As Nets, Irving situation becomes “acrimonious” other teams prep plans for Durant trade

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Kyrie Irving sees himself as one of the game’s elite players, one deserving of a four- or five-year max contract. Brooklyn Nets management — after watching Irving play 103 of 226 games over three seasons and not seem fully committed to the franchise — don’t want to extend him past a couple of years. Nets owner Joe Tsai has backed the hardline stance (at least so far).

What started as public negotiation tactics between the sides has now gotten much more personal and tense, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on the NBA Today (hat tip Real GM).

“This is getting acrimonious,” said Wojnarowksi of the talks. “I think that’s the concern when you look at not only Kyrie Irving’s future in Brooklyn, but Kevin Durant‘s future and whether they can hold this thing together right now.”

When Irving gave the Nets a list of other places he wanted to play — or at least made that list public —  it was a sign this negotiation had crossed the Rubicon and there may be no turning back.

Other teams have taken notice and quietly started to plan for Kevin Durant trades, ESPN’s Zach Lowe said on The Lowe Post podcast.

“Teams are already operating under the, not the assumption, but we need to prepare for the contingency Kevin Durant is available via trade in six days, or seven days.”

Everyone involved seems to be taking stock of their relationship and deciding if they want to continue it into the future.

One overlooked angle in all this is Nets owner Tsai firing the team’s CEO over mounting financial losses for the franchise. While Tsai can be frustrated with ticket sales and sponsorship revenue not being as high as he expects or wants, the Nets will have an estimated $98 million luxury tax bill this season for their player payroll, the second highest in the NBA (behind Golden State). That’s where the losses mount — and for a team swept out of the playoffs in the first round. Those financial issues may have Tsai willing to back a more hardline stance by management on a player in Irving they feel has not been committed enough to winning.

Durant has four years and $192 million as his contract extension kicks in next season, limiting his leverage to force his way to a specific team if he wants out.

And that is still an “if” — while the general perception is Durant will ask out if Irving leaves, it may depend on what the Nets get back in a sign-and-trade and what other moves they make. Durant wants to win, wants a ring, and if he feels Nets ownership is not willing to spend to get that, his eye will wander. But he will be patient.

It had felt for a long time that the most likely outcome was the Nets and Irving would stop their game of chicken, figure out a middle ground and get a deal done. Not any more. This has gotten acrimonious and gone too far, and the big drama this offseason may prove to be where the Nets stars end up playing next and how the Brooklyn franchise moves forward.

The big date to watch: June 29. That’s when Irving has to decide to opt in to his $36.9 million for next season or become a free agent (opting in makes trades to the Lakers or Knicks much easier).

Steve Nash on Ben Simmons: ‘I don’t care if he ever shoots a jump shot’

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The last season he played, Ben Simmons took just 9% of his shots from beyond 10 feet — he did not space the floor at all, which meant Joel Embiid had to at times. That lack of a jumper he trusted has always been one of the knocks on Ben Simmons’ game.

Steve Nash doesn’t care. Via Nick Friedell of ESPN:

“That’s why I don’t care if he ever shoots a jump shot for the Brooklyn Nets. He’s welcome to, but that is not what makes him special and not what we need. He’s a great complement to our team, and he’s an incredible basketball player because of his versatility.”

In an offense with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving setting the table — particularly in the halfcourt — Simmons is going to be asked to play more of a role: Be an elite defender, push the ball in transition, work in some dribble-handoff situations where he can drive the lane as an option, be a cutter off the ball, and be a distributor in the halfcourt. It’s why Simmons’ ideal role with the Nets often gets compared to Draymond Green — it’s a Draymond-lite role. There will be far less of him as lead guard running pick-and-roll.

Will Simmons settle into that role? Also, it should be noted that peak Green (2016 for example) shot better than 30% from 3 and had to be respected out there (last season 29.6% on 1.2 3s per game) — he had to be covered at the arc. Simmons does not. Also, Green did not avoid getting fouled and getting to the line.

