Posts Tagged ‘Russell Westbrook’

Blogtable: Most entertaining team to watch in 2015-16?

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: Top international newcomer? | Most entertaining team? | Too many preseason games?

VIDEOWho are the must-watch teams on League Pass in 2015-16?

> The ________ will be the most entertaining team to watch this season, and here’s why.

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: Warriors. They already were, and they brought the band back together. Steph Curry spent the summer trying to become even more efficient, and dropped 40 on New Orleans in the opener. The second and third years in a new offense are when a truly smart and skilled team blossoms. Which means trouble for the other 29 teams.

Steve Aschburner, For the second straight season, the NBA’s most entertaining team probably will be its best team — the Golden State Warriors. A club like the Clippers might pack more personality and purists might find entertainment value in the care and nurturing of a young, developing crew such as Milwaukee or Orlando. Personally, I still get my kicks watching 40 percent of the Memphis Grizzlies – that is, big men Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol playing old-millennium ball in a 3-crazed NBA. But night in, night out, for pace and production and their undersized leader out top (Steph Curry), Golden State is sports’ DWTS.

Fran Blinebury, The defending-champion Golden State Warriors. Have we forgotten so quickly, the ball movement, the shot-making the versatility, the sheer beauty of the Warriors that practically begged for a musical score in the background?  Play it again, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and the rest.

Scott Howard-Cooper, The Warriors. I considered the Thunder because it’s Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka joined by the uncertainty of a new coach, and that wonder of how Billy Donovan will work out adds to the good theater. But c’mon. Golden State is a fun watch anyway, and now the defending champs have the entire league chasing them … while hearing about how the title was luck … and firing back at doubters … with a coach who routinely dishes snark. That’s entrainment.

Shaun Powell, The Thunder. So much at play here, with Kevin Durant returning and seeking to restore his MVP glow, and how Russell Westbrook tries to top what he did the last three months of last season, and what Billy Donovan has in store for a system. Oh, and there’s also the backdrop of KD’s pending free agency. To me, entertainment means points and wins and showdown games against top competition, and OKC will hit that trifecta.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comThe Warriors are the easy answer, and the Thunder are a distant second. But in the Eastern Conference, the Washington Wizards could be Warriors Light. John Wall can’t shoot anything like Stephen Curry, but he’s one of the league’s best passers who will thrive with more space to operate. If Bradley Beal and Otto Porter can build on their postseason performances, this can be a pretty potent offense led by one of the league’s five best point guards.

Sekou Smith, The Clippers have all the ingredients you need to be the No. 1 reality TV show in basketball, both on and off the court. They’ll be the most interesting team to watch, as coach Doc Rivers tries to tinker with the chemistry of a championship-caliber group that has added three ridiculously strong personalities in Paul Pierce, Josh Smith and Lance Stephenson. This is still Chris Paul‘s team, but he might have to share the leadership load with others in ways that he has not been accustomed to recently. They’ll put on a show when they are at their high-flying best.

Ian Thomsen, The Clippers are going to be the edgiest and therefore most entertaining team. Their impatience will be their strength: Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are fed up with hearing about what they haven’t done, while DeAndre Jordan, Lance Stephenson and Josh Smith all want to be taken seriously. They are going to play with more attitude than any rival contender.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blogHere’s the thing: Whichever team is the correct answer to this question is a team we aren’t talking about right now. Last season the Atlanta Hawks quickly evolved into a sweet passing tribute to Jogo Bonito, which transformed them into darlings of the basketball nerd set. And then there are the young teams that play entirely on spirit and fire with a style that may be unsustainable, but no less watchable. So I’ll take a guess and say a team that might be worth tuning in for, if healthy, will be the Minnesota Timberwolves. Between Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine performing nightly high-wire acts, Ricky Rubio splashing the ball around with abandon, and Kevin Garnett and Karl-Anthony Towns in the post, what’s not to like?

One Team, One Stat: Much Russ

VIDEO: Schuhmann’s Advanced Stats: Oklahoma City Thunder’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2015-16 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the Oklahoma City Thunder, who leaned heavily on their one healthy star.

The stat


The context

20151019_okc_basicsUsage rate measures the percentage of a team’s possessions a player uses when he’s on the court. And with Kevin Durant playing just 27 games, Russell Westbrook recorded the highest usage rate of the last nine seasons.

