Adam Silver Calls the N.B.A. ‘a 52-Week-a-Year Sport’

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — After two weeks of Anthony Davis’s trade request dominating conversation around the N.B.A., Commissioner Adam Silver on Saturday sounded sanguine about any possible negative effects it was having on the league.

“Some of the greatest players in the history of this league have demanded trades at various points of their contracts,” he said at his annual All-Star weekend address. He went on to say that there was “very little” he could do to completely stop players from trying to force trades.

Davis was fined $50,000 for the public trade request made by his agent, Rich Paul. Silver said it was healthy for players and their agents to have ongoing conversations with their teams about future intentions, but that he preferred that such conversations happen behind closed doors. As for the frenzy of news media attention surrounding Davis and his possible destination this summer, Silver said the “public spectacle” wasn’t the type of media interest the league wanted.

“We certainly are becoming a 52-week-a-year sport, and it’s largely the result of tremendous interest in these players,” he said. “I think we could do a better job as a league in avoiding those situations where they get to the point where players are maybe demanding they be traded or, worst-case scenario, saying, ‘I’m not going to honor my contract.’”

Silver has frequently stated a desire to improve the N.B.A.’s competitive balance. Asked whether small-market teams could compete with large-market franchises, Silver largely disputed the premise without even citing the fact that the Milwaukee Bucks, a small-market club, currently have the best winning percentage in the league.

He took the opposite approach.

“I’m not even sure where the line is anymore on big markets,” he said, pointing out that the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls — teams that play in major cities — have struggled on the court in recent years.

Silver also said it was too early to judge whether reforms to the draft lottery, intended to reduce the incentive to tank in pursuit of a high draft pick, were having the intended effect. Four teams this year are on pace to win fewer than 20 games, but Silver said there is also an unusually large number still in contention for a playoff berth.

“I personally don’t think it is a winning strategy over the long term, losing for multiple years,” said Silver. He also said that choosing to be uncompetitive for an extended period of time would most likely have a “corrosive’’ effect on any team that took that approach.

Taken together, Silver’s responses to questions suggested that he was relatively happy with the state of the N.B.A. and believed that the league’s problems could be solved through tweaks to the system, not wholesale changes.

Silver opened the news conference by addressing House Bill 2, the law passed in North Carolina in 2016 that invalidated local government ordinances establishing anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and required people in publicly owned buildings to use restrooms that corresponded with the genders listed on their birth certificates. In response to the law, the N.B.A. took the All-Star Game, originally scheduled to be played in Charlotte in 2017, away from the city.

He said it was the view of the league office that the law discriminated against the LGBTQ community, and subsequently the N.B.A. made the decision that it was “inconsistent with the values of this league to play the All-Star Game here under those circumstances.” The N.B.A. decided to return after the law was partially repealed.

Asked about efforts to improve the culture of the Dallas Mavericks, where a league investigation found numerous instances of sexual harassment and improper conduct among employees, Silver offered few specifics but said there was a “complete sea change in culture on the business side” of the organization.

Earlier Saturday, the N.B.A., in partnership with the International Basketball Federation, announced the formation of the Basketball Africa League, a 12-team professional league made up of clubs from across Africa. The league will begin play in 2020, the first time that the N.B.A. will be involved in the operation of a league outside of North America.

Many details, including which clubs from which countries will be part of the league, have yet to be finalized, but Silver did say that former President Barack Obama would be involved in the league in an unspecified capacity.

Email Kevin Draper at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter: @kevinmdraper.

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Anthony Davis praises Knicks while putting rival back in play

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Yes, Anthony Davis confirmed the Knicks are on his list of preferred destinations with the Lakers, Clippers and Bucks, but he also denied Saturday during the All-Star Weekend festivities any notion the Celtics are not on that list, too.

That is not the best news for the Knicks in the trade sweepstakes that will likely resume after the lottery decides teams’ draft positions.

The Knicks figured to have an in because of Davis’ reported preference to play in New York long-term in addition to the Lakers. Davis praised the Knicks on Saturday and said playing in the Garden was special.

