Kevin Durant

Some thoughts on Z-Bo as a King, the Clippers' investments and Mason Plumlee's logo

Some thoughts on Z-Bo as a King, the Clippers' investments and Mason Plumlee's logo

A lot going on in the NBA since the draft, with trades and free agency. Some thoughts about what we've seen lately:

  • Zach Randolph signed a two-year, $24 million deal to join Sacramento. All over the internet I've read people hailing this as a great move for the Kings, bringing that "veteran presence" to the Kings' young squad. Well, maybe. The Memphis Z-Bo was, by all accounts, a community contributor and a team leader -- a beloved player in that town. But we've seen the other side of him in Portland and when you talk about a player on the downside of his career signing with a team for the money, rather than for a chance at a championship, I'm not sure if you can depend on Randolph to be a leader or an example of how an NBA player should handle himself. But who knows? I do know they don't want the Portland Z-Bo in Sacramento.
  • When you win, you can often retain your players at a lower cost, quite obviously. I've never been able to convince many people that a big part of playing in the NBA is the day-to-day culture and atmosphere on a team. Yes, championships are the thing -- but it's just as important to be able to get through the marathon 82-game season with a minimal amount of drama and sadness. The Warriors have a great culture where players are unselfish and play hard. And they win almost every game they play. If you think that's not important, try to picture yourself on a team that loses more games than it wins and features selfish players who don't want to share the ball. I wouldn't want to spend time in a situation like that. Golden State got Shaun Livingston back at $8 million a year, Andre Iguodala at $16 million a season and Kevin Durant at two years for a total of $53 million -- about $9 million a year under what he could have gotten with a max deal. Durant declined a player option and become a free agent to allow the Warriors to retain Iguodala and Livingston.
  • Blake Griffin got $173 million over five years to stay with the Clippers. I've always liked Griffin and wondered what he'd be like away from the Clips, but I don't think I'd ever give him that kind of money. He's missed 79 games over the last three seasons and I've always felt that when players start to break down, they can go downhill in a hurry.
  • Paul Millsap got a three-year, $90 million deal with the Nuggets. Millsap is a steady player who grinds every night. But should a guy who has averaged 14.2 points and 7.5 rebounds per game over 11 seasons in the league make 30 million bucks a year?
  • Maybe so, if Danilo Gallinari is going to get $65 million over three seasons from the Clippers. He's a very good shooter when he plays -- but this is another guy who spends a lot of time on the bench in street clothes. He's averaged about 50 games a season over his last seven years in the league.
  • Mason Plumlee has still not signed a contract but the Nuggets have reportedly extended him a qualifying offer of $4.9 million. This is a good guy, good teammate and I hope he finds a team that appreciates his unique skillset. And to while away the time until he signs a deal, Plumlee has been active on his website at masonplumlee.com -- where you can buy your Mason Plumlee logo T-shirt.

OK, so tell me about Durant's "legacy" now

OK, so tell me about Durant's "legacy" now

As much as I detest the word "legacy" when people are talking about pro athletes (basketball players have careers, they don't have a legacy. Things like that are reserved for the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy) I'm going to use it here.

Where are all those people who insisted that Kevin Durant would affect his "legacy" by jumping from Oklahoma City to Golden State and, as I heard so many times, "ride those guys' coat tails to a championship."

Well, as it turned out, Durant did the right thing. The Warriors would not have won without him. He was the MVP of the series. And he escaped having to play in a city YOU wouldn't live in to the Bay Area. And he escaped having to play with Russell Westbrook on a dysfunctional team and landed with a squad that was the most unselfish in the league.

When people look back on his career they're going to say he carried the Warriors to this championship -- not that they carried him to one.

And he did so while sacrificing pieces of his game for the sake of playing on a winning team. He would have scored more points and his stats would have looked much better had he stayed with the Thunder. But the NBA Finals stage allowed him to show just how talented he is -- leading many people to conclude he's the next big thing in the league.