Nash has the task of meshing Simmons into the system and figuring out the rotations — can he play Simmons and Nic Claxton together, or is having two non-jump shooters on the floor at once clog the offense? Is Simmons going to play center at points? There is championship-level talent on the Nets roster, but so many questions about fit, defense, and grit.

There’s no question about Simmons taking jumpers, but Nash doesn’t care.

Pelican’s Green says Zion ‘dominated the scrimmage pretty much’

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The Zion hype train keeps right on rolling. First were the reports he was in the best shape of his life, then he walked into media day and it looked like he is.

Now Zion has his own hype man in Pelicans coach Willie Green, who said he dominated the first day of team scrimmages. Via Andre Lopez of ESPN.

“Z looked amazing,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said on Wednesday afternoon. “His strength, his speed. He dominated the scrimmage pretty much.”

“What stood out was his force more than anything,” Green said. “He got down the floor quickly. When he caught the ball, he made quick decisions. Whether it was scoring, finding a teammate. It was really impressive to see.”

Reach for the salt shaker to take all this with — it’s training camp scrimmages. Maybe Zion is playing that well right now — he’s fully capable, he was almost an All-NBA player in 2020-21 (eighth in forward voting) before his foot injury — but we need to see it against other teams. In games that matter. Then we’ll need to see it over a stretch of time.

If Zion can stay healthy this season, if his conditioning is where everyone says it is, he could be in for a monster season. Combine that with CJ McCollum, Brandon Ingram and a strong supporting cast in New Orleans, and the Pelicans could surprise a lot of people — and be fun to watch.

 

PBT Podcast: What’s next for Celtics, Suns? Should NBA end one-and-done?

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NBA training camps just opened and teams have yet to play a preseason game, but already two contenders are dealing with problems.

The Celtics have the suspension of coach Ime Udoka as a distraction, plus defensive anchor center Robert Williams will miss at least the start of the season following another knee surgery.

The Suns have the distraction of a suspended owner who is selling the team, plus Jae Crowder is out and demanding a trade, and Deandre Ayton does not seem happy.

Corey Robinson of NBC Sports and myself go through all the training camp news, including the wilder ones with the Lakers and Nets, breaking down what to take away from all that — plus how good Zion Williamson and James Harden look physically.

Then the pair discusses the potential of the NBA doing away with the one-and-done role and letting 18-year-olds back in the game — is that good for the NBA?

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.

Report: Price tag on Phoenix Suns could be more than $3 billion

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Clippers - Game Six
Harry How/Getty Images
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In 2004, Robert Sarver bought the Phoenix Suns for a then-record $401 million.

When Sarver sells the team now — pushed to do so following the backlash prompted by an NBA report that found an 18-year pattern of bigotry, misogyny, and a toxic workplace — he is going to make a massive profit.

The value of the Suns now is at $3 billion or higher, reports Ramona Shelburne and Baxter Holmes of ESPN.

There will be no shortage of bidders for the team, with league sources predicting a franchise valuation of more than $3 billion now that revenue has rebounded following the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and with a new television rights deal and CBA on the horizon. Sarver purchased the team for just over $400 million in 2004.

Saver currently owns 35% of the Suns (the largest share), but reports say his role as managing partner allows him to sell the entire team (the minority owners have to comply, although they would make a healthy profit, too). Sarver also decides who to sell the team to, not the NBA or other owners.

Early rumors of buyers have included Larry Ellison (founder of Oracle), Bob Iger (former Disney CEO), Laurene Powell Jobs (widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, she has a 20% share of the Washington Wizards), and others. There have been no reports of talks yet, and Sarver does not need to be on a rushed timeline.

Meanwhile, a contending Suns team tries to focus on the season despite the owner selling the team, Jae Crowder not being in training camp and pushing for a trade, and Deandre Ayton does not sound happy to be back with the Suns.