Report: Kyrie Irving ran second practice after Nash finished his last season

2022 NBA Playoffs - Boston Celtics v Brooklyn Nets
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The war of words and spin is escalating between Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets, with reports yesterday that the sides were at an “impasse” in contract extension negotiations.

Now comes a report about Irving’s fit and tensions with the Nets, courtesy of ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith on his show First Take  Monday (hat tip Bleacher Report):

“Did you know that this brother Kyrie Irving last season would conduct his own practices? So when Steve Nash had the team on the floor, and they practiced, they would finish and he’d go and get five guys and conduct his own practice. … Do you have any idea how disrespectful that is to Steve Nash?”

My takeaways from the latest Irving news:

• The “impasse” report Monday clearly leaked out of Irving’s camp as a negotiation tactic. Nets’ GM Sean Marks had said he wanted more of a commitment from Irving. Despite all the games missed and distractions the past couple of years, Irving expected a four-or-five-year max offer on the table, and it is not there, or Marks has incentives/strings attached (games played to reach a full max, maybe). Whatever the Nets are offering, it’s not what Irving wanted.

• This leak about Irving at practice was aimed at undercutting Irving’s credibility and bolstering the Nets’ position for whatever offer they made (and in the court of public opinion, my perception is most fans would back the Nets here).

• In most cases, I would say this is simply public negotiations and the two sides will work out a deal — Irving said he wanted to stay with Kevin Durant and the Nets both can’t replace him and don’t want to anger KD — but Irving is the most unpredictable player in the league. He walked away from more than $17 million last season because he refused to get vaccinated. If one player — one proven to have a wandering eye — were going to buck conventional wisdom and take less to leave a good situation, it would be Irving.

• Nobody knows what happens next.

• On June 29 we will have our first real indication of where things are headed — that’s the day Irving has to decide whether or not to opt into his $36.5 million for next season. If he opts in (taking less than the max extension he wants), it sets up trades, if he does not it’s a sign he’s worked out a new deal and that would only happen with the Nets. (The teams that could create the cap space to sign him as a max free agent, such as Detroit or Indiana, are not places Irving will go.)

• Of the three teams mentioned as interested in Irving — the Knicks, Clippers, and Lakers — it is by far the easiest to put together a trade with the Clippers. Irving would have to opt into his $36.5 million for next season (a pure sign-and-trade would trigger the hard cap and the Clippers couldn’t get below it), but the Clippers have solid players to send to the Nets — Luke Kennard, Reggie Jackson, Marcus Morris among others — and the would extend Irving at whatever price and years he wanted. With Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Irving, and still decent depth, the Clippers would be clear title contenders.

• The Knicks could make it work but the deal strips New York of its depth. Players such as Alec Burks, Nerlens Noel, Evan Fournier, and others could be in the trade and it would leave the Knicks with Irving, RJ Barrett, and likely Julius Randle (although whether he returns is still a question). This keeps Irving in New York but on a team fighting to avoid the play-in not contending for a ring. Is that what he wants?

• A LeBron James and Irving reunion is a great headline, and this seems about the only path for a Lakers return to contention, but putting together a trade is exceedingly difficult. Again Irving would have to opt-in, but the Lakers don’t have a way to both match salary and tempt the Nets. Throwing in Talen Horton-Tucker, Kendrick Nunn (assuming he opts in as expected) and two unprotected first-round picks (2027 and 2029) is a starting point, but it doesn’t get near the salary requirements. Russell Westbrook has to be part of the trade, but then a third team (likely Oklahoma City) has to get involved, and the Lakers don’t have the picks and players to both make the Nets happy and have enough sweeteners to get OKC to take on a bunch of extra salary (they would want additional firsts to take on Westbrook’s contract). Lakers fans on Twitter are desperately trying to come up with workable scenarios, but they all fall short.

• Most likely, Irving and the Nets will work something out. Both sides are better with each other. That would happen with most players — but Irving is not most players.

Celtics lock-up Al Horford with two-year, $20 million extension

Washington Wizards v Boston Celtics
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Brad Stevens has locked up the core of this Celtics team — the one that reached the Finals last season and has the best record in the NBA to start this one — through the summer of 2025.

They did that with a two-year, $20 million extension (that kicks in next season). The story was broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and later confirmed by the Celtics.

Horford, 36, is making $26.5 million this season, the final year of a four-year, $109 million deal he signed in Philadelphia. While he never fit well as a stretch four next to Joel Embiid, he has worked well as a role player in Boston’s front line. The Celtics have locked him up at a deal closer to the league average and about his value now, at an average of $10 million a season (both years are fully guaranteed). It’s a fair deal for both sides, and a low enough number that if Father Time starts to win the race it doesn’t hurt Boston much.

