Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry Say They Think Warriors Will Keep Core Together

While Golden State Warriors star and NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant holds a player option for the 2017-18 campaign and teammate Stephen Curry is set to be an unrestricted free agent, they both seemed eager to keep the champions together Wednesday.

“It’s a special team, a special group,” Durant said, per Chris Haynes of ESPN.com. “It’s a business of basketball, obviously, so nothing is for sure, but here, I feel like we can work that out and everybody will have a chance to do this again next year. It’s easier said than done, obviously, but that’s the goal.”

Curry echoed many of those same sentiments, per Haynes.

“It would mean everything [to stay together]. What we’ve built here is truly special. It’s unique, it’s something that you don’t want to see end at all. All the pieces that we have are important to the equation of winning a championship and competing for a championship every single year.”

Haynes explained the Warriors could have as many as 10 players destined for free agency this offseason depending on how things transpire. Possible free agents David West, Ian Clark, Zaza Pachulia, JaVale McGee, James Michael McAdoo, Matt Barnes, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston don’t draw the same headlines as Durant and Curry, but they all played roles in Golden State’s title.

Haynes cited a previous report from himself and Ramona Shelburne noting league sources said Durant is willing to take around $4 million less than a max in 2017-18 and delay a long-term extension, which would allow Golden State to exercise its Bird rights and re-sign Iguodala and Livingston in particular.

As for Curry, Haynes said the two-time MVP is expected to re-sign a super max deal for five years worth $205 million.

From a pure basketball standpoint, there is no need to change things for the Warriors. They just started the postseason 15-0 and finished an NBA Finals Game 4 victory against the Cleveland Cavaliers away from becoming the first team in NBA history to go a perfect 16-0 in the playoffs.

The core won an NBA-record 73 games last season, and that was the one year of the last three it failed to take home the Larry O’Brien Trophy. What’s more, Curry, Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are all under 30 years old and firmly in the middle of their primes.

If the Warriors remain largely intact, they have the opportunity to develop into the NBA’s next dynasty and be remembered alongside the Chicago Bulls of the 1990s and the 1980s versions of the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics.

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Lonzo Ball, Lakers Reportedly Schedule Final Pre-NBA Draft Meeting

On Tuesday, Los Angeles Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson said the team planned to schedule a second predraft workout with Lonzo Ball.

Now the two sides have set a date. 

According to The Vertical’s Shams Charania, Ball and the Lakers—who own the second pick in next week’s draft—will meet Friday. 

The meeting will reportedly “consist of Lakers brass spending time with Ball during his full daily training regimen of conditioning/on-court drills.”

ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne added the workout will take place at an undisclosed location and that Ball wants the Lakers “to see his work ethic and training methods.” The Lakers also spoke to UCLA coaches about Ball earlier in the week, per Shelburne

Ball first worked out for the Lakers on June 7, but reviews of his performance were reportedly mixed. 

According to the Orange County Register‘s Mark Medina, the Lakers were impressed with Ball’s “leadership potential, passing and scoring,” but were left underwhelmed by his conditioning. 

Now headed for a second showcase in front of Purple and Gold brass, the former Bruins floor general will have a chance to prove he’s prepared for the rigors of the NBA and is fit enough to contribute to a Lakers team that ranked sixth in pace last season. 

By week’s end, the Lakers will have met with both Ball and former Kansas swingman Josh Jackson twice. 

L.A. is scheduled to hold a workout for projected No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz on Thursday. 

 

Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com

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Clippers Reportedly to Announce New Arena in Inglewood

The Los Angeles Clippers will reportedly announce they are close to finalizing plans for a new stadium in Inglewood, California, on Thursday, according to the Los Angeles TimesBrad Turner and Los Angeles Daily NewsVincent Bonsignore

Citing a source, Turner reported Clippers owner Steve Ballmer will finance the stadium “100 percent with his own money.” 

Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times reported the Inglewood City Council will meet Wednesday to approve the exclusive negotiating agreement.

In February, the Los Angeles TimesSam Farmer and Fenno reported Ballmer had “multiple discussions” with Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke about his team building an arena in Inglewood near the future home of the Rams and Los Angeles Chargers. 

