Nothing here is surprising, but Steve Kerr made it official on Monday at Warriors practice.
DeMarcus Cousins is officially questionable for Game 1 of the Finals, per Steve Kerr.
— Logan Murdock (@loganmmurdock) May 27, 2019
Steve Kerr said he hasn’t decided if Kevin Durant will travel to Toronto yet and is OUT for Game 1. However, Kerr said Durant has progressed to on court shooting on his own.
— Logan Murdock (@loganmmurdock) May 27, 2019
Durant’s availability is obviously one of the big storylines heading into the NBA Finals — if you can add the best player in the world right now to the lineup it changes things. It would force the Raptors to put Kawhi Leonard on Durant more, keeping him away from Stephen Curry and other roles. My guess is what happens in the first game or two — can the Warriors steal one on the road? — could impact how early we see Durant in this series.
(Someone is going to say “Kawhi Leonard is the best player in the world right now” and he has been the best player in these playoffs, performing at a level only a handful of guys could ever reach. However, Durant was playing just as well before his injury, and he has the last two Finals MVPs. Also, so long as Leonard can only play about 60 regular season games, as he did this season, he falls behind Durant and his 78 games on my hypothetical best-in-the-world rankings. Availability over the long haul matters.)
DeMarcus Cousins wants badly to be on the court. He came to the Warriors in part because he wanted to finally be in the playoffs and chase a ring. He wants to contribute.
How much he could contribute in this series, even if fully healthy, is up for debate. He wasn’t moving all that well, especially on the perimeter, coming off his torn Achilles, and now he’s also recovering from a quad tear. The Raptors will target him. Plus, Cousins can’t bully Marc Gasol in the post, and Gasol has to be covered out to the arc on the other end. Serge Ibaka is very mobile. Both Raptors centers are tough matchups for Cousins. Considering Kevon Looney‘s play and the inevitable Hamptons’ Five lineups with Draymond Green at center, Cousins likely would have seen reduced duty anyway. This gives Kerr and excuse to limit him whenever Cousins does return.
The Rockets clinched the NBA’s best record with a few games left last season. In their penultimate game, they beat the Lakers in Los Angeles. The following day, they closed the season in Sacramento.
Aaron Jackson – whose season playing in China already ended – attended that game in Los Angeles. Then, Houston signed him to play against the Kings.
I saw some plays that I liked, and I actually put them down in my notes in my phone that I was going to bring back to my Chinese team. And I got a phone call the next morning.
Obviously, I went out that night. I drank. I smoked. I did all things that adults do in L.A.
And I got a phone call the next morning, and it said, “Can you play tomorrow?” Nate, I’m hung over. I’m really hung over. I opened my eyes like, I literally wanted to say, “Who the hell is this calling me?” But it was my agent. I’m just like, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. My season’s over.” He’s like, “The Rockets, you know they’ve always been interested you. They saw you again in person yesterday. They want to know if you want to play for them in the playoffs.” I’m just like, “Yeah, of course I want to play.”
And then they said, “We play today.” I get on the jet. Can you get on the jet? I got in the team owner’s jet.
And I’m thinking, “Hold on, I’m playing today?” I don’t have my sneakers with me, nothing. Keep in mind, I’m dehydrated, of course. I didn’t get to drink any water. I went straight to the clearport. I’m just trying to drink as much bottles of water as I can. I’m looking at the owner. The owner’s family would look at me. I’m wondering whether they think I’m drunk or I’m hungover from last night, because I didn’t get to shower. They literally rushed me, as soon as I woke up, to get on the Uber and get into the plane. So, I’m just looking like this is awkward as f—, as they say.
An all-nighter. Just imagine an L.A. party scene in the movie. I had one of those nights.
And I get to the gym the other day. And Trevor Ariza – he’s not playing – he’s like, “Hey, you want to wear my sneakers?” It’s like, is this really happening? I’m wearing some random sneakers, some random tights. I got someone’s tights. They were too big. I got in the game, and John Lucas was like – I was like, “I was partying last night.” He was like, “It’s basketball. Just play the game. Play the game.”
