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NBA star Kevin Durant: Meant no offense in comments about India

Basketball star Kevin Durant has issued an apology for saying India is “20 years behind” and for several other comments about the Asian country.

The Golden State Warriors forward tweeted Friday that he’s “sorry that my comments about India were taken out of context.”
NBA star Kevin Durant: Meant no offense in comments about India
Durant said he plans to return to India to run more basketball camps and that he meant no disrespect.

Durant traveled to India recently and spoke about the trip in an interview with The Athletic published this week.

In the interview, Durant marveled at the “cows in the street, monkeys running around everywhere, hundreds of people on the side of the road” and visible poverty.

“It’s a country that’s 20 years behind in terms of knowledge and experience,” he said, adding that his visit to the Taj Mahal was eye-opening and not what he had imagined.

He had expected the monument to be “holy ground, super protected, very, very clean,” but instead, as he drove up, it reminded him of places where he grew up near Washington, D.C., he said.

“Mud in the middle of the street, houses were not finished but there were people living in them. No doors. No windows … stray dogs and then, boom, Taj Mahal, one of the seven wonders of the world.”

Golden State Warriors All-Star Kevin Durant hopes Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving finds happiness ‘wherever that is’

Golden State Warriors All-Star Kevin Durant weighed in on the reported trade demand by the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving, saying he hopes the point guard find happiness “wherever that is.”

“I really don’t care about the Kyrie Irving situation,” Durant said at a news conference Friday at the NBA Academy India in Noida. “I just want guys in the league to be happy where they’re playing and have some fun playing ball.

“So, wherever that is, for Kyrie, I hope he finds that. But LeBron James is a phenomenal player. I got a chance to play on his team in the Olympics in 2012, and learned a lot from him.”

Irving recently requested to be traded by the Cavaliers, saying that he wants to play in a situation where he can be a focal point and doesn’t want to play alongside James anymore, sources told ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.

Sources told ESPN that the the San Antonio Spurs are a preferred destination for Irving. The New York Knicks, Miami Heat and Minnesota Timberwolves are also potential destinations for Irving, league sources said.

Durant is currently in India on a tour to help further the growing popularity of basketball in that country. On Friday, Durant set a Guinness World Record for leading the world’s largest basketball lesson with 3,459 Indian children. The children were at multiple sites — the NBA Academy in Noida and others participated via satellite from Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata.

Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins working out together this summer

Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins are working out together this summer in an effort to get a head start on training camp and the 2017-18 season.

The New Orleans Pelicans’ star big men have been working out both in Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

Cousins played in 17 games for the Pelicans after being acquired in a blockbuster trade with the Sacramento Kings in February. Davis and Cousins had to adjust to each other on the fly and the Pelicans went 7-10 in those games. Their stats in those games gave a glimpse at how potent the pair can be together: Cousins averaged 24.4 points and 12.4 rebounds while Davis averaged 28.3 points and 11.1 rebounds, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis are working out this summer after playing in just 17 games together last season.
“We’ve just tried to get in as much work as possible this summer,” Davis told the team’s website. “We didn’t have that much time last season to work out with each other, because we didn’t have training camp or [many practices]. So we wanted to take advantage of this opportunity, where we had time in the summer in the same city and can get in some work in together, because we’ll be playing with each other a lot.

“It’s about trying to get used to each other. Of course we knew what each other can do from when we matched up against each other when he was in Sacramento, but it’s different now, learning where he likes to be and where I can get my shots from, or where he can get his shots. We didn’t want to waste training camp trying to figure that out. We’re going to both use this to be ready and try to improve the team.”

The Pelicans signed point guard Rajon Rondo this offseason and Cousins was instrumental in bringing his former Kings teammate to New Orleans. Cousins’ recruitment of Rondo impressed Davis.

“[Cousins] played with him in Sac, and he definitely knows him very well, as well as from Kentucky,” Davis told the team’s website. “He definitely was a key part in getting Rondo. We’re just happy we got him. It goes back to DeMarcus just trying to help the team in whatever way possible. Helping us to go get Rondo was one of those things.”

Rondo played with Cousins in Sacramento during the 2015-16 season, and the two formed a strong bond.

In their lone season together, Rondo averaged a league-leading 11.7 assists to along with 11.9 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game. He recorded 237 assists to Cousins — his most assists to one player in a single season, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Upon early review, clearly these rebuilding Bulls have a ways to go

Fred Hoiberg chuckled nervously as he processed how he wanted to answer the question. Not often does a team have five of its potential rotational players for the upcoming season playing together in summer league action, but that was the case Saturday afternoon as Denzel Valentine, Cameron Payne, Kris Dunn, Paul Zipser and Lauri Markkanen couldn’t keep the Bulls from sinking late in a loss to the Dallas Mavericks.

