With Spencer Dinwiddie leading the way, the Brooklyn Nets scrapped and clawed their way to a 13-13 record while Kyrie Irving was out dealing with his shoulder bursitis (that’s what it was, no matter how the Nets try to spin it).
Irving’s back, the Nets have gone 1-2 with him, and already he sounds like, well, Kyrie Irving.
After Wednesday’s loss to Philadelphia — where the Sixers, not Irving, took over the fourth quarter (31-16) — Irving did not exactly give the Saint Crispin’s Day speech to fire up the troops for battle. Here’s the full quote, via Tim Bontemps of ESPN:
“I mean, it’s transparent. It’s out there. It’s glaring, in terms of the pieces that we need in order to be at that next level,” Irving said… “I’m going to continue to reiterate it. We’re going to do the best with the guys that we have in our locker room now, and we’ll worry about all the other stuff, in terms of moving pieces and everything else, as an organization down the line in the summer.
“It’s just something that we signed up for. We knew what we were coming into at the beginning of this season. Guys were going down left and right. [Garrett Temple] is out, [DeAndre Jordan] just got hurt tonight, Wilson [Chandler] is coming back. We’ve got complimentary young guys as well that have done a great job the last three years.
“Collectively, I feel like we have great pieces, but it’s pretty glaring we need one more piece or two more pieces that will compliment myself, [Kevin Durant], DJ, GT, Spence [Dinwiddie], Caris [LeVert], and we’ll see how that evolves.”
Irving was 6-of-21 shooting against the Sixers and 1-of-7 in the fourth quarter, looking like a guy with some tired legs playing his first back-to-back since his return. He sounded frustrated and spoke his mind. This is what Irving does, but it opens him up to pushback, such as this from NBC’s own Tom Haberstroh.
BRK with Kyrie this season: 5-9 (.357) BRK w/o Kyrie this season: 13-13 (.500)
BOS with Kyrie last season: 37-30 (.552) BOS w/o Kyrie last season: 12-3 (.800)
Do the Nets need more “pieces” to compete with the Bucks at the top of the East?. Probably. But how is it fair to judge that — or call out the franchise like that — when Irving just returned from injury, Kevin Durant is likely out for the season, Caris LeVert also just back from injury, Garrett Temple out, and all the new faces still adjusting to playing next to each other. Irving knew what he signed up for, this season was always a placeholder until the Nets got healthy next season.
At the franchise’s lowest point, the Nets brought in Sean Marks as GM, hired Kenny Atkinson as coach, and built a Spursian “team first, lunchpail work ethic” squad — one that ground its way to the playoffs last season without “stars.” That same style and identity were behind the team that went 13-13 without Irving to get back in the playoff mix this season.
The Nets have an identity. With Irving now, and Durant over the summer, the Nets will add elite talent to that mix, but also two big egos, guys used to winning by doing things their way. It’s an interesting chemistry experiment, one that could end a number of different ways.
Already we see some chemistry reactions, and things could get interesting going into the summer.
Three Things to Know: This is the confident Markelle Fultz we’ve been waiting for
Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.
1) That’s the confident Markelle Fultz we’ve been waiting for, he has 21-point triple-double to lead Magic past Lakers. When Philadelphia threw in the towel on Markelle Fultz and the nerve issue that wrecked his jump shot, they did the former No. 1 pick a favor and sent him to Orlando. A favor because they got him out of the bright spotlight of Philadelphia — a big market and a team with big expectations — and to a franchise that has developed players, an out of the way place on the NBA map where he could play, make mistakes, and not have his every jumper over-analyzed.
Coach Steve Clifford has been bringing Fultz along slowly, building his confidence game-by-game, making him a starter, giving him rope, and not just yanking him after every mistake.
Wednesday night we saw how well that has worked — this is now a confident Fultz who will body up LeBron James, move him out of the way, and get a bucket.
Fultz had a triple-double — 21 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists — and was the heart of Orlando’s upset win against the Anthony Davis-less Lakers on Wednesday, 119-118. That ended the Lakers’ nine-game win streak. It was Fultz’s best game of the season as he took over late and played fearlessly.