As far as the Cavaliers are concerned, the Finals showed they have some work to do on that roster of theirs. Instead of stacking their bench with LeBron's buddies, they need to get some serious role players with talent. They need guys capable of contributing instead of just sitting and watching. In Game 5, the Warrior bench outscored the Cavalier bench 35-7, typical of the entire series.

The Warriors, too, had a big coaching edge. Golden State plays the prettiest game in basketball on offense and just about the best defense in the league. The Cavs take turns playing one-on-one with not enough defense.

The right team won. And Kevin Durant made the right move.

Golden State puts finishing touches on sweep of Trail Blazers with dominating first quarter

Golden State puts finishing touches on sweep of Trail Blazers with dominating first quarter

The Trail Blazers’ season is over, their final attempt at redemption buried amid an avalanche of greatness from Golden State on Monday.

In a devastating start to Game 4, Golden State bolted to leads of 14-0 and 41-13 before eventually sealing a sweep in the best-of-seven series with a 128-103 win at the Moda Center.

Golden State tied an NBA-playoff record with 45 first quarter points and handed the Blazers their first playoff sweep since the Lakers in 2002 won a best-of-five series in three games.

Damian Lillard led the Blazers with 34 points and Al-Farouq Aminu had 25 points, but CJ McCollum missed his first nine shots and finished with six points and one assist on 2-of-12 shooting and the Blazers were held to 38.8 percent shooting.

Golden State, which welcomed the return of Kevin Durant after the star missed Games 2 and 3 with a calf injury, was led by Stephen Curry (37 points), Klay Thompson (18 points) and Draymond Green (21 points, six rebounds, four assists). Durant had 10 points in 20 minutes.

Golden State entered the playoffs with the NBA’s best record, and never did they play more like it than in Game 4, and in particular the first quarter.

In a whirlwind of three-pointers, blocks and dunks, the Warriors instantly sucked the air out of the sold out Moda Center. Portland didn’t score until 3:38 into the game with an Evan Turner three-pointer, but the Blazers never could put together a run against the NBA’s second best defense.

The Blazers started the third different starting lineup of the series in Game 4, inserting Meyers Leonard at center, but the move turned out to be moot after the Warriors’ hot start. Leonard played the opening five minutes, during which he grabbed one rebound, and did not play again until the final five minutes, as coach Terry Stotts started Aminu in the second half.

Any hopes for a Blazers’ comeback from a 72-48 halftime deficit were quickly dashed when the Warriors scored the first six points of the second half as the lead eventually swelled to as many as 33.

Shabazz Napier finished with 14 points and Noah Vonleh 14 rebounds for the Blazers. 

Podcast:

Game 2 gets away from Blazers amid avalanche of turnovers, missed shots

Game 2 gets away from Blazers amid avalanche of turnovers, missed shots

OAKLAND, Calif. – The Trail Blazers had a great three-minute opening to Game 2.

Then the rest of the game happened.

Golden State took a 2-0 lead in this best-of-seven playoff series in commanding fashion Wednesday, using a 20-2 run in the first quarter and a 21-6 spurt to begin the second half that led to a 110-81 victory at Oracle Arena.

Teams in the NBA playoffs with 2-0 leads are 364-24 (.938) all-time and 262-18 in best-of-seven series.

Game 3 is Saturday in Portland.

Neither CJ McCollum nor Damian Lillard could replicate their Game 1 excellence and the Blazers as a whole were sloppy (19 turnovers) and generally off (33.3 percent shooting) as Golden State beat Portland for the 12th consecutive time.

After scoring 41 points in Game 1, McCollum missed his first five shots and finished with 11 points in 4-of-17 shooting. Lillard, who had 34 in Game 1, made four of his first five shots then made only one of his next 12 shots, finishing with 12 points on 5-of-17 shooting.

Portland led 9-4 in the first three minutes as Lillard made three driving baskets, but Golden State answered with a 20-2 run that was fueled by some shoddy passing from McCollum and Evan Turner and some close-range misses, as Lillard, McCollum and Maurice Harkless all missed layins.