Jackson scored eight points in 34 (!) minutes in his NBA debut. He stuck with the Rockets for their playoff run, playing garbage time in seven postseason games. He returned to Beijing Shougang this season.
Zion Williamson is going to sign the largest, or maybe second largest (behind LeBron James) rookie shoe deal in NBA history. The Duke star has to still pick an agent (there are a few groups in the running, but the buzz is that decision comes soon) but when he does the next step will be a staggering shoe deal.
Ja Morant isn’t going to make that kind of money, but he is going to be cashing checks from Nike. Morant announced he signed with the company via an Instagram post.
This is a multi-year, multiple millions of dollars deal, reports Nick de Paula of ESPN. Morant wore Nike’s in college at Murray State, putting on pairs of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving signature shoes at different times.
Morant is incredibly athletic and has the potential to grow into an All-Star level point guard in the league, but he’s going to have to get a lot stronger, his jumper needs to be more consistent, and will need to improve his conditioning so he can start putting in effort on the defensive end. Morant is good, but he’s got work to do to thrive at the next level.
If he can live up to that potential, Nike will pay him a lot more money in future contracts. For now though, he is doing just fine.
They could even try to pair him with Anthony Davis.
Brooklyn is going as hard after Anthony Davis as anybody. A package of like D’Angelo Russell, Jarrett Allen, who’s a nice piece, shot-blocker, athletic at the rim, nice for this day and age in basketball. They’ve got the 17th and 27th pick. Now, Brooklyn, their dream is to pair AD with Kyrie. They really only want to try to get AD if they got Kyrie, because that will help them keep AD.
Davis will be an unrestricted free agent in 2020, and signing him to an extension before then is unrealistic. So, any team trading for the Pelicans star would be taking a major risk.
Obviously, that risk would be somewhat mitigated by the presence of Irving. Davis is more likely to stay with a co-star.
But the timing here is extremely difficult.
Russell will be a restricted free agent this summer. So, he’d have to agree to a sign-and-trade to New Orleans. Likewise, it sounds as if Brooklyn’s offer for Davis is predicated on getting Irving first. That’s a lot of moving parts.
Plus, the draft is before free agency. So, if the Nets are sending 2019 picks to New Orleans, who makes those selections? Would Brooklyn pick on behalf of the Pelicans just in case the teams later trade? Would the Pelicans reject other trade offers before/during the draft in case this scenario comes to fruition?
This seems very difficult to pull off.
More likely is the reverse: The Nets try to trade for Davis in June and use him as a draw for Irving. But Russell couldn’t be part of that deal. Still, Brooklyn could built an intriguing package from Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris and picks.
But if the Nets trade all those assets for Davis then don’t sign Irving or another star, how likely would Davis be to stay in 2020?
From every direction, this plan will be extremely difficult for Brooklyn to execute.
He might not be the only point guard with a high-lottery promise.
North Carolina’s Coby White has also generated plenty of speculation.
After meeting the media and interviewing with select teams, White left the combine with widespread speculation that he, too, has received a draft promise. Two league executives who spoke with the Tribune believe White’s promise is from a team that picks before the Bulls.
The Bulls have the No. 7 pick, so reviewing the six teams picking higher:
This seems too high, with R.J. Barrett the consensus No. 3 prospect. I’d be open to picking White ahead of Barrett, but I definitely wouldn’t promise to do so this early in the process.
The draft opens way up at this point. Count White among the viable prospects. But with Lonzo Ball already in Los Angeles, would the Lakers really lock into White this early?
The Cavs already have Collin Sexton, who shouldn’t preclude them from drafting another point guard. But he probably does. He should at least make Cleveland less likely to promise White.
The Suns reportedly didn’t promise Garland. That makes them a prime suspect for the White promise. Phoenix badly needs a point guard.
One more theory: The Bulls promised White, and – especially with this report coming from Chicago – this is a smokescreen. They definitely could use another point guard.