Dan Feldman

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Potential lottery pick Mitchell Robinson leaves college, to spend year training for NBA draft

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Mitchell Robinson enrolled at Western Kentucky, left Western Kentucky, visited other schools re-enrolled at Western Kentucky and is now again leaving Western Kentucky – all before his freshman season even started.

Mitchell Robinson, via Evan Daniels of Scout:

“I’ve decided to leave Western Kentucky and just focus on next year’s NBA Draft,” Robinson said. “I want to thank Western Kentucky, the coaching staff, the fans and my teammates, but I decided to pursue a professional career.”

“The lifetime goal of mine is to play in the NBA and I feel like forgoing my year of college and going straight to work on a day to day basis will help prepare me, so I can focus just on basketball and maturing,” Robinson added.

Robinson projects as a mid-first-rounder, though I suspect this decision will hurt his stock. The athletic 7-footer has excellent physical skills, but he must improve his feel for the game. That’s less likely to happen while training in private. That Robinson can’t seem to figure out his plan is also a red flag.

There’ll be a lot of attention on his pre-draft workouts and interviews, as those will play an outsized role in his evaluations.

Hamidou Diallo nearly became a first-rounder this year as a none-and-done player, but he withdrew from the draft to return to Kentucky. He also at least practiced with Kentucky last season.

Robinson is charting a very different path.

Kyrie Irving says he doesn’t care if LeBron James took trade request personally

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Kyrie Irving wasn’t really pressed about the role LeBron James played in his exit from the Cavaliers.

That changed when the Celtics guard spoke with Stephen A. Smith on ESPN today:

  • Smith: “Did you speak to LeBron James or talk to LeBron before you and your representatives met with ownership to let them know that you wanted out?”
  • Irving: “No.”
  • Smith: “Why not?”
  • Irving: “Why would I have to?”
  • Smith: “If you don’t speak to somebody about it, they might take it personally.”
  • Irving:Yeah.”
  • Smith: “Do you care about that at all?”
  • Irving: “No.”

OK then.

Irving doesn’t necessarily owe his coworker a heads up. He also doesn’t have to care what other people, including LeBron, think.

But this boosts the idea of a divide between the two. As long as Irving understands that, he can frame his trade request however he wants.

Report: Nuggets re-signing Mason Plumlee to three-year, $41 million contract

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The Nuggets dealt for Mason Plumlee just before the trade deadline with the intention of re-signing him this summer.

Plumlee didn’t exactly live up to expectations in Denver last season, though. While Jusuf Nurkic thrived in Portland, the Nuggets missed the playoffs. Plumlee and Nikola Jokic merely meandered as a tandem.

Free agency proved particularly harsh for restricted free agents and centers, and Plumlee was both. A $4,588,840 qualifying offer lingered.

But Denver stepped up with a big payday.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

That’s a lot of money for a backup center. Probably too much.

Plumlee is already 27, so while he might remain effective through this deal, he probably has untapped upside. What you see is what you get: A mobile finisher who passes willingly and defends with more effort than ability.

But where does he fit in Denver?

The Nuggets will start Paul Millsap and Jokic, and they’re overstuffed with backup power forwards – Darrell Arthur, Juan Hernangomez, Trey Lyles, Tyler Lydon and Kenneth Faried, who can also play center. There’s clearly a role reserved for Plumlee, given this deal.

But considering Denver’s leverage – with Plumlee being restricted, other teams not appearing interested and the Nuggets’ big man depth – this contract looks even worse.

Did Kevin Durant send third-person tweets criticizing Billy Donovan, Thunder supporting cast?

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Kevin Durant cares what people thinks about him. That much is clear.

We also know a fan tweeted this at the Warriors star:

Did Durant respond with third-person tweets critical of Billy Donovan and the Thunder’s supporting cast for him and Russell Westbrook? These screen shots make it look that way:

If Durant actually sent those tweets, he since deleted them. If these are fake, the fabricators went to decent effort, with different screen shots posted to different long-existing accounts that don’t follow each other.

Fairly or not, Durant is going to be the butt of many jokes today. If he addresses this — even to deny sending the tweets, which look they were intended to come from an account other than his official one — he’ll likely only make it worse.

His best bet is just to hope this passes until he can get back on the court and change the conversation with his excellent play.

Three questions the Philadelphia 76ers must answer this season

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The NBC/ProBasketballTalk season previews will ask the questions each of the 30 NBA teams must answer to make their season a success. We are looking at one team a day until the start of the season, and it begins with a look back at the team’s offseason moves.

Last Season: 28-54, most wins in four years

I know what you did last summer: The 76ers cashed in some of their immense assets, extra draft picks and cap space. They traded up for the No. 1 pick to get Markelle Fultz and signed J.J. Redick ($23 million) and Amir Johnson ($11 million) to one-year contracts.

THREE QUESTIONS THE 76ERS MUST ANSWER:

1) Will Joel Embiid stay healthy? The 76ers found their first sliver of success in years around Embiid. Of the 45 players to play at least 250 minutes for Philadelphia in the last five years, Embiid is the only one with a positive plus-minus:

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Embiid looked like a star when on the court. He was the best defensive rookie in years, and he was relentless on offense with his inside-outside game.

Of course he played just 25.4 minutes per game in only 31 contests last season, his first on the court after sitting his first two professional seasons due to injury. His injuries issues clearly aren’t completely behind him.

There’s a direct link between his health and Philadelphia’s chances of making the playoffs. It’s the team’s biggest variable, but it also leads to a smaller one…

2) How will the 76ers handle Embiid-less time? Not only did Embiid miss most of Philadelphia’s games last season, he played just about half the minutes in the ones he played.

There’s going to be a lot of time the 76ers must manage without him on the court. The better they do that, the more margin for error they’ll have for him missing games/having a minute limit.

They have enough centers to throw at the problem – Richaun Holmes, Jahlil Okafor, Amir Johnson. The key will be improved production from perimeter players, who’ll be tasked with greater roles when is Embiid is out.

Redick will help with his floor spacing, and Robert Covington‘s 3-point shooting regressing to his mean after a down year would compound the effects. But Philadelphia really needs at least one of its younger players like Dario Saric, Nik Stauskas, T.J. McConnell, Justin Anderson and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot to step up.

3) Is Philadelphia’s rookie starting point guard ready to win? Whether it’s Markelle Fultz or Ben Simmons, the 76ers will probably start a rookie point guard. Teams with rookie point guards usually struggle.

Maybe Fultz and Simmons can lean on each other, Simmons running the transition game and Fultz leading the half-court offense. Together, they might not face as large a burden as one rookie point guard would alone.

But neither Fultz nor Simmons is experienced in the nuances of NBA play, and while it’s generally fine for them to learn through their mistakes, Philadelphia is trying to make the playoffs this season.

T.J. McConnell is a nice safety blanket, but his upside is limited. It’s clearly better for the 76ers if they can get Fultz and/or Simmons going – particularly if they don’t have to balance present-vs.-future with that choice.