Why did Kevin Durant set sights on Phoenix? Latest news on Damien Lillard, Kings Warriors

Some thoughts here for the second day of NBA Free agency unfolds…

Kevin Durant Lottery, Day Two

All eyes are on Phoenix When it comes to Durant, Networks The star who thinks he’s targeting the Suns as his next favorite destination. But while I Written at length on Thursday About how the deal is centered on a restricted free agent position Dender Eaton and small forward Michael Bridges You may work with both sides, the early sense is that it will take more than that. Or, to be more clear, something different.

As Christian Winfield pointed out in the New York Daily News in the aftermath of Rudy Goubert’s film To Minnesota, that came out on fridaythe price the Nets are asking for Durant – two All-Stars, we’re told – He may have just risen. There is no way for Suns to trade Devin Bookerwhich just approved a four-year extension worth $224 million.

Cam Johnson deserves to be seen as a potential player who might move the netting needle. But truth be told, it’s too soon to tell if Durant will ever get his Valley of the Sun wish here.

While we wait, let’s explore the more comprehensive question: Why Does Durant seem to be focusing on Phoenix as the best place to continue his legendary career? There are likely a lot of factors at play here – the chance to compete again, the local language around Los Angeles, his relationship with and respect for Booker. Chris Paul. But in terms of personal dynamics, his close relationship with Suns coach Monty Williams might top the list.

The two were together for one season in Oklahoma City, in the 2015-16 season when Williams was assistant coach under Scott Brooks and Durant was in the final. thunder Days before heading to Golden State In free agency. The two men had already gotten close during that season, but the bond grew deeper after the tragic deaths of Williams’ wife and mother of their five children, Ingrid, in February 9, 2016, a car accident. A quick story I will never forget from that time…

Over the weekend all-stars in Toronto That year, I had planned to stop in Oklahoma City to interview Durant on my way back west (I live near Sacramento). But before the news of Ingrid’s death was reported, Durant’s longtime business manager Rich Kleiman called to let me know that the interview had been discontinued. Of course I asked why.

He shared the shocking news of what happened and described Durant – like many others close to Williams – as devastating. All these years later, people who lived through this situation with Williams say Durant’s respect for him has grown exponentially because he saw the graceful way he handled all that pain. (If you’ve never seen the amazing speech Williams gave at Ingrid’s funeral, do please.)

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Not long after Durant made his controversial choice to join the Warriors, he was back with Williams once again in the Team USA squad that won Olympic gold in Rio with Durant as its top scorer. They’ve been close ever since. Does that mean he’s headed to Phoenix? not at all. But it may help people understand some of his motives for now.

In terms of the prospect of Miami that seems to play a role as well, I’m told there is a huge snag on that front. Looks like Durant just wants to play on a the heat Team includes Jimmy ButlerAnd the Pam Adebayo And the Kyle Lowry. So even if The Heat were willing to move Butler in a deal as a way to fulfill the Nets’ (understandably expensive) request, doing so would leave Durant upset from the start.

As others have pointed out, Adebayo comes with its own complexity beyond the fact that Durant likely wants him to stay. Since teams are not allowed to have two players on certain Rookie-max extensions that came their way via trade, Brooklyn will have to trade Ben Simmons To bring in Adebayo. If the best show for Heat focuses on Tyler HeroI just don’t see how that gains any traction. And as for Durant’s favorite destinations, that’s why it looks as if the Suns have a chance to make some magic happen here.

On Gary Payton II to Portland and the Damian Lillard double effect

Payton deal with Portland – three years, $28 million, In our utopian sun – Contains all kinds of layers. First, the side of the Golden State.

while the Warriors Concerns About Luxury Taxes Understandable given that every dollar spent was multiplied by a seven, the optics of this loss would be difficult for owner Joe Lacope and his group. Not only was Payton an important part of the elite defense, he was very fit in their attack and an absolute game changer in the NBA Finals after his lunge from breaking an elbow, but he was also a crowd favorite.

These are number one problems for the fan base that has seen her team dominate for most of the past decade, but they are a problem nonetheless. A source familiar with the Payton Warriors talks said Golden State has offered to exempt mid-level taxpayers for two years (starting at $6.4 million annually).

According to Chris Hines of Yahoo Sports, Payton’s deal is with Portland Includes player option. Aside, sources say steve curry And the Draymond Green She was part of the process with Payton but apparently was unsuccessful in convincing him to stay.