So what is it like for a young coach to see so many of the players he will be counting on in a few months taking the court together in these exhibition games?

“Well, it’s, uh, it’s a good opportunity,” Hoiberg began.

The embattled coach then launched into some praise for Markkanen and gave an update on Zipser’s ankle injury.

Hoiberg, who has been under scrutiny since he took over for Tom Thibodeau a little more than two years ago, was trying to accentuate any positives he could find. The problem for the 44-year-old coach, and the organization itself, is that there aren’t many to see this week.

The 2017 Las Vegas Summer League was supposed to offer the first glimpse of promise surrounding the Bulls’ rebuild, a plan set in motion after a draft-day deal that sent All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The organization was optimistic that its young core would come to Vegas, show off its talent, and begin the process of developing together. Instead, the first week has shown just how far away the Bulls are from putting a compelling product on the floor.

Markkanen’s offensive skills have been the only thing for the Bulls to write home about. He has displayed a pure-looking jump shot, one the Bulls have been seeking on a consistent basis for years. He still needs to bulk up, a common refrain for a lot of young players and something Bulls GM Gar Forman discussed openly during the week.

The characteristic the Bulls are banking on in Markkanen’s game is not only his ability to space the floor, but the mental toughness it will take to bounce back after a tough night. That was on display in his 20-point, 10-rebound game in a win over the Washington Wizards. The fact that it came a day after Markkanen went 1-for-13 from the field, including 0-for-10 from beyond the arc, is a good sign for the 20-year-old Finnish product.

“He’s mobile,” Forman said. “He has physicality to him. He just has to get stronger physically. Like today, he missed shots but you thought every one was going down. He has a nice stroke. I thought he had some really nice passes today. This is all a process. It’s good to get him in our gym and our system and to start working.”

The rest of the production, or lack thereof, from the key players on this roster is a major concern for Forman and executive vice president John Paxson.
The strong play of first-round pick Lauri Markkanen is one positive the Bulls can take away from Las Vegas.
Dunn showed some defensive tenacity and a willingness to try to get to the rim in Saturday’s loss, but the lack of a consistent jump shot continues to hover over his game. Dunn said he feels much better about his mechanics heading into the season than he did a year ago, but the results have yet to back up that claim. Dunn will not play again in summer league after leaving Vegas for family reasons.

Zipser was a nonfactor in Saturday’s loss, going just 3-for-11 from the field, and hasn’t played since spraining his ankle in the same game.

Valentine has played in all three of the Bulls’ games but has really struggled to make an impact. He is a combined 12-for-44 from the field and has not shown the athleticism needed to separate himself at the professional level. Valentine expressed an interest in taking on more of a leadership role within the younger group of players during the upcoming rebuilding year, but it’s tough to develop that kind of voice when a player isn’t contributing at a high level during games.

Payne’s inability to contribute much at all is a microcosm of the Bulls’ entire summer league experience. Payne, acquired in a package from Oklahoma City at last February’s trade deadline for Taj Gibson, Doug McDermott and a second-round pick, didn’t just play poorly in his two-game stint in Vegas. He played like a prospect who has no long-term future in the NBA. Payne left the team on Tuesday to deal with a family issue and will not return. He looked lost on the floor, shooting a combined 9-for-26 from the field and turning the ball over seven times.

About the only thing the Bulls can bank on over the past week is that the young group has played hard. They’ll need to keep that tough mentality throughout the season when the adversity inevitably hits.

“I don’t know what tanking means,” Dunn said. “I go out there and try to win each and every game. Nobody in the locker room is gonna go out there and lose the game on purpose. Because then, why are you playing the game? We’re gonna go out there, try our hardest … we know we don’t have the superstars on our team but that don’t mean anything. If we go out and play hard and play together, we’ll be fine.”

A week in Vegas with this untested group of underperforming players suggests that’s still an open question.

Veteran guard Jamal Crawford preference is to play for Lakers

Veteran guard Jamal Crawford’s preference would be to join rookie Lonzo Ball with the Los Angeles Lakers if he can get bought out of his contract, a source told The Undefeated’s Marc Spears.

The source said Crawford’s preference is to be waived by the LA Clippers to become a free agent.
Jamal Crawford averaged 12.3 points per game in the playoffs this season.
With his family based in Los Angeles and a solid relationship already in place with Ball, Crawford would like to sign as a free agent with the Lakers.

The Lakers have strong interest in signing Crawford as well, a source said, and have the money to do so. The Lakers will have $17.2 million in room if the cap holds of Thomas Robinson, Tyler Ennis, Nick Young and Metta World Peace are released.

