Kevin Durant Injury Update: Latest News and Comments on Thunder Star

Kevin Durant is one of the NBA‘s best players, but he will start the 2014-15 season on the sideline after suffering a foot injury.

The league’s reigning MVP was forced to undergo surgery for a Jones fracture in his right foot after getting hurt in a preseason practice.

Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman provided a full look at the initial injury in a statement from Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti:

This six-to-eight week timeline puts a return likely at early December, which would represent close to one-quarter of the regular season. Bleacher Report’s Injury Expert Will Carroll provided a bit more information on the potential return:

Carroll does note this could be a lingering issue if the recovery does not go completely according to plan.

On the plus side, there are already positive signs from Durant. According to Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman, Durant was out of a cast within the first two weeks:

While Thunder fans are hoping he could possibly return even sooner than projected, the five-time All-Star reminded everyone that he will remain patient. Speaking to the media for the first time since the injury, Durant explained his plan:

I’m not going to rush it all. That’s the one thing I don’t want to do. I’m sure I’ll feel better in two or three weeks, but definitely don’t want to rush it and wind up hurting it even more. I’m taking my time with it. I’m just blessed it happened early in the season where I can get past it, and hopefully by December I’ll be ready to play.

It is hard to argue against this strategy, especially with such a long season. After seeing someone like Derrick Rose reinjure himself after returning, Durant wants to make sure he is at 100 percent before starting back onto the court.

The question at this point is how the Thunder survive until he gets back. One likely scenario is that Russell Westbrook becomes not only the go-to option offensively but the only option. ESPN’s Tom Haberstroh (subscription required) broke down how frequently the guard looked for his own shot when Durant was on the bench:

Over the past three seasons, Westbrook has shot the ball 265 times in 356 minutes without Kevin Durant on the floor, which translates to a ludicrous rate of 26.8 shots per 36 minutes. To give you an idea how crazy high that is, Basketball-Reference tells us that no guard in NBA history has shot that frequently over a full season; only Wilt Chamberlain has topped it.

On the other hand, ESPN’s Amin Elhassan (subscription required) notes that the Thunder have “built a roster that is deep enough to weather the storm.” He notes young wings, such as Perry Jones and Jeremy Lamb, can handle the responsibility for the short term.

That being said, everyone in Oklahoma City will be counting down the days before Durant is able to return. It is important to think long term with a player as talented as this, but the squad will hope it can survive without him for the immediate future.


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NBA News: Latest Buzz Surrounding Kemba Walker, Rajon Rondo and More

The 2014-15 NBA season is finally underway, but not all the news from around the league is about box scores and starting lineups.

No, there is still business to be done in front offices across the Association. It seems there is always a move to make, whether it’s wrapping up a player for the long haul or making sure that there is the proper amount of depth in the short term.

Point guard is a premium position in the NBA, and it’s important that teams are all set with their floor generals for both the present and the long haul. Let’s take a look at the latest buzz surrounding three well-known point guards.

Kemba Walker Reportedly Inks Contract Extension 

According to’s Marc Stein, point guard Kemba Walker and the Charlotte Hornets have agreed to a contract extension that should keep the veteran point guard in light-blue duds for quite some time:

The Charlotte Hornets have reached terms on a contract extension with prized guard Kemba Walker, according to league sources.

Sources told that Walker will receive a four-year, $48 million extension from the Hornets that will kick in starting with the 2015-16 season.

The sides were facing a Friday deadline to finalize a deal to prevent Walker from becoming a restricted free agent in July.

With newly arrived shooting guard Lance Stephenson wrapped up for three years (the final year being a club option, per Spotrac), the Hornets have two darn good-looking pieces of the puzzle locked in for the next few years. 

Walker averaged 17.7 points, 6.2 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game in 2013-14. Advanced stats are a little less kind to him and his new $12 million a year salary: He ranked just 17th among point guards in player efficiency rating (PER) last season, per ESPN’s Hollinger rankings. He was also 13th at his position in estimated wins added.

ESPN Insider Kevin Pelton felt the signing made sense in the current context:

Walker’s chemistry with center Al Jefferson, professor emeritus of the left block, was an integral part of Charlotte’s relatively successful 43-39 campaign last season.