Via his points and assists, Westbrook accounted for 60.1 percent of the Thunder’s points when he was on the floor. That mark was much higher than that of Stephen Curry (52.3 percent), James Harden (54.4 percent) or LeBron James (53.5 percent).

When Durant did play, Westbrook’s usage rate went down, as you’d expect. But his efficiency went down too. Westbrook actually shot better and scored more efficiently when Durant wasn’t on the floor and when his usage rate was higher.


And the Thunder offense was more efficient with only Westbrook in the game than when he shared the floor with Durant.


Of course, the Thunder are better off with both of their stars healthy. And it must be noted that Durant is a key part of Oklahoma City’s defense, which ranked in the top 10 for three straight years before falling off last season.

But it will be interesting to see if new coach Billy Donovan staggers Durant’s and Westbrook’s minutes more than Scott Brooks did over the years. Over the last three seasons in which both players were healthy (2010-11 through ’12-13), Westbrook played a total of just 559 minutes (2.4 per game) without Durant.

He played almost three times as many minutes without Durant last season. And if he plays more minutes with the second unit this year, he has plenty of experience being the focus of the offense.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

Morning Shootaround — Oct. 19

VIDEO: Run through Sunday’s highlights with the Fast Break


Love makes long-awaited return for Cavaliers | Lakers shutting Kobe down for remainder of preseason? | Jordan’s great expectations for Jeremy Lin | Porzingis making progress despite growing pains
No. 1: Love makes long-awaited return for Cavaliers — While negotiations with Tristan Thompson remain in limbo, the Cleveland Cavaliers welcomed back their No. 1 option at power forward. Kevin Love made his 2015-16 debut Sunday, sporting a new look and finally getting back on the court after shoulder surgery cut last season short in the first round of the playoffs. Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group was in Toronto for the first steps of Love’s comeback campaign:

Love, whose last game was April 26 against Boston in the playoffs when he separated his left shoulder, provided six points and four rebounds in 13 minutes of play.

On Sunday he displayed a new look with a curly hairdo and a black headband. But he also showed flashes of his old self to indicate it won’t take long to find his stride.

“Kev has been down and out since Game 4 of the playoffs last year and he’s worked very, very hard to come back,” Cavaliers head coach David Blatt said. “He’s in good shape, he’s in good basketball shape too and now it’s time for him to get his rhythm and his game experience back.”

The power forward nailed his first two field goals. Both of them were step-back jumpers over Luis Scola in low-post isolation sets. He missed his next five shots and was held out of the final two quarters. Blatt said his minutes would be at a minimum.

On the glass, Love demonstrated early on why he’s so dangerous. His first defensive rebound led to his patented outlet pass to Matthew Dellavedova at halfcourt, where the guard lobbed to Timofey Mozgov for an alley-oop dunk.

It was an easy bucket in the span of four seconds. Those scoring opportunities have been absent this entire preseason. Blatt said the plan is for Love to sustain his rhythm and play in the friendly finale on Monday at The Q against the Dallas Mavericks.

“I’m just happy he’s back,” Blatt said.


No. 2: Lakers shutting Kobe down for the remainder of the preseason? — Kobe Bryant‘s preseason is likely over. The Los Angeles Lakers don’t appear to be interested in taking any chances with their resident superstar heading into his 20th season in the league. Lakers coach Byron Scott is taking every precaution with Bryant heading into next week’s season opener, which Bryant is expected to be ready for. Baxter Holmes of has more:

“To be honest with you, [Bryant] probably won’t play [Monday],” Scott said after practice Sunday. “I’d rather get him close to 100 percent as possible. These games don’t mean anything right now. It’s really giving me a chance to look at these young guys anyway.”

Scott said Bryant might not play again this preseason. The Lakers have two games left: Monday and Thursday against the Warriors.

“There’s a chance,” Scott said. “I’m not going to put a percentage on it, but there’s a chance.”

But Scott said he is confident that Bryant will “absolutely” play in the Lakers’ regular-season opener Oct. 28 against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Staples Center.

Scott said Bryant still has some soreness in his leg and that he is only jogging and shooting at the moment.

“When him and I talked, his only minor concern was just getting his running in,” Scott said. “He worked too hard this summer to sit down for a week or two as far as conditioning goes. That’s the only thing he’s really kind of thinking about.”


