Notes from NBA Summer League: Warriors’ Moses Moody looks ready for bigger role

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LAS VEGAS — The Warriors are going to lean on their young players next season — Moses Moody, Jonathan Kuminga, James Wiseman — asking them to take on more as part of an effort to keep the minutes down for Golden State’s older stars. It’s about entering the playoffs with the best chance to defend their crown.

Moody looked up to that task in his first Summer League game this year — 34 points on 8-of-13 shooting, playing downhill and getting to the line 17 times, and he had a couple of blocks against the Knicks.

Kuminga looked disinterested on his way to 4 points on 2-of-10 shooting. Wiseman didn’t play. Again. (But might on Sunday.)

For Warriors faithful, Moody was the ray of hope — playing through a stomach issue, he looked too good for this level and ready for more responsibility in the fall. He plays a smart, aware game, always in the right place and making the right read.

“Summer league game, my first one my mindset was really go out there don’t force nothing, let the game flow, let the game come,” Moody said. “And you know that’s how that’s how it usually goes when you trust the process and trust your teammates and play good basketball.”

Kuminga never got in the flow of the game. The most explosive athlete on the court, he never showed it, nor did he take advantage of his strengths. He was not aggressive.

“I think for him he hadn’t played in a while and he was sort of a little bit late coming to us because he didn’t have the Cali classic. So a little bit of rust in his game that we all saw…” Warriors Summer League coach Jama Mahlalela said, trying to spin the performance as due in part to a new role. “So today you saw him handling and pick and roll a lot and sort of being the primary ball handler. Obviously with [Stephen Curry] and Klay [Thompson] out there he’s not doing that a ton. So this is a great chance for him to do it and get experience and learn what works, what doesn’t work, how’s the defense collapse? So in terms of experimentation, I think really great for him. The performance on the court obviously wasn’t but it’s a recipe he’ll get better.”

While the experimentation part of Summer League is unquestionably true, that doesn’t explain Kuminga coasting through a game. It’s just one game in the summer, but it’s the kind of performance that raises eyebrows.

Wiseman has yet to get on the court for Summer League, not in the California Classic in Sacramento and not in Las Vegas. He could play Sunday. Or next Tuesday.

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There is so much else going on at the Las Vegas Summer League, here are some other notes and things I saw.

• I see what the Knicks like in Jericho Sims and why they have kept him (on a two-way contract). He has NBA center size yet moves very well, can jump out of the building, uses all that to disrupt on defense, and can finish around the rim. The Knicks are loaded with guys who can play the five, but Sims is the kind of guy you want to keep around and help develop. New York has something in him.

• Shaden Sharp — the Trail Blazers’ No. 7 pick — played in his first game since the AAU circuit on Thursday, but it didn’t last long. He left the Blazers opener early in the first half with a shoulder injury and did not return. He had an MRI on the shoulder Friday, and if it turns out to be nothing he reportedly will play more in Summer League.

• Charlotte guard Scottie Lewis is out for the Summer League after surgery to repair a broken leg suffered in practice prior to the team’s first game. Lewis played on a two-way contract last season and was trying to earn his way onto another NBA roster (or get another two-way deal).

• The Pacers’ No. 6 pick Bennedict Mathurin dropped 23 in his debut.

• There was a lot to like in Jaden Hardy‘s first game with the Mavericks. He showed a fantastic handle mixed with real patience on his drives, and made good decisions when the defense reacted. The G-League Ignite player was taken in the second round (37th) and looked like that could end up being a great pick. He’s a long way front stepping into Jalen Brunson‘s shoes, but you could see some of that shot creation and decision making — something the Mavs need to support Luka Doncic.

• My early favorite to take the Summer League crown? The Detroit Pistons. They have more than half the guys on their regular-season roster suiting up for these games (at least to start), guys with NBA experience, and the result is NBA spacing, NBA picks being set, and just a generally higher level of play than the scrambling pickup style of most Summer League contests.

• Players on the Sumer League champions this year will get a ring. Seriously.

What’s the under/over on a couple of these showing up on eBay?

LeBron, other NBA players react to Kyrie Irving trade to Mavericks

Dallas Mavericks v Brooklyn Nets
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Is there going to be a football game of some kind next weekend? You’d never know the way the NBA trade deadline can dominate the headlines.

Kyrie Irving is getting traded to the Mavericks, which has blown up the NBA world — Dallas looks like a threat in the West, and there is a countdown clock over Kevin Durant‘s time in Brooklyn. It wasn’t just fans and pundits stunned by the news, NBA players past and present took to Twitter and social media to react and give their thoughts on the Irving trade. Starting with LeBron James and one of the guys in the trade.

Nets reportedly trade Kyrie Irving to Mavericks for Dinwiddie, Finney-Smith, picks

Milwaukee Bucks v Brooklyn Nets
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Dallas desperately needed a second star and shot creator to go next to Luka Dončić.

They got one — Mark Cuban has always been willing to take risks to win. The question about how long this can last comes later.

The Nets are trading Kyrie Irving to the Dallas Mavericks for Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, their unprotected 2029 first-round pick their 2027 and 2029 second-round picks, according to multiple reports.

