NBA training camp tracker: Kevin Durant expects to play as small-ball center at times

Yahoo Sports Staff
·23-min read

Welcome to the Yahoo Sports 2020 NBA training camp tracker. Just seven weeks after the bubble season came to a close, practice is in session. The preseason will run from Dec. 11-19, and the regular season opens three days before Christmas. Here, we will highlight the latest news ahead of the 2020-21 campaign.

Get ready for Kevin Durant, small-ball center

The Brooklyn Nets are one of the biggest unknowns in the landscape of NBA contenders, and get ready for things to get a little weird at times under head coach Steve Nash.

Nets star Kevin Durant told ESPN on Wednesday that he is expecting to see some time at center and power forward in small ball lineups:

"I think Coach is going to use me in a variety of ways, especially as a small-ball 5 and 4 sometimes," Durant said. "And bringing the ball up, too, so I've just got to be ready for anything."

Durant’s effectiveness in small-ball lineups is well-established. The Golden State Warriors incinerated the league with their “Hamptons Five” lineup, in which Durant played alongside Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala. The Nets could very well create a similar lineup with Durant and, say, Kyrie Irving, Caris LeVert, Joe Harris and Spencer Dinwiddie. New acquisition Jeff Green also saw plenty of time as a small-ball center with the Houston Rockets.

Durant’s length as a nominal small forward gives the Nets the ability to do a lot of fun stuff on offense, though the question will be if Durant is ready to guard the paint while taking the floor with only guards and wings.

Carmelo Anthony is OK coming off the bench with the Blazers

Carmelo Anthony will “make it work” if he has to come off the bench for the Portland Trail Blazers during the 2020-21 NBA season.

Anthony gave a refreshingly honest quote about the situation Friday, explaining he had to talk himself into the idea.

Anthony knows Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum aren’t going to come off the bench, leaving Anthony third on the guard depth chart. While Anthony said he would “make it happen” in that scenario, he admitted it was tough to come to that decision. Anthony said it was hard to think about coming off the bench, and that it weighed on his pride and ego. Ultimately, it sounds as though Anthony is willing to make the best of the situation.

That’s a pretty big change from where Anthony stood on that subject a few years back. In 2017, Anthony was vehemently against the idea of coming off the bench for the Oklahoma City Thunder. He mostly played a bench role with the Houston Rockets before the team parted ways with Anthony after just 10 games during the 2018-19 NBA season.

After months away from the NBA, Anthony signed with Portland last season, where he started 58 games with the team.

Paul George says he wants to retire as a member of the Clippers

Paul George has only spent one season with the Los Angeles Clippers, but he’s committed to the team for life. George said Friday he wants to retire as a member of the Clippers’ organization.

George made those comments as he enters a potential walk year. While George has two years left on his contract, he can opt out of his final year following the 2020-21 NBA season. Though George is set to make $37 million in the final year of his deal, he’ll likely opt out to receive a multi-year, mega deal worth much more than that.

While that’s encouraging, Clippers fans shouldn’t read too much into those comments. It’s not like George is going to talk about leaving the Clippers while he still has a year to go with the team. It’s also in George’s best interest to try and get the best contract possible, and maybe his comments were a negotiating ploy to get the Clippers moving on an extension.

In his first season with the Clippers, George averaged 21.5 points and 5.7 rebounds. Paul, however, received criticism for his performance in the playoffs, where he shot .398 percent from the field, including .333 percent from 3-point range.

NBA to suspend testing players for marijuana in 2020-21

The NBA will not randomly test players for marijuana this season, per The New York Times’ Marc Stein.

The league does not randomly test players for marijuana during the offseason and previously suspended testing in the bubble at Walt Disney World in Orlando. Prior to the restart, a first-time positive test for marijuana entered a player into the league’s drug program. A second positive test resulted in a $25,000 fine, and a third warranted a five-game suspension, with five more games added to each ensuing positive test.

“Due to the unusual circumstances in conjunction with the pandemic, we have agreed with the National Basketball Players Association to suspend random testing for marijuana for the 2020-21 season and focus our random testing program on performance-enhancing products and drugs of abuse,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement to Stein.

