Kevin Durant (6'9''-G/F-88, college: Texas) was just three minutes into his 10-minute session with reporters Wednesday when he grew a bit testy.
Of the first seven questions lobbed at him, Durant was forced to field five about the San Antonio Spurs.
And he didn't like it. Didn't like it one bit.
Once that fifth question came - a reasonable query about what he anticipates from the Spurs defensively against him - Durant tried to supply an answer but soon found himself swerving off scrpt.
'I'm just going to play my game', Durant started. 'I can't really think about how those guys are going to defend me. Theyre a tough defensive group. But every question is about how the Spurs are going to come and how the Spurs are going to play. But you got to ask me how were going to come at them. Were a tough team as well. We come out and play hard. We have a lot of weapons as well. I know theyre the No. 1 seed, theyre a tough group and they havent lost in a couple of months but I think that we bring another dimension to the table as well. And we can come out and compete.'
Durant has a point.
Most every question players and Thunder coach Scott Brooks faced Wednesday was about how they were going to stop the Spurs. Not once did anyone, including yours truly, inquire about how they Spurs would stop them.
Of course, theres a reason for that. As Durant said, the Spurs are a tough group. Theyre the No. 1 seed and the hottest team in basketball. And they just so happened to trounce the Thunder twice long before they got rolling in the final month of the regular season.
Wednesdays media session was nothing more than a microcosm of the basketball worlds widespread belief in the Spurs. Few will pick the Thunder to win this series. Oklahoma City, to many, just seems to be out-manned.
Still, the Thunders unwavering confidence was on full display Wednesday, with Durants brief retort representing his teams self-belief.
Durant wanted questions about his team, so I asked about his team.
What makes you confident, I asked, against the Spurs? Where do you feel like you have the advantage?
I just think we play hard, Durant said. Were athletic. I didnt say we were going to come out and dominate those guys. But I said that we can compete, of course. We can move the ball. I think cutting down on turnovers has been great for us these last couple of series. Also, just getting out and getting stops and trying to get easy points.
All good answers.
But none are quite good enough to keep the Thunder from walking into the Western Conference Finals on Sunday night in San Antonio as the underdog. Must be a rude awakening for Durant. In the span of three weeks hes seen his team transform from the darlings of the postseason and a heavy favorite in its prior two series to second fiddle. Its as if he senses that few outside of Oklahoma believe the Thunder can win.
Before walking over to local reporters, Durant had just finished a sit-down interview with TNT, which sent bulldog sideline reporter Craig Sager to town as part of its coverage team. No telling what was asked in that closed-door meeting. But theres a good chance Sager stuck a mic on Durant and inquired about everything from the Spurs regular season series win over the Thunder to San Antonios history of excellence.
Maybe thats what the Thunder needs going into this West final: a chip, an edge, a supply of just a little more motivation.
And maybe all of it might stem from mounting skeptics now gushing over the Spurs.