The only Portland threat came in the second, when the Blazers trimmed their 33-17 first-quarter deficit to 43-42 behind the play-making of Turner and the scoring of Harkless. Turner had six assists in the second and Harkless 10 of his 15 points, but the Warriors closed the half on a 12-4 run to lead 55-46 at the break.

In the third, Portland was held to 12 points, the lowest by a Golden State playoff opponent in the shot-clock era, and by 10:24 in the fourth it was 89-60 and Stotts had taken out his starters and replaced them with Shabazz Napier, Pat Connaughton, Jake Layman, Noah Vonleh and Meyers Leonard.

Golden State entered the game worried about its depth after star Kevin Durant (calf), backup point guard Shaun Livingston (finger, hand) and reserve Matt Barnes (ankle) all were ruled out.

But behind a game-changing 13 minutes from reserve center JaVale McGee (15 points, five rebounds) and another all-around game from Draymond Green (six points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists), the Warriors got by without Durant and off-nights from Stephen Curry (6-of-18, 19 points) and Klay Thompson (6-of-17, 16 points).

Harkless led the Blazers with 15 points, all in the first half, and Lillard (12) and McCollum (11) were the only other Portland players in double figures. Allen Crabbe, who guaranteed a better Game 2 after going 1-for-5 with three points in Game 1, went 3-for-10 and missed all five of his three-point attempts.

Podcast:

Golden State goes on a late run, puts away Trail Blazers in Game 1

Golden State goes on a late run, puts away Trail Blazers in Game 1

OAKLAND, Calif. –  The Trail Blazers on Sunday once again showed they can play with the Golden State Warriors.

But just like last season, during a playoff series that lasted five games, the Blazers haven’t shown they can finish a promising performance.

Golden State broke away from an 88-88 tie by starting the fourth quarter on a 15-2 run that led to a 121-109 steamrolling in Game 1 of the best-of-seven opening playoff series.

Despite a playoff career-high 41 points from CJ McCollum and 34 points from Damian Lillard, Golden State opened defense of its back-to-back conference championships by riding the wave of some momentum-swinging plays by do-it-all forward Draymond Green.

Green started the fourth quarter run with a three-pointer, then electrified the sold out Oracle Arena crowd with spectacular defense. He recorded three of his five blocks in the fourth quarter, including one on a dunk attempt by Lillard. When Kevin Durant turned the block into a jumper, the Warriors led 109-99 with 4:40 and the Blazers never threatened.

Green finished with 19 points, 12 rebounds, nine assists, three steals and five blocks and was in the middle of much of the back-and-forth jawing that took place between the two teams.

The fourth-quarter flurry was reminiscent of last season’s second-round series, when Portland led for 56.1 percent of the series, but lost four of the five games.

Portland was dealt a blow before the game when center Jusuf Nurkic was ruled out after he hoped to return from a broken right leg suffered just more than two weeks ago.

With Nurkic out, coach Terry Stotts shuffled his starting lineup, using Noah Vonleh at center and inserting Evan Turner in at small forward, with Maurice Harkless moving to power forward.

The move worked well, as the first three quarters were nip-and-tuck. The game featured 22 lead changes and 15 ties.

It was tied at 88 heading into the fourth after Pat Connaughton hit a leaning mid-range shot while being fouled with 0.8 seconds left. He made the free throw, capping a wild, see-saw third quarter that saw 15 lead changes and four ties.

A first half that included lots of jawing, was tied at 56 at halftime as McCollum had 27 points on 11-of-15 shooting. McCollum walked to the locker room nodding confidently at the Warriors’ bench, symbolizing a first half of back-and-forth both physically and verbally between the two teams. Lillard and Green had words during a free throw after Lillard fell hard to the floor, and later Durant and Harkless had an extended verbal volley as the teams went to a timeout near the end of the first half.

Portland hung close in the first quarter as Lillard and McCollum combined to score 24 of the Blazers’ 27 points. The Blazers shot just 30.4 percent in the quarter, but were within 31-27 thanks in part to 10-of-13 free throw shooting.