“It’s a great franchise, playing in the Garden, the city.” Davis said. “But also Milwaukee was on that list too. It doesn’t matter about big market, small market. It’s all about winning for me. It’s what the best fit is for me’’

However, he made a strong point to dispute reports he didn’t want to play for Boston long-term. Davis’ father recently ripped the Celtics for their mistreatment of Isaiah Thomas.

The Celtics figure to have larger stockpile of assets than the Knicks – unless the Knicks get one of the top two picks.

“They’re on my list,’’ Davis said of Boston. “They were never not on my list.”

Later on NBA TV, Davis said, “All 29 teams are on my list. I don’t have a preferred destination. I just want to win. Big market, small market. I want to win. I’ve never given a destination. Anthony Davis has never given a destination where he wants to play.”

The Knicks have a trove of young assets they can throw into a deal beyond their top lottery pick.

Those include Kevin Knox, Dennis Smith Jr., Frank Ntilikina, Mitchell Robinson and Dallas’ two future first-round picks obtained in the Kristaps Porzingis trade.

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LeBron James gives scouting report on Zion Williamson

The NBA’s King got a first-hand look at today’s king of college basketball — and he was impressed.

LeBron James — who had a front-row seat with Lakers teammate Rajon Rondo during Duke’s 81-71 victory over Virginia Saturday in Charlottesville, Va. — had nothing but praise for Blue Devils star Zion Williamson.

James said he is especially impressed with the maturity of the 18-year-old and how he responded to Scottie Pippen saying he should sit out the rest of the season to avoid injury and secure his NBA earning potential because it’s very likely he will be the No. 1 pick in the draft.

“I can relate in a sense of he’s been covered since he was in high school and everybody is trying to compare him to the next this or the next that. But the best thing I’ve noticed is he seems like a good kid. He seems like he’s got his head on straight,” James told “And when they asked him about, you know, guys in our league and people who cover our league talking about, ‘If I was Zion Williamson, I would sit out for the rest of the year,’ he was like, ‘That’s [silly]. Why? I’m here to play basketball. I love to play basketball. I’m here at Duke, I’m having fun. These are my friends. I’m having a great time. Why would I sit out?’

“That’s the type of s— that strikes me,” said James, who also got a first-hand look at the incredible block Williamson made on De’Andre Hunter. “Everybody gets so caught up in the game itself. I look at the intangibles. And he seems like he has great intangibles and seems like a great kid.”

The out-of-this-world expectations at a young age and a similar all-around game aren’t the only things Williamson has in common with James.

The Duke big man, who is 6-foot-7 and 285 pounds, has a similar frame to the 6-8, 250-pound James. Like James, Williamson also is considered one of the best prospects ever to be on the NBA’s radar.

“What strikes me? His agility and his quickness,” James told the website. “For his size, how strong he is, to be able to move like the way he moves, he’s very impressive. I mean, everybody can see the athleticism. That’s obviously, that’s ridiculous. But the speed and the quickness that he moves [with] at that size is very impressive.”

James also made it clear he wasn’t trying to make a Lakers pitch to Williamson or any of the other highly-touted Duke freshman such as RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish and Tre Jones.

“A recruiting trip? I didn’t talk to anybody,” James said.

“It was a game between the [top] teams in the country,” James said, referring to his decision to jet down from Philadelphia the day before the Lakers’ 143-120 loss to the 76ers. “Coach K [Mike Krzyzewski] is my guy. And the flight was 35 minutes. So, it was easy. It was easy to be able to do it. It was my first time seeing Duke play, I think, in my life. I want to go to Cameron [Indoor Stadium] someday, too, though.”

There is a chance James could be attending more games at Cameron in the future.

Duke is a team his oldest son, LeBron James Jr., could join someday. Sources told ESPN he already has received a standing scholarship offer from Krzyzewski.

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Wisconsin basketball player says she's unfazed by backlash from her anthem protest

Marsha Howard, a basketball player at the University of Wisconsin, has been sitting during the national anthem. (Wisconsin Badgers website)

A senior forward who plays women's basketball for the University of Wisconsin is choosing to take a seat on the bench when the national anthem is played before games, according to reports.

When "The Star-Spangled Banner" is played, Marsha Howard, a native of Chicago, sits alone on the bench, closes her eyes and bows her head, the Chicago Tribune reported.

