Danny Granger

Danny Granger understands trade is possible, but seems to want to stay with the Pacers

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Danny Granger finds himself in an interesting position with the Indiana Pacers.

After being the team’s best player and franchise cornerstone for nearly his entire career, he missed most of this season with chronic knee pain that forced him to have surgery. With him on the bench for the entire playoffs and all but five regular season games, the Pacers took another step forward as a team by advancing to the Conference Finals, ultimately falling in 7 grueling games to the Miami Heat.

As Granger sat on the bench, he saw younger teammates — Paul George and Roy Hibbert specifically — step up and take up the mantle as the new franchise cornerstone players. And now, he enters into the final year of his max contract with no clear defined role and an uncertain status.

In a sit-down with David Aldridge that appears in Aldridge’s must read Morning Tip column, Granger seems to understand that his days in Indiana may be numbered:

I’ve been here my whole career. I look at things objectively, and it’s very rare for a player to stay with a team his whole career. It just don’t happen. So when the trade talks come, you can say, okay, it’s my time to go. I love the organization and I had a great time here [but] we understand it’s a business. You get older and you move on. That’s just the way it is. There’s no hard feelings about it; you don’t get your feelings hurt. I take it as a business arrangement, basically.

It is clear that Granger can see the writing on the wall. After all, as much of a history he has with the Pacers, they have a team to continue to build and trading him in order to find more, better fitting pieces is a real possibility. In this era of a new CBA, Granger’s expiring deal may net the team more than one useful player who could step in and provide the Pacers some much needed depth on the wing and/or in the front court.

All that said, Granger also seems to understand that there’s a new pecking order and expresses some level of comfort that he would need to take a step back in order to fit into the team that went so far without him:

I’m not 25 anymore. Going to get 22, 23 points a game, it’s tough, it’s hard, when you have teams gunning for you. I’m 30 now. I’ll gladly defer to the younger teammates and put more of the burden on them than on myself. I can still carry a heavy load, but not as much as I did in the past. And I don’t want to. It’s not even a question.

What the Pacers decide to do is still unknown. But if Granger really is willing to take a back seat to George, maybe even accepting a bench role, the Pacers could be an even more dangerous team than they were this season. Granger is no longer the 20 point per game scorer he was pre-injury, but he is a viable perimeter threat who can do damage as a shooter and slasher when playing off of George and Hibbert.

On the other hand, the Pacers still could try to maximize Granger’s trade value and try to get more parts who could help the team take that next step. How much value Granger has after his injury limited him to so few games remains to be seen, but the Pacers could be willing to simply cut bait and continue to add to the roster who was so close to the Finals.

Either way, Granger seems to be good with the outcome.

Kyrie Irving feels validated after hitting game-winning shot to bring title to Cleveland

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Back in July during the pre-Olympics USA Camp in Las Vegas, I asked Kyrie Irving what had changed for him, what was different for him after winning an NBA title. His answer was about the doors it opened, the possibilities that suddenly felt available to him. A month after winning the title he still seemed a little overwhelmed by the experience, and he hadn’t fully processed it yet. Which is completely understandable.

Now, as training camp is set to open for the Cavaliers and their defense of that title, Irving clearly has gotten used to being a champion — and he feels validated. Look at what he told Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

“Yes, my life’s changed drastically,” Irving told cleveland.com Saturday, during Irving’s friendship walk and basketball challenge downtown for Best Buddies, Ohio — an organization that gives social growth and employment opportunities to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“It’s kind of, you’re waiting for that validation from everyone, I guess, to be considered one of the top players in the league at the highest stage,” Irving said. “That kind of changed. I was just trying to earn everyone’s respect as much as I could.”

It’s amazing to think of the impact one shot — Irving’s three over Stephen Curry with 53 seconds left in Game 7 — can have. If he misses, there is less pressure on the Warriors to answer with a three, maybe they come down and get a bucket inside for two (one could argue they should have done that anyway rather than hunt for the three), from there maybe the Warriors win. If so, that could change everything from Kevin Durant‘s summer plans to what the Cavaliers’ roster looks like today — there’s a good chance Cleveland’s lineup would have changed if they lost to the Warriors two Finals in a row.

One shot can have that kind of impact on a player, too.

Kyrie Irving was one of the top five point guards in the NBA for a while, a score first guy but one who had some floor general in him and got some steals. A lot of time seemed to be spent focusing on his flaws defensively and passing. But with that shot, he feels validated. If he carries that confidence into next season, the Cavaliers just got better.

Check out top 50 plays from Kevin Garnett’s Hall of Fame career (VIDEO)

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First Kobe Bryant. Then Tim Duncan.

Now Kevin Garnett. The Hall of Fame class in five years is going to be stacked.

But before we move on from Garnett’s announcement this week that he is retiring after 21 years in the NBA, let’s look back at his greatest plays (compiled by the folks at NBA.com). Enjoy this for 11 minutes rather than watching your NFL fantasy team flounder. Again.

D’Angelo Russell said he used to play as Luke Walton on NBA 2K; Stephen Jackson calls that crap

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 30: D'Angelo Russell #1 of the Los Angeles Lakers speaks during a news conference to discuss the controversy with teammate Nick Young before the start of the NBA game against the Miami Heat at Staples Center March 30, 2016, in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using the photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
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Did anyone ever fire up NBA 2K9 back in the day, decide to be the soon-to-be-champion Lakers, look at a roster with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom then say “I’m going to be Luke Walton”?

D'Angelo Russell says he did.

The Lakers young point guard has praised the new Laker coach at every turn — Russell and Byron Scott did not get along, the point guard is much happier now — and that includes talking about Walton’s playing days to Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report.

“I told him I remember playing with him on (NBA) 2K; I used to always play as him. I’m a fan. I’m definitely a fan. Because he was a point forward. I can’t speak on Elgin Baylor and all those guys, but my era, I know he was a point forward.”

Really? NBA veteran and current analyst Stephen Jackson called Russell out on that.

Jackson has a point.

Report: No, J.R. Smith isn’t talking to Sixers

CLEVELAND, OH -  JUNE 22: J.R. Smith #5 of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrates with the fans during the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 championship victory parade and rally on June 22, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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What is with the ridiculous, unrealistic Philadelphia 76ers rumors of late? Last I checked recreational use was not legal in Pennsylvania. Not that the law is stopping anyone.

The latest silliness follows this logic:

This summer the Sixers made runs at veteran guards such as Jamal Crawford and Manu Ginobili (and they forced the Spurs to pay up for the Argentinian to keep him).

The Cleveland Cavaliers and J.R. Smith are in a staring contest, and Smith remains a free agent.

The Sixers have more than $22 million in cap space still.

So…

No. Not happening.

Or, we could have just asked Smith who has said he is not talking to other teams and doesn’t want to play anywhere but Cleveland.

I can get why Sixers management would want to bring a veteran and beloved, hard-working pro such as Ginobili in to lead and mentor a young team. Does Smith bring that same demeanor? I get that Smith in Cleveland has developed his game, and that he has matured and backed off his hard-partying ways (he gets a hall pass for the days after winning a championship), but is Smith the veteran you bring into a young locker room?

Can we move on from the ridiculous in Pennslyvania? Well, probably not until after the election, that is a battleground state.