George Floyd’s death brings back painful memories for Rockets’ Thabo Sefolosha

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ASSOCIATED PRESS — Thabo Sefolosha knows what it’s like to be a black man, on the ground, being beaten by police officers.

Such was the scenario when George Floyd died in Minneapolis last week.

And five years ago, Sefolosha found himself in a similarly frightening place.

“I was just horrified by what I saw,” Sefolosha said. “That could have been me.”

Time has not healed all wounds for Sefolosha, the NBA veteran who said he was attacked by a group of New York Police Department officers in April 2015 while they were arresting him outside a nightclub in the city’s Chelsea neighborhood. The leg that was broken in the fracas is fine now. The emotional pain roared back last week when he saw video of Floyd, a handcuffed black man who pleaded for air in the final moments of his life as a white police officer — subsequently charged with murder — pressed a knee on his neck.

Sefolosha has seen the video. He hasn’t watched much news since. His experience with police in New York has left him with a deep distrust of law enforcement, the pangs of angst flooding back even when he walks into NBA arenas and sees uniformed officers. And the latest example of police brutality left him even more upset.

“People talk about a few rotten apples,” Sefolosha said in an interview with The Associated Press. “But you know, in my experience and from what we’re seeing, I think it’s deeper than that as a culture that’s deeply rooted in it, to be honest. That’s just my honest opinion. I think it’s really … part of a culture where it’s deeper than just a few bad apples.”

The four officers who were involved in the incident where Floyd died were fired; the one who knelt on Floyd’s neck, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Massive protests have broken out in several cities in recent days, the country torn again over a black man dying at the hands of police.

Sefolosha — a black man of Swiss descent who plays for the Houston Rockets — considered but decided against joining protests in Atlanta, where he is waiting for the resumption of the NBA season that was shut down in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’m mad, for sure,” Sefolosha said. “That’s for sure. I mean, it’s 2020. Nobody should have to go through this in this time, especially after black people have given up so much for America. Black people have given up so much and done so much for this country. It’s hurtful to see it this way.”

Sefolosha’s perspective changed forever on April 8, 2015. Chris Copeland, an NBA player at the time, was among three people stabbed outside the club where Sefolosha was that night; police arrived and ordered everyone to leave the area. Sefolosha says he complied but began getting harassed by officers anyway.

Before long, he was on the ground.

Sefolosha’s leg was broken and some ligaments were torn in the fracas, and he was arrested on several charges that a jury needed about 45 minutes to determine were unfounded. He wound up suing for $50 million, alleging his civil rights were violated, settled for $4 million and gave much of that money to a public defenders’ organization working in marginalized communities.

“It changed me a lot, toward the way I see law enforcement in this country,” Sefolosha said. “And also toward the way I see the whole justice system. I went to court and I had to do all of this to prove my innocence. It really got me deep into the system and I’m really skeptical of the whole system.”

NBA players have used their platforms often in recent years to protest racial inequality. Sterling Brown of the Milwaukee Bucks filed a federal civil rights lawsuit after police used a stun gun on him and arrested him over a parking incident in 2018. On Saturday, Malcolm Brogdon of the Indiana Pacers and Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics were among those taking part in Atlanta protests.

“You see what happened in Minnesota where three human beings with a badge are watching another human being killing somebody,” said Sefolosha, who has played in the NBA since 2006 and intends to return to Switzerland when he retires. “And instead of saying, ‘OK, this is my duty as a human being,’ the duty was more toward not interfering with the other officer and saying, ‘We are clan, we stick together no matter what.’ It should be the other way around.”

The NBA is closing in on finalizing a plan to resume the season in July at the Disney complex near Orlando, Florida. Sefolosha and the Rockets figure to be contenders for a championship when play resumes.

For obvious reasons, Sefolosha’s mind isn’t there yet.

“I’ll be happy to be with my teammates and reunited with basketball in general,” Sefolosha said. “But you know, we’re human beings, and the fight has been going on for too long and the same protests have been going on for too long. I think it’s definitely time for change and that should be a priority for all of us.”