“If this can make a change, I’ll be part of it. I never really thought about the negative backlash. I’m going to live in my truth. I’m going to speak up about things that are harming my culture and my people. I was OK with living in that light," she told the paper.

"I never really thought about the negative backlash. I’m going to live in my truth. I’m going to speak up about things that are harming my culture and my people."


Howard sat in protest during a game at Iowa during the 2017-18 season that sparked U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, to tweet a reaction last year, Milwaukee radio station WTMJ reported.

"Iowa constituents asked me why a starter for Wisconsin women Bb wld not be patriotic enuf to stand for natl anthem song today," Grassley tweeted. "ASK THE WISCONSIN COACH /  Exprress outrage to university."

But Howard told the Tribune that she didn't fear backlash and concentrated on the "overwhelmingly positive responses" that supported her right to free speech.


“I just said, ‘What is he trying to say right now?’ ” Howard said. “Right after he made that tweet, I got 10 other good (tweets). I’m still getting more and more love and support from other outsiders. The positive far outweighs the negative.”

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With Anthony Davis on His Way Out, New Orleans Tries to Plot Its Path

NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans Pelicans have scuffled along for years as one of the N.B.A.’s worker-bee franchises, a respectable team but not one that has vied for championships. They lose as often as they win and play their home games in an arena called the Smoothie King Center, where a big-beaked mascot named Pierre roams the crowd.

But in recent seasons, the team has employed someone even more special: Anthony Davis, a gifted center and one of the best players in the league. Davis has a pterodactyl-length wingspan and a unibrow, which has become as much a part of his persona as his skyscraping dunks. Fans know him as “The Brow,” as if he were a superhero who draws strength from his facial hair.

New Orleans used to love him for it — until two weeks ago, when he shook the league and asked the Pelicans to trade him. The Pelicans, in return, made a bold move of their own: They refused to let him go, at least not yet.

Now Davis and New Orleans are stuck together in basketball purgatory — “It definitely is different,” said Jrue Holiday, the team’s starting point guard — and the city’s long-suffering sports fans can only wonder: What do we do now?

“It’s not a new thing that guys demand to be traded,” Alvin Gentry, the Pelicans coach, said in an interview, “but I thought the timing of it kind of put everybody in a tough situation.”

It has been a soul-crushing few weeks for sports fans here. They absorbed a major blow last month when the New Orleans Saints, who are as much a tent revival as football team, lost to the Los Angeles Rams in the N.F.L. playoffs after a missed call by the referees, which may have cost the Saints a trip to the Super Bowl.

A week later, Davis’s agent, Rich Paul, announced publicly that Davis wanted out of New Orleans and would not sign a contract extension.

“Now that he’s going to leave, I’m excited to see what we can get for him,” said Ryan Bergeron, a 22-year-old legal assistant from New Orleans who is a regular at Pelicans games. Like many fans, Bergeron owns one of Davis’s replica jerseys — which he plans to keep in the back of his closet.

“I think we’ll be better off without him,” Bergeron said.

Not so long ago, Davis was throwing beads from a float as an honorary grand marshal at a Mardi Gras parade. But the city’s feelings toward him have curdled like week-old étouffée.

On Friday night, when Davis played in his first home game for the Pelicans since his trade request, images of him were cut from a highlight package that played on the arena’s oversize video screens. The crowd showered him with boos that drowned out scattered cheers. As if to amplify his value while sticking it to those who expressed their displeasure, Davis collected 32 points and 9 rebounds.

“It’s life, man,” Davis said of his frosty reception. “Some people aren’t going to like you.”

New Orleans has dealt with its share of hardwood hardship. Franchises have come and gone, along with star players. The New Orleans Buccaneers were a charter member of the American Basketball Association from 1967 to 1970, but then relocated to Memphis. The New Orleans Jazz, founded as an N.B.A. expansion franchise in 1974, had a similarly abbreviated run before decamping for Utah in 1979.

The N.B.A. returned to New Orleans in 2002 — back when the team was known as the Hornets — and eventually found a franchise star in point guard Chris Paul, who led the team to three playoff appearances before he, too, told management before the start of the 2011-12 season that he would not sign a contract extension. New Orleans traded him to the Los Angeles Clippers, then finished with the worst record in the Western Conference.

