers already are buttering their popcorn and pulling up chairs to watch the pyrotechnics between the coach and DeMarcus Cousins, his most talented player. But I think Billy Donovan’s challenge in OKC is greater. He has very little wiggle room in shepherding the Thunder to championship contention, what with his stars dragging considerable injury histories while he lugs the “college guy stepping up to the pros” pressure that will lurk just below the surface all season.

Scott Howard-Cooper, Exactly who you named: George Karl. Fred Hoiberg and Billy Donovan face the most pressure to win big right away, and Donovan has the additional challenge of needing to make a strong connection with free agent-to-be Kevin Durant while winning big right away, Karl is the only “newcomer” who must change the culture as well as the standings. The Kings are expecting to get to respectable this season. They are also expecting to get an emotional stability. George is a linchpin to both.

Shaun Powell, Billy Donovan has the most at stake. I’ll use that as my measuring tool. OKC is primed for a title run and Kevin Durant is staring at free agency next summer. A championship will end most if not all chances of KD bolting. Therefore, Donovan’s importance is twofold. He must show enough as a coach to, at the very least, give OKC some hope and also form a bond with Durant. I’ll go with Donovan just ahead of Fred Hoiberg, who needs to teach Derrick Rose some new tricks.

John Schuhmann, The most pressure is obviously on Billy Donovan, who has to get the Thunder back to the top of the Western Conference and keep Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City beyond this season. But Mike Malone has the toughest task, because there’s no clear path to success on either end of the floor in Denver. Emmanuel Mudiay could eventually be a special player, but as they stand, the Nuggets don’t have much defense on their frontline or much shooting in their backcourt.

Sekou Smith, Billy Donovan and George Karl have a ton at stake in their respective situations, and no one will deal with greater expectations than Donovan will in Oklahoma City this season. But the greatest challenge belongs to Alvin Gentry in New Orleans, where an otherworldly talent (Anthony Davis) has to be nurtured and molded into a player many believe has the potential to soon be the best player in the game. That’s an entirely separate challenge in addition to winning enough games to remain in the Western Conference playoff mix. It’s a huge challenge that I think Gentry is perfectly suited for and will run wild with this season and beyond.

Ian Thomsen, Not only is Billy Donovan facing the biggest challenge, he also has the greatest likelihood for success. One reason why most NCAA coaches fail in the NBA is because their teams lack talent. Donovan’s Thunder rank among the most talented teams in the NBA – and he has the backing of his front office as well as the temperament and intelligence to succeed as efficiently as possible, even amid the complications of Kevin Durant’s comeback and free agency.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog I am interested to see how things will go for Fred Hoiberg in Chicago. Most of the other new coaches (i.e. Mike Malone, Flip Saunders, Scott Skiles and Karl) have walked into situations with low expectations. If they don’t turn things around immediately, well, one could argue nobody expected anything spectacular, at least right away. Billy Donovan is going to face high expectations in OKC, certainly, but a team with a healthy Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook should at the very least make the postseason, which would be an improvement from last season. But the Bulls are coming off a 50-win season, and they haven’t missed the postseason since 2008. They’ve been good enough for long enough, and fans expect better than they got from the Bulls under Tom Thibodeau. Good luck with that.

Morning Shootaround — Aug. 27


Kobe, Shaq express regrets | MKG signs extension with Hornets | Stoudemire has high hopes for himself, Heat | Carrying on Lloyd’s legacy

No. 1: Kobe, Shaq express regrets Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant teamed up on the Lakers to win three championships, but their publicly contentious relationship sometimes seemed as through they won despite each other instead of because of each other. But in Shaq’s new podcast being released next week, Kobe Bryant visited as a guest, and as ESPN’s Baxter Holmes writes, the two looked back on their relationship and the dissolution of it with some regret…

In the podcast, “The Big Podcast With Shaq,” the two expressed regret over the feud.