The Clippers have shared Staples Center with the Los Angeles Lakers and NHL’s Los Angeles Kings since the building opened at the start of the 1999-2000 NBA season. 

However, they reportedly haven’t been in an advantageous financial position during their time as a co-tenant. 

Last July, ESPN.com’s Kevin Arnovitz reported the Clippers receive “a smaller share of proceeds from suites and club seats than the Lakers and Kings, according to sources, and a lesser say in scheduling and the overall fan experience at the arena.”

In January 2013, the Clippers announced they had agreed to a 10-year extension of their Staples Center lease. According to Arnovitz, the team plans to fulfill the terms of the lease before bolting for a new building. 

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LeBron James Reportedly ‘Likely’ to Join Lakers or Clippers as 2018 Free Agent

When LeBron James returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014, many expected he’d finish his NBA career in northeast Ohio. However, he may go westward when he can opt out of his contract after the 2017-18 season.

Speaking on his podcast Wednesday, The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski (h/t Pro Basketball Talk’s Dan Feldman) reported the Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers may be destinations for James in free agency:

“Not only is there no guarantee he’s coming back, I’m not sure there’s an expectation he’s re-signing there. I think they feel, I think within Cleveland and around the league, they feel that he’s very much in play to leave again and likely head out West to one of the two L.A. teams. The Lakers could very well be a target.”

Wojnarowski speculated James would feel more comfortable leaving Cleveland a second time since he helped the Cavaliers win an NBA championship in 2016. And being in Los Angeles would allow the four-time MVP to pursue ventures he has outside of basketball.

Having his representatives float the idea he could sign with another team could be a way for LeBron to shake the Cavaliers front office out of any contentedness it may feel with reaching three straight NBA Finals and beating the Golden State Warriors a year ago.

It’s not like Cavs general manager David Griffin rested on his laurels during Cleveland’s title defense—trading for Kyle Korver and signing Deron Williams and Andrew Bogut in the middle of the year. The threat of LeBron departing again would ensure that remains the case.

Of course, James may simply want to play for another team. The Cavaliers are almost $27 million over the cap heading into next year, per Spotrac, so they have little flexibility with which they can improve the roster. Barring the trade of Kevin Love or Kyrie Irving, Griffin can’t do anything resembling the impact of the Warriors signing Kevin Durant last summer.

The Clippers or the Lakers, on the other hand, may be better positioned in 2018 to challenge Golden State. The Clippers would need to re-sign both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, while the Lakers would need to acquire a marquee star before then.

Still, either Los Angeles franchise could be in a stronger place than the Cavs a year from now, and each could give James an opportunity to build a new, different superteam.

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Stephen Curry Says He ‘Probably’ Wouldn’t Visit Donald Trump at White House

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry said Wednesday he “probably” would not visit the White House if invited following the team’s NBA title win over the Cleveland Cavaliers

Marcus Thompson of the Mercury Newquoted the Warriors guard, who said the team is yet to discuss a White House visit. Erroneous reports came out Tuesday morning saying the Warriors had voted unanimously to decline if invited by President Donald Trump.

Curry said he has his own preference on the matter. Multiple Warriors have been outspoken in their opposition to the controversial Republican president.

Curry called Trump an ass in a roundabout way in an interview with Thompson and criticized Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank for publicly supporting him from a business standpoint.

“It’s a fine line, but it’s about how we’re operating, how inclusive we are, what we stand for,” Curry said, per Thompson. “He’s the president. There are going to be people that are tied to them. But are we promoting change? Are we doing things that are going to look out for everybody? And not being so self-serving that it’s only about making money, selling shoes, doing this and that. That’s not the priority. It’s about changing lives. I think we can continue to do that.”

Warriors coach Steve Kerr told Monte Pool of NBC Bay Area last November that he would not accept an invite extended by Trump if the team won a championship. Kerr has consistently opposed moves made by the Trump White House and called him a “blowhard” when speaking to Sports Illustrated’s Chris Ballard.

“Frankly, I think it’s why Trump couldn’t be more ill-suited to be president, because he’s a blowhard,” Kerr said. “You don’t see some of the qualities you talk about, the resilience, the ability to communicate, the compassion. None of that. But in the old days, a lot of great coaches who maybe didn’t have those, there was still a fiber there, whatever it was. To be a great leader, there have to be some qualities in there.