NBA trade deadline tracker: latest news, rumors, deals

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Things are going to get insane in the run-up to the NBA trade deadline, at 3 p.m. Eastern on Thursday. There’s already been a blockbuster Kyrie Irving trade to Dallas, which will spawn other deals, and every team is looking for upgrades large or small. Will the Lakers make upgrades? What contenders will deepen their bench, and what teams will pivot toward the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes? We will have all the latest NBA rumors, news, and any deals that get done in one place. It’s going to get wild, sit back and enjoy the ride.

TRADE: Cam Reddish headed from New York to Portland

Knicks receive: Josh Hart
Trail Blazers receive: Cam Reddish, Svi Mykhailiuk, protected first-round pick
Analysis: Knicks fans, Jalen Brunson‘s reaction to finding out the news should tell you all you need to know.

Reddish was out of Tom Thibodeau’s rotation (it felt like he was out from Day 1), Hart is a rock-solid role player who can hit twos, defends, and helps at the guard spot the moment he walks in the door. He also has the league’s funkiest contract for next season: $12.9 million with player option but also non-guaranteed (either side could walk away). Hart was on the floor warming up for the Trail Blazers pregame when the news came down, he dapped up teammates and headed back to the locker room.

The big question: What are the protections on that first-round pick? Reddish is worth taking a flier on — and this opens up a lot more minutes for rookie Shaedon Sharpe — but for the Blazers this is about the pick.

Feb.8, 9:05 P.M.: A Josh Hart for cam Reddish swap?

• The Knicks and Trail Blazers have talked about a problems swap: Cam Reddish for Josh Hart, reports Ian Begley.

• The Spurs are expressing increasing interest in trading Jakob Poeltl before the deadline, according to Marc Stein. The Toronto Raptors are the most active team in trying to acquire him (a sign they may not be trading everyone away and tearing it down).

TRADE: Lakers find new home for Russell Westbrook in three-team trade

Lakers receive: D'Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt
Jazz receive: Russell Westbrook, Juan Toscano-Anderson, Damian Jones, Lakers 2027 first-round pick (1-4 protected)
Timberwolves receive: Mike Conley, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, second-round picks in 2024, 2025 and 2026

Analysis: This is a win for the Lakers, who suddenly look a lot better now than they did to start the season (putting shooting around LeBron James, what a novel concept). Russell is a better shooter than Westbrook (39.1% from 3 this season), and in recent weeks he has impressed playing off the ball as Minnesota turned more of the offense over to Anthony Edwards (a preview of life with LeBron James and Anthony Davis). Plus, Russell is in the final year of his contract, so the Lakers have flexibility this summer (and can re-sign him). Plus, Beasley brings more shooting and Vanderbilt brings versatile defense, is strong on the glass, can hit jumpers if he sets his feet, and is a player a lot of teams had their eye on.

Danny Ainge gets another high-value pick for the Jazz, but they just gave up a lot of assets for it. After the smart moves and big haul’s Ainge got this summer, they should have gotten more for the three good players they sent out. Utah is expected to buy out Westbrook and both the Clippers and Bulls reportedly have already expressed interest.

Conley is more of a pass-first point guard who should fit better in Minnesota than Russell, he can set up Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert. He’s the kind of floor general Minnesota needs. There’s a lot of chemistry work to do with the Timberwolves and Conley is an adult-in-the-room veteran who is expensive but might help this roster find its way.

Feb.8, 5:40 P.M.: The Lakers in talks to trade Russell Westbrook in three-team deal

• The Lakers may have found a way to move on from Russell Westbrook after all, a three-team trade that would send Westbrook and a draft pick (likely one of the Lakers first rounders in 2027 or 2029) to Utah, the Jazz would send Mike Conley to Minnesota, and the Timberwolves would send D’Angelo Russell back to the team that drafted him in the Lakers.

To make the numbers work (Conley makes about $25 million less than Westbrook) Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt need to be thrown in (or other players on the roster). Adrian Wojnarowski says the Lakers and Jazz like the deal and are set, but Minnesota is still talking to other teams about Russell to see if they can find a better deal.

A lot going on in this potential trade, but for the Lakers Russell would be an upgrade over Westbrook at this point in their careers (his game has matured, and would be a good fit next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis). Utah would buy out Westbrook, making him a free agent.