No. 3: Jordan expects big things from Jeremy Lin — Linsanity. Here we go again. If Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan is right, we could see it again from point guard Jeremy Lin, the newcomer Jordan expects to make the biggest impact on his team this season. Jordan said as much, and plenty more, in an exclusive interview with in an exclusive interview with Xinhua News Agency:

As for Hornets’ prospects for the new season, Jordan showed his sober optimism. “They should be ok. We changed a lot of personnel. Everybody is excited I’m very excited but I don’t want to get overexcited.”

Jordan made specific mention of Jeremy Lin, who joined in the Hornets from the LA Lakers this summer. Jordan saw it a successful deal, “We just got Jeremy Lin, who I think is going to be our biggest acquisition. His penetration, his shooting capability, his point guard savvy, he can really pass the basketball, his energy about the game of basketball something,” Jordan said.


No. 4: Porzingis making progress despite growing pains — There are going to be growing pains in the basketball evolution that awaits Knicks rookie Kristaps Porzingis. Everyone involved knew that much the moment Phil Jackson took a chance on the young giant in the June Draft. How that roller-coaster ride plays out, however, was always going to depend on how quickly Porzingis adjusts to the rigors of the NBA game and all that comes with it, both on and off the court. Porzingis is making strides, writes Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News:

Give Kristaps Porzingis this: the kid is confident.

It’s especially noticeable in interviews, the way the giant 20-year-old brushes off any suggestions of pressure or potential struggles.

Nothing, it outwardly seems, is a prohibitive obstacle. The NBA, the stronger frontcourt opposition, the injuries — they’re all just shrug-worthy motivations to put up more shots or ingest more calories.

Which brings us to Porzingis’ gutsiest moment on an NBA court, a dunk attempt Saturday in Charlotte with a liftoff point that was probably a bit premature.

Porzingis was all by himself on the right side of the court in the second quarter, retrieving a loose ball near the 3-point line. Instead of hoisting an open jumper — something he’s capable of doing from any reasonable range — the Latvian saw the lane, lowered his head and decided to challenge Cody Zeller.

The confrontation didn’t go well for Porzingis. His dunk attempt might’ve fallen short anyway, but Zeller, the Hornets forward, made sure by sending it on a different trajectory.

“Sometimes you get blocked,” the 7-3 Porzingis said. “I’m sure I’ll dunk on some people too.”

For coach Derek Fisher, it’s the thought that counts.

“I saw aggression. I saw him going to the rim strong. I saw him rebounding. I saw him changing shots,” Fisher said “He’s been in and out with injuries, so the shooting, like I said, is not really my issue. I don’t think we question whether he can shoot the ball. Seeing him try to dunk on somebody, to me, that means he played a good game.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Pacers rookie Myles Turner is ready for more Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Thunder continue to impress in the preseason … An injury could cost Mavericks rookie Maurice Ndour dearly after a strong showing in training camp and the preseason … James Harden is the face of the Rockers on and off the court (in case you didn’t already know) …

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. 14

VIDEO: Remembering the great Moses Malone


Malone helped shape Olajuwon’s game, career | World Peace ready to return, but where? | A pressure shift in Miami from Bosh to Dragic | Moses the NBA’s most underappreciated great player

No. 1: Malone helped shape Olajuwon’s game, career — Moses Malone, who died Sunday at 60, was a pioneer, a teen phenom who would go on to become a three-time MVP, all-time NBA great and a Hall of Famer who ranks among the biggest and best players the game has seen. But who knew he served as a tutor and guide to another one of the NBA’s all-time greats, Hakeem Olajuwon, during the formative stages of The Dream’s Hall of Fame career? Our very own Fran Blinebury tells the story of Moses the mentor and the special bond between these two NBA titans:

It was 1982 and Malone had just won his second MVP award with the Rockets (he’d claim his third the next season). Olajuwon had just finished his first season at the University of Houston.

“Oh Lordy,” NBA veteran Robert Reid remembered years later. “The place got real quiet. It was on that play, at that minute, when a lot of us stood there and wondered, ‘What do we have here?’ ”

What a shrinking world had in this most unlikely union that brought together a made-in-America big man off the streets of Petersburg, Va., with a wide-eyed sponge from Lagos, Nigeria, was perhaps the greatest teacher-student class project in basketball history.

Malone, who died Sunday at 60, combined with Olajuwon to total 54,355 career points, 29,960 rebounds, 5,563 blocked shots, 24 All-Star appearances, four MVP awards, three Finals MVP trophies and two places in the Naismith Hall of Fame.

Theirs was a relationship born in the school of hard knocks and forged by the white-hot fire of mutual and insatiable competitive drive, out of range of the TV cameras, away from the prying eyes, where all that mattered was how much you had to give.

