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Kevin Durant Fitting In With the Warriors

Kevin Durant has put any fit questions behind him quickly with the Warriors, writes Cody Taylor.

Cody Taylor



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Kevin Durant’s decision to join the Golden State Warriors was met with a lot of criticism. From the outside looking in, signing with a team that just set the record for wins in a single season appeared to be a move aimed solely to give Durant a chance to compete for a championship.

The Warriors roster already featured some of the league’s best players in Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. They were by far the league’s best team last season during the regular season, and were favorites to win the championship. Of course, we know how that story ended: With the Cleveland Cavaliers coming back from a 3-1 series deficit to win in seven games.

As NBA teams are now over the halfway mark of the season, it’s again looking like the Warriors will be favorites to emerge out of the Western Conference. They currently hold the best record in the NBA at 38-6 and have won seven consecutive games. While it’s easy to see the Warriors will have a great chance of winning their second title in three years, Durant maintains that wasn’t the biggest priority for him when he opted to sign with the Warriors.

“To be honest, I was just drawn to how they play the game,” Durant said. “All that other stuff will just take care of itself. I just love the way they play the game and you can see now that we’re playing at a good pace. At both ends of the floor, we’re doing a good job helping each other, so it’s a fun way to play.”

Once Durant made his decision, many began to question how it would all come together. With the league’s Most Valuable Player in Curry on the roster, the big question was how each player’s touches would be divided up. With perhaps four of the league’s top 20 players on the roster, would those players be comfortable sacrificing their own stats for the team? So far, it appears as though those questions have been answered.

As several players met with Durant during their free-agent pitch to him last summer, those questions were discussed. Players on the roster knew what adding a former MVP in Durant would mean and they all seemingly put any personal agendas they may have had aside in order to help the team win. Green has openly said in the past that he’s willing to sacrifice his touches in order get other guys involved. Having a player like that on the team has surely helped Durant as he transitions to the team.

“All these guys are great guys, for one,” Durant said. “They’re easy to get along with. A lot of guys just know how to play the game. I knew if I just come here and not think about myself, and just play within the offense, I’ll figure out how to be aggressive and score [and] try to make plays on both ends of the court. Whether it’s getting a steal or block, just playing good defense, rebounding [or] the little stuff; my scoring will come around. We’re still a work in progress, though. We’re still getting better.”

Joining the Warriors, Durant’s stats have hardly suffered at all. He’s averaging 26 points, 8.6 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.7 blocks and 1.2 steals per game. He currently leads the Warriors in scoring and blocks, and his 8.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks are both career-highs. He’s the only player to be ranked in the top 10 in scoring and field-goal percentage.

“He’s brought a lot,” Green said. “Obviously, he’s brought about 26 points per game for us. [He’s also brought] incredible defense. A guy who fits right into our [system]. A guy who brings a little fire, a winner, great competitor and just an all-out great person. He’s brought a ton to this team.”

“It’s been an adjustment just because you have a very similar core in me, Klay, Draymond, Andre [Iguodala] and Shaun [Livingston],” Curry added. “You add a guy like KD, [David] West, Zaza [Pachulia] in the rotation [and] even JaVale [McGee]. When you have a talented guy like that, that can infuse into the offense really easily [with] just his IQ, his skill set and balance out the things we already do well, it’s a good combo. We’ve gotten better since day one and that’s the mission.”

Green wasn’t interested in talking about Durant joining the Warriors solely to win a championship.

“I really don’t care what people say,” Green said. “If you don’t want to win anyway, I question you. I don’t really care what people say.”

The Warriors have been one of the most exciting teams to watch. The ball is constantly moving to find the open man on the floor. They have dished out 30 or more assists 30 times this season while no other team has more than eight 30-assist games. They had a streak of 10 games with 30 or more assists, which was the second-longest such streak in NBA history.

Many expected the Warriors to get off to a slow start this season while they were tasked with integrating Durant into the offense. In the early going, it appeared as though their second unit off of the bench might struggle at times this season, but those issues have been figured out. At one point the team’s defense dropped out of the top 20 in the league, but they now are ranked first in defense. Otherwise, they’ve basically picked up where they left off last season.

The Warriors’ recent stretch of play is just a reminder to the rest of the league that they’re going to be a tough team to knock out come the postseason. They’ve reeled off seven straight wins, including an impressive 126-91 win over the Cavaliers last week. They’ve endured a bit of a weird scheduling quirk over the past few days: Their plane from Houston to Orlando was delayed due to severe weather Friday night, causing the team to stay overnight in Houston. They were unable to practice on Saturday and then appeared in their first 12 p.m. EST start in nearly 20 years yesterday against the Magic.

While Durant will continue to answer questions regarding his decision to join the Warriors, the reality is this team will almost certainly be playing in their third straight Finals barring something catastrophic. Whether he wants to admit it publicly or not, that was likely a huge factor in his decision to join the team. Anything short of a title will likely be viewed as a disappointment.

