Author: Ben Rohrbach

Kevin Durant addresses Twitter drama, Thunder bashing: 'I went a little too far'

In an appearance at TechCrunch’s Disrupt SF 2017 event, Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant addressed the Twitter controversy that took social media by storm over the weekend, apologizing for a pair of tweets throwing his former Oklahoma City Thunder coach and teammates under the bus.

“I went a little too far,” said Durant.

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As for the predominant theory that Durant intended to tweet under a pseudonym, but accidentally posted the messages through his verified account, the reigning NBA Finals MVP said he does operate an Instagram account under a different name, but skirted the issue with respect to his Twitter drama.

“I do have another Instagram account, but that’s just for my friends and family, so I wouldn’t say that I was using that to clap back at anybody,” he said, “but I use Twitter to engage with the fans. I think it’s a great way to engage with basketball fans, but I happened to take it a little too far. That’s what happens sometimes when I get into these basketball debates. What I really love is to just play basketball, and I went a little too far.

“I don’t regret clapping back at anybody or talking to my fans on Twitter. I do regret using my former coach’s name and my former organization that I played for. That was childish, that was idiotic, all those type of words. I regret doing that, and I apologized to them for doing that, but I don’t think I’ll ever stop engaging with my fans. I think they really enjoy it, and I think it’s a good way to connect us all.

“But I will scale back a little bit right now and just focus on playing basketball, so I want to move on from that. It was tough to deal with yesterday. I was really upset with myself. I definitely want to move on and keep playing basketball, but I still want to interact with my fans as well.”

Durant’s since-deleted tweets were prompted by this message from a Twitter follower:

@KDTrey5 man I respect the hell outta you but give me one legitimate reason for leaving okc other than getting a championship

— dis alot (@ColeCashwell) September 18, 2017

And here’s how Durant responded:

Kevin Durant only speaks in the third person when criticizing his former coach and teammates. (Twitter)
Kevin Durant apparently wasn’t a huge fan of Serge Ibaka, Steven Adams and company. (Twitter)

Durant’s responses in the third person were the strangest part. It’s a voice he had not previously used in his many past question-and-answer sessions on social media. That led internet sleuths to think he intended to send the tweets from a ghost account to make it seem like someone else was defending his decision to leave the Thunder for the team that beat them in the 2016 Western Conference finals.

It’s all very stupid and ridiculous, and it makes sense why he would want to downplay that aspect.

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Given his yearlong feud with ex-teammate Russell Westbrook, it is interesting that he said he apologized to Oklahoma City’s coach and players for saying, “He didn’t like the organization or playing for Billy Donovan,” and, “Imagine taking Russ off that team, see how bad they were.” An apology doesn’t really take the sting off those remarks, which were odd anyway, since the Thunder were a Klay Thompson 3-point barrage in Game 6 of the conference finals away from reaching the 2016 Finals.

It is notable that Durant copped to an Instagram pseudonym, since Reddit users appeared to uncover that account, and it contains some NSFW third-person language directed at his social media haters. “Your d*** riding a** got KD on your page,” said one message from Durant’s alleged (and since-deleted) @quiresultan account, cleaned up for your reading displeasure. “Your bum a** was beggin’ for a picture and then start talking s*** on Instagram. Gorillas don’t do that. b****es do that.”

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid had a little fun at that pseudonym’s expense on Monday night:

JOEL EMBIID IS BETTER THAN MJ EVER WAS @QuireSultan #FACTS #BurnerTwitter

— Joel Embiid (@JoelEmbiid) September 18, 2017

For NBA fans upset at Durant for leaving the Thunder to join a 73-win Warriors team, this is anything but funny. It’s more ammunition for his haters, who will surely see his deleted tweets as further evidence of a thin-skinned superstar who left Oklahoma City for an easier road to a championship.

Whether that’s the case or not, Durant is champion and Finals MVP, which makes it all the more odd that he’s responding in the third person to trolls questioning his decision 14 months after the fact.

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Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don’t Lie and Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach

Sarah Kustok promoted to Brooklyn Nets color analyst, breaking an NBA barrier

Sarah Kustok will serve as color analyst for the Brooklyn Nets this season. (YES Network)

Sarah Kustok has been promoted from Brooklyn Nets sideline reporter to full-time analyst, making the former DePaul star the NBA’s third female color commentator on regional television broadcasts. She will replace 70-year-old former Coach of the Year Mike Fratello, who will now serve as a studio analyst.

“Sarah has proven herself time and time again throughout her five years covering the Nets for us,” YES Network president of production and programming John J. Filippelli said in a press release, “and Mike’s move to the studio will enable us to take full advantage of his Xs and Os acumen gained from more than 40 years in the NBA.”

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Kustok joins Ann Meyers Drysdale and Stephanie Ready as the league’s only regional female TV color analysts. Drysdale, who Bill Russell once called “one of the best basketball players ever,” joined the Phoenix Suns broadcast crew in 2012 and shares color analyst duties with former Suns player Eddie Johnson alongside play-by-play man Steve Albert. Three years later, the Charlotte Hornets promoted Ready to full-time booth duty with fellow analyst Dell Curry and play-by-play announcer Eric Collins.

