Five Takeaways from NBA Monday: Kyrie Irving, Brandon Jennings look like old selves

Associated Press

If you were watching Kansas beat Oklahoma in triple-overtime, we forgive you. It certainly was dramatic. But here’s what you missed around the Association Monday night.

1) Kyrie Irving looks like dominant self again, drops 25 on Toronto. At the end of the third quarter, LeBron James took control of the game, scoring nine points in a little over three minutes to put Cleveland up by double digits. It’s what he does.

Then Irving blew the game wide open. With LeBron on the bench during part of the fourth, Irving scored nine straight points. This was not the somewhat tentative, getting used to his trusting his knee again Kyrie Irving, but the full speed ahead, wicked handles, can make plays wherever he wants Kyrie Irving. He was stroking threes with confidence; he was blowing past his defender and getting into the lane at will then finishing over bigs. It was fun to watch. Kyrie Irving is back, and that should worry the rest of the NBA.

2) Brandon Jennings has turned Detroit’s bench around. The Pistons have developed a fairly predictable game plan: Have the starters build a lead and hope the reserves don’t blow it.

Brandon Jennings turned it on its head in Detroit’s 115-89 win over the Magic last night.

Recently returned from a torn Achilles, Jennings scored 17 points and dished six assists while the Pistons outscored Orlando by 25 points in his 18 minutes.

Detroit also outscored the Magic by five points with Reggie Jackson on the floor, the first time both Jackson and his primary backup (whether it was Jennings, Steve Blake or Spencer Dinwiddie) were each +5 or better in the same game. In fact, it’s just the fifth time all season both Jackson and his backup had positive plus-minuses at all in the same game.

Jennings breathed life into a listless reserve unit even beyond his scoring. His six assists created four 3-pointers, a dunk and a layup. Jennings drew so much attention, three of his four misses were offensively rebounded.

“When you’re out there with me, just run,” Jennings said. “I’m going to get it to you.”
Nobody — not even Jennings — reasonably expected him to look this good this soon. Four games into his return from such a serious injury, there will still be ups and downs.
But if this is a sign of the peaks to come, the Pistons should be dangerous in the Sub-Cavaliers portion of the Eastern Conference.
—Dan Feldman

3) Draymond Green records third straight triple-double in Warriors win. Draymond Green will be an All-Star this season, the coaches will vote him in as a reserve. Right now, every team is looking for their Draymond Green. The versatile big man is at the heart of Golden State’s success, and the triple-doubles are a reminder why — he can put up points, set up teammates, and he just outworks everyone. Against Charlotte Monday Green had 13 points, 15 rebounds, and 10 assists, helping lead Golden State to a 111-101 victory. That’s 32-2, for those of you keeping track of such things.

4) Dwyane Wade‘s driving layup forced overtime, where Heat eventually gets the win. Miami had been down 18 points in the third quarter to Indiana, but Wade’s 13 points in the third quarter started to turn things around. It can be frustrating at the end of games when Miami devolves into running Wade hero-ball sets rather than plays, because when they run ones like the inbounds that allows Miami to tie the game, it’s pretty. With just 2.7 seconds left Paul George wanted to be aggressive and deny Wade the ball, but he fell behind and was trailing Wade coming off a Chris Bosh screen and when Wade turned toward the rim nobody between him and the rim. Straight line drive, and the defensive rotation couldn’t stop him. The Heat went on to win 103-100.

5) DeMarcus Cousins scores 33, grabs 19 boards, Kings win first game in Oklahoma City. The Sacramento Kings were 0-14 in Oklahoma City going into Monday night. It helped that OKC was without Kevin Durant, but it helped more that DeMarcus Cousins was in beast mode. Remember Cousins was getting ejected and not playing great ball last week, but he brought it Monday. The points were nice, but the Thunder are one of the best rebounding teams in the NBA and Cousins owned the glass. Steven Adams couldn’t slow Cousins without fouling him, and no other OKC big could even do that much. It was an impressive night for Cousins.