Golden State was led by Kevin Durant, who had 32 points and 10 rebounds, and Stephen Curry, who had 29 points.

Next up: Game 2, Blazers at Golden State, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday (TNT)

The Golden State-Portland question: Can Blazers get a game in the series?

The Golden State-Portland question: Can Blazers get a game in the series?

Let's be serious here: The Trail Blazers have very little chance of winning even one game in their first-round series against the Golden State Warriors.

Unless Jusuf Nurkic not only plays, but suddenly turns into Wilt Chamberlain.

I know, Portland got a game off the Warriors last year in the playoffs and played them tough in three of the other games, but I somehow think that might work against them this time around. Portland won't be sneaking up on Golden State this year and after last season's collapse in the NBA Finals, I expect the Warriors to come into these playoffs more focused than ever.

They are going to want to get all their series over as quickly as possible and save energy for a possible rematch against Cleveland in the Finals.

Yes, of course, Portland can win a game or two. Anytime you have Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum in your backcourt you have a chance. And any team -- even the great ones -- can have an off-night.

But I believe the Warriors, when healthy and rested, are one of the most powerful offensive teams I've ever seen in the NBA. They are as close to unstoppable as you're going to see. They were terrific even before Kevin Durant arrived and now they're a juggernaut. You're going to have to score a lot of points to beat them. And I mean maybe 130. The Blazers could do that, but just not more than once or twice in a seven-game series. And don't get me wrong, this isn't a knock on the Trail Blazers -- I don't think anyone in the league is going to threaten the Warriors if they stay healthy.

The value in this series for Portland is the experience of just being there. Measuring itself against the best. Getting the pressurized playoff experience under their belts. Someday, given the age of the Portland roster, these guys are going to catch the Warriors.

But not this year. Not this time. And probably not even for one game.

Blazers are close, but Golden State finishes sweep on season series.

Blazers are close, but Golden State finishes sweep on season series.

Klay Thompson didn’t hit many of his shots Sunday, but he hit the most important one, helping the Golden State Warriors beat the Trail Blazers at the Moda Center.

Thompson missed 15 of his first 20 shots, but hit a back-breaking three-pointer with 37.5 seconds left to push the Warriors to a 113-111 win over the upstart Blazers.

Thompson finished 6-for-21 with 27 points and Kevin Durant had 33 points as Golden State improved to an NBA-best 41-7 after sweeping the four-game series against the Blazers 921-28).

Portland had a chance to win the game, but Evan Turner missed a three pointer in the final second after Portland was awarded the ball after offensive foul by Kevin Durant with 5.5 seconds left. Durant ran over Turner while trying to get open on an inbounds play.

Stephen Curry, who scored 43 points the night before against the Clippers, did not play for Golden State after experiencing the flu-like symptoms.

Portland, which was trying to win four in a row for the first time this season, played valiantly but couldn’t get enough stops late on Durant, who also added 10 rebounds and six assists.

CJ McCollum led the Blazers with 28 points while Mason Plumlee recorded his team-leading 13th double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Damian Lillard added 19 points and eight assists for the Blazers and Evan Turner had 18 points and six assists.

Portland forged three ties in the second half but could never take the lead.  The last tie was at 93 with 6:32 left, but Andre Iguodala hit a three-pointer and the Warriors never looked back.

Portland never gave up after Thompson’s dagger three-pointer, making Golden State be nearly perfect from the free throw line. McCollum made a three-pointer with 17.8 seconds left, pulling the Blazers within 109-107. But Thompson made two free throws with 16.7 seconds left and with 10.0, putting the finishing touches on an 13-for-15 night at the line.

The game was tied as late as 68-68 with 5:12 left in the third quarter before Golden State closed strong behind consecutive three-pointers from Andre Iguodala to head into the fourth quarter leading 84-74.

The Blazers fought to within 53-50 at halftime after closing the half on a 20-2 run that was fueled by better defense and some hurried and undisciplined shot selection by the Warriors.

