Carmelo Anthony understands all too well the pressures of playing for the New York Knicks, something that became all the more arduous during his tenure as the organization fell into a state of utter and total dysfunction under the watch of owner James Dolan.
Anthony’s experiences of those very circumstances affords him a unique perspective when it comes to the Knicks’ continued downward spiral. This makes his recent comments about how Kevin Durant spurned the team that much more interesting.
Speaking recently to reporters, Anthony seems to suggest Durant does not have the right mentality to play for one of the most storied franchises in NBA history, albeit one that obviously has fallen on extremely hard times.
“I don’t think it surprised me,” Anthony said, per Marc Berman of the New York Post. “We all read Durant’s quotes. We know what he said. Whether you agreed with it or not, people have different perspectives about it. It’s not just ‘the Knicks and we’re going to get somebody,’ and it’s a guarantee. Nowadays players aren’t thinking about that. They want to go into a situation where they can enjoy and have fun and not have to deal with that. You have to deal with it in Brooklyn anyway, but it’s not the same. It’s not the same.”
Anthony’s comments refer to what Durant has had to say about the Knicks when explaining his decision to instead sign with the Brooklyn Nets in free agency.
What Anthony had to say further about the Durant-Knicks situation that is sure to raise eyebrows, though.
“Not everybody can deal with (playing for the Knicks),” Anthony added. “Not even a star, but role players. Not too many people can deal with what comes with that. I don’t want to say pressure, but everything that comes along with wearing the Knicks across the chest.”
Anthony arguably is intimating that Durant lacks the mental toughness to play in the pressure-packed environs of Madison Square Garden as the Knicks’ marquee player. Whether that’s indeed the case or not, it’s possible that Durant may elect to respond, given his history.
The NBA has never been in a better place than it is now in terms of popularity, excitement and quality of play. The league has a number of things to thank for that, most notably its superstars led by the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Steph Curry, who continue to perform at a high level. And as we’ve seen in recent years from players such as Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony, Father Time remains undefeated.
The best way to delay the inevitable athletic decline is to enhance new skills and play a less physically taxing brand of basketball. Take Dirk Nowitzki, for example. He developed a tough-to-block-shot — a one-legged fadeaway jumper that allowed him to get a high-percentage shot off anywhere on the court — and he remained one of the best offensive players in basketball until late in his career.
Let’s take a look at a handful of today’s older superstars and see if there’s a historical parallel they can model their games after to help them age gracefully into the twilight of their careers. As far as my criteria, a player must:
Be a future Hall of Famer (sorry Jimmy Butler!)
Still be playing at an All-NBA level (sorry Chris Paul!)
Be entering at least his ninth season.
LEBRON JAMES, LAKERS, 17th season (turning 35 this season)
Twilight should mirror: Magic Johnson, seasons 10 thru 12, 29-31 years old. Key three-year averages: 21.4 points, 12.3 assists, 7.1 rebounds per game.
Because of his Karl Malone-like frame, most assumed LeBron would move up positions (small forward to power forward to center) as his career progressed. While he’s clearly capable of that progression as evidenced by him dominating the restricted area throughout his career, he continues to develop his guard skills (8.8 assists per game the past three seasons) to evolve with the wide-open, perimeter-oriented evolution of the game. Put differently, he’s already adopted the Magic Johnson career evolution over the Karl Malone one, so he might as well take it full tilt and become a point guard now that he has a go-to scorer in Anthony Davis whom he can rely upon. Assuming good health, it wouldn’t be surprising to see James flirt with double-digit assists per game this season.
STEPHEN CURRY, WARRIORS, 11th season (turning 32 this season)
Twilight should mirror: Steve Nash, seasons 12 thru 16, 33-37 years old. Key five-year averages: 33.9 minutes, 15.4 points, 10.8 assists per game, 51-43-92 shooting splits.