The new deal puts the onus on Walker to step up his game and lead the Hornets to the top seed in the Eastern Conference. There are wins to be had in a diluted East, and the Hornets could surpass the likes of the stagnant Brooklyn Nets and injury-riddled Indiana Pacers.

Locking up an exciting point guard who is still just 24 years old is a solid bit of business for a franchise that has mostly been a flop since its establishment in 2004. Walker’s youth, durability and consistency could be a key selling point for prospective free agents should the Hornets need to replace an aging Jefferson or round out the rest of their roster.

Rajon Rondo Potentially Available for Celtics’ Season Opener

The Boston Celtics will need a healthy Rajon Rondo if they are to have any shot at relevance in the 2014-15 season. The freewheeling point guard played in just 30 games last season, and his availability for the start of the upcoming season has been in doubt ever since he broke his left hand in September.

However, his return may be imminent, according to The Boston Globe‘s Gary Washburn:

Apparently, the game-day decision isn’t set in stone until Rondo has had a chance to sleep on it.

“When I wake up from my nap, I’ll let [reporters] know. Around 4:30,” Rondo said, via’s Chris Forsberg. “If I sleep really, really well tonight, and [Wednesday] afternoon with my nap, I’ll let you know how I’m feeling.”

Rondo is certainly coming to a crossroads in the 2014-15 season. Due to become an unrestricted free agent after this season, Rondo could be a valuable trade asset for the rebuilding Celtics should he prove that he can stay healthy and still perform at a high level.

Then again, if he proves those two things, the Celtics would be crazy not to make a huge push to re-sign him in 2015.

When Rondo is healthy, he is one of the league’s premier distributors, averaging at least 11 assists per game in three of his eight NBA seasons. He’s also an accomplished rebounder and an excellent defender in his own right. Should he be unable to start the season, the Celtics will likely rely on a combination of rookie Marcus Smart, Evan Turner and Will Bynum, whom the Celtics acquired in a trade with the Detroit Pistons earlier in October. 


Milwaukee Bucks Pick up Kendall Marshall’s Contract

The Milwaukee Bucks did well in the offseason to snag point guard Kendall Marshall after the Los Angeles Lakers released him due to cap concerns. It appears that they are ready and willing to commit to their pickup for the 2014-15 season, per Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski:

Despite holding the flexibility to wait until January for a decision, the Milwaukee Bucks have guaranteed the contract of point guard Kendall Marshall for the 2014-15 season, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Marshall had a non-guaranteed contract, but is assured now to make his full $915,000 for the season.

Marshall made a strong impression in training camp and earned the Bucks’ backup point guard spot. The Bucks acquired Marshall on a waiver claim in July after being released by the Los Angeles Lakers.

The point guard situation in Milwaukee should be very interesting to observe this season. Head coach Jason Kidd has experimented with 6’11″ Giannis Antetokounmpo at the point, an unorthodox move that could pay dividends for a young team looking to escape the Eastern Conference cellar. However, the ploy may have just been a way to give the young man confidence, according to Charles F. Gardner of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Kidd experimented with Antetokounmpo at point guard in summer league in Las Vegas and early in the preseason. It was all part of a plan to give the youngster more responsibility.

He’s likely to play primarily at small forward but is versatile enough to play both guard positions.

Antetokounmpo appears to be grateful for the experience.

“It helped my confidence,” Antetokounmpo said, per Gardner. “My confidence is really high right now. I feel like I can contribute more on this team than last year.”

Should the summer tinkering amount to little more than a psychological ploy, Marshall might be a better option for the young Bucks than the other big-name point guard in the fold, Brandon Knight.

Knight averaged 17.9 points and 4.9 assists per game last season, his first with Milwaukee. He is a shoot-first, pass-when-he-can point guard. As Grantland’s Zach Lowe pointed out in July, Knight struggles to read the game adequately:

Knight on the pick-and-roll is often out of sorts, slow to spot passing lanes, unable to engineer those lanes, and a step behind in understanding how and where the defense is rotating.

Experience and work can refine those skills, but Knight’s struggles have been so profound as to call into question, even at his young age, whether he will ever be a competent starting point guard on a good NBA team.

Marshall has gaps in his game but proved with the Lakers in 2013-14 he can make plays without marquee talent around him.