“I would never have accomplished what I did if I did not play against Moses at Fonde,” Olajuwon said before his own Hall of Fame induction in 2008. “I knew the rules. I knew the basics of the game and what you were supposed to do. But he is the one that taught me how to do it.

“With Moses there were no rests, no breaks. He was working every time down the court — scoring, rebounding or just making you feel his body. He would laugh when he slammed into you. If you tried to take a breath, he went by you or over you. There was no stop.”

They were opposite sides of the same coin. Where Malone would bump and grind and wear down an opponent with his sheer physical play and relentless pursuit of the ball, Olajuwon wore opponents out with an array or spins, fakes, double- and triple-pumps that were more varied and colorful than a painter’s palette.

“I usually couldn’t go through Moses, because he was just so strong,” Olajuwon said. “So I had to learn to use speed and agility to go around him. That’s how I built my game.”

*** (more…)

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 …

Blogtable: Team USA’s point guards for 2016?

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: Next Team USA coach? | Point guards for 2016? | Thoughts on NBA-refs deal?

VIDEOStephen Curry is looking forward to playing for Team USA

> Team USA has an embarrassment of riches at point guard with Steph Curry, Chris Paul, Kyrie Irving, John Wall, Russell Westbrook, Mike Conley and Michael Carter-Williams. Assuming they’ll take only three point guards to Rio, which three should it be? And why?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comWe’ve heard it from the USA brain trust that this team isn’t just a positional thing. So I’m not too bound up in strict point-guard duties or qualifications. Of that group, I know I’m going to have Chris Paul and Steph Curry on board. John Wall is hitting his prime and we’ll all know it by next spring, so I like him as my third PG. And then I still find a roster spot for Russell Westbrook (mentioned fourth here not in any pecking order but because he’s such a hybrid).

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comFirst off, I’m not buying your assumption that Team USA will take only three point guards. But if if have to play by your rules, I want Steph Curry, the best shooter in the game, Chris Paul, the best handle and distributor, and Russell Westbrook, because there are times when you just need the best athlete to overpower the opponent and make plays.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comI’m not sure three is the final number, but for the sake of conversation: Stephen Curry, because that shooting will be invaluable as Team USA constantly faces zones. Chris Paul, because he is arguably the most complete package among players in the league (passing, shooting, defense, leadership). And Russell Westbrook, because athleticism is one of the factors that will set the Americans apart and Westbrook can overwhelm opponents in that way. But it will be hard to complain about any of those names on the final roster.

Shaun Powell, I want Curry, Paul and Westbrook. Steph Curry, because he’s the best shooter of the bunch. Chris Paul, because he’s the best leader of the bunch and the one most likely to keep his cool if times get tight. And then there’s Russell Westbrook, because of his attack-ability. Can’t really go wrong with that trio.

John Schuhmann, Chris Paul is the best floor general in the league. Stephen Curry is the best shooter. And Russell Westbrook has the speed and athleticism that overwhelms most international opponents. Though Irving was the MVP of the World Cup last year, Wall would be ahead of him on my list of alternates, because he’s the better passer and better defender.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comThis is an excruciating choice given the extreme embarrassment of riches available here, provided that everyone on this list is healthy at the time of selection. After watching Curry work in Spain at the FIBA World Cup last summer and ride that wave into a MVP and championship season with the Golden State Warriors, he’s my number one pick in this point guard draft. Chris Paul gives me a steady hand who has the experience and leadership qualities that are necessary in international competition of this sort, so he’s my second pick. And Russell Westbrook edges out John Wall for the third and final spot. He provides the experience, versatility and raw energy to change the game as my third point guard and utility man extraordinaire. I can use him in any number of ways in the international game and would do so liberally while Curry and CP3 concentrate on floor general duties. If any of these guys cannot make it to Rio for any reason, I want Wall to keep a packed bag ready.

Ian Thomsen, Curry, Paul and Wall should be the point guards because all are excellent passers and floor leaders – attributes that will be crucial to the success of this team. (If one of them is injured next summer then Conley should be the first alternate.) And then add Westbrook to the roster too – but mark him down simply as a guard, because he transcends traditional positioning.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blogStephen Curry is a no-brainer. He’s the most valuable player in the NBA, so he’s going to Rio. With him, I’m bringing Chris Paul, who can run a team better than any of the other options, and is probably the best leader available to Team USA. Finally, I’m bringing Russell Westbrook. He’s the most dynamic point guard in the world when healthy, and bringing Westbrook off the bench and allowing him to terrorize second-string point guards from other teams would be must-see TV. (I also like that Westbrook or Curry can play the 2 alongside Paul.) Nothing against Irving, Wall, Conley or MCW, but like the question said, it’s an embarrassment of riches.