“A lot of stuff was said out of the heat of the moment,” O’Neal said in an excerpt from the podcast that was played on ESPN Radio on Wednesday. “I guarantee I don’t remember a lot of stuff that they said, because I changed my thought process of, you know what, we won three out of four, what the hell are you all talking about? This is not really even a story.”

Said Bryant: “Here’s the thing, though. When you say it at the time, you actually mean it, and then when you get older you have more perspective, and you’re like holy… I was an idiot when I was a kid.

“To me, the most important thing was really, ‘just keep your mouth shut.’ You don’t need to go to the press with stuff. You keep it internal, and we have our arguments and our disagreements, but I think having our debates within the press was something I wish would’ve been avoided. But it did kind of create this whirlwind around us as a team with myself and Shaq and the press and the media that just put so much pressure on us as an organization.”


No. 2: MKG signs extension with Hornets The Charlotte Hornets and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist have supposedly been talking about a contract extension for a few days now, but yesterday they finally inked the five-year deal, which allowed both sides to meet the press. Hornets coach Steve Clifford has high goals for Kidd-Gilchrist, who explained to the Charlotte Observer‘s Rick Bonnell that he figured why wait to play for another contract?

Charlotte Hornets small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist might have made some more off his second NBA contract by waiting until he reached restricted free-agency next July.

Instead he chose the security of a four-year, $52 million extension in a place and with a franchise that have become his home.

“Why wait?” Kidd-Gilchrist said at a Wednesday news conference to formally announce the signing. “I’m learning from the best. I don’t do this for the money.”

Perhaps not, but his second NBA contract will make the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 draft fabulously wealthy. Also Kidd-Gilchrist has some upside protection in the contract’s terms. A source familiar with the deal said Kidd-Gilchrist has a player option for the final season, so if his improvement coincides with the anticipated spike in the salary cap, he could become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2019.

Kidd-Gilchrist would still be 25 – young by NBA standards – at that juncture.

Wednesday was a highly emotional day for Kidd-Gilchrist and his family. His mother frequently dabbed away tears during the news conference. He thanked numerous people including team owner Michael Jordan, the coaching staff and his family and agents.

“I’m learning from the best: MJ, Coach (Steve Clifford), Patrick Ewing, Mark Price,” Kidd-Gilchrist said.

Price, now coaching the Charlotte 49ers, was the Hornets assistant who worked diligently two summers ago to fix Kidd-Gilchrist’s jump shot. Price and Kidd-Gilchrist became so close through that experience that Kidd-Gilchrist skipped a team flight last season, flying to Washington later in the day at his own expense, to attend Price’s introductory news conference at UNC Charlotte.

Price returned that respect Wednesday, attending Kidd-Gilchrist’s news conference.

While Kidd-Gilchrist is still developing offensively (he averaged 10.9 points and 7.6 rebounds last season), he’s among the NBA’s top wing defenders. He told the Observer last season he aspires to be the best defender in NBA history, and didn’t back off that goal Wednesday.

“Aim for the stars; you’ll probably land on the moon. I have confidence in myself,” Kidd-Gilchrist said.


No. 3: Stoudemire has high hopes for himself, Heat Amar’e Stoudemire has spent a decade in the NBA, and gone from being a high-flying transition player into a more traditional, savvy post presence. After joining the Dallas Mavericks for their playoff run, Stoudemire signed with the Miami Heat, which he considers a return home. And as Stoudemire explained to the Associated Press, he believes the Miami Heat could have championship potential

He’s been texting and talking with Chris Bosh regularly. He’s considered himself close with Goran Dragic for years, going back to their time together with the Phoenix Suns.

Plus, he’s called Miami home for about seven years already.

So getting acclimated to being part of the Heat, that won’t be a big deal for the forward who will be entering his 14th NBA season – and first with Miami – when training camp opens in about a month. He knows many of his new teammates such as Dwyane Wade, Bosh and Dragic. He knows the city, and most of all he thinks that he can rekindle the All-Star form he had not long ago.

