While Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant faced the media in Brooklyn on Friday, a different tandem – James Harden and Russell Westbrook – detailed how they will attack the 2019-20 season with the Houston Rockets.

Houston acquired Westbrook this offseason in a trade with the Thunder, sending Chris Paul and two first-round picks to Oklahoma City while agreeing to swap two additional first-round picks.

The deal doubled-down the expectations placed on the Rockets to reach the NBA Finals, especially now that their perennial roadblock – the Golden State Warriors – will enter the year without Durant and Klay Thompson (torn ACL).

"If we don't win, I'll take all the blame for it," Harden told reporters at Rockets media day on Friday.

"That's just what the territory comes with. That's why you have to go out there and win. That's why we work extremely hard in the offseason to bring players in and whatever is necessary to give us the best chance to win. I know what's at stake."

Houston were bounced out of the playoffs last season by Golden State in the conference semifinals. The year prior, the Warriors spoiled Harden's MVP season by beating the Rockets in seven games in the Western Conference Finals.

The frustration that came with always looking up at Golden State led to Daryl Morey's move to trade for Westbrook, another former MVP who appeared to be plateauing in OKC even after the addition of Paul George.

Now with the reunion of Harden and Westbrook, who played alongside one another in the 2012 Finals with the Thunder, the two have to figure out how to co-exist once again.

Head coach Mike D'Antoni said there will be things to figure out once the season starts and added one or the other of the playmakers will be on the court at all times as he attempts to stagger their minutes.

"It's going to be scary," Westbrook said of a lineup that features both him and Harden. "That's all I can tell you. It's going to be scary. Not for us."

Harden is accustomed to carrying the burden for a team throughout the season as he led the NBA in usage percentage in 2018-19 by a large margin. However, he is not looking to Westbrook for help. Instead, he wants to unleash Westbrook by giving him the type of playing partner he has not had since Durant left OKC in 2016.

"I know from him having an entire organisation for 11 years that he had to play for and now he can come to an entire different chapter in his life to just go out there and play without having to stress and worry about the pressure of carrying an entire organisation," Harden said.

But, of course, everyone understands there will be games where either Harden or Westbrook takes over.

"If Russ got it going and has one of those games that we've all seen before, guess what I'm going to do? Sit back and watch the show and vice-versa," Harden said.

Westbrook added: "We have a friendship first outside of basketball. I think we communicate and understand each other. In the game, it's going to be easy. There will be times when I'm upset or he's upset, but we're going to sit there and let him know what he's doing right and vice-versa. I think that's the best way to complement each other."

Kyrie Irving has revealed how he plans to end his career playing alongside Kevin Durant as they prepare for a new chapter with the Brooklyn Nets.

After a tough season with the Boston Celtics, the point guard opted out of the final year of his contract and instead headed to the Nets, allowing him to join forces with Durant.

Irving admitted the duo were still unsure of their next move on the morning of free agency, though feels Brooklyn is the ideal destination to put down long-term roots.

"The morning of free agency, we still had no idea what we were doing," Irving told reporters at the team's media day. 

"We just want to care for one another in a way where we can build for the next four years and on. We want to end our careers together. 

"We want to do this as a team and what better place to do it than Brooklyn, with all these guys that had worked their tails off to be where they are now, to even be in a position here in Brooklyn."

The duo will have to wait to play together, however, as Durant is recovering from an Achilles injury suffered in Game 5 of the NBA Finals.

Irving declared he will "protect" his new team-mate and not push him to come back until he is ready, something he feels was not the case with the Golden State Warriors in last season's playoffs.

"We all know K was not ready to play," the six-time NBA All-Star said.

"We all know that, whether people want to admit it or not. He was out 31 days and we put him on a national stage in the Finals to end up selling a product that came before the person, Kevin.

"Now, I'm here to protect that. And I'm going to be the protector of that all throughout the year and not allowing anyone to infiltrate that circle."

Kevin Durant said he felt it was "time for a change" after last season and so did not give too much thought to the Golden State warriors as he signed for the Brooklyn Nets.

Durant appeared as a Nets player for the first time on Friday, addressing a news conference.

Questions predictably focused on his decision to leave the dynasty he helped build with the Warriors for the hot-and-cold Nets, who have made the playoffs just once in the past four seasons.

But Durant said his achievements with Golden State were not on his mind as he entered free agency.