Cody Taylor is an NBA writer in his fourth season with Basketball Insiders, covering the NBA and NCAA out of Orlando and Miami.


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NBA Daily: James Harden on the new All-Star Format and Chris Paul Being Snubbed

James Harden shared his thoughts on the new All-Star game format and teammate Chris Paul not being selected as an All-Star

James Blancarte



NBA Commissioner Adam Silver made a bold decision to alter the All-Star game format. By allowing the two highest voted players in each conference to be team captains, Silver did away with tradition and the usual West versus East format. While there were a few complaints about the switch, fans were seemingly more vocal about the decision to not televise the selection of players by the team captains.

Well, the results are in and praise for new format has been nearly universal. With players more invested in the new format, and perhaps the $100k per player bonus for the winners, the effort level was up, plays were being drawn up and executed and defense made a surprise appearance in an exciting game that came down to the final possession.

2018 NBA All-Star and Houston Rockets guard James Harden spoke about the All-Star game and the new format.

“I think it is exciting. You get an opportunity, you know, for a mixture of guys to play on the same team together. We’re trying to win though, it’s competitive,” Harden stated. “Obviously, the All-Star game has a lot of highlights but we’re trying to win, we’re going to go out there and prove we’re trying to win.”

Harden, who played for Team Stephen, did not get the win. However, Harden also made it clear that playing in the this year’s All-Star game meant even more having grown up in Los Angeles.

“To be able to play in the big boy game means a lot. I grew up, especially being from LA, you grew up watching Kobe, watching Shaq every single year. You see how fun, you see how exciting it was,” Harden said. “Now to be here, to be in the city is more special.”

While Harden made it a point to talk about what it means to play in Los Angeles, another factor he seemed excited and appreciative about was being the first player picked for Team Stephen.

“Man, that’s a great feeling. Just because in middle school I was the last pick. So, to be the number one pick in the All-Star game, that’s what the swag champ is for,” Harden said.

Harden wasn’t universally positive about All-Star Weekend. Specifically, he was not happy about being the only Rockets All-Star – especially considering Houston’s standing in the Western Conference playoff race.

“I have a lot to say about that. What are we talking about? Everyone knows Chris Paul is with the Rockets and the Rockets have the number one [record]. How does that not happen?” Harden asked rhetorically. “It’s frustrating. I know he’s frustrated. He never brings it up. That’s why I did say what I said. He’s never going to bring it up. But, I’ll defend for him. He should be here with me in LA as an All-Star.”

Harden had some success as he led his team in minutes and logged 12 points, eight assists and five rebounds. He spoke after the game and confirmed the reconfiguration of the All-Star game produced a competitive game and a fun product for the fans.

“Felt great. I hope all the fans enjoyed [the All-Star game] as well. It was very competitive. Guys got after it from the beginning of the game. Usually All-Star [games] there are a lot of dunks, a lot of freedom. Tonight was intense,” Harden said.

Harden was not wrong with his conclusion that there was less freedom. With less freedom and better defense played, Harden went 5-19 from the field and 2-13 from three-point range while finishing the game without a single free throw attempted. The lack of free throws may have irked Harden, who is renowned for his ability to get to the line (9.9 free throw attempts per game this season). Adding to that frustration, Harden had the opportunity to put his team ahead with a three-pointer late in the game but failed to connect on the shot. Unsurprisingly, Harden expressed his disappointment with the result.

“I was pissed we lost. I’m still mad,” Harden stated.

On the final play of the game, while ignoring Harden, Curry kept the ball with the chance to tie the game. Curry dribbled into a LeBron James/Kevin Durant double team. Curry wasn’t able to get a shot off and Harden was left with his hands up waiting for a pass and a chance to win the game that never came.

Looking toward next year, Harden was asked if as a possible captain he would prefer to have the player selection two weeks before or right before the game. He thought about it and then smiled.

“Probably right before the game,” Harden answered.

Commissioner Silver has spoken on the subject and is sending strong signals that next year’s selection will be televised. That will potentially add another layer of excitement to the new All-Star game format, which is already paying off for the NBA.

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Mitchell Taking Things Day-By-Day, But Loving ‘Whirlwind’ Experience

It’s been a special year for the Utah Jazz rookie sensation.

Spencer Davies



Four-and-a-half months into the first season of his NBA career, Donovan Mitchell has accomplished some incredible things.

He won back-to-back Rookie of the Month honors between this past December and January. He leads his class with 19.6 points per game and nearly 17 field goal attempts per contest. Due much in part to his contributions, the Utah Jazz are the hottest team in the league, riding an 11-game winning streak after falling far below the .500 mark.

To top all that off, he won the slam-dunk competition just a few days ago in an event for the whole world to see. All of this has been nothing short of amazing for the 21-year-old, and even he didn’t see this coming.

“This whole thing’s just been a whirlwind for me,” Mitchell said at All-Star weekend of his first-year experience. “Just enjoying the process. There are games where I’m just like, ‘Wow this happened’ or ‘Wow that happened’ and it’s a credit to my teammates and the coaching staff and the organization for believing in me.