But from the rubble of player discontent sprang fresh life in 2012: Tom Benson, then the owner of the Saints, bought the franchise, and the team, soon to be rebranded as the Pelicans, secured the top pick in the draft. (After Benson died last year, the ownership of both franchises was transferred to his wife, Gayle.) New Orleans used that pick on Davis, a freshman center who had just led Kentucky to an N.C.A.A. championship.

Now in his seventh season, Davis is a six-time All-Star who was averaging 29 points and 13.3 rebounds entering Monday. But he has been prone to injury, and he has never led the Pelicans on a deep playoff run. The organization has made missteps — Exhibit A: re-signing Omer Asik, a Turkish forward, to a $58 million deal in 2015 — but that does not make them unique among N.B.A. teams; they are trying to compete in one of the league’s smallest markets when stars are generally gravitating toward flashier and more well-established franchises.

Last season, the Pelicans were playing well behind Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, a perennial All-Star whom the team had acquired through a trade in 2017. But Cousins tore his Achilles’ tendon and missed the playoffs. Without him, the Pelicans still swept the Portland Trail Blazers in their first-round series before losing to the Golden State Warriors in the conference semifinals.

Still another problem was brewing for the Pelicans. In September, Davis changed agents and hired Paul, who is known for his close relationship with LeBron James, the Los Angeles Lakers’ star forward.

Paul’s tactics with the Pelicans in recent weeks in pursuit of a trade for Davis were unconventional. Tom Penn, a former executive with the Trail Blazers and an analyst for NBA TV, said in a telephone interview that most agents try to work with team executives behind the scenes. Paul, on the other hand, “threw a Molotov cocktail in the middle of the room,” Penn said.

It became a public spectacle, and the Pelicans responded by releasing a statement in which they said they would do a deal “on our own terms and our own timeline.” Sure enough, they rebuffed the Lakers — one of Davis’s preferred trade destinations — in their attempts to pry Davis loose.

Once Thursday’s trade deadline passed, the Pelicans landed a final jab by tweeting an emoji of an hourglass that had run out.

Aside from avoiding the public-relations pitfalls of being stuck with a star who no longer wants to be there, the Pelicans had little incentive to make a deal ahead of the trade deadline. More teams will be better positioned to make offers for Davis in the off-season, and the Pelicans’ haul in exchange for him could be huge.

New Orleans also showed some pluck. At a time when some players are seizing greater power to determine the arc of their careers, the Pelicans decided that they would trade Davis when they are ready.

Now, with Davis tethered to them for the remainder of the season — he is a lottery ticket they will wait to cash — the Pelicans are searching for a way forward.

“What we’re trying to do is get back to normal,” said Gentry, the team’s coach, “and what our new normal is — we haven’t quite figured it out yet.”

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Report: Toronto Raptors to sign veteran point guard Jeremy Lin

The Toronto Raptors are reportedly getting one of the top targets on the buyout market.

ESPN reports point guard Jeremy Lin is finalizing a buyout with the Atlanta Hawks to allow him to sign with the Toronto Raptors.

The 30-year-old Lin is averaging 10.7 points per game on 46.6 per cent shooting from the field this season.

The Raptors were looking for a third point guard after trading Delon Wright to the Memphis Grizzlies as part of the deal to acquire Marc Gasol last week.

In 457 career games, Lin is averaging 11.8 points and 4.4 assists on 43.6 per cent shooting

Global News

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ESPN wins battle for rising NBA Twitter star Cassidy Hubbarth

The NBA is a social media league with all kinds of Twitter drama. So it makes sense that when reporters make career decisions, there is a Twitter factor.

NBA sideline reporter/host Cassidy Hubbarth chose to stay with ESPN over an opportunity with Yahoo/Turner, and there is a Twitter component.

She will begin a new half-hour Twitter pregame show called “Hoop Streams” before showcase Saturday NBA games on ABC. The shows will be live from the arenas.

Hubbarth had an opportunity to leave for Yahoo/Turner, where she could have been part of the social media show, “The Bounce,” according to sources.

While ESPN often looks for free agents from outside, Hubbarth has worked her way up the Bristol system, having started on ESPN3, which is akin to Single-A.

