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Saturday, June 24, 2017

Stories by Darryn Albert:

Kevin Durant wears hilarious cupcake hat

Now that he’s officially an NBA champion and a Finals MVP, Kevin Durant is letting the petty flow through this veins.

Durant attended Golden State Warriors teammate JaVale McGee’s charity softball game on Saturday wearing an apparently custom-made hat featuring a cupcake with a championship ring on top instead of a cherry.

Of course, the cupcake theme had been a major part of the anti-Durant rallying cry this past season thanks to this now-famous Instagram post from ex-Thunder teammate Russell Westbrook. The Oklahoma City fans also embraced it to the fullest when Durant returned to Chesapeake Energy Arena for the first time as a Warrior last February.

But with Durant now looking down at the rest of the basketball world from the top of Championship Mountain, it’s probably a good time to recall the old saying of “He who laughs last laughs best.”

H/T For The Win

Hornets GM mistakenly introduces Dwayne Bacon as Dwyane Wade (Video)

Charlotte Hornets GM Rich Cho definitely knows how to say “no pressure.”

At Friday’s introductory press conference for new draftees Malik Monk and Dwayne Bacon, Cho mistakenly referred to Bacon as “Dwyane Wade.”

It probably doesn’t help that Bacon is a shooting guard like Wade and that he played his college ball at Florida State, just a few hundred miles north of where Wade spent the first 13 seasons of his NBA career with the Miami Heat. Then again, maybe Cho is still having a difficult time getting over what Wade did to his team in the playoffs a little over a year ago.

H/T theScore

Charles Oakley: Kristaps Porzingis was ‘wrong’ to skip exit meeting

Charles Oakley

He may have his disagreements with New York Knicks ownership, but that’s not stopping Charles Oakley from telling it like it is.

In a Friday interview with the New York Daily News’ Stefan Bondy, the retired great criticized Kristaps Porzingis for skipping his year-end exit meeting.

“He’s wrong for that. You can’t do that,” said Oakley. “Not being two years in the league and you’ve been on the team two years and won 32 and 31 games. I mean, you don’t do that. Especially when you’re in town [at the same time the meeting was supposed to take place]. You don’t do that. That’s wrong.”

Porzingis’ decision to blow off the April meeting appeared to be the primary driving force behind team president Phil Jackson’s sudden public willingness to trade the 21-year-old before the draft. But Oakley was also somewhat critical of Jackson’s handling of the entire situation.

“[Porzingis] should tell [Jackson] himself, ‘That’s why you got a mouth,’” he continued. “All they can do is trade you or keep you. But you got to realize that you have an opinion too. You can’t worry about what they will do. But all you can do is tell them to respect you. When they disrespect you, you have a right to say something to them. If you disrespect them, they have a right to say something to you. You can’t be sensitive. It’s a two-way street.”

In truth, dangling Porzingis now seems like more of an image-based play by the Knicks than anything. But as their treatment of Oakley himself can attest to, their issues as a franchise run much, much deeper.

Magic Johnson takes parting shot at D’Angelo Russell’s leadership qualities

Magic Johnson

Days after sending D’Angelo Russell packing, Magic Johnson continues to show him no mercy and no chill.

Addressing the media at Lonzo Ball’s introductory press conference on Friday, the Los Angeles Lakers president of basketball operations took a parting shot at Russell and his perceived lack of leadership qualities.

“D’Angelo is an excellent player,” said Johnson, per Baxter Holmes of ESPN. “He has the talent to be an All-Star. We want to thank him for what he did for us. But what I needed was a leader. I needed somebody that can make the other players better and also [somebody] that players want to play with.”

The 21-year-old Russell was traded to the Brooklyn Nets earlier this week along with Timofey Mozgov in exchange for Brook Lopez and a first-round pick. Maturity concerns often overshadowed the former No. 2 pick’s talent during his time with the Lakers, and Johnson did indeed indicate at the time that he wanted more leadership from Russell. The Lakers are now moving on to a new No. 2 pick in Ball, and based on these comments from Johnson about him, it sounds like Ball better checks off the boxes that the team is looking for.