The 23-year-old out of North Carolina averaged 8.8 assists per game last season. Even better, he put up a staggering 44.3 assist percentage in 2013-14, which measures the percentage of teammate field goals he assisted while on the floor, per Marshall has great vision and likes to do favors for others. He could spot a discarded contact lens in a swimming pool and then dive in to retrieve it. 

He also features an unusual but delightful set shot from long range, which resulted in a 39.9 shooting percentage from beyond the arc last season. The drawbacks to his game are a lack of athleticism, poor defense and an inability to attack the basket.

Just 23.2 percent of Marshall’s shots came from within three feet of the basket last season, per Basketball-Reference. Knight, on the other hand, put up 30 percent of his shots from that range.

Both players will have to compete with the likes of Jerryd Bayless and Nate Wolters at point guard. Bayless averaged 8.1 points and 2.1 assists per game with the Memphis Grizzlies last season. Wolters put up 3.2 assists in 22.6 minutes per game last season, but shot just 43.7 percent from the field. There is certainly a glut of players at this position. Kidd’s first priority this year may be figuring who and what works.

Bucks fans will likely be clamoring for rookie Jabari Parker and Antetokounmpo to get the ball early and often, something that may not happen very often if Knight is the lead point guard. If there is one thing Marshall can guarantee, it’s that everyone will spend time with the ball.

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Miami Heat News: McRoberts Likely To Miss Regular Season Opener

It would appear that Josh McRoberts won’t make his return in the season opener after all.
Less than a month after undergoing toe surgery, McRoberts is still not 100 percent. The Sun Sentinel’s Shandel Richardson reports that the power forward is likely to sit Wednesday’s opener versus the Washington Wizards. All previous reports indicated that McRoberts would be ready in time for the regular season opener, despite sitting out the entire preseason.
It has been a rough start to the veteran’s Heat career, as he has yet to even participate in a training camp practice with his new teammates. Throughout the preseason, coach Erik Spoelstra played around with different starting lineups due to McRoberts’ injury. For the majority of the preseason, Shawne Williams started in McRoberts’ power forward spot. Danny Granger even received a start at the four spot during the eight-game preseason schedule.
While it’s surprising to Heat fans that the 6’10″ forward might miss the opener, McRoberts didn’…

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Anderson Varejao Contract: Latest News and Rumors on Negotiations with Cavs

Anderson Varejao has played the first decade of his NBA career in Cleveland. The Cavaliers front office appears committed to ensuring he’s part of the organization for life.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported Monday that Cleveland and its high-energy big man were engaged in “serious” contract extension negotiations. Wojnarowski noted that no deal is imminent, so it’s unlikely the two sides will have an announcement in place by opening night.

Varejao must agree to a contract extension by the veteran contract modification deadline at the end of February. The Brazilian is in the final season of a six-year, $48 million deal he signed in 2009. Because of rules put in place by the new collective bargaining agreement, Varejao cannot agree to an extension longer than three years.

At age 32 and heading into his 11th NBA season, though, a three-year deal would likely take Varejao to the end of his career. The 2004 second-round pick has been a mainstay with the Cavaliers despite upheaval across the rest of the roster, with his career spanning the first LeBron James era, the post-LeBron nadir and the prodigal son’s re-arrival.

Varejao is one of James’ closest NBA confidantes. Head coach David Blatt admitted part of the reason he chose Varejao over Tristan Thompson to start at center this season was his on-court chemistry with James.

“That was more or less the idea of beginning with Andy, just because those two guys are so good together,” Blatt said, per Marla Ridenour of the Akron Beacon Journal. “It has a lot to do with the fit and with the fact that Tristan can play coming off the bench, he’s pretty good at it. For me they’re both starters.”

Varejao averaged 8.4 points and 9.7 rebounds last season in 65 games, his most extended run of health since 2009-10. The 6’11″ center has made it through only three NBA seasons missing fewer than 10 games. Since James’ departure prior to the 2010-11 campaign, Varejao has missed 166—exactly half—of a possible 312 games.

His health is seen as critical to Cleveland’s success this season, given his rebounding and defensive ability inside.


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Kawhi Leonard Contract: Latest News and Rumors on Negotiations with Spurs

With a Halloween deadline fast approaching, the San Antonio Spurs and forward Kawhi Leonard have reached a stalemate in long-term extension talks. 

