Kyrie Irving and LeBron James
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Kyrie Irving returning for Nets to face LeBron James, Lakers

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LeBron James and Kyrie Irving were teammates for three seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers, with each campaign ending in the NBA Finals. In the 11 times they have opposed each other, whatever team James was leading holds the edge over Irving’s team.

The 12th meeting between the former teammates occurs Thursday night when James and the Los Angeles Lakers attempt to improve on the Western Conference’s best record when they visit Irving and the Brooklyn Nets, who are experiencing some massive struggles of late.

James returned to Cleveland in 2014 following four seasons with the Miami Heat. During his time in Miami, the Cavaliers drafted Irving with the No. 1 overall pick in 2011, and when James returned to Cleveland, the duo reached the NBA Finals each time as teammates, highlighted by the 2016 championship, when James had a clutch block on Andre Iguodala and Irving hit the game-winning shot in Game 7 in Golden State.

A year later, their partnership was over when Irving wanted a trade and was dealt to the Boston Celtics. James spent one more season in Cleveland and reached the NBA Finals again in 2018 before heading to the Lakers in free agency. Irving spent two seasons in Boston before signing with Brooklyn along with Kevin Durant in July.

James is 9-2 all-time against Irving and is averaging 25.5 points in those games. Irving’s two wins occurred as a Celtic on Jan. 3, 2018, and March 9, 2019.

Heading into this meeting, the Lakers have won 35 of their first 44 games. They rebounded nicely from allowing 139 points on Monday in a blowout loss at Boston by recording a 100-92 road victory over the New York Knicks on Wednesday.

James scored 21 points Wednesday, and he enters his visit to Brooklyn with 33,599 points, 44 behind Kobe Bryant for third on the all-time scoring list, making it likely he will surpass Bryant on Saturday in Philadelphia. Anthony Davis scored 28 points in his second game back from missing five games due to a bruised gluteus maximus.

“I was more of a facilitator in the second half,” James said. “I wanted to get AD going. He looked a little out of rhythm in the first half, so it was a point of emphasis for me in the third quarter and the fourth quarter to get him going. And that was the difference.”

Irving is averaging 26.5 points, but injuries have limited him to 15 games. He missed 26 games due to right shoulder impingement, and the Nets went 13-13.

Irving also missed Brooklyn’s 117-111 home loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday due to right hamstring tightness. He is listed as available for Thursday.

DeAndre Jordan and Nicolas Claxton are out.

The Nets are hoping to end a four-game skid and a 2-11 slide while facing one of the NBA’s best defenses.

“They’re an elite defense,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said of the Lakers. “(JaVale) McGee and (Dwight) Howard are absolutely playing, really protecting the rim. They obviously have elite perimeter defenders with LeBron and Danny Green and all those guys.

“Listen, Anthony Davis, we all know, he’s turned into really a two-way player in this league, and I’m really impressed by his evolution over the years where he’s become really hard to score on on the other end. Great challenge for us.”

Brooklyn is 0-4 in a stretch of five straight games against upper-echelon teams, and the Monday loss to Philadelphia was the closest final margin. The Nets were unable to stop Ben Simmons from getting a 34-point triple-double, and they committed 10 of their 22 turnovers in the fourth quarter.

Stephon Marbury has arrangement to procure 10 million medical masks for New York

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Former NBA player Stephon Marbury told The New York Post that he’s arranged a deal to deliver 10 million N95 medical masks to New York. These masks are much-needed among healthcare workers battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Marbury is having the masks produced at cost in China, where he played the last seven years of his career.

Although Marbury currently lives in Beijing, China, he said “At the end of the day, I am from Brooklyn. This is something that is close and dear to my heart as far as being able to help New York.”

While growing up, Marbury starred at Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn and on New York City’s famed playgrounds. After one year at Georgia Tech, Marbury left for the NBA. The high-scoring guard played for five teams during his 13-year NBA career, including his hometown New York Knicks.