P.J. Carlesimo Will Not Join Philadelphia 76ers - May 30, 2016
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After initial reports that P.J. Carlesimo would replace Mike D'Antoni, he will not join the team as Brett Brown 's top assistant. The Philadelphia 76ers have a lot of changes that could be made regarding assistant coaches in this upcoming season. Head coach Brett Brown is reviewing his current staff and building his team moving forward, and one of the coaches he had interest in is now not joining the team following initial reports that he had completed a deal with the team. P.J. Carlesimo... [read more]
After initial reports that P.J. Carlesimo would replace Mike D'Antoni, he will not join the team as Brett Brown 's top assistant. The Philadelphia 76ers have a lot of changes that could be made regarding assistant coaches in this upcoming season. Head coach Brett Brown is reviewing his current staff and building his team moving forward, and one of the coaches he had interest in is now not joining the team following initial reports that he had completed a deal with the team. P.J. Carlesimo was reportedly going to join the Sixers to replace Mike D'Antoni i, who has accepted an offer to be the head coach of the Houston Rockets. Carlesimo has since changed his mind, despite interest in the job. He will stay with ESPN on television and radio. Reports came out that a deal with Carlesimo was finished, and then later reports came out that a deal had not been completed, but it still looked like Carlesimo would end up with the team. The reason for him not joining the team is 'family reasons' according to Marc Stein, which makes me think that not being able to make his own schedule and adjust when he is and isn't on the road was a huge factor. It makes sense, but it is slightly disappointing that Carlesimo won't join the team, because he seemed to fit with the current coaching staff. Brown doesn't necessarily need to fill the void that's left behind by D'Antoni's departure, as that job didn't even exist until partway through December of 2015. If he is looking for someone to fill the job, though, one option could be Aaron McKie . Mckie is still in the area, as he currently is an assistant coach for the Temple Owls men's basketball team. It could be difficult to pull him away from that job, however. Losing Carlesimo is by no means the end of the world, but it was an odd situation that played out in a strange manner. It just goes to show that reports don't always hold to be completely true. Courtesy of: thesixersense.com
Klay Thompson Takes Control, and Warriors Force Game 7 With Thunder - May 29, 2016
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Amid the steady drumbeat of an arena rooting for him to fail, Klay Thompson (6'7''-G-90, college: Washington St.) refused to let the Golden State Warriors fade away. With his team facing elimination from the N.B.A. playoffs for the second time in three nights, Thompson spotted up from the 3-point line and carried his team. On Saturday night, the Warriors prolonged their season-long quest for a second straight N.B.A. championship by defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder, 108-101, in Game 6 o... [read more]
Amid the steady drumbeat of an arena rooting for him to fail, Klay Thompson (6'7''-G-90, college: Washington St.) refused to let the Golden State Warriors fade away. With his team facing elimination from the N.B.A. playoffs for the second time in three nights, Thompson spotted up from the 3-point line and carried his team. On Saturday night, the Warriors prolonged their season-long quest for a second straight N.B.A. championship by defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder, 108-101, in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals. Thompson, so often overshadowed by Stephen Curry (6'3''-PG-88, college: Davidson), scored 41 points as the Warriors tied the series at three games apiece, forcing a Game 7, set for Monday night in Oakland, Calif. Thompson sank 11 of 18 3-point attempts, and Curry added 29 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists. 'I don't think there could be any more pressure on us in Game 7 than there was tonight,' Warriors Coach Steve Kerr said. The game was an all-consuming nightmare for the Thunder's Kevin Durant (6'9''-SF-88, college: Texas) and Russell Westbrook (6'3''-PG-88, college: UCLA). Durant finished with 29 points but shot 10 of 31 from the field. Westbrook was only marginally more accurate, scoring 28 points while shooting 10 of 27.The Thunder, who were 3 of 23 from 3-point range, will have one more chance to advance to their first N.B.A. finals since 2012. The Thunder took an 8-point lead into the fourth quarter and kept trying to build on it. But Thompson refused to let them pull away. His fourth 3-pointer of the quarter cut Oklahoma City's lead to 4. Curry later drained back-to-back 3-pointers to tie the game, 99-99. 'We didn't draw a whole lot up that created shots for them,' Kerr said of Thompson and Curry. 'They were mostly just kind of playing the way they play.' With less than two minutes to play, the Warriors' Andre Iguodala (6'6''-SF-84, college: Arizona) stripped Westbrook of the ball and found Thompson in a comfortable spot, behind the 3-point line. It might as well have been a layup. The Warriors were up by 3, and the crowd fell silent. 