Marc J. Spears

  • All-Star Kevin Durant not stressing about upcoming free agency

    Marc J. Spears at Yahoo Sports 1 day ago

    TORONTO – When asked if he thought the Oklahoma City Thunder would actually consider trading him, Kevin Durant responded the only way he knew how.

    “I really don’t know. I doubt it, but we’ll see. I guess now that you said something, I might not be able to sleep the next few days,” said Durant with a smile during the NBA All-Star Game media availability Friday.

    Durant is a franchise player and seven-time All-Star who led the Thunder to the 2012 NBA Finals and won the 2014 NBA Most Valuable Player award.

    However, he is also in the last year of his contract and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski recently reported that the NBA champion Golden State Warriors are a serious contender to sign Durant. The Washington Wizards, Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers are expected to be interested as well.

    “We never talk about that stuff, me, [general manager] Sam Presti, our assistant GM [Troy Weaver]. It’s always about how I can be better for my teammates and with my leadership skills.”

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  • NBA’s best excited to be part of Kobe Bryant’s All-Star finale

    Marc J. Spears at Yahoo Sports 1 day ago

    A 14-year-old Kevin Durant sat high in the rafters to watch Michael Jordan’s last home game for the Washington Wizards in 2003. The now All-Star fondly recalled the emotions he witnessed while fans said goodbye to an NBA legend. Now 13 years later, he envisions a similar scene unfolding during Kobe Bryant’s final All-Star Game on Sunday in Toronto.

    “I scored some tickets in the nose bleeds from my mom’s job,” Durant told Yahoo Sports about Jordan’s finale in Washington. “Me and my boy took the train up and I just remember the energy in the building. I saw some tears and a lot of different emotions for a guy that meant that much to people. Not just the basketball world, but people in general with his brand and who he was. Kobe adds that same effect.”

    Bryant announced in December that this, his 20th NBA season, would be his last. The Los Angeles Lakers’ all-time leading scorer has been on an NBA farewell tour ever since as he prepares for his 18th All-Star Game.

    East All-Star Dwyane Wade certainly has enjoyed watching the appreciation for Bryant.

    West All-Star guard Stephen Curry, a starter alongside Bryant, is excited about being “a part of history.”

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  • Kings to keep George Karl as head coach

    Marc J. Spears at Yahoo Sports 4 days ago

    The Sacramento Kings will keep George Karl as their head coach despite several reports that he could be fired during the NBA All-Star break.

    Kings general manager Vlade Divac said in a statement released Tuesday that Karl would not be dismissed.

    Divac called Karl while the coach was at lunch in Philadelphia on Tuesday. Divac told Karl in a roughly five-minute conversation that they would work together and that better defense was needed, a source told Yahoo Sports. Karl took the lunch-time call privately with the expectation that he would be fired, a source told Yahoo.

    “George will remain our coach. We are collectively working out our issues,” Divac said in the statement.

    Karl is 33-50 as head coach of the Kings after being hired nearly a year ago. The Kings (21-31) have playoff aspirations, but have lost four straight games and eight of nine. “He is not a quitter,” a source close to Karl told Yahoo Sports, adding that Karl never had any intention of resigning during the recent turmoil.

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  • Knicks fire coach Derek Fisher

    Marc J. Spears at Yahoo Sports 5 days ago

    The New York Knicks fired head coach Derek Fisher on Monday, just days before the NBA All-Star break.

    Fisher had a 40-96 record in his second season with the Knicks. New York currently is 23-31 and out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. The Knicks promoted Kurt Rambis to interim coach.

    Knicks president Phil Jackson hired Fisher as his first coach as part of his franchise overhaul after Fisher retired from playing in 2014. Fisher played for Jackson with the Los Angeles Lakers. New York endured a franchise-worst 17-65 record with Fisher last season. Even with a relatively healthy Carmelo Anthony and prized rookie Kristaps Porzingis, the Knicks have lost nine of their last 10 games, including a 101-96 loss to the visiting Denver Nuggets on Sunday.

    Fisher was involved in a physical altercation last October with Memphis Grizzlies forward Matt Barnes at the home of Barnes’ estranged wife. Barnes was later suspended two games by the NBA because of the incident.

    ESPN first broke the news of Fisher’s firing.

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  • Despite looming free agency, Kevin Durant focused on beating Warriors

    Marc J. Spears at Yahoo Sports 6 days ago

    OAKLAND, Calif. – From Kevin Durant’s arrival in San Francisco on Friday, to Saturday’s loss to the Golden State Warriors, to his expected attendance at Super Bowl 50 on Sunday, you’d think the Oklahoma City Thunder free agent-to-be would be overwhelmed by pleas from the Bay Area to join the Warriors.

    “I wasn’t listening,” Durant said.

    But when July 1 comes, the Warriors expect Durant to seriously listen to their free-agent sales pitch.

    The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski recently reported that the Warriors “are the significant frontrunners” to sign Durant as a free agent if he were to leave the Thunder. The 2014 NBA Most Valuable Player certainly validated the reigning NBA champions’ interest Saturday night, scoring a game-high 40 points with 14 rebounds and five assists. Durant and the Thunder overcame a 20-point deficit to give Golden State one of its toughest tests of the season at Oracle Arena, but still fell 116-108.

