Jamal Murray: Kyrie Irving ‘overreacted’, Irving: ‘I felt disrespected’

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Kyrie Irving accepted his $25,000 fine for throwing the ball into the stands after the Celtics’ loss to the Nuggets on Sunday without complaint.

But that doesn’t mean Irving was done talking about Jamal Murray, who provoked Irving by shooting on the final possession with Denver’s win already secure in an attempt to score 50 points.

Irving, via Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston:

“[The fine was] well deserved,” Irving told reporters at Boston’s offday practice Tuesday in Phoenix. “There’s a sense of professionalism that you have to uphold within this league, and I failed to do so, so I take full responsibility for it.”

“From a competitive standpoint, I think [the ball] absolutely deserved to go into the stands,” said Irving. “You just don’t play basketball like that, and it’s as simple as that. You just don’t. There’s a tradition and a respect within the league as well as within any basketball game. Obviously you’ve won the game, have it sealed, had a great game – the game of your life, and then you do something like that. It’s just petty, it’s immature. But we’ll see him again though.”

“[Murray] knew. It’s not like I hold any resentment towards it, but hopefully going forward after this, he doesn’t do anything like that,” said Irving. “You’ve seen guys throughout the league, I believe there was an incident in Indiana when Lance Stephenson took a layup at the end where they were playing against Toronto, and it’s just experiences that everyone has.

“You just don’t do that in the NBA. In any game, it’s just a respect for your opponent, and I felt disrespected after the game. So your career-high ball goes in the stands.”

Murray, via Mike Singer of The Denver Post:

“That’s just makes me laugh,” Murray said here Wednesday of Irving’s comments. “I think everybody understood I was trying to go for 50. Everybody understood I was trying to break a record, make history. Not just here but Canadian history as well. I think it was more of an understandable shot. I think he’s a competitor, so obviously he’s going to take it a different way. I think he overreacted. But I’m not gonna sit here and go into a little debate. I’m just going to play basketball and we’re on to the next game.”

“I think somebody caught it and gave it to a little kid wearing my jersey, so I think that was a great moment,” Murray said from shootaround ahead of Wednesday’s game at Memphis. “That’s a lucky kid. He got a ball that’s worth 48 points.”

The fan wants Murray’s signature on the ball – something Murray said he’d be open to even if it means he doesn’t get to keep it.

“I’ll do that for sure. What goes around comes back around. That’ll be fun to interact with a fan. Get to see the ball again, sign it for him… I’m not really stressing (about the ball). I think I can repeat that day one game. If the kid’s willing to give it up, I’ll trade him some shoes or something for it. So that wouldn’t be too bad, either.”

Irving sounds mighty sensitive. And that’s OK. He can feel disrespected.

But also keep in mind: Murray clearly didn’t shoot with intent to disrespect. He wanted 50 points, and that’s it. That doesn’t absolve him if he were incidentally disrespectful. Murray seemed to know how Boston would take his shot, as he appeared conflicted about whether to hoist before he did. But this really wasn’t about the Celtics.

Of course, the Celtics are making it about themselves – and not looking good in the process. In the Lance Stephenson example Irving cited, the Raptors came off as hypocrites. At least Irving is consistent, though.

Murray is handling this much better, not even fretting about losing the ball.

It’s a ball. It was a shot. These are not things to get so worked up about.

Unless you’re trying to motivate yourself for the rematch in March, which is the only endearing potential explanation for Irving carrying on.

Pascal Siakam scores 37, Raptors remain red hot with win vs. Suns

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TORONTO (AP) — Pascal Siakam had 37 points and 12 rebounds and the Toronto Raptors beat the Phoenix Suns 118-101 on Friday night for their 16th victory in 17 games.

Serge Ibaka scored 16 points, Fred VanVleet and Terence Davis each had 14, Kyle Lowry had 13 points and 10 assists and OG Anunoby aded 12 points for the defending NBA champion Raptors.

After Toronto’s franchise-record 15-game winning streak ended with a loss at Brooklyn in the final game before the All-Star break, the Raptors bounced back by starting the second half with their eighth consecutive home victory.

The Raptors have not lost back-to-back games since an overtime loss at Indiana on Dec. 23 and a home loss to Boston on Christmas Day. Toronto has gone 19-1 since.