In recent years, NBA commissioner Adam Silver has been open to discussing changes to the league’s policy on marijuana and seeking further information on its impact on mental wellness, positive and negative.

NBA to set new trade and waiver deadline dates

The NBA plans to schedule the 2021 trade deadline for March 25, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania.

The league’s 72-game condensed schedule will run from Dec. 22 through May 16, shifting the deadline back more than a month. In recent seasons, the NBA has coincided the trade deadline with the All-Star break. There is a break from March 5-10 this season, but the league will not host an All-Star Game.

According to Charania, April 9 will be the deadline for players to be waived and signed to a roster in time to be eligible for the playoffs. The NBA is holding a play-in tournament for the final two playoff seeds in each conference from May 18-21, followed by the start of the first round of the postseason on May 22.

Nets' Caris LeVert: NBA 'wasn't the same' without Kevin Durant

Brooklyn Nets guard Caris LeVert gave reporters a progress report on teammate Kevin Durant on Thursday, saying the forward looked as advertised while working out together in Los Angeles.

“It was good to see Kevin come back from a tough injury like that,” LeVert said. “I think that Kevin is right back where he was and I think everybody will see that. I’m excited. I’m excited for him, I’m excited for everybody to get him back, because the game honestly wasn’t the same without him. I know he’s super-excited to get back to playing.”

For more on LeVert’s assessment of Durant, check out the full report here.

Anthony Davis finalizing five-year deal with the Lakers

As expected, All-Star forward Anthony Davis is finalizing a new five-year, $190 million deal with the Los Angeles Lakers, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

During his first season with the Lakers, Davis averaged 26.1 points and 9.3 rebounds while helping lead the Lakers to their first NBA championship since 2010.

For the full report, click here.

Nearly 9 percent of NBA players tested return positive COVID-19 results

With the new NBA season weeks away, the league announced on Wednesday that 8.8 percent of players in a recent round of league-wide testing returned positive results for COVID-19.

In a joint statement with the NBPA, the league announced that 48 out of 546 players tested from Nov. 24-30 were infected with the coronavirus. It marked the first set of widespread testing in the league since the conclusion of the 2019-20 season.

For more on the first round of coronavirus testing of the 2020-21 NBA season, read the full report here.

Rockets trading Russell Westbrook to Wizards for John Wall, draft pick

Russell Westbrook got his wish.

The Houston Rockets reached a deal to send Westbrook to the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night in exchange for John Wall and a future first-round draft pick, the team announced.

[Goodwill: Russell Westbrook-John Wall trade indicative of where both players stand in today's NBA]

Check out a complete breakdown of the trade here.

Danuel House Jr. apologizes after COVID-19 bubble 'mishap'

Houston Rockets forward Danuel House Jr. had a, well, unusual and abrupt end to the 2019-20 season.

House left the NBA bubble at Walt Disney World early last season after the league determined he spent multiple hours with an unauthorized guest in his hotel room, a clear violation of the league’s COVID-19 policy.

On Wednesday, when House met with the media for the first time since the incident, the 27-year-old quickly apologized.

For more on House’s apology, click here.

Paul George slams his role, Clippers chemistry under Doc Rivers

Reports about preparation issues and preferential treatment for Kawhi Leonard under coach Doc Rivers dogged the Los Angeles Clippers prior to Rivers’ exit. But the complaints were relegated to reports and rumors, with players largely declining to publicly put their name on the problems.

On Wednesday, Paul George did put a name to it — his and Rivers’ — in a candid takedown of Clippers problems last season on the “All the Smoke” podcast.

George — who joined Leonard as a first-year Clipper in last season’s roster overhaul that set up championship expectations — was not happy with his role in Rivers’ offense.

For more on George’s assessment of the Clippers’ chemistries issues, check out the full report here.