With Robert Williams still out following knee surgery, Horford has seen his minutes increase to start this season but he has handled it well, averaging  10.9 points and 6.3 rebounds a game, shooting 55.5% overall and 48.8% from 3-point range. Joe Mazzulla will likely try to get Horford some rest down the line when he can, but for now he’s leaning on the veteran.

And the team has rewarded him.

Donovan says Lonzo Ball’s recovery has ‘been really slow’

Milwaukee Bucks v Chicago Bulls
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Watching the finger-pointing and heated moments between Bulls’ defenders on Wednesday night as Devin Booker carved them up to the tune of 51 points, one thought was how much they miss Lonzo Ball‘s defense at the point of attack.

Ball had a second surgery on his knee back in September and the team said he would be out at “least a few months.” It’s coming up on a few months, so Donovan gave an update on Ball and his recovery, and the news was not good for Bulls’ fans. Via Rob Schaefer at NBC Sports Chicago:

“It’s been really slow,” Donovan said when asked about Ball’s rehab. “I’m just being honest.”

Donovan added Ball has not necessarily suffered a setback. The Bulls knew this would be an arduous process. But he also noted that Ball is “not even close” to being cleared for contact or on-court work.

Ball had his first knee surgery in January and the expectation was he would be back and 100% by the playoffs. However, Ball’s knee didn’t respond well, and he was eventually ruled out for the season. Things didn’t improve over the summer, which led to the second surgery. How much do they miss him? The Bulls were 22-13 with him last season, and he averaged 13.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 5.1 assists, a game. However, it was his defense that was most crucial.

There is no timeline for his return. Which is not good news for Chicago.

PBT Podcast: Timberwolves without KAT, get Luka some help

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Minnesota has stumbled out of the gate this season, and now they will be without Karl-Anthony Towns for around a month with a calf strain. Just how much trouble are the Timberwolves in?

Corey Robinson from NBC Sports and myself discuss that and then get into Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s Team USA vs. Team World matchup — does Evan Fournier get the world team in trouble? Who guards whom?

From there, it’s time for Corey’s Jukebox and some New Orleans jazz for Zion Williamson. Some Mavericks’ talk follows that — Dallas has put a big load on the shoulders of Luka Doncic, and while he’s playing like an MVP it’s a long-term concern for the Mavericks and their fans.

You can always watch the video of some of the podcast above, or listen to the entire podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google Play, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please feel free to email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

LeBron calls out reporters for asking him about Kyrie Irving but not Jerry Jones

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Within days of Kyrie Irving being suspended by the Nets in the wake of a Tweet promoting an antisemitic film (and his initial refusal to apologize for it), Irving’s former teammate LeBron James was asked about it. He had to deal with the controversy, saying, “I don’t condone any hate to any kind. To any race.”

At the end of his press conference Wednesday night after the Lakers beat the Trail Blazers, LeBron scolded the assembled press for not asking him about the 1957 photo that surfaced of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones outside North Little Rock High School while white students protested the integration of the school when they had been quick to ask about Irving.

“When I watched Kyrie talk, and he says, `I know who I am, but I want to keep the same energy when we’re talking about my people and the things they’ve been through,’ and that Jerry Jones photo is one of those moments that our people, Black people, have been through in America. And I feel like as a Black man, as a Black athlete, someone with power and with a platform, when we do something wrong or something that people don’t agree with, it’s on every single tabloid, every single news coverage. It’s on the bottom ticker. It’s asked about every single day.

“But it seems like to me that the whole Jerry Jones situation, the photo, and I know it was years and years ago, and we all make mistakes, I get it. It seems like it’s just been buried under, like, `Oh, it happened. OK. We just move on.’ And I was just kind of disappointed that I haven’t received that question from you guys.”

Irving and LeBron were teammates in Cleveland and won a ring together, there was a direct connection (plus Irving had been linked to the Lakers in trade rumors over the summer).

However, there was a connection between LeBron and the Cowboys as well. LeBron was for many years a very public Cowboys fan (despite growing up in Browns territory). It came up as recently as October, when LeBron was on Instagram Live promoting his HBO show with Maverick Carter “The Shop” and he said he had stopped rooting for the Cowboys in the wake of Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protests, “There’s just a lot of things that were going on when guys were kneeling. Guys were having freedom of speech and wanting to do it in a very peaceful manner…. The organization was like, ‘If you do that around here, then you will never play for this franchise again.’ I just didn’t think that was appropriate.”

When asked about the photo, Jones said he was a curious 14-year-old who was watching and didn’t understand the magnitude of the moment or situation.