Why Kevin Durant Visited Phoenix; Damian Lillard, the latest on the Kings and Warriors

Here are some thoughts for Day 2 NBA Free agency is coming out…

Kevin Durant Sweepstakes, Day Two

All eyes are there Phoenix When it comes to Durant, The nets The star is believed to be targeting the Sun as its preferred next target. And while I wrote in detail on Thursday About how a deal centered a restricted free agent center Deandre Ayton And little forward Mikal Bridges While both parties may work, the initial feeling is that it will take more. Or, to put it bluntly, something else.

As Christian Winfield of the New York Daily News pointed out following the Rudy Gobert-to-Minnesota blockbuster It dropped on FridayThe Nets’ asking price for Durant — two All-Stars, as we said — Could have gone up. There is no way the Suns will trade Devin BookerHe agreed to a four-year, $224 million extension.

Cam Johnson is worth watching as a potential player who could move the needle for the Nets. But to be honest, it may be too soon to know if Durant gets his Valley-of-the-Sun wish here.

While we wait, let’s explore a more macro question: why Is Durant focused on Phoenix as the best place to continue his illustrious career? There could be a lot of factors at play here — the chance to rematch, the LA-proximity, his relationship with Booker and his respect. Chris Paul. But in terms of personal dynamics, his close relationship with Suns coach Monty Williams may top the list.

They spent one season together in Oklahoma City, the 2015-16 campaign when Williams was the head coach under Scott Brooks and Durant was in his final game. thunder days before departure Golden State In free enterprise. The two had already grown close during that season, but the bond grew even deeper after the tragic passing of Williams’ wife and mother to their five children, Ingrid. February 9, 2016, car accident. A quick story that I will never forget from that time…

All-Star weekend Toronto That year, I planned to stop on my way back west to interview Durant in Oklahoma City (I’m near Sacramento). But before the news of Ingrid’s passing broke, Durant’s longtime business manager, Rich Kleiman, called me to let me know the interview was off. Naturally, I asked why.

He shared the devastating news of what happened and described Durant — like many close to Williams — as devastated. All these years later, those who lived through that situation with Williams say their respect for Durant grew enormously as they watched him handle all that pain with finesse. (If you haven’t seen Williams’ incredible speech at Ingrid’s funeral, Please do.)

Shortly after Durant made his controversial decision to join the Warriors, he was reunited with Williams on the U.S. team that won Olympic gold in Rio and was led by Durant. They have remained close ever since. Does that mean he’s Phoenix-bound? not at all. But it might help people understand some of his motivations this time around.

As for the Miami prospect, which also appears to be in play, I’d say there’s a significant hurdle on that front. Durant, it seems, only wants to play in one Heat A team consisting of Jimmy Butler, Pam Adebayo And Kyle Lowry. Even if the Heat were willing to move Butler in a deal as a way to satisfy the Nets’ (understandably expensive) demand, doing so would displease Durant from the start.

As others have pointed out, Adebayo himself comes with a problem beyond Durant wanting him to stay. Because teams are not allowed to keep two players who arrived via trade on designated rookie-max extensions, Brooklyn must make the trade. Ben Simmons Bring on Adebayo. If the Heat’s best offer is center Tyler Hero, I don’t see how it gets any traction. Based on Durant’s preferred spots, the Suns seem to have a shot at making some magic here.

In Gary Payton II Portland And this Damian Lillard Ripple effect

Payton’s contract with Portland – three years, $28 million, According to Namma Shams Sarania – Contains all types of layers. First, the Golden State side.

At the same time Warriors luxury tax concerns Understandably, given that every dollar spent is multiplied by seven, the optics of this loss will be difficult for owner Joe Lacob and his team. Payton was a key part of their elite defense, a great fit in their offense and an absolute game-changer in the NBA Finals after coming back from his elbow fracture, but he was also a fan favorite.

These are first-world problems for a fan base that has seen its team dominate over the past decade, but it’s a problem nonetheless. A source with knowledge of the Payton-Warriors talks said Golden State offered taxpayers a two-year transitional waiver (starting at $6.4 million annually).