Morning shootaround — August 3

VIDEO: Steve Smith shines a light on the offseason winners and losers


Noah active, energized this summer | Thunder coach Donovan tough as they come | Okafor has great expectations for Sixers

No. 1: Noah active, energized this summer — Change has been good for Joakim Noah. The Chicago Bulls’ All-Star big man has been active this summer and energized this summer, both in the community and where basketball is concerned. Noah feels good. His mind is clear and his focus is sharp. And as far as his new coach, Fred Hoiberg, is concerned, the vibes are good. K.C. Johnson from the Chicago Tribune has more on Noah’s big summer:

Given that Joakim Noah spoke Saturday at an anti-violence community event his foundation organized, the Bulls’ big man placed last season’s personal struggles in perspective.

“Last year was a tough year for me. I feel it was very humbling,” Noah said. “We went through a lot. Right now, I’m feeling healthy both physically and mentally. I’m really excited about our upcoming opportunity. I never take anything for granted.”

Noah, who attended Saturday’s ONE CITY youth basketball tournament at the Major Adams Community Center near the United Center with his mother and sister, has been working out this offseason in California. Recently, new coach Fred Hoiberg visited.

He’s confident his summer at a sports science academy has put the health issues he experienced last season after May 2014 left knee surgery behind him.

“I feel great,” Noah said. “This is the first time I’ve taken a lot of time for myself to just focus on what I need to get done. Sometimes when you go through humbling experiences, (you) hungrier than ever. And I feel ready to prove I can help this team win big.”

Noah said he enjoyed “vibing” with Hoiberg.

“We got to break bread together,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed talking to the coaching staff, spending time with Fred. I think it’s going to be very different.”

Asked to elaborate, Noah smiled.

“Time will tell,” he said. “But it will definitely be different. We had a lot great times with Tom Thibodeau. He’s a great coach. I learned a lot from him. I’ve experienced a lot with him. I only have good things to say about him. I’m looking forward to this new chapter in my career.”

Before the tournament, Noah and his mother, Cecilia Rodhe, unveiled his Noah’s Arc Foundation’s latest public service announcement centered on its “Rock Your Drop” movement. It’s centered on peace, unity and positive change in the face of Chicago’s rampant gun violence.

Spike Lee, Bears running back Matt Forte, “Chicago Fire” actor David Eichenberg and St. Sabina’s Rev. Michael Pfleger are some of the spot’s prominent cameos.

“‘Rock Your Drop’ is a movement that started with my mother. It has been part of my vision as a basketball player since I was a kid,” Noah said. “For it to be finally here and feel this love really means so much to me and to my family. To launch this PSA is huge. To be able to play for the Chicago Bulls is something other than just basketball. When I see people wearing their drops, it means the world to me and my mom.”

Rodhe, an artist, chiseled the small drop out of stone 18 years ago. Noah wore one on a necklace.

“We’re all one. We’ve all been given life,” Rodhe said. “It doesn’t matter where we’re from. I’m from Sweden. You may say, ‘What are you doing here, blonde lady, on the South Side of Chicago? This isn’t your problem.’ I say no. When something is as strong as gun violence and you see the pain of moms, that’s all of ours problem.”

Noah is very hands-on with his foundation. He joked about converting now-teenage kids who razzed him about Kevin Durant fans five or six years ago.

“This will be my ninth season here and I don’t take that for granted,” Noah said. “Guys move around in my profession. They get traded. To be with a team for that long is special.

“I’m working as hard as I can on the court and this is a part of what I wanted to do since I started playing basketball. This is like home. We’ve been putting in a lot of work here. This is not a gimmick. It’s for the right reasons. To be able to do all this work makes me happy.”


No. 2: Thunder coach Donovan tough as they come — Anybody wondering what kind of transition Billy Donovan will make to the NBA after years as one of the nation’s elite college coaches need only peek into his past. Donovan is as tough as they come, having honed his game and his basketball sensibilities in Queens and, later, the Big East. If Donovan’s pedigree is any indication, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and the Co. are in good hands. Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman explains:

After the Big East formed in 1979, basketball interest in the northeast spiked. The early ‘80s produced a golden age for high school point guards in NYC, meaning the 1983 Wheelchair event, the 10th annual, was a must-see edition.