Dennis Smith says vertical leap increased by eight inches after ACL tear

In addition to being the new future of the Dallas Mavericks, Dennis Smith Jr. may also be Bionic Man.

Speaking with reporters on Friday after being drafted by the Mavs with the No. 9 pick the day before, Smith said his vertical leap increased by eight inches after his 2015 ACL tear, per Isaac Harris of The Smoking Cuban.

While the feat is seemingly unheard of, it probably has something to do with Smith’s physical makeup. A November feature by Aaron Torres of FOX Sports revealed that Smith has an extra ligament in his knee (something that only about 20 percent of all humans have) and quoted Smith’s father as saying that he was dunking within two weeks of having surgery.

Now Smith is ready to join the list of Texas team athletes with absurd verts, and he should be a godsend for the Mavs, who have arguably not had a truly explosive point guard in the whole of the Rick Carlisle era.

Image via Dennis Smith on Instagram

Report: Wolves targeting Kyle Lowry, Jrue Holiday, other point guards in free agency

Kyle Lowry

After triggering an earthquake with Thursday’s blockbuster trade for Jimmy Butler, the Minnesota Timberwolves may be coming back for an aftershock.

Mitch Lawrence of Sporting News reports on Friday that the Wolves think they can upgrade at the point guard position in free agency and are targeting the likes of Kyle Lowry, Jrue Holiday, George Hill, and Jeff Teague.

The Wolves may find themselves priced out of Lowry’s market, but an upgrade at least makes sense. They sacrificed a lot of guard depth by including Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn in the trade for Butler and have never really seemed comfortable with committing to Ricky Rubio as their point guard of the future.

Butler figures to initiate the offense and handle the ball a significant amount, but Minnesota is definitely smart to consider signing a secondary scorer at the point to complement him, even if actually doing so could prove difficult.

Malik Monk admits he thought he would be a Knick

Depending on your perspective, Malik Monk may have dodged a major bullet in Thursday’s draft.

After he was selected by the Charlotte Hornets with the No. 11 overall pick, the former Kentucky star made a somewhat surprising admission.

“I actually thought the Knicks would take me,” said Monk, per Zach Braziller of the New York Post.

Kentucky head coach John Calipari made similar remarks as well.

“I wanted Malik in New York because I thought he would light it up,” said Calipari during ESPN’s draft telecast. “It would be back on. But they must’ve liked the French kid. I’ve not seen him enough, but I hear he’s really good.”

The Knicks went with French point guard Frank Ntilikina at No. 8 overall instead. New York isn’t exactly a hot player destination these days, so even if Monk’s slide was one of the more surprising draft day developments, he can probably wipe the sweat off his brow that everything played out as it did.

Brett Brown hints Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons may start season on minutes limit

Joel Embiid

The Philadelphia 76ers will have to keep trusting the healing process as well.

Speaking with reporters on Friday, Sixers head coach Brett Brown was asked if frontcourt duo Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons would be able to start the season without a minutes restriction.

“I think it’s ambitious,” Brown replied, according to Marshall Harris of CSN Philly. “We’ve all been around NBA basketball for a while now. I think that if that could happen, you know, that’s amazing. I think to set our sights on that being a reality is very ambitious.

“It’s very ambitious, and so be it,” he continued. “It doesn’t alter at all the plan, the path, the purpose of what we’re still trying to grow the program around. But I think on first, like gut feel, glance, it’s ambitious.”

Embiid spent his entire rookie campaign last season on a gradually-increasing minutes restriction but still lasted for just 31 games before going down with a season-ending meniscus tear. Meanwhile, Simmons broke his foot before the season and didn’t play in a single game. Health has been the one major pitfall preventing the Sixers’ Process from coming to full fruition, so even if Brown has big plans for both players, caution is still the name of the game here.

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