Tag:Oklahoma City THunder
Posted on: October 8, 2011 5:16 pm
Edited on: October 8, 2011 5:24 pm

Durant wouldn't give up $20 million over CBA

Posted by Ben Golliverkevin-durant-smile

On Thursday, Yahoo Sports detailed the active role played by Boston Celtics All-Star forward Kevin Garnett in the ongoing labor negotiations. Garnett, who is 35 and set to make $21.2 million in 2011-2012, has been urging his fellow players to stand firm in collective bargaining negotiations despite the fact that he stands to lose more money than anyone not named Kobe Bryant if the coming season is delayed or cancelled.

Oklahoma City Thunder All-Star forward Kevin Durant said on Friday he wasn't capable of the same sacrifice that Garnett is prepared to make during a Twitter conversation with Nate Jones, an employee of the agency that represents him, Goodwin Sports Management. 

"Would u give up 20 million for the better of the CBA?" Durant asked Jones. "I wouldn't do it."

Jones rightly pointed out that Garnett isn't necessarily "giving up" the money, but simply putting the money at risk in the name of leverage in the ongoing CBA negotiations. Jones later clarified that Durant "wasn't saying he thinks the players should just accept 50/50," a reference to the owner's current reported down-the-middle proposal for a revenue split. The National Basketball Players Association has been pushing for something closer to a 53 percent share for the players, which is still down from the 57 percent they were paid under the last agreement.

This is a very interesting and honest admission from Durant, but it shouldn't be surprising, even though he is one of the league's brightest stars. His statement isn't evidence that he's a "greedy millionaire" and it doesn't represent disloyalty to his union.

Really, it's evidence that his perspective is shaped by two key factors: the presence of restrictive rookie contracts in the just expired CBA and his age.

Durant, 23 years old and the NBA's scoring champ for the past two seasons, has had his salary set in stone by the NBA's collective bargaining agreement for his entire 4-year career. Basketball-Reference.com puts his career earnings at $19.5 million over four years and while he has numerous national endorsement deals, there's a decent shot that after taxes and expenses Durant doesn't have $20 million in the bank. In other words, all Durant is saying is that he wouldn't give up what amounts to his lifetime savings to secure a stronger collective bargaining agreement. That seems to be a fair position.

Garnett, on the other hand, has banked some $270 million in salary over the course of his 16-year NBA career. Six times he was paid more than $20 million per season; another six times he was paid between $16 million and $20 million. Over the past two seasons, Durant has been in the MVP discussion and has been of similar importance to the Thunder as Garnett has been to the Celtics. Durant took home nearly $11 million; Garnett was paid more than $35 milllion.

While $20 million is $20 million, the relative hit that Garnett would take from such a sacrifice is peanuts compared to the impact a similar sacrifice would have on Durant. It's quite possible that in 10 years, with an extra $150 million in contracts in hand, Durant would feel differently than he does today. 
The worst thing that you can say about Durant here is that he's self-interested. That's no crime in the ongoing lockout or anywhere else in our country, a nation built on pursuing self-interest free of restrictions. NBA officials, NBA owners, rich NBA players, average NBA players, below-average NBA players, agents, stadium employees, media and fans have are all self-interested in this labor struggle. 

The bigger issue raised by these comments is where non-stars stand in all of this. Durant, now that he has completed his rookie deal, has a lucrative five-year, guaranteed contract coming his way no matter what. Indeed, he is set to make $13.6 million next season. For players without multi-year contracts and without the skills to ensure large amounts of future income, the temptation to take whatever deal is on the table and get back to work is very real, and increasing by the week.

Garnett has, without question, put his money where his mouth is this week. But his money, frankly, is unimaginable to the average player. It's virtually impossible for Garnett to lead by example here because his earned income, despite public perception, is such an exception, rather than the rule.
Posted on: September 29, 2011 5:05 pm
Edited on: September 29, 2011 5:06 pm

How important is team chemistry in winning?

Posted by Royce Young

Chemistry isn't just something that Walter White is good at. It's a basketball buzzword, that hidden ingredient that can supposedly take a good team straight to greatness.

Build a team with talent, add a good coach and make sure they all like each other and you've got a recipe for good things. Isiah Thomas had chemistry as a major part of "The Secret," which is the secret formula to winning. The right mix of stars, role players and quality chemistry means success.

Everyone embraces that idea. Everyone agrees that it's better to like your teammates than not. Everyone knows that if you've got two guys on the floor that hate each other's guts, it's going to affect their ability to win.