• The Knicks, along with the Cavaliers and Heat, are talking to Portland about a Josh Hart, reports Michael Scotto of Hoopshype. Coaches and front office people around the league love Hart’s versatility and solid play, but he’s going to opt out this summer and be a free agent, whoever trades for him has to be willing to pay up.

• Speaking of Sotto and the Suns, he aso also spoke with Deandre Ayton about what has been a challlenging this season. Here’s what Ayton had to say: “This is more like an adversity type of season for me to show them what type of player I truly am, and me sticking with it and blocking out all the noise and haters, and getting back to the thing I do best, being dominant.”

Feb.8, 2:28 P.M.: Sixers looking hare at Vanderbilt, but will they pay Ainge’s price?

• One of the hottest names on the trade market right now Jazz big man Jarred Vanderbilt, and the 76ers are at the front of the line according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. The Sixers are looking for versatile depth behind Joel Embiid, and Vanderbilt is absolutely available. The question is price, and you can be sure Danny Ainge in Utah is asking for way too much. The question is will he come down?

Also from Pompey, Nerlens Noel is likely the only Piston to get traded at the deadline. It continues to look less and less likely Bojan Bogdanovic will be sent to a new home by Feb. 9.

• Teams are still calling the Washington Wizards about Kyle Kuzma, and they are still getting shot down, according to Fred Katz at The Athletic. That’s not a surprise, when the Wizards traded Rui Hachimura to the Lakers, it was a signal they were willing to spend to keep Kuzma, who can be a free agent this summer (and will be). There has been some buzz from other teams they could poach Kuzma, which may or may not be true, but Washington is going to have to pay a lot — and maybe overpay a little — to keep him.

• Lakers coach Darvin Ham and guard Russell Westbrook had a brief but heated argument at halftime of the Lakers’ eventual loss to the Thunder on Monday, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Nobody was really focused on those two on Tuesday night anyway.

Feb.8, 11:30 A.M.: The Nets want to make moves to keep Durant, but not everyone wants to help them

• The Brooklyn Nets took the Mavericks’ trade package for Kyrie Irving in large part because it gave them players who could help them right now in Spencer Dinwiddie and Dorian Finney-Smith. Brooklyn isn’t done, they are working hard at the deadline to find other “win now” players who can help them be a playoff threat with Durant. However, teams interested in trading for KD this summer — and there are a lot of them — are not willing to help Brooklyn out, reports Brian Windhorst of ESPN said on the Hoop Collective podcast. There is a little gamesmanship going on as teams try to force the Nets into a tough spot and clear the path for Durant to demand a trade. Again.

• Add the Raptors to the Pelicans and Timberwolves as teams talking to the Nuggets about backup point guard Bones Hyland. He remains one of the two or three most likely players to be traded at the deadline.

• Speaking of the Raptors, they have talked to the Spurs about a trade for center Jakob Poeltl, according to Marc Stein. As he notes, that’s an interesting move because it is not a “let’s blow this thing up” move, that’s a “let’s retool and win now” move, which makes it less likely the Raptors move someone such as O.G. Anunoby.

• Sources have told NBC Sports that the Raptors are not looking to trade Pascal Siakam (or, at least not at this trade deadline). He is their best player, they either will retool around him or, if they do blow it up (unlikely but possible), they will want the kind of massive deal easier to get in the offseason than at the deadline.

• The Wizards, Raptors, and Celtics also are interested in Poeltl.

• Also from Marc Stein, the Magic are not looking to move Gary Harris, or at least they need to be blown away by an offer. Every young team needs a quality veteran or two in the locker room to teach them how to be NBA professionals, Harris is filling that role in Orlando.

Eric Gordon has been on the trade block since before the Avengers killed off Thanos (or, it feels that way), but this time it is likely he gets moved. The Suns and Clippers — two teams searching for guard help — are at the front of the line, according to Kelly Iko of The Athletic.

