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Kyrie Irving on recent comments: ‘I apologize. I haven’t done it perfectly.’

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Kyrie Irving wants to lead. He wants to be a rock, an example, a player who makes the sacrifices, a guy on and off the court that the younger guys can look up to and think “that’s how you be a professional.”

He also has admitted that’s not as easy as LeBron James can make it look. In recent weeks Irving pushed back against his celebrity, had to deal with reports he was detached from his teammates, and other rumors he had one foot out the door heading into free agency. There seemed to be friction with him and the Celtics.

Winning cures a lot of ills in the NBA. The Celtics have won three in a row on the road — including against LeBron’s Lakers over the weekend — and after that Irving stepped back and admitted he has not handled things well off the court this season, speaking to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

“The way I’ve handled things, it hasn’t been perfect,” Irving told Yahoo Sports as he rested his feet in a bucket of ice at his locker stall. “I’ve made a lot of mistakes that I take full responsibility for. I apologize. I haven’t done it perfectly. I haven’t said the right things all the time. I don’t want to sit on a place like I’m on a pedestal from anybody. I’m a normal human being that makes mistakes. For me, I think because of how fixated I was on trying to prove other people wrong, I got into a lot of habits that were bad, like reading stuff and reacting emotionally. That’s just not who I am.”

There is a lot of drama around the top players and the top teams in the league — little things can get blown up into big things. Players don’t have to like it, but in a social media-driven world that’s life in the NBA. There are players around the league known to read these things and take it personally (DeMarcus Cousins has that reputation, and there are others that will not all get listed here) and it can lead to testy dealings with the media and seemingly erratic behavior. Not everyone just lets the comments roll off their back and go to work the next day unchanged.

Irving admitted what he did was a lesson of what not to do for the young Celtics.

“Being one of the top guys in the league, this all comes with it,” Irving told Yahoo Sports. “It’s a responsibility that I have to make sure that I know who I’m doing this for and know why I’m doing this. It’s for the players that are coming behind me who will be in this league and setting an example for them on how to handle things and how to evolve within your career.”

That Irving owns up to all this is very mature.

It’s also a good thing for a Celtics’ team putting things together at the right time. There was a lot of drama, a lot of inconsistency around Boston this season, and that combined with them not living up to incredibly lofty expectations — even Jaylen Brown said early on he expects the Celtics to make the NBA Finals — led to an uncomfortable fit on and off the court.

Boston seems now to have put that behind them and they have played their best basketball these last three games on the road (with an interesting test Monday night against a physical and tenacious Clippers team). This is a team that knows what they will be remembered for ultimately is not the regular season and what seed they earned, rather how they performed in the playoffs. That is still ahead of them.

And Irving seems ready to lead them.

Report: Luke Walton sued for sexual assault

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Luke Walton is being sued by a female reporter claiming sexual assault from a hotel room incident that dates back to before he was hired as the Lakers’ head coach (he was recently let go from that position and is currently the coach of the Sacramento Kings).

Kelli Tennant was writing a book and wanted Walton to write the forward, according to a lawsuit obtained by TMZ. The two had a business relationship and she agreed to meet him in a Santa Monica hotel to discuss him writing the forward to the book, according to the report. We’ll let TMZ take it from there:

In the suit, Tennant says when she arrived at Walton’s hotel, he convinced her to come up to his room so they could discuss the book. She claims when they got up to his room, Walton suddenly pinned her to the bed, placing his hips and legs over her body.

In the docs, Tennant claims Walton then began forcing kisses on her neck, face and chest. She claims she screamed for him to stop and tried to free herself, but he held her down, groped her breasts and groin, and rubbed his erection on her leg.

She says he eventually relented and let her get up from the bed, but as she was walking towards the door to leave he grabbed her from behind and again forced his body up against hers.

The lawsuit goes on to say Walton and her would interact after that, because of her job, and he would give her exaggerated hugs, kisses, and would make lewd comments to her.

Walton took over coaching the Lakers for the 2016-17 season, while the TMZ initial story said the incident happened before he was the coach, other reports have it happening in May of 2017 (after the end of his first season).

Walton has yet to comment on the lawsuit. The Kings and Lakers also have not commented.

NBA fines Brooklyn part-owner Joe Tsai for Tweet backing his GM challenging referees

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I just hope he can afford this.

Brooklyn Nets GM Sean Marks was suspended and fined by the league for breaking a taboo and going into the officials’ locker room after the Nets’ Game 4 loss at home to challenge the referees. Marks — along with pretty much every Nets’ fan — was livid about how Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid has been officiated in the series.

Brooklyn minority owner (for now) and alternate governor Joe Tsai Tweeted this about Marks.

The NBA has fined Tsai $35,000 for “making public statements detrimental to the NBA.”

Tsai is the second-largest shareholder of online shopping powerhouse Alibaba and is worth an estimated $10.2 billion. He owns 49 percent of the Nets.

Virginia’s Kyle Guy staying in NBA draft, not returning to Virginia

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Virginia is going to lose three starters from its national championship team. De'Andre Hunter is a likely top-7 pick that a lot of teams think can be a good “3&D” NBA player. Ty Jerome is a bubble first-round pick expected to stay in the draft. Mamadi Diakite also has his name in the mix.

Now it’s official, Kyle Guy says he is keeping his name in the mix.

Guy had 24 points in the title game against Texas Tech and was named the NCAA tournament’s Most Outstanding Player for leading the Cavaliers to a title.

What he brings is shooting — he hit 42.6 percent from three this past season. He moves well off the ball and can catch-and-shoot, skills that NBA teams want. However, while he was a playmaker in college his handles and passing need work to be NBA ready, according to scouts. There also are concerns about his athleticism at the next level, and with that how well he can defend.

Guy is likely a second-round pick if taken at all, but he’s all in and going to take his shot while at the hight of his college career.

Hawks’ Lloyd Pierce replaces Pacers’ Nate McMillan as Team USA assistant coach

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is taking over Team USA, and he has assistant coaches for the 2019 World Cup and 2020 Olympics:

  • Warriors coach Steve Kerr
  • Pacers coach Nate McMillan
  • Villanova coach Jay Wright
  • Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce

USA Basketball release:

Atlanta Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce was named to the USA Basketball Men’s National Team coaching staff today. Pierce replaces Indiana Pacers head coach Nate [McMillan] who withdrew because of scheduling conflicts.

This is a pretty big honor for Pierce, who just completed his first season as an NBA head coach. He guided Atlanta to only a 29-53 record.

But the young Hawks, especially Trae Young, improved throughout the season. Atlanta pushed the pace, hoisted 3s and defended aggressively (though not well). An identity is forming.

Though it’s far too early to say much about Pierce’s head-coaching acumen, he acquitted himself well in his first year.

Working with Team USA could even help Pierce ingratiate himself with stars. This could eventually pay off for the Hawks in free agency.