Irving is reportedly “ecstatic” to make the move to Dallas (the hard questions about a future contract will wait until after the season).

Irving reportedly will land in Dallas Monday, take the standard post-trade physical, and could be available for the Mavericks on Wednesday against the Clippers.

Brooklyn had several suitors to choose from but wanted in return players it could slot in around Kevin Durant now (or, once he is healthy and returns) so they could still have a puncher’s chance to win the East. Dinwiddie gives Brooklyn a point guard and shot creator who can play some off the ball — and he returns to Brooklyn, where he made a name for himself in the league. Finney-Smith is a coveted two-way wing who can step in right now. Plus, the Nets add some potentially valuable picks down the line.

That offer gave the Nets more win-now possibilities than they got out of the Lakers’ offer (two future first-rounders and Russell Westbrook) or what the Suns and Clippers put in the mix.

There are questions for Dallas, but ones they believe they can answer — elite talents figure out a way to make it work on the court. Off the court, it helps that both coach Jason Kidd and former Nike executive turned Mavericks GM Nico Harrison have strong relationships with Irving. That’s a start.

The pairing of Dončić and Irving should lead to games and stretches where they look brilliant, but the question is not the highs but the lows — how deep and how prolonged will those be? Irving works well off the ball (as he has done with Durant and LeBron James) and should be able to play off Dončić. However, can Dončić play well off the ball when Irving is hot? Do the Mavericks — with Tim Hardaway Jr., Christian Wood, Maxi Kleber, Reggie Bullock and the rest — have enough around their two stars to be a serious threat in the West? Off the court, can the very different personalities of Irving and Dončić mesh, or at least work well enough not to be a distraction?

The biggest question: Do Cuban and the Mavericks really want to re-sign Irving for the four-years, $198.5 million he demands at the end of the season? There are reports that Dallas (like every other front office in the league, including Brooklyn) is hesitant to do a long-term deal with Irving that gives him that kind of guaranteed money.

But that is a concern for the future — Dallas got its second star. It has vaulted itself into the upper echelons of the Western Conference and positioned itself to contend.

Reports: Stephen Curry out ‘weeks’ with leg injury, Warriors hope for return after All-Star Break

Dallas Mavericks v Golden State Warriors
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This is bad news for the Warriors. How bad depends on how the word “weeks” is ultimately defined.

Stephen Curry has torn ligaments in his leg — in the shin area just below the knee — and while the team does not have an official timeline he will be out “weeks” reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

“Weeks” is a vague word, and for the Warriors the difference in Curry being out three weeks (with one of those being the All-Star Break) versus him being out six to eight weeks could be the difference in how long a playoff run the Warriors have.

The Warriors are hoping for a Curry return just after the All-Star break, reports Monty Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area.

Of short-term concern, this has Curry out for the All-Star Game where the fans voted him a starter. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will bump one of the reserves up to a starting spot — likely Ja Morant, who was third in fan voting — and name an injury replacement for the team. The top candidates are Devin Booker (if he returns from injury this week as expected), De'Aaron Fox or Anthony Edwards.

Longer term, the Warriors can’t afford to be without Curry for an extended period.

Curry is averaging 27.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 6.4 assists a game, and the Warriors outscore opponents by 5 points per 100 possessions when he is on the court and get outscored by 5.4 when he is off. With the team one game above .500 and struggling to avoid the play-in, an extended absence for Curry is trouble for a Warriors team that has never found its footing this season.

 

Nets reportedly going to sit Kyrie Irving until he is traded

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This time it looks like it’s going to happen, the Brooklyn Nets will trade Kyrie Irving (unlike this summer).

Just don’t expect to see Irving on the court for Brooklyn until he’s moved, reports Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

That is at one time a combination of smart, the only real call to make, the Nets wanting to look like they have control over the situation because Irving’s camp already leaked that he was going to sit out the rest of the season if not traded.

Irving did not play Saturday night when the Nets went down by 20 in the first quarter but rallied behind 44 points from Cam Thomas to get a much-needed win.

Four primary suitors have stepped up for Irving: The Lakers (considered Irving’s preferred destination), Suns, Mavericks and Clippers. The question is what do the Nets want back in a trade? If, as most around the league expect, the goal is to remain in the championship picture around Kevin Durant, Brooklyn will prize quality players and depth over draft picks. That’s bad news for the Lakers (the core of their offer is two future first-round picks plus Russell Westbrook) and good for the team down the hall, the Clippers can offer good players — John Wall, Luke Kennard, Reggie Jackson, plus young players such as Terance Mann — plus a pick if they need it.

The question for teams: Irving wants a max contract after this summer, similar to the four-year, $198.5 million fully guaranteed extension the Nets would not offer after Irving had 10 weeks or so of not being disruptive and focusing on basketball. Around the league, front offices are very hesitant to get into the Irving business for that long (most thought he would never get more than a two-year offer). Are the four teams above desperate enough for a bold move that ownership would sign off on four years with Irving? Will any of them? Or, like this summer, will Irving find the market not to his liking?

It’s going to be interesting until the Feb. 9 trade deadline.