TRADE: It’s official: Nets Kessler Edwards to the Kings

Kings receive: Kessler Edwards
Nets receive: Cash, draft rights to David Michineau (who plays for Napoli Basket in Italy)

Analysis: As noted below when we first mentioned this trade could happen, this is a salary dump by the Nets, who free up a roster spot and $8 million in salary and tax. Edwards had fallen out of the Brooklyn rotation this season, but Sacramento gets a look at a young wing defender, reportedly sending him to their G-League team to get a little run and show what he can do. Edwards, a second-round pick (number 44 overall in 2021 out of Pepperdine), has a $1.9 million player option for next season.

Feb. 7, 8:05 P.M.: Warriors softening stance on trading James Wiseman

• It’s incredibly difficult to throw in the towel on a No.2 pick, and the Golden State Warriors rarely make in-season trades. However, with the defending champs hovering around .500 — and now without Stephen Curry for maybe a month — Golden State is softening its position on a possible James Wiseman trade, reports Anthony Slater at The Athletic. Same with Moses Moody, a developing young guard who can’t help the Warriors much this season. What are the Warriors looking for? Veterans who can help this season, at just about any position across the board.

• It’s not trade related but passing it along anyway: Kevin Durant will miss the All-Star Game due to his knee injury, the Nets announced. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will appoint his replacement.

• Also being reported about All-Star weekend: the Trail Blazers’ Shaedon Sharpe has pulled out of the Dunk Contest.

Feb. 7, 4:10 P.M.: Don’t bet on a Durant trade at the deadline. This summer…

• We are very close to another trade, but it’s another cap space move primarily: The Nets will send second-year forward Kessler Edwards to the Kings in exchange for cash, reports both Shams Charnia at The Athletic and Adrian Wojnarowski at ESPN. The Kings, looking for defense, get a young wing defender they can roll the dice on, while the Nets open up a roster spot for future moves and save $8 million against the tax. Edwards showed some potential as a rookie, but in his second year (on a deeper Brooklyn team) he has been outside the rotation, and not impressed when he has gotten into games. He has a team option for $1.9 million next season. Edwards can veto the trade because of Bird Rights issues but is expected to approve it.

• It’s now official, Mat Ishbia has taken control of the Phoenix Suns organization. We don’t know what kind of owner Ishbia will be, but there is a sense he will spend more willingly and be more aggressive than the Robert Sarver regime – he reportedly is pushing for the team to make a splash at the trade deadline — which is good for Suns fans and the league. Plus, he will clean up the troubles in the organization that pushed Sarver out.

Feb. 7, 3:05 P.M.: Don’t bet on a Durant trade at the deadline. This summer…

• Kevin Durant and the Nets are talking about the long-term (and likely short-term) direction of the franchise, but Brooklyn is not making its other superstar available to teams, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This provides details and is in line with what sources from other teams have told NBC Sports (and I have reported previously): They are under the impression the Nets are going to try and build a contender around KD this season, maybe including another deal or two, and try to convince him to stay. If Durant ends up on the move, it will be over the summer.

• The backup big man market is one of the most crowded at the trade deadline, but you can add another name to it: JaVale McGee. Dallas is looking to move on, according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports.

• The Nuggets and Pistons are the teams talking to New York most recently about a Cam Reddish trade, according to Ian Begley of SNY.TV. Reddish remains one of the players most likely to be on the move by Thursday.

• Kyrie Irving practiced with the Mavericks today — he was the first player to the facilities — and is expected to make his debut with the team Wednesday night.

Feb. 7, 1:29 P.M.: Is potential of Durant on the move hurting Anunoby market?

• Interesting note from Jake Fischer at Yahoo Sports: While there are a lot of teams still interested in a trade for Raptors wing O.G. Anunoby — the Pelicans, Grizzlies, Knicks, Pacers, Trail Blazers, Lakers, Suns, and Nets are interested — a number of those teams would prioritize Kevin Durant if he puts his trade demand back on the table this summer. With that, said teams don’t want to give up too much for Anunoby now. The market is getting soft, Anunoby is a favorite of GM Masai Ujiri in Toronto, so maybe he stays put at the deadline.

• It’s far more likely the Raptors trade Fred VanVleet or Gary Trent Jr. at the deadline. VanVleet has become one of the most talked about names in the last few days. That said, the Raptors are listening to offers, at least.

• What are the Celtics looking to do at the trade deadline? Use their $5.9 million trade exception, reports friend-of-the-site Keith Smith.

