Nike suspends relationship with Kyrie Irving; LeBron says Irving caused ‘harm to a lot of people’

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Troubles keep piling up for Kyrie Irving.

Already suspended five games by the Nets for a Tweet promoting an antisemitic movie (then his refusal to apologize for it until after the suspension), Nike has suspended its working relationship with Irving, the company announced late on Friday. Here is the full statement from Nike:

“At Nike, we believe there is no place for hate speech and we condemn any form of antisemitism. To that end, we’ve made the decision to suspend our relationship with Kyrie Irving effective immediately and will no longer launch the Kyrie 8. We are deeply saddened and disappointed by the situation and its impact on everyone.”

Irving’s signature line is one of Nike’s better-selling basketball shoes, particularly some earlier models. However, his contract with the shoe giant was set to end in October of next year, and there had been reports Nike did not plan to extend that deal before this current incident. Now it seems highly unlikely there will ever be another new Kyrie shoe with Nike.

Nike’s biggest-selling shoe among active players belongs to Irving’s former teammate LeBron James, who spoke about Irving’s situation Friday night after the Lakers fell to the Jazz.

“Me, personally, I don’t condone any hate to any kinds, any race, to Jewish communities, to Black communities, to Asian communities. You guys know where I stand… I believe what Kyrie did caused some harm to a lot of people… He apologized. But he caused some harm, and I think it’s unfortunate. I don’t stand on the position to harm people when it comes to your voice or your platform or anything. So it doesn’t matter what color your skin is, how tall you are, what position you’re in — if you are promoting or soliciting or saying harmful things to any community that harm people, then I don’t respect it. I don’t condone it.”

When Irving tried to find a trade out of Brooklyn last summer, the Lakers were reportedly the most interested suitor. However, among the issues, Irving was looking for a lengthy contract extension off his current deal — something the Nets refused to offer, leading to Irving’s desire to move on — and the Lakers were not willing to offer that kind of extension either, reports Adrian Wojnarowski at ESPN.

“I think it speaks to what happened last summer when Brooklyn was resistant to giving Kyrie Irving a long-term, guaranteed contract,” said Adrian Wojnarowski. “So were the Lakers in a sign-and-trade scenario with Brooklyn…

“Kyrie Irving is back right where he was this summer, which is having to prove himself. Prove that he can be trusted. Prove that he’s be a good faith partner for an NBA team, whether it’s Brooklyn or elsewhere in the league.”

Irving does not have that trust in Brooklyn, although according to reports team owner Joe Tsai tried to give it to him. The Nets took heat in the media for what appeared to be a reaction to Irving’s Tweet promoting this antisemitic movie filled with disinformation (it denied the holocaust happened, for example). According to reporting from Ramona Shelburne and Wojnarowski at ESPN, Tsai thought this was a “teachable moment” with Irving and treated it that way, despite pressure from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and Nets GM Sean Marks.

“Against the backdrop of calls for swift action, sources said Tsai had resisted and insisted on taking time to educate Irving on the horrors of antisemitism…

“As it turned out, the redemptive arc that Tsai had imagined for his star had devolved into what the owner felt was a repetitive exercise in Irving’s betrayal of good faith, sources said. For nearly a week, Tsai kept extending the clock to give Irving a chance to get this right for himself, the franchise and the Jewish community — and Irving never returned a single of his text messages, sources said.”

The Nets eventually suspended Irving for five games, costing him nearly $1.3 million.

And the financial hits keep on coming for Irving with Nike suspending their relationship with him as well.

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.