  • Jimmy Butler all in with Demaryius Thomas and the Broncos

    Marc J. Spears at Yahoo Sports 8 days ago

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. – NBA All-Star Jimmy Butler was offered a ticket to watch his friend, Demaryius Thomas, and his beloved Denver Broncos play the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50. The NBA schedule, though, provided a different plan.

    “I can’t go, man. I have to worry about the Bulls winning games,” Butler told Yahoo Sports recently. “I got to do what I have to do to help this team win. I am disappointed. We have the day off, but I’d have a lot of travel to get to the Super Bowl.

    “So we’ll actually be in Charlotte [Sunday for a Monday game against the Hornets] while the Panthers are playing. I think it’s a sign.”

    Butler said he met Thomas at the ESPY Awards a couple years ago. Butler, whose mom abandoned him at age 13, reached out to Thomas on Twitter in November 2014 after reading a story about Thomas’ difficult childhood, which included his mother and grandmother going to prison.

    “It really shows the type of person you are when everything is against you in order to keep going in a positive way and send positive energy and light. I love him for that because there was so many times where he could have given up.”

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  • Hawks’ Al Horford expanding his game as free agency looms

    Marc J. Spears at Yahoo Sports 12 days ago

    The NBA’s star-studded free-agent class this summer could include LeBron James and Kevin Durant, yet Atlanta Hawks big man Al Horford is confident he won’t get lost in the crowd.

    The nine-year veteran has had a solid career, averaging 14.3 points and nine rebounds per game. Yet he hasn’t stopped expanding his game.

    “The NBA game is changing a lot,” Horford, 29, told Yahoo Sports. “I know everyone always says that, but especially these past three seasons I feel like it changed even more. For me, I’m in the process of re-changing some aspects of my game to fit this new mold. It’s kind of forcing me to do some things that I haven’t done in the past.

    “As you probably have seen, I’m shooting more from 3-point range. I’m making sure I penetrate more to the basket. Little things you need to be able to do in the new NBA.”

    Horford is averaging 15.2 points, seven rebounds and three assists through 49 games this season and is taking a career-high three 3-pointers per game. He’s shooting a respectable 33.1 percent from long distance, hitting 48 of 145 attempts after making a career-high 11 3-pointers last year.

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  • Source: Suns promote Earl Watson to interim head coach

    Marc J. Spears at Yahoo Sports 12 days ago

    The Phoenix Suns have promoted assistant coach and former NBA player Earl Watson to interim head coach, a league source told Yahoo Sports.

    The Suns fired Jeff Hornacek late Sunday night night after a 91-78 loss to the Dallas Mavericks. Hornacek compiled a 101-112 record in two-plus seasons coaching the Suns, who have lost 19 of 21 games.

    Watson will make his head-coaching debut Tuesday night when the Suns (14-25) host the Toronto Raptors.

    Watson, 36, was hired as an assistant coach under Hornacek on June 4 and was promoted on Dec. 28 after assistant coaches Jerry Sichting and Mike Longabardi were fired. Watson began coaching professionally last season with the San Antonio Spurs’ NBA Development League affiliate in Austin. The Suns also considered assistant coaches Cory Gaines and Nate Bjorkgren for the interim opening.

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  • Gary Payton has trash-talk battle with nation's top prep player

    Marc J. Spears at Yahoo Sports 13 days ago

    NAPA, Calif. – Hall of Famer Gary Payton may have been the greatest trash talker in NBA history. Now nine years removed from his playing career, Payton showed his mouth is still working as much as ever when he went back and forth with the nation's No.1 high school player, Josh Jackson, while sitting courtside.

    "He didn't do his homework," Payton told Yahoo Sports. "That's it. He's a kid and he's having fun. I respect him because he has a lot of dog in him to come back and talk. He has a lot of gall to do that, so that's good.

    "But in these situations, you got to understand if you're going to talk it, you got to back it up. Back it up!"

    Payton might have been the only NBA player who enjoyed and succeeded in trash-talking with Michael Jordan. Payton once told then-Minnesota Timberwolves coach Sidney Lowe to, "Sit down, Smurf." The Glove also once told a heckler during a road game in Sacramento: "You're paying to see me. I'm not paying to see you. So why don't you shut up and watch the game."

  • DeMarcus Cousins on how he would change All-Star balloting: 'There definitely wouldn’t be fan voting'

    Marc J. Spears at Yahoo Sports 18 days ago

    The oddity is that if Bryant were listed at guard, the position he played for the majority of his career, instead of in the frontcourt, Zaza Pachulia of the Dallas Mavericks would have been voted a West starter.

    That’s one of the reasons Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, who scored a career-high 56 points Monday in a 129-128 double-overtime loss to the Charlotte Hornets, told Yahoo Sports recently that the All-Star starter balloting system should be changed for the All-Star Game on Feb.14.

    As it stands now, fans are asked to vote for three frontcourt players (regardless of position) and two guards per conference as starters.

    “It’s disrespectful to big men,” Cousins told Yahoo Sports. “It’s not really fair. But that’s how it is.”

    Cousins was named the Western Conference Player of the Week on Monday and has averaged 27.6 points and 11.4 rebounds this season. When asked what changes he would make to All-Star voting, Cousins was quick to respond.

    The deadline for coaches to vote for All-Star reserves is Tuesday, and they must select two guards, three frontcourt players and two wild cards.