Curry always will be a better scorer than Nash ever was, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t try to mimic the latter stages of Nash’s career as he ages out of his physical prime. When Curry can no longer shake the NBA’s best defenders out of their shoes, he’ll need to focus more on his playmaking (only 5.2 assists per game last season) to remain an elite offensive weapon into his mid-30s. Nash, a player development consultant for the Warriors, was still playing at an All-Star level until his final season in Phoenix by keeping defenses on edge with his brilliant orchestration of pick-and-rolls and willingness to pass up good shots for great shots. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Curry do the same.
KEVIN DURANT, NETS, his next season will be his 13th (turning 31 this season)
Twilight should mirror: Dirk Nowitzki, seasons 11 thru 14, 30-33 years old. Key four-year averages: 24.1 points, 7.5 rebounds per game 48-38-90 shooting splits.
Given what we know about the effect Achilles injuries have on a basketball player’s athleticism, Durant is going to be a different kind of player when we next see him on the court. He’ll still have his amazing bucket-getting skills, but he probably won’t have the same kind of quickness and leaping ability, making this comparison even more apt. Like Dirk, KD has the height (7 feet) and length to get a shot off anywhere on the court. Thus, even if Durant can’t get to the rim like he has his entire career (7.7 free throw attempts per game for his career), he should be able to score 25 per game until he’s 40 if he masters some of the fadeaways, pump fakes and moves Dirk had. Good news Nets fans: He’s already pretty damn good at the one-legged fadeaway.
JAMES HARDEN, ROCKETS, 11th season (30 years old)
Twilight should mirror: A super version of Manu Ginobili, seasons 7 thru 9, 31-33 years old. Key three-year per-36 minute averages: 20.7 points, 5.8 assists, 4.9 rebounds, 2.6 turnovers per-36.
I used per-36 averages because Ginobili played only 28.9 minutes per game during this stretch, and Harden will almost certainly be playing more minutes late into his career. When Harden loses his insanely quick first step and elite ability to change speed and direction, he can still be one of the best offensive players in the league by constantly attacking defenses the way Ginobili did his entire career for the Spurs. Ginobili’s ability to play an ultra-aggressive playing style while not turning the ball over was especially impressive. As Harden’s athleticism wanes, his insane usage rate will likely drop and he’ll need to give the ball to the other team less (5.0 turnovers per game the past three seasons). With Russell Westbrook, another record-setting player in terms of usage rate, set to join Harden this season, perhaps we’ll start to see him take care of the ball a little better -– if he doesn’t, the Rockets might be in trouble.
NBA free agency officially tipped off around the league Sunday evening. It’s been one of the most highly anticipated free agent classes in modern history.
We got answers to some pretty big questions as free agency got going on Day 1. The Boston Celtics netted All-NBA guard Kemba Walker to replace Kyrie Irving, who ended up signing with the Brooklyn Nets.
Meanwhile, the Orlando Magic retained star center Nikola Vucevic on a less-than max contract. More than anything, the Nets’ ability to team Kyrie Irving up with Kevin Durant changes the entire dynamic around the Association.
It’s in this that we give you the biggest winners and losers from the first day of NBA free agency.
Winner: Kemba Walker
Walker traded the small market of Charlotte for the bright lights of Boston. While that’s going to come with a lot of pressure as the face of the Celtics’ franchise, Walker appears to be more than up for the task. He also joins a championship contender after toiling in mediocrity with the Hornets over the past eight seasons.
Equally as important, Walker netted a max four-year, $141 million deal from Boston after the Hornets low-balled him with a five-year, $160 million contract. Now the face of a contending team, Walker is a major winner.
Loser: Free agent big men
Nikola Vucevic receiving less than the max from Orlando represented a major hit for other free agent big men. In fact, his four-year, $100 million contract is well below market value. The same thing can be said about the three-year, $45 million contract Jonas Valanciunas signed with the Memphis Grizzlies.
This does not bode well for other free agents at the center position. Specifically, the market is going to be bare for DeMarcus Cousins.