Lillard put the exclamation point on the run, hitting back-to-back three pointers then feeding Evan Turner for a layin.

Next up: Charlotte at Blazers, 7 p.m. Tuesday (CSN)

Go ahead and feel free to call that Blazer loss to Warriors a moral victory

Go ahead and feel free to call that Blazer loss to Warriors a moral victory

OAKLAND -- Professional athletes and coaches aren't much interested in moral victories. You win or you lose, but not many times do you feel good about losing.

But the Portland Trail Blazers had every reason to feel good about their 125-117 loss to the Golden State Warriors Wednesday night, if for no other reason than it was a 37-point improvement on their performance the last time, they played the Warriors in Oracle Arena. That game was a debacle at the Oracle -- a 45-point loss.

But Wednesday the Trail Blazers played physically, energetically and stubbornly. They weathered a couple of Golden State knockout punches -- scoring runs that often take opponents out of a game -- and came back for more. And they played a decent defensive game.

Yes, they did.

You're going to look at those 125 points and the Warriors' 50.5 percent shooting and wonder how it could be said they played a decent defensive game? But I'd have to tell you they were playing a juggernaut of an offensive unit, a team that has now shot more than 50 percent in four straight games and came into this game averaging 49.8 percent from the field for the season. That's a product of their sensational passing game, which led to 31 assists Wednesday night. It was the 25th time this season Golden State has reached 30 assists. No other NBA has had more than six 30-assist games.

"I was really pleased with the way we competed," Portland Coach Terry Stotts said. "Obviously, we played a much better game than the last time we were here. We withstood a lot of their runs, particularly in the first half and even in the second half. We made a good game of it."

The Trail Blazers, as they've been of late, seemed much more physical on defense than they were earlier in the season.

"I hope so," Stotts said. "That was part of what we wanted to do going into the game. ... We tried to be more physical, we tried to keep the tempo up. To beat Golden State, you've got to be able to score and we did a good job of that."

Particularly in the first half, when the Trail Blazers racked up 71 points, the most the Warriors have allowed in any half this season. CJ McCollum was terrific in the first half, posting 26 points, six rebounds and three assists. But in the second half, the Warriors -- not having to worry about Damian Lillard (still out, nursing a sprained ankle), they were able to load up on McCollum and double-team him on pick-and-rolls.

"We just got more physical," said Golden State Coach Steve Kerr. "The first half, I felt like he was getting anywhere he wanted before and after he got the ball. We did a better job in the second half of running him off of his routes and just tried to be more physical with him. We were a little quicker and a little more alert."

McCollum still finished with 35 points, nine rebounds and five assists -- and a lot of admiration from the Warriors' Kevin Durant.

"CJ McCollum is a hell of a player," Durant told ESPN's Chris Haynes after the game. "Amazing player. One of the best players in our league."

The Blazers finished up a 44.9 percent from the field and 46.2 percent from three-point range while making 25 of 28 free throws -- marksmanship that will usually win games. They also won the rebound battle 44-39 and turned 17 Warrior turnovers into 21 points.

It was encouraging. And if the players and coaches couldn't bring themselves to call it a moral victory, I believe you and I certainly have that right.

 

 

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Golden State crushes defenseless Trail Blazers

Golden State crushes defenseless Trail Blazers

OAKLAND -- Well, what did you expect?

With the Portland Trail Blazers virtually defenseless lately, a date with the Golden State Warriors is something to dread.

And the Warriors showed why Saturday night in Oracle Arena, handing the Trail Blazers a 135-90 spanking that was much uglier than the final score indicated.

This one was a stinker from start to finish.

As many good teams – and some mediocre teams, too --have been doing, the Warriors put Portland away early.

Like soon after the opening tip.

Golden State shot 56.5 percent from the field and 50 percent from behind the three-point line to take a 39-21 lead after the first 12 minutes. The Trail Blazers made just 36.4 percent in the first quarter.