Ready was considered the first full-time female color analyst for an NBA team, and now Kustok will be the league’s only female operating solo as an analyst for a team this season. ESPN’s Doris Burke, of course, has been a color analyst for national TV broadcasts since 2013. Cheryl Miller became the first female to serve as an analyst for a national TV broadcast when she appeared on NBA on TBS in 1996.

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“I’m psyched,” Kustok told the Road Trippin’ podcast, via the New York Post. “It’s incredible. …The opportunity to call games, this is not work. It’s a dream to get to do. You talk about being a female — I don’t always love the attention on that. I just want to show up and do my job and be a part of a team. It’s the opportunity to still be part of a team and have that adrenaline rush. It’s an incredible thing.”

Kustok played four seasons at DePaul, making two NCAA Tournament appearances and captaining the team as a senior, before serving as an assistant coach at her alma mater for the 2005-06 season. She also worked courtside covering college basketball at ESPN and the Chicago Bulls for Comcast SportsNet Chicago. She made her debut as an analyst filling in for Fratello with the Nets in March 2015.

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Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don’t Lie and Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach

Timberwolves owner: Max contract extension for Andrew Wiggins all but done

Minnesota Timberwolves' Andrew Wiggins is set to sign a max contract extension. (AP)
Andrew Wiggins will be able to afford a new suit very soon. (AP)

Former No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins publicly petitioned in late July for “nothing less” than a maximum contract extension, and Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor responded mere hours later by telling local media, “I don’t think we have any trouble of offering him the max anyway.”

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So, it was only a matter of time before pen was put to paper. It appears that time is near, as Taylor told 1500 ESPN Twin Cities reporter Darren Wolfson that a deal should be done by the start of camp.

The Wiggins 5-years, $148M extension is expected to be done before Saturday’s 1st practice, per a chat I had w/ owner Glen Taylor. #Twolves

— Darren Wolfson (@DWolfsonKSTP) September 18, 2017

We have weighed the pros and cons of the Wolves signing Wiggins to a five-year, $148 million contract many times in this space before, most recently when we ranked the 22-year-old 11th in our “NBA 25 Under 25” series and third among the league’s top five scorers under age 25, with the following caveat:

Wiggins could be the sort of slashing scorer and rising swingman who can elevate a team with Karl-Anthony Towns and the recently acquired Jimmy Butler to championship contention over the course of his next deal. He might also completely saddle a franchise that’s never reached the Finals with a cap-killing contract that pays him $33.7 million in 2022-23.

There are, of course, several layers between. Somewhere within lies Wiggins’ most likely destiny.

There is one pro, though, that the Wolves simply could not ignore: Few scorers in NBA history have been so prolific at such a young age as Wiggins, who at age 21 averaged 23.6 points per game this past season. His 3-point percentage climbed to a league-average 35.6 percent, and he proved capable of posting one of the most efficient high-volume scoring games ever (47 points on 21 shots in February).

Minnesota is banking on the same upward improvement Wiggins has shown offensively in his first three years, with fingers crossed that his defense — deemed the NBA’s worst by FiveThirtyEight.com’s metrics in 2016-17 — doesn’t saddle the Timberwolves with an incomplete player making the full max.

After all, the Wolves were unwilling to include Wiggins in trade discussions with the Cleveland Cavaliers on a deal that would have solidified an All-Star core of Kyrie Irving, Butler and Towns for the next two seasons, so clearly Minnesota has high hopes the 2014 top pick can reach his potential.

So, what took so long for two sides seemingly in agreement on terms to get a deal done?

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First, Taylor wanted Wiggins to look him in the eye and promise he’ll improve. “There are some things that I need out of him,” Taylor told the Associated Press, “and that is the commitment to be a better player than you are today.” So, maybe training camp offers the chance for them to meet face to face.

And secondly, Wiggins fired super-agent Bill Duffy last month, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. That was sure to complicate matters, since Duffy reportedly negotiated the $148 million extension, and the commission on Wiggins’ max contract could have been as much as $6 million.

“We are disappointed that Andrew made this decision, especially after a three-year partnership where we worked closely with Andrew and his entire family,” Duffy told ESPN. “Unfortunately, tampering is a common problem in our industry, and that’s part of the reason why I’ve already been in contact with the [National Basketball Players’ Association] to discuss my rights in this matter. Obviously, whenever Andrew signs the max extension that we negotiated with Minnesota, we will work with the NBPA to make sure that our interests are protected.”

The Timberwolves will host their annual media day on Friday in Minneapolis, with Wiggins in attendance. The team is scheduled to hold its first practice on Saturday morning in San Diego.

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Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don’t Lie and Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach

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Goran Dragic on Luka Doncic: 'He's going to be one of the best in the whole world'

Luka Doncic waves to the fans after Slovenia won its first ever EuroBasket title. (AP)

Miami Heat point guard Goran Dragic led Slovenia to its first ever European basketball championship, scoring a EuroBasket-high 35 points in a 93-85 title-clinching victory against Serbia and capturing MVP honors in the process, but he deflected praise in the postgame to 18-year-old teammate Luka Doncic.

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“Mark my words,” said Dragic, “he’s going to be one of the best in the whole world.”

