Celtics fans wanted to boo Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker drops 39 to show them what they have

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BOSTON (AP) — Kemba Walker returned from a neck injury to score a season-high 39 points — to the delight of the crowd that came to taunt the person he replaced — and Boston beat the Brooklyn Nets 121-110 Wednesday on a night the fans seemed more interested in taunting former Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving.

Missing one game after leaving the court on a stretcher wearing a neck brace following a head-to-torso collision with Semi Ojeleye, Walker had 13 points in the third quarter, when Boston scored nine straight to turn a one-point deficit into a 91-83 lead. Jaylen Brown added 22 points and 10 rebounds and Jayson Tatum had 16 points and nine boards for the Celtics, who improved to 7-0 this season at home.

Garrett Temple scored 22 points and Joe Harris had 21 for Brooklyn, which made a season-high 21 of the 56 3-point shots it attempted. Jarrett Allen had 17 points and 14 rebounds, and Spencer Dinwiddie had 16 points and 11 assists.

Brooklyn led 83-82 with just over 3 minutes left in the third when the Celtics scored the next nine points before Temple made a 3 to close out the third quarter. Boston led 104-101 in the fourth before scoring 17 of the next 24 points — nine of them from Walker — to put away the game.

The crowd might have bought tickets to heckle Irving on his return, but earlier in the week it was reported that he wouldn’t play in the game. Irving did not make the trip, but that didn’t slow down the Celtics fans that came to let him know how they feel.

Posters branding him as a coward decorated the entrance to the Boston Garden. A few fans who showed up wearing his No. 11 Celtics jersey with the words “Where is?” written on tape above his name. During the introductions, with Irving nowhere to be seen, the first “Kyrie Sucks!” chant broke out; it was repeated about a dozen times throughout the game. (There was also a “Yankees Suck!” chant, just because.)

The Nets, like the Celtics before them, are doing better without him.

They came into the night with a 5-1 record since Irving went out with a sore shoulder, climbing above .500 for the first time this season. The Celtics made it to the Eastern Conference finals two years ago when Irving was injured, and lost in the second round last season with him.

LeBron James on Lakers clinching No. 1 seed: ‘They said I couldn’t do it’

Lakers star LeBron James
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The Lakers clinched the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.

LeBron James, via Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times:

“They said I couldn’t do it.”

“I’ll enjoy this one,” James said, nodding as he grinned. “They said I can’t do it.”

The Lakers entered the season fifth in the West in over-under wins (behind the Rockets, Clippers, Jazz and Nuggets).

But nobody credible thought the Lakers couldn’t get the No. 1 seed. With LeBron and Anthony Davis, the Lakers obviously had that type of upside. Their championship odds were far more favorable. The main doubts stemmed from how seriously LeBron would take the regular season.

That said, in the age of social media, players hear both more praise and more criticism than ever before. LeBron surely heard from haters who ruled him out. Crowning himself the Washed King, LeBron probably internalized that fringe opinion.

Many players find slights to use as motivation. It worked for Michael Jordan. It works for LeBron.

But it does sound silly when an exalted player like LeBron talks this way.

Report: Larry Bird resigned as Pacers president because team didn’t spend enough

Pacers owner Herb Simon and executives Donnie Walsh, Larry Bird, and Kevin Pritchard
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Paul George said he left the Pacers because they weren’t willing to spend enough.

Apparently, he wasn’t the only one to feel that way.

Larry Bird resigned as Pacers president in 2017, citing a desire to do more things outside basketball. Yet, he also reportedly had another reason.

Jackie MacMullan of ESPN:

Indiana is a small-market team that consistently has not gone out and paid big money. We know that this was something that frustrated Larry Bird, who is a legend in the state of Indiana and elsewhere, I might add. It frustrated him enough that he stepped aside.

Pacers owner Herb Simon has a certain way of doing things. Indiana hasn’t paid the luxury tax since 2006, the first year the tax line was set before the season.

Despite that, the Pacers have been pretty good. They’ve qualified for the playoffs nine of the last 10 seasons, peaking with appearances in the 2013 and 2014 Eastern Conference finals.

Still, Indiana has lost in the first round four straight years. Another first-round loss appears the most likely outcome for this season.

That’s not exactly satisfying for players who want to win championships. Spending big isn’t absolutely necessary to compete on the highest levels. But it helps.

Pacers star Victor Oladipo is approaching 2021 unrestricted free agency. He’s a competitor who’ll evaluate, among other things, whether his current franchise matches his ambitions.

It’s easy to spend someone else’s money. Simon can decide his own limits. But there are consequences of his spending restraint – especially as perception grows about his relative thriftiness.

J.J. Redick describes thought behind meme: ‘I was angry we got our butts kicked. It’s embarrassing’

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J.J. Redick has made the playoffs all 13 of his previous NBA seasons.

The Pelicans have put that streak in jeopardy.

New Orleans lost its first two games in the bubble, a nail-biter against the Jazz and a rout against the Clippers. During that loss to L.A., cameras captured Redick – on the floor exercising his back while out of the game – with a distant stare that became an instant meme.

Redick on ESPN Daily:

I was angry we got our butts kicked. It’s embarrassing, and I think my face summed up that first half pretty well.

There’s so many circumstances you could apply the emotions that I was going through in that moment.

Redick is right: That meme fits many occasions, which gives it staying power.

However, it has plenty of competition. Though the feelings displayed aren’t the exact same, Redick didn’t even have the best reaction inside the bubble by an exasperated NBA player. That belongs to Nuggets star Nikola Jokic:

At least Redick got reason to perk up. The Pelicans beat the Grizzlies yesterday to gain ground in the playoff race.

Darren Collison says talk of him playing for Lakers was “overhyped”

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Darren Collison shocked the NBA last summer when he walked away from the game at age 32 — and a likely contract in the four-year, $70+ million range — and retired. His reasons were legitimate, he wanted to focus on his religion — “While I still love basketball, I know there is something more important, which is my family and my faith,” Collison said at the time — but the league has seen a lot of players say they were walking away for good reasons only to come running back.

The rumors about a Collison return started just after January 1 and spun out of control in Los Angeles when he sat with Lakers’ owner Jeanie Buss at a game.

Collison stayed retired, and told the “Minute til 6” podcast it wasn’t even close. He was never coming back.

“To keep it 100, they overhyped the whole thing. Like, I wasn’t even thinking about coming back.”

That game he went to? He just came to watch his friend Russell Westbrook.

“I just wanted to come watch the game as a fan.”

Collison also is smart enough to know how him sitting with Buss would be perceived.

Collison was wanted. The Lakers run LeBron James at the point but could have used the veteran Collison in the role Rajon Rondo filled as a secondary playmaker (Rondo is currently out with a thumb injury). Collison was rumored to the Clippers as well, and Doc Rivers can always find a way to use more guard depth.

Collison, however, seems at peace with his decision. If he wanted to return, he would have done it last summer for 10 figures a season, not for the minimum in January.