Kevin Durant

Nets Notes: Harden, Durant, Harris, Aldridge

Within a Substack article about the Ben Simmons situation, veteran NBA reporter Marc Stein repeats a point that has been expressed by a number of league insiders in recent months, writing that there’s a belief the Sixers are willing to retain Simmons until the offseason in case they can use him to acquire James Harden from the Nets. Harden has a player option for 2022/23, so if he wants a change of scenery, he could either opt out and pursue a new team as a free agent or push for a trade while opting in.

According to Stein, “there is enough noise circulating leaguewide about Harden’s reported openness to relocation this summer” to convince Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey it might make sense to hang onto Simmons through the deadline.

Stein’s wording is a little convoluted, suggesting any intel on Harden’s intentions probably isn’t from a first- or even second-hand source. But the idea that the former MVP isn’t a lock to stay in Brooklyn is an intriguing one — he turned down an extension offer from the Nets prior to the season.

Still, Harden has also spoken about wanting to remain in Brooklyn for the rest of his career, and given how the NBA’s salary cap and Collective Bargaining Agreement work, his decision to forgo an extension may have been more about maximizing his future earnings rather than a desire to jump ship. The Nets’ performance in this spring’s playoffs will certainly be fascinating to follow, since both Harden and Kyrie Irving are eligible for free agency this offseason.

Here’s more on the Nets:

  • The Nets have yet to offer any specific timeline for Kevin Durant‘s recovery from a left knee sprain, and Nash remained evasive today when he discussed the star forward’s status, as Brian Lewis of The New York Post writes. “I think we don’t have a timeline, and it’s also a few weeks before we reevaluate it,” Nash said. “So, right now we’re just going to wait and see how it heels and how he recovers over the next few weeks, and then there will be more of an evaluation and hopefully some sort of timeline.” Adrian Wojnarowski previously reported that a four-to-six week recovery timetable is the expectation for Durant.
  • Joe Harris, who is coming off November ankle surgery, is with the Nets on their current road trip and is doing some shooting, but he won’t play during the trip, according to Nash (Twitter link via Lewis). That means Harris will remain sidelined for at least the next four games.
  • After missing the Nets’ last five games due to right foot soreness, LaMarcus Aldridge is back in action on Monday, tweets Nick Friedell of ESPN.

Atlantic Notes: Williams, Durant, Thybulle, Stevens

Celtics center Robert Williams III had a strong performance in the team’s 114-112 victory over Chicago on Saturday, Jared Weiss of The Athletic writes. Williams finished with 14 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and two blocks, helping Boston secure a much-needed win at home.

“I think he was just out there playing with a lot of energy, staying solid, and he’s handled it very well,” Celtics veteran Al Horford said of Williams. “He looks more and more comfortable, and that’s a good time for us.”

Williams agreed to a four-year, $54MM contract extension with Boston last summer. In 35 starts this season, he’s averaged a career-best 10.0 points, 9.2 rebounds and 2.1 blocks, playing 29.3 minutes per game. The Celtics rank sixth in defensive rating (107.3) largely because of his play.

Here are some other notes from the Atlantic:

  • Alex Schiffer of The Athletic examines what Kevin Durant‘s MCL sprain means for the Nets. Durant is averaging 29.3 points per game this season, his highest mark since the 2012/13 season. He’s also shooting 52% from the floor, 37% from three and 89% from the charity stripe. “We’ve been a resilient group all year since I’ve been here,” James Harden said. “So, we just got to keep pushing.”
  • Sixers wing Matisse Thybulle will be out for at least one week after an MRI revealed a right shoulder sprain, Tom Moore of the Bucks County Courier Times tweets. Thybulle missed the team’s game against Miami on Saturday due to the injury, starting in 17 of his 32 games so far this season.
  • A. Sherrod Blakely of Full Court Press spoke to Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens about the upcoming trade deadline. The deadline falls on February 10 this season, just three weeks from Thursday. “It’s always the same goal here,” Stevens said. “Whatever we do has to make sense…putting yourself in the mix to compete for the next banner.”

Kevin Durant Diagnosed With Sprain, May Return In 4-6 Weeks

The Nets appear to have avoided a serious injury with Kevin Durant, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. An MRI showed that Durant has a sprained medial collateral in his left knee and is expected to return to full strength after treatment.

Team officials are optimistic that Durant will only need four-to-six weeks of rehab work on the knee before he can resume playing, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

Durant suffered the injury in the second quarter of Saturday’s game when Bruce Brown was knocked backwards into his knee while playing defense. Durant attempted to remain in the game, but decided to go to the locker room to have it checked. He underwent an MRI this morning.

The Nets, who are in a tight race for the top spot in the East, will have to survive an extended stretch without the former MVP, who is leading the league in scoring at 29.3 PPG. Eleven of their next 14 games are away from home, which means Kyrie Irving will be eligible to play.

