No more Mr. Nice Guy: Kevin Durant’s new role as NBA villain



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LAS VEGAS — The family vacation was planned months in advance. As soon as free agency was over, DeAndre Jordan was heading to a resort in Jamaica where — theoretically — he would put his phone in airplane mode, surround himself with family and friends, and all the noise would stop.

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That was the plan, anyway.

If you followed NBA free agency in the slightest last July, you know what actually happened. Three days after committing to the Dallas Mavericks Jerseys, Jordan had a stunning change of heart and returned to the Los Angeles Clippers Jerseys.

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In the time it took to fill out a customs form on the flight to Jamaica, Jordan became a villain in Dallas, an accidental hero in Los Angeles and the butt of jokes on late-night talk shows, social media and sports talk radio.

He tried to keep his phone off, but there was no escaping the fallout.

One day as he was sitting on the beach, he got a text from Kevin Durant. They’d been close since high school when Durant tried to persuade Jordan to attend the University of Texas with him. Jordan instead chose Texas A&M, so they drifted apart for a few years. Eventually they reconnected during summer workouts. And in the past few years, they’d grown much closer. So close, in fact, that the Mavericks hoped landing Jordan in free agency would give them an edge in the Durant sweepstakes the following summer.

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DeAndre Jordan, left, knows a thing or two about handling life as an NBA villain. Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Durant said his message to Jordan was simple: “I just let him know, ‘Man, whatever you do. You’ve got people that love you.'”

It was the kind of thing you say to a friend to let him know you can’t make things better for him, but you’re still in his corner.

“I feel like the people who talked to me afterwards are my real friends,” Jordan said this week, after a training session with Team USA cheap jerseys. “The people who stopped texting me afterwards, the ones who said stuff like ‘we’re family and all that’ while I was deciding, that wasn’t real. I realize it was only a basketball decision for them.

“You find out who is really on your side. And Kevin was like, ‘Man, you can’t worry about what other people think. You’ve got to worry about you and what makes you happy.'”

Fast-forward a year and Durant is the one who spent his summer in the middle of a free-agency squall and made a stunning decision that brought withering criticism from fans, peers and media critics.

No, he didn’t commit to one team and then renege a few days later. But after eight years of telling the fans in Oklahoma City that he loved them and wanted to retire there, his departure for the Golden State Warriors Jerseys came as a cruel shock.

Had he misled them all those years? Did he fall out of love? Or was his love never that pure to begin with?

Durant felt all of it. If he’s being honest, knowing how much he was about to hurt the fans in Oklahoma City was one of the things that nearly held him back from following his gut and signing with the Warriors. For 48 hours after picking the Warriors, he said he stayed inside the house he’d rented in the Hamptons while receiving free-agent pitches wholesale jerseys from the Warriors, Celtics, Spurs, Clippers, Thunder and Heat.

“I didn’t leave my bed, because I was like, ‘Man, if I walk outside somebody might just try to hit me with their car or say anything negative to me,'” Durant said. “I just stayed in and tried to process it all. … It felt different.”

Very different.

“He played his heart out for that team. If they can’t respect that, if other players can’t respect it, that’s their decision.”

DeAndre Jordan, on Kevin Durant leaving Oklahoma City

Durant hasn’t been the boyish, backpack-wearing homegrown superstar most people first came to know him as for a while now. First he went through the “KD is not nice” phase where he was like a child star trying to break out of a wholesome, prepubescent box by releasing a song about being naughty (See: Selena Gomez, Britney Spears, Justin Bieber).

Then he started copping an occasional attitude at the media for perceived slights to him, his teammates or any player in the NBA who he thought was getting unfair treatment.

But there was always something about Durant’s defiance that felt a little forced. Like he was just pushing boundaries or asserting his independence from the nice-guy image that had gone way too far and escaped reality a long time ago.

He is nice. He’s just not the saint people projected him to be.

For example: Last fall he turned down a half-dozen requests for an ESPN The Magazine story. He’d decided to stay silent until he could explain his feelings about free agency on The Players’ Tribune. Fine. Totally his prerogative. He believed in the Tribune’s business model and message of player empowerment. I can respect that. But when we saw each other at Thunder media day, he came over to explain himself in person.

How many NBA superstars do that? Most tell an agent or publicist to deliver their bad news and never address it personally. And yet because we’d always had a good professional relationship, Durant felt compelled to explain himself in person. It was an incredibly self-aware, sensitive thing to do.

Editor’s PicksWhy Kevin Durant stayed in bed after choosing to leave OKC

At Team USA camp in Las Vegas, new Golden State Warriors Jerseys star Kevin Durant talked about his initial reaction of staying in bed for a few days and finally facing his decision.

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That’s just a small example without much consequence. So how in the world was he going to handle breaking the hearts of a city that loved him? Of going from hero to villain? Of being criticized by Hall of Famers like Reggie Miller and Charles Barkley for taking an easier path to a championship?