We have covered Doncic in this space before. He’s a 6-foot-8 point forward who can drill step-back 3-pointers on command or whip no-look cross-court passes that defy his years. He’s arguably the best prospect in European basketball history, and he could be the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA draft.

Doncic is also seldom heard from in the media, because his club team (EuroLeague power Real Madrid) holds reporters at arm’s length from the teen phenom. But few know him better than Dragic, who played three seasons with Luka’s father Sasa Doncic. This photo of Dragic celebrating the 2008 Slovenian League title with a 34-year-old Sasa and 9-year-old Luka is making the internet rounds:

Goran Dragic celebrates a 2008 Slovenian League title with a 34-year-old Sasa Doncic and his 9-year-old son, Luka. (imgur)

Dragic’s postgame praise on Sunday was no in-the-moment smoke-blowing, either. The nine-year NBA veteran and 2014 Third Team All-NBA selection also told a Slovenian newspaper recently, “Luka in my opinion is the best European player under 26 years old.” That’s no small praise, since EuroBasket was filled with 25-and-under NBA players like Kristaps Porzingis, Dennis Schroder and Bogdan Bogdanovic.

An ankle injury cut Doncic’s championship game performance short 23 minutes into the game against Serbia, but he was instrumental in getting the Slovenians to the title game. He amassed 27 points and nine rebounds opposite Porzingis in a quarterfinal win over Latvia, and then collected 11 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists in an upset semifinal win over a Spain team littered with NBA talent, including the Gasol and Hernangomez brothers, Ricky Rubio, Sergio Rodriguez and Alex Abrines.

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Doncic finished the tournament with averages of 14.3 points, 8.1 rebounds and 3.6 assists, becoming the youngest player to earn All-Tournament honors since Lithuanian legend Arvydas Sabonis in 1983.

“I don’t want to give him a big head, but I think he’s probably one of the best talents that I’ve ever seen, especially at his age,” former NBA player Anthony Randolph, a naturalized Slovenian citizen who has played with Doncic on both Real Madrid and Team Slovenia, told ESPN.com. “It’s unbelievable. Just for his size, the way that he handles the game, the way that he carries himself on and off the court. He’s just so versatile. I mean, the kid can damn near average a triple double when he figures it out.”

For reference sake, Randolph played with a rookie Stephen Curry on the Golden State Warriors, a 26-year-old Carmelo Anthony on the New York Knicks, a young Kevin Love on the Minnesota Timberwolves and both a veteran Andre Iguodala and age 24 Danilo Gallinari on the Denver Nuggets.

So, no pressure, Luka. But for NBA scouts waiting for Doncic to cave under the strain of facing top-tier talent, it’s now impossible to argue he doesn’t belong. Playing opponents a decade his senior as a rotational player for one of the best teams outside the NBA, he averaged 14.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 1.7 combined blocks and steals per 36 minutes in 80 games for Real Madrid in 2016-17, with a highly efficient 57.9 true shooting percentage and a respectable 18.2 player efficiency rating.

EuroBasket was merely the latest test, and Doncic passed with flying colors:

Hello Slovenia!!❤️❤️ pic.twitter.com/4LrjFW11gS

— Luka Doncic (@luka7doncic) September 18, 2017

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Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don’t Lie and Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach

Kyrie Irving, 'very much woke,' cares little for LeBron James' feelings

Kyrie Irving and LeBron James were once successful business partners. (AP)

Why Kyrie Irving subjected himself to ESPN’s “First Take” is beyond me, but the All-Star point guard spent 90 minutes on Monday morning cryptically answering questions from Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman about his reasons for leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers and his relationship with LeBron James.

Inquiries about Irving’s trade request, reports he wanted out from LeBron’s shadow and the league-wide drama that ensued were met with responses along these lines from the newest member of the Boston Celtics: “I don’t really have an ego. I have a presence and aura about me that’s very reality-based,” and, “Oh, if you’re very much woke, there’s no such thing as distractions, especially all this.”

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Except, Irving answered one line of questioning with the very clarity we’ve sought since the trade:

.@KyrieIrving on why he didn’t inform LeBron James that he wanted out of Cleveland. pic.twitter.com/WF9GlCA54o

— First Take (@FirstTake) September 18, 2017

Smith: Did you speak to LeBron James before you and your representatives met with ownership and let them know that you wanted out?

Irving: “No.”

Smith: “Why not?”

Irving: “Why would I have to?”

Smith: “If you don’t speak to somebody about that, they might take it personally.”

Irving: “Yeah.”

Smith: “Do you care about that at all?”

Irving: “No.”

Irving then elaborated:

“I think we’re forgetting one important thing. … I don’t think that you owe anything to another person in terms of figuring out what you want to do with your life. It’s not anything personal. I’m not trying to tirade anybody. I’m not here to go at any particular person or the organization, because I have nothing but love for Cleveland. I have nothing but love for the times that I spent there. There’s nothing about that.

“There comes a time where you mature as an individual. It’s time to make that decision, and there is no looking back from that standpoint. There is no time to figure out how to save someone’s feelings when ultimately you have to be selfish in figuring out what you want to do. It wasn’t about me not wanting to win. It wasn’t anything about that. It was, ‘I want to be extremely, extremely happy in perfecting my craft,’ and that was the only intent in all of this.

