Walking into the TD Garden before Sunday’s game, Kyrie Irving was being followed by cameramen for that “player walking into arena pregame” shot that is standard for NBA games, college football games, Premier League soccer games and plenty of other sports. Irving’s comment was, “I’m not gonna miss any of this s*** when I’m done playing.”
After the game, where the Celtics were easily handled by the Rockets, Irving gave short answers to every question that came his way.
Asked about it Monday, Irving said he doesn’t like all the focus on celebrity and where he plays next and not basketball.
“I didn’t really come into this game to be cameras in my face, be famous, be a celebrity, whatever embodies that. It’s a little hard for me. I wanted those things when I was younger, but now… I just want to play basketball at a very high level.”
Irving doesn’t like the fact he doesn’t control the narrative, and with the way the Celtics are playing — and with him acting disengaged from the team — his leadership and the team are being called into question. He left Cleveland to get out of LeBron James‘ shadow, but this is what being in the direct spotlight is like.
Tuning out all that noise, and getting the team to do the same and start to play near its potential, is life for an elite player in the NBA now. Like it or not. It’s part of the job description for Irving.
Harden on fit with Westbrook: ‘When you have talent like that, it works itself out’
“When you have talent like that, it works itself out. You communicate. You go out there and compete possession by possession. You figure things out. Throughout the course of the season, you figure things out. That’s just what it is. When you have talent, you have guys with IQ, you have guys willing to sacrifice, it always works itself out.”…
“It works,” Harden said. “It’s that trust factor. I trust him; he trusts me. And with the group that we already have and the things we already accomplished, it should be an easy transition for him to be incorporated right in and things are going to go.”
Will Westbrook, and to a lesser degree Harden, be willing to make sacrifices and adjust their games? It is the question that will define the Rockets’ season.
My prediction: The duo works it out on offense and becomes one of the hardest teams to stop in the NBA. They will work it out. However, having to play Harden and Westbrook together on defense for extended stretches will cost Houston in the playoffs earlier than they planned.
George King, Suns two-way player last season, signs to play in Italy
For players on the fringe of the NBA, there is a choice to be made at some point:
Keep the NBA dream alive and close by making less money (the base salary for most is $35,000 a year) and play in the domestic G-League, where teams have ties to NBA organizations and scouts are watching. Or…
Go overseas, where the money gets better (six figures for most, seven figures for the best) and they will be one of the best players on a team, putting up big numbers and playing a starring role.
George King, who spent last season on a two-way contract with Phoenix — but played just six total minutes with the Suns — has chosen overseas.
George spent most of last season in the G-League with Northern Arizona, where he averaged 15.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 2.6 assists a game. He was on the wrong end of a numbers game on the wing with the Suns at the start of the season, but when injuries hit he had not earned enough trust with the coaches to get a real opportunity.
So he went where there is an opportunity.
Same with former NBA player Tyler Cavanaugh, who spent most of last season with the Salt Lake G-League team and is now headed to Berlin.
Plenty of players spend time overseas then come back and are ready for the NBA — Patrick Beverley was in the Ukraine and Greece before coming to the NBA, for example — while others find a very good career playing overseas.
James Harden broke one of his youth camper’s ankles (VIDEO)
It’s around the time of summer when NBA players (and coaches, and college coaches, and a whole lot of other people) are holding youth basketball camps.
I went to them as a kid (John Wooden’s was the best) and like me, these youth will have the memories of a lifetime, even if they move away from playing hoops someday. Especially this boy, who will forever be able to look back at this video from camp of James Harden breaking his ankles. (Via Houston Rockets Instagram)
LeBron James returned to Cleveland (for a while). Kawhi Leonard and Paul George pushed to get back to Southern California. However, plenty of players see the return to their home town as more curse than blessing — it takes a maturity to be the face of the city, to not let hanging with your old buddies get in the way of off-season workouts, to handle everyone you went to high school with asking you for tickets to the game. A player has to be ready for a lot to go home.
Would Anthony Davis consider a return to Chicago to lead the Bulls?
“I mean, (this is) definitely hometown,” he said. “If the opportunity ever presents itself and when that time comes, I’d definitely consider it.”
That does not mean next summer. Technically Davis is a free agent next summer, however, he is all but certain to re-sign with the Lakers (it’s possible things go Dwight Howard/Steve Nash bad in Los Angeles and Davis wants out, but it’s highly unlikely). Davis pushed his way to Los Angeles to win and lead the biggest brand in basketball down the line, to have his name in the rafters with legendary big men (Wilt, Kareem, Shaq). He’s not bolting that after one season.
Could he finish his career in Chicago? Maybe. I’d say the same thing about Stephen Curry with Charlotte, but we are too many years from that to make any kind of prediction.
However, Davis didn’t slam the door shut. Maybe someday that will be good news for Bulls fans.