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Report: Celtics believe Kyrie Irving happy in Boston

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Chris Mannix reported Kyrie Irving, when he played for the Cavaliers, told teammates of his desire to play for the Knicks. In the same discussion, Mannix speculated on the Celtics’ fear of Irving leaving in 2019 unrestricted free agency. Asked about his future in Boston, Irving gave a cryptic answer.

There’s just no good way to resolve this until summer 2019. As Irving knows, a contract extension is illogical. The largest extension he could sign, beginning July 1, would be four years, $108,053,240 ($27,013,310 annually). If he waits until 2019 free agency, he could re-sign for a projected $188 million over five years (about $38 million annually) – and even more if he makes an All-NBA team next year. In that case, his max would project to be $219 million over five years (about $44 million annually).

So, the Celtics must ride this out – or trade Irving before he gets to free agency. How do they feel about his future with Boston?

Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe:

A league source said Friday that the Celtics believe Irving is happy in Boston and would like to be with the team long-term, but that there are no certainties.

This is probably correct. Irving clearly wanted out of Cleveland, so him longing for a spot on the Knicks made more sense then. Overall, Irving seems happy in Boston. A noncommittal answer from someone whose brand is mysterious ideas doesn’t set off alarms.

That said, also file this under: What else are they supposed to say? The Celtics maximize Irving’s trade value if everyone believes he’s happy and not a flight risk who should be preemptively traded.

The Celtics must closely monitor Irving’s satisfaction with them. If it seems he might leave, they ought to look hard at trading him first.

But it really seems the Celtics aren’t anywhere near that point. If they are, they’ve bluffed well.

Report: Darrell Arthur opting into contract with Nuggets

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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The Nuggets can decline Nikola Jokic‘s team option, make him a restricted free agent and secure their franchise player long-term this summer.

The catch: Giving Jokic a big raise would vault Denver into the luxury tax next season.

So, the Nuggets are trying to trade Kenneth Faried ($13,764,045 salary). They’ll also now likely look to move Darrell Arthur ($7,464,912 salary)

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

If Wilson Chandler exercises his $12,800,562 player option, he could join Faried and Arthur on the trade block – though at least Chandler carries value given the scarcity of wings

Arthur is a power forward on a team and in a league overloaded with bigs. Denver also has Jokic, Paul Millsap, Mason Plumlee, Trey Lyles, Juan Hernangomez, Tyler Lydon and Faried.

Arthur barely played last season, and when he did, he didn’t show much. His defense especially appeared declined. At age 30, his productive days might be behind him.

Perhaps, his expiring contract will help facilitate a trade. The Nuggets could attach a sweetener to dump or him. Or, if it comes to it, Denver might even stretch him.

Oscar Robertson to receive NBA’s Lifetime Achievement Award

AP Photo/Mark Duncan
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NEW YORK (AP) — Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson will be honored with the NBA’s Lifetime Achievement Award at the NBA Awards on June 25.

Robertson, the career leader with 181 triple-doubles and the first player to average one for a season, was the NBA’s Rookie of the Year in 1961, MVP in 1964 and won a championship with Milwaukee in 1971. The guard was a nine-time selection to the All-NBA first team and was voted one of the league’s 50 greatest players.

He also was co-captain of the 1960 U.S. team that won an Olympic gold medal and led Crispus Attucks High School to consecutive Indiana state championships, the first all African-American team in the nation to win a state title.

Robertson also was president of the National Basketball Players Association from 1965-74, and the settlement of his anti-trust lawsuit against the NBA – known as the Oscar Robertson Rule – ushered in free agency in the league.

Bill Russell won the award last year in the first season of the awards show.

Report: Cavaliers told Larry Nance Jr., who’ll be extension-eligible, they view him as ‘foundational piece’

AP Photo/Tony Dejak
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LeBron James was the only Cleveland player to start all the Cavaliers’ playoff games this year.