NBA Media Day roundup: Zion looking fit, Ayton sounding reserved, more

Philadelphia 76ers Media Day
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Most of the NBA conducted media day on Monday — some moments turned our head.

Here’s what you need to know from media day around the league — just the highlights. This does not include anything on the Nets — there’s a separate story on them — or the Lakers (there will be a story Tuesday morning out of Lakers’ media day).

• The reports of Zion Williamson being in the best shape of his career appear to be true. HoodieBev has the recipts.

We’ll see if this translates to the court — there’s a lot of pressure on him — but Zion looks like he’s put in the work.

• Speaking of players who looked in better shape, James Harden looked slimmed down. He joked he lost 100 pounds, but he also talked about his diet and exercise regimen.

Deandre Ayton got a four-year, $132.9 million contract extension this summer, but not because the Suns were handing it out. Ayton had to get the Pacers to make the offer (which is why he doesn’t have a five-year deal) and then the Suns matched it. Ayton is a guy with a usually upbeat personality, but when asked about his new contract, it was a short answer and a low-key tone.

Coach Monty Williams and All-Star Devin Booker both talked about how they expect Ayton to use the contract as motivation and come out with a monster season. We’ll be watching.

• The Suns’ players and coach had to all answer the “what did you think of the Robert Sarver investigation report?” question, and the answers were unanimous — they were disgusted, saddened, and felt for those (especially the women) who had to deal with his behavior. They also to a man said they had no idea (which, at least before the original ESPN report, may have been true; how he acted around players and those on the business side appears to be different).

• All the Celtics were asked about their former coach Ime Udoka’s season-long suspension, and Marcus Smart summed up the sentiments well — “it’s been hell.” They were caught off guard like much of the NBA was. That said, to a man, they backed interim coach Joe Mazzulla.

• With P.J. Tucker out in Miami there has been a lot of talk about Jimmy Butler playing the four, especially to close games. Butler himself shot that down, saying he is not a four.

The Heat continue to look for a trade for a four, but may not have one to start the season.

• At his end-of-season media session last May, Pat Riley said Kyle Lowry needed to show up in better shape this season. It appears Lowry did, but did it motivate him? “It’s whatever… everyone has their opinion.”

• It’s not media day unless Kawhi Leonard is laughing.

As for Leonard and load management this season, coach Tyronne Lue said he would play it by ear. But also, expect some.


Report: Heat, Celtics, Mavericks, Grizzlies may show interest in Crowder trade

2022 NBA Playoffs - 	Dallas Mavericks v Phoenix Suns
Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

The Phoenix Suns had media day on Monday, but veteran Jae Crowder was not there, part of a mutual agreement with the team to sit out until a trade could be found. It left players and GM James Jones addressing the issue.

What teams are interested in Crowder? Shams Charania of The Athletic says to watch for the Heat, Celtics, Mavericks and Grizzlies among others.

Miami has been at the front of the line in terms of interest (and Crowder has suggested online he would welcome a return to Miami). The Heat have minutes to fill at the four after P.J. Tucker left for Philly and Crowder — who was on the Heat team that went to the bubble Finals against the Lakers — would be a solid fit. Putting together a trade is a little more tricky. The Heat would likely want Duncan Robinson at the core of the deal, but to make the salaries match the Suns would have to throw in another player — Dario Saric, Landry Shamet, Cameron Payne, Torey Craig — and that means the Heat have to throw in a pick (a protected first) or a minimum-contract player (Gabe Vincent?) to make the deal work. Not impossible, but not likely.

The Celtics need depth at the four but what they can offer is bench minutes, filling Danilo Gallinari‘s role (he is out for the season with a torn ACL) but putting together a trade is next to impossible financially considering who Boston would be willing to give up (not Robert Williams). Dallas could put together a deal if the Suns are interested in Dwight Powell (probably not, the Suns just paid Deandre Ayton a lot of money to be their center) or Reggie Bullock. Memphis could send out the dead money of the Danny Green contract (out for the season due to injury) and picks, or Ziaire Williamson and some minimum players (probably also with picks). Atlanta, Chicago and other destinations have come out in rumors.