This week in Las Vegas has been Durant’s first taste of life as a heartbreaker, and it appears he’s only allowing himself to feel it in doses.

The full weight of the fallout is too much to process all at once.

“I just try to be the man in the arena,” Durant said. “It’s easy for the critics on the outside to tell you what to do or what decisions to make, but they weren’t just out here with me, putting in work.

“I can’t really worry about the outside noise. I have to go to work. The work don’t stop. The love of the game doesn’t fade. Everything stays the same no matter where I play.”

This has become one of Durant’s refrains. A self-affirmation of sorts.

Some players would get off on being disliked — whether the sentiment is real or just a projection — and use it as motivation. But that’s not Durant’s nature.

“Guys like Kobe [Bryant] thrive on it,” said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, a longtime Team USA assistant. “I don’t think Kevin will thrive on it. But I do think he will immerse himself into the [Warriors] team.”

Another key difference?

“When you come into town as the villain like Kobe, everybody’s focused on him because he was the best player. But when Golden State comes in, they’re not going to just focus on one guy,” Boeheim said.

That was clearly part of the appeal to joining the Warriors. After years of being the face of his franchise, with the hopes and dreams of a city all on his shoulders, Durant was drawn to the idea of being just one of the guys.

That’s part of what he said he’s always loved about Team USA and what helped him this week as he adjusts to this new reality.

This uncomfortable period may be good for Durant in the end. Making a decision he knew would be unpopular? Maybe that’s the personal evolution and growth he needs. Maybe it won’t be. In hindsight, Jordan said that he’s found the entire process to be clarifying.

“It definitely makes you tougher,” Jordan said. “I still joke around like a little kid, but I don’t get as mad as I used to about things, I don’t let stuff affect me like I used to, because I’ve gone through that crap.”

He hopes it’ll be that way for Durant as well.

“When I found out he was going to the Warriors, I texted him, ‘Man, I’m happy for you. This is going to be big. I can’t wait to kick y’all’s ass,'” Jordan said.

“I’m happy for him. He gave those guys [in Oklahoma City] nine great years of MVP-level basketball, a Finals appearance. He played his heart out for that team. If they can’t respect that, if other players can’t respect it, that’s their decision. At the end of the day, he’s happy and that’s the only person he has to satisfy.”

Durant was sitting one seat away from Jordan as they each spoke after practice on the third day of Team USA training camp. There was plenty of room on either side of them. But the two old friends seemed more comfortable crowding each other’s personal space.

If things were destined to be uncomfortable going forward, they had might as well lean on each other.

Mavs increase value of Dirk Nowitzki’s two-year deal

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The Dallas Mavericks Jerseys and face of the franchise Dirk Nowitzki have finalized their expected new deal with another bump in pay that sets up the star forward to earn $50 million over the next two seasons and play until age 40, league sources told ESPN.

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Sources said Friday that the Mavericks have tacked an additional $10 million onto the original two-year, $40 million contract that the sides, as ESPN first reported, agreed to earlier this month.

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The new pact, sources say, calls for Nowitzki to earn $25 million in each of the next two seasons, though he has said repeatedly that he will decide about playing beyond 2016-17 after gauging how he feels at season’s end.

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The second year of the contract, sources say, is fully guaranteed for $5 million of the $25 million at the Mavericks’ option, although any decision about Nowitzki’s playing future is expected to be made in conjunction with owner Mark Cuban, given the long-standing and close bond the two share.

“Dirk gets to do what Dirk wants,” Cuban said in June during a public appearance. “Period. End of story. … Dirk’s done so much for this franchise, he’s earned that opportunity.”

The significant spike in pay comes after the future Hall of Famer played on an ultra-steep discount for the past two seasons in which he earned $8 million-plus annually.

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Nowitzki’s previous contract was a three-year cheap jerseys, $25 million deal, which represented a hometown discount intended to provide the Mavericks with the salary-cap flexibility needed to construct a contender during his twilight years. The Mavs, however, missed on multiple free-agent targets and have failed to advance past the first round since their 2011 title run, although Nowitzki led them in scoring again this past season.

Dallas rallied from two early disappointments in free agency this summer and used its substantial salary-cap space to make some promising pickups. After being spurned by Miami’s Hassan Whiteside and Memphis’ Mike Conley, Dallas capitalized on the sudden availability of Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut in Golden State — in the wake of the Warriors’ success in the Kevin Durant sweepstakes — to agree on a four-year, $94.4 million max deal to sign Barnes and a trade to acquire Bogut.

In his 18-year career, Nowitzki has won an MVP award in both the regular season (2007) and NBA Finals (2011) to go with his 13 All-Star selections. With 29,491 career points, Nowitzki is also on pace to surpass Wilt Chamberlain and move into the top five on the league’s all-time scoring list during the 2017-18 season, as long as he avoids significant injury.