Fultz still has a ways to go to live up to the potential that made him a No. 1 pick — he was 0-of-4 in this game on shots outside the paint and is nowhere near a threat from three yet with his work-in-progress jumper — but he’s playing with confidence now. The Magic have a real player at the point.
Orlando also has a real player in Aaron Gordon, and he had a couple of monster dunks against the Lakers.
2) Kyrie Irving after Nets loss: “We need one more piece or two more pieces” to go with him and Kevin Durant. After missing 26 games Kyrie Irving is back and, well, be careful what you wish for Brooklyn.
The Nets got their star player back a few games ago, but after Wednesday’s loss to Philadelphia — where the Sixers had another gear and dominated the fourth quarter 31-16 — Irving did not exactly give the Saint Crispin’s Day speech to fire up the troops for battle:
Kyrie Irving was asked after tonight’s loss to Philly about this game against a top East opponent showing how much work the Nets still have to do in order to compete at the highest level while waiting for Kevin Durant to return. Here’s Irving’s answer: pic.twitter.com/NAqA4OvQk2
Irving was 6-of-21 shooting for the night and 1-of-7 in the fourth quarter, looking like a guy with some tired legs playing his first back-to-back since his return. He sounded frustrated and spoke his mind.
Do the Nets need more “pieces” to compete with the Bucks at the top of the East? Maybe. Probably. But it’s tough to judge with Irving just returned from injury, Kevin Durant likely out for the season, Caris LeVert also just back from injury, Garrett Temple out, and all the new faces still adjusting to playing next to each other. This season was always a placeholder until the Nets got healthy next season. Maybe Brooklyn can add some quality role players over the summer, but it feels early to call out the organization like that.
The Nets brought in Sean Marks as GM, hired Kenny Atkinson as coach, and built a Spursian “team first, lunchpail work ethic” squad that ground its way to the playoffs last season without “stars,” then went 13-13 without Irving (and Durant) to get back in the playoff mix this season. The Nets have an identity. With Irving now, and Durant over the summer, the Nets will add elite talent but big egos to that mix, guys used to winning by doing things their way. It’s an interesting chemistry experiment, one where we already seem to be getting a reaction.
3) Nuggets star point guard Jamal Murray leaves game with a sprained ankle, he’s going to miss some time. This is a blow to a Nuggets team sitting second in the West — their second-best player is going to miss some time.
Jamal Murray pushed out to contest a three-pointer by Terry Rozier and appeared to land on Rozier’s foot. You can see Murray’s ankle roll in the video. He instantly grabbed at it, and he was eventually helped off the floor by teammates.
This quote from Nuggets coach Mike Malone postgame did not sound positive.
Here is Michael Malone’s full quote about Jamal Murray’s left ankle injury.
"Obviously he has had an issue with ankle injuries. I just looked at it and it is rather large which is kind of scary."
Murray is averaging 17.6 points and 4.6 assists a game for Denver. Expect to see Monte Morris get some more run with Murray out, but this is a setback for a Nuggets team in the middle of a tight race in the West.
BOSTON (AP) —Kemba Walker returned from a neck injury to score a season-high 39 points — to the delight of the crowd that came to taunt the person he replaced — and Boston beat the Brooklyn Nets 121-110 Wednesday on a night the fans seemed more interested in taunting former Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving.
Missing one game after leaving the court on a stretcher wearing a neck brace following a head-to-torso collision with Semi Ojeleye, Walker had 13 points in the third quarter, when Boston scored nine straight to turn a one-point deficit into a 91-83 lead. Jaylen Brown added 22 points and 10 rebounds and Jayson Tatum had 16 points and nine boards for the Celtics, who improved to 7-0 this season at home.
Brooklyn led 83-82 with just over 3 minutes left in the third when the Celtics scored the next nine points before Temple made a 3 to close out the third quarter. Boston led 104-101 in the fourth before scoring 17 of the next 24 points — nine of them from Walker — to put away the game.
The crowd might have bought tickets to heckle Irving on his return, but earlier in the week it was reported that he wouldn’t play in the game. Irving did not make the trip, but that didn’t slow down the Celtics fans that came to let him know how they feel.