Siakam connected on 12 of 19 attempts, going 5 of 9 from 3-point range.

That was just one fewer than the six 3-pointers the Suns managed on 34 attempts. Phoenix shot 17.6%t from long range, its lowest mark of the season. No Suns player made more than one shot from distance.

Devin Booker scored 21 points and Deandre Ayton had 17 points and 10 rebounds for Phoenix. The Suns lost for the seventh time in nine games.

Ayton returned to the starting lineup after missing the final two games before the All-Star break because of a sore left ankle.

Phoenix trailed 93-78 through three quarters, but the Suns cut the gap to six points, 96-90 on a basket by Ayton with 8:08 left to play. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson made a pair from the line, and VanVleet and Siakam both scored to put the Raptors up 102-90 with 6:58 remaining.

Booker missed a 3 with 4:45 left that would have made it a four-point game. Anunoby scored on a dunk and, after another missed 3 by the Suns, Ibaka banked home a 3-pointer to restore Toronto’s 12-point cushion.

Moe Harkless says no buyout with Knicks: “I’ll be here the rest of the year”

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Moe Harkless went from a guy often starting and playing critical minutes for a contender in the Clippers to being the matching salary in a trade and finding himself on the woeful Knicks.

“It is definitely an adjustment with the way things are,” Harkless told Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. “Everything is different, the culture and everything.”

If there was a player nobody would blame for wanting a buyout and the chance to get back to a team playing for something, it would be Harkless.

That’s not happening. Multiple reports have surfaced that he is not talking buyout with New York running up to the March 1 deadline. The latest comes from Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Then Harkless was even more direct speaking to Bondy.

“I’ll be here the rest of the year,” he said.

Harkless has fans in NBA front offices, with the Lakers rumored to be among them (although they are about to land Markieff Morris in a similar role). Harkless could play good defensive minutes on the wing down the stretch for a team, buying rest for key guys, plus in the playoffs he could be advantageous in certain matchups.

Morris and the Knicks have time to change their minds, but it sounds like he will play out the season in New York then be a free agent next summer.

Lakers reportedly will waive DeMarcus Cousins to clear roster spot

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If the Lakers are going to add Markieff Morrisas has been rumored — or anyone else via free agency, they are going to need to clear out a roster spot.

That has the Lakers looking to waive DeMarcus Cousins, a report broken by Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Cousins signed with the Lakers over the summer but never set foot on the court with them after tearing his ACL during summer workouts (which led to a scramble and L.A.’s fortuitous signing of Dwight Howard). He was around the team and rehabbing, and while they would never officially rule him out, Cousins was never expected to play.

He was not waived before because his $3.5 million salary might have been useful in a trade. When that didn’t materialize at the deadline it, became likely he could get waived.

It’s highly unlikely a team picks up Cousins this season, while he continues to rehab from his injury. However, it might be a good roll of the dice this summer by a team to sign him to a minimum contract for next season. Cousins still has some NBA basketball in him, if he can just stay healthy.

Karl-Anthony Towns has fractured wrist, to be re-evaluated in two weeks

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Karl-Anthony Towns was a surprise scratch from the Timberwolves last game before the All-Star break, a “left wrist injury” delaying the home debut of him with D'Angelo Russell (they did play a road game together in Toronto). Then came the rumors he could miss a few games when play started up again.

It’s going to be more than a few games, more than a few weeks.

Towns has a fractured left wrist, the team announced Friday. He is out and will be re-evaluated in two weeks. From the team press release:

“While Towns has been diligent in treatment with a goal of return to play, he has been assessed by multiple specialists over the last several days and the team continues to gather information on the optimal management strategies.”

Towns had been playing through wrist pain for a couple of weeks before this diagnosis.

Towns is having a career year on offense, averaging  26.5 points a game while shooting 41 percent from three (on 7.9 attempts per game), plus grabbing 10.8 rebounds a night. That has not translated into wins for Minnesota, however.

Towns being out doesn’t hurt the Timberwolves in the short term, they have fallen far out of the playoff chase in the West. However, this cuts into time Towns and Russell could have used to grow accustomed to each other’s games. It’s time lost for the coaching staff and front office as they evaluate the fit of players they have around Towns and Russell.