Three Things to Know: What does Kyrie Irving’s return mean for Nets?


Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks going that make the NBA great.

1) What does Kyrie Irving‘s return mean for Nets?

After months of drama and a reversal by team management, Kyrie Irving returns to the court for the Nets tonight in Indiana. It’s now “scary hour” for the rest of the league, according to Nic Claxton.

But what does Irving’s return — only for, he still refuses to get vaccinated and with Omicron surging New York City’s vaccine mandate isn’t going anywhere — mean for the Nets?

It’s a shot in the arm to a sagging offense.

The Nets defense has been top 10 in the league, but their offense has been middle of the pack — even with Kevin Durant playing at an MVP level. They are 12th in the league, using Cleaning the Glass’ stats with a garbage time filter. That’s not contender status.

Irving brings buckets.

“Have you watched him play?” Durant said recently. “He’s a master. He can score 60%, 70 % of his shots if you don’t guard him. He’s a high IQ player. It’s just a matter of him getting his legs up under him and his wind up under him. And then for us, we’re going to run plays for him, we’ll try to look for him.
“We play team basketball, but he can adapt and do anything out there so we’re not worried about him.”

Irving has the best handles in the league and is an elite isolation scorer — as are Durant and Harden, which make them such a dangerous playoff team — but he also shot 43.4 % on catch-and-shoot 3s last season. You can’t help off Irving on the perimeter, and he worked well off the ball last season with Harden serving as playmaker.

Last season, the Nets had a +11.4 net rating and a 123.5 offensive rating when Durant, Harden, and Irving were on the court together. They were almost unstoppable, which is why they have been one of the betting favorites to win the title all season (+260 right now at our partner Points Bet, lower odds than the Warriors at +500 or anyone else).

Irving can fill some of Joe Harris‘ minutes in the short term while the sharpshooter recovers from ankle surgery. Patty Mills will move to a sixth man role for road games, then be back in the starting lineup at home.

Come the playoffs, it could be very odd having different home and road starting lineups and rotations — would the Nets lose games to get a lower seed, preferring to have Irving on the court for a road Game 7 rather than play at home without him? — but the Nets have months to figure that out.

Right now, they have lost three in a row, look flat and need a shot in the arm. Irving may refuse to get that shot in the arm, but he can be one for this team right now.

2) Grizzlies win battle of the surprise upstarts, beat Cavaliers

Ja Morant is not just entertaining, he is clutch — he scored six of his 26 points in the final 30 seconds, including the go-ahead basket, against the Cavaliers Tuesday.

The Grizzlies came out with the 110-106 win against the Cavaliers in the battle of upstart playoff teams from each conference. What made this game so entertaining was Darius Garland going toe-to-toe with Morant and finishing with 27 points and 10 assists in his return to Cleveland’s lineup (he was out four games due to health and safety protocols). Jarrett Allen and Jaren Jackson Jr. was a fun battle in the paint.

The game also had a little controversy with Morant getting a no-call late that had Cavaliers fans up in arms.

It was an entertaining game, from two of the must-watch teams in the league this season.

3) LeBron James takes over in clutch, Lakers pick up third straight win

Nothing has changed with the Lakers: They need LeBron James to be dominant to have a chance to win. For the last month plus, LeBron has been that.

Tuesday night, he scored 14 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter, took over in the clutch, and pushed the Lakers past the Kings 122-114.

That’s three straight wins for the Lakers, who move above .500 at 20-19.

Malik Monk continues to give the Lakers an offensive boost, scoring 24 in this one and hitting 6-of-11 from 3. Russell Westbrook added 19 points, and while he shot just 7-of-19 he didn’t have any turnovers, so that’s a win.

De'Aaron Fox had 30 for the Kings, Buddy Hield scored 26 off the bench.

The Lakers have a couple more games at home this weekend — we’re not mentioning the new name of that building — but then have 9-of-12 on the road.

Highlight of the night: Fred VanVleet is on fire

It’s something a little different for this space, not just a single highlight, but we need to give some love to Fred VanVleet, who had his third straight 30+ point game dropping 33 on the Spurs in a Raptors win Tuesday.

That’s three straight wins this season, and VanVleet is playing at a level this season that has earned him All-Star consideration (whether he can make the cut in a deep East is a more challenging question).

Last night’s scores:

Memphis 110, Cleveland106
Toronto 129, San Antonio 104
New York 104, Indiana 94
Phoenix 123, New Orleans 110
LA Lakers 122, Sacramento 114

Paul George has to be helped off court after fourth quarter leg injury


Hopefully this is not serious, not something that changes the playoff picture in the West.

The Clippers’ Paul George went down with 4:38 left in the game Tuesday night after a collision with Lu Dort going for a rebound.

George had to be helped back to the locker room and struggled to put any weight on his leg.

After the game, Tyronn Lue said George was still being evaluated and had no update on his status. George was seen exiting the arena on the back of a cart with his right leg extended, according to the AP.

George had 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists before exiting the game. On the season he is playing at an All-NBA level averaging 23.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists a game, and the Clippers are 6.8 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court.

The Thunder went on to win 101-100 in a game filled with drama, including a technical foul for Kawhi Leonard, an ejection of Terrence Mann, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scoring 31 points, and Lou Dort locking up Leonard in the final seconds.