“Has anyone ever thought that Donald Trump was a great leader?”

Forward David West also similarly categorized Trump as a bully.

“All the tactics he used to get elected are the very things that someone like me, who works with youth on a consistent basis, are the things we try to talk our young folks out of being,” he said, per Dave Zirin of The Nation. “We try to talk our young people out of being bullies. We try to talk our young men out of disrespecting women. We try to talk our young people into being accepting of other people’s opinions and other people’s walks of life.”

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Kevin Durant Received Text from Former President Barack Obama After Finals Win

Former President Barack Obama sent a congratulatory text to Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant following the team’s championship win over the Cleveland Cavaliers

But Obama did not compliment the Finals MVP on scoring 30-plus points each game. Instead, he focused on the other end of the floor.

“Congrats, your defense was really good,’ which was random,” Durant told The Ringer’s Bill Simmons when asked what Obama said. 

Obama also told Durant to “enjoy it, have some fun” following his first title win. Durant told Simmons the most surprising text he got after the victory was from his high-school girlfriend.

Durant averaged 35.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game, earning all 11 votes for Finals MVP. The Warriors finished the postseason 16-1, including a record 15 straight wins to start out.

“The way that he embraced the opportunity in the Finals, it was unbelievable,” Stephen Curry told reporters. “It’s kind of crazy to think about the conversations we had this summer and going into the year about how we can both mesh and do what we do and be the players that we are. And [to] see it come to life in this series, it was unbelievable.”

This was Durant’s second Finals appearance. He lost to the LeBron James-led Miami Heat in 2012 as part of the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Warriors lured him to Golden State last summer with promises of creating an everlasting dynasty, and there’s no real reason to believe they won’t.

Durant, Curry and Andre Iguodala are free agents this summer, but money will likely be no object in retaining this core for the foreseeable future. The Warriors are owned by multi-billionaire Joe Lacob and are set to move into what could be the NBA‘s premier arena in 2019.

With any luck, this won’t be the last text Durant’s receiving from the former POTUS. 

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Mark Wahlberg Says Celtics Should Trade No. 1 Pick for Jimmy Butler, Paul George

If Danny Ainge is taking roster advice from Mark Wahlberg (doubtful), the Boston Celtics won’t be picking Markelle Fultz with the No. 1 pick in next Thursday’s NBA draft. In fact, they won’t be taking anyone at all.

The actor and longtime Boston sports fan told TMZ Sports he hopes the Celtics use the pick to trade for a star, specifically highlighting Jimmy Butler and Paul George as potential options.

Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck has all but publicly confirmed the team has no interest in trading the selection. Fultz, who starred for one year at Washington, has become the clear consensus pick and will likely be a Celtic barring any major changes over the next week.

“You don’t really want to necessarily trade a number one pick in a really good draft for somebody that’s halfway thru their career, already making max money,” Grousbeck told Adam Kaufman of CBS Boston. “That’s just a difficult trade to make.

“That guy better be pretty good because if you’re drafting No. 1 and you make the pick well—you do really draft a transcendent player – you’ve got that player for five or six years as they build up before the max money even kicks in. It just feels like this is a pick we will listen to offers, I’m sure, we will have conversations all the way thru June but, for me, making a first pick is an exciting prospect right now.”

George and Butler are seen as the two biggest potential trade chips on the market this summer, but neither player is without potential roadblocks. George has had longstanding rumors about his desire to potentially play for the Lakers and has only one year left on his contract. He could easily spend one season in Boston and bolt to its longtime rival next summer.

Butler is under contract for at least two more seasons, but the Chicago Bulls will understandably want a haul of picks and young players in return. A three-time All-Star and third-team All-NBA selection in 2017, Butler is a bonafide star. But he’s also probably not good enough to shift a seven-game series against the Cleveland Cavaliers, especially when factoring in all the other potential moving parts.

The Celtics’ best-case scenario remains drafting Fultz at No. 1 and then luring someone like Utah‘s Gordon Hayward in free agency. 

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