“Without them, none of this would be possible, so I really thank them for giving me this opportunity.”

Believe it or not, Mitchell wasn’t always so sure about where his life would go. He played for a couple of seasons at Louisville and ended up declaring for the 2017 NBA draft, a night where the Jazz stole him away from every other team by executing a deal with the Denver Nuggets to land the 13th overall pick in Salt Lake City.

“I tell people all the time this wasn’t my plan,” Mitchell said at All-Star weekend. “After two years of college, being here for All-Star and even being in the NBA wasn’t entirely my plan, so I’m just taking it one step at a time, one day at a time, praising God for this opportunity he’s given me.”

So far, Mitchell is picking things up on the go. As he keeps improving and solidifying his game on the court, he’s also bettering himself mentally.

“If I just continue to be humble and continue to learn, that’s the biggest thing is learning and understanding the game,” Mitchell said. “I make the joke that it’s easy to study film and watch all the games when you don’t have five classes to study for throughout the day. So it’s been fun and I’m just taking it day by day.”

It’s pretty awesome that he’s doing what he’s doing with friends by his side. Most of us think of this class of rookies as a special group because of their talents as players, but it’s a tight-knit inner circle of friends who are enjoying every second of life in the NBA together.

Kyle Kuzma, John Collins, De’Aaron Fox, and Dennis Smith Jr. are friends Mitchell mentioned that he’s been close with for a while, and to see all of their hard work culminate so quickly at the Rising Stars game in Los Angeles is something special.

“I’ve known a lot of these guys, pretty much everybody on this team since high school for the most part,” Mitchell said. “Kinda hanging the same way we did in high school just a lot more cameras, a lot more downtime, bigger city.

“It’s fun. Just gotta treat it like it’s fun, go out there and just be kids. Live a dream of ours since we were younger.”

After the weekend he had, Mitchell accomplished that goal.

Whether the next chapter in his career has a Rookie of the Year award written into it or not, we’re seeing spectacular things from the one they call “Spida.”

And it’s about time people are taking notice.

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NBA Daily: Tobias Harris Thrives at Every Stop

Tobias Harris was traded yet again, but thankfully for the Clippers, he’s gotten better every stop he’s made.

Joel Brigham



When Tobias Harris was a 19-year-old rookie for the Milwaukee Bucks, he faced a lot of the same issues that other 19-year-old rookies before him had faced, most notably the ones dealing with a lack of playing time.

He only saw the floor in 42 games, playing on 11 minutes per contest when he did get out there.

Despite that, it was somewhat of a surprise that the Bucks gave up on his talent so early in his career, trading him to the Orlando Magic just 28 games into his sophomore season as part of a trade for J.J. Redick.

The Magic immediately tripled his minutes, and he’s never been a 30 minutes-per-game guy ever since. He also has never said a negative thing about any team he’s ever played for. As far as he’s concerned, every opportunity is a blessing and a learning experience.

“I didn’t look at Milwaukee as a team giving up on me. I looked at it as Orlando valuing me and seeing me as a piece of the puzzle,” Harris told Basketball Insiders during All-Star Weekend, where he participated in the three-point contest.

“The NBA is about opportunity, so when you get the opportunity you have to make the most of it. Going from a rookie not playing to where I’m at now, it takes a lot of hard work, focus and determination,” he said. “You have to have the confidence in your own self, to understand you can break through in this league.”

And break through he did, in large part because those first 18 months as a professional were so challenging.

“Adversity helped me to work hard,” he said. “I always envisioned myself as a primetime player in this league. I have a ways to go to get there, but that’s the best part about me. My best basketball is ahead of me, and adversity has helped me get there. It’s motivated me, and I want to be the best player I can be. I’m trying every single day to fight for that.”

This season, most of which came as a member of the Detroit Pistons, was a career-best for Harris.

Between the Pistons and L.A. Clippers, Harris has averaged a career-high 18 points per game, and while he wasn’t voted to the All-Star Team this year, his name popped up in the conversation. He’s never been closer.

It was bittersweet for him, though, leaving a Detroit team he liked so much.

“My favorite part was being around those guys [in Detroit],” he said. “It was a great group of guys and a great coaching staff. Coach Van Gundy is a great coach. At the same time, when I first got there, we had a chance to make the playoffs and we got in the playoffs. That was nice for me, to put that pressure on myself and get it done.”

Now, he’s ready to accept his next challenge in Los Angeles with the Clippers.

“I look at every new opportunity as a new chance,” he said. “My first trade from Milwaukee to Orlando was a situation where I just wanted to prove myself to the league. When I was traded from Orlando to Detroit, it was a situation where I wanted to help the team get to the playoffs, and that’s similar to this one here, too… I really like the group of guys that are on this team. I like our demeanor and our approach, so after the break I look forward to building that chemistry and moving forward.”

Of course, moving forward is all he’s ever done.

After everything he’s proven to date, it seems like a given that he’ll continue to make strides with his new team.

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