Once again, Spencer Dinwiddie steps up with Kyrie Irving out, scores 32 in Nets win

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NEW YORK — Kyrie Irving is getting closer to a return, and at some point he will face his former team.

When he does, the Brooklyn Nets can only hope he plays as well as Spencer Dinwiddie.

Dinwiddie had 32 points and 11 assists while Irving remained sidelined, and the Nets beat the Boston Celtics 112-107 on Friday to split a home-and-home series. The Nets are 6-2 in the games Irving has missed, in large part thanks to Dinwiddie’s play.

Irving missed his eighth straight game with a right shoulder injury but was at the arena to get an evaluation and watch from the bench along with Kevin Durant. Coach Kenny Atkinson said afterward that the All-Star point guard has started work on the court and would miss one more game before potentially being ready to rejoin a team that has done well in his absence thanks to Dinwiddie’s strong performances.

“When Kyrie comes back I think that’s just going to give us a team with more depth, a more powerful team. But listen, he’s playing as good as anybody in the NBA right now in my humble opinion,” Atkinson said of Dinwiddie.

The Eastern Conference player of the week last week matched his highest assist total of the season and was two shy of his best scoring performance of the season.

“The role’s completely different so obviously there’s a change there,” Dinwiddie said. “My approach to the game is very similar either way, so whatever the team needs to win and then the role kind of dictates what that is.”

Jarrett Allen added 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Nets, who bounced back from their 121-110 loss in Boston on Wednesday to win for the fifth time in six games.

Jayson Tatum had 26 points and nine rebounds for the Celtics, who had won two straight. Kemba Walker finished with 17 points and six assists, but the Nets handled Irving’s replacement much better this time after he scored a season-high 39 points Wednesday.

Boston coach Brad Stevens talked about the importance of a strong start with the early tip, but the Celtics couldn’t deliver it. They were called for a double dribble and a 3-second violation during a six-turnover first quarter, when the Nets opened a 14-point lead. Boston was much sharper in the second, with Tatum making four 3-pointers, including one that cut it to 58-55 at halftime.

The Nets extended it back to 14 in the third when Dinwiddie hit his second straight 3-pointer, but Boston got it back down to 87-81 by the end of the period. Again, Brooklyn pushed it back to double digits in the fourth and held on after Boston cut it to four in the final minute.

“It was too late,” Celtics guard Marcus Smart said. “We tried to turn it on too late and it burned us in the end.”

Former Celtic Guerschon Yabusele fined for not looking at flag during Chinese national anthem

Guerschon Yabusele
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Guerschon Yabusele washed out with the Celtics.

So, now the former first-rounder is playing in China – and running into trouble.

The Chinese Basketball Association fined him for not looking at the flag during the national anthem:

Though Yabusele is French, this comes amid heightened tension between the NBA and China. Most Americans will probably find it ridiculous that looking at the flag during the national anthem is required in authoritarian China.

Meanwhile, let’s ostracize anyone who dares not to stand for the Star Spangled Banner.

Portland reportedly applies for disabled player exception after Rodney Hood injury

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Rodney Hood‘s season coming to an end because of a ruptured Achilles was a real blow to Portland — he had become a critical part of their rotation. That has led to a lot of speculation about already shorthanded Portland jumping into the trade market soon looking for someone to absorb those minutes, as well as hitting the buyout market hard next February.

Portland is now looking for a little more money to spend to bring someone in, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The “disabled player exemption” allows a team over some space to go after a replacement for a player lost due to injury. This is a fairly standard process and likely will be approved. Portland can use that money on a free agent (Iman Shumpert is available again) or someone bought out by another team.

Portland is 10-16 on the season, set back in part due to injuries to the front line. The Blazers knew Jusuf Nurkic would miss most of the season, and he was vital to them, but they were counting on Zach Collins to step up and absorb those minutes. Then he needed shoulder surgery. Portland eventually turned to Carmelo Anthony to help along the frontline, and he has performed well enough for them to guarantee his contract for the season.

Portland is going to be active, both looking at free agents and on the trade market. Just don’t expect a Kevin Love deal (he may want it but his contract makes that nearly impossible).

Rumor: Dwight Howard and Chris Paul stated intent to join Mavericks until Howard backed out

Chris Paul and Dwight Howard
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
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The Mavericks went from winning the 2011 NBA championship to missing the playoffs within two years.

Somewhat by choice.

Of course, they wanted to remain competitive. But they were willing to accept a lower floor to maintain financial flexibility. They let key players – most notably Tyson Chandler – leave in order to chase bigger stars.

Dallas was repeatedly linked to Chris Paul and Dwight Howard, who could’ve become free agents in 2012 but opted in. They finally hit the market in 2013, but once again spurned the Mavericks. Paul re-signed with the Clippers, and Howard left the Lakers for the Rockets.

Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated:

I really think that they, Chris and Dwight, basically wink, wink said they were going to Dallas, from what I’ve heard, and that Dwight backed out.

Word on the street. But we hear a lot of stories. That’s one story I’ve heard.

This is the peril of making arrangements in underground free agency. They’re unbinding. That was especially true with Howard, who waffled through the Dwightmare with the Magic. The Mavericks might have proceeded in the smartest way, but it backfired. Dallas is only now re-emerging upward with Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis.

This also creates a fun “what if?” How good would Dallas have been? Paul remained elite, but Howard and Dirk Nowitzki were slipping. Where would the Clippers have gone with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan but without Paul? Would they still have held the credibility required to lure Kawhi Leonard and Paul George last summer? Where would Houston have turned without Howard as the star to pair with James Harden?

Serge Ibaka says he nearly goaltended Kawhi Leonard’s iconic shot: ‘I would’ve retired’

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Kawhi Leonard hit one of the biggest shots in NBA history – a buzzer-beater that bounced, bounced, bounced, bounced in during Game 7 of last year’s second-round Raptors-76ers series and propelled Toronto toward an eventual title.

Raptors forward Serge Ibaka, via Josh Lewenberg of TSN:

“I didn’t think it was going in. I was under the basket trying to go for the offensive rebound. The ball was bouncing and one time I was so close to going [for it]. Thank God I didn’t because it could have been goaltending. That would’ve been bad. I would’ve retired. If that had happened I would have retired.”

In hindsight, that would’ve been catastrophic. It would have been been bad at the time, too – but only so bad.

The Bucks, Toronto’s opponent in the Eastern Conference finals, looked better than the Raptors. The Western Conference-winning Warriors were widely viewed as invincible. Few would have thought Ibaka’s goaltend would’ve cost Toronto a championship.

Thankfully for him and the Raptors, we now know better.