Report: Nets give Kyrie Irving permission to seek sign-and-trade deals

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What the Brooklyn Nets are really saying to Kyrie Irving:

“You think there’s great demand for your services on a long-term max contract? Then go find a sign-and-trade, or opt-in and trade, yourself. Good luck with that. Oh, and by the way, we don’t want Russell Westbrook.”

Kyrie Irving has until Wednesday to decide whether he will opt-in to the $36.9 million he is owed next season or become a free agent — and the second he decides, either way, a lot of his already limited leverage disappears. It appears the relationship between Irving and the Nets has severely deteriorated — he gave the team a list of destinations he would want to play for — and now the Nets are giving him permission to look for sign-and-trades (or opt-in and trades) for himself, reports Kristian Winfield at the New York Daily News.

While Nets GM Sean Marks and superstar forward Kevin Durant have yet to speak this offseason, Irving’s camp has requested and received permission from the Nets to speak with other teams about sign-and-trade packages, according to multiple sources familiar with the situation.

The belief among both league and player circles is that Irving is gone and the Seven-Eleven Era is over before it ever began.

Of the teams on the list Irving gave the Nets, a couple of teams are not interested — the Clippers and Mavericks, according to league sources — and the idea of pairing Irving and Harden in Philadelphia is laughable.

That leaves three teams: The Lakers, Knicks, and Heat.

And according to multiple reports now, it’s really only the Lakers.

Sources told Sam Amick of The Athletic something similar: That Irving wants to force his way to the Lakers. That’s the only situation he is working on. LeBron James is reportedly open to it, and getting Irving is the Lakers’ only realistic path back to title contention this season.

However, finding a opt-in and trade that works for everyone is likely too big a mountain to climb. (Note: It would have to be an opt-in and trade, a sign-and-trade triggers a hard cap the Lakers would already be over. The problem for Irving is once he opts in he has no leverage, the Nets don’t have to trade him, he’s under contract for next season.)

The Lakers have two first-round picks and the limited value of Talen Horton-Tucker to throw in a trade, which isn’t that thrilling an offer, but that’s not even the biggest problem. To make the money work under the cap, the Lakers would need to send Russell Westbrook out in a trade — and the Nets have zero interest in a Westbrook and Kevin Durant reunion tour. The only way this works is to rope in a third team, and then things get really tricky. The Thunder could do it before July 1 but they will want picks and young players, and the Lakers don’t have enough of those to appease both the Nets and Thunder. After July 1, the Pistons have cap space, but they are looking to spend that on players who fit with them (Miles Bridges?), not taking on bad contracts. Orlando has cap space but it’s back to the Thunder problem of how may assets Los Angeles has to make everyone happy. The best deal may be a three-team one with Charlotte where the Hornets send Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier to Brooklyn, but if Irving is gone (and Kevin Durant follows) the Nets don’t want to be locked into that long-term money.

There just is no good Lakers trade for Irving. If Irving wants to play for the Lakers, he might have to take a $30 million paycut to play for the taxpayer mid-level exception of $6.4 million (and the Lakers would not have his Bird rights, complicating re-signing him for anywhere near the max).

There are other teams Irving could talk to.

The Knicks’ odd draft night moves were about clearing cap space to make a run at Jalen Brunson. New York sees what Irving is doing as a public negotiation tactic more than genuine interest and are not focusing on him, reports Alex Schiffer at The Athletic. If the Knicks decide Irving is serious, their best path to landing him is to shed a lot more salary — Alec Burks, Nerlens Noel, Evan Fourier, attaching first-round picks to them to get teams to take them — and create the cap space to sign Irving outright. Any sign-and-trade would gut an already not-that-deep Knicks roster (the Nets will want RJ Barrett to start).

The Miami Heat might be the most realistic option on paper — and Irving and Jimmy Butler are friends. Tyler Herro, Kyle Lowry, and a few picks might be the best offer on the table for the Nets. The idea of Irving in the Heat’s more militaristic culture would be interesting, but it’s the most reasonable trade to make for the Nets. Except, according to Wojnarowski, the sides aren’t talking.

Or, Irving and the Nets could act like adults, find a middle ground, sign an extension that neither loves but both can live with, and start chasing a ring. However, that logic is not going to win the day — sorry Nets fans.

Instead, Irving is out there right now trying to find the right trade.

