Big ESPN feature on how playground hoops are dying: “The Drew League, which grew in popularity during the NBA lockout in 2011, is the smartphone to playground basketball’s rotary dial. LeBron James and Kobe Bryant have played here. Kevin Durant is scheduled to compete this summer, too. A private lot secures the Range Rovers and BMWs in the back of King Drew Magnet High School of Medicine and Science in Compton, which hosts the Drew League. The best players, Beast among them, arrive with girlfriends who dress for the red carpet, not a summer pro-am. Baron Davis coaches a team in the league. Nipsey Hussle, a West Coast rapper, cheers from the front row.”
Nate Scott of For the Win: “With his latest decision, James proved, without doubt, that one of the only acceptable reasons for a superstar to leave a team in his prime is to go home. The public understands this narrative, and will forgive Durant for ditching a team if it’s to come home. Miami fans even seemed to begrudgingly accept James’ decision to return to Cleveland. Oklahoma City can’t be angry with Durant if he chooses to come home to his family and city, especially if the Thunder don’t win a title before his contract is up.”
Quick note: Stop. Comparing. LeBron. Going. Home. To. KD. LeBron’s relationship with Akron and Cleveland is completely different than KD’s is with the D.C. area.
Jeff Caplan of NBA.com on most intriguing team: “In the West, the Oklahoma City Thunder are my choice. They missed out on Gasol, who would have been an absolute game-changer for that squad, and instead only came away with Sebastian Telfair, an end-of-bench addition, and Anthony Morrow, a 3-point specialist who could fit in quite well. I’m really curious to see how Russell Westbrook‘s game continues to evolve after his powerful postseason, how Kevin Durant comes off his first MVP season (but a bit of an individually disappointing postseason) and if Scott Brooks can add some new wrinkles to one of the most efficient (yet also most criticized) offenses over the last several years. If healthy the last two postseasons, this conversation could be totally different.”
Zach Lowe of Grantland on the complications of restricted free agency: “Some teams just don’t believe in pursuing restricted free agents. It’s easy to deliver Bledsoe’s agent a mammoth offer sheet, but it’d be much harder to sweat the 72 hours Phoenix would have to decide whether to match that offer sheet — three full days in which unencumbered teams could snatch up all the other free agents you might want. And a team with matching rights can actually add an extra couple of days onto that window if it wants to be mean, which it should probably want to be. A little-known clause of the collective bargaining agreement gives any team that matches an offer sheet — Phoenix in this Bledsoe scenario — two days beyond that 72-hour window to administer the player in question a physical. The amount of the offer sheet stays on the rival team’s books during those two days, meaning a team in Phoenix’s position could lock a rival out of free agency for longer than 72 hours.”