After sitting out for two seasons, Marbury signed to play for the Beijing Ducks in 2011. The move was initially seen as a way for Marbury to prove he could still play at an NBA level. Instead, Beijing became home-away-from home for the New Yorker.

Marbury averaged 21.6 points per game in 271 contests spread over seven seasons with the Ducks.

Georgetown sophomore Mac McClung declares for 2020 NBA Draft

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Georgetown sophomore Mac McClung told ESPN Jonathan Givony that he’s declaring for the 2020 NBA Draft.

McClung first came to national prominence when his high school highlights blew up on YouTube:

In his second season at Georgetown, McClung averaged 15.7 points and 1.4 steals per game. A foot injury in late-January kept McClung out of the lineup for nearly a month. He returned for one game in late-February, but played just eight minutes off the Hoyas’ bench.

The six-foot-two guard is known for his deep shooting range and his highlight dunks. McClung’s shot is inconsistent however, as he shot under 40% in each of his first two seasons at Georgetown. McClung’s defense also needs work.

McClung projects to be a point guard in the NBA, due to his size. To make it as a lead guard, he’ll need to work on his ballhandling and playmaking. With those question marks, McClung is seen as a stretch to be drafted in the second round.

McClung stated he’s signing with an NBA/NCAA approved agent. That will allow him to keep his college eligibility as he goes through the pre-draft process.

Report: NBA Together asks players who have recovered from COVID-19 to consider donating plasma

Jazz stars Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert
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Shams Charania of The Athletic reports that the NBA Together initiative is asking NBA players who have recovered from coronavirus to consider donating plasma:

NBA Together was created in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, as the NBA suspended the 2019-20 season.

One of the efforts NBA Together is supporting is the COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project. This project has brought together top medical specialists to determine if plasma donations could help in treating coronavirus.

Several NBA players have tested positive for COVID-19. This group includes Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz, Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets, Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics and Christian Wood of the Detroit Pistons. All players reported either feeling no symptoms or have recovered from the affliction.

Video: Carmelo Anthony says he’d have won 2-3 titles if drafted by Detroit

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In an Instagram Live chat with friend Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony said he’d “have won 2-3 championships” if drafted by the Detroit Pistons:

Anthony was drafted third overall in the 2003 NBA Draft by the Denver Nuggets. LeBron James went off the board first to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Pistons then drafted Darko Milicic with the second pick. Chris Bosh was drafted fourth by the Toronto Raptors, and Wade was selected with the fifth pick by the Miami Heat.

James, Wade, and Bosh would famously team up in Miami seven years later. Those three and Anthony all put together Hall of Fame careers. Milicic was another story entirely.

Detroit had that second overall pick by virtue of a 1997 sign-and-trade with the then Vancouver Grizzlies for forward Otis Thorpe. Vancouver didn’t even keep Thorpe for one full season, as he was shipped to the Sacramento Kings at the 1998 trade deadline. By the 2003 draft, the team had moved from Vancouver to Memphis.

The Pistons went on to win the championship in 2003-04, despite relatively limited production from rookie Milicic. The seven-footer played in just 34 games as a rookie during Detroit’s title run. Milicic then appeared in just 62 games over the next two seasons before he was traded to the Orlando Magic at the 2006 trade deadline.

Despite never living up to his draft position, Milicic did carve out a 10-year NBA career. On the other hand, Anthony blossomed into a 10-time All-Star.

Anthony went on to make six All-NBA teams over the course of his time with the Nuggets and New York Knicks. He holds a career average of 23.6 points per game, but has yet to win that elusive ring.

Detroit passing on Anthony is one of the more interesting what if’s in recent NBA history. The Pistons only got the one championship, but made the Finals back-to-back years. They had a multiple-year run of contention behind a core of Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton in the backcourt. The frontcourt was anchored by Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince. The one thing that group struggled with on occasion was scoring, which Anthony would have provided.

Had Anthony been drafted by the Pistons, he’d likely have a ring and Detroit would have a fourth banner. Who knows? Maybe they’d each have a couple more beyond that.