The Starting 5: A look at some of the best hoops content from around the Internet
Just as the Kevin Durant/Russell Westbrook divorce seemed to be ratcheting up in pettiness, Durant steers it into the weird here while trying to calm the flames. After the bizarrely staged yelling-at-himself late practice episode, he offers differences in upbringing and marital status as reasons he and Westbrook’s off-court paths have diverged. But he’s also insisting that the off-court relationship between them as “brothers” isn’t over, and he accuses the media of trying to “separate” the two like they did when they were still teammates. If I have it straight, Durant chose a different on-court team because Westbrook is at a more settled family stage in his life, but their off-court relationship had nothing to do with his decision to leave the Thunder. Double-talk aside, this is about as transparent as Durant has been. He’s been opening up incrementally over the last couple weeks, it’s just that his more buttoned-up PR messaging since July is causing dissonance with the more authentic explanations.
Woj firecracker! The Thunder are still trying to retool without Durant, and they’re sending Ersan Illyasova and a protected first-rounder to Philadelphia for an unspectacular young wing in Jerami Grant. As a good wing defender with the capability to score a bit, he could be an upgrade from Kyle Singler in the rotation. But Illyasova was one of the few remaining three-point shooters on Oklahoma City’s roster, and they could have saved his cap hit over the summer, before his contract became guaranteed at $8 million. Unless Grant blossoms on a much deeper team than he’s been on so far, this is a head-scratcher for the Thunder.
The NBA is launching an awards ceremony on TNT to accompany their annual league-wide awards (which are not changing). There’s not a ton of information yet but this is an interesting move, especially considering the NBPA Awards having been aired on the BET Network two summers ago. If any sport has the personalities and cultural cache to pull off its own glitzy, entertaining ordeal on the scale of The ESPY Awards, it’s basketball.
Don’t sleep on the Grizzlies. The last few seasons have seen Memphis outperforming expectations in the face of the annual “Is Grit ‘n Grind Dead?” concerns. Grit ‘n Grind is actually dead now, but its death didn’t coincide with the demise of Mike Conley, Mark Gasol, Zach Randolph or (hopefully) Tony Allen. Gasol has expanded his offensive game to put to rest injury/effectiveness fears, and coach David Fizdale has the team mostly flourishing even before the debut of their prized offseason addition in Chandler Parsons.
Steven Adams, Rudy Gobert, Cody Zeller and Gorgui Dieng all inked extensions with their clubs on Monday, joining a growing list of big men making bank in recent months. King asserts that the Suns were wise to take a wait-and-see approach with Alex Len. I agree, although I think the reach to add Tyson Chandler to the roster in 2015 hasn’t set them up to properly evaluate their lottery pick on a developmental young roster.