December 2017 Basketball Wiretap

Magic Hired Becky Bonner By Showing Roadmap To Becoming NBA GM

Dec 27, 2017 10:42 AM

Becky Bonner is the director of player development and quality control for the Orlando Magic and may one day become the NBA's first female general manager.

"I just think she's got unlimited potential," said Jeff Weltman, who hired Bonner from the league office in June, with the promise of full involvement in basketball operations and the belief she could one day run a team of her own.

"I want to be a GM," said Bonner.

Many teams attempted to hire Bonner in recent years but Weltman was the first to explicitly offer a roadmap to becoming a GM. Weltman's mother, Arlene, was an early NBA trailblazer as one of Commissioner David Stern's top executives in the 1980s.

Bonner was a Division I player who worked in the league office for six years. Bonner is the sister of Matt Bonner and Luke Bonner.

As Kim Bohuny, the NBA's senior vice president of international basketball operations, and a longtime mentor, told Bonner in the spring, "You can be a pioneer."

"She could be the first female general manager," Bohuny recalls Weltman saying.

Bohuny's advice to Bonner was just as direct: "I said, 'Becky, you have all the intangibles to do this. You can be a pioneer. You've grown up on the game. ... If this is what you want, this could be an incredible opportunity for you, and you could pave the way for so many women.'"

There have been a number of female hires across the league in recent years. Amanda Green has been with the Thunder since 2012 and is a cap expert. Teresa Resch has been the Raptors since 2013 and she is now vice president of basketball operations and player development. Linda Luchetti has been vice president of player operations for Utah since 2015 after a decade with the franchise. Michelle Leftwich was hired away from the league office by the Hawks to be their cap expert. The Nets hired Natale Jay to be their contracts and salary cap specialist. 

Ariana Andonian has been a scout for the Rockets for three years and remains the only female scout in the NBA. Veteran scouts surveyed by BR Mag say they know of no others.

Howard Beck/Bleacher Report

Tags: Orlando Magic, NBA, NBA Misc Rumor, NBA B-Ball IQ

Kevin Durant: Coming To Warriors Allowed Me To Unlock Parts Of My Game

Dec 26, 2017 11:22 AM

Kevin Durant has been emboldened to test his individual gifts during his second season with the Golden State Warriors.

“I’ve always been free, but coming here allowed me to unlock parts of my game,” Durant told Yahoo Sports. “I knew I had certain abilities, but I wasn’t as confident in it. That’s why you play the game.

“Nothing’s changed, and it’s weird because all I’ve seen is emotional moments. … ‘Anything is possible,’ with KG. MJ on the floor crying, ’Bron crying after he won for Cleveland. KG waited [13] years to win. MJ’s father died before one of his championships, and he was crying. ’Bron cried after he brought one back to Cleveland, where he grew up and he left and came back. For me, I didn’t have the incentives coming into the championship. I had no incentives. It was strictly basketball.

“Once we got it done, I sat back and reflected and patted myself on my back a bit. I worked hard for this. I enjoyed seeing it all come to fruition and now I have to test my ceiling.”

Durant has become one of the NBA's better defensive players since joining the Warriors. Those close to Durant say that part of his game has been the product of self-introspection.

“He’s so locked in,” Quinn Cook, the Warriors’ two-way player, told Yahoo Sports. “I’ve never seen somebody so locked in at all times. I’m at his crib all day. He’ll have his headphones in just watching videos and highlights. We’ll watch full games together, no matter the hour of the day.”

“The defensive aspect has evolved because of me being a student of the game, wanting to be great at every part of it,” Durant told Yahoo Sports. “I knew that was the next step. That was hard for me as a scorer in my career, focusing on defense every single possession. Nobody told me I need to work on my defense, but it was a matter of me thinking about it every possession.”

Shams Charania/Yahoo! Sports

Tags: Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors, NBA, NBA B-Ball IQ

Stephen Curry: Kevin Durant's Arrival Gave Me A New Challenge

Dec 18, 2017 6:20 PM

Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant have formed a partnership that may be used as an example for future superstar pairings.

“We understood that at the end of the day it was all about winning,” Curry said.

“This was no kind of, for lack of a better term, pissing contest when it came to how we were going to get it done.”

“I appreciated his journey and how hard he worked,” Durant said. “Steph didn’t have problems. He still decided to work and become the best shooter to ever play and become the best player in the league.”

While Curry had to live up to being the son of a former NBA player, Durant was a prodigy who grew up with a single mother.

