How good is Kevin Durant? Will he soon surpass LeBron James as the best player in the league? The answer to that question could be determined at the conclusion of the NBA Finals. In the meantime, see what Bryant thinks of the lanky forward, what adjustments the Heat will have to make, and some free agent updates in today’s news.
- Kevin Durant has become one of the most, if not the most elite player in the league today. Kobe Bryant was asked of his opinion on the evolving superstar and responded “A 6-11 me. That dog in him? He’s got it in him.” In other words, Durant is a better version of Bryant, according to J.A. Adande: “In many ways, Durant already has moved past Bryant. This season, he beat Kobe out by a tenth of a point to claim his third straight scoring title, one more than Bryant has in his career. He finished second in the Most Valuable Player voting, two spots ahead of Kobe. And he knocked Kobe out of the playoffs.”
- One thing Durant hates is the way Shane Battier puts his hand near Durant’s face on defense. Battier explained where he learned the tactic from: “I haven’t done that probably until the second part of my career in Houston,” Battier said. “Jeff Van Gundy (now an ABC analyst) was the first coach I really had who was a stickler for contesting jump shots. That’s when I really started focusing on it. Then I realized I had pretty good hand-eye coordination.”
- Jordan Schultz of Huffington Post has a source that claims Dwyane Wade’s knee issue is a lot worse than we are led to believe: “The 30-year-old shooting guard recently had his knee drained to alleviate some of the discomfort, meaning another drainage at this point should be unlikely. One source close to the Heat informed me before the series that this is a much bigger problem than Wade has let on and that the pain is persistent.”
- Sebastian Pruiti dives into how the Miami Heat can have better success in Game 2: “We’ll still see the Heat use James as the primary ball handler, but that can’t be their only option — especially in the second half. If the Heat want to repeat the success they had in the first half of Game 1, they need to provide Wade with options by using that off-ball movement.”
- Though Erik Spoelstra didn’t say it word for word, all indications point to Chris Bosh starting in Game 2, according to our Jeremy Bauman: “The way we use Chris might be a little different, like the way we used him in the regular season,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said this morning at the Heat’s shootaround. “I think he’s gotten his feet wet enough and we’ll need him to be a little bit more of who he was.”
- Adande has noticed some conflict of interest between Erik Spoelstra and some of his players. Here is one of them: LeBron said: “there’s always times where you would like to get a minute here, a minute there, two minutes there. And I’ve got to be more up with my coaching staff as well, when I feel like I may need a minute here or a minute there and then I can go back into the game.” Spoelstra, who was asked to clarify his post-Game 1 statement about his playing rotation that “I’ll have to see who’s really available,” veered off into this declaration: “Fatigue wasn’t an issue last night, and so our focus will be on playing more to our identity tomorrow night. They imposed their identity more than we did in that game.”
- James Harden has made quite a name for himself, and the Bobcats may use their No. 2 draft pick to try to acquire the bearded one, reported by Royce Young: “One source said that Oklahoma City’s James Harden could be in play due to the Thunder’s salary situation following next season. GM Sam Presti already has Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook on the books for more than $29 million next season — and both Harden and Serge Ibaka will command huge contracts after the 2012-13 campaign.”
- If a deal doesn’t happen, the Bobcats could end up taking Harrison Barnes with the No. 2 pick. Matt Moore explains the upside and downside of taking Barnes: “Barnes could very well be the surprise best player of this class. His measurements and performance at the combine prove that. The problem is that his game doesn’t translate that athleticism. If he puts it together, he can be Tracy McGrady. If he doesn’t, he could wind up Marvin Williams.”
- The Golden State Warriors have had their eyes on Rudy Gay for years, and may try to include David Lee to make a deal happen. Why they would assume the Grizzlies would have any interest in Lee is anyone’s guess: “The Golden State Warriors are desperately looking for some star power, and if they can’t land Dwight Howard they would love to have Rudy Gay. The Warriors also want to unload at least one and perhaps more of their four 2012 draft picks, and would happily package them with a combination of players – including David Lee – to make a trade happen.”
- Blake Griffin, Kobe Bryant and Derrick Rose are in a commercial together. Video here, from IamaGM.
- Karl Malone said on “The Dan Patrick Show” that given the choice, he would pick Scottie Pippen over Michael Jordan. Understandable, given that Malone was always the No. 1 option with the Jazz. Is it the right choice? Kelly Dwyer says no: “Either, with Pippen as the alternative, is a luxury to have. We’re just not convinced — as rosy as our recollections are of The Greatest Teammate Ever — that The Greatest Teammate Ever would be the teammate we’d choose above all.”
- Gerald Wallace will test free agency, and Zach Lowe explains why his best option is to stay with the Nets: “Wallace will turn 30 next month, and he’s a fine complementary player — likely to transition from second/third option on a good team into a third/fourth option on the same level of team as his athleticism declines. Given that reality, he may be angling here for a multi-year contract with about the same annual salary, and he could get that from Brooklyn more easily than from most of the realistic or semi-realistic contenders for the title next season.”
- Brandon Bass will also hit the market, but he still prefers to stay a Celtic: “Oh absolutely,” his agent Tony Dutt said when asked if Boston was his client’s first choice. “Without question, he would love to go back.” The decision to not pick up the final year of his contract, worth $4.25 million, is driven by Bass’ desire to sign a long-term deal with the C’s.
- Point guard Jameer Nelson has a decision to make on his future with the Magic, and he wants a long-term contract: “Who doesn’t want a long-term deal?” Nelson said. “Everybody wants that security.” This is the decision Nelson will likely need to make by the end of business Friday. Does he opt-in for one final year where the Magic pay him the hefty sum of nearly $8 million? Or does he opt-out for a longer deal somewhere else?”
- Have you noticed some of the notable fake twitter accounts such as @NotBillWalton and @NotWaltFrazier? Tony Gervino of The New York Times looks into the “phenomenon”.
For Wednesday’s news featuring David Stern and Jim Rome, click here.
For Jeremy Lin and Roy Hibbert on Jimmy Kimmel’s show, click here.
James Park is a regular contributor and blogger for SheridanHoops.com. You can follow him on twitter @nbatupark.