“I think that it got much more attention because everything else started coming out about who felt like their important opinion mattered most. I saw previous players, past players, current players speaking on something that had absolutely nothing to do with them. I’m appreciative of their comments, but at the same time it’s ultimately my decision.”

I can see this from both sides of the aisle. From Irving’s perspective, he no longer wanted to play for the Cavaliers. That was a personal decision, and management could make it happen. LeBron was not part of either equation, so why include him in the conversation? Irving does not answer to LeBron.

On the other hand, when two partners hold the fate of a billion-dollar operation in their hands like LeBron and Kyrie did, it seems like common courtesy to inform the other about a potential disruption.

You would certainly tell coworkers you considered friends about something so earth-shattering, but maybe Irving didn’t consider James a friend. Maybe he didn’t trust James to keep quiet about it. Maybe he thought James was pushing for the reported trade that would have sent him to the Phoenix Suns in a three-team deal that would have brought Paul George and Eric Bledsoe to Cleveland.

Or maybe he just felt like James wouldn’t have extended the same courtesy with respect to his potential decision to leave for Los Angeles next summer. These are the questions that were left unanswered.

In the end, Irving wasn’t happy in Cleveland, and he’s now “ecstatic” in Boston. It would be easier for us if there was one reason he could cite for why that’s the case, because it would help us make more sense of a player consciously leaving LeBron’s side on a championship-caliber team. We also know Kellerman believes that reason must be something personal between the two ex-teammates, since the ESPN host interrogated the heck out of Irving about it, but maybe it’s less dramatic than that.

Reading between the tea leaves, it seems Irving’s primary reason for wanting out was to realize his full potential as a player, something he can’t do on a LeBron-led roster. Twice Irving expressed enthusiasm for being more of the complete pick-and-roll playmaker that Boston is asking him to be instead of the isolation-heavy scoring option that Cleveland wanted him to be. Asked flat-out what he was most excited about in transitioning from the Cavaliers to the Celtics, he said, “Actually playing point guard.”

Kellerman was eager to frame Irving’s “perfecting my craft” remarks as an individualistic attitude unbecoming of any true sportsman’s quest for a championship, but Irving wasn’t having that, either:

Can you win a championship without LeBron? @KyrieIrving: pic.twitter.com/kQmnwy09eU

— First Take (@FirstTake) September 18, 2017

Smith: “Do you believe you can win without LeBron James?”

Irving: “Time will tell.”

Smith: “I asked you what you believe.”

Irving: “Oh, absolutely.”

If we’re looking for a rift between Irving and James to spice up the Cleveland-Boston rivalry, Kyrie might have offered us one with his thoughts on how the trade request became public. To his credit, Smith asked Irving about a wild accusation he reported back in July — that, “if Kyrie Irving was in front of LeBron James right now, LeBron James would be tempted, quote, to beat his a**, end quote.”

To which Irving responded on Monday morning: “I felt like the timing was impeccable, if you ask me. I think about how ironic it was that I was on my China trip and how my trade request all of a sudden just came out publicly. It was hurtful, because I knew how professional I had kept it throughout the whole entire process and how strategic it was, because I knew that it was going to be madness. And it turned out to be like that. When you’re living in a reality-based world — and I’m a very awake individual — and you have all these exterior forces trying to change or skew everyone else’s opinion, and I’m not able to say anything and I’m sitting back and being very, very patient, it became something I didn’t understand, because of the amount of moments that we had together as a team.”

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This is the sort of cryptic response that dominated the interview, but it sure sounded as if he was addressing another Smith report from late July — that Irving’s camp “believes LeBron James had everything to do with the news getting out that Kyrie Irving wants to be traded, because Kyrie Irving and his representation and others met with the Cavaliers a couple weeks ago, and not a word got out until recently. They believe that LeBron James got word of it and was put off by it and leaked it.”

Now, there’s your drama. So, really, Irving’s 90 minutes on “First Take” did little to limit speculation about his relationship with LeBron and may have even inflamed it, because we now know just how unhappy he was in Cleveland, he didn’t feel LeBron deserved to know about his desire to play elsewhere, and LeBron may have been the one that made this story as public as it was for a month.

Plus, we got some pretty fantastic flat-Earthian answers out of Irving, like this one:

“The actual storyline of everything that was created from a variety of sources, a variety of people, whether it be from my circle or whether it be from anywhere else, the last person that everybody forgot about was me. I didn’t say a damn word, and it was all because that was never reality for me, because I know the type of person I am, I know who I’m developing into, and I know who I want to become. It never came from the fact of me wanting to be absolutely selfish and absolutely putting myself first and wanting to be the man. I don’t really have an ego. I have a presence and aura about me that’s very reality-based. It didn’t come in a form of living in this false world and not being able to tell the truth to somebody and look them in the eye and say, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m ready to move on. I’m ready to be on my own. I’m ready to try out a new situation and be in an environment where I feel like I can be happy.’ My intent was the same and always will be the same — to be around people and to interact them. I love doing that, and to do that through basketball, that’s even better. But to be happy every day I come to work and perfect my craft, oh man, I can’t wait to get the season started.”