A report from Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports indicated that Leonard’s representatives have not moved off their desire for a max-level contract.  The Spurs could offer Leonard a five-year maximum contract that could approach $90 million, depending on how high the NBA salary cap reaches in 2015-16. Dan Feldman of Pro Basketball Talk indicated a rough estimate of Leonard’s contract would top out right around $91 million.

Leonard, 23, averaged 12.8 points and 6.2 rebounds per game last season while shooting 52.2 percent from the floor. A raw project with a flawed jumper coming out of San Diego State, Leonard has developed into one of the NBA’s most promising young wings. He averaged 17.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game while going toe-to-toe with LeBron James en route to winning the 2014 Finals MVP in June.

“He’s special because he can bring it at both ends of the court,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News. “It’s going to be about consistency more than trying to teach him a new move and say, ‘Start doing this because Larry (Bird) did it.’

While the Spurs view Leonard as a building block for their next core, they could shrewdly use the collective bargaining agreement to their advantage. If they’re unable to find an amenable middle ground, San Antonio can allow Leonard to hit restricted free agency next summer.

Although he will be eligible to meet with other teams, the Spurs will own matching rights to any offer sheet. The restricted free agency route also gives the team an advantage in terms of annual raises. A non-incumbent can only offer Leonard 4.5-percent raises per season, while the Spurs can offer 7.5 percent under the CBA.

The Spurs and Leonard have only until Friday at midnight to carve out an agreement. It’ll be interesting to see how contentious things get as San Antonio prepares to begin its repeat bid Tuesday night against the Dallas Mavericks.


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Chicago Bulls: The Good News and Bad News

With the 2014-2015 NBA season imminent, what are some good and bad things to take away about the Chicago Bulls?
Bad News:  Defense Not Showing Up
Yes, it’s preseason but one of the challenges that was going to face the Bulls this coming season was finding out if head coach Tom Thibodeau could field his customary strong defense while also getting more offensive output from their off-season acquisitions.  Thus far the results are mixed.  After eight games they gave up 96.3 points per game.  That might not sound too bad but the more bothersome part of that stat is it went from 92.7 in the first four games to 100 is the final four.  In their final game the team surrendered a 13-point lead late in the second half.  Is that a sign of things to come?
Good News:  Derrick Rose Is Scoring
People were worried about his ability to put the ball in the basket after a very uneven performance for team U.S.A in the world championships, but Derrick Rose has come on hard over the past couple weeks with a series of stro

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Miami Heat News: Heat Waive Forward Khem Birch

The Miami Heat have decided to waive power forward Khem Birch instead of shooting guard Andre Dawkins to trim its roster size to the league allowable maximum of 15 players.
The Miami Heat waived C/PF Khem Birch out of UNLV.
— Jorge Sedano (@SedanoESPN) October 25, 2014
Looks like Duke SG Andre Dawkins could stick with Heat — Jorge Sedano (@SedanoESPN) October 25, 2014

The move is very surprising because of the Heat’s lack of rebounding prowess and inside presence, especially with Miami’s newfound backup shooting guard in Mario Chalmers.
Birch averaged 16.9 minutes in six games and was able to pull down 5.5 rebounds and block 1.17 shots per game. His rebounding average was second best on the team, while he led the Heat in blocked shots. In my opinion, Birch was exactly the type of player the Heat needed: a nitty, gritty blue-collared type of player that could help the team without having to touch the basketball.
Apparently the Heat organization didn’t see that, as they fou…

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Klay Thompson Contract: News Updates and Rumors on Negotiations with Warriors

Golden State Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson has been a huge part of the team’s offense, but it appears contract talks have stalled between the two sides.

Marc J. Spears of Yahoo reported the latest on the contract situation for Thompson:

Klay Thompson’s camp is frustrated that the Golden State Warriors haven’t offered a maximum contract in their ongoing extension talks with Friday’s deadline nearing, sources told Yahoo Sports.

Thompson is seeking a maximum deal paying upward of $15 million per season, a source said. The Warriors have improved their offer to get in the vicinity but have not offered a full maximum contract, sources said. 

Entering his fourth year with the Warriors, Thompson posted career highs last season with 18.4 points and 2.2 assists along with 3.1 rebounds. If the two sides don’t come to an agreement by Oct. 31, he will become a restricted free agent, per Spears.