Crawford could possibly start at shooting guard for the Lakers and be a big help as a mentor and shot-maker for the assist-creating Ball.

While Crawford is intrigued by playing for the NBA champion Golden State Warriors, they don’t have much left to offer financially. All they have to offer a free agent is a $5.2 million midlevel exception.

Crawford is slated to make $14.2 million on his contact next season and $3 million is guaranteed on his $14.5 million contract for the 2018-19 season.

Utah Jazz believed their pitch to Gordon Hayward was as strong as anybody’s

The Utah Jazz will never fully enjoy the fruits of the rebuilding process that began Feb. 23, 2011, when the team traded Deron Williams. Gordon Hayward’s decision to leave for greener pastures guarantees that.

A couple of months ago, the Jazz seemed positioned to be a franchise to be reckoned with for the foreseeable future. They were a rising, young team that broke through with a 51-win season despite dealing with injuries to key players, ending a four-year postseason drought and winning a playoff series for the first time since Williams’ departure.

Of course, that required re-signing the Jazz’s lone All-Star selection since this rebuilding project began.

The Jazz aren’t back to square one — second-team All-NBA center Rudy Gobert, 25, is one of several talented young players who remain in Salt Lake City — but Hayward bolting for Boston leaves a huge hole on the roster. The Jazz developed Hayward into a go-to guy, particularly in the three seasons since coach Quin Snyder arrived, and built the offense around his evolving skill set.

General manager Dennis Lindsey will explore every avenue, but it’s essentially impossible to immediately find a suitable replacement for a No. 1 scorer, especially for a small-market team without much wiggle room under the salary cap.

The Jazz entered the offseason cautiously optimistic that they could keep Hayward, well aware of the attractive options he had to spend his prime, yet they were confident they’d put plenty of reasons in place for him to want to stay in Utah. Leading into free agency, Lindsey took a proactive approach in upgrading the roster. He twice traded up in the first round of the draft, most notably to get into the lottery to select Louisville guard Donovan Mitchell. Lindsey ensured the Jazz would have a proven veteran point guard, trading for 26-year-old Ricky Rubio instead of risking losing (or overpaying) 31-year-old George Hill in free agency. Utah quickly worked to get a four-year, $52 million deal done with Joe Ingles, a sweet-shooting glue guy who happens to be one of Hayward’s best friends.

Gobert is just about to begin the four-year extension he signed last fall, a less-than-max deal that is a bargain for a big man whose ability to dominate doing dirty work complemented and enhanced Hayward’s consistently expanding skill set. The Jazz contingent, which included Rubio, Ingles and Gobert as well as Lindsey, Snyder and others, presented a compelling case during Monday’s meeting at Hayward’s home in San Diego. A major focal point was a specific plan to continue Hayward’s dramatic development, including accompanying tweaks to the offense as his game grows.
Gordon Hayward is the only Jazz player to make the All-Star team since rebuilding began in 2011.
The Jazz could offer Hayward something the Celtics couldn’t: the opportunity to be the unquestioned No. 1 offensive option. Utah believed Snyder had just as strong of a relationship with Hayward as Boston’s Brad Stevens, his college coach. But Boston could reasonably paint the picture of a brighter future: a roster basically intact after a conference finals appearance, a pair of top-three picks already in place, more high-lottery picks on the way and a much easier path to the NBA Finals in the Eastern Conference.

There really isn’t anything else Utah could have done in recent months to improve the odds of Hayward’s return. The Jazz front office’s fatal mistake, in hindsight, was made a few years ago when Hayward was a restricted free agent.

The Jazz could have given Hayward a five-year maximum contract then. In that case, as it turns out, his salary in Utah would have been a relative bargain through the 2018-19 season. Instead, the Jazz allowed Hayward to explore the market and opted to match the max offer he received from Charlotte, a four-year deal that included a player option for this season.

A few years later, that looks like a terrible decision. At the time, many scoffed at the thought of paying max money to a guy who just put up pretty good numbers (16.2 points per game with a subpar eFG% of .454) on a 25-win team that just fired its coach.

Hayward’s numbers have soared in the three seasons since under Snyder (topping out at 21.9 points per game with an eFG% of .536 last season), with the Jazz’s win totals making similar jumps. Utah hoped Hayward and Gobert could be the modern-day version of Stockton and Malone, a star duo with staying power that could make the Jazz consistently competitive for an era. They were the poster boys for a developmental program that Jazz staffers proudly considered to be on par with the NBA’s best, a must for a small-market franchise hoping to contend.

With Hayward gone, Utah fans have to hope the franchise can develop another co-star to pair with Gobert. In the painful aftermath of their All-Star’s exit, patience again will be required.