Kevin Durant Headlines NBA Free Agency 

Kevin Durant is by far the most coveted free agent this side of LeBron James. Following an epic collapse by the Oklahoma City Thunder (losing 3-in-a-row to Golden State) in the Western Conference Finals, rumors have been swirling about where the best landing spot is for Durant. 
The following is a list of Durant’s likely suitors and where I think is the best landing spot for him.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Durant has been with the Thunder (formerly the Sonics) since he was drafted 2nd overall by them in 2007. Since he’s been there, they’ve been formidable and extremely completive in the [superior] western conference. If it wasn’t for injuries, I believe the Thunder would have made it to more than one NBA Finals appearance during Durant’s 9 years with the team. Out of all of his options, the Thunder has the greatest upside with a young team, a great front office, a promising head coach and a point guard that’s considered one of the 5 best players in the world. He has the backing of the fans and plays in arguably the greatest home court advantage in the league. In my mind, Durant would be crazy not to re-sign [for at least one more year] with this team.    

San Antonio Spurs: The thought of Durant alongside Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge is pretty compelling. However, I think it would significantly taint Durant’s legacy to go to an “established” team like the Spurs in order to win a championship (which is why the idea of him going to Golden State is never going to happen). The main reason LeBron was skewered by so many was that he “ran away” from the challenges in Cleveland to get help from Wade and Bosh in Miami. Durant leaving OKC for a San Antonio franchise that has been one of the best over the past 15 years wouldn’t do him any favors in the long run. 

Miami Heat: Regardless of what many say, I believe that this pairing would be the least likely to happen. First off, Miami fans don’t deserve a great basketball team; they’re arguably one of the worst fan bases in all of professional sports. Secondly, we’ve seen this story before; superstar player leaves for Miami to try and capture elusive championship. Lastly, Miami’s roster isn’t getting any younger and Durant would have to allow Miami to build a younger team around him. Rather than taking a step towards a championship, it would seem that Durant would be taking two steps back.

Boston Celtics: The Celtics have a young core, a strong front office (led by Danny Ainge), and an exceptionally talented young head coach (Brad Stevens); almost exactly what Durant already has in OKC [minus Westbrook]. As much as I’d love to see Durant in Boston (not so much because I’m a Celtic fan, more because of my fandom for Brad Stevens) but as their currently constructed, I just don’t think it makes much sense. However, if Boston is able (and willing) to make a trade with their 3rd overall pick [in this year’s draft] and acquire another star player to play alongside Durant, than I think Boston would the best option outside of OKC; the main reason? Because, he’ll be playing in the watered down eastern conference and his addition (along with another star player) would make the Celtics co-favorites with Cleveland to make the Finals. It’s understood that OKC is a co-favorite almost every year to represent the western conference, but it’s a much tougher road to get through the gauntlet that the west provides every year than it is the east.

Los Angeles Clippers: In the past, you’d mention LA and immediately think Lakers; well, those days are over the foreseeable future, thanks Jim Buss. The Clippers are an enticing option because of the squad that they’ve already constructed. A starting lineup of Paul, Reddick, Durant, Griffin, and Jordan sounds pretty damn epic; I just don’t think it’ll work. Partially because it’s the Clippers and they always find a way to screw something up, but primarily, I don’t see it working in the locker room. Durant already has an aggressive point guard in Westbrook (who clearly dominates that locker room), why would he leave OKC to play alongside another point guard with a bloated ego? Paul has been known to be a pain to deal with in the locker room (hey there Blake Griffin) and I don’t think he’ll like a superstar player coming in and taking over “his” team. Furthermore, Doc Rivers is as overrated a coach as there is in professional sports, and I don’t think he’ll be able to control all those egos; especially since he doesn’t seem to have a handle on it now. Durant wouldn’t be doing himself any favors playing in LA.    

Overall, I believe that OKC should be Durant’s first and only choice. It makes sense not just financially but professionally as well. However, if he were to choose to test the free agent market, he would certainly look good in Celtic green.
If you like what you’ve read, find me on twitter: @lavalleech

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LA Clippers Sign Josh Smith; Still Not A Championship Contender

The Los Angeles Clippers continued their run of good fortune yesterday (at least according to the Los Angeles media) by acquiring former Houston Rocket, Josh Smith. Smith reportedly turned down a one year, $2.5 million dollar deal to return to Houston in favor of the Clippers who offered him the veteran minimum.