LiAngelo Ball to sign Exhibition 10 deal with Detroit Pistons

The Detroit Pistons are signing LiAngelo Ball — the middle brother of New Orleans Pelicans point guard Lonzo Ball and Charlotte Hornets rookie LaMelo Ball — to a one-year non-guaranteed contract, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania. The contract is an Exhibition 10 deal that can be terminated at any point.

An Exhibition 10 contract is a training camp invitation that guarantees the signee between $5,000 and $50,000. LiAngelo Ball’s deal can also be sent to the G League or converted to a two-way contract.

Ball was a practice player for the Oklahoma City Thunder’s G League affiliate last season. He signed a deal with the OKC Blue in March but never appeared in a game, as the coronavirus pandemic hit shortly after.

Upon leaving UCLA during a suspension levied before he ever played a collegiate game, Ball played professionally for Prienai in the Lithuanian Basketball League. The 22-year-old averaged 12.6 points (on 43/42/63 shooting splits) and 2.9 rebounds in 21.7 minutes over 14 games before suffering from injury.

LeBron James agrees to extension with Lakers

LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers have reached an agreement on a two-year, $85 million contract extension that runs through the 2022-23 season, his agent Rich Paul of Klutch Sports told Yahoo Sports.

The 16-time All-Star led the Lakers to the championship in October, capturing Finals MVP honors.

Check out the full report from Haynes here.

NBA opening night: Kevin Durant vs. Warriors and Lakers-Clippers

The NBA has scheduled a blockbuster opening-night slate for the 2020-21 season.

When the league tips on Dec. 22, the Brooklyn Nets will host the Golden State Warriors before the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers do battle. Both games will be broadcast on TNT and are obviously subject to unforeseen changes caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The schedule makers pitted Kevin Durant against Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and the Golden State Warriors for the first time since Durant left the organization in 2019 free agency. Durant missed all of last season with the Achilles injury he suffered as a member of the Warriors in Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals.

For more on the opening-night schedule, check out the complete breakdown here.

Clippers waive Joakim Noah — is he retiring?

The Los Angeles Clippers waived center Joakim Noah, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Noah signed with the Clippers for last season’s NBA bubble and made seven appearances in the regular season and playoffs.

His agent Bill Duffy told Wojnarowski that Noah is “likely headed toward retirement.” If so, Noah will retire after 13 seasons that include two All-Star bids, three All-Defensive honors, and a 2013-14 campaign that earned him First Team All-NBA and Defensive Player of the Year honors as a member of the Chicago Bulls.

Noah has averaged 8.8 points (49.1 FG%, 70 FT%), nine rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.3 blocks in 27.7 minutes per game for his career. He won back-to-back NCAA championship at the University of Florida.

The Clippers also re-signed veteran guard Reggie Jackson on a one-year deal, according to Wojnarowski. Jackson, 29, averaged 11.9 points and 4.1 assists with the Clippers and Detroit Pistons last season.

Lakers, Clippers, Bucks highlight reported NBA Christmas Day schedule

With the NBA season slated to tip off just days before Christmas, the league has put together its traditional holiday schedule packed with games throughout Christmas Day, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports.

The five-game slate will feature many of the league’s best teams and biggest stars — from LeBron James to Zion Williamson — while providing early looks at some of basketball’s most-anticipated revamped lineups.

Check out our complete breakdown of the Christmas Day schedule here.

Kevin Durant says he’s going ‘hard’ during drills

Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant should be ready for the 2020-21 season. Durant said Tuesday he’s “gone as hard” as he can during drills as he attempts to return from an Achilles injury. Durant didn’t want to say he’s been going 100 percent, because no 14-year veteran is going 100 percent in practice drills.

“Every drill I’ve done, I’ve gone as hard as I could. One hundred percent? S---, I’ve been in the league 14 years. Even If I didn’t have an Achilles, I wouldn’t be 100 percent,” he said.

Durant, 32, is attempting to return from a torn Achilles tendon. He suffered the injury during Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors. The Raptors went on to win the series in six games.

Durant signed with the Nets following that series, but missed the first year of a four-year maximum contract with the injury. The former MVP is expected to make his Nets debut at the start of the 2020-21 season.

