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Kevin Durant denies being evil personified

Good morning. We have that and more in Friday's NBA newsletter.

Good morning. Let's basketball.

BLAZE IT UP: Jesus Gomez offers a deep dive on the Trail Blazers, who spent *a ton* of money in free agency on guys like Evan Turner, Festus Ezeli and their own free agents (Allen Crabbe, Meyers Leonard, Mo Harkless). How much better will Portland really be? Was the capital outlay worth it? I think so in that Turner and Ezeli will both help in specific ways (ballhandling and shot blocking, respectively) and the entire team is young, which helps telegraph some idea of upward improvement. This isn't an aging team adding prime-or-beyond veterans and re-signing past-their-prime roleplayers. Everyone involved should get better. Plus, Portland's already good; from here, marginal improvement is what you're looking for.

REJECTED! Doc Rivers is pretty emphatic that he's not trading Blake Griffin to the Celtics or anywhere. The funniest note is that he deputized his youngest son Spencer (a rising junior at UC Irvine) to track the source of the rumor. You'll be unsurprised to learn it was Boston talk radio. Hey, gotta talk about something in the football offseason!

POWER MOVES: James Andrew Miller, who you likely remember from that giant ESPN oral history book a few years back, has a new tome on powerhouse talent agency CAA coming in a couple weeks. This NYT excerpt looks at the day LeBron announced he was leaving CAA to join his friend Rich Paul's new agency. Promises to be a fascinating read.

GET WELL, CRAIG: Craig Sager will not be able to work at the Olympics due to a third bone marrow transplant.

NO MERCY: Please kids, don't try to block Karl-Anthony Towns' shots at his camp. It will not end well for you.

HE HITS THE MARKKANEN: Nice profile of Finnish big man Lauri Markkanen, who is going to Arizona and is a future high draft pick.

WELL, DUH: There's been so much damn smoke shaped in the form of Kevin Durant as a demon coming from OKC media over the past three weeks that it's really hard to believe much of anything. The fact that Durant had to explicitly tell Shams Charania that no, he did not tell Russell Westbrook he was coming back to OKC only to leave, is telling.

AND 1 ... Jason Concepcion explores whether Durant understands fandom. But do any of us, really?

AND FINALLY: Ryan Higa is a hilarious YouTuber. With the help of Jeremy Lin and inspired by anime culture and the greatest basketball film ever, he presents the trailer for SPACE JAM 3: ANIME EDITION. You've gotta see it. And you're welcome.

Be excellent to each other. See you next time.

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