“We can be a really good team,” Stoudemire said. “No one thought that the Golden State Warriors would be champions this time last year. We knew they’d be a really good team, but no one thought they’d be world champions. With us, we know we’re a really good team. No one thinks we can be world champions, but you never know.”

Stoudemire went back to school on Monday, appearing with some other members of the Heat staff at an elementary school in Fort Lauderdale on the first day of the new academic year in South Florida.

He posed for photos and helped hand out some school supplies to ecstatic kids in what essentially was his first public appearance for the team since signing a one-year, $1.5 million deal last month. He also had to introduce himself to a few students; one asked Stoudemire if he was Bosh.

“I just live life,” Stoudemire said.” I try to enjoy it. I try to create positive energy when I can, I try to affect people in a positive way and just live life.”

For the kids, the new season of sorts started Monday.

For Stoudemire, while it won’t officially start for a few more weeks, prepping for 2015-16 in reality started long ago. He’s taking care of his body, but also said he believes that Heat President Pat Riley and coach Erik Spoelstra have the right formula to both extend the careers of veteran players while also getting the best from them.

“From playing against Miami, the thing that you learn is that they always have a competitive spirit,” Stoudemire said. “There’s an aura around here that everyone works hard, that you have to be in top shape which is great because I want to be in the best shape of my life going into this season. I want to surprise the world and have a very, very productive year.”


No. 4: Carrying on Lloyd’s legacy Back in 1950, Earl Lloyd became the first African-American to play in the NBA, as a member of the Washington Capitols. Lloyd passed away in February at the age of 86, but his son is working to make sure Lloyd’s legacy isn’t forgotten by attempting to have him commemorated on a postage stamp. As Donald Hunt writes in the Philadelphia Tribune, Kevin Lloyd and his family have a long process to go through

Lloyd is an excellent candidate to have his image on a postage stamp. Basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain was immortalized on two limited edition Forever postage stamps on Dec. 5, 2014 making him the first basketball player to have his likeness on a stamp.

The stamp process is quite grueling. The Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee is an organization appointed by the Postmaster General. The CSAC selects the stamp subjects for future consideration. The group submits them to the postmaster general who approves the subjects and designs for all U.S. postage stamps. The CSAC receives thousands of suggestions each year.

Nevertheless, the U.S. Postal Service has approved stamps for a number of athletes such as Jackie Robinson, Larry Doby, Althea Gibson, Jesse Owens, Wilma Rudolph and others.

In 2003, Lloyd was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. for integrating the NBA.

“Earl Lloyd was a true pioneer in the game as a breakout player, a coach, and an administrator who at every level led the integration of the professional game,” said John Doleva, president and CEO, Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in a statement. “He had a great love and respect for the game and used his success and challenges within it to educate and motivate so many others to achieve at the highest level. His remarkable basketball career aside, he was also one of the greatest and most decent human beings to represent basketball and the game was fortunate to have him at its forefront.”

Letters supporting Kevin Lloyd’s campaign should be mailed to: Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee, 475 L’Enfant Plaza SW, Room 3300, Washington, D.C. 20260-3501.


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Jordan Clarkson is not yet eligible to represent the Philippines, but the process is underway … Russell Westbrook had fun at the Taylor Swift concert in Los Angeles … LeBron James sold his waterfront home in Miami …

Morning shootaround — Aug. 17

VIDEO: Steve Smith names his top-five must-watch games for ’15-16


Wall doesn’t expect Olympic invite | Kings tab Beech to head analytics | Donovan’s journey included a stop on Wall St.

No. 1: Wall doesn’t expect Olympic inviteJohn Wall could very well be the second best player in the Eastern Conference. And he could see improvement this year if the Wizards play more Mike D’Antoni-ball, like they did in the playoffs. But all that might not mean anything when USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski choose the 12 guys who will represent the country in next year’s Olympics.’s Ben Standig spoke with Wall, who doesn’t think he’ll be wearing “USA” on his chest next summer:

John Wall did the math. He’s not making Team USA’s squad for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Wall wants in, no doubt. The two-time NBA All-Star will have the 2015-16 season to impress. However, having just left USA Basketball’s minicamp in Las Vegas, the Washington Wizards star grasps the red, white and blue numbers game. At this point, Wall is directly competing with fellow point guards Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving, Russell Westbrook and Mike Conley Jr. Heavy hitters indeed.