Winner: Golden State Warriors
Even after both Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson suffered serious injuries in the NBA Finals, it was reported that Golden State would extend max-contract offers to both free agents. While Durant ultimately signed with Brooklyn, the Warriors did in fact offer him a five-year, $221 million deal. Meanwhile, Thompson committed to a five-year, $190 million max deal with Golden State.
It’s rare in today’s sports landscape to see a team show this type of loyalty to players. Thompson’s ACL injury is less severe than Durant’s ruptured Achilles. But both are serious. Offering up $411 million in guaranteed cash represents a major commitment for a team that’s facing billions in payroll over the next few seasons, even with Durant on his way to Brooklyn.
Loser: Kyrie Irving
Irving might have received a max contract from the Brooklyn Nets Sunday night. But it did not come without his reputation being tainted big time. Reports of his diva-like mentality ruining the Boston Celtics gave way to Irving’s former team not showing any real interest in re-signing him. That’s a major black eye for the NBA champion.
It’s also important to note that Boston did not waste any time replacing Irving with fellow All-Star Kemba Walker. It’s certainly going to be interesting to see how all of this plays out. Should Walker lead Boston to championship contention with Irving’s Nets struggling while forming a super team, it would represent another major hit for the veteran.
Winner: Brooklyn Nets
Irving as a loser with the Nets as a winner? Both can be true. Brooklyn targeted Irving immediately after the 2018-19 season. It culminated in a max contract agreement Sunday evening. It also represents the biggest free-agent signing in Nets history.
Well, that was until later on Sunday when Kevin Durant announced he was signing with the Nets . He’s going to be joined by best bud DeAndre Jordan to form a new big three in the Big Apple. While KD is out for all of next season, the Nets still have a team worthy of competing in the Eastern Conference until he returns the following season. It was a memorable day Sunday in the Mecca of the basketball world. That’s putting it lightly.
Loser: Charlotte Hornets
Michael Jordan’s tenure as the Hornets’ owner has been an unmitigated disaster. The latest example of this is Charlotte offering Kemba Walker a five-year, $160 million contract, about $61 million less than it could have offered the All-NBA performer.
Instead, the Hornets head into next season with Nicolas Batum, Bismack Biyombo, Marvin Williams and Cody Zeller counting a combined $71-plus million against the cap. That’s just horrible stuff right there. And it’s certainly enough to make MJ and Co. major losers in free agency. But hey, at least they’re now paying Terry Rozier nearly $20 million annually.
Golden State Warriors All-Star Kevin Durant has been making statements with his apparel all summer, and his Nike KD 10 Finals shoes, released Tuesday, keep up the conversation.
Last month, Durant released a new color for his KD 10s surrounded by red velvet cupcakes, a reference to the moniker given him by former teammate Russell Westbrook.
The new shoes also offer a message to Durant’s critics.
The insoles feature a series of critiques and names directed at him since he left the Oklahoma City Thunder to join the Warriors in July 2016.
Lame. Doesn’t Care About Fans. He’s Changed. Quitter. Weak. Snake. Soft.
Arrogant. Choked. Pathetic. Loser. Bandwagon. Traitor. Cheater.
Overlaid on the list on one insole, in big, bright yellow font, it says:
On the other insole, overlaid on the critical words, are Durant’s stats for each of the five games in the championship series against the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the words:
The shoe was released online and quickly sold out.
“His move to Golden State, that overshadowed who he was as a player and what he can do. It’s nice that he’s getting recognized again,” Leo Chang, Nike Basketball design director, told ESPN’s Nick DePaula. “If you talk to him about basketball, he just talks about the ‘purity of the game’ and that flow. He’s getting that there. If you look at the way the basketball moves on that team, it’s very unselfish and everyone gets a touch. The guy with the highest percentage in their spot is going to get the ball.”
Last year, after Durant announced his decision to join the Warriors, Westbrook posted a single Instagram picture, a plate full of cupcakes, wishing everyone a happy Fourth of July. It was a jab directed at Durant. Kendrick Perkins used to refer to teammates as “cupcakes” when he perceived them as being soft, an inside joke that carried on between Westbrook, Durant and Perkins while they were teammates, with them routinely calling one another cupcake on social media.