That graduating class had Dwayne “Pearl” Washington, the playground legend and soon-to-be Syracuse star, and future NBA starters Kenny Smith and Mark Jackson.

But it was a sub 6-foot white kid from an affluent area of Long Island who stole the show in that showcase game. His name was Billy Donovan.

“Oh, Billy went off,” said his high school teammate, Frank Williams.

Donovan’s Queens team faced the Brooklyn squad led by Pearl Washington, the game’s headliner. Months earlier, Donovan battled Washington’s in a six-quarter high school scrimmage. Pearl had 82 points.

“We pressed the whole game and he just weaved in and out,” Donovan said. “I learned a lot.”

Donovan was a game-control point guard. Slick ball-handling was his greatest strength. Pearl was a wizard with the ball, his moves legendary. At the Wheelchair Classic, Donovan put his mental notes from the scrimmage to use.

“I don’t think Pearl was ready for it,” Williams laughed.

In the highlight play of his highlight day, Donovan sent Pearl sprawling on a left-handed, inside-out crossover dribble, cruising past him for a layup.

“Pearl nearly fell down,” said Billy’s childhood best friend Kevin Quigley. “The crowd went nuts. Just hooting and hollering. The little white boy just juked Pearl out of his shoes.”

Billy Donovan made a career out of willing himself to success. Too small and athletically limited to compete against premiere athletes? He molded himself into a player and led Providence to an unlikely Final Four run. Florida is a second-tier hoops program at a football school? He quickly turned them into a national powerhouse. Too inexperienced to coach in the NBA? Sam Presti just handed him the keys to the most important season in the Thunder’s brief franchise history.

But before there was Billy Donovan the iconic coach or Billy The Kid bombing 3s at Providence College there was Billy the kid, a Long Island youth addicted to basketball.

“It was almost an obsession,” Quigley said.


No. 3: Okafor has great expectations for Sixers — Philadelphia 76ers rookie Jahlil Okafor is well aware of the struggles that have gone on prior to his arrival in the City of Brotherly Love. But that has not soured him on what could be. He has great expectations for what he and the Sixers will get done in his rookie season. Marc Narducci of the Philadelphia Inquirer has the details:

Okafor averaged 18.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in two Las Vegas Summer League games. Before that, he averaged 14.0 points and 8.3 rebounds in three summer league games in Utah.

“I was satisfied,” Okafor said of his summer performance. “I got better every game and worked on everything.”

Covington said Okafor has already made an impact.

“He has brought a whole lot of excitement to this team,” Covington said. “He is a big man who has made his presence known already.”

Another big man, Joel Embiid, will miss a second straight season because of another procedure on his foot.

“It is hard to do, but he is doing well, and he is keeping his head high,” Covington said.

Just as the focus last season was on Nerlens Noel, this season it will be on Okafor. He said he can’t wait to get settled in the Philadelphia area and is looking for a place to live.

Okafor won’t lack confidence. He expects a lot from a Sixers team coming off an 18-64 season. He knows the expectations will again be low, but he doesn’t care.

“Everybody knows we have expectations, and the fans have expectations, and that is all that matters,” he said.

Okafor will be a trendy choice for rookie of the year because he is expected to play major minutes.

“It’s definitely a possible goal,” he said about earning the award. “Definitely.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Michael Jordan is still the G.O.A.T., just ask Jimmy ButlerNancy Lieberman called Muhammad Ali after joining the Sacramento Kings as an assistant coach … Got cash? You’ll need plenty of it to buy the New York penthouse of former Brooklyn star Deron Williams

Morning Shootaround — July 22

VIDEO: Paul Pierce talks about joining the Clippers


Pierce still has work to do | Harden beats Curry | Seth Curry gets crowned | Report: Players to study healthcare for retired players

No. 1: Pierce still has work to do As he enters the 17th season of his NBA career, Paul Pierce has pretty much seen and done it all, from winning a title to playing for a rebuilding team. But with his career entering its likely twilight, Pierce signed with the Los Angeles Clippers to play in his hometown, with the coach (Doc Rivers) with whom he experienced his greatest success, to play for a team that he hopes to lead over the hump, writes’s Ian Thompsen

Paul Pierce was watching the Clippers on TV last May as they lost Game 7 of their Western conference semifinal. Pierce’s own team, the Wizards, had been knocked out of the Eastern conference playoffs two days before.