If history is a guide, three point guards will be part of the 12-man roster. Barring the unforeseen, two of those spots are locked up. Paul was a member of the 2012 Olympic gold medal squad. Curry helped the US triumph at the 2014 World Cup and then led the Golden State Warriors to the NBA championship.

“Oh, yeah. Ten times out of 10 they’ll be on the team,” Wall said when presented with the premise during a discussion Saturday. He spoke with at his charitable foundation’s back to school event for local kids in Washington.

Before the three PG factoid could be fully stated to Wall, he blurted out a name.


Irving also played on the 2014 team, not to mention at Duke for Team USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski. He’s also currently a teammate in Cleveland with king maker LeBron James, who is another 2016 lock if wants in.

“I’ll be out of the picture,” said Wall through a laugh and without any noticeable trace of resentment.


No. 2: Kings tab Beech to head analytics — There’s been a lot of turnover in the Sacramento Kings’ front office since Vivek Ranadivé bought the team two years ago. In July, amid a story that new Kings vice president Vlade Divac was “strongly opposed” to analytics, the team parted ways with Dean Oliver, who essentially wrote the book on analytics. Less than a month later, Sacramento has found a replacement.’s Marc Stein reports that they will be hiring Roland Beech, who founded the site and has spent the last six seasons with the Dallas Mavericks:

The Sacramento Kings have come to terms with Roland Beech to hire the longtime NBA sabermetrician to head up their analytics department, according to league sources.

Sources told that Beech is poised to join the Kings as their vice president of analytics under Vlade Divac, Sacramento’s new head of basketball operations.


No. 3: Donovan’s journey included a stop on Wall St. — New Oklahoma City Thunder coach Billy Donovan is, basically, a basketball lifer. But between his playing career and his coaching career came another job that helped him realize where his passion was. The Oklahoman‘s Anthony Slater has the story…

For 23 years, Donovan avoided the Wall Street lifestyle that so many from Rockville Center are so often destined. He rerouted his path to the NBA with an undying dedication to basketball. But athletic limitations gave his dream an expiration date. By 1989, he was out of the league and a 24-year-old looking for work. Wall Street was the most obvious choice.

Those four months in a Lower Manhattan office are nothing more than a footnote in the iconic coach’s illustrious career. But in retrospect, they served as an important sparkplug for his second basketball life. The brief unhappiness bred both an appreciation for what he left behind and an extra boost of hoops passion that turned into one of Donovan’s best assets, paving his path to the Thunder organization.


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Pelicans are getting together in L.A.Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith are still unsigned, but the Cavs have added Jared Cunningham to their training camp roster … and Tony Parker headlines France’s Eurobasket roster, which includes five other NBA players and two former NBA’ers.

ICYMI: The top 100 plays of the 2014-15 season:

VIDEO: Top 100 Plays of the 2015 NBA Season

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


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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Morning shootaround — Aug. 11

VIDEO: Take an All-Access look at the Rookie Photo Shoot

Report: Durant, Anthony plan to join Team USA workouts | Report: Harden to sign deal with Adidas | Report: Embiid to have surgery on foot soon


No. 1: Report: Durant, Anthony plan to join Team USA mini-camp drills — If there’s one thing that has been true about USA Basketball over the last few years, it is that the team is not lacking in talented players on the roster. As the team readies for this week’s mini-camp in Las Vegas, 34 NBA players will be a part of that session and range from young, up-and-comers (like Michael Carter-Williams) to established superstars (like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant).’s Marc Stein reports that Durant and Anthony will not only be in attendance for the mini-camp, but will take part in drills there: 

‎Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony are scheduled to make their first substantive on-court comeback steps at Tuesday’s opening day of USA Basketball workouts, according to USAB sources.