"I felt like it was time for a change," he told reporters. "I wanted to play for a new team and, simply put, I just did it.

"I didn't really think about what I was leaving behind or what we accomplished. I put that up on the shelf already.

"When it was time to make a decision about my future, I thought solely about me."

Asked if he considered staying with the Warriors or joining a team like the Los Angeles Clippers or New York Knicks, Durant replied: "I thought about it for a couple of seconds."

The 10-time All-Star and two-time NBA Finals MVP was ruled out of the end of last season and is expected to miss all of the coming campaign following an Achilles injury in Game 5 of the Finals series against the Toronto Raptors.

Durant had just returned from injury and that swift comeback prompted Kyrie Irving, a fellow new Nets signing, appearing alongside Durant on Friday, to discuss his thoughts.

"We all know K was not ready to play in that environment," Irving said. "We all know that, whether people want to admit it or not.

"He was out 31 days and we put him on a national stage to end up selling a product that came before the person Kevin and now I'm here to protect that.

"I'm going to be a protector of that all throughout the year and not allow anyone to infiltrate that circle.

"We have expectations for our team. We obviously know he's an integral part, but we'll wait for that.

"I'm very patient. I'll be [overly] patient with Kevin because I don't want anything to happen like that again.  I want him to be 101 per cent healthy."

Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma has been sidelined indefinitely due to a foot injury.

On Thursday, the Lakers announced Kuzma is dealing with a stress reaction in his left foot sustained at the FIBA World Cup.

The Lakers issued a statement, saying Kuzma is "progressing with his rehabilitation" but has not been cleared for full practice or game participation.

Kuzma is scheduled to undergo an MRI when the Lakers returns from China, where they are playing a pair of NBA exhibition games against the Brooklyn Nets on October 10 and 12.

The third-year player suffered the injury while representing the United States at the World Cup, where Team USA finished seventh.

Kuzma averaged 18.7 points and 5.5 rebounds per game for the Lakers last season.

 

Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti refuted any negative sentiment towards former star Kevin Durant.

Presti addressed Durant's criticism of how bad the split was when it comes to the Thunder's fan base – the two-time NBA champion left Oklahoma City for the Golden State Warriors in 2016.

Durant went as far as saying he did not trust anyone at the Thunder and "that s*** must have been fake". 

The two-time NBA Finals MVP called out the franchise and Presti saying, "I ain't talked to none of those people, even had a nice exchange with those people, since I left".

However, Thunder GM Presti told reporters: "If there is anything that Kevin Durant ever, ever needed from me or from anyone here, it would be a moment's notice for that to happen.

"I also think if you work with people for eight years like we did, he and I — he was 19 when he came into the NBA, I was 29. We both went through a lot of changes together, and I have nothing but positive things to say about him and his tenure here.

"You've asked me that in the past. You've asked me that today. You can ask me that in the future if something like this comes up again. I'm never going to change that tune because that's how I feel."

Durant spent nine seasons with the Thunder before becoming a free agent and signing with the Warriors.

The 10-time All-Star ended up playing three seasons with the Warriors, earning back-to-back NBA titles, but signed with the Brooklyn Nets in free agency over the offseason. He is expected to miss the entire 2019-20 season with a torn Achilles.

"I would always be there if he needed anything from me, and I truthfully believe ... it would be reciprocated, as well," Presti added.

Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr explained why he was not surprised superstar Kevin Durant left the team to join the Brooklyn Nets.

Durant – who is expected to miss the upcoming NBA campaign due to an Achilles injury – signed a four-year, $164million deal with the Nets in the offseason after opting to become a free agent.

When asked about Durant's departure, Kerr said he could see it coming as he thought the Warriors' dominant line-up and team chemistry had seemingly "run its course".

"I don't know why," Kerr told "The Full 48" podcast. "I do think we're in a different era where players are more interested by new challenges ... players see that there's a huge expanse out there; there's this horizon with so many different opportunities. And so you're just gonna have fewer teams that stick together for a long period of time.

"And that's just kind of how it felt this year for us. This thing has a finite ending point and this is probably it."

Some speculated that the verbal confrontation between Durant and Draymond Green on November 12 was part of the reason the two-time NBA Finals MVP left, but Kerr refuted that theory. 

"We kind of lost some momentum internally. It wasn't anything tangible," Kerr explained. "People point to the Draymond-Kevin incident. I honestly don't think that was that big of a deal, as crazy as that sounds." 