The only other team with just one player to start all its postseason games since 1986, as far back as Basketball-Reference playoff-start data goes, was the 2016 Warriors. Only Klay Thompson started all Golden State’s playoff games that year.

To be fair, Kevin Love started all his postseason games for the Cavs this year. He missed one completely due to a concussion. Otherwise, he was clearly a starter.

But the Cavaliers spent a lot of time bemoaning a fallen-through offseason trade that would’ve jettisoned Love. And, of course, LeBron is a flight risk.

Beyond those stars, Cleveland has been in even more flux, forced to shuffle an unreliable deck.

Perhaps, the Cavs believe in at least one of those supporting players, though – Larry Nance Jr., who’ll be eligible for a rookie-scale contract extension this offseason.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

Multiple league sources told cleveland.com there is “a ton” of interest on both sides to discuss an extension for Nance

The Cavs have expressed to Nance that they view him as a foundational piece, sources said.

Acquired from the Lakers midseason, Nance brought a feel-good story to Cleveland. The Cavaliers retired his father’s number, and the younger Nance grew up in the area. He seemed genuinely happy to play for the Cavs.

Nance is a solid player. He finishes above the rim, plays hard and has a nose for the ball.

But he’s also somewhat redundant with Tristan Thompson, who’s under contract two more years. Thompson looked a little sharper late in the season and probably isn’t as washed-up as he looked most of the year. Especially if Love starts at center, there might not be room for both Nance and Love in the rotation.

Hovering over everything in Cleveland is LeBron. If he stays, the Cavaliers should stay in win-now mode. If he leaves, they’ll likely try to escape the luxury tax.

Nance, 25, could fit either direction – which speaks to why the Cavs are so high on him. What kind of contract extension can he leverage that into? The picture will become clearer once LeBron decides his future.

Grizzlies owner Robert Pera: ‘I see no reason why we can’t return to a 50-win-plus team’

AP Photo/Brandon Dill
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The Grizzlies fired David Fizdale when he didn’t win enough while Mike Conley was out injured. Memphis refused to trade Marc Gasol. The Grizzlies even inexplicably kept Tyreke Evans past the trade deadline.

That wasn’t typical behavior for a 22-60 team.

What are expectations now?

Grizzlies owner Robert Pera, via the Chris Vernon Show:

In the NBA, there’s some things you can control. There’s some things you can’t control. There’s some luck and chance involved, too. This year, injuries set us back. Not just this year, but a couple of these years.

Assuming Marc and Mike come back healthy, I think you have a couple piece, surrounding pieces, that are younger players that are going to make a positive impact. I think we’ll get another good player in this draft. And I see no reason why we can’t return to a 50-win-plus team.

If we’re healthy, I expect us to be very competitive.

Sometimes, teams say things like this because they want to generate optimism – even when they know better. Optimism sells tickets and attracts sponsors.

But, sometimes, teams say things like this because they actually believe it. And when they believe it, it affects their decision-making.

Conley missing 70 games obviously hurt the Grizzlies last year. But I’m hardly convinced they would’ve won a meaningful amount with him healthy. And if that injury and others were totally just bad luck, they still happened and could have lasting effects. Conley will turn 31 before the season. Gasol is 33. Memphis should no longer count on them remaining healthy and productive all season.

There’s nothing wrong with the Grizzlies trying as hard as they can to compete, trying to sign veterans who’ll fill the margins around Conley and Gasol. It’s commendable, even. Pera has the right to set the team’s direction, and he can weigh the likelihood of succeeding and payoff of each potential route.

But this probably won’t go as he hopes. The margin for error with this team is just too narrow. The roster is short on both talent and cap flexibility.

Stubbornly sticking with this plan rather than trading Gasol and/or Conley will only make an eventual rebuild more difficult. It also risks Memphis not properly valuing the No. 4 pick and other long-term assets.

At this rate, the Grizzlies will likely lose too much in the short term and get stuck too long in the basement.