Durant told‎ here on Monday night that he intends to join in this week’s Team USA workouts.

Sources close to the situation told that Anthony, meanwhile, is likewise planning to jump into the light, noncontact practices scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday on the campus of UNLV.

Durant and Anthony are among the stars who were initially earmarked to report to the three-day minicamp solely to satisfy USAB’s mandatory attendance requirement in Vegas to remain eligible for the 2016 Olympic team. Neither Anthony nor Durant, sources said, will play in Thursday night’s intrasquad game at the Thomas and Mack Center (10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2), but the low-intensity nature of what Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski has planned for Tuesday and Wednesday, sources said, has been deemed sufficiently safe.

Durant played only 27 games last season because of a fractured foot. The NBA’s 2014 MVP, he was diagnosed with a Jones fracture in October and was ultimately forced to undergo three surgeries last season.

“Kevin has been incredibly disciplined in his return-to-play protocol, and he’s now at the stage where he can participate in noncontact drill work,” Thunder general manager Sam Presti told’s Royce Young. “We are excited he is at the point where he can take part in portions of the minicamp, as he has demonstrated great focus throughout his recovery efforts.”

Anthony, meanwhile, told in June that his recovery from left knee surgery is ahead of schedule. He underwent the season-ending operation to address a tendon issue shortly after playing in the All-Star Game in mid-February at Madison Square Garden.


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Morning Shootaround — July 31

VIDEO: Steve Smith has the story of Lakers rookie Larry Nance, Jr.


Gasol knows defense is still key for Bulls | How will Rivers use the bench he’s built? | Krzyzewski done after ’16 Olympics | KG to start for Wolves in Season No. 21

No. 1: Gasol knows defense is still key for Bulls — After four straight seasons of ranking in the top five in defensive efficiency, the Chicago Bulls fell to 11th last season. Fred Hoiberg is supposed to change up the offense upon taking over for Tom Thibodeau, but Pau Gasol knows that his team can’t lose focus on the defensive end of the floor, as ESPN’s Jon Greenberg writes

Bulls center Pau Gasol doesn’t know if his role will change next year under new coach Fred Hoiberg and his uptempo offensive system. He doesn’t even know if he’ll start.

But what the NBA veteran does know is the team can’t forget about former coach Tom Thibodeau’s calling card: Defense.

Hoiberg is known for a particular brand of basketball that encourages 3-point shooting and quick decisions, but while the Bulls offense under Thibodeau had too many lulls, they still managed to score 100.8 points per game. Hoiberg hired veteran NBA assistant coach Jim Boylen to help with the defense.

“Well, I think offense wasn’t really too much of an issue last year,” Gasol said on a conference call from South Africa, where he’s taking part in the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders event, which culminates with the first-ever NBA exhibition in Africa on Aug. 1. “We have a lot of talent offensively, and I think we’ll play with better flow offensively with Fred. We’ll have more freedom to play in transition and explore our abilities as individuals and as a team. As long as we understand that defense wins championships and makes the difference, and make sure we don’t neglect that side, we should be fine.”


No. 2: How will Rivers sort out the bench he’s built? — Though he had little flexibility going into the summer, Clippers president Doc Rivers restructured his bench, adding Lance Stephenson and Josh Smith, among others. The L.A. Times‘ Ben Bolch now wonders how Rivers will make all the pieces work together. He enlisted NBA TV analysts Mike Fratello and Stu Jackson to help him sort through the questions…

Stephenson comes with a history of having blown in LeBron James ear’ during a game. He’s also generated whispers about being a bad teammate, leading to more questions from Fratello.

“How is he going to fit in with the chemistry of this team and how will he handle the star factor of Chris Paul, of Blake Griffin, of Pierce’s experience and his Hall of Fame background?” Fratello asked. “How is he going to fit in with all that and does he bounce back from having a disappointing year last year? Has he grown up, has he matured, is he going to be a contributor?”