Durant denies recruiting James Harden to Nets

Facing questions for the first time on Tuesday since an ESPN report that he has discussed with James Harden the possibility of playing together on the Nets, Durant denied the report and chastised media.

“I don’t know where you’re making these stories up that me and James talked about any of this at a workout,” Durant told reporters on a conference call, per the Houston Chronicle’s Matt Young. “I don’t know where that came from. James is a friend of mine, but I let the front office handle all of that stuff.”

Check out more on Harden’s reported interest in Brooklyn and Durant’s history with the media here.

Two Warriors test positive for COVID-19, delaying training camp

The Golden State Warriors have delayed the start of training camp due to a pair of players testing positive for COVID-19, general manager Bob Myers told reporters on Tuesday. Individual workouts were supposed to start on Tuesday, but will now kick off on Wednesday. Team practices are scheduled to start on Monday.

Myers did not disclose which players tested positive, just as the Washington Wizards did earlier in the day. He also did not discuss their health status. Every player — including camp invites — were all tested.

For more on what impact these cases will have on the Warriors and the NBA, read the full reporter here.

Doc Rivers on a bubble-free season: 'I’m very concerned’

Doc Rivers may be the head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers now, but he is still the same Doc. He is still giving honest answers to difficult questions, and Tuesday’s news conference was no different. With the new NBA season starting on Dec. 22 and COVID-19 cases rising all over the country, ESPN’s Cassidy Hubbarth asked Rivers what his concerns are about playing the season without the benefit of a bubble.

He didn’t sugarcoat it: He’s worried.

For more on Rivers and the NBA’s coronavirus concerns, check out the full report here.

Mo Bamba still ‘a ways away’ from returning to Magic

Almost six months after Mo Bamba’s positive COVID-19 diagnosis, Orlando Magic coach Steve Clifford said at the start of training camp there is still no telling when the third-year center can return to action.

Bamba tested positive for the coronavirus on June 11. He joined the Magic in the Orlando bubble for the July restart, but his body failed to respond to the Magic’s conditioning marks. After Bamba played a total of 10:47 in the second halves of Orlando’s first two seeding games, the team ruled the 22-year-old lottery pick out for the season. Bamba then underwent a post-virus evaluation by the team’s medical and training staff.

“The doctors have ruled out anything serious, but it will take some time to clear his system,” Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman told reporters in September. “That’ll probably be measured in months not weeks. That’s really something that is not going to be a long-term issue. He’s going to have a complete recovery, but we’ll probably have to monitor his workload as we get through that, that’s all.”

Also in September, Bamba declared, “I’ll be ready” for the start of the 2020-21 campaign. That does not appear to be the case, a startling reminder how little is known about long-term effects of the coronavirus.

The Magic are also without rising defensive standout Jonathan Isaac, the former No. 6 overall pick who will miss the entirety of this coming season with the torn left ACL and meniscus he suffered in the bubble.

Kristaps Porzingis out ‘until at least January’

As NBA training camps launched on Tuesday, Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle provided more clarity on Kristaps Porzingis’ health status following surgery in October to repair a lateral meniscus tear in his right knee, telling reporters that the All-Star big man will not be available for games “until at least January.”

“His rehab has gone without issue,” Carlisle told reporters during his media availability, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. “He’s on schedule. If anything, we’re having to hold him back right now. He’s back to doing light court work, so things are going well. He will not, however, play until at least January.”

Mavericks president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson previously told reporters last month that the team would not rush Porzingis’ rehab, suggesting, “He’s going to [return sometime] into the season.

Porzingis suffered the injury 20 minutes into Game 1 of the Mavericks’ first-round playoff series with the Los Angeles Clippers. He returned to play significant minutes in Games 2 and 3 before being ruled out for the remainder of the series. Luka Doncic helped Dallas push the Clippers to six games before a first-round exit.

For more on Porzingis’ knee injury and what it means for the Mavericks, check out the full breakdown.

Unnamed Wizards player diagnosed with COVID-19

An unnamed Washington Wizards player has tested positive for the coronavirus, coach Scott Brooks told reporters on Monday. It is the NBA’s first known positive test since reopening its doors for 2020-21.