Posters branding him as a coward decorated the entrance to the Boston Garden. A few fans who showed up wearing his No. 11 Celtics jersey with the words “Where is?” written on tape above his name. During the introductions, with Irving nowhere to be seen, the first “Kyrie Sucks!” chant broke out; it was repeated about a dozen times throughout the game. (There was also a “Yankees Suck!” chant, just because.)
The Nets, like the Celtics before them, are doing better without him.
They came into the night with a 5-1 record since Irving went out with a sore shoulder, climbing above .500 for the first time this season. The Celtics made it to the Eastern Conference finals two years ago when Irving was injured, and lost in the second round last season with him.
Three Things to Know: Phoenix has a plan and it’s working — it’s time to take them seriously
Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.
1) Phoenix had a plan and it’s working — it’s time to take them seriously. It’s been hard to figure out precisely what the plan was in Phoenix the past couple of years. Sure, they had Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, but what were they putting around those two? Was there a grand design?
Last season the Suns signed Trevor Ariza only to trade him for Kelly Oubre Jr., then also traded Ryan Anderson to Miami for Tyler Johnson. This past summer they flipped the No. 6 pick in the draft — turned out to be Jarrett Culver — to the Timberwolves for the No. 11 pick and Dario Saric, then they used that pick on Cameron Johnson (a guy older than Booker and considered a reach). Phoenix sent their 2020 first-round pick to Boston for Aron Baynes to be a backup center. There were two objectively smart moves, picking up point guard Ricky Rubio as a free agent, and signing Monty Williams to be the coach. Then this season started with a punch to the gut — Ayton got suspended 25 games (pending an appeal) for taking a banned substance, a diuretic.
Turns out, the Suns’ plan was to put a team of competent NBA players around Booker, then simplify the offense and defense but execute it all cleanly.
Phoenix is 5-2 on the young season with the fourth-best net rating in the NBA (third best if you filter out garbage time as Ben Falk does over at Cleaning the Glass). The Suns are legitimate and — while it’s early, we’re not even 1/10th of the way into the season — Phoenix looks like a playoff team.
Devin Booker looks every bit the All-Star guard, getting revenge on those that thought he was simply an empty calorie guy who could get numbers but not help a team win. He certainly helped the Suns win on Monday with maybe his best game — 40 points on 15-of-19 shooting, while picking apart a good defensive team in the Sixers (granted, one without Joel Embiid due to suspension).
Whether the Suns can sustain this level of play is up for debate — right now they are the only team ranked in the top 10 in offensive and defensive net rating. But even if they come back to earth some, GM James Jones deserves some credit for having a plan and pulling it off — a plan that has the Suns looking like a quality team.
Phoenix hasn’t been to the postseason since 2010 when Amar’e Stoudemire and Steve Nash were running the remnants of seven seconds or less for Alvin Gentry. That looks like it will change this season, Phoenix is back. Things are looking bright in the Valley of the Sun.
2) Brandon Ingram dropped 40, but Kyrie Irving had 39 and Nets out-duel Pelicans for the win. This is what the Pelicans have done all season long — play hard, but come up just short. The Pelicans are 1-6 on the young season, but with the net rating of a 3-4 team. They just keep losing close games.
Monday night that happened against Brooklyn. Brandon Ingram continued his hot start for New Orleans (not coincidentally, in a contract year) and scored a career-high 40 on 17-of-24 shooting, but it wasn’t enough against Brooklyn, where Kyrie Irving dropped 39 on the gray floor.
It wasn’t a surprise that the Pelicans didn’t really get serious in contract extension talks with Ingram, he had missed the end of last season with a blood clot issue and that scares teams because it can be career-threatening (Ingram’s was different from, for example, Chris Bosh’s situation, Ingram’s clot was in his arm, but it’s still a concern). Plus, Ingram had been up and down in Los Angeles, and there remain questions about how well he’ll fit next to Zion Williamson.
Ingram, however, has put in the work — his footwork and handles are lightyears ahead of his lanky, awkward rookie season — and it shows. His game is more fluid now. He is averaging 25.9 points a game this season, shooting 48.6 percent on five threes a game, and is grabbing 7.1 boards a night. He is playing like an All-Star. He’s playing like a guy who will get paid next summer, one way or another.