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Add to the fact that the Warriors lost Otto Porter Jr. to Toronto on Friday and Nemanja Bielica decided Play for Turkish champion FenerbahceAnd it was a tough 12 hours in the bay. As Bounce Moves progress – in more ways than one – free agent center/fellow-team fan favorite Kevin Looney is re-signed to Three years, $25.5 million Friday was an absolute necessity.

Now for the Portland corner.

While it was widely assumed that Lillard would accept a two-year extension offer worth over $100 million He is expected to come on his way, sources say the Trail Blazers still need to have a solid leave of absence to convince Lillard to sign up during the 2026-27 campaign (when he turns 36). The deadline here isn’t until the start of the regular season, and I’m told that’s not a sure thing just yet.

The Jeramy Grant add (via Trade with DetroitThis off-season was a huge step in the right direction on that front, as Lillard’s desire to play for the 28-year-old striker was no secret. They’ve thrived as teammates before, of course, having won gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics with Team USA. Grant’s defense is much needed as well, with Portland finishing 27th, 29th and 29th in the defensive rankings for the past three seasons, respectively.

The draft was more than just a question mark, like Blazers General Manager Joe Cronin Choosing to take the mystery man cheddon sharp From Kentucky with the seventh pick was a long-running play. The Forever Simmons The deal is another positive, although the price was curiously high (four years, $100 million) for a fourth-year goalkeeper who had a breakthrough year when there wasn’t much basketball being played in Portland (Lillard, of course, only He played 29 games due to his abdominal surgery, Portland went 27-55). Big man Joseph Nurkic He returns, too, agreeing to a four-year, $70 million deal that keeps Lillard the city’s favorite.

However, when it comes to Payton, this is the kind of move that will definitely make Lillard smile. Not only is he desperately in need of elite defenders by his side, but Lillard is close to Payton’s father, Gary Payton, a Hall of Fame point guard and teammate in Oakland, California, who has helped mentor him for years now.

Furthermore, Payton II, his father, and Lillard were represented by the same agent, Aaron Goodwin of Goodwin Sports Management. There’s a Northwest link to Payton II, too, as he was a darling during his two years in Oregon (2014-16).

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In other words, The Warriors’ loss is the Trail Blazers’ gain as they try to keep the Age of Lillard alive.

(Playoff) Progress to kings?

I love Holiday Kings so far – even though it may be imperfect. First-year coach Mike Brown will certainly struggle to make this group defend at a high level, and that could mean their ceiling is low enough to continue the longest drought in the league. Especially considering the number of quality teams in the West (like, for example, Timberwolves!).
but extras monk ownerAnd the Kevin Huerter And the Keegan Murray Objective solutions to shooting problems, and they come in very reasonable contracts (2 years, $19 million for Monk Via free agency; Four years, $50.5 million for Hurter cross trade with Atlanta). De’Aaron Fox, the hub of the franchise, is so connected with all of these moves that the Kings simply had to find a way to give him the kind of support team that would help him take his game to a new level while helping Dumantas Sabonis They thrive, too (remember, the 26-year-old All-Star striker is a free agent in the summer of 2024).

Fox’s Kentucky history with Monk makes this move all the more meaningful, and potentially influential. The Monk (career high of 13.8 points; 39.1 percent of depth at 5.1 attempts per game) was a rare bright spot in the LakersThe otherwise horrific 2021-22 campaign. Furthermore, the monk’s movement unofficially justifies the choice of kings by allowing Donte DiVincenzo to walk in restricted free agency.

Their choice to craft Murray Jaden Ivy With the fourth pick it will be debated and analyzed for years, but the Iowa producer is widely seen as an outstanding young player who should be able to help right away.

There sure could be more, too, as Kings once again have sporadic talks with Atlanta about it. John Collins (in a deal centered around Harrison Barnes) for months now. There may be opportunities surrounding Durant’s case as well, as it is likely that teams like the Kings will be able to take advantage of the third team role.

You don’t have to agree with the approach, but this is a team that is in a winning position right now. second. Given the pressure this front office is under, with General Manager Monty McNair and Assistant General Manager Wes Wilcox working in the final years of their respective decades, significant progress has been made here.

(Photo by Michael Bridges, Kevin Durant and Chris Paul: Brad Benner/USA Today)

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