As for whether there was anything the Warriors could do to keep the 10-time All-Star? Kerr said, "Probably not. ... this thing was running its course and we kind of felt like he was moving on."

Durant, a two-time NBA champion, averaged 25.8 points per game with 7.1 rebounds and 5.4 assists during his three seasons with the Warriors.

Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward is ready to bounce back.

The 29-year-old was inconsistent last season as he continued to recover from a devastating leg injury that cost him almost all of 2017-18.

Hayward, who left the Utah Jazz and signed a four-year, $128million contract with the Celtics in July 2017, posted a letter on Wednesday on his blog addressed to Boston fans.

"On the court, I think that's something that coach [Brad] Stevens was cautious about with me last year," Hayward wrote. "He wanted to ease me into everything and make sure that I was healthy. Now, the reins are off. I'm ready to be the player I came here to be. That's my focus. That and raising a banner at the [TD] Garden.

"To our Celtics fans, I want to say thanks for sticking with us. Thanks for sticking with me. I know last year wasn't the year any of us wanted it to be, but this summer, I've worked harder than any summer I've ever had. I'm going to be ready to go. We're going to be ready to go."

The Celtics entered 2018-19 as the favourites to win the east, however, they finished with a 49-33 record and were eliminated by the Milwaukee Bucks in five games in the conference semifinals.

Boston's roster underwent a major overhaul this offseason. The team lost Kyrie Irving (Brooklyn Nets), Al Horford (Philadelphia 76ers) and Marcus Morris (New York Knicks) but added three-time All-Star Kemba Walker and center Enes Kanter.

"Kyrie and Al are gone, but we brought in Kemba and Enes, and added some other pieces as well," Hayward wrote. "I think a lot of people around the league have kind of counted us out now. But I believe we've got a really tough squad. Kemba is definitely a game-changer. The pace that he plays at, there's not very many guys in the league that are as quick as he is, and can kind of find the seam the way he can. It opens things up for me. So I'm excited to get a chance to play with him this year.

"Enes is somebody that's going to bring energy. He's got all the moves in the post … the fans are going love him, for sure. They always do … the team's goal is still the same. Nothing has changed for us. The Boston Celtics still want to raise banner 18. That's still the goal."

Hayward averaged 11.5 points and 4.5 rebounds in 25.9 minutes per game while shooting 33.3 per cent from three-point range last season.

The Orlando Magic confirmed Markelle Fultz was cleared for full participation in training camp next week after missing most of last season with a shoulder injury.

Fultz has done little in his brief and injury-riddled career to inspire excitement, but the Magic attempted to increase the intrigue around the former first overall pick by releasing a hype video to accompany the announcement.

The video showed Fultz hitting free throws and shooting from behind the arc, and featured the caption, "In case you were wondering what Markelle's been up to..."

Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman told reporters Fultz will not have any restrictions when training camp opens on Tuesday.

"Obviously, he hasn't been through this in a long time and it's new terrain, but for now there are no restrictions," Weltman said.

Fultz has yet to play a game for Orlando after the Magic acquired him from the Philadelphia 76ers in February, with a shoulder injury diagnosed as thoracic outlet syndrome severely limiting his ability to play basketball.

He began his career with high expectations after he was selected by the 76ers with the top pick in the 2017 draft, but injuries and a hitch in his jump shot restricted him to 33 games over the past two seasons.

"I'm basically still a rookie. But at the same time, my mental, my body and my willingness to be coachable is more than enough," Fultz told reporters on Wednesday.

"That's going to do its job for me. I was the number one pick and that says enough."

On the support he received from the Magic during his recovery, Fultz said: "It was huge.

"When I first got traded I didn't know what to expect. But as soon as I got here, I could tell the different energy that they were showing me and the love they were showing me.

"As time went on, the trust that they showed me, and they saw my hard work, it grew more and more. So, like I said, I thank them for this opportunity and I just hope to continue to work as hard as I can."

Orlando picked up Fultz's fourth-year option, which will run through the 2020-21 season, this month.

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving will be assessed day-to-day as he recovers from a facial fracture he suffered in practice on Tuesday.

Irving took an elbow to the face while playing in a pickup game. He was transported to a nearby hospital for further evaluation, though Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks said the team were just doing their due diligence.

