Kevin Durant posts a post-surgery picture from his hospital bed

March turns into April on Wednesday, the month that the NBA playoffs begin. The days are getting longer, and warmer, and the NBA is gearing up for what could be a killer postseason that will once again feature the Oklahoma City Thunder.

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Oklahoma City Thunder fans were hoping not to see Instagram like this on March 31:

 

Here are Kevin Durant’s thoughts, from the same Instagram page:

Not what I envisioned coming into this season. But I’m here and ready to conquer this journey. I’ve heard it all over the last few weeks, but I’m not here to prove anything to anybody, im battling myself. When quit and negativity are staring me in my face, i will stay strong and disciplined. And I won’t do it on my own, my closest and friends and family are here to help and that’s something I will be forever grateful for. I appreciate all the well wishes from all of you guys, I appreciate it. This is just a small obstacle when I look at the big picture. THANKS TO ALL MY NBA BROTHERS THAT REACHED OUT, means a lot to me. Road to recovery. GO THUNDER, I can’t wait to play with my teammates again. LETS DO THIS

Kevin Durant underwent surgery this week to repair the Jones fracture that more or less ruined the Thunder’s season. He will be out for another four to six months after his third surgery in six months, just in time for Oklahoma City’s training camp.

Here part of the press release, from Oklahoma City’s official website:

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant underwent successful bone graft surgery today for the fifth metatarsal of his right foot, Thunder Executive Vice President and General Manager Sam Presti announced.

The procedure was performed by Dr. Martin O’Malley with Thunder medical personnel present at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. 

Kevin Durant will also become a free agent during the summer of 2016. The Thunder has the means to re-sign him to a maximum contract, but just about every NBA will likely the space to offer Durant as much as legally possible under the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement rules, and Durant (as LeBron James and Dwight Howard have done in recent years) may take less money to play with another team.

There is also much concern, from those of us that like to play doctor online, that Durant could be upset with the franchise that didn’t exactly stand in his way when Durant attempted to come back too early from the initial fracture.

We shouldn’t be lobbing accusations from afar, and technology behind repairing this frightening break has come a long way since Michael Jordan missed four and a half months with the same affliction as Durant during the 1985-86 season, but it doesn’t mean fans should pass on fretting. Especially with Russell Westbrook himself coming off of three surgeries in an eight month period in 2013.

Westbrook and Durant join Serge Ibaka as three injured Thunder stars who not only likely came back too early from significant and potentially career-altering injuries, but three stars whose absence will have now knocked the Thunder out of playoff contention in three consecutive postseasons.

The Oklahoma City Thunder will also be championship contenders in 2015-16. Those of us lobbing from afar need to remember that.

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Meniscus woes for Westbrook could flare up for his entire career, and Durant’s injury may have ended some careers, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that the Thunder will have as good a championship chance as any heading into next fall. That’s cold comfort in spring, with a literal bad break having ruined yet another playoff run for the 2012 Western Conference champs, but Durant will entering 2015-16 having just turned 27, and Westbrook will entering the same season just before turning 27, and no NBA team can claim to have a twosome as fearsome as these two standouts.

The Thunder front office has taken some rightful heat for dealing James Harden and shying away from the luxury tax, owner-mandated moves that nobody likes to see, but this building isn’t full of dummies. Oklahoma City’s midseason moves proved that the squad is in win now mode, and even if you’re wary of Dion Waiters and Enes Kanter’s impact on winning clubs (as you well should be), this is still a formidable rotation.

Quite a bit can change in 15 months, but at current rates it’s rather hard to find another NBA team that will be as appealing to Durant as these Thunder will be during the 2016 offseason. He may very well leave, other very good options can spring up, but any parting will be because of things that go down in the winter and spring of 2016, and not 2014-15. This is another cruel setback for the Thunder and its fans, but this is hardly the beginning of a massive push to drive Kevin Durant out of Oklahoma City.

Other, more reasonable basketball-related elements would make that potential push.

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Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Power Rankings: No, we’re not bleeding air from them

Our Power Rankings are far from a scientific formula. In fact, it’s the perfect blend of analytics and bias against your favorite driver. And you think we dislike your favorite driver, so it makes sense, right? Direct all your complaints to us at happyhourmailbag@yahoo.com.