“I already knew I was either going to go home and play for the Clippers or come back to Washington,” says Pierce, who opted out of his Wizards contract to become a free agent. “So I watched the Clippers closely.”

He watched, horrified, as they surrendered a 3-1 series lead over Houston. Worst of all was a Game 6 loss in Los Angeles in which the Rockets scored 51 of the last 71 points.

“No way — if I was in that locker room — I would have allowed that to happen,” Pierce says. “You picture yourself being that voice or being that guy on the court that can help in those situations. I think I fill a pretty big need for them.”

So his career ends where it began. Pierce starred at Inglewood High School, one mile west of the Fabulous Forum where the Lakers played. He had grown up idolizing Magic Johnson and hating Larry Bird. He could not have imagined how his loyalties would change during 15 years as a Celtic, and that his preference ultimately would be to return home to play for the Lakers’ nearest enemy.

There was a time, three decades ago, when pro basketball was saved by the rivalry of Boston and Los Angeles. Pierce has grown up to straddle the NBA’s dueling capitals.

“I’m trying to cement my legacy in both,” he says. “If I could win the first Clippers’ championship here, that would be pretty much storybook.”


No. 2: Harden beats Curry After months of discussion and debate, Stephen Curry ran away with the 2015 NBA Most Valuable Player Award, as voted on by NBA media. But last night on the first annual NBA Player’s Association “Players’ Awards,” the voting shook out differently. As Jonathan Feigan writes in the Houston Chronicle, the players voted for James Harden over Curry as the NBA Players’ Choice MVP

Following a season in which Curry won nearly everything there was to win, Harden was the choice of NBA players as the winner of the first NBA Players Choice Award for MVP announced on Tuesday, edging Curry, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook.

Though other details about the voting were not released, Harden was said on the tape-delayed BET broadcast to have won by one vote.

“I want to thank God, thank my mom, my family and friends for all the support, the continuous support,” Harden said. “I want to thank BET for this beautiful event. To the NBA Players Association, (executive director) Michele Roberts for giving players a voice to speak their minds, and then just the players, the peers, I appreciate this vote. It means a lot and I’m really thankful for it.”

Curry was the NBA’s official regular-season Most Valuable Player award, taking 100 of the 130 first-place media votes, with Harden second with 25 first-place votes. Curry defeated Harden’s Rockets in the Western Conference Finals and helped lead the Golden State Warriors to the NBA championship. But Harden’s selection was surprising because of the results when many of the other award winners were announced.

Curry had been named the league’s ‘Top Clutch Performer,’ taking the award over Harden, James and Westbrook. He had also made the winner of the ‘Hardest to Guard Award,’ winning over Harden, James and Westbrook.


No. 3: Seth Curry gets crowned Stephen Curry was a lottery pick who worked his way into becoming the NBA MVP. His younger brother, Seth Curry, has had a more circuitous route, spending most of his pro career bouncing around the D-League. Yet in the recently finished Samsung NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, Seth looked like Steph, averaging 24.3 ppg for the New Orleans Pelicans summer squad. His big performance was rewarded yesterday, when Seth Curry inked a two-year deal with the Sacramento Kings

The Kings will look for perimeter shooting from the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Curry.

After leaving Duke in 2013, Curry wasn’t drafted. He has spent most of his pro career in the NBA Development League, where he has been an All-Star twice. He has appeared in four NBA games: one with Memphis and one with Cleveland in 2013-14 and two with Phoenix last season. He had 10-day contracts with those teams.

Curry is the second player to strike a deal with the Kings since the end of summer league. On Monday, the Kings and forward Quincy Acy agreed to a two-year contract with a second-year player option.

Acy played with the Kings during the 2013-14 season after coming from Toronto in the Rudy Gay trade. The Kings dealt him to New York last August, and he averaged 5.9 points and 4.4 rebounds in 68 games with the Knicks.

The Kings will have 13 players on guaranteed contracts once the additions of Curry, Acy and Caron Butler become official. Eric Moreland’s deal becomes guaranteed Aug. 1. Second-year guard David Stockton’s contract does not become guaranteed unless he is on the Kings’ roster after Jan. 10.