"I think this is a case of us being cautious with all our guys," Marks said. "A stray, inadvertent elbow playing pickup games - yes, I did see it - those type of plays happen frequently in the same game.

"This is just a case where he caught the elbow and now we're going to do our due diligence."

Marks also gave Irving high praise for his leadership since signing with the Nets in free agency.

He said the guard has been "religious" in workouts and can already see a strong sense of camaraderie building between the veterans and young players.

Irving has dealt with injuries to his face twice before during his NBA career, with the most recent coming during the 2017-18 season. He was elbowed in the face during a game while playing for the Boston Celtics, resulting in a minor facial fracture. He also broke his jaw in 2012 during his time with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Nets officially start training camp on Saturday, with their first pre-season game scheduled for October 10 against the Los Angeles Lakers in China.

The Milwaukee Bucks have been fined $50,000 after Jon Horst promised Giannis Antetokounmpo would be offered a supermax deal next year, the NBA has confirmed.

Bucks general manager Horst said NBA MVP Antetokounmpo would be offered a five-year, $250million deal following the 2019-20 season.

Horst publicly discussed Milwaukee's plans for the Greek's contract at a fan town hall meeting in a violation of the league's ruled governing the timing of discussing player deals.

"Under NBA rules, teams cannot commit to offer a 'supermax' extension before the summer following a player's seventh season in the NBA," the league said in a statement announcing the fine.

Antetokounmpo, who turns 25 in December, will be a free agent in 2021 if he does not sign the contract extension in 2020, making him one of the most coveted players on the market.

The Bucks superstar is playing on a four-year, $100m deal he signed before the 2017-18 season.

In 72 games last season, his sixth in the NBA, Antetokounmpo averaged 27.7 points with 12.5 rebound and 5.9 assists, collected the MVP award and earned his third All-Star selection.

Kevin Durant is not expected to play for the Brooklyn Nets in the 2019-20 season, general manager Sean Marks confirmed.

Ten-time All-Star Durant tore his Achilles in Game 5 of the NBA Finals in June, with the Golden State Warriors beaten to the championship by the Toronto Raptors.

Despite knowing the 2014 MVP would likely require nine to 12 months of rehabilitation, the Nets signed him to a four-year, $164million deal in free agency.

It had been reported this week that Durant could return in March, but Marks denied that will be the case.

"His rehab is going very well," Marks said at a news conference on Tuesday.

"The expectations are that he will be out for the year. We're not going to plan on playing [him].

"His rehab obviously will be predetermined over the course of the next few months ... ultimately, Kevin will have a large say in when he comes back and how he's feeling."

While Durant recovers, the team will be led by Kyrie Irving, who also joined the team in the offseason from the Boston Celtics.

Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr was not offended by Kevin Durant's recent criticism of their offense, describing his comments as "basically the truth".

Durant, who won two NBA titles with the Warriors but joined the Brooklyn Nets in July, told The Wall Street Journal this month that he did not believe Golden State's offense worked well in the playoffs.

"The motion offense we run in Golden State, it only works to a certain point," Durant said. "We can totally rely on our system for maybe the first two rounds. Then the next two rounds we're going to have to mix in individual play. We've got to throw teams off, because they're smarter in that round of playoffs.

"So now I have to dive into my bag, deep, to create stuff on my own, off the dribble, isos, pick-and-rolls, more so than let the offense create points for me."

Asked about Durant's comments, Kerr told The Athletic: "I wasn't at all offended what Kevin said because it's basically the truth. You look at any system, I mean, I played the triangle with Michael Jordan.

“The offense ran a lot smoother all regular season and the first couple rounds of the playoffs than it did in the conference finals and Finals. It just did.

"That's why guys like Michael Jordan and Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant are who they are. They can transcend any defense. But defenses in the playoffs, deep in the playoffs, combined with the physicality of the game - where refs can't possibly call a foul every time - means that superstars have to take over.

"No system is just going to dice a Finals defense up. You have to rely on individual play. I didn't look at [his comment] as offensive. I look at that as fact."

Warriors star Stephen Curry last week gave Durant's comments short shrift.

"Well, I don't care what plays we ran. We won two championships," Curry said. "And, at the end of the day, we had a lot of talent and there was an expectation of us figuring out how to balance all that. And we talked a lot about it throughout the three-year run. It wasn't always perfect, but I think in terms of the results and what we were able to do on the floor, that kind of speaks for itself.