Jackson, a former coach and general manager of the Vancouver Grizzlies who is an analyst for NBA TV, said the presence of Paul, Griffin and Pierce should act as a buffer against bad behavior because they have created a culture of success and expectations.

“Teams that have veteran leadership can absorb almost any player into their culture and their environment,” Jackson said.


No. 3: Krzyzewski done after ’16 Olympics — After initially saying that he was done as the coach of the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team after the 2012 Olympics, Mike Krzyzewski came back for four more years. Now, as the team prepares to gather in Las Vegas for a three-day camp, USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo makes it clear, in a Q & A with Yahoo’s Marc Spears, that he’ll need a new coach after next year’s Olympics in Rio.

Q: How much longer do you want to be executive director of USA Basketball?

Colangelo: For me, it is still a passion. I’ve been asked to continue beyond ’16, which means through ’20. My attitude is: if I’m still healthy, and I’m healthy now, my passion still exists.

Q: Is there any way you can convince Mike Krzyzewski to coach past the 2016 Rio Olympics?

Colangelo: No. This time I know it’s done. I’m already working on the future. But my focus is on ’16. I have so much time on my hands that I’m already working on it.

Q: Do you already have a next coach in mind?

Colangelo: I always have a guy already in my head. Always did and always will.


No. 4: KG to start for Wolves in season No. 21Kevin Garnett played in just five games after returning to Minnesota at the trade deadline this past February. The Wolves have a crowded frontcourt, with No. 1 pick Karl-Anthony Towns and Euroleague MVP Nemanja Bjelica joining Garnett, Nikola Pekovic and Gorgui Dieng. Re-signed to a two-year deal, Garnett will join Robert Parish and Kevin Willis as the only players in NBA history to play more than 20 seasons, but won’t be coming off the bench for the first time since his rookie year. In a Q & A with Grantland’s Zach Lowe, Wolves president and head coach Flip Saunders says that KG is a starter.

Is KG going to start?

He’s gonna start. That’s who he is. KG is a starter. He’s the best power forward on our team, actually. No one rebounds better. He’s the best help defender. No one communicates better. He knows the offense, and he can pass it.

Does that include Towns, or is he a center? A hybrid? Does it matter?

It doesn’t matter. He’s a player. Good teams have guys that can play multiple positions. It makes them harder to guard. Besides, it’s not what position you play. It’s what position you can guard. Some nights, Towns will guard power forwards and KG will guard centers. Some nights, it will be the other way around.

It’s apparently Q & A day in Minnesota, because point guard Ricky Rubio also talked at length with Sports Illustrated‘s Ben Golliver

SI: What excites you about 2015 No. 1 pick Karl-Anthony Towns?

RR: “I like guys who can shoot the ball. Having Kevin Love really helped stretch the floor. I think Towns is a better fit [than No. 3 pick Jahlil Okafor] because of that. Okafor is more like [Nikola] Pekovic, a strong guy down in the post. Towns is a guy we don’t have.”

SI: How do you see this developing core group of you, Wiggins, Towns and LaVine playing together?

RR: “We’re pretty young, first of all. We’ve got a lot to learn. We’re athletic, we’re starving, we’re hungry. That’s something that’s going to show in practice and the games. I think it’s going to be a fun team to watch. A point guard who can pass the ball to athletic wings and big guys who can do a lot of damage in the post. In the case of Towns, he can really shoot the ball and run up and down too. I think it will be fun basketball, exciting.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: It’s been too long since we got an update from the Sixers on Joel EmbiidThe Pelicans still need to get Norris Cole re-signed … The Hawks’ Kyle Korver and Thabo Sefolosha are both making progress as they recover from season-ending injuries … Perry Jones is happy to have a fresh start in Boston … The Thunder signed 2014 first-round pick Josh Huestis after sending him to the D-League for a year … Could the Warriors get Kevin Durant next summer?