1. Kevin Harvick (LW: 1): Goodbye, top-two finish streak. You served Harvick well. He had to settle for a paltry eighth-place finish despite leading 154 laps. Because he led the most laps, he actually got more points (38) for finishing eighth than Danica Patrick did for finishing seventh (37). If you’re looking for fun coincidences, we’ve got one for you. Where was the last track Harvick didn’t finish in the top two at before Sunday? Yep, you’ve got it. Martinsville.

2. Joey Logano (LW: 2): Striking observation from the Martinsville grandstands on Sunday. When Logano got spun by Michael Annett in turns one and two, you would have thought Dale Earnhardt Jr. took the lead based off the roar of the crowd. Seriously, there were a bunch of cheers. Where the heck did that come from? How did Logano become a villain? If he continues to get boos when he’s successful and cheers when he’s not, it’s going to be one of the more fascinating heel turns in NASCAR history. It’s not like Logano has done anything to tick a bunch of people off lately. Oh, he finished third after that spin. It was a hell of a comeback.

3. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 4): Here’s another guy just racking up the top 10s. And this time, Truex had to overcome a lot of obstacles to do so. Smoke was emanating from his car early in the race and he was forced to pit multiple times under caution. The issue was a power steering leak and after the team fixed the problem, Truex worked his way back up through the field to finish six. And hey, he actually gained points on Harvick this week.

4. Kurt Busch (LW: 3): Let’s stay on the power steering problems agenda, shall we? Busch had them too, though his came later in the race. He also got a penalty for changing lanes before the restart that was later rescinded. Without power steering, Busch wrestled the car to a 14th-place finish. He’s now 24th in the points standings despite missing those first three races of the season.

5. Brad Keselowski (LW: 5): If Keselowski doesn’t have the Auto Club Speedway win in his pocket, does he race Denny Hamlin any differently? It’s a fair question, given that Keselowski’s refusal to bump Kyle Busch at Watkins Glen in 2013 meant he didn’t have a win to get the Wild Card for the Chase. Of course, Keselowski could have opted for the same tactic against Hamlin if he was winless, but since he had the win, there was no need to act crazily in search of three bonus points in the Chase. There are 20 more opportunities for wins.

6. Denny Hamlin (LW: 12): The win at Martinsville was Hamlin’s fifth. He now has the third-most wins of any active driver at the track. The fact may make you scratch your head a little bit because of the recency bias. It’s Hamlin’s first win at Martinsville since 2010. But he won three-straight races in 2009 and 2010 and had a streak of four wins in six races. He also has 15 top-10 finishes in 19 career starts. It’s not too far off Jimmie Johnson’s 22 in 27.

7. Matt Kenseth (LW: 9): Flatline is becoming a Martinsville master. Or at least a driver who is pretty good at the track. He’s got 12 top-10 finishes and in 31 starts at the half-mile track. In five races with Joe Gibbs Racing, he has four of those. The other race was a 14th-place finish. Kenseth has found a secret and he apparently shared it with Hamlin and David Ragan on Sunday. Ragan finished fifth.

8. Kasey Kahne (LW: 11): Quick, name the top Hendrick Motorsports driver in the points standings! OK, OK, we just gave you a giant hint so it’s really not much of a pop quiz. Yes, it’s Kahne, who has 21 points over Dale Earnhardt Jr. and 25 points over Jimmie Johnson. Could this be the year where all four Hendrick cars are running really strongly at the same time?

9. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 7): Junior had a fast car even after he was caught up in the accident on lap 229 that left him with a bunch of damage on the front of his car. After his team fixed it all up, Junior was still pretty damn fast. He just had a car that looked like a modified car. And he was lots of laps down. No word on if Junior had any Martinsville hot dogs while his team was fixing the car.

10. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 8): Yeah, Johnson had a pit road penalty and sustained damage during the race, but his car was just not fast at all throughout the race. And when was the last time we said that about the No. 48 at Martinsville? Given the team’s history, it’s likely an outlier and he’ll be fast in October. When it really counts. Or counts more, anyway given that Johnson is likely in the Chase.