As far as I’m concerned, the signing of Smith doesn’t make the Clippers any more of a threat in the Western Conference. Call me cynical, but until the Clippers prove that they won’t choke when the playoff lights are on, I’m not going to buy into any offseason acquisition, as if it bolsters them as solid contenders for a NBA Championship.

For those that may have forgotten, the Clippers “lead” by Chris Paul, blew a 3-1 series lead against an inferior Rockets team last season. They completed one of the most epic collapses in sports history; and with the way this team has been covered throughout the offseason, you’d think their collapse happened years ago.

I hate to break it to all those die-hard Clippers fans, but just because you re-signed Jordan and acquired Pierce & Smith, that doesn’t instantly make you a championship contender. Jordan has been lauded after this offseason by the Mavericks and the Clippers as if he was Shaq or someone who’s averaged more than 8 pts & 9 rebounds in their career. Pierce is an aging veteran who has very little left in the tank; and Smith came off the bench last year for Houston and didn’t end up doing much of anything for them up until he played the Clippers in the second round of the playoffs. I’m sorry, but this isn’t a championship roster.

The Los Angeles Clippers have a lot to prove this year especially given the way they wet the bed during last years playoffs. Signing veterans who have very little left to give, isn’t the way to avenge last years horrific playoff performance. Doc Rivers needs to give up his GM duties to someone who is more qualified and knows what they’re doing. He’s going to turn this team into the NBA equivalent of the New York Yankees if isn’t careful.

The San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder and Golden State Warriors are all looking to create {or in the Warriors case, maintain] a younger roster, while the Clippers roster continues to get closer to an AARP membership. Since all three of the above mentioned teams have made it to the NBA Finals in the past few years, maybe it’s time the Clippers start adopting the philosophies of their successful contemporaries and stop making the same mistakes that have continued to cost this team and fanbase a championship.

The King’s’ Court

There’s no debate, Lebron James is the best player in the world.  He singlehandedly brought the Cavs to within two games of winning a championship with minimal help.   James isn’t the first superstar player to want total “control” of his team (Kobe Bryant & Michael Jordan come to mind); however he is setting a trend on how to not only publically disrespect one’s coach, but how intimidating and controlling a front office can get you everything you want.

It’s been common knowledge since midway through the season that James didn’t have high regard for his new coach.  Now, no one would ever confuse David Blatt with Phil Jackson, but you sure as hell can’t compare him to the likes of Mike Brown (James’ first coach in Cleveland).  Blatt in his first year as a head coach took his team to the Finals and almost pulled off one of the greatest upsets in NBA history.  The media has done their best to undermine many of his accomplishments to favor James.  But no matter how hard they try, they can’t criticize results.

The running joke this season had been that James is the GM and head coach.  Some have a problem with this, I (surprisingly) don’t.  In regards to being considered the coach; James is the best player on his team therefore he should be the defacto coach on the court.  As the leader of the team [which he continues to remind us he is at every opportunity] his teammates should look to him in that way.   Where I lose respect for James is when he visibly disrespects his coach, like he did (in excess) during the playoffs.  He’s never “said” anything inflammatory against Blatt, although his body language has made his feelings pretty obvious.

Lebron James wants it all.  He wants to be the coach, GM (which is why he left Miami, don’t let the ‘feel-good’ story fool you), and the highest paid player on the team.  He knows that the Cavs will do practically anything to appease him in order to keep him in Cleveland; and he’s using that to his advantage.  Personally, I don’t have a problem with any player flexing their muscles and doing what they can to try and succeed both on and off the court.  With that being said, if James never wins another ring, the argument that “he’s the best player on the team and they haven’t surrounded him with the help he needs” is no longer valid.  If you want to be the GM and force the Cavs to make acquisitions that you like, you can no longer make excuses when it doesn’t go your way.

With ESPN and Yahoo sources confirming that Love, Shumpert and Thompson all agreed to contracts on Wednesday, the self-appointed “king” is getting everything he wanted.  It’s evident that James has control of every aspect of this team; and that will continue for as long as he remains in Cleveland.  The success his team has over the next few years will fall solely on his shoulders, and the media won’t be able to save him form the scrutiny if they come up short.  James is no longer allowed to get a pass if he team(s) come up short [especially in the personnel department] since he’s the one calling all the shots.

In closing, to all you LeBron supporters and diehard fans just keep in mind one thing; “With great power, comes great responsibility” (Spiderman).

If you like what you read or have any comments/criticism’s you can find me on twitter : @lavalleech