Thunder forward Paul George says a former face of the franchise — Kevin Durant — sold him on his new team following his trade to Oklahoma City last week.
“KD was like, ‘That place will blow you away,'” George told Sports Illustrated for a story published Tuesday. “He told me, ‘They can offer what other teams can’t in terms of the people and the preparation and the facility, down to the chefs and the meals.’ He was pretty high on them. He thought it was a first-class organization in every way.”
George was traded to the Thunder by the Indiana Pacers on July 6, with the agreement initially reported June 30. The Pacers, who received Victor Oladipoand Domantas Sabonis in the swap, were looking to move George after he told them he would opt out of his contract after next season.
George, 27, acknowledged the awkwardness of his departure from Indiana.
“There’s no right way to handle it,” George told SI. “I get the frustration. I get why people are upset. But at the same time, I want the average fan to understand that we only get a small window to play this game, and more than anything, you want to be able to play for a championship. I wanted to bring that to Indiana. I really did. I love Indiana. That will always be a special place for me, and I’m sorry for not holding on. But I wasn’t sure we’d ever get a team together to compete for a championship, and that’s where all this came from.”
Durant, coincidentally, just won his first NBA title after leaving the Thunder last offseason and signing with the Golden State Warriors.
Golden State Warriors superstar Kevin Durant will decline his player option for the 2017-18 season and technically become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, but he will re-sign with the team, league sources tell ESPN.
The 2017 NBA Finals MVP will turn down a player-option salary of approximately $28 million to momentarily hit free agency with the intentions of taking less than the max he’s eligible for as a 10-year veteran. This is in order to improve the Warriors’ chances of re-signing reserve stud Andre Iguodala, league sources told ESPN.
By Durant taking about $4 million less than his max next year and waiting to get his long-term extension for at least another season, the Warriors would be able to use their Bird rights on an Iguodala deal that is far more comparable to what he’d see on the open market.
All signs, according to sources, point to Durant signing another one-plus-one pact, which carries a player-option at the end.
With Durant opting to sacrifice, according to league sources, the Warriors would not need to create room under the cap to re-sign him and thus would not need to renounce their rights to any of their other free agents.
Durant led the Warriors to their second championship in the last three years and in the process, captured his first. The Hamptons 5 — consisting of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Iguodala, Draymond Green and Durant, who all met together last summer during the free-agency recruiting period — has a pathway of remaining intact.
The 6-11 forward has said on multiple occasions that he intends to stay with the Warriors for many years, and he has put roots down in the Bay Area both personally and professionally.
Thirty miles northwest of Oracle Arena, on 411 acres of secluded woodlands in the San Geronimo Valley, the crowds sit in silence. They file into a two-story cedar building, place shoes in cubbyholes, pour cups of hot tea. They plop down on the octagonal oak floor in the Great Hall, using pillows as seat cushions, and gaze out floor-to-ceiling windows at turkeys roaming the grasslands, hawks circling the redwoods. Three instructors stand on a low platform, flanked by twin Buddha statues, and explain the first rule of a retreat to Spirit Rock: No talking. Not over lunch in the meadow, not on strolls across the hillside, and certainly not during meditation sessions in the Great Hall.
For Sam Presti, the general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder, extreme displays of self-discipline are not a problem. Three years ago a Thunder doctor warned Presti about the effects of carbohydrates, and he has not consumed so much as a crouton since. Two years ago Presti’s wife delivered their first child, and he vowed to write the boy a letter from every road trip. Approximately 70 notes and postcards already fill a safe deposit box in an Oklahoma City bank. During the organization’s annual cardiac stress test, players typically hop off the treadmill after eight or nine punishing minutes, when the administrator can take a clear ultrasound of their pumping heart. Presti stays on the belt for up to 14 minutes, speed and incline spiking every 30 seconds, his barrel chest heaving and burning. He wants the administrator to take the clearest ultrasound.