11. Ryan Newman (LW: 6): So, how long has Newman’s team been drilling holes in tires? Were the tires manipulated at all at Martinsville? Newman flat didn’t have any speed at all in the race after qualifying second. He ran up front for the first stint and then was on a train to the back of the pack. We’d have Newman here before the penalty was announced and we’re now intrigued to see how fast the No. 31 is over the next few races.

12. Jeff Gordon (LW: NR): Sunday was Gordon’s race to lose. It was a fantastically called and driven race by the No. 24 bunch as Gordon was simply not that good in the first 200 laps. However, the team made the right adjustments and Gordon was patient until he got sight of the lead. Then, with a good car, he went after it and easily had the best car of the final 100 laps. But then there was that stinking speeding penalty.

Lucky Dog: Danica Patrick, who was the highest-finishing Stewart-Haas driver.

The DNF: Austin Dillon. It was his first DNF since he started running full-time in the Sprint Cup Series.

Dropped Out: Paul Menard

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Nick Bromberg is the editor of From The Marbles on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Joe Dumars’ replacements in Detroit have really nice things to say about Joe Dumars

Joe Dumars is the guy that put together a championship team. He sustained a winner in Detroit that made it to six consecutive Eastern Conference finals. He worked as an executive for 14 years, and as the head honcho for 14.

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He’s also the man that drafted Darko Milicic. He extended Rip Hamilton, twice, crippling the Pistons’ salary cap potential. He spent gobs of money on Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva, and Josh Smith – all major free agents signings, and three guys the Pistons had to pay to get rid of.

Joe Dumars contains multitudes. Could the better half of Dumars’ executive career earn him another job running a team?

Detroit coach and president Stan Van Gundy, the man who essentially replaced Dumars with the Pistons, thinks so:

“Joe is a class guy who did a great job and had a ton of success,” Van Gundy said. “Anytime you get good people in the league it is good for the league so yeah absolutely. Joe has a good track record. Hopefully if that is what he wants to do he will get another opportunity.”

SVG was asked about Dumars’ prospects after Detroit News scribe Terry Foster followed up on a months-old statement from Ric Bucher at Bleacher Report, reporting that the New Orleans Pelicans could turn to the Louisiana-born Dumars in the offseason to take over their front office.

Pistons forward Greg Monroe, a Dumars draftee from 2010, also had nice things to say about the 2003 NBA Executive of the Year:

Forward Greg Monroe believes Dumars deserves a second chance.

“I mean, yeah,” Monroe said. “He put together a championship team. Obviously he knows what it takes to get it done. For a stretch he had one of the most successful teams in the league. Obviously he is good at that job. I don’t see how that would be a problem to get back.”

We’ve been routinely critical of Dumars’ time in Detroit here at BDL, and for good reason. The Milicic selection was a bit of a blip, just about every NBA team was lusting over Darko back in 2003, and while most wouldn’t have taken him ahead of Carmelo Anthony, many would have considered it and all would have taken the 17-year old ahead of Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade with the next pick. Dumars did sound, chance-y work on his Pistons’ roster and coaching staff in the months that followed, building an eventual champion along the way.

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Dumars’ team, however, just about gave up on Flip Saunders as coach in 2007, and a series of follow-up coaching hires failed the franchise while former ownership pinched pennies in anticipation of an eventual sell. This doesn’t excuse Dumars’ repeated missteps in the years that followed – dealing for Allen Iverson, needlessly extending Richard Hamilton, whiffing in free agency – and by the time Detroit finally let their beloved former Piston go in 2014, it was safe to conclude that Dumars had received one chance too many.

With that in place, the same spark that led Dumars to act ahead of the curve in his first few years with the team – taking on reclamation projects and taking advantage of teams looking to cut salary and start over – could return in a new gig.

It’s fair to say that Danny Ferry more or less wasted his shot at building a champion around LeBron James in Cleveland, but in his second stint with Atlanta he’s built the East’s best basketball team (until James and the Cavaliers eventually trounce them in May). Larry Bird has done well in his second go-round with Indiana, the highly-regarded Jeff Bower is on his second chance working Dumars’ old job in Detroit, and Washington’s Ernie Grunfeld … well, they can’t all be success stories.

