By Ira Winderman, Sun Sentinel –
What do you get when LeBron James and Kevin Durant decide to team up less than three weeks before the start of NBA training camps?
The leading candidates for NBA Most Valuable Player (James won last season, Durant was runner-up) in the same place at the same time.
A potential preview of Heat-Thunder II in the NBA Finals.
And, apparently, a bit of contrived controversy in the void of real games.
Yes, the two are at it again, after a similar grueling series of workouts during last year’s lockout that eventually led the league’s leading men to the championship series the Heat won in five games.
James announced the start of “Hell Week II” on his Twitter account Tuesday, with the Heat forward posting, “Just finished a great workout with @KDTrey5. On court work, ran the hill and finished running the football field. #StriveFor Greatness.”
Durant replied with, “I got better today! That’s all that matters!! Move em.”
Durant seemingly preferred a more private approach to the grueling sessions on James’ home turf of Akron, Ohio … at least until ESPN2 “personality” Skip Bayless got into the act.
First, on ESPN2’s “First Take,” Bayless spoke of James as a “shrewd operator” in taking Durant under his wing, adding, “You are owned by LeBron James. Have fun in the NBA Finals finishing second again.”
Later, Bayless posted on his Twitter account:
“Wake up, KD: LeBron is keeping his friends close and his enemy closer. You’re letting him OWN you.”
That did not sit well with the Thunder forward who responded on Twitter:
“@RealSkipBayless u brainwashing these people out here, they think since you on espn you know what u talkin bout … please, nobody owns me.”
That’s where Durant seemingly wanted it to end, later deleting that post.
For Bayless, it merely opened the door for his own three-peat, consecutive Twitter posts that read:
— “Some day @KDTrey5 you’ll realize how RIGHT I am about you/LeBron. CAN’T let primary rival be ur best friend, esp. when he’s mentally fragile.”
— “Wake up @KDTrey5. You let LeBron play in Finals comfort zone G2-5 b/c you like/respect him so much. Must get in his head, under his skin.”
— “Remember @KDTrey5: LeBron now has a ring. You don’t. If you want your say on First Take, you’re welcome any morning 10-12E. Just say when.”
Bayless, amid his bombast, was back at it Wednesday, saying, “Kevin Durant again is falling into LeBron James’ trap. … Psychologically, LeBron James owns Kevin Durant.”
The reality is Durant and James already spent more than a month together this offseason with the U.S. Olympic team that won gold at the London Games, with James assisting on numerous Durant 3-pointers over the course of that competition, the two often swapping the role of leading man for the Mike Krzyzewski-led team.
The bond with Durant is one that dates to Durant’s time at the University of Texas and James’ days as a rising NBA star.
“Our relationship has been growing since he was in high school, all the way through Texas and all his years in the NBA,” James said during the NBA Finals. “From day one, I always lent my hand out to guide him if he needed it, to help him, to mentor him if he needed it through anything, and that’s on and off the floor.”
Durant said last year’s combined workouts had nothing to do with easing of competitive spirit.
“Just two guys wanted to get better, and that’s what we did, just workouts,” he said. “It’s something you’ve got to take advantage of. I always want to get better no matter what, and that’s what we did.”
The two had such a good time working out last offseason that Durant later returned to Akron amid the lockout with a bunch of friends for a flag-football game against James and the Heat forward’s friends.