And this one:

This is the most fantastically flat-Earther answer I’ve ever heard pic.twitter.com/cUkQ41tREn

— Ben Rohrbach (@brohrbach) September 18, 2017

Meanwhile, as Irving was delivering these cryptic answers, LeBron was doing this on Instagram:

while kyrie was on first take lebron was IG’ing his day with kevin love pic.twitter.com/ABKwkmfwIP

— Whitney Medworth (@its_whitney) September 18, 2017

That we are being treated to stories like this about Irving and LeBron on the same day Kevin Durant may or may not have revealed that he uses alternate accounts to defend himself from Twitter trolls is just one more reason that the NBA offseason is the best soap opera going. God bless Woke Kyrie.

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Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don’t Lie and Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach

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Kevin Durant has once again found himself in a strange bit of Twitter drama

Maybe Russell Westbrook knows Kevin Durant’s alternate Twitter identity. (AP)

Few athletes of Kevin Durant’s stature interact with social media haters as often as the Golden State Warriors superstar, and the reigning NBA Finals MVP may be even more prolific than we ever thought.

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Since Durant has jumped into his Twitter mentions for a tweet-storm roughly once a month after winning his first championship, it came as no surprise that he responded to this late Sunday night:

@KDTrey5 man I respect the hell outta you but give me one legitimate reason for leaving okc other than getting a championship

— h (@ColeCashwell) September 18, 2017

What was surprising, though, was not only the content of Durant’s since-deleted responses (saved by Twitter users @Ochocuatro and @harrisonmc15), but the fact he answered in the third person:

Kevin Durant only speaks in the third person when criticizing his former coach and teammates. (Twitter)
Kevin Durant apparently wasn’t a huge fan of Serge Ibaka, Steven Adams and company. (Twitter)

Forget that Durant’s Thunder — featuring reigning regular-season MVP Russell Westbrook and supporting cast members Serge Ibaka, Steven Adams, Andre Roberson, Enes Kanter and Dion Waiters — were a Klay Thompson 3-point barrage in Game 6 away from reaching the 2016 Finals (and possibly knocking off the Cleveland Cavaliers for a title), why is Durant defending himself in the third person?

This led many internet sleuths to believe Durant controls one or more Twitter accounts to support his verified account and merely forgot to switch usernames before posting these tweets. It is an odd practice others, like Skip Bayless, have employed before, and one Durant may also use on Instagram.

Of course, there are a couple more possible explanations as well. Maybe he was hacked, although it sure seems unlikely that someone would hack into Durant’s account just to defend him on Twitter. Or maybe one or more members of Durant’s camp with access to his social media jumped to KD’s defense, only to realize they were logged in under his name. That sounds only slightly more plausible.

Whatever the reason for Durant’s latest Twitter drama, this will do nothing to mend fences with Westbrook and other ex-teammates upset about the way he left Oklahoma City. Neither will Durant’s cupcake shoes or the cupcake hat he’s hawking — both shots at Westbrook and the OKC fans who had previously adopted former Thunder center Kendrick Perkins’ “cupcake” term to describe KD as soft.

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That all seems to fly in the face of what Durant told USA Today in late May:

“I’m just at peace with myself; I’m at peace with myself as a basketball player, most importantly. I think this move, and the criticism that comes with this move, has made me zero in on what’s the most important thing, and that’s just playing basketball, working out every day, getting better, enjoying every single day as a basketball player. It made me really appreciate that. It made me go back to that. When you listen to the nonsense, then you start to really let it take control of your thoughts, that’s (not good), you know what I’m saying? So I just got back to the game.”

[…]

“Certain stuff that used to bother you really doesn’t bother you anymore. It’s easier for me to kind of speak my mind, speak what I’m thinking because I now realize that I’m in control of my own destiny.”

Durant has spent the past year insisting he’s not bothered by social media followers who believe he took the easy road to a championship by leaving the Thunder for the 73-win team that beat them in the 2016 Western Conference finals, while at the same time responding to tweets like this …

Hey @KDTrey5 I named my dog after you and he left me. What’s up with that

— Kelsey Ball (@KelsoBall) July 24, 2017

… with stuff like this:

you must be a piece of if a dog chooses to live in the streets instead of your house

— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) July 24, 2017

It’s why his newest Nike shoes, featuring soles with Golden State’s playoff record and his Finals stats over comments like “can’t beat ’em join ’em” and “they didn’t need him to win,” are kind of comical, because for every time Durant claims not to be bothered, he seems to reveal how much he actually is.

A post shared by Tony Durant (@tdurant) on Sep 12, 2017 at 7:24pm PDT

And this latest social media faux pas might be the most revealing of all. If indeed a former MVP created multiple Twitter accounts to defend himself under a pseudonym, it would follow that not only he is bothered by the traitor narrative, but also more motivated by the belief that his Thunder teammates were never going to be good enough to compete for a title than he’s previously indicated.

Meanwhile, a Twitter manhunt is underway for which accounts may have been Durant’s alternates — proof the NBA is the most ridiculous sports league 12 months a year. The Warriors make their first trip to Oklahoma City for a game against Westbrook and Paul George on Nov. 22. Get your popcorn ready.