Payton’s deal with Portland, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports Includes player option. As an aside, sources say Step curry And Draymond Green were part of the process with Payton, but clearly failed to persuade him to stay.

Add to that the Warriors’ loss of Otto Porter Jr. to Toronto on Friday and Nemanja Bjelica’s decision. Play for Turkish champions Fenerbahce, and had a rough 12 hours in the Gulf. As rebound moves go — in more ways than one — re-signing free-agent center/fellow fan favorite Kevon Looney A three-year, $25.5 million contract Friday is an absolute must.

Now for the Portland angle.

It is widely assumed that Lillard will accept a two-year extension offer worth more than $100 million. He is expected to be on his way, sources say the Trail Blazers still need a strong offseason to convince Lillard to stay through the 2026-27 campaign (he’ll be 36). The deadline here isn’t until the start of the regular season, which I’m told isn’t certain yet.

The Hay grant Additionally (via Trade with DetroitLillard’s desire to play with the 28-year-old forward has been a secret, so this offseason was a major step in the right direction on this front. They have thrived as teammates before winning gold with Team USA at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Grant’s defense is a must as Portland has ranked 27th, 29th and 29th in defensive rating the past three seasons.

As Blazers general manager Joe Cronin said, the draft was a question mark Choice to pick up the mystery man Shaden Sharp The seventh pick out of Kentucky is a long play. The Anfernie Simons The deal was another positive, though the price tag was intriguingly steep (four years, $100 million) for a fourth-year guard who hadn’t played much meaningful basketball in Portland (Lillard, of course, played in 29 games because of his stomach surgery, and Portland went 27-55). big man Jusuf Nurkic Agrees to a four-year, $70 million deal that keeps Lillard the favorite in town.

And when it comes to Payton, it’s the kind of move that’s sure to make Lillard smile. Not only does he desperately need elite wing defenders on his side, Lillard Payton’s father is close to Gary Payton, a Hall of Fame point guard and fellow Oakland, Calif. native.

What’s more, Payton II, his father and Lillard are represented by their sole agent, Aaron Goodwin of Goodwin Sports Management. Payton II has a Northwestern tie-in because he was a favorite during his two years at Oregon State (2014-16).

The Warriors’ loss, in other words, is the Trail Blazers’ gain as they try to keep the Lillard era alive.

(Playoff) Progress Kings?

I’m loving Kings of Season so far — even if it’s imperfect. First-year coach Mike Brown will certainly struggle to protect this team at a high level, and that means their ceiling is low enough to continue the league’s longest playoff drought. Especially considering the number of quality teams in the West (like, say, The Timber wolves!).
But addition Malik the saint, Kevin Huerder And Keegan Murray There are substantial solutions to their shooting woes, and they come on very reasonable contracts (two years, $19 million for Saint Through free agency; Four years, $50.5 million for Huerter By trade with Atlanta) Franchise centerpiece De’Aaron Fox has something to do with these moves, as the Kings had to find a way to provide him with the kind of supporting cast that could take his game to a new level. Domantas Sabonis Thrive (remember, the 26-year-old All-Star forward is a free agent in the summer of 2024).

Fox’s Kentucky history with Monk makes the move more meaningful and potentially impactful. Monk (career-high 13.8 points; 39.1 percent from deep on 5.1 attempts per game) was a rare bright spot. LakersAn otherwise-terrible 2021-22 campaign. What’s more, the Hermit move unofficially vindicates the Kings’ willingness to let Donte DiVincenzo walk in restricted free agency.

It was their choice to draft Murray Jaden Ivy The fourth pick will be debated and analyzed for years to come, but the Iowa product is widely seen as a special young player who could help immediately.

As the Kings have been in on-again, off-again talks with Atlanta, there is certainly more to come. John Collins (centered on a contract Harrison Barnes) for several months now. There may also be opportunities around the Durant situation where teams like the Kings are capable of benefiting in a third-team role.

You don’t have to agree with the approach, but this is a team in win-now mode. Again. Given the pressure on this front office, there has been significant progress here as general manager Monte McNair and assistant general manager Wes Wilcox work into the final years of their respective contracts.

(Photo by Mikal Balam, Kevin Durant and Chris Paul: Brad Penner/USA Today)

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