Dan Feldman

Dennis Smith Jr. used to think Dirk Nowitzki’s name was Dirt

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Mavericks rookie Dennis Smith Jr. is 19 years younger than teammate Dirk Nowitzki.

Here’s a great story to illustrate the age gap.

Smith, via ESPN:

Earliest memory of Dirk is probably the year he was playing with Steve Nash. I kept hearing somebody named Dirt, with a T. So, I was like, “Why is there a dude named Dirt in the league?” And then I found out he was actually pretty good.

Dirk certainly wasn’t Dirt or dirt. Glad Smith got that cleared up.

LeBron James reveals he and Stephen Curry can’t serve as All-Star captains next year

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LeBron James and Stephen Curry, as conference leaders in All-Star fan voting, just drafted the All-Star teams.

It was no surprise LeBron and Curry earned captaincies. LeBron has led the Eastern Conference in All-Star fan voting the last six years. Curry has led the West three of the last four years and trailed only the since-retired Kobe Bryant in 2016. LeBron and Curry are obvious favorites to lead the league again next year.

But that apparently wouldn’t allow them to draft again.

Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

This is just another way the NBA is screwing up the All-Star draft. Curry and LeBron are the league’s most marketable stars. Why would the NBA not want those two front and center – especially if, as hoped, the draft is actually televised next year? The league has overthought this new All-Star format to the point of inanity.

A potential loophole, though: What if LeBron is in the West next year?

Report: Joakim Noah taking personal leave of absence from Knicks

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What is it about former Bulls stars leaving their current teams?

First, Derrick Rose left the Cavaliers. Now, Joakim Noah is leaving the Knicks.

Marc Berman of the New York Post:

DENVER — Joakim Noah left the Mile High City in a huff Thursday morning

Noah, who has been mostly inactive this year, will miss an undetermined amount of time as he takes a leave of absence, according to sources. One NBA source estimated it could be as long as a week.

Frank Isola of the New York Daily News:

According to a source close to the veteran center, Noah shouted at Jeff Hornacek after the Knicks head coach removed him in the fourth quarter against Golden State. Noah played just four minutes and 20 seconds.

“It didn’t look good,” the source said. “Joakim is obviously frustrated that he hasn’t been playing and then he finally goes in and he didn’t get much of a chance.”

Ian Begley of ESPN:

Noah, according to team sources, had been upset about his diminished role, but understanding of it.

The Knicks should be fine without Noah, or at least as good as they were while he was around the team. He missed the first 12 games of the season due to a performance-enhancing-drug suspension, and he has played just seven of 37 games since (40 minutes).

Hopefully, everything is also fine with Noah personally.

Report: ‘Significant hurdles’ remain before Cavaliers-Kings George Hill trade

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The Cavaliers trading Iman Shumpert, Channing Frye and a second-round pick to the Kings for George Hill seemed inevitable.

But…

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

The Cavaliers and Kings are further apart on a trade for George Hill than it first appeared, sources told cleveland.com, with significant hurdles toward a potential deal remaining.

One source told cleveland.com that the two sides were speaking “conceptually” about Hill and were never close; another said the Cavs sought to change the parameters of a potential trade.

Sacramento would need to clear a roster spot to make the trade as reported. Skal Labissiere and Malachi Richardson were reportedly available, but finding a third team always makes a trade more complex and less likely.

Cleveland could use Hill, who’d provide a better defensive option at point guard with Isaiah Thomas and add depth at shooting guard with the struggling J.R. Smith.

But unhappy and expensive, Hill should be available closer to the trade deadline. Before making such a safe addition, the Cavs probably could keep the door open for a bigger move then trade for Hill later if still desirable. That said, a deal falling apart can not only indicate, but also create, reasons it won’t happen.

Report: LeBron James asked Cavaliers not to trade Kyrie Irving, but Irving threatened to undergo season-ending knee surgery

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Kyrie Irving‘s trade request last summer reportedly blindsided LeBron James. The quickly emerging narrative that Irving wanted to leave because of LeBron surely didn’t diffuse tension. It reached the point LeBron was reportedly eager for the Cavaliers to trade Irving.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

But, according to multiple sources, James ultimately asked the Cavs’ front office not to trade Irving after the request was made known, promising to bridge the apparent gap with him.

According to sources, Irving needs minor knee surgery as a follow to the procedure he underwent during the 2015 Finals to repair his broken knee cap.

According to multiple sources, Irving threatened to sit out the season and have surgery on his knee, convincing Gilbert and Cleveland’s front office that the relationship with Irving was not salvageable.

The Cavs chose to move Irving rather than call his bluff, which upset James, sources said.

Irving pulled a Mo Williams! Using surgery to secure a desired career outcome is straight out of the playbook of Williams, who returned to the Cavs as part of LeBron’s circle.

It’s so poetic.

What’s far messier is the implicit finger-pointing – yes, more of that – and ass-covering in this report. The agendas at play are thinly veiled.

The Cavaliers look like they’ve lost the Irving trade so far. Isaiah Thomas has been hurt and looks plenty rusty. Jae Crowder is having the worst year of his career. The Nets, whose first-round pick Cleveland acquired from the Celtics, are overachieving.

Nobody wants to take the blame for this mess.

Cavs brass, from owner Dan Gilbert to general manager Koby Altman, sure doesn’t. If Irving is portrayed as a less valuable asset, the return he fetched won’t look quite as underwhelming. The Cavaliers say they were backed fully into a corner with an injured player, and if everyone buys it, maybe they can swing the narrative about Thomas being the only damaged goods in the trade. Perhaps, Irving is on the verge of breaking down – though he’s playing pretty darn well in Boston. It’s a tough sell.

LeBron has the benefit of hindsight. Even if he soured on the trade with foresight, his frustration is lingering because of the results. If he were wrong and the trade looked like a victory for Cleveland, he would quickly forgive the Cavs for not honoring his request to keep Irving. LeBron also has the luxury of nobody knowing the counterfactual. Reality has gone poorly for the Cavaliers. Perhaps, keeping Irving would have gone even worse, with him sitting out the entire season and lowering his trade value while providing no help in Cleveland’s bid to beat the Warriors.

But it matters only so much what blame levied by LeBron is fair. He can become a free agent next summer, and in many ways, his perception matters more than reality. If he were upset with the Cavs defying his request not to trade Irving, why would he be any less upset with the team now that he’s seen how it’s playing out?