But the question is, how much does it matter? And moreover, why does it matter?

Dwyane Wade admitted this week that he feels the real reason the Mavericks topped his super-loaded Heat team is because they were mixed better. He said, "One thing that Dallas beat us at – they had more chemistry than us. They had a game plan and we were still figuring ours out in our first year together."

Chemistry can kind of be a cop-out though. When you're losing and things are working right, it's easy to just say, "It's our chemistry, man." The Heat certainly lacked a feel for each other at times. Between LeBron and Wade, it was a teeter-totter on who got the ball with Chris Bosh awkwardly hanging in the balance. It was really a basketball science fair project. The Heat were putting the limits of basketball chemistry to the test and I suppose they failed since they lost, but there's always time to improve.

Wade's referencing on-court chemistry though. What about just general locker room mood? The off-court chemistry. Is it equally as important? Here's the thing: I think with one, comes the other. If you get along off the court, you're likely to get along on it. I'm not totally sure it works the other way -- see: Kobe and Shaq -- but it's always better to like the guy next to you rather than not.

What made me really start thinking about it was the supposed rift between Russell Westbrook and Kendrick Perkins. The Thunder -- a team known worldwide for their outstanding chemistry -- traded away Jeff Green, a player Kevin Durant, Westbrook and James Harden referred to as a "brother," for Perkins.

The Thunder really we the ideal model of "The Secret," except for one flaw: Jeff Green really isn't good, at least not where the Thunder were playing him. So general manager Sam Presti risked chemistry trading away brother Jeff to bring in a big, burly, scowly center.

With the Perkins/Westbrook supposed scuffle, the fact is, chemistry is important, but really mostly when you're losing. It's easy to stick together when you're winning. But when you lose, things get tested. That's really where it affected the Celtics most. Nothing was wrong with them except their heads were shaken after Perk was dealt. And when they started slipping, they had actual evidence for why they were sulking. See? We need Perk! Maybe with Perk in the locker room, the Celtics would've been able to stay together. Maybe because he was gone, the team went into a funk and stopped trusting each other. Who knows. Chemistry certainly matters, but mostly when times are bad. What happens to the Thunder if they start next season 5-11 or something? Will fingers get pointed? Will Perk and Westbrook clash more? Will Durant have to try and put his foot down? It's all rosy until it's not.

Here's how important Jeff Green was to the Thunder: Presti actually cried during the press conference announcing the deal. If you want to know about team chemistry, the Thunder with Jeff Green were the model. Every player loved each other the same. All that Westbrook vs. Durant stuff was yet to come and honestly, it might've never surfaced if Green had stayed on the roster. He was the most veteran of their young core, the steady, calming influence.

But Presti obviously was ready and willing to risk that chemistry for the sake of bringing in a player that actually strengthened the roster. Not that Perkins was some kind of bad guy that couldn't get along with teammates. In fact, his relationship with the Celtics was almost exactly the same thing as Green in OKC.

The Celtics were shaken when Perkins was traded. Ainge dared to mess with Boston's brotherhood and in the end, paid for it. Was it because the chemistry was shaken or just because the team was kind of a mess, considering Perkins was replaced by Nenad Krstic, a broken Shaquille O'Neal and Jermaine O'Neal. Ask a basketball chemist and it's because Ainge tinkered with the winning locker room formula. Maybe it's a case by case thing, but clearly the Thunder were able to move past it. In the end, it was more about matchups, ability and rosters, not some imaginary force where friendships when games.

It all matters to a degree when you're trying to win, but chemistry alone doesn't win, both on and off the court. Chemistry's just one of the ingredients in the larger recipe for winning.
Posted on: September 25, 2011 10:31 am
Edited on: September 25, 2011 1:39 pm

Durant says Westbrook is only point guard for him

Posted by Royce Young

You may not have heard, but there has been a lot of talk about Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Not just in the sense that they're both incredible individual talents that can do amazing things on a basketball court. But in the sense that some think there's a chemistry issue there. That Westbrook is trying to assert himself as the team's alpha and take the big shots and big moments from Durant.

Not really true at all, but that's at least the perception. And despite repeated statements from Durant -- and Westbrook -- that that's not at all the case, every time the issue comes up, we all listen real close.