"We all want to play iso-ball at the end of the day in some way, shape or form. But I'd rather have some championships, too."

Durant, a 10-time All-Star, averaged 25.8 points per game with 7.1 rebounds and 5.4 assists during his three seasons with the Warriors. He signed with the Nets on a four-year, $164 million deal.

Vince Carter has re-signed for the Atlanta Hawks to begin his record-breaking 22nd NBA season aged 42.

The eight-time All-Star has been in the league since 1998, having been drafted fifth overall by the Toronto Raptors.

Carter was the Rookie of the Year in his first season and is set to become the first NBA player to feature in 22 campaigns.

He will also be the first to play in four different decades when he steps on the court in 2020, while his 1,481 career games put him first among active players and fifth all-time.

After lengthy stints with the Raptors and the Brooklyn Nets - then the New Jersey Nets - Carter has had short stops with the Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies and Sacramento Kings.

He joined the Hawks ahead of the 2018-19 season and averaged 7.4 points in 17.5 minutes per game across 76 appearances.

Carter, who won gold with the United States at the 2000 Olympic Games, confirmed in May he would be looking to return for the coming campaign.

Stephen Curry plans to make his Olympics debut for the United States in Tokyo next year.

The Golden State Warriors star revealed he had designs on the 2020 Games, which is good news for the USA after the nation's seventh-placed finish at the recent FIBA World Cup. 

"That is the plan, for sure," Curry said in an interview with ESPN. "You know, obviously knock on wood, you don't want any injuries or things like that to interfere."

Curry played for Team USA in the 2010 and 2014 FIBA World Cup tournaments, winning the title both times, but this would be his first Olympics appearance.

"[I] definitely want to go," said Curry. "I've never been on the Olympic team. I've been on two World Cup championship gold-medal teams. But the Olympics is the experience that I want. And next year will hopefully be it."

While Curry is the first NBA star to commit to the squad, Warriors team-mate Draymond Green told CNBC last week that he also hopes to play. Meanwhile, LeBron James told The Athletic in April that playing for Team USA in 2020 could happen.

A USA squad shorn of their best talents due to a plethora of withdrawals produced their worst showing at a World Cup.

Curry, though, is understandably confident USA can reassert their dominance at the Olympics if their big names do decide to play.

"We're still the best," said the 31-year-old. "If we get the guys that are supposed to be there, in terms of, you know, representing us on the Olympic stage and the commitment's been there, and I think it'll be there next year."

James Harden wants to be unforgettable as he eyes multiple NBA championships and looks forward to joining forces with new Houston Rockets team-mate Russell Westbrook.

Harden has been one of the best players in the NBA since he joined the Rockets, averaging 29 or more points per game in each of the last four seasons.

The Rockets star was also named MVP in 2017-18, though seven-time All-Star Harden is yet to win a championship.

"I still haven't accomplished half of what I want to accomplish," Harden told Bleacher Report. "Like, multiple championships.

"I want to be one of those basketball players that you won't forget. And obviously, we all remember the Kobes [Kobe Bryant] and the Jordans [Michael Jordan] and the D-Wades [Dwyane Wade] and all those guys.

"I want to be in that same conversation, obviously, in championships and all that good stuff, and best shooting guards to ever play the game."

Harden's hopes of winning a title have been boosted by the arrival of Westbrook, who he played alongside during his time with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Rockets retooled their roster this offseason when they sent Chris Paul, along with multiple draft picks, to the Thunder in exchange for All-Star and former MVP Westbrook.

The deal reunited Westbrook and Harden, who previously played together in Oklahoma City from 2009-12. 

"[There will be] a lot of ups and downs," Harden added. "But I'm more excited to go into war, postseason, with somebody that is, like, a dog. Somebody that's a killer, for real."

Harden believes the Rockets – who reached the Western Conference semi-finals last season – have a chance to compete for a title, especially with the addition of Westbrook. 

"Of course it [not having a championship] matters to me," Harden said. "I've been thinking about it maybe the last year-and-a-half, two years. I'm on the right path. You can't rush winning a title. Some win it early, some win it late. It's perfect timing.

"The time is going to happen when the time happens. I've just got to be patient, continue to work my butt off, continue to be a great leader, great team-mate, and just try to bring as much talent and as much guys that have that same drive that I have. I think we all have it right now."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.