In response to questions about a potential contract, Thompson told reporters on Friday (per Spears), “As far as contract stuff, I try not to worry about it, because then it will affect your game. I’ll just go out there and do what I do, and I know it will take care of itself.”

The other half of the “Splash Brothers” along with Stephen Curry, Thompson has lived up to his words in the preseason. Prior to the start of the regular season, the guard put up 35 points against the Denver Nuggets by way of four three-pointers.

Ethan Strauss of noted the great preseason numbers for Thompson:

All of this talk for Thompson of course comes after an eventful offseason for the young player. In the midst of Kevin Love trade talks, Thompson’s name was thrown around before eventually staying in Golden State.

It’s clear that the Warriors value having Thompson in the backcourt, but how much exactly? Thompson wants a max contract, but if Golden State doesn’t offer the deal prior to Halloween, they might see a bright young star slip away.

Given his value to the team and his potential after another great season, Thompson has a bright career ahead of him. Whether that’s with the Warriors remains to be seen.


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Lakers News: Steve Nash’s Season-Ending Injury Creates Big Role for Jeremy Lin

Entering the last year of his current contract, Jeremy Lin has been given a massive opportunity to woo any potential suitors, albeit due to some unfortunate circumstances.

According to a league source cited by Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding, incumbent starting point guard and future Hall of Famer Steve Nash will miss the entire 2014-15 season as a result of nerve damage in his back.

It’s a shame to see Nash, one of the most enjoyable players on the planet during the last decade, likely end his marvelous career on such a sour note, but as Sports Illustrated‘s Chris Mannix noted, this makes it Lin’s time to step up:

Whether he indeed enters the starting lineup or comes off the bench in favor of the more defensively minded Ronnie Price (as he has the last two preseason games), Lin is going to receive north of 30 minutes per game.

Despite dealing with an ankle injury throughout preseason, Lin has already earned praise from a pair of Los Angeles Lakers legends.

Magic Johnson recently applauded the fifth-year point guard’s ability to create offense off the dribble:

Kobe Bryant, via the Orange County Register‘s Bill Oram, echoed that sentiment: “Jeremy makes a huge difference…creating shots for others. We’ve got somebody else who can penetrate, make plays for others and put pressure on the defense. It’s a really big difference.”

Going back to the days of “Linsanity,” the 26-year-old’s best attribute has always been his ability to collapse a defense. However, he has improved as a shooter. Last year with the Rockets, he set career highs in three-point percentage (35.8), three-pointers made per 36 minutes (1.4) and true-shooting percentage (57.2).

Especially while Nick Young is sidelined, the Lake Show need a consistent second option on offense behind Bryant. Lin, who has played well as both a scorer and distributor in the preseason, is now the clear candidate to fill that role.

Of course, while Lin is important to the Lakers’ success, the reverse is also true. If Lin wants to take that next step as an individual player, there’s really no better way to do it than spending an entire season in the same backcourt as Bryant.

Lin has already talked about learning from the 16-time All-Star, via Sports Out West’s Bob Garcia and Lakers Nation’s Serena Winters:

While news of Nash’s season-ending injury is disheartening, positives will emerge from it. A larger role for Lin is chief among those.

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Miami Heat News: Heat Cut Tyler Johnson, Shawn Jones, and Larry Drew II

The Miami Heat roster now stands at 16 players.
Early Thursday morning the Heat got closer to their final opening night roster — which must be trimmed to a maximum of 15 players — by releasing Tyler Johnson, Shawn Jones, and Larry Drew II. The release of Larry Drew II was expected as the Heat’s intentions were to sign and release him in order to assign him to their D-League affiliate team the Sioux Falls Skyforce.
On the other hand, forward Shawn Jones didn’t seem like he was particularly ready for the NBA level. In 16.5 minutes of play through four games, Jones only averaged 3.0 points and 3.0 rebounds and evidently did not impress the Heat organization. Jones is very nitty gritty, however, he will need to be developed further before he’s ready for a NBA team.
The most surprising cut out of the three has to be shooting guard Tyler Johnson. Although a bit out of control at times, Johnson’s athleticism and raw talent were clearly there as he would have been the perfect player to deve…

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