'It was one of those nights where you make a few easy looks,' Thompson said, 'and then you take those 30-footers with your feet not set and they just happen to keep going in.' Later, after the Thunder had forced a rare miss by Thompson, Westbrook threw the ball away - one of three turnovers he committed in the final 55 seconds. The Warriors' Draymond Green (6'7''-F-90, college: Michigan St.), who collected 14 points and 12 rebounds, scored to seal the victory. 'I thought we got a little stagnant coming down the stretch,' Thunder Coach Billy Donovan said. At the start of the night, the Warriors must have felt as if they were walking into the world's loudest mausoleum. They had lost Games 3 and 4 here by a combined 52 points. It was the first time the Warriors had lost consecutive games this season, and they did not merely lose; they were roasted. 'We knew what we got ourselves into after Game 4,' Green said. Kerr had recognized that the Thunder had too much length and too much size for him to employ his favored small lineup, in which Green slides from forward to center. So when the Warriors returned home for Game 5, Kerr went big and planted Andrew Bogut (7'0''-C-84, college: Utah) in the post. It helped that Bogut avoided foul trouble, and the Warriors won to ensure a trip back to Oklahoma City. Before Game 6, Kerr acknowledged that more pressure might be on the Thunder. They had a chance to close out the series at home, and while Durant and Westbrook had endured their share of pressure cookers, this opportunity - 48 minutes from the finals - was still slightly foreign. The Warriors had been tested - tested last season, when they won their first title in 40 years; tested without Curry, whose injuries in the first round scrambled their rhythm; and tested just days ago, when they avoided elimination for the first time. On Saturday, the Warriors were hoping for more of the same. The Thunder fans, bedecked in matching blue T-shirts, roared when Durant scored the game's first points. The arena practically shook when he soared for a dunk soon afterward. Meanwhile, Green, who had entrenched himself as one of the city's most loathsome visitors when he kicked Steven Adams (7'0''-C/F-93, college: Pittsburgh) in the groin in Game 3, was booed every time he touched the ball. Despite missing 13 of their first 18 shots, the Warriors survived the first few earsplitting possessions and trailed by 23-20 at the end of the first quarter. The Thunder soon found some separation. With Curry waiting to check back into the game, Westbrook lobbed a pass to Andre Roberson (6'7''-F-91, college: Colorado) for a dunk that pushed the lead to 12. Curry did not score his first points until nearly five minutes had elapsed in the second quarter. But the Thunder had their own problems. Durant, hounded by the Warriors' Iguodala, shot 6 of 19 from the field in the first half, and Oklahoma City was 2 of 14 from 3-point range. 'There's a reason he's been one of the best defenders in the league for a long time,' Kerr said of Iguodala. The Thunder led by 53-48 at the break, but Thompson opened the second half with two 3-pointers. The pace for both teams was frenetic, treading that fine line between aggressive and reckless. When the Warriors' Festus Ezeli committed an offensive foul that wiped away a layup by Thompson, an exasperated Curry pointed at his temple: Think! It was not the most conducive environment for cerebral basketball, not with the circus tempo and not with the noise. Curry had the added annoyance of being defended by Westbrook, who draped himself all over Curry. There was some ill will between them, too. After Game 5, Westbrook laughed when Durant was asked whether Curry was an underrated defender. 'I could care less about other people's opinions about me,' Curry said before Game 6. 'I know what I do for my team, and I know what my teammates expect of me.' The Warriors also knew what they expected from Thompson, and he delivered when they needed it most. Courtesy of: nytimes.com
J.B. Bickerstaff in talks to join David Fizdale's staff in Memphis - May 29, 2016
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Now that former Heat assistant David Fizdale has accepted the Grizzlies' head coaching job, he's starting to put together his staff. One name to keep an eye on, according to John Martin of ESPN 92.9 in Memphis: John-Blair Bickerstaff , who served as the Rockets' interim coach this season after the team fired Kevin McHale in November. The Rockets were a chemistry disaster this season, but John-Blair Bickerstaff is highly regarded around the NBA in coaching circles. He was a candidate to ke... [read more]
Now that former Heat assistant David Fizdale has accepted the Grizzlies' head coaching job, he's starting to put together his staff. One name to keep an eye on, according to John Martin of ESPN 92.9 in Memphis: John-Blair Bickerstaff , who served as the Rockets' interim coach this season after the team fired Kevin McHale in November. The Rockets were a chemistry disaster this season, but John-Blair Bickerstaff is highly regarded around the NBA in coaching circles. He was a candidate to keep the coaching job in Houston when the Rockets' front office began their search, but he withdrew his name from consideration when he started receiving interest around the league as a lead assistant. It sounds like Memphis is one of the teams going after him, and he'd be a good hire for Fizdale's staff. Courtesy of: nbcsports.com
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