Steph Curry, feasting on open three-point shots, had 13 in the first period, as did Kevin Durant. Together they went  8-9 from the field and 4-5 from long range.

Durant continued his onslaught in the second quarter and finished up the first half with 21 points on just eight shots, playing 19 minutes.

Maurice Harkless hammered home a three-point goal at the buzzer to end the second quarter to pull Portland within 70-45 at halftime.

Durant played only the first three quarters – but finished with 34 points on 13 shots in just under 31 minutes. He did just about whatever he pleased.

As did his teammates. Golden State was shooting 62.5 percent from the floor when it turned the game over to its reserves to open the fourth quarter.

Damian Lillard, who didn't play in the fourth quarter, worked extremely hard to muster 20 points on 8-for-15 shooting to lead the Blazers.

But you’ve seen this show before. Portland is just not defending well enough to stop anything other than the worst teams in the league.

And the Blazers seemed absolutely childish on the same court as the Warriors.

But enough of that…. Time for all the positive things that came out of that big loss to Golden State:

 

 

 

 

Well, OK, feel free to fill in the blank if you can – I couldn’t find anything.

 

Golden State finds its groove against Trail Blazers

Golden State finds its groove against Trail Blazers

Golden State might have found its groove Tuesday in Portland. 

After sputtering through its first three games, Golden State routed the Trail Blazers 127-104 behind 28 points from Stephen Curry and a perfect shooting night from reserve Ian Clark. Curry scored 23 of his points in the third quarter and Clark scored 22 points on 8-of-8 shooting after entering the game averaging 2.7 points.

The Blazers, who have struggled this season in giving up big runs, let the game get away in the third quarter when Golden State went on an 18-2 run that helped extend a 59-53 halftime lead to 100-73 entering the fourth quarter. The Blazers have now given up a 16-0 run in the second quarter to the Clippers, a 17-1 run to Denver in the third quarter and Tuesday's 18-2 run to Golden State in the third. 

Damian Lillard led the Blazers with 31 points in 31 minutes and Evan Turner added 14 off the bench, but the Blazers were plagued by poor shooting, particularly from three-point range. While the Warriors clamped down on Lillard and CJ McCollum, it dared Maurice Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu to beat them from the outside, but despite open looks the two forwards combined to make 6-of-22 shots, which included missing all nine of their 3-point attempts. Aminu went 0-for-6 from three-point range and is now shooting 3-for-20 from beyond the arc on the season. 

The Warriors (3-1) lost their opener by 29 points to San Antonio, then had close victories over New Orleans and Phoenix, but on Tuesday they looked every bit the "Super Team"  so many have labled them after the Kevin Durant signing in the offseason. Durant had 20 points, five rebounds and two assists and Draymond Green had six points, eight rebounds and nine assists. Klay Thompson added 14 points on 6-of-17 shooting as he played through foul trouble.

In a fast-paced and at times hectic first half, the Warriors took a 59-53 lead on the heels of 52.2 percent shooting that included backup point guard Ian Clark making all six of his shots while Curry sputtered to five points on 2-of-9 shooting. Lillard kept the Blazers in the game with 22 in the first half, but Portland was hurt by 10 turnovers, including three trainwreck passes by Turner, and shodding three-point shooting (4-of-15).

The Blazers (2-2) raced to a 14-7 lead as Lillard scored eight quick points and Golden State struggled to a 3-for-9 start. But while Curry was missing his first three shots during a scoreless first quarter, unheraded Clark provided a spark by hitting all four of his shots and scoring 11 points in the quarter. What seemed like a good start for the Blazers was instead a 34-25 deficit after they managed just two points over the final 4:25 of the first quarter. 

Notes: Lillard has 136 points through the first four games, breaking Kiki Vandeweghe's franchise record for points in the first four games of a season. Vandeweghe had 124 to open the 1984 season ... Rookie Jake Layman made his Blazers debut in the fourth quarter and scored 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting, which included 5-of-7 from three-point range. 

Next up: Blazers at Phoenix, 7 p.m. Wednesday (CSN)