Heat play their game — hit 3s, grind, own fourth — to even series with Nuggets

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DENVER — It was a recipe familiar to Heat fans (and one that kept Bucks and Celtics fans up at night):

The Heat hit their 3-pointers at a seemingly unsustainable rate, 17-of-35 (48.6%). They got physical on defense and mucked up the Nuggets’ offense for stretches. Nikola Jokić was a scorer (41 points) but the Heat didn’t let him get the ball moving, allowing just four assists. The Heat were relentless and took advantage of their opponents’ undisciplined plays. The Heat owned the fourth with 36 points (to the Nuggets’ 25).

It was the recipe that got Miami to the NBA Finals and it won them Game 2 in Denver, 111-108.

The series is now tied 1-1, heading to Miami for Game 3 on Wednesday.

Miami’s role players stepped up as they have all postseason. Gabe Vincent scored 23 with 4-of-6 from 3, Max Strus started hot and finished with 14 points and six assists, and Duncan Robinson came off the bench for a hot start to the fourth quarter and scored 10 points that helped change the game.

Their stars made plays too, both Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo scored 21. Butler had nine assists, Adebayo nine rebounds, and both made critical defensive plays.

“First, It’s part of our DNA for one, everyone on this team has been knocked down, we’ve faced adversity and gotten up again,” Vincent said when ask how the Heat keep having these kinds of games. “Second, we have a lot of experience in these close games.”

The Heat got what they wanted from the opening tip. On offense Max Strus was hitting — 4-of-7 from 3 in the first quarter alone — but it wasn’t just him. Heat midrange shots that clanged out in Game 1 dropped through the net Sunday. More importantly, having Butler start the game defensively on Jamal Murray along with Adebayo on Jokić slowed the Nuggets’ go-to pick-and-roll. Miami got the lead all the way to 11 as they pulled the game into the mud they needed to win.

However, in the final five minutes of the quarter the Nuggets started to find their legs and their offense — all thanks to their bench.

Christian Braun made two hustling defensive plays in a row, the second turning into a Jeff Green breakaway (where Haywood Highsmith fouled him). Then a Bruce Brown 3. Then a Jeff Green 3. Then a Murray 3. Then an Aaron Gordon 3. It was a Rocky Mountain avalanche of 3-pointers and the Nuggets started to pull away.

Denver’s run stretched out to 29-8 and the Nuggets led by as many as 15. However, as the teams returned to their starting lineups, the Heat got their groove back — Strus, Gabe Vincent and Butler were all in double digits in the first half. More telling, Kevin Love (inserted into the starting lineup for Game 2) was +15 and Strus +10 as all the Heat starters were in the positive. On the other end, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was -14, highlighting a rough night that eventually led to him fouling out.

Their bench had Nuggets were up 57-51, and it helped they won the non-Jokić minutes at the start of the second quarter by 14.

The start of the second half again saw the Heat increasing their defensive pressure, doing better in transition, and doubling Jokić in a way that bothered him. This slowed the Nuggets down and had them getting into their offense late, and it was back to a slow, grinding, Heat style of game.

That kept most of the third quarter tight, but in the final minutes of the half — when Bam Adebayo went to the bench — Jokić made plays, he finished with 18 points in the third alone, and the Heat entered the fourth ahead 83-75.

Then the relentless Heat made their run, with Robinson going on a personal 7-2 streak that grows into a 13-2 Heat run that puts them up by three.

From there, the Heat did their thing — they hit threes and played intense defense. The Nuggets didn’t match that energy until they tried to flip the switch in the final couple of minutes.

By then it was too late, and now the series is tied 1-1.

Edwards, Brunson, Reaves reportedly among commitments to play for USA at World Cup

2023 NBA Playoffs - Cleveland Cavaliers v New York Knicks
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Steve Kerr will be coaching a roster filled with some of the most engaging young stars of the NBA at the World Cup this summer.

Names are starting to leak out of who has accepted invitations to play for USA Basketball this August and September, and it feels like a who’s who of the best young players in the league: Anthony Edwards, Jalen Brunson, Tyrese Haliburton, Mikal Bridges, Austin Reaves and Bobby Portis.

This is just the start of the roster, but it is a young and athletic group that can shoot, move the ball and play at pace — deep wells of athleticism have long been one of the USA’s biggest strengths in international competitions.

The World Cup will feature 32 teams around the globe in an almost three-week competition. The USA is in Group C with Greece and Giannis Antetokounmpo (assuming he plays), New Zealand (Steven Adams, if he plays) and Jordan.