Now, after nine years, Hubbarth is a regular part of the big league team as a sideline reporter on the NBA and a host on college football.

With 120,000 Twitter followers, her career has grown with the NBA’s social media presence.

“My role is kind of my dream role,” said Hubbarth, who just returned from maternity leave after giving birth to her first child, a girl.

The NBA plays out on Twitter far more than any other league. Axios had a recent chart that showed LeBron James with 89 million followers on social media (42 million on Twitter and 47 million on Instagram). James has more followers than every NFL, MLB and NHL All-Star combined, Axios said.

“Anything he tweets out turns into a thing,” Hubbarth said.

The NBA also had the top eight athletes for followers on Twitter/Instagram, with J.J. Watt and Mike Trout ninth and 10th, according to Axios.

For the NBA, it doesn’t stop with the players. When the league’s top insider, Adrian Wojnarowski, breaks a story, there are GIFs and memes with him dunking over his rival, Shams Charania, and vice versa when Charania is quicker to the tweet news break.

James even tweets about Woj, Shams and other reporters. The rise of Woj and Shams has been largely fueled by stories they first broke on Twitter.

It is all a big part of the NBA Twitter reality show. Hubbarth is a part of the scene.

“You get to know the players’ personalities a lot more in the NBA,” Hubbarth, 34, said. “It is a much more intimate sport than the other leagues. There are less players. They are not wearing helmets.

“It kind of takes on a life on its own on social media. Every day there is something meme-able or GIF-able.”

Where it goes next is almost impossible to predict, but ESPN is betting on Hubbarth to be a big part of it.

“I can’t tell you what the future of media is because I can’t tell you how studios are going to look, how game broadcasts are going to look in even five years,” Hubbarth said. “It is changing so much.”

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Knicks are one loss away from making worst possible history

Quicken Loans Arena hosted a raft of big playoff games across the past four years. Now it will stage the “Zion Bowl’’ when the Knicks invade Cleveland for Monday’s encounter between the teams with two of the NBA’s worst records.

The Knicks, at 10-45, have been dead last for two weeks, but a victory Monday would vault them past the 11-45 Cavaliers and the 11-47 Suns and out of the NBA’s basement.

Monday’s “Zion Bowl” can also be a landmark moment for the Knicks’ franchise. One more loss will extend the losing streak to 17 games — and give David Fizdale’s tank machine sole possession of the longest losing streak in team annals.

The Knicks tied the franchise’s worst losing streak at 16 on Saturday in a 104-99 loss to Toronto, after which Knicks coach David Fizdale seemed uplifted despite it being their 29th loss in 31 games. The Knicks, who haven’t won since beating the LeBron James-less Lakers on Jan. 4 in Los Angeles, have a shot of setting the worst record in their history — held by the 2014-15 Derek Fisher Knicks at 17-65.

Indeed, the close showing in which they held Toronto to 38 percent shooting was one of the top five moral victories this season.

“Whatever happens to us this year won’t make us crack or waver,’’ Fizdale said when asked if he’s concerned about the pile of defeats. “We’re going to keep chopping. I don’t see a crack in our spirit. We have a lot of character in the locker room.’’

The race for finishing at the NBA’s very bottom is not as compelling as in the past. In commissioner Adam Silver’s new lottery overhaul to prevent tanking, the worst three records share the same odds (14 percent) of winning the rights to the top pick, which is expected to be Duke’s 6-foot-7, 280-pound Mack Truck, Zion Williamson.

However, the team with the worst record has one benefit — it can’t fall beyond the fifth pick. Some NBA scouts consider this a weak draft after the top five picks.

The LeBron James-less Cavaliers have lost four straight, but are 2-8 in the past 10 games. Plus their star, Kevin Love, just returned from a toe injury after missing 50 games. Rookie point guard Collin Sexton, who is averaging 14.8 points on 40.9 percent shooting, could have something to prove after getting passed over as an injury replacement in the Rising Stars Challenge. Kevin Knox got the nod.

The Knicks were beaten in December in their last appearance in Cleveland, 113-106, and have since lost their leading scorer, Tim Hardaway Jr., in the Kristaps Porzingis trade 11 days ago. Point guard Dennis Smith Jr. has become their No. 1 option and the Knicks are expected to add a shooting-guard piece Monday in NBA sharpshooter John Jenkins, who will be signed to a 10-day contract.