Detroit, working at 28-45, will need years to get out of what Dumars left them with, but they’ll also be attempting to rebuild with three cornerstones that their former GM put in place: Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe (after some consternation), and Brandon Jennings. Joe Dumars’ tenure in Detroit had its faults, but it doesn’t mean he can’t turn it around with another team.

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Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Why don’t casinos take bets on NCAA tourney brackets?

Bettors wait in line to place a wager on the NCAA college basketball tournament in the sports book at The Mirage in Las Vegas Thursday, March 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Las Vegas Review-Journal, John Locher)Every year, the faithful journey to Las Vegas to lay down March Madness money, and every year, they target their own schools and perhaps that fabled 5-12 upset. But why don’t Vegas casinos, the heart and soul of gambling in this country, offer up some kind of overall bracket challenge?

You’d think a full bracket game would be an easy way for casinos to make money, given how many brackets get busted like eggshells by the tournament’s first Friday. Heck, if the guy over in Human Resources can whip up a pool with a copy machine and a coffee can, surely a multimillion-dollar casino operation could do so. No-brainer, right?

Wrong, as it turns out. The limitations are both logistical and technological, according to Jay Rood, VP of Race and Sports at MGM International.

At the moment, MGM does not have the software capable of handling thousands of complete-bracket bets. Think about what’s involved in entering a single bracket – 63 different games – then consider thousands of similar brackets all hitting the system at once. It’s a technological hurdle MGM hasn’t yet cleared.

“Grading the brackets is a nightmare,” Rood says. “We’re upgrading our system in the fall, and we may be capable of handling more.”

Plus, there are simple logistical challenges.

In Vegas, you have to place your bet in person, which is far trickier than banging out 63 picks on a Yahoo bracket ten minutes before the first tip-off. A significant percentage of March Madness casino-goers arrive after the first games have tipped off – Friday is one of the busiest sports days of the year – making them ineligible to deliver a pre-tourney bracket.

“So many of our customers are transient,” Rood says. “Only a small number get in on time.”

That said, there’s the possibility that bracket picking could be in play soon. Some smaller casinos in Vegas, primarily catering to locals, do a version of a round-by-round bracket challenge. Gamblers pick the first round, compile point totals, then return to pick the second, accumulating points along the way. But again — this is an option not available to non-Vegas folk. Legal gambling on the internet remains a murky-at-best prospect.

Still, it’s clear the interest is there. Where there’s interest, there’s money, and where there’s money, there’s a solution. Rood said he’s tinkering with the possibility of offering various odds for various point totals after each round – getting 25 of 32 right pays out at a certain rate, and getting 30 of 32 pays out at a better one, for instance.

A Vegas payout for bracket acumen would be a wonderful thing. For now, though, you’ll have to content yourself with beating everyone in your office.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

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Adam Morrison sporting different look as Gonzaga video assistant

When the college basketball world last saw Adam Morrison on a big stage, he was weeping on the floor in the closing seconds of a heartbreaking and career-ending loss to UCLA in the 2006 Sweet 16.

Fast forward almost 10 years and Morrison is again in the spotlight during a Gonzaga run, albeit far from front and center. The school’s all-time leading scorer and one-time national player of the year is currently a video assistant on Mark Few’s team and he got a little bit of screen time during Sunday’s Elite Eight game against Duke in Houston.

As you can see, Morrison is sporting quite a different look from his shaggy and mustachioed college days.

Is that Steven Seagal taking in the game?


Morrison also looked a lot less emotional than last time …

Morrison was drafted No. 3 overall by the Charlotte Bobcats in the 2006 NBA draft and famously bombed out of the league, though not before winning two rings as a little-used reserve for the Los Angeles Lakers. After a few years of playing overseas, Morrison is now back stateside and trying to get a coaching career jump started at his alma mater.

He’s been trying to keep things low-profile with limited interviews, though his involuntary appearance on CBS certainly goes against that approach. We can’t speak for how much Morrison has contributed to the Zags’ success this season, though he’s certainly looking the part on the bench.

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Kevin Kaduk is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at kevinkaduk@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!