• Also from Fischer at Yahoo: Mason Plumlee appears to be the Hornet most likely to be traded.

TRADE: Heat send Dewayne Dedmond to the Spurs

San Antonio receives: Dewayne Dedmon, 2028 Heat second-round pick
Heat receive: Cash

Analysis: This is a salary dump by the Heat, and it cost them a second-round pick. Maimi now has some room under the salary cap and two open roster spots, allowing them to bring in a player — via trade or the buyout market — and convert Orlando Johnson’s two-way contract to full-time, he has played well for them. The Spurs get a second-round pick and are expected to waive Dedmon, making him a free agent.

Feb. 7, 11:55 A.M.: Lakers interested in Conley and Beasley from Jazz

• After striking out on Irving, the Lakers are reportedly engaged in talks to send Russell Westbrook and both of the first-round picks they can trade (2027 and 2029) to Utah for Mike Conley and Malik Beasley, reports Tim MacMahon of ESPN. While the sides undoubtedly talked, that sounds like a rumor from the Jazz camp. The Lakers have hoarded those picks to swing for a home run, and with Conley declining this season at age 35 — and with a guaranteed $24 million on the books for next season eating up the Lakers’ cap space over the summer — this doesn’t sound like a move the Lakers would suddenly pivot and accept. The Jazz have rebuffed all offers for Conley so far, keeping the asking price high and banking on the desperation of buyers.

• The Chicago Bulls are at least listening to offers for defensive guard Alex Caruso, but they are reportedly keeping the price sky-high — two first-round picks. Don’t expect a deal, while Caruso brings value that’s a star-level asking price.

• This shouldn’t surprise anyone who has watched a minute of Brooklyn Nets basketball this season, but ESPN’s Bobby Marks says Ben Simmons has zero trade value right now. Also, the note on Durant being a summer move was something sources told NBC Sports and we wrote about previously.

• If the Miami Heat can’t find a new home for the disappointing Kyle Lowry at the trade deadline, this summer they will return their focus to using his salary in a deal for a disgruntled superstar such as Kevin Durant or Bradley Beal, reports Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. That sounds on brand for the Heat.

• Along those lines, the Washington Wizards plan to keep Beal and re-sign Kyle Kuzma.

• Veteran Furkan Korkmaz has been bumped from his regular spot in the 76ers rotation this season and wants to be traded to a place he can get some run. Philly is looking for a new home for him as well as Matisse Thybulle.

• No, LeBron James is not happy the Lakers missed out on Kyrie Irving, but he’s pivoting to what’s going on today.

“I can’t sit here and say I’m not disappointed on not being able to land such a talent, but someone I had great chemistry with and know I got great chemistry with on the floor that can help you win championships. In my mind, in my eyes. But my focus has shifted now my focus has shifted back to where it should be, and that’s with this this club now and what we have in the locker room.”

Reports: Lakers agree to three-team Westbrook trade with Jazz, Timberwolves

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UPDATE: And the deal is agreed do, the three sides are on board.

The pick is protected 1-4, according to the report, and there are now other players involved.

This is a win for the Lakers, who give up one pick and get an upgrade at the point and two other players who upgrade their rotation. They are not sudden favorites in the West — the Lakers still sit as the 13th seed at the time of the trade — but if they can get into the postseason with a healthy LeBron James and Anthony Davis this is a team no team wants to face.

Russell Westbrook likely will be bought out by the Jazz and become a free agent. Ainge got what he wanted in Utah, another quality draft asset. Minnesota gets a point guard who is more of a floor general, a pass-first one who can play next to Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns (once he gets healthy) and fit in better.

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There may be a Russell Westbrook trade out there after all.

According to multiple reports, the Lakers are in discussions for a three-team point-gaurd trade that would send Westbrook and a draft pick (one of the Lakers first rounders in 2027 or 2029) to Utah, the Jazz would send veteran point Mike Conley to Minnesota, and the Timberwolves would send D'Angelo Russell back to the Lakers team that drafted him in 2015, plus the Lakers likely would get another Jazz player such as Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt (it’s the only way the numbers work).

