What does Durant, Irving staying in Brooklyn mean for top of East?

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The NBA schedule makers had no idea what to do with the Brooklyn Nets. On paper, a team from the nation’s largest media market with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving should be pushing the Warriors for most nationally televised games (30) — and they should be title contenders. But with Durant’s trade request hanging out there while the schedule was put together, the Nets got 13 national games and just one on ABC. They do not play on Christmas.

The schedule makers would like a mulligan.

And the rest of the Eastern Conference should be worried.

Durant and the Nets have put aside their differences (for now), the trade demands are off the table, and both Durant and Irving will join Ben Simmons in Nets training camp in five weeks.

The Nets instantly move into the top tier in the East with the Celtics and Bucks, plus both the 76ers and Heat can make a strong case they should be in that conversation (although Philadelphia and Miami have a few more questions to answer to prove they belong in the top tier).

The Nets have questions, too, but this roster is unquestionably stacked with championship talent. Four-fifths of the starting and closing lineups are locked in: Irving will start at the point, Joe Harris will provide spacing on the wing, Durant will be option No.1, and Ben Simmons will be a point-forward and secondary attack option. The fifth player in that mix could depend on the matchup — Seth Curry for more shooting, Nic Claxton for defense, maybe Royce O’Neal for wing defense or Patty Mills for more ball handling. If T.J. Warren is healthy and playing like his bubble-self, he could be the fifth Beatle in the closing lineups. Coach Steve Nash will have options.

Make no mistake, the Nets have critical questions to answer:
• After all the summer drama, is everyone fully committed to each other and will the chemistry be there?
• Will Irving be focused and committed for an entire season?
• Will Simmons accept a smaller, different, Draymond Green-like role on offense?
• Can Simmons and his back stay healthy?
• Is Steve Nash up to the task as coach?
• Can 34-year-old Durant stay healthy?

This roster can potentially bring a title to Brooklyn, but the competition at the top of the East will be fierce.

The Celtics made it to the Finals last season and, along the way, discovered their identity. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are the top two options, but with Marcus Smart and Robert Williams III this is also potentially the best defense in the NBA. The need for more ball handling and playmaking was answered with the addition of Malcolm Brogdon, and Danilo Gallinari will help address depth concerns. Boston is young, confident, playing with a chip on their shoulders, and poised to grab the top seed and return to the Finals.

We might be talking about the back-to-back champion Bucks if Khris Middleton had stayed healthy through the postseason. We’ll never know, but the Bucks are always in the mix because they have the best player on the planet in Giannis Antetokounmpo. They have surrounded the Greek Freak with high-level players — Middleton, Jrue Holiday — and have continuity of roster and system. Milwaukee won it all two years ago and is a threat to do it again.

Either of those teams could beat the Nets — but the Nets could also beat either of them. How all three of these teams grow and evolve over the course of a long season will be the difference. And they are not alone.

Philadelphia has a championship roster. Joel Embiid is the two-time MVP runner-up and the anchor for all they do. GM Daryl Morey addressed questions of championship-level depth this offseason by adding P.J. Tucker (poached from Miami), plus Danuel House and DeAnthony Melton. The 76ers also have James Harden — and he is their championship question. Everything is set up for Philly, but Harden has previously struggled on the league’s biggest playoff stages. If he can handle the moment, if he can combine elite-level playmaking and scoring in the postseason, the 76ers can absolutely win the East. But it’s on Harden (and Embiid) now.

Miami had the best record in the East last season and bring back their two cornerstones in Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo (who should be in the mix to win Defensive Player of the Year this season). Tucker will be missed, but if Kyle Lowry is healthy and Tyler Herro takes a step forward, this team cannot be counted out — they pushed Boston to seven games last season and came within a Butler three of returning to the Finals. Miami will play hard every night; they are lunchpail guys and a threat.

How deep is the East? At least one of Boston, Brooklyn, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Miami will go home after the first round. And Toronto is good enough to maybe make that two teams gone fishing.

The East is a pushover no more, and the top of the conferences is as deep or deeper than the West.

Adding a fully loaded Brooklyn team to the mix makes it much wilder at the top.

 

Report: Draymond Green facing potential discipline after fight with Jordan Poole

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Warriors practice got heated on Wednesday and Draymond Green reportedly escalated some chest bumping with Jordan Poole and punches were thrown. The team is now considering internal disciple, according to The Athletic.

When a heated interaction with guard Jordan Poole escalated, Green forcefully struck Poole and needed to be separated swiftly, sources said. Green and Poole came chest-to-chest, with both players pushing and shoving each other prior to Green’s escalation of the physical altercation, those sources said.

