Tuesday And-1 links: Set your DVRs, next week is “NBA Week” on Wheel of Fortune

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Here is our regular look around the NBA — links to stories worth reading and notes to check out (stuff that did not get its own post here at PBT) — done in bullet point form. Because bloggers love bullet points like Bobby Flay loves a chipotle pepper.

• Finally, something NBA related you can do with your grandmother — “Wheel of Fortune” has teamed up with the NBA for “NBA Week,” which air all next week  (Feb. 4 – 8). Who is involved? Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, and Grant Hill as well as Lakers legend and Hall of Famer James Worthy. And of course Pat Sajak and Vanna White, which is why you are really watching (admit it). Plus players such as Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Kevin Durant will do pre-taped segments and introduce custom NBA prizes.

• Chris Bosh, photobombing at the White House. Well, I’m calling it that, maybe he planned to make that lame face.

• Here is another great look at life for the Celtics without Rajon Rondo, via Zach Lowe of Grantland. I’m not sure any of his Paul Pierce trade ideas will go over well with Celtics faithful.

• In the wake of a report that raised all sorts of ethical red flags around Billy Hunter and the NBA players union, he has let go of all his family members working for the union. That was not enough to stop agent Arn Tellem from sending a letter to his clients urging them to vote Hunter out of power.

• The Washington Post caught up with Yao Ming, and he seems settled and happy. Good for him.

Great interview in GQ with Mike Conley, conducted by the legend that is Lang Whittaker. Oh, and don’t tell Conley he’s no good at Halo.

• Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving and San Antonio’s Tony Parker today were named Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week for last week. Irving led the Cavaliers to a 3-0 record averaging 35.7 points per game. Paker led the Spurs to a 4-0 week averaging 24.5 points and 9.5 assists a game.

• Speaking of Kyrie Irving, he is questionable for Tuesday night’s game due to an illness.

• A change in coaches can make a difference for a player — since Jim Boylan took over the Bucks Ersan Ilyasova has averaged 15.4 points on 47 percent shooting plus 8.4 rebounds a game. He looks like the guy from last season again.

• As people around the team expected, the Pacers have brought back Sam Young as he gets closer to playing following a severe ankle sprain.

The Timberwolves inked Mickael Gelabale and Chris Johnson to second 10-day contracts. At the end of these 10 days Minnesota has to sign them (or one of them) for the rest of the season or let the player go.

• Loul Deng wants the British government to restore funding to the national basketball program.

• Lorenzen Wright’s ex-wife got a $1 million payout following his 2010 murder. She’s burned through almost all of it within 10 months.

• Rajon Rondo’s injury has Keyon Dooling thinking about coming out of retirement.

• Kendrick Perkins’ wife got in an argument at a nail salon and there is video, Perkins allegedly threw a Gatorade bottle outside the store. Warning: It’s not that exciting.

• Finally, this Russian league coach knows how to make a swing pass to the open man.

James Harden returns to 76ers Monday night, is on minutes restriction

Minnesota Timberwolves v Philadelphia 76ers
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The 76ers were able to keep their heads above water. For 14 games, James Harden was out with a right foot tendon sprain — both Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey missed games in that stretch as well (Maxey remains out) — and Philadelphia went 8-6 with a +2.9 net rating and the best defense in the NBA over that stretch.

Monday night in Houston, Harden returns.

This wasn’t a surprise, nor is the fact Doc Rivers confirmed Harden will be on a minutes restriction at first.

Harden averaged 22 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds a game before his injury, and while his 3-point shooting percentage was down (33.3%) he was still efficient and finding his footing as more of a facilitator than scorer.

The 76ers are 12-11 on the season and sit in a three-way tie for fifth in the East (with the Pacers and Raptors). If Harden can spark the Philadephia offense there is plenty of time for them to climb into the top four, host a first-round playoff game and position themselves for a deep playoff run. But it starts with getting their starting guards healthy again.

Harden is ready to take that on.

Trae Young frustrated ‘private conversations get out to the public’ about missed game

Atlanta Hawks v Philadelphia 76ers
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Rumors and chatter of tension in Atlanta — about how Trae Young was adapting to playing with Dejonte Murray, and his pushback on coach Nate McMillan and his efforts to get the ball moving more — have been all over the league since the start of the season. Over the weekend, a little of that leaked out, with reports Young chose not to come to the arena Friday after McMillan gave him a choice of participating in shootaround or missing the game.

Young addressed the report and seemed more concerned that it got out than the report’s content.

“I mean, it was just a situation. I mean, we’re all grown men here and there’s sometimes we don’t always agree. And it’s unfortunate that private situations and private conversations get out to the public, but I guess that’s the world we live in now. Yeah, I’m just gonna just focus on basketball and focus on helping my team win. And that’s what I got to be focusing on…

“Like I said, it’s a private matter, again, made public, which is unfortunate. And if it was to stay private, it probably wouldn’t have been as big of a deal. But like I said, it’s unfortunate in my job, and my goal is to win championships. And that’s what I focus on.”

Young went through shootaround  Monday and is set to play against the Thunder.

Murray has been professional throughout this situation, saying he didn’t see anything at the shootaround Friday and backing Young and McMillan when asked.

Bringing in Murray was supposed to take some pressure off Young and spread the wealth more on offense, ideally allowing Young to be more efficient. Instead, Young’s usage rate is nearly identical to last season, he is shooting just 30.3% from 3 and his true shooting percentage has fallen below league average. The Hawks as a team make the fewest passes per game of any team in the league (stat via NBA.com). The Hawks’ offense is still a lot of Young, but it’s not as efficient as it has been in years past.

Atlanta is still 13-10 on the season, has a top-10 defense and sits fourth in the East — they are not struggling. But neither have they made the leap to become a team that could threaten Boston or Milwaukee atop the conference, and that’s what the Hawks expected.

There could be personnel moves coming in Atlanta — John Collins is available via trade, again — but if the Hawks can’t smooth out their internal, existing concerns (and get Collins and DeAndre Hunter healthy) other roster moves will be just cosmetic.

Nike, Kyrie Irving part ways, making him a sneaker free agent

Toronto Raptors v Brooklyn Nets
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Here’s the positive spin for Kyrie Irving: He will have the chance to remake his situation into something he’s more comfortable with during 2023. As a player, he will be an unrestricted free agent and can choose where he wants to play in coming seasons (how many teams are interested and for how many years will be interesting to see).

Irving also is a sneaker free agent — Nike has cut ties with him, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Irving is happy with this.

The separation is not a surprise. Nike suspended its relationship with Irving after he Tweeted out support for an antisemitic film, did not apologize (at first), and was suspended by the Nets. Here was the company’s statement at that time:

“At Nike, we believe there is no place for hate speech and we condemn any form of antisemitism. To that end, we’ve made the decision to suspend our relationship with Kyrie Irving effective immediately and will no longer launch the Kyrie 8. We are deeply saddened and disappointed by the situation and its impact on everyone.”

Nike founder Phil Knight said it was likely the end of the company’s relationship with Irving.

That’s not a small thing by Nike, Irving has had a signature shoe line since 2014 and is reported to have a deal with Nike worth more than $10 million a season because his shoes are popular. However, his contract with the shoe giant was set to end in October 2023, and there had been reports Nike did not plan to extend that deal before this current controversy started.

Nike is already looking in a new direction, at Ja Morant.

Irving now has the chance to choose his new direction.

 

Cavaliers’ Dean Wade to miss 3-4 weeks due to shoulder injury

NBA: NOV 06 Cavaliers at Lakers
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In Cleveland’s search for a fifth starter to play the three next to Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen, Dean Wade might be the best of the group. Not that the numbers are great for him or anyone (Cedi Osman is the best statistically) but the eye test makes one think Wade could be the answer.

We’ll have to wait a while to find out as Wade will be out 3-4 weeks with an AC joint sprain in his left shoulder, the Cavaliers announced. Friday night against the Magic he suffered an aggravation to a previous injury.

Wade has been a quality floor-spacer for the Cavaliers this season, shooting 41.1% from three, and is averaging 6.4 points and 4.1 rebounds a game, playing a little more than 24 minutes a night.

When he returns, hopefully coach J.B. Bickerstaff will give him a little more run with the rest of the Cavaliers core (when they are healthy).