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Celtics reportedly “cautiously optimistic” Kyrie Irving will stay

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Nobody knows what Kyrie Irving is going to do. Anyone who says they know what is in Mr. Flat Earth’s head is selling something.

Irving wants to carve his own path, which is why he forced his way out of LeBron James‘ shadow in Cleveland, it’s why he pushed back on the idea that what Kevin Durant or Anthony Davis or anyone else is doing as a free agent will decide what he will do come July.

Irving is at the center of the Davis trade scenarios — Boston can’t put together the same package, or have the same confidence of re-signing Davis if Irving is gone — and he’s a wild card.

Boston continues to project confidence it can re-sign Irving and trade for Davis, reports Zach Lowe at ESPN.

Boston, for its part, remains cautiously optimistic about keeping Irving, though the events of the past week — Irving’s comments, New York opening up a second maximum salary slot — have shaken them. But Boston is always confident. That is Ainge’s default mindset. The league at large is much less confident, but it is hard to say who knows what, and with what level of reliability. The postseason could be really telling for so many of this summer’s headliner free agents.

Around the league, there is a sense that New York would not have done the Kristaps Porzingis trade unless it was very confident it was going to land two stars. Which is to say, very confident they got back-channel assurances. The caveat is this is the Knicks, so who knows, and things can change.

How things change ties back to the last sentence in that paragraph from Lowe — the playoffs shake everything up.

What Boston looks like after a second-round exit at the hand of Toronto is very different from what happens if Boston makes the NBA Finals. Both are very possible, the Celtics have gone 9-1 in their last 10 with a +10.7 net rating. They have looked like the team we thought would be the team to beat in the East. If the Celtics make it to the Finals, does Irving still bolt? You can make a good case for Toronto, Milwaukee, and now-improved Philadelphia to make the Finals as well. The top four in the East are tightly bunched. It’s going to come down to health, matchups, and who gets hot at the right time, plus a few lucky bounces.

(As a side note, the two of those teams that get bounced in the second round — and math says two have to — will have very different summers than if they are in the conference finals or Finals. How does Jimmy Butler or Kawhi Leonard feel entering free agency off a second-round exit vs. a trip to the Finals? And don’t forget the Bucks have as many as eight free agents on their roster this summer.)

The Celtics may be confident, but Danny Ainge doesn’t know what Irving is thinking, either. What Irving is thinking come July 1 could be something totally different from today. There is a wild ride ahead.

Kings hire WNBA’s Lindsey Harding as assistant coach

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The Sacramento Kings have hired former WNBA player Lindsey Harding as an assistant and player development coach on Luke Walton’s staff.

The team also hired Stacey Augmon and Rico Hines on Friday.

Harding played nine years in the WNBA before working as a pro personnel scout and then player development coach for the Philadelphia 76ers.

She becomes the latest woman to serve as a coach in the NBA, joining others like Boston’s Kara Lawson, San Antonio’s Becky Hammon, Dallas’ Jenny Boucek and Cleveland’s Lindsay Gottlieb.

The Kings have a history of hiring female coaches, notably Nancy Lieberman and Boucek.

 

Wizards reportedly to finally remove interim tag from GM Tommy Sheppard

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Tommy Sheppard has been doing the work as the Wizards GM since April when Wizards owner Ted Leonsis finally ended Ernie Grunfeld’s run as team GM.

Sheppard was the GM through the draft. Through free agency. All the time with the “interim” tag on his job title. In Las Vegas for Summer League, plenty of other executives wondered why that tag was still on Sheppard’s title.

It’s finally coming off, reports Candace Buckner of the Washington Post.

The Washington Wizards removed the interim tag from Tommy Sheppard’s title Friday, promoting him to be the 12th general manager in franchise history, according to a person with knowledge of the situation…

The promotion of Sheppard, who will be entering his 17th season with the Wizards, mirrors the internal hiring decision Leonsis made with his hockey team. In 2014, Leonsis elevated Brian MacLellan as the Washington Capitals senior vice president and general manager after firing George McPhee. Before the promotion, MacLellan had spent the previous seven years under McPhee as an assistant general manager.

This likely will be made official in the next 48-72 hours.

Part of the delay may have been that a couple of prominent names were linked to the Wizards job at different times. There were reportedly talks with Tim Conley, who built Denver into a real threat, but he decided to stay in the Rockies. There were rumors of Masai Ujiri coming to the District, but he has chosen to stay in Toronto after winning a title.

Making Sheppard the full-time GM provides some stability just as the Wizards reach their most important moment of the summer.

On July 26 the Wizards can offer star two guard Bradley Beal a three-year, $111 million extension. The Wizards have been talking to Beal’s people and the offer will be made.

What Beal decides will decide the Wizards future for years. If Beal doesn’t sign that offer, the Wizards have to look at trading him. If he signs it, they need to build more around him.

Beal has spoken numerous times in the past about wanting to stay with the Wizards. However, there was plenty of informed speculation at Summer League that he is frustrated with the franchise and could choose to not sign it and essentially force his way out.

Either way, Beal’s decision will define the next steps for Sheppard for years.

 

Child tries to call out James Harden for step-back travels, he says it’s no travel

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If you tried this move in a high-school game 10 years ago, you would have been called for traveling.

In today’s NBA, as the rules are interpreted, James Harden‘s step back is not a travel.

At an event on Friday, a young fan tried to call Harden out on the travel and he defended himself. Via Kelly Iko of The Athletic.

Harden’s stepback is not a travel (when he executes it properly). Even if it looks like it is.

Here is the play in question.

The official response — meaning from officials:

I know when you played Junior High basketball in 2002 that was a travel, but the NBA hasn’t called it that way in years.

The NBA rule here (Rule 10, Section XIII) simplified is a “gather and two steps.” Meaning one step while Harden is gathering the ball, plus two more. Nobody pushes the boundary of the gather step like Harden, he has mastered the grey area. But when he executes it properly — and he doesn’t every time — it’s not a travel.

No matter what that young boy’s father tells him.

Justin Holiday reportedly reaches deal with Pacers, will join forces with brother

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The Pacers just added the wing depth and some defense at the position they have been looking for.

It’s through someone they have long had their eye on, Justin Holiday, the six-year NBA veteran who split time last season between Chicago and Memphis. He has reached an agreement to join the Pacers — and his brother, Aaron Holiday — for a season in Indiana. Shams Charania of The Athletic broke the news.

The Pacers have been in touch with Holiday for a while, reports J. Michael of the Indy Star.

Holiday averaged 10.5 points a game last season, shot 34.7 percent from three, and played solid wing defense.

Victor Oladipo is the team’s best wing player, once he returns from injury (the Pacers are hoping around Christmas or a little after). Beyond him there is Jeremy Lamb, C.J. Wilcox, T.J. Warren, Doug McDermott, and Brian Bowen. Holiday can find minutes in that group.

This also sparks the dream of an all T.J./Holiday lineup. The Pacers have two Holidays, Justin and Aaron, as well as three un-related players named T.J. — T.J. McConnell, T.J. Warren, and T.J. Leaf. We need to see those five on the court together next season, if only for a few minutes.