Berry Tramel: “David Vance and Serge Ibaka share a city. Vance came to town in 1988 to oversee construction of Remington Park. He was the racetrack’s president and general manager for seven years. Ibaka arrived in 2009, an athletic phenom drafted by the Thunder a year earlier, in the franchise’s final week as the Seattle SuperSonics. Vance and Ibaka share more than an area code. Both are preeminent figures in the story of basketball shot blocking.”
Russ Bengston of Complex: “Kevin Durant allegedly cancelled a meeting with Nike and all hell broke loose. His sneaker deal with the Swoosh expired last week, and reportedly Under Armour is in the running for his services, complete with a massive offer. This is a big deal. Reigning NBA MVPs have switched sneaker companies before—Tim Duncan did it as recently as 2003 when he left Nike for adidas—but Durant’s defection would make Duncan’s (whose signature Nikes never really took off) seem insignificant. This seems like the perfect time for Durant to switch sneaker companies, if he’s ever going to, and Durant would be the perfect player to boost Under Armour’s already burgeoning basketball brand. It’s one that’s been built slowly and steadily, starting with prep-to-pros guard Brandon Jennings and increasing via grassroots involvement. Steph Curry, who came over from Nike just last October, was the brand’s first major non-rookie signing — and their first All-Star when Curry was voted a starter in February.”
Justin Verrier of TrueHoop with a great piece on the Lakers: “You cringe when Scott, flanked by his Showtime buddies, reaches back into the history books and blatantly neglects reality with talk of championship expectations. But appearances are all that’s left ever since last December, when the Lakers committed to a player who at this point in his career is defined by just that. The team may not even sniff the playoffs in a stacked Western Conference with Lin, Bryant, Young and Boozer all vying for shots and blame on blown coverages, but a lineup like that is a special kind of crazy. In August, long enough after all those losses and before many more begin, that’s enough. It may not be the sort of “Lake Show” the fan base is used to, but given the position the franchise has put itself in for the next two years, a freak show will have to do.”
Mitch McGary was voted second in the rookie survey as most overlooked, and Kevin Durant was picked by most as their favorite player.
Zach Lowe of Grantland on bigs: “One caveat emerges when you have this discussion with coaches and GMs: Playoff basketball is a different animal, and smart defenses with length might be able to strangle offenses that can’t max out shooting. The Spurs’ annual breakup of the Splitter-Duncan combination, often against the Thunder, amounts to a recognition that Oklahoma City has the length and speed to fluster the Spurs’ normal starting lineup. Griffin’s post game was not quite the weapon against Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins that it was in eviscerating Lee one round earlier. It’s obviously ideal to have one core big man who can shoot 3s in high volume and deter shots near the basket, but there are only a few guys who can do both. Some have slow releases. Some are such defensive liabilities as to be borderline unplayable against good teams. Some are wings contorting themselves into a role they can’t really play.”