Adrian Wojnarowski says the Lakers and Jazz like the deal and are set, but Minnesota is still talking to other teams about Russell to see if they can find a better deal.

This trade makes the Lakers better — Russell is a better shooter (39.1% from 3 this season), and he has played well in recent weeks working more off-ball while Anthony Edwards’ role in the offense has increased. Also, Russell’s contract expires after this season, so he doesn’t eat into their cap space.

The Timberwolves would get an adult in the room, a pass-first point guard who is a traditional floor general in Conley. He can work on or off the ball and could run pick-and-rolls with Rudy Gobert or, when he gets healthy, Karl-Anthony Towns.

The Jazz would buy out Westbrook, making him a free agent.

The questions seem to surround protections on the picks as well as if the Timberwolves believe there is a stronger market for Russell. This also could have been leaked by one of the parties hoping to get the deal done in an effort to put pressure on the others to agree to terms.

With the trade deadline a day away, this is one to watch — nothing is certain, but this trade feels like it’s on the two-yard line.

 

Sharpe out, Knicks center Jericho Sims reportedly in for Dunk Contest

NBA: DEC 14 Knicks at Bulls
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High-flying Trail Blazers rookie Shaedon Sharpe was the first name leaked as taking part in the All-Star Saturday Night Dunk Contest.

Now he has decided to pull out, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic, to be replaced by second-year Knicks center Jericho Sims.

Sims joins G-League fan favorite Mac McClung, the Houston Rockets’ KJ Martin, and the New Orleans Pelicans’ Trey Murphy.

Sims is incredibly athletic — he recorded the third-highest vertical leap in the history of the NBA Draft Combine. In games, he rolls and dunks. Hard. He’s also played an expanded, but still limited, role for Tom Thibodeau this season, getting into 43 games and averaging 3.8 points a night.

The Dunk Contest will headline All-Star Saturday night, Feb. 18, from the Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City. The event will be broadcast on TNT.

 

Kyrie Irving says at times he “felt very disrespected” in Brooklyn

Brooklyn Nets v Boston Celtics
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Kyrie Irving says he is happy. He said he feels celebrated and respected by his new team in Dallas.

While fans in Brooklyn, Boston and Cleveland may snicker and say “wait for it…”, a happy Irving right now is a good thing for a Mavericks team desperate to put a high-level shot creator next to superstar Luka Dončić. Irving emphasized his joy in playing the game while speaking to the media Tuesday after his first practice with his new team. He praised the Mavericks organization while saying he sometimes didn’t feel respected in Brooklyn. Here are Irving’s comments, via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“I just know I want to be places where I’m celebrated and not just tolerated or just kind of dealt with in a way that doesn’t make me feel respected,” Irving said after Tuesday’s practice at USC’s Galen Hall. “There were times throughout this process when I was in Brooklyn where I felt very disrespected and my talent — I work extremely hard at what I do. No one ever talks about my work ethic, though. Everyone talks about what I’m doing off the floor, so I just wanted to change that narrative, write my own story and just continue preparing in the gym, and now that I’m in Dallas, just focus on what I control.”

Irving makes it hard not to talk about his off-the-floor choices when he does things that keep him away from his team, such as his vaccination status a season ago, or a Tweet earlier this season promoting a movie with anti-Semitic themes that led to an eight-game suspension by the Nets.

When on the court, Irving’s skills are unquestionable — he has the league’s best handles and averages 27.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game, plus he is shooting 37.4% from 3. It’s those skills he wants to bring to Dallas and make the focus. He wants to move on from the negativity surrounding him in Brooklyn.

Irving cited a lack of “transparency and honesty from people in the front office” as a reason he did not feeling comfortable continuing his career with the Nets…

“I don’t want to go into too many details because it’s water under the bridge now,” said Irving… “I wish them well. I left them in fourth place. I did what I was supposed to do, took care of my teammates, was incredibly selfless in my approach to leading, and I just want to do all the right things for myself — not to appease anybody that had something negative to say about me or judge me. This basketball game — just, it’s fun, and I want to keep it that way.”

If it stays fun and about basketball, this will be an excellent trade for the Mavericks. Irving will have to prove his critics wrong by keeping the spotlight on the court.