Nowitzki has acknowledged in the past that wholesale nba jerseys his decision to stay in Dallas would be much more difficult if the Mavs hadn’t broken through to win their first title in 2011. If he ends up playing two more seasons, Nowitzki would join Kobe Bryant as the only players in league history to spend an entire two-decade career with a single franchise.

Nowitzki doubt for Mavericks in next NBA playoff game

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Los cheap youth basketball jerseys Angeles (AFP) – Dirk Nowitzki faces a battle to be fit for the Dallas Mavericks Jerseys when they face the Oklahoma City Thunder Jerseys on Thursday in a crucial Game Three of their best-of-seven playoff series.

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Nowitzki played a key role for the cheap youth basketball jerseys Mavs on Monday when they bounced back from being thrashed in Game One to snatch an 85-84 win to level the series at one apiece.

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However, Nowitzki underwent a scan Tuesday which revealed a bruised bone in his right knee, leaving him touch and go for Thursday’s third game wholesale jerseys.

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“Dirk suffered a bruised right knee on the play very early in the game when he slid and fell,” coach Rick Carlisle told reporters. “This thing with Dirk now, we hope this is not something that’s going to cost him to miss any time.”

Nowitzki’s absence would be another blow for the Mavs, who are already facing doubts around point guard J.J. Barea (groin) and forward David Lee (foot).

Point guard Deron Williams (hernia) is also “uncertain going forward,” according to Carlisle, despite playing in Game Two.

Williams, who took pain-killing medicine to help him play in Game Two, said he is hopeful he can feature on Thursday.

“I’ve got three days now to try to get treatment and do what I can do to get it back ready to go again,” Williams told reporters.Sports & RecreationBasketballDirk NowitzkiDallas Mavericks JerseysOklahoma City Thunder Jerseys

Thunder serve notice with 38-point smackdown of Mavs

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OKLAHOMA CITY — Dirk Nowitzki caught the ball on the left block, leaned back into the defender, using his body to try to get a sense of the defensive positioning, faked a turn toward the middle and then spun baseline. Nowitzki rose up and flicked a shot impossibly high into the air, which dropped down and … rimmed out. This time, the same fadeaway we’ve seen Dirk drain countless times just would not go down.

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Not that it would have mattered much: That particular miss by the Dallas Mavericks Jerseys forward, with 11:41 remaining in the third quarter, meant the Oklahoma City Thunder Jerseys retained the whopping 59-33 margin they had at halftime. They would go on to build upon it, at one point taking a 44-point lead before eventually winning 108-70.

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And while Dallas did suffer some bad luck on the offensive end — “They got some good looks that just did not go down,” said OKC coach Billy Donovan — don’t completely discount the defensive effort turned in by the Thunder to start their series against the Mavericks.

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If there were any questions about the Thunder finding their groove in this postseason, OKC answered them with the quickness on Saturday night, scoring the game’s first nine points and never looking back. After one quarter, the Thunder held a 26-11 lead, which was doubly disappointing to Nowitzki, who noted the Mavericks were focused on coming out and competing from the start.

“We know they’re a very good first-quarter team, and we addressed that and wanted to keep the margin small,” Nowitzki said. “We came out and missed a couple shots and had a couple of turnovers, so obviously we got to have a better start to the game. That usually sets us up to be in the game and compete in the game later. We obviously got to address first quarters, which has been an issue for us all season.”

You got to set the tone. Against a good offensive team, we did a great job defensively for 48 minutes, which was great.

– Russell Westbrook on the Thunder’s defensive play

The thing is, it wasn’t just a first-quarter show — it was peak Thunder all night, with Russell Westbrook sprinting downhill and generating pace, Kevin Durant stepping into transition jumpers and drawing fouls on rip moves, Serge Ibaka bothering shots and knocking down 3-pointers, and Enes Kanter providing a double-double off the bench.

While offense has never been a problem for the Thunder, this season their defense has not been elite, as they finished the regular season 12th in defensive rating. But the Thunder held the Mavs to a franchise-low postseason point total, interrupted passing lanes and managed to prevent the Mavs from establishing any flow. OKC finished with 56 rebounds to Dallas’ 23.

“The three days leading up to this game, our guys worked hard to get ready to play,” said Donovan. “It’s only one game, and I think you can get caught up in the emotion of a win or a loss, but you’ve got to try to move forward tomorrow and make some corrections, and get better and improve.”

The Thunder’s stars played abbreviated minutes, saving their legs once the game was out of reach. Still, Durant finished with 23 points, five rebounds and five assists, while Westbrook had 24 points, 11 assists and five boards. Westbrook also posted a plus-39 rating, in 29 minutes of cheap nba throwback jerseys play.

The Thunder may have finished the regular season with 55 wins, but they were metaphorical miles behind the Warriors and Spurs. But on the opening day of the postseason, the Thunder served notice that they can still reach an exclusive level, and sometimes it comes on the defensive end.

“You got to set the tone,” said Westbrook. “Against a good offensive team, we did a great job defensively for 48 minutes, which was great.”

Lang Whitaker has covered the NBA since 1998. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter.

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