“I’ve always had a hard time understanding what those pressures might have felt like from that early an age,” Curry said. “I never had the expectations that every time he sets foot on the floor he’s going to be the best player, he’s going to be this guy that everybody’s talking about. There’s only a few that have had that kind of pressure put on them and still been successful, made it on to the NBA. I have an appreciation for that.”

The arrival of Durant forced Curry to reconsider the way he plays the game.

“It just gave me a new challenge,” Curry said. “You still have to be efficient, effective and play the game the right way.”

J.A. Adande/The Athletic

Tags: Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors, NBA, NBA B-Ball IQ

Chris Paul: We're Playing The Right Way And Trying To Get Better

Dec 14, 2017 10:11 AM

The Houston Rockets are 12-0 in games played by Chris Paul this season.

"It's all good and well. It's nice," said Paul. "I've been on a team that won 17 games in a row, and it didn't feel like that. You know what I mean? Just because it's all about playing the right way, it's all about building. You can win however many games you want in a row. It means nothing if you're not playing the right way, but right now we're playing the right way and still trying to get better."

Paul scored a season-high 31 points to go with seven rebounds and 11 assists during the Rockets' win on Wednesday.

"Just to see him have that confidence and shoot that and be aggressive and get in his bag, as we call it, it's a great sight," said James Harden. "Not only to fans and teammates, but everybody around the world loves to see Chris Paul do that. Hopefully he can continue that and continue to get that confidence to where if he wants to shoot the ball three, four, five, six times in a row, he can do it."

Tim MacMahon/ESPN

Tags: Chris Paul, Houston Rockets, NBA, NBA B-Ball IQ

James Harden Has Increased PPG Off Isos From 6.6 To 10.6

Dec 13, 2017 1:02 PM

James Harden has led the NBA in points off isolation possessions over the past two seasons at 6.4 and 6.6 points per game.

This season, Harden is scoring 10.6 points per game off isolations. Harden is scoring 1.28 points per possession on isolations. 

"Last year, I thought he was unbelievable," said Mike D'Antoni. "Now I guess I've got to come up with a new word. I don't know what he is this year. He's gone up another level, which I didn't think was possible."

Harden has hit 26 of his 46 step-back three-point attempts this season. Harden has been perfecting that shot for years. Harden only attempted 13 of those three-pointers during his three seasons with the Thunder. During his first season, Harden took 33 step-back three-pointers and hit 30.3 percent of those attempts. Harden attempted 70 last season and has been hitting them at a 40 percent clip over the past two seasons.

Tim MacMahon/ESPN

Tags: James Harden, Houston Rockets, NBA, NBA B-Ball IQ

Sean Marks Continuing To 'Bet On Staff' With Nets' Trades

Dec 8, 2017 12:55 PM

The Brooklyn Nets have made a pair of "second draft" moves in trading for Jahlil Okafor and D'Angelo Russell. The hope is that the new situation maximizes the talent that people saw in Okafor and Russell during the draft process less than three years ago.

“Well, I think in any trade or acquisition, you’re essentially going to bet on your staff,” Sean Marks said. “That’s what we’ll do.”

The Nets still have one more draft without their first round pick.

“We’re not trying to get this all back in one fell swoop, or anything like that," Marks said. "We’ll see what opportunities arise over the next year or 18 months, two years, three years and so forth. [That is] the same thing we’ve done over the last 18 months."

Tim Bontemps/Washington Post

Tags: Brooklyn Nets, NBA, NBA B-Ball IQ

Mike D'Antoni: Incorporating Chris Paul Has Worked Better Than Our Wildest Dreams

Dec 7, 2017 1:44 PM

While it is still early, the Houston Rockets have worked Chris Paul into their backcourt with James Harden and Eric Gordon exceptionally well.

The Rockets have yet to lose a game in which Paul has played.

While the Rockets have a net rating of plus-4.8 in the 149 minutes when Harden and Paul have played together, their individual net ratings have skyrocketed from the time spent taking turns (16.1 for Paul, 13.2 for Harden). 

 “I knew that Chris and (shooting guard) Eric (Gordon), or James and Eric, in the time that they’re together, would arguably be one of the best backcourts in the league – Eric is that good,” Mike D’Antoni said. “And so, we start with that. And then it’s, ‘Ok, when they’re not on, it’s James and Chris. Can they do it?’

“It’s been seamless, (even though) I thought there might be some bumps. But because of their willingness, and their knowledge of the game and their willingness to share the ball, and Chris and James both willing to be the sidekick for a play or two, then it’s worked out quicker than expected…. It’s worked out better than our wildest dreams.”

Sam Amick/USA Today

Tags: Chris Paul, Houston Rockets, NBA, NBA B-Ball IQ