There aren’t details of the incident beyond that description (at least so far), although several reporters have confirmed the was a fight and the two had to be broken up. Poole was seen getting up shots after practice when the media was allowed in and reportedly was joking with teammates.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports Tweeted out what feels like the Draymond Green camp spin on the incident.

Poole is on the verge of an extension to his rookie contract, one where Tylyer Herro just set the market.

There is a history of tension between Green and Poole, including a public flare-up between the duo early last season, but the two talked after and smoothed things over. At least for a while.

What punishment Green will face from the team remains to be seen.

Green had hoped for an extension from the Warriors this offseason but there were limited discussions between the parties. Green can opt out of the final year of his contract at the end of this season and become a free agent.

Wizards’ Kispert likely to miss start of season due to sprained ankle

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The Washington Wizards made fewer 3-pointers than any other team in the league last season. They didn’t take a lot (second fewest) and didn’t make the ones they took (fifth lowest percentage). One goal for Wes Unlseld Jr. this season was to change that dynamic, and second-year player Corey Kispert was a big part of that plan.

Now Kispert is out through at least the start of the season, sidelined 4-6 weeks by a sprained ankle, the team announced Wednesday.

The injury happened on a fluke play in Japan against the Warriors, but Kispert shouldn’t miss much time once the real games start. The Wizards are a little short on the wing right now with Kispert joining Deni Avdija (groin injury) in the training room.

Kispert took 62% of his shots from beyond the arc last season and hit 35% of them, both solid numbers but ones Wizards hoped would improve for the 6’6″ wing this season.

Scoot Henderson says he has skills to be No.1 pick but not hung up on it

Metropolitans 92 v G League Ignite
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
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Scoot Henderson came out like a man on a mission Tuesday night against the Metropolitans 92 and Victor Wembanyama — he was in attack mode. He used his explosive athleticism to get to the rim, his impressive body control to get off good shots, and his strength to finish with authority. And if the defender played back, he would drain the jumper over him.

A year ago, Jaylen Brown called him the best 17-year-old he’d ever seen. Scoot is better than that now.

Many years, Henderson would be a clear No.1 overall pick. But, not this year, Wembanyama has that crown because he breaks the mold with his size and skill set (in the NBA, height still wins out).

Kevin O’Conner of The Ringer asked Henderson why he should be the top prospect and got a confident answer.

There will be a lot of people making the Henderson case this season — and with good reason. He could be a franchise cornerstone player for the next decade.

Henderson, however, is trying not to get hung up on No.1 vs. No.2.

There’s a long list of legendary players selected No.2: Bill Russell, Kevin Durant, Jerry West, Jason Kidd, and that is just the tip of the iceberg. Henderson can be one of them.

Unless Wembanyama’s medicals come back with red flags, he is destined to be the No.1 pick next June. That, however, will not be the end of Henderson’s story. Instead, it will be just the beginning.

Doc Rivers says he wants Harden to be ‘a scoring Magic Johnson’

Philadelphia 76ers Media Day
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
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We’re not in Houston anymore.

James Harden in Philadelphia will not be chasing scoring titles and dominating the game in quite the same way. Instead, he’s been asked to be more of a facilitator — but not too much of one. Doc Rivers told the team at ESPN’s NBA Today he wants scoring to go with the facilitating. Just like one of the all-time greats.

“I think we’ve talked so much about him being a facilitator… I need him to be James Harden too. If I had to combine, I would say a scoring Magic Johnson, I don’t know, but that’s what I want him to be. I want him to be a James Harden, but in that, I want him to also be the facilitator of this basketball team too. So in a lot of ways, his role is growing bigger for our team, and I just want him to keep thinking, ‘Do both.'”

Just play like Magic, no pressure there. For his career, Magic averaged 19.5 points a game (with four over 20 PPG) with 11.2 assists.

Harden can get close enough to Rivers’ lofty goals to make Philly a real threat, so long as defenders still fear his first step and step back. Harden can get his shot and get to the line, and he’s long been a great passer who has averaged 10.5 assists a game over the past two seasons. Now it’s just a matter of finding the balance of when to set up Joel Embiid, when to turn the offense over to Tyrese Maxey, and when to get his own shot.

Philadelphia is a deep team poised to win a lot of regular season games — the Sixers being the top seed in the East is absolutely in play. The questions Harden — and, to a degree, Embiid — have to answer come in May, when the second round of the playoffs start and Harden has faded while Embiid has had poor injury luck. In a deep East with Milwaukee, Boston, and maybe Miami and Brooklyn in the contender mix, there is no margin for error.

A Magic-like Harden would be a big boost for the Sixers in that setting.