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Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don’t Lie and Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach

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NBA draft lottery reform moves one step closer to becoming reality in 2019

If approved, the NBA’s draft lottery changes would take effect in 2019. (AP)

The NBA’s competition committee has approved a draft lottery reform plan that now awaits approval from the league’s board of governors later this month, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The proposed changes — which expand the number of picks in the lottery from three to four, even the odds for teams with the three worst records and smooth out the declining odds from there on out — would be enacted for the 2019 draft. Approval requires at least 23 votes from the league’s 30 owners.

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A similar proposal was thought likely to pass in 2014, but a contingent of small-market teams fearful reform would further hinder their chances of acquiring star talent led the charge to reject a plan that would have given the bottom four teams 12 percent odds at landing the No. 1 pick, with a 1-2 percent decline in odds for the 10 other teams, and allowed teams to drop up to six spots in the draft order.

This year’s proposal includes the following changes to the draft:

The number of picks in the lottery would increase from three to four. In other words, the league’s 14 non-playoff teams would all have a chance to land a top-four pick instead of a top-three selection.

Teams can drop four spots in the lottery instead of three. Naturally, if four teams can now jump into the top four spots in the draft order, the remaining teams could also fall as many as four spots.

The teams with the three worst records will each have a 14 percent chance to win the lottery. Under the current format, the NBA’s worst team has a 25 percent chance of winning the lottery, the second-worst team has a 19.9 percent chance and the third-worst team has a 15.6 percent chance.

The team with the fourth-worst record will have a 12.5 percent chance to win the lottery. Those odds are a 2.2 percent increase from the current format and 1.5 percent worse than the best possible odds.

The odds for the other 10 teams would then decline by 1-2 percent in descending order. Currently, there is a significant drop from 10.3 percent odds in the fifth spot to 6.3 percent at No. 6, 4.3 percent at No. 7 and 2.8 percent at No. 8. The other six teams have a less than 2 percent chance of winning.

The competition committee’s proposed change of precluding teams from picking in the top three for consecutive seasons was excluded from the final plan sent to the owners, Yahoo Sports has learned.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver has long been a proponent of lottery form to derail tanking, especially after the Philadelphia 76ers underwent “The Process,” an unprecedented dive to the bottom of the standings that helped land lottery picks Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz, among others.

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However, at least six of the 13 teams that rejected the 2014 proposal would have to change their stance. The Sixers and Oklahoma City Thunder were among the small-market teams leading the charge three years ago, believing lottery reform would only further complicate a system that already makes it difficult for rebuilding teams outside destination cities to keep or attract stars. One source suggested to The Vertical’s Chris Mannix reform could be a “death sentence” for small-market teams.

The league’s board of governors plans to vote on the competition committee’s proposal on Sept. 28.

Disciplinary measures for teams resting multiple starters are also supposed to be on the docket. The league has lengthened its schedule, eliminating stretches of four games in five nights and limiting the number of back-to-back games, in another effort to limit the need for rest. This could also help limit tanking efforts like those demonstrated by the Phoenix Suns in the second half of last season, when coach Earl Watson openly called the shutting down of Eric Bledsoe a “management decision.”

Sources: In proposal, Silver has discretion to fine teams for resting multiple players in single game, or healthy ones in national TV games.

— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) September 15, 2017

Critics will surely argue that reform does little to de-incentivize tanking to a top-three spot, and the increased odds lower in the lottery could actually incentivize borderline playoff teams to drop out of contention. Currently, the last four teams in the lottery have a less than 3 percent chance at a top-three pick. The odds of landing a top-four pick could more than double under the proposed reform.

By coupling lottery reform with penalties for resting starters, though, Silver can better manage the tanking problem. But what about teams that are just bad? Take the Atlanta Hawks, for example. After watching Al Horford and Paul Millsap walk in consecutive free agencies, they entered a lengthy rebuild through little fault of their own, and their chances of landing a franchise player in the draft will now be worse in 2019 and beyond if the reform is approved. In other words, it’s just too bad if they’re bad.

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Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don’t Lie and Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach

Boris Diaw, lover of coffee and wine, says au revoir to the NBA, for now

Boris Diaw is taking his talents back to France. (Instagram)

Beloved free agent big man Boris Diaw is leaving the NBA after 14 seasons.

The 35-year-old coffee- and wine-loving Frenchmen is reportedly returning to his home country to play in France’s top-tier professional basketball league for the Levallois Metropolitans in Paris.

Boris Diaw will play in French Top division with Paris-Levallois according to @DavidCozette

— Sportando (@Sportando) September 14, 2017

Diaw captured MVP honors of the same French league as a 20-year-old before being drafted by 21st overall by the Atlanta Hawks in 2003. He entered the NBA as a shooting guard before being traded to Phoenix and rising to prominence as a Most Improved Player award recipient and versatile frontcourt weapon for the seven-seconds-or-less Suns. After a brief NBA stopover in Charlotte, he spent another four-plus seasons in San Antonio, serving as a wily veteran and key cog in the Spurs’ 2014 title run.