3) Grizzlies and Ja Morant vs. the Knicks RJ Barrett: how much should teams play rookies? There has become an interesting dichotomy this season, a real debate about how to handle a star rookie player:
Should teams be already thinking load management and watching the minutes of a potentially elite young player on a bad team? Or do you throw the guy out there and let him learn by doing as much as he can racking up minutes?
In Memphis, the plan is to bring Ja Morant along slowly. The No. 2 pick out of Murray State — where he played a lot of minutes because they didn’t have a choice if they wanted to win — is averaging 28 minutes a night, and has played more than 30 just once in six games. Morant is starting, being allowed to make mistakes and learn, and in those limited minutes is still averaging 19.5 points and 5.5 assists per game, shooting 50 percent from three (on two attempts per game). He has a PER of 20.3, which is insanely good for a rookie. Morant is everything that was advertised, a freakish young athlete with a great feel for the game. A franchise cornerstone kind of player.
“We want to, for lack of a better phrase, put some money in the bank moving forward with him,” Jenkins said. “I’ve always been a big believer that when you start playing in the mid-30s, you kinda wear down. Our rookies, including him, have never played 82 games in a season.”
That’s a smart, practical, long-term thinking approach.
Then there’s David Fizdale with the Knicks.
RJ Barrett played 41 min in Knicks 113-92 loss after entering weekend leading NBA in minutes.
"He's got the day off tomorrow," David Fizdale said. "We gotta get off this load management crap. Latrell Sprewell averaged 42 minutes for a season. This kid's 19 years old. Drop it."
RJ Barrett is averaging 37.1 minutes a game and is putting up counting stats — 18.3 points per game, 6.1 rebounds, he’s shooting 35.7 percent from three, and he’s also learning in a trial-by-fire kind of way. He’s just in the fire a lot more, which is how things have been done in the past in the NBA — and former players are good with that.
I averaged 40 min as a rookie. He’s 3 yrs younger than I was. Ended up Playing 13 yrs. He’ll be fine. https://t.co/m82XpDSmkK
Hopefully so. But this approach also comes with more risk. The Knicks seem to have a wing in Barrett who can be a central part of whatever is ultimately built in New York — whatever other players come in via the draft and free agency — and they should be thinking about Barrett three years from now. Barrett can grow — he struggled at points in Summer League, but he’s showing he learned from those experiences. That’s a very good sign.
So long as he doesn’t burn out. Or physically wear down (which makes a potential injury more likely).
Different players can handle different workloads, and they learn differently — there is no one-size-fits-all plan. However, David Fizdale seems to be taking an old-school approach in New York, whereas the Grizzlies seem to be more modern in their thinking about the long term.
We’ll see which philosophy pays off in the long run.
Brandon Ingram scores 40, but it’s not enough to beat Nets, Kyrie Irving’s 39 (VIDEO)
NEW YORK (AP) —Kyrie Irving had 39 points and nine assists, and the Brooklyn Nets withstood Brandon Ingram‘s career-high 40 points to beat the New Orleans Pelicans 135-125 on Monday night.
The Nets had 67 points at halftime and a 20-point lead in the third quarter, but could never get comfortable until the final minute as Ingram kept coming at them.
He shot 17 for 24 from the field in his first 40-point game and the Pelicans scored a franchise-record 48 points in the third quarter. They got within two in the fourth but could never get enough stops to actually catch the Nets.
Caris LeVert added 23 points, Joe Harris had 19 and Jarrett Allen finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Nets, who follow this game with a five-game road trip, their longest of the season, with the first four in the West.
Brooklyn led by only two after Ingram’s three-point play with 4:58 remaining in the half, but the Nets scored 10 straight. Five of them came in one trip when Allen made two free throws after being flagrantly fouled by Ingram – he actually made the shot while being thrown to the ground, but the foul had been called on the floor – and Garrett Temple made a 3-pointer after Brooklyn retained possession.
Brooklyn later got consecutive jumpers by Irving and a dunk from Spencer Dinwiddie to close a 20-3 run and make it 63-44.
Irving scored 18 points in the third but the Pelicans were a sizzling 8 for 11 from 3-point range and scored 48 points, trimming a 20-point deficit to 104-98 heading to the fourth.