No. 4: Report: Players to study healthcare for retired players At a recent meeting of the NBA Player’s Association, the executive committee has decided to set aside some money as they study a plan to provide healthcare to retired players. As Ken Berger writes for CBS Sports, there are no concrete plans, but the players are interested in studying the idea

At its summer meeting in Las Vegas on Monday, union leaders agreed that they liked the concept of funding retired players’ medical costs, but no vote was taken on whether to go forward with the plan. The executive committee, led by president Chris Paul of the Clippers, voted to set aside an undisclosed sum of the shortfall check the union is due to receive from the NBA to fund the initiative if it is acted upon.

The issue will be discussed further at the union’s All-Star meeting in Toronto.

Since the players’ negotiated salaries for the 2014-15 season came in below their 50-51 percent negotiated guarantee, the union will receive the entire escrow fund of approximately $200 million plus the amount of the shortfall — estimated to be $57 million, according to a league source. The committee did not vote on how to divide the shortfall money — evenly among all the players or prorated based on their salaries, sources said.

It is expected that the players also will receive shortfall checks after the next two seasons as league revenues continue to rise higher than expected. With the infusion of the NBA’s $24 billion TV deal beginning in 2016, commissioner Adam Silver said last week that the amount of the shortfall due the players in 2017 could approach $500 million.


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: New Wizards signee Jared Dudley will miss 3-4 months following back surgery … The Pelicans have added veteran leadership by signing Kendrick Perkins to a one-year deal … The Hornets have reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with former UNC star Tyler Hansbrough … The Rockets have re-signed K.J. McDaniels … The Celtics signed second-round pick Jordan Mickey to a four-year dealBaron Davis is trying to launch an NBA comeback

The right time for Donovan in OKC

VIDEO: Kevin Durant talks about his recovery and new coach Billy Donovan

ORLANDO, Fla. — Eight years after a head-fake that seemed to put him in charge of the Magic for several days, Billy Donovan was back in Central Florida as an NBA head coach.

Now 50, the one-time Billy the Kid, is trying to learn his way around Oklahoma City, shagging rebounds in practice for Kevin Durant and convinced that his shared ideas with general manager Sam Presti finally made this the right time to jump to the NBA.

“Knowing Sam over the years, I think the biggest thing for me in the decision was I really felt when I took the job at Florida, I felt like I was really aligned with (athletic director) Jeremy Foley and his vision,” Donovan said between games Monday at the Orlando Pro Summer League. “I think a lot of times in job situations you want to make sure that that’s the case.

“Sam, I thought, the first time we sat down and really talked about this, he really laid out what the organization stood for, what it was about, what the core values were about, what he envisioned going forward, how he wanted to go forward, the things that were important to him as a general manager. And I identify with all those things. I felt aligned with those things and I think I shared a lot of those same values with Sam. That was first and foremost the most important thing to me.

“Anytime you’re working with somebody, are you always going to agree on everything? No. Are there gonna be some differences? Yes. But at the core of it, we’re working in the same direction.”

Donovan, who had agreed to a non-compete clause with the Magic that banned him from taking another NBA job for five years, was hired just eight days after the Thunder fired Scott Brooks on April 22. It could, quite simply, be the most important hire the franchise ever makes.

That’s because the 2015-16 season is pivotal for OKC for far more than just wins and losses. Durant is entering the last year of his contract before becoming a free agent next summer. Russell Westbrook’s contract is up in two years. The Thunder now have less than 12 months to convince Durant to stick with the franchise that drafted him and then hope that his magnetism will be enough to keep Westbrook.

Fact is, depending on how those scenarios play out, the Thunder could be playing in the 2017 Finals or taking part in the 2017 NBA Draft Lottery. It’s that wide gap that’s at stake.

Donovan, who made the University of Florida a national power in his 19 seasons there, winning back-to-back NCAA titles in 2006 and 2007, could be the key to it it. Durant has already said he likes the new coach’s hunger and attitude as a basketball junkie.

Theirs is a budding relationship that could literally determine the balance of power in the league in the coming years. Durant is on the record saying he approved of LeBron James returning to Cleveland to be close to home last summer and LaMarcus Aldridge leaving Portland for his native Texas in the past several days to play for the Spurs. He spoke of admiring those players for doing what made them happy. It brings up the possibility of Durant going to his native Washington, D.C., in a year or going to any other NBA city that might catch his fancy.

Therefore it’s all about Donovan, how much he can impress Durant, the kind of hooks he can sink into Westbrook.

Eight years after he could have made the jump to the NBA in Orlando, it’s the time, the place, the leap of faith the Thunder are making with the grown-up version of Billy the Kid.