And wouldn't you know it, it came up again. Durant had some serious media availability over the weekend as his movie Switch started principal photography. Ben Golliver of CBSSports.com already posted the meat of what Durant talked about, but for the fun of it, here it is again as Durant defends his relationship with Westbrook:

“We butt heads just like any other players because we are both competitive, we both want to go at it, we both have ideas,” Durant said. “That’s going to happen. But I support him 100 percent. Of course, I hated when people were saying the stuff they were saying, and he hated it as well. I didn’t want it to get to his head. I hate when people try to creep into the group and try to break things up.

“I enjoy playing with Russell so much. I hope he understands that, and I’m sure he does. I’m looking forward to next season already. The last thing I’ve been worrying about is what people say about Russ, and I’m sure that’s the last thing he’s worrying about as well.”

Durant was willing to take that even a little bit further too. Not just that he likes playing with Westbrook, but that he sees Westbrook as his point guard, as his guy.

“I don’t want any other point guard,” Durant said. “He’s perfect for us, the type of guy he is, the type of player he is, the type of teammate he is. We’re all competitive, especially me and him. We get the best of each other in practice every day, and we want to go at each other and make each other better. We are going to have disagreements. That’s what all good players on good teams do.”

There's been some manufactured chatter about Chris Paul and Westbrook swapping places so this was sort of Durant's way to maybe say he doesn't want that. Sam Presti says it almost daily -- he wants to have a roster that grows, matures and evolves together. And a huge part of that is Westbrook and Durant growing into a tandem that not just is maybe the best in the league, but one that can work in perfect concert.

And I think it's a good thing that Durant's being honest about his relationship with Westbrook in saying that they disagree and argue sometimes. We all saw that. But they both want the same thing and they both know it. As long as winning remains the priority and personal achievement stays out of the picture, they'll be fine. Durant even addressed in another interview the supposed Kendrick Perkins-Westbrook rift, and gave the same answer, noting that he's argued with Perkins before too. 

"Yeah, I've had arguments with Kendrick in the locker room. I've had arguments with BJ Mullens in the locker room," Durant told SI.com. "We're not going to agree every time. Russ would've maybe said, 'Perk, you should've ducked inside the lane and I'd have hit you for a better pass,' and Perk was like, 'Maybe I thought about this, maybe I thought about that.' So we're not going to always agree. We're going to always have arguments, but it's nothing to the point of where guys are going to walk out of that locker room and say, 'Nah, I don't like him.' We're all going to get it together and we're all going to figure it out right on the spot. That's what happens in a group. That's what makes a group great. Every team goes through it.

"I forgot all about it. It's over with. It's done. Everybody enjoys each other's company. We enjoy having those disagreements, because we know we're going to get better from it. To be honest with you, I forgot all about it."

Now, of course there's the potential that Durant is just kind of doing the normal Durant thing and saying all the right things. It's not like Durant would ever say, "You know, I don't really like Russ too much. We don't get along and he hogs the ball too much." But we kind of have to take Durant's comments at face value. He's said it more than once -- he wants Westbrook to be his point guard. He likes Westbrook as his point guard. Could he be lying? Sure. I'm taking KD at his word on it. He's never given me a reason to doubt it yet.

Posted on: September 24, 2011 6:39 pm
Edited on: September 24, 2011 9:16 pm

Kevin Durant stands by Russell Westbrook

Posted by Ben Golliver


The Oklahoma City Thunder boast such an immaculately constructed roster and had such a magical run to the Western Conference Finals that it all feels a little too perfect sometimes.

The feeling that "there must be something wrong underneath the surface" really began percolating when the Thunder struggled to dispatch the Memphis Grizzlies and collapsed multiple times down the stretch in games against the eventual NBA champion Dallas Mavericks. The situation wound up being painted by some as "Kevin Durant vs. Russell Westbrook," as the Thunder's All-Star guard often found himself taking shots he probably shouldn't have taken while the league's scoring champion watched the action unfold from the perimeter.

The consensus was that Durant emerged as the aggrieved party, the talented scorer who simply couldn't get enough touches because of Westbrook's ferocious, score-first, pass-later focus.

Durant looked to clear up that perception in extended comments made to Yahoo Sports.
“We butt heads just like any other players because we are both competitive, we both want to go at it, we both have ideas,” Durant said in a phone interview with Yahoo! Sports on Saturday while on the movie set of his upcoming Warner Bros. film, “Switch.” “That’s going to happen. But I support him 100 percent. Of course, I hated when people were saying the stuff they were saying, and he hated it as well. I didn’t want it to get to his head. I hate when people try to creep into the group and try to break things up. 

