Kenyon Martin to become third Nugget to play in China

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Kenyon Martin is about to join J.R. Smith and Wilson Chandler as key Denver Nuggets free agents that have decided to play a season in China rather than see how the lockout plays out.

And that leaves the Nuggets screwed for next season.

Martin’s agent Andy Miller confirmed to Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post the planned signing with Xingiang Guanghui in the Chinese Basketball Association. That is the team that also has former NBA player Quincy Douby.

“It’s a great opportunity for him to stay in shape and stay fresh,” said Andy Miller, Martin’s agent. “And it also gives him an opportunity to expand his name globally.”

The Chinese Basketball Association has a rule in place that players cannot have opt-out clauses in their contracts, forcing teams to only target players who were to be free agents. The Nuggets have a lot of those.

This means three key rotation players for the Nuggets are gone for the entire next season (there is the possibility of a handshake deal to cut these guys loose when the lockout ends, but don’t bet on it). It’s not that any of these guys individually is irreplaceable, but as a group they are. The Nuggets looked good at the end of last season because they played very team-oriented ball, with a number of quality players willing to defend and make the extra pass. Now that team is breaking up for at least a season.

Martin, age 34, started the 48 games he was healthy last season and was a key part of the Nuggets play bringing a physical inside presence, even though he averaged just 8.6 points per game. J.R. Smith was a sixth man of the year candidate for the Nuggets providing 12.3 points per game, and Wilson Chandler saw significant minutes and started 19 games for the team after coming over from the Knicks in the Carmelo Anthony trade.

All of them will play next season in China.

Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari has signed to play in Italy and Ty Lawson will be in Lithuania, but both of them have opt-out contracts to return to the NBA when the league ends.

Jazz boost international bona fides with new minor-league coach

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Martin Schiller has been named coach of the Salt Lake City Stars, the Utah Jazz’s NBA G League affiliate.

Schiller previously served as an assistant coach of MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg in Germany and replaces Dean Cooper. He was an assistant coach for the Artland Dragons from 2010-15.

Schiller has also been an assistant coach on the German National Team since 2015, where he worked with Jazz assistant coach Alex Jensen.

Schiller hails from Vienna, Austria, and Stars vice president of basketball operations Bart Taylor lauded him for his international experience and player development background.

The Jazz organization is known to have close relationships with the international basketball community. The Jazz currently have eight international players.

Kyrie Irving will wear No. 11 with Celtics

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BOSTON (AP) — Newly acquired guard Kyrie Irving will wear No. 11 in Boston because the Celtics already have retired the numbers he wore in college and with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Irving wore No. 11 at two New Jersey high schools before switching to No. 1 at Duke. He wore No. 2 with the Cavaliers for the first six years of his NBA career.

The Celtics retired No. 1 for founder and original owner Walter Brown. They retired No. 2 for former coach and general manager Red Auerbach.

In all, the Celtics have retired 21 numbers, with Paul Pierce’s No. 34 next in line for the TD Garden rafters.

 

PBT Extra: Cavaliers’ new GM aces first big test with Kyrie Irving trade

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Everyone in the NBA — heck, nearly everyone living in the Western hemisphere — knew Kyrie Irving wanted out of Cleveland. That should kill the Cavaliers’ leverage and make it hard to get enough quality back.

New GM Koby Altman — the guy thrust into the job when David Griffin was shown the door — pulled it off brilliantly.

That’s what I talk about in this new PBT Extra. With Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder, the Cavaliers remain the team to beat in the East this season. The Brooklyn Nets pick gives them flexibility going forward, whatever LeBron James decides to do next season.

First time at the plate in the big leagues and Altman crushed it to straight away center field.

Cavaliers-Celtics deal first offseason trade involving players who just met in NBA Finals or conference finals

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The Cavaliers and Celtics played in last year’s Eastern Conference finals. The teams were widely expected to meet there again.

Yet, Cleveland and Boston just completed a blockbuster trade – Kyrie Irving for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Nets’ 2018 first-round pick.

That seemed odd.

In fact, it’s unprecedented.

That is an incredible fact, one which speaks to LeBron Jamescachet. The Cavs are emphasizing this season, LeBron’s last before a player option, by loading up with veterans Thomas and Crowder. With LeBron still reigning in Cleveland, the Celtics are delaying their peak by acquiring the younger Irving.

Adding to the intrigue: the Cavs and Celtics are still favored to meet in this year’s conference finals. At minimum, they’ll face off in a(n even more) highly anticipated opening-night matchup.