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LeBron James was asked about The Oklahoman’s headline that described Kevin Durant as “Mr. Unreliable” prior to Game 6 between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies, and this was his response. He clearly felt it was a bad move by the paper and after giving the controversy some thought, added the money quote: “K.D.’s got to be a free agent at some point.”
After saying this, James joked that he gave the media members their national headline of the day and hummed the SportsCenter jingle. James obviously knows a thing or two about testing free agency, as he left the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2010 to join the Miami HEAT.
Durant can become an unrestricted free agent after the 2015-16 season. While Durant has said all of the right things about loving OKC and wanting to remain with the Thunder, things could certainly change between now and then. Durant’s mother and brother were very upset with the headline, taking to social media to voice their displeasure, and if this kind of criticism continues, it won’t help the Thunder as they try to retain this season’s likely MVP.
Durant is the kind of special player that teams clear salary cap for well in advance of his free agency period, just as teams did in the years leading up to 2010 when James was about to hit the market. Durant may have a number of large-market teams to choose from when he becomes an unrestricted free agent and, as James points out, it’ll be interesting to see what he does when that time comes.
Lowry will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and his stock is soaring right now after his career-year. Lowry averaged 17.9 points, 7.4 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 1.5 steals, nearly made the All-Star team and led the Raptors to the third seed in the Eastern Conference.
Ujiri has admitted that he considered trading Lowry earlier this season, shortly after the team moved Rudy Gay to the Sacramento Kings, because at the time Toronto was struggling and was thinking about focusing on the future rather than making a playoff push. However, the team started winning and Ujiri decided to keep his roster intact.
By refusing to trade Lowry, he risks losing the point guard for nothing this summer since he can walk as a free agent. Now that the Raptors have made significant progress and competed at a high level quicker than expected, Ujiri has expressed interest in signing Lowry to a long-term deal. This is likely why Ujiri was meeting with Lowry’s agent Andy Miller tonight, in an effort to get talks started before the offseason. Lowry seems to love Toronto and the team’s success will certainly help their recruiting pitch, but he’ll be highly coveted and have a long list of suitors to choose from this summer.
Kevin Ollie has a lot of fans around the NBA and he’ll receive a number of offers once head coaching jobs start opening up around the league. As Woj reports, Ollie loves his situation at Connecticut, but he’ll listen to what NBA teams have to say when they reach out to him.
Ollie grew up in Los Angeles, which is why the Lakers job may interest him. It would take an attractive situation like that to pry him away from UConn, where he just won the national championship and is set to earn a big raise.
One reason why so many teams are drooling at the thought of hiring Ollie (in addition to his coaching) is his relationship with Kevin Durant. If Durant were to test free agency, as mentioned earlier, Ollie’s presence on the sidelines could help a team’s recruiting pitch for K.D. Durant played with Ollie in Oklahoma City and has a lot of respect for him. In fact, Durant credits the former veteran point guard for turning the Thunder into a contender.
“Kevin Ollie, he was a game-changer for us,” Durant told Grantland. “He changed the whole culture, I think. He might not say it, but he changed the whole culture in Oklahoma City. Just his mind-set, his professionalism, every single day. And we all watched that and we wanted to be like that. It rubbed off on Russell [Westbrook], myself, Jeff Green, James Harden — and everyone that comes through now, that’s the standard you got to live up to, as a Thunder player, and it all started with Kevin Ollie.”
Ollie played 13 seasons in the NBA, bouncing around from team to team throughout his career.
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