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Knicks Test Raptors but Lose 16th in Row, Tying Team Record

Kyle Lowry scored a game-high 22 points and hit the 3-pointer with 7 minutes 3 seconds remaining that gave the Toronto Raptors the lead for good Saturday night in a 104-99 win over the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

Kevin Knox scored 20 points, and DeAndre Jordan posted a double-double with 10 points and 18 rebounds for the Knicks, who tied a franchise record by losing their 16th straight game.

Serge Ibaka registered a double-double (15 points and 13 rebounds) for the Raptors, who have the second-best record in the Eastern Conference (41-16) and have won four consecutive games. Danny Green scored 14 points and sank three straight 3-pointers in the fourth for Toronto. Norman Powell also had 14 points, and Kawhi Leonard (11) and Pascal Siakam (10) also scored in double figures.

Marc Gasol, playing his first game for the Raptors since he was acquired from the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday, scored 7 points and pulled down 6 rebounds in 19 minutes. He came off the bench for the first time since his rookie season in 2008-9.

Mitchell Robinson scored 15 points, Kadeem Allen added 14 points and Dennis Smith Jr. chipped in with 13 points and 6 assists for the Knicks, which has the worst record in the N.B.A. (10-45) and has dropped 24 of 25 and 29 of its last 31 games.

Despite the vast difference in fortunes, the Knicks gave the Raptors all they could handle.

After Leonard opened the game with a 3-pointer, the Knicks scored the next 14 points. They also tied the game three times early in the fourth quarter before Robinson’s three-point play gave them an 86-85 lead — their first since a 38-36 advantage with 3:48 left in the second quarter.

But Lowry responded for the Raptors with his go-ahead 3-pointer. After Jordan missed two free throws, Green drained three 3-pointers during a 9-4 run — interrupted only by two free throws and a layup from Allen — to give Toronto a 97-90 lead with 3:28 left.

The Knicks closed to 99-96 on Knox’s 3-pointer with 1:59 left. They had two chances to make it a one-point game, but Mario Hezonja and Smith each missed jumpers, and the Raptors iced the game by making five of their final six free throws.

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Kevin Durant: LeBron had to pick me first for his All-Star team

Kevin Durant was first again – and he wasn’t surprised.

For the second straight year team captain LeBron James made the Warriors star the first pick for his All-Star Game squad. Durant didn’t see any other way from James to go.

“What else is he supposed to do?” Durant told reporters after Golden State beat the Suns on Friday night.

The former MVP went onto take a few playful jabs at Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, the other All-Star Game captain, and his squad. He took Durant’s teammate Stephen Curry with the his first pick and second overall.

“Giannis is not from here, so I understand next year he’ll be better picking his team,” Durant said of the Greek Freak.

He noted that he liked the format of captains getting to pick their teams from the pool of players determined by fan, media, coaches and players. When asked what the incentive was for the All-Star Game, Durant nothing the increase in the money that goes to the players from the winning team. It was raised from $50,000 to $100,000 last season.

“I think that’s when it started to flip and guys started to play a little harder,” Durant said of Team LeBron’s 148-147 win this past year. “I think they did bump up the money if you win, so it’s a good incentive for guys too. But you got guys making $40 million. That little hundred thousand aint nothing to most guys out there, but it’s good to play for something.”

Curry said his is looking forward to playing against Durant and Klay Thompson on Sunday in Charlotte.

“It will be fun,” Curry said. “I’ll probably have to guard him at some point. Hopefully I’ll know their moves and be able to figure it out.”

Durant’s comments came during the end of a cordial press conference two days after he let out his frustrations with the media over the free-agency talk and Knicks rumors swirling around him. The Post’s Marc Berman has reported that, according to Dallas sources, the Knicks believe they have a strong chance at landing Durant, who denied any links to New York. The Knicks will have the salary-cap space to sign two free agents to max contracts.

“I have nothing to do with the Knicks,” Durant said Wednesday night. “I don’t know who traded [Kristaps] Porzingis. It got nothing to do with me. I’m trying to play basketball. Y’all come here every day asking me about free agency, ask my teammates, my coaches, rile up the fans about it.

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