As for why Crowder pushed for a trade, the man himself posted his own hype video on Instagram and Tweeted this.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported the most heard speculation around the league as to the reason — the Suns were going to start Cameron Johnson at the four to have more shooting and Crowder wanted none of that — but the reason now is moot. Crowder will get traded.

The only questions are when and where.

Durant, Irving talk about Nets moving on from ‘very awkward’ summer, but drama continues

Brooklyn Nets Media Day
Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

Media Day — arguably the most boring and tedious day on the NBA calendar — was anything but in Brooklyn.

After a summer Kyrie Irving admitted was “very awkward” — where both he and Kevin Durant pushed to be traded, and Durant threw down an ultimatum saying it was him or coach Steve Nash and GM Sean Marks — everyone was back under one roof and trying to stay on message about just wanting to win.

But drama will follow this team like a dark cloud until they force the conversation to be about something else. Like how many games they are winning.

Until then, the awkward questions and moments will come. For example, why did Kevin Durant ask for a trade this summer? What did he want to see changed? He talked about the team feeling unstable last season. Which it was (for a variety of reasons).

“My whole thing was, I wanted everybody to be held accountable for their habits as a basketball player. I think a lot of stuff was getting swept under the rug because we’re injured or this guy’s not around or just the circumstances. I thought we could have fought through that a little bit more and focused on the guys that were here a little bit more.

“You know, when I went out with the injury, we lost 10 in a row. And I’m like, we shouldn’t be losing some of these games that we lost, regardless of who’s on the floor. So I was more so worried about how we’re approaching every day as a basketball team. And I felt like we could have fought through a lot of the stuff that I felt that held us back.”

Those are the best, drama-free answers he could give. But Durant still loves to stir the pot on Twitter and did so later in the day.

(That was the question asked boiled way down, but both the question and Durant’s answer had a lot more context, it was not a confrontational answer in the moment.)

Kyrie Irving said there were options for him this summer, although limited ones, because he is unvaccinated. He also talked about the reasons he wanted to return to the Nets.

Marks handled the inevitable “your star wanted you fired” questions as well as he could, saying at one point “that’s pro sports.”

“Everybody’s entitled to their opinions and I think from us, it’s not to hold a grudge against what Kevin said, but it’s a little bit of saying, ‘All right, if that’s the way he feels, what’s going on here?’ Like, what do we need to change?” Marks said.

In the end, everyone talked about moving on and the potential for this roster. Durant is not disappointed to be back.

“I wasn’t disappointed. I still love to play. I knew that wasn’t going to get affected regardless of what happened this summer,” Durant said.

The Nets have the talent on the roster to be title contenders, but have more questions than any other team at that level after the past couple of years: Can Durant stay healthy? Will Irving be focused and committed for an entire season? How does Ben Simmons fit in and what is his role? Can their thin frontcourt hold up? Will they play enough defense? Is Steve Nash up to the task? Does this team have the will and drive to be contenders?

Playing through the drama is the only way to answer all those questions, but if they do this team could be a powerhouse.

PBT Podcast: Golden State Warriors season preview

2022 NBA Finals - Golden State Warriors v Boston Celtics
Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

The Golden State Warriors will enter the season hanging banner number four from this era and passing out their championship rings, but this is a team with more questions than most returning champs.

Otto Porter and Gary Payton II are gone and their minutes will go to a young core — Jordan Poole, Moses Moody, Jonathan Kuminga, James Wiseman — who are going to be asked to carry a larger load. Particularly during the regular season.

Dalton Johnson of NBC Sports Bay Area joins Kurt Helin of NBC Sports to break down this coming Warriors season, what to expect, and if the young core can get the older vets to the playoffs rested and ready to defend their title. There’s also talk of what comes next in Golden State, as some hard contract choices are coming in the next few years.

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