Diaw played last season for the 51-win Utah Jazz, making his 10th playoff appearance in 14 years and even starting at center when Defensive Player of the Year runner-up Rudy Gobert went down with an injury in the first round. Diaw averaged 8.6 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists during his NBA career.

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While Diaw’s playmaking, floor-stretching and all-around savvy made him an integral part of two of the league’s most entertaining teams of this century, it was his off-court antics that made him so popular in NBA circles. He is an accomplished photographer who rode a Segway to games, installed an espresso machine in his locker, wrote children’s books about exotic animals and sang at karaoke bars.

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“When you talk to Boris Diaw, what a classical human being he is,” Bill Walton once said. “It was 201 years ago today, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 in E-flat, which escorted in the age of romanticism, and when I look at Boris Diaw, I think of Beethoven and the age of the Romantics. This guy has got it all.”

Whether from his love of wine or international cuisine or age, Diaw struggled with weight in his later years, so much so that the Spurs included $500,000 in incentives if he didn’t gain pounds during the season and coach Gregg Popovich kept him in during garbage time “so you can lose some weight.”

No worries pop only one glass of wine and daily workouts!

A post shared by Borisdiaw (@diawboris) on Sep 28, 2014 at 11:18am PDT

I don’t always go hard in practice. But when I do…I keep a painting of myself nearby. #BorisDiaw #Spurs pic.twitter.com/15vzzN80Nv

— Casey Keirnan (@CaseyKeirnan) January 6, 2016

But let’s not forget that Diaw, in his prime, was an athletic specimen. This unforgettable anecdote from former Suns executive David Griffin in a 2014 ESPN.com feature is quintessential Bobo:

Never forget the legend of Boris https://t.co/3UimTitFJC pic.twitter.com/WJmD8lnlmn

— Seth Rosenthal (@seth_rosenthal) September 14, 2017

And for anyone saddened by his departure, don’t lose hope on Diaw riding his Segway Stateside again:

Boris Diaw’s contract with French team Levallois Metropolitans will have an NBA opt out clause.

— Sportando (@Sportando) September 14, 2017

Or, he’ll just make that one-way mission to Mars he entertained. With Boris Diaw, you never know.

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Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don’t Lie and Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach

Dwyane Wade joins 'Team Jemele Hill' after ESPN anchor's Donald Trump criticism

It is by no means a requirement for NBA players to comment publicly on ESPN’s seemingly forced apology from Jemele Hill, a SportsCenter anchor whose criticism of President Donald Trump reached the White House press room this week, but Dwyane Wade was one of few who offered his support.

I’m on Team @jemelehill

— Reggie Miller (@ReggieMillerTNT) September 13, 2017

Sign me up! https://t.co/MhqJvgesgh

— DWade (@DwyaneWade) September 13, 2017

After a Twitter follower suggested that the media was responsible for unfairly framing Trump as a white supremacist, Hill tweeted the following response in a series of messages on Monday:

“Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself with other white supremacists. The height of white privilege is being able to ‘ignore’ his white supremacy, because it’s of no threat to you. Well, it’s a threat to me. Trump is the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime. His rise is a direct result of white supremacy. Period. No the media doesn’t make it a threat. It IS a threat. He has empowered white supremacists (see: Charlottesville). He is unqualified and unfit to be president. He is not a leader. And if he were not white, he never would have been elected. Donald Trump is a bigot. Glad you could live with voting for him. I couldn’t, because I cared about more than just myself.”

Racism has plagued Trump’s politics from the start. The son of a man who was arrested after a Klu Klux Klan riot, he entered the political fray behind the birther movement and announced his candidacy for president by generalizing Mexican-Americans as “rapists.” Twice sued by the Justice Department for refusing to rent to black people, Trump campaigned around the ideas of restoring historical American values and building a wall to prevent immigrants from entering the country.

Upon being elected, with the full support of the KKK’s official newspaper and former grand wizard David Duke, Trump filled his cabinet with a handful of people with histories of racial discrimination, including Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions, Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka. One of Trump’s first orders of business as president was to ban refugees from seven mostly Muslim nations from entering the U.S.

In between, he retweeted white supremacist memes, told rally-goers to, “Look at my African-American over here,” and condoned beatings of a homeless Latino man and a Black Lives Matter protester by offering this response at another campaign stop: “People who are following me are very passionate.”

All this from a man who was unapologetic after taking out full-page newspapers ads calling for the execution of five black teenagers imprisoned between six and 13 years for a crime they didn’t commit.

The racial undertones of Trump’s presidency came to a surface last month in Charlottesville, Va., where white supremacists marched in protest of the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, killing an innocent 32-year-old woman named Heather Heyer in the process.

In the aftermath of an incident that drew heavy criticism from NBA stars, including Wade’s former Miami Heat teammate LeBron James, Trump condemned the violence “on many sides,” amended that statement to include white supremacists, and then clarified, “but you also had people that were very fine people on both sides.” He then praised the protesters who supported the confederate statue.

Given this sequence of events, it is perhaps unsurprising that David Duke told reporters in Charlottesville, “This represents a turning point for the people of this country. We are determined to take our country back. We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believe in. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take our country back.”

And given this sequence of events, it is equally unsurprising that Hill described the sitting president as “a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself with other white supremacists.”