According to the Washington Post’s Ava Wallace, the unnamed player is new to the Wizards roster and has yet to join the team in Washington, D.C. The Wizards were also without the recently re-signed Davis Bertans at the start of training camp. The Latvian flamethrower’s return has reportedly been delayed by visa issues.

John Collins ‘optimistic’ about securing contract extension

Fourth-year Atlanta Hawks big man John Collins told reporters on Tuesday that he remains “optimistic” about securing a contract extension that is weighing heavily on his mind before the Dec. 21 deadline.

“Every time I come into the gym, it’s definitely the first thing on my mind,” Collins said. “Obviously, my agents and the Hawks are working every day to try to get to a deal and an agreement, so I’m trying to stay optimistic, stay positive and develop bonds with my new teammates. And that’s all I can really do.”

Four members of the NBA’s 2017 draft class — Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell, Bam Adebayo and De’Aaron Fox — have signed max contract extensions to their rookie deals, valued between $163 and $196 million through 2026, depending on the salary cap and their All-NBA status. Collins wants to be the fifth.

“When we’re talking max numbers and money, I feel like I definitely [am in] the conversation to have earned that money with the Hawks specifically,” Collins told the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Sarah K. Spencer in May, “but obviously I know there’s business and we don’t always get exactly what we want.”

Collins averaged 21.6 points and 10.1 rebounds in 33.2 minutes over 41 games last season. However, the Hawks frontcourt has gotten a lot more crowded since February. Atlanta traded for 26-year-old center Clint Capela, drafted big man Onyeka Okongwu and signed stretch forward Danilo Gallinari in free agency.

Miami Heat reveal latest and final ‘Vice’ jerseys

The Miami Heat and Nike dialed up the pastel with the fourth installment of their “Vice” City Edition alternate jerseys, revealing an eye-popping version of the popular scheme for the 2020-21 campaign.

The Heat first revealed the throwback jerseys in 2017 as an homage to the popular 1980s television drama “Miami Vice.” City Edition jerseys generally change from year to year, but the Heat have continued to put a new spin on their alternates as they have grown in popularity. Starting with a darker “VICE Nights” theme in 2017, the team has cycled through brighter “Sunset VICE” and “ViceWave” editions over the last two years.

The latest edition, which the Heat contend will be the last of the line, is called “ViceVersa,” featuring pink on one side, light blue on the other and blending into a violet in the middle — a stunningly original NBA jersey.

“Vice began as a journey — a trip back through time to a reality where 1988 never ended,” Jennifer Alvarez, Miami’s vice president of creative and digital marketing, said in a release. “Each campaign has pushed us further and further outside the creative confines of the Heat brand and each has been hugely successful and a ton of fun to work on. ViceVersa is a graphic microcosm that envisions the Heat brand of the future.”

Per ESPN’s Zach Lowe, the Heat have sold more than 120,000 City Edition jerseys since 2017, “generating five times more revenue than equivalent sales from the team’s three championship seasons combined.”

A number of teams unveiled their alternate jerseys on Tuesday, including the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Clippers. Check out our complete look at all the City Edition jerseys revealed around the league.

Celtics star Kemba Walker sidelined until January

The Boston Celtics have shelved Kemba Walker until at least the start of January, as the All-Star point guard continues to recover from a lingering left knee injury, the team announced on Monday morning.

On the advice of multiple specialists, Walker received a stem-cell injection in October. He began a 12-week strengthening program that has him scheduled to return to on-court action early this month. Walker’s game availability will be reevaluated the first week of January, when the Celtics plan to provide another update.

“We are just being very cautious with Kemba,” Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge told Boston radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Toucher and Rich Show” on Monday. Ainge added in the interview, “We are maintaining this strengthening program, which he has been very, very diligent in so far, and we’re encouraged that he will be able to return at full speed. But we do not want to rush the program.”

For more on Walker’s knee injury and what it means for the Celtics, check out the full breakdown here.