“I don’t want any other point guard,” Durant said. “He’s perfect for us, the type of guy he is, the type of player he is, the type of teammate he is. We’re all competitive, especially me and him. We get the best of each other in practice every day, and we want to go at each other and make each other better. We are going to have disagreements. That’s what all good players on good teams do.”

A public relations professional couldn't have scripted a better statement from Durant. Importantly, he begins by acknowledging the negative perception and admits that things aren't totally hunky-dory. That's big because it establishes credibility and implies a level of honesty in his later comments. He goes on to back Westbrook with more than the usual lip service, heaping praise, pointing to specific strengths and crediting his teammate for his own development. In doing so, he flips the line of criticism that Westbrook is standing in Durant's path to greatness on its head. 

When it comes to teammate conflicts, both minor and major, actions always speak much louder than words. But, here, Durant spoke in perfect pitch. 

Posted on: September 18, 2011 2:40 pm

Kendrick Perkins clashed with Russell Westbrook?

Posted by Royce Young

A lot was made of the supposed bubbling conflict on the tight-knit Thunder last season. Everyone got all huffy when Russell Westbrook took a bunch of shots and kind of just assumed that it made Kevin Durant real mad.

But the Thunder's well-known chemistry was put to the test well before that. Not only did the trade that sent Jeff Green to Boston for Kendrick Perkins send one of their closest friends to another team -- Green called his fellow Thunder players his brothers -- but evidently there were a few hiccups with Perk when he got to town too. Via the New York Daily News, which admittedly, is a pretty weird source for this, but here it is:

As much as coach Scott Brooks chafes at GM Sam Presti’s meddling, his presence in the locker room, and his demands that the Thunder continue to improve from within, the organization is a lot more concerned with how Kendrick Perkins treats Russell Westbrook.

After arriving from the Celtics last season and being looked at as the veteran leader Oklahoma City needed to take the next step to compete for a title, Perkins went hard at Westbrook with his verbal criticisms, often saying that the Thunder’s playmaker couldn’t match Rajon Rondo as a playmaker. Those words didn’t sit well with Westbrook, who already had been criticized for shooting too much and was the subject of a benching heard-round-the-NBA when the Thunder played the Mavs in June.

(The writer, Mitch Lawrence, was also the one who reported that a Thunder veteran said that Westbrook thinks he's better than Durant. Also, I guess he's got someone telling him about a little friction between the Thunder's front office and Scott Brooks. I don't really know how accurate that is, but that's twice it's been mentioned.)

There's no doubt Perkins let people hear his voice early and often when he got to Oklahoma City. Everyone talked about what a vocal leader he was as soon as he stepped off the plane and that he led by keeping everyone accountable. A lot of players appreciated that approach, most notably Serge Ibaka who blossomed alongside Perkins.

But Westbrook, as he admits himself, is an emotional player that has a chip so big on his shoulder that it's more like a chunk. So when (or if) the new guy comes strolling in with his big mean scowl and starts barking at him over a turnover, I'm sure he wasn't a fan. I remember a game early on where Perk was talking to Westbrook on the bench during a timeout and Westbrook very clearly tuned him out. There was another time where I remember Westbrook responding and there was a mini-argument on the bench.

Is it a big deal? Not really, as long as you win. Chemistry is a great thing and the Thunder had it as well as anyone with Jeff Green. But that wasn't enough for the Thunder to win. They needed that big presence in the middle. They needed the defensive accountability that Perk brought. If that means they don't always get along, so be it. Sometimes you don't like your teammates. Sometimes you really don't like your teammates. You think Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant have always gotten along? What matters most is playing well and winning together.

Now what you run the risk of is when things start going bad and the team starts losing, that little tiff can turn into a time bomb that blows up in everyone's face. When you have a locker room that's not getting along, a team can survive as long as it's playing well. When it doesn't, then fingers start getting point and people start getting angry. Of course that would be if there is an actual upset of feelings within the Thunder with Westbrook and Perk. It's very likely this is nothing more than just a little misunderstanding. I never personally saw anything that would make me think that the team -- or Westbrook and Perk specifically -- weren't getting along.

A concerning trend could be starting up though. Perk seems to be popular with everyone and if he's clashing with Westbrook combined with all the other noise, it could just be another issue with the hot-headed point guard. Hard not to notice that Westbrook often seems to be on an island while everyone else is pretty tight knit on and off the court. Then again, we don't see everything.

