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NBA PM: Media Day Buzz

A look at some of the top story lines from the 25 NBA training camps that were kicked off on Monday.

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While a handful of NBA teams that will be playing internationally this preseason kicked off their training camps this weekend, the vast majority of the league started things off Monday afternoon with their media day. Here’s a look at some of the highlights from across the league:

  • As expected, the Portland Trail Blazers are picking up Damian Lillard’s contract option for next season, according to Chris Haynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. He will be eligible for a contract extension starting on July 10 after the NBA’s moratorium period has come to an end. He very well could get the Kyrie Irving treatment and given a five-year, max contract offer as soon as free agency begins, as should his teammate LaMarcus Aldridge, who will be an unrestricted free agent. Wes Matthews is set to become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end as well, and his future with the club is a little bit murkier. The club has until June 30 to negotiate a contract with him, but talks have yet to begin.
  • Rajon Rondo and the Boston Celtics were like two peas in a pod while addressing the media after a summer that contained some discord at times. While Rondo admitted that the Celtics are not a championship team, he stated that the fans and people make him want to stay-long term. Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge followed that with stating that if he were Rondo’s agent, he’d ask for the max. So, for now, things seem to be pretty good between the two parties. Rondo is going to be out for at least six weeks after slipping in the shower and breaking his hand. After a lengthy delay, Evan Turner also finally signed his two-year contract worth $6.7 million with the Celtics.
  • Paul Pierce spoke very highly of the Washington Wizards, who he opted to sign with this summer over some of the league’s most certain contenders: “This is going to be a destination for free agents to come not only now but in the near future.”
  • The guy who Pierce could have been subtly mentioning in that comment is Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant, who is heading towards free agency in 2016, when the Wizards plan to make a strong run at him. Durant, who has had kids as young as four years old asking him recently if he’s going to Washington, made the following comment on his distant date with free agency to USA Today’s Sam Amick: “We’ll keep dancing around (the topic), and by the time it comes it’s going to be even more awkward than it was, so it’s not a surprise (that people ask him about it) because everybody wants to know. But I’m taking it day by day with the Oklahoma City Thunder. That’s my main concern. And whatever the future holds, I don’t know, because I can’t tell you the future. I’m going to take it a day at a time. I enjoy being here. I enjoy my teammates. I like the direction we’re going in, and that’s not just a cliché (expletive) answer. That’s real. When you spend so much time in one place, you feel a part of it, especially with some great years you feel a part of it. It’s a huge part of my life, and I can’t just come here and punch the clock, saying ‘Oh, I can’t wait until July comes so I can leave (during the offseason).’ I never felt that way. I love OKC. I always wanted to be a part of something bigger than just basketball. And what I told myself coming into the league was, ‘This city is going to adopt me, I’m going to adopt this city and we’re going to grow together.’”
  • While for Durant free agency will lead to a tremendous pay day, the same wasn’t the case for Greg Monroe. Monroe, a restricted free agent, ended up settling for the one-year qualifying offer and will become unrestricted next summer. Monroe was offered a four-year deal, reportedly worth slightly more than what Josh Smith received, but declined it, meaning this very well could be his last season with the Pistons. “It’s certainly a concern that he wasn’t sure that he wanted to be here,” Pistons president and coach Stan Van Gundy said. “It wasn’t a definite ‘I definitely want to be here’ kind of thing. Greg has concerns about some of the things that happened here. I think he handled it professionally. I think he handled the whole process professionally. I think we did, too.”
  • After sitting back quietly while Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban took shots at him, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey finally decided to go back on the offensive in an interview with Adrian Wojnarowki’s Yahoo! Sports: “But let’s be clear: If the money’s equal between the Rockets and Mavericks, I think players are picking Houston,” Morey said. “Every time. For Dwight [Howard], I just don’t think it was a hard choice between us and Dallas. If you want to win, you’re going to want to join our organization. We have a first-team All-NBA player in his prime [James Harden]. They have an enormously talented superstar [Dirk Nowitzki] but he obviously isn’t 24 years old. The choice was pretty obvious between the two teams. Dwight is the smart guy in this. Our teams have had great chemistry, and it’s something we believe in. Hey, if Mark believed so much in chemistry, he wouldn’t have busted up a title team for cap room. He’s trying to reunite a lot of those people now, bringing back the center [Tyson Chandler] from that title team. Maybe he’s got some chemistry religion recently. He’s tripled his analytics staff. If he’s equating analytics with not caring about chemistry, well, he’s tripling down on it. I think he’s smart to paint a competitor in a negative light, but none of those statements are lining up. He says that we’re the team that you sign with and then we will trade you, when that’s what he said he would’ve done with Dwight. We don’t care about chemistry, but he busted up a championship team for what he hoped cap room could do.”

  • The Phoenix Suns agreed to multi-year contract extensions with the Morris Twins. “We are excited to be able to extend the contracts of Marcus and Markieff,” said General Manager Ryan McDonough. “They have had great success playing together at every level of basketball, including last season with the Suns. They have made great strides over the past year and we feel like they will continue to grow and improve. They are just entering their primes and we think they will play the best basketball of their careers over the course of the next five years.”

  • For the second-straight year the Charlotte Hornets walked away as one of the winners of the offseason, signing Lance Stephenson away from the Indiana Pacers this summer on top of a strong draft. The hope is that Stephenson can make a major immediate impact in the same manner that Al Jefferson did last year, but his new head coach tempered expectations a bit. “I’ve been around Kobe and McGrady,” Steve Clifford said to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. “Lance isn’t them, yet.”
  • Photos of the new, slimmed down Carmelo Anthony have been circulating since early this summer. On top of feeling as great as he has in a long time, Anthony is entering a new offensive system that he feels could help him take his game to the next level. Anthony spent part of the summer picking the minds of some of the best players to play in the triangle offense – Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen – about how he could best fit into the system they won a combined 11 championships with.
  • Contract negotiations may have just gotten a little bit tougher for the Sacramento Kings, as majority owner Vivek Ranadive sold TIBCO for $4.3 billion.
  • Dominique Wilkins is interested in becoming the next owner of the Atlanta Hawks, but in the meantime as the sale is conducted, he will serve as a special advisor to CEO Steve Koonin along with remaining the Vice President of Basketball. A statue of Wilkins outside of Philips Arena is coming soon as well. “There is no player more deserving of such an honor than Dominique for his continued commitment to the Hawks and the City of Atlanta,” Koonin said in a statement. “Beyond his amazing play on the court during his Hall-of-Fame career, he has been an ambassador for this franchise and the city for three decades. For all he has accomplished and continues to do for the Hawks franchise and the City of Atlanta, we are proud to bestow this permanent recognition of his legacy.”
  • If you read one piece from media day, make sure it is this Boston Globe feature by Baxter Holmes on how Marcus Smart went from dodging bullets as a teenager to playing in the NBA.

Yannis Koutroupis is Basketball Insiders' Managing Site Editor and Senior Writer. He has been covering the NBA and NCAA for seven years.

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