Still, ESPN has a policy outlawing news reporters “from taking positions on political and social issues, candidates or office holders,” although there is some leeway for commentators to address those topics if they are “related to a current issue impacting sports.” Where Hill and her comments fell on that spectrum was reflected by separate statements from the SportsCenter anchor and ESPN itself:

So, to address the elephant in the room … #Facts pic.twitter.com/RTrIDD87ut

— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) September 14, 2017

Here’s the full statement from ESPN about @JemeleHill pic.twitter.com/IVAydvcwum

— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) September 14, 2017

It is hard to believe that anyone interpreted a reply to a follower from Hill’s personal Twitter account as any sort of statement on behalf of ESPN, although Trump supporters were quick to point out the hypocrisy of a company policy that led to Major League Baseball analyst Curt Schilling’s firing in 2016:

Curt Schilling -1 tweet and @ESPN fires him;@jemelehill has hateful bigoted Twitter tantrum-ESPN says “ok.” Wonder why @realDonaldTrump won?

— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) September 14, 2017

Of course, Schilling’s firing came before ESPN’s policy was amended and after the All-Star pitcher received multiple warnings about posting controversial conservative commentary on social media.

At any rate, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders also said on Wednesday of Hill’s “white supremacist” accusations against Trump, “That’s one of the more outrageous comments that anyone could make and certainly something that I think is a fireable offense by ESPN.”

The story then took on a life of its own, taking a SportsCenter anchor’s Twitter replies to the White House press room. Instead of a conversation about why a prominent black woman feels threatened in Trump’s America, the president’s mouthpiece instead emboldened the “stick to sports” crowd and anyone who chooses to ignore the president’s sordid racial past and present by calling for Hill’s job.

As ESPN wasn’t willing to come to her defense, Reggie Miller and Dwyane Wade did. What’s surprising here is that more members of a league that has spent the past year raging against Trump’s “xenophic, homophobic, racist, mysoginistic” remarks didn’t come to the defense of a woman who has covered basketball for almost two decades, spends most nights discussing the NBA on one of the league’s TV partners and vocalized may of the same opinions its members have also expressed unapologetically.

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Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don’t Lie and Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach

Zach Randolph cleared of marijuana possession charge in plea deal

Zach Randolph earned three NBA Community Assist Awards during his eight years in Memphis. (AP)

Los Angeles prosecutors dropped the misdemeanor marijuana charge against Zach Randolph in exchange for the Sacramento Kings forward’s no contest plea to one misdemeanor count of resisting arrest and his commitment to 150 hours of community service, according to multiple reports.

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Randolph was originally charged with felony marijuana possession with intent to sell following an early August incident in which police discovered “a large crowd of people smoking, playing loud music and blocking the roadway” in L.A.’s Nickerson Gardens neighborhood. Police said Randolph was one of three men who left the scene and one of two who ran into an area home. He was reportedly arrested as a crowd that had attempted to block the officers from the home began vandalizing their vehicles.

According to the Associated Press, court documents stated that Randolph was in possession of “more than 28.5 grams of marijuana or more than four grams of concentrated cannabis or both,” which would exceed the one-ounce amount legalized for recreational use in California. However, prosecutors reduced charges against him in late August to misdemeanor counts of possession and resisting arrest.

Two weeks later, the marijuana charge was thrown out in exchange for Wednesday’s plea deal, which would also clear Randolph of the resisting arrest charge if he completes 150 hours of community service and steers clear of legal trouble for the next 12 months. He must also “not associate himself with or be around drug dealers as part of the terms of the deal.” TMZ Sports first reported the details.

“As we have said from the beginning, the reports regarding Zach Randolph were false and misleading. After being accused of marijuana possession, all charges have been dropped,” Randolph’s agent Ray Brothers told the AP. “He was never arrested with any marijuana in or on his possession. He has been cited for delaying a police officer. It’s defamatory for someone to say anything to the contrary.”

Our Dan Devine did a fine job detailing Randolph’s legal troubles during his 16-year NBA career:

In 2010, he was implicated as a “major marijuana supplier in Indianapolis” after a longtime friend was “arrested with a cooler full of marijuana while driving Randolph’s car.” One year later, a “small drug deal went sour” at the former Portland Trail Blazers big man’s home in Oregon, resulting in the beating of a suspected dealer with pool cues and a subsequent tense search of Randolph’s mansion during which Randolph reportedly “ignored a deputy sheriff’s order until the deputy aimed his handgun at Randolph’s ‘center mass.’” Randolph never faced charges in either incident.

Randolph signed a two-year, $24 million deal with the Kings this past July. He spent his previous eight seasons as a beloved member of the Memphis Grizzlies, including two All-Star appearances. Soon after he signed with the Kings, the Grizzlies announced plans to retire Randolph’s No. 50 immediately.

Additionally, Randolph’s community service seems like a mere formality. In Memphis, his charitable work helped forge a special bond with the city. A three-time recipient of the NBA’s Community Assist Award, Randolph was known to serve in ways ranging from buying tickets for underprivileged Grizzlies fans to paying their utility bills, so presumably his required 150 hours of service will come naturally.

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Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don’t Lie and Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach