67RIEFNS No. 21: Kyrie Irving’s bonkers All-Star voting

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The NBA is full of talent, personality and suspense. During the offseason, It’s easy to forget how wonderful the league can be. So, I’ve assembled 67 Reasons I’m Excited For Next Season (67RIEFNS). They’ll be presented in no particular order.

Will you vote for Kyrie Irving as an All-Star starter?

Are you a big Cavaliers fan? Do you hate the Cavaliers?

Think about those last two questions before deciding on the first.

Irving signed a contract extension with the “Derrick Rose rule” trigger. The Rose rule allows players with four or five years of experience to earn more money if they achieve one of the following within their first four seasons:

  • Named to the All-NBA first, second or third team twice
  • Voted an All-Star starter twice
  • Won MVP

Irving, entering his fourth season, has never made an All-NBA team, so that mode of qualifying is out. MVP seems far-fetched.

But the Cleveland point guard started last year’s All-Star game, so doing so again is – by far – his best shot at qualifying.

Last year, Irving finished a comfortable second in Eastern conference guard voting:

1. Dwyane Wade (929,542)

2. Kyrie Irving (860,221)

3. John Wall (393,129)

4. Derrick Rose (359,546)

5. Ray Allen (250,909)

6. Rajon Rondo (174,654)

With LeBron James and Kevin Love joining him in Cleveland, there will be more attention than ever on Irving. That he won the vote so easily last year on a dreadful team is encouraging for him.

But if Rose and Rondo are healthy, they’re threats to overtake Irving. Rondo started with Wade in 2013, and Rose did in 2011 and 2012. Even Wall, who advanced further in the playoffs last season than Rose and Rondo, could push for votes.

The stakes are reasonably high for Irving. Here’s what Irving would earn – based on the NBA’s projected 2015-16 salary cap – if he triggers the Rose rule (gold) and if he doesn’t (wine):

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That’s a difference of $1,550,241 in year one and $8,913,889 over the five-year extension – all based on fan vote.

Three players have triggered the Rose rule, but unless he wins MVP, Irving could be the first to do so only through a popularity contest.

Rose won MVP. Paul George made two All-NBA third teams. Blake Griffin qualified by starting an All-Star Game in his fourth season, but later that year, he also made a second All-NBA team.

So, fans have a lot of power here – power that could greatly impact not only Irving, but the Cavaliers and the rest of the NBA.

With the salary cap set to skyrocket under the new national-TV contracts, there’s speculation Cleveland could have enough cap space to sign a fourth star outright in 2016. Every extra dollar Irving makes limits the Cavaliers’ ability to upgrade.

Considering Cleveland is the championship favorite and will likely hold that title for several years to come, the trickle-down effects could be immense. Beating LeBron, Love and Irving will be hard enough. Defeating that trio and a fourth star sounds downright impossible.

When the ballots come out, conflicts of interest will occur everywhere.

Would the Cavaliers campaign against their own player in All-Star voting? I’d be shocked.

Would they not campaign as hard for Irving as they would otherwise? I could see that. Some organizations don’t campaign on principle, which would give Cleveland some cover. Plus, this isn’t a franchise known for its respect of players.

How about Cavaliers fans? Do they vote for their own guy or do they try to preserve the team’s future cap flexibility?

And fans of other teams? Western Conference fans should stuff the ballot for Irving, doing their small part to open the championship window for franchises outside Cleveland. But fans of other Eastern Conference teams face a dilemma similar to Cavaliers fans: Their own guy or Irving?

There will be some unusual incentives in play. In the end, I expect Irving to start. There will just be too much attention on the Cavaliers, and he was already so popular.

But the potential for hijinks is definitely high.

French point guard Theo Maledon declares for NBA draft

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French point guard Theo Maledon has declared for the 2020 NBA Draft:

The six-foot-five Maledon is declaring as an Early Entry candidate from the international ranks. International players who do not turn 22 in the calendar year of the draft can declare as Early Entry players.

At 18 years old, Maledon was a part-time starter for ASVEL Basket in France in the French Pro A League. ASVEL Basket is owned in part by former NBA player Tony Park, who also serves as the club’s president. Maleon started in 23 of the 46 games he played for ASVEL Basket this season.

In 46 games with ASVEL, Maledon averaged 7.3 points per game. He shot 42.1% from the floor, including 33.3% on three-pointers. He also averaged 2.7 assists per game. In mid-January, against former NBA player Shane Larkin and Turkish club Anadolu Efes, Maledon started and dished out 10 assists, while scoring five points and grabbing six rebounds.

In part due to his size for the point guard position, and his excellent play on the youth level, ESPN has Maledon ranked 15th in their top-100 prospects. He’s widely expected to be in the mix to be a lottery pick.

Players have until Sunday, April 26 to declare as Early Entry candidates. The deadline to withdraw as an Early Entry candidate is Monday, June 15. The 2020 NBA Draft is currently scheduled to be held on Thursday, June 25.

Report: Pacers GM Chad Buchanan turns down interview with Bulls

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Indiana Pacers general manager Chad Buchanan has reportedly declined an opportunity to interview for a front office job with the Chicago Bulls.

Buchanan joined the Pacers in 2017 as their general manager under President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard. Prior to moving to Indiana, Buchanan was the assistant general manager with the Charlotte Hornets.

In turning down the Bulls opportunity, Buchanan cited how well he and his family have been treated in Indiana. Buchanan had previously worked with Pritchard when both were members of the Portland Trail Blazers front office.

Chicago is replacing John Paxson and Gar Forman at the top of their front office structure. Paxson and Forman have led the Bulls basketball operations together since 2009. Chicago’s search will now reportedly focus on Arturas Karnisovas of the Denver Nuggets, Adam Simon of the Miami Heat and Bobby Webster of the Toronto Raptors.

This Day in NBA History: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar becomes NBA’s all-time scoring leader

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It was fitting he did it with a skyhook.

On April 5, 1984, in a game against the Utah Jazz (played in a sold-out Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar took a pass from Magic Johnson, swung left, and drained a hook shot that gave him career point No. 31,420, moving him past Wilt Chamberlain to become the NBA’s all-time leading scorer.

The game stopped as the celebration ensued as Kareem’s teammates swarmed the captain. He was taken out of the game at that point, done for the night.

Abdul-Jabbar wasn’t done scoring, however. H retired five seasons later with 38,387 points, a record that stands to this day.

Giannis Antetokounmpo doesn’t have home court, players forced to workout with what they have

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MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo is spending much of his time during the coronavirus-imposed hiatus working out, helping care for his newborn son and playing occasional video games.

What the reigning MVP isn’t doing very often is shooting baskets since the NBA has closed team practice facilities.

“I don’t have access to a hoop,” the Milwaukee Bucks forward said Friday during a conference call. “A lot of NBA players might have a court in their house or something, I don’t know, but now I just get my home workouts, (go) on the bike, treadmill, lift weights, stay sharp that way.”

The hiatus is forcing thousands of athletes, pro and otherwise, to work out from home as they try to keep in shape. Equipment varies from player to player, too.

“It all comes down to what they have and what they’re capable of doing,” Atlanta Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said. “We can do a lot of body weight stuff. That’s how they stay ready. That’s the most I can offer as a coach for them to stay ready. I can’t say ‘Hey, can you find access to a gym?’ That would be bad management on my part.”

For instance, Pierce said Hawks guard Kevin Huerter has access to a gym in New York and guard Jeff Teague owns a gym in Indiana.

Other players face different situations.

“I’ve seen LeBron’s Instagram,” Pierce said of Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James. “LeBron has a house with a full weight room and he has an outdoor court. He’s got a different reality right now that gives him a little more access to continue the normal. (Hawks rookie) Cam Reddish lives in an apartment and it’s probably a two-bedroom apartment. He can’t go in the apartment weight room because it’s a public facility. So he’s limited in all things.”

Bucks coach Mike Budenhlolzer said he wanted his players to focus on keeping their bodies in shape and conceded that logistics surrounding the pandemic would make it tougher for them to do any basketball-specific activities.

The Bucks are still finding ways to stay sharp.

Bucks players said team officials have made sure they all have the necessary exercise equipment. Antetokounmpo noted the Bucks also had a catering company bring food to make sure they maintain a proper diet. Center Brook Lopez said workout plans have been sent to them via a phone app.

“They’ve done a really good job of getting everything taken care of and still having tailored workouts for each individual player despite the situation,” Lopez said.

But it’s difficult for them to work on their shooting without access to a court.

“Since the practice facility is closed down, I don’t have any access to a basketball goal unless I go to one of my neighbors’ houses and shoot outside,” Bucks forward Khris Middleton said. “There’s really no basketball for me. It’s basically like Giannis said. Treadmill, jump rope, some weights and that’s it. I have a couple of basketballs I can dribble in my house or outside, but no actual goal to shoot on.”

Pierce noted that Huerter recently asked him when players would be able to get back into the Hawks’ practice facility.

“I told him, ‘I’ll tell you when we won’t,” Pierce said. “We won’t in April.”