The USA will be coached in this World Cup by Kerr, Erik Spoelstra of Miami, Tyronn Lue of the Los Angeles Clippers and Mark Few of Gonzaga. The USA will meet for a camp in Las Vegas and play Puerto Rico there as a tuneup before heading to Abu Dhabi and eventually on to the World Cup in the Philippines. The World Cup starts Aug. 25 and continues through Sept. 10, and the U.S. will play all of its games in Manila.

The World Cup is the primary qualifier for the 2024 Paris Olympics (the USA does not automatically qualify as the reigning gold medalist). USA Basketball President Grant Hill has said that playing in the World Cup is not a prerequisite for playing in the Olympics.

Phil Knight says he still wants to buy Trail Blazers, still waiting for team to be available

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Phil Knight — not a man known for his patience — is waiting.

The Nike founder still wants the chance to buy the Portland Trail Blazers to ensure they stay in Portland, reports Rachel Bachman of the Wall Street Journal. However, the team remains unavailable. More than a year ago Knight and Dodgers co-owner Alan Smolinisky reportedly offered more than $2 billion to buy the Trail Blazers. Jody Allen, who currently runs the team on behalf of her late brother Paul Allen’s estate, said there is no plan to sell the team right now, and it could be years.

Knight continues to try and buy the team, the Journal reports.

So Knight and Smolinisky tried again, according to a person familiar with their plans. On numerous occasions, including earlier this year, they made it clear to Jody Allen that they still wanted to make a deal. They indicated that they realized the price had gone up and that they were willing to pay more than their initial offer, this person said. Again, Knight’s calls to Jody Allen were diverted to Kolde [Bert Kolde is the Executive Vice President of Sports Strategy at Vulcan Inc., which owns the Blazers and Seahawks], and nothing came of the brief discussions.

A few months ago, Smolinisky even sent a handwritten letter to Jody Allen seeking common ground and saying he and Knight would love to discuss the Blazers with her, according to a person familiar with the matter. In response, Smolinisky received an email from someone replying on Jody Allen’s behalf with a familiar message: Paul Allen’s sports teams aren’t on the market.

Paul Allen died of cancer in 2018 and some reports say his will requires the Trail Blazers — as well as the NFL’s Seahawks — must be sold within 10 years of that date, with the money from the sales going to a variety of charitable causes. We are halfway into that window.

In the case of the Trail Blazers, it would be wise to wait until the new national broadcast rights deal — which is expected to double, at least, the league’s television revenue — is locked in, raising the franchise value. Values have already gone up, with the Phoenix Suns being valued at $4 billion when Mat Ishbia bought them last December.

In the short term, the Trail Blazers and their fans are focused on the NBA Draft, where they have the No. 3 pick but are reportedly open to trading that for the right veteran to put next to Damian Lillard.

Coaching updates from around NBA: Stotts to Bucks, Young paid to stay with Suns

2021 NBA Playoffs - Portland Trail Blazers v Denver Nuggets
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In the 24 hours since the last time we put together a list of coaching updates from around the NBA a lot of things transpired, some expected, some not.

Here’s an update on the NBA coaching carousel.

• As was rumored to be coming, former Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts will join Adrian Griffin’s staff with the Milwaukee Bucks. This is a smart hire, putting an experienced coach known for creative offense next to the rookie coach on a contending team. With the Bucks getting older and more expensive quickly — 35-year-old Brook Lopez is a free agent this summer — the Bucks don’t have time for a rookie coach to figure things out on the job.

• Kevin Young will stay in Phoenix on Frank Vogel’s staff after new owner Mat Ishbia made him the highest-paid assistant in the league at $2 million a year, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Devin Booker reportedly backed Young to get the head coaching job, although how hard Booker pushed is up for debate. Keeping Young on staff — likely in an offensive coordinator role — next to the defensive-minded Vogel could be a good fit.

• Former Hornets coach James Borrego was in the mix for several jobs but has settled in New Orleans, where he will be on Willie Green’s staff. This team is stacked with offensive talent — Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollum — if they can just stay on the court.

• There is now just one head coaching vacancy open around the league, the Toronto Raptors, and they are entering the final interview stages, reports Josh Lewenberg of TSN. Among the finalists for the job are Kings assistant coach Jordi Fernandez and highly-respected European coach Sergio Scariolo (the head coach of the Spanish national team and Virtus Bologna of the Italian league).

• The makeover of the Celtics coaching staff could go even deeper than expected because Ben Sullivan, Mike Moser and Garrett Jackson are all leaving Boston to join Ime Udoka‘s staff in Houston, reports Michael Scotto of Hoopshype.

• Former Pacers player Shayne Whittington is now a part of Rick Carlisle’s coaching staff in Indiana.