I guess it's just one more thing to talk about with the Thunder though. So be it.
Posted on: September 18, 2011 9:33 am

Kevin Durant was wearing a Chicago Bulls hat

Posted by Royce Young

Is this news? Is this a big deal? Should we really care about this? Absolutely no on all accounts.

But... I couldn't help but wonder when I saw that picture whether or not we'd be making a big deal if that were say LeBron James wearing a Knicks hat. Or Chris Paul wearing a Heat hat. Or Dwight Howard wearing a Lakers hat. Or Kobe Bryant wearing a Timberwolves hat. (Yeah, I know that would never, ever happen, but it's funny to picture.)

Obviously, we'd be making a pretty huge deal if any of those guys did that. With LeBron, just because anything he does is a big deal. With CP3 because of his uncertain future in New Orleans. Same thing with Howard in Orlando. And Kobe just because that type of thing would never happen.

But it makes me wonder if this isn't a big deal just because it's the iron-clad, bulletproof Durant doing it or because it truly isn't a big deal. I mean, we all freaked over LeBron wearing a Yankees hat and while I realize that was under much different circumstances, it was still a story, while this definitely is not.

I can't really decide why though. It's probably just because we haven't reached a point with Durant where we freak over things. Not because he isn't a superstar, but just that we don't obsess over the minutia of his every little thing he does. Unless it's tattoos, of course

Durant is locked up with the Thunder through 2016 with the Thunder so it's not like he could actually go to the Bulls or anything. So forget that angle. Maybe he was just wearing it because the Thunder's logo isn't anywhere near as cool as the Bulls. That's what I'm thinking.

Via @MrMichaelLee
Posted on: September 9, 2011 12:03 pm
Edited on: September 9, 2011 12:51 pm

Kevin Durant is Back For The Future

Posted by Royce Young

Great Scott, Nike has done it. They've made the shoes from Back to the Future. And best of all, they've done it for great reasons.

Beginning, well, yesterday, 1,500 pairs of the new Nike Mag shoes will be auctioned off on Ebay with the auctions benefiting the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's research.

And to help promote it, Nike's put out this little video featuring Bill Hader, KD and Christopher Lloyd. For a kid that pretty much knelt and worshiped Back to the Future and thought Marty McFly was the coolest kid ever to kiss his mother, this video basically has it all. KD, the DeLorean, actual shoes from Back to the Future II -- it's, well, heavy.

As for Durant's acting? A little stiff and with his reported role in a new movie coming up, he's going to need a little work. Nice line though on "make like a tree and get outta here."

Check out www.back4thefuture.com for more details and to get a better look at the shoe. And here's a link to the auctions. But if you want a pair, you better have some serious cash ready. The first pair sold for $37,500. They're auctioning 150 pairs a day for 10 straight days. If that pace were to keep up, they'd raise some like $56 million. Heavy.

One other thing too: How incredible is Nike? This whole this is just superb. The video, Durant's cameo, getting Christopher Lloyd, the website, the shoes and most of all, the cause. Two thumbs up to Nike for the whole production.
Posted on: September 5, 2011 11:17 pm
Edited on: September 5, 2011 11:21 pm

Kevin Durant has new back tattoos

Posted by Ben Golliver


Whatever you do, Kevin Durant, do not change your uniform number. That would make for a painful alteration. 

The Oklahoma City Thunder All-Star forward has gotten all sorts of attention for his new-found love of tattoos this summer. Royce Young broke down that phenomenon back in July, but then Durant decided to go back and get some new ink. 

Durant's latest artwork -- courtesy of a Georgia tattoo artist by the name of Randy -- stretches across his entire back and consists of an homage to his jersey number, spirituality and his home state. As you can see below, Durant, a native of Prince George's County, got the word "Maryland" tattood across his shoulders. In the middle of his back is an image of an angel holding a basketball. Surrounding that image are two hands -- the left holds up three fingers and the right extends all five -- making reference to his jersey number: 35. That number is of special significant to Durant because his childhood AAU coach died at the age of 35.

Home, God and hoops. That's a fairly winning formula for an NBA player, and this design, despite its size, is almost mild by the league's standards. It's not a giant tree like the one owned by Golden State Warriors Monta Ellis and it's certainly not the creepy World of Warcraft design sported by Utah Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko or the skull-eating woman abomination Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh put on his back.

Of course, like Durant's other tattoos, this green mural will be covered by his jersey while he's playing.

Here's another angle of Kevin Durant's new back tattoo.


Images via Twitpic.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com