Grizzlies Ja Morant: ‘My job now is… to be more responsible’


While his coach said he anticipates Ja Morant will return to the court Wednesday for the Grizzlies, Morant downplayed expectations and said things are “still in the air.”

Whether the official return is Wednesday or a few days later, Morant is back practicing with teammates and spoke to the media for the first time since his suspension. He once again was apologetic.

“I’m completely sorry for that,” Morant said, via the Associated Press. “So, you know, my job now is, like I said, to be more responsible, more smarter, and don’t cause any of that no more.”

Morant was suspended eight games by the NBA after flashing a gun in a club and broadcasting it on social media, something NBA Commissioner Adam Silver called “irresponsible” and “reckless.” Morant used that time to go into counseling at a facility in Florida but added he “never had an alcohol problem.”.

“I went there to counseling to learn how to manage stress,” Morant said. “Cope with stress in a positive way, instead of ways I’ve tried to deal with it before that caused me to make mistakes.”

Morant said that his treatment is an “ongoing process,” adding that he was getting off social media and letting his actions speak for him.

Morant and his associates had incidents before that caught the attention of people around the league — including a run-in with Indiana Pacers security — however, this incident in a Colorado club was the first one that hit him in the wallet. The suspension cost him $668,659 in game pay, plus one of his major sponsors — Powerade — pulled an ad campaign featuring him that would have run heavily during March Madness.

The biggest hit is Morant possibly missing out on an All-NBA guard spot. Morant could make $39 million more over the five-year extension that kicks in next season if he makes one of the three All-NBA teams. However, the guard spot is especially crowded with deserving players this season and this incident and the missed games do not help his cause.

Hart will be free agent this summer seeking new contract, ‘would love for it to be New York’


Josh Hart‘s play since coming to the Knicks has made him a lot of money.

Already a darling of many front offices, Hart has been a seamless fit in New York, averaging 11.1 points and seven rebounds off the bench for Tom Thibodeau, playing quality defense, and being the kind of plug-and-play wing every team can use. He’s quickly become a fan favorite in New York, but the Knicks will have to pay up to keep him. Hart has a player option for $12.9 million next season that he is widely expected to decline — there’s a lot more money and years available to him on the open market.

Hart told Marc Spears of ESPN’s Andscape he wants to find a home, and he hopes that it is in New York.

“I want bigger things for my wife and myself,” Hart said. “Just find a home somewhere where we are valued and really like living there. And I think that can be New York. I would love for it to be New York and hopefully the organization feels the same way. Coming up, this contract is hopefully my biggest one, one where I’m making sure my family’s fully taken care of. So, I’ve also got to take that into account, too.”

That is the polite way of saying, “I like it here but you’re not getting a discount.”

While Hart will have made a tidy $33 million in his career when this season ends, his next four-year contract will be worth more than double that amount — this is the deal that sets up generational wealth for Hart’s family. This is a business and he has to make the decision best for him, as much as he may love the Knicks.

Expect the Knicks to pay up, especially as long as Thibodeau is around. This is a deal that should come together.

But first, Hart and the Knicks are headed to the playoffs, and Madison Square Garden will be rocking. It’s going to be the kind of experience that makes a guy want to stay with a team.

Hall of Famer, Knicks legend Willis Reed dies at 80


Willis Reed, the legendary Knicks’ center whose dramatic entrance onto the Madison Square Garden floor minutes before Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals sparked the team to its first title, has died at the age of 80.

The National Basketball Retired Players Association announced Reed’s passing. While no cause of death was announced, it was known Reed had been in poor health for some time.

“Willis Reed was the ultimate team player and consummate leader,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “My earliest and fondest memories of NBA basketball are of watching Willis, who embodied the winning spirit that defined the New York Knicks’ championship teams in the early 1970s. He played the game with remarkable passion and determination, and his inspiring comeback in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals remains one of the most iconic moments in all of sports.

“As a league MVP, two-time NBA Finals MVP and member of the NBA’s 50th and 75th Anniversary Teams, Willis was a decorated player who took great pride in his consistency. Following his playing career, Willis mentored the next generation as a coach, team executive and proud HBCU alumnus. We send our deepest condolences to Willis’ wife, Gale, his family, and many friends and fans.”

Reed had an amazing career — highlighted by the two NBA titles and two NBA Finals MVP awards, plus being a seven-time All-Star — but he is best remembered for a legendary 1969-70 season. That year he became the first player to sweep the regular season, All-Star Game and NBA Finals MVP awards.

However, it was him walking out on the court for Game 7 of the Finals in 1970 — after he suffered a thigh injury in Game 5 and had to miss Game 6 of the series, and the Knicks had no answer for the Lakers’ Wilt Chamberlain without him — that became the moment of legend. Reed scored four early points that game, and while he was limited the rest of the way he sparked the team to its first title (Walt Frazier’s 36 points and 19 assists had something to do with the win, too).

Reed was born in 1942 in Hico, Louisiana, and stayed in the state through college, leading Grambling State to the 1961 NAIA title. Considered an undersized center at 6’9 “, teams quickly learned he played much bigger than that as he went on to win the 1965 Rookie of the Year award.

Reed averaged 18.7 points and 12.9 rebounds a season over the course of his career, and he had his No.19 retired by the Knicks. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1982.