He stretches himself, which is why he strode into Spirit Rock alongside 160 strangers on the morning of Sept. 3, his only companion a sack lunch from a nearby natural foods store in West Marin. Presti meditates, but he is no Phil Jackson, and the Labor Day weekend retreat spanned 18 silent hours over three days. The schedule sounded daunting enough, before taking into account the setting. Presti is among the most prominent NBA GMs—marked by the clear-framed specs, the crisply parted hair, the omnipresent Blackberry (he keeps several backups in case the company goes out of business)—but he still passes largely unnoticed outside of OKC. He could have chosen a mindfulness center anywhere. Yet when the time came to clear his head and draw his breath he traveled all the way to the Bay Area, across the Richmond–San Rafael Bridge from Oakland, where he was predictably surrounded by Warriors T-shirts. As he glimpsed the bright yellow in the Great Hall, he laughed, though obviously not out loud.
While Kevin Durant empathizes with fans over the controversy about NBA teams resting star players, he doesn’t see why commissioner Adam Silver is seeking to get team owners involved.
“The truth about it is, it’s only for a couple of players in the league,” Durant told ESPN. “They don’t care if the 13th man on the bench rests. It’s only for like LeBron [James], Steph [Curry], [James] Harden, Russell [Westbrook]. It’s only for like five players. So you want a rule just for those five players?”
Silver sent out a memo last week to the league’s owners, stating that resting marquee players has become “an extremely significant issue for our league,” and he urged them to be more hands-on in that decision-making process.
Durant, an All-Star forward for the Golden State Warriors who is recovering from an MCL sprain and tibial bone bruise, said he empathizes with both fans and players.
“Players, if anything, need a mental break sometimes. And sorry, they’re human,” Durant told ESPN. “They go through so much every single day. There are so many obligations off the court that you don’t know about. … It might not be a physical break, it might just be a reset mentally, and I get that.
“And I also get if I was a fan and could afford to get tickets, and I’m circling LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook on my calendar, I would want to see them play live. I would be disappointed as well. I see it from the fans’ perspective and the players’ perspective. I’m caught right in the middle.”
Curry sat out one game to rest, on March 11, when the Warriors also rested Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala. James has missed five games to rest and Cleveland Cavaliers teammate Kyrie Irving has missed four. They both sat out games recently, on March 4 and March 18.
Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant underwent an MRI after suffering a hyperextended left knee in the first quarter of Tuesday night’s 112-108 loss to the Washington Wizards.
The Warriors are hopeful about the results of Durant’s MRI, a source told The Undefeated’s Mike Wise, but team officials have not received final results from the exam. Results of the MRI are expected to be announced Wednesday.
The injury occurred during a loose-ball situation in which Wizards center Marcin Gortat fouled Warriors center Zaza Pachulia, who then fell backward into Durant’s leg less than a minute into Tuesday’s matchup. Durant jumped away from Pachulia’s contact, hopping while holding his left leg.
Durant proceeded to play the next two possessions before asking Warriors coach Steve Kerr to call timeout with 10:26 remaining in the quarter. After meeting with trainers, Durant, who was grimacing and holding his left leg, headed to the locker room and did not return.
Durant took only one shot, which he missed, and left with zero points — ending a streak of 562 regular-season games (653 including the postseason) in which he scored at least 10 points.
“I’m always concerned about any injury, because you never know how bad it’s going to be,” Kerr said, “so we’ll just wait and see and keep our fingers crossed.”
Warriors forward Draymond Green said he was “just really hoping that it was a bone bruise.”
In the wake of Durant’s injury, the Warriors agreed to a deal with veteran swingman Matt Barnes, he confirmed to ESPN.
Durant, the 2013-14 NBA MVP for the Oklahoma City Thunder and a four-time NBA scoring champion, entered Tuesday averaging Warriors team highs of 25.8 points and 8.4 rebounds per game, along with 4.9 assists. Golden State came in with a league-best 50-9 record after a win at Philadelphia on Monday night.