Kevin Durant To Undergo MRI On Left Knee

8:39pm: Durant was able to walk out of Barclays Center, although he had “a little bit of a limp,” Friedell tweets. Durant expressed hope that the injury isn’t too serious, but said the team will wait for the MRI results before deciding whether he will travel to the next game in Cleveland.

8:03pm: Nets star Kevin Durant will undergo an MRI on his left knee on Sunday, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Durant had to leave tonight’s game with the Pelicans after a collision resulted in what the team is calling a sprained knee, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN (Twitter link).

Durant was injured in the second quarter when teammate Bruce Brown, who was defending Herb Jones on a drive to the basket, fell backwards and struck Durant’s knee, according to Nick Friedell of ESPN.

The former MVP walked around and tried to stay in the game, but eventually decided to check out and go to the locker room to be examined. The Nets announced at halftime that he wouldn’t return.

Durant, who’s leading the NBA in scoring at 29.7 PPG, sat out Thursday’s game for rest. He is attempting to play something close to a full schedule for the first time since suffering a torn Achilles in the 2019 NBA Finals. He appeared in 35 games last season and has played 36 of Brooklyn’s 42 games so far this year.

Atlantic Notes: Celtics, IT, Smart, Durant, Boucher, Carter, Kemba

Following 10-day stints with the Lakers and Mavericks, Isaiah Thomas is once again a free agent. Meanwhile, the Celtics have an open spot on their 15-man roster after waiving Jabari Parker. Appearing on the Toucher & Rich radio show in Boston, president of basketball operations Brad Stevens was asked whether a reunion with Thomas was possible, and while he didn’t rule it out, Stevens also didn’t suggest it’s something Boston is pursuing.

“I’m a huge Isaiah fan, always have been,” Stevens said, per Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston (Twitter link). “… Our roster situation right now is complicated enough that we’ve got to get through next month to see where it lands and what it looks like. We’ll make other decisions, whether we have spots or adds or whatever the case may be. Isaiah is everything everyone has made him out to be.”

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • The Celtics have ruled out Marcus Smart for Friday’s game in Philadelphia due to the health and safety protocols (Twitter link via Marc Stein). Smart had originally been listed as questionable, suggesting perhaps he registered an inconclusive or false positive COVID-19 test, but based on the latest update, it appears he had no luck testing out of the protocols.
  • The NBA announced today that the league has hit Nets star Kevin Durant with a $15K fine for using profane language during a media interview and failing to comply with an NBA Security interview as part of the review process.
  • In his latest rumor roundup, Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report identified a pair of under-the-radar Atlantic trade candidates, writing that Raptors big man Chris Boucher is considered available and that the Nets are believed to be exploring the idea of trading guard Jevon Carter.
  • Although Knicks point guard Kemba Walker appears to be nearing a return from his knee soreness, there’s no guarantee that he’ll return to the starting lineup right away, and he may not play both parts of back-to-back sets again this season, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post.

Nets Notes: Harris, Irving, Durant, Lineup, Bembry

The Nets could soon have one of their top perimeter shooters back in the lineup. Joe Harris is expected to return to practice soon and could be back in action “in the next couple weeks,” ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on SportsCenter (hat tip to Adam Zagoria of Forbes).

Harris, who is in the second year of a four-year, $75MM contract, was averaging 11.3 PPG and 4.0 RPG in 14 starts before he underwent ankle surgery on November 29. At that time, he was given a four-to-eight week timetable for his return. Harris is a 43.9% career 3-point shooter and would be a huge boost for a club currently ranked No. 16 in 3-point shooting.

We have more on the Nets:

  • Kyrie Irving would be more than just a part-time player if he got vaccinated. However, Kevin Durant said he won’t pressure the enigmatic point guard to get the shots, Nick Friedell of ESPN writes. “I told him how important he is, how much I want him to play — play every game. But I’m not about to force somebody to get a vaccine, like that’s not my thing. So he can play basketball? Nah, I’m not about to do that,” Durant said. “We’ve had conversations about wanting him to be a part of the team and conversations about him being here full-time, but that’s on his time.”
  • Brooklyn’s lineup won’t have any stability due to Irving’s status, but coach Steve Nash will try to keep it as simple as possible, according to Brian Lewis of the New York Post. Patty Mills started on Friday when the team lost at home to Milwaukee. “I think it’s to be simple,” Nash said. “Two things. One, keeping it simple is best for everyone. Two, something is always going on with our squad and availability, so we’re mixing-and-matching often. So keeping it simple in this case is probably the best way, and the way that makes the most sense. “
  • DeAndre’ Bembry got his salary guaranteed for the rest of the season on Friday but he’s not content with signing one-year, non-guaranteed deals every season, as he told Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News“I’m not the one to just sit there and think about the contract. I’m thankful for these opportunities as always,” Bembry said. “But like I said, (I’m) looking forward to the next opportunity. I want more and feel like I deserve more, and I’m definitely going to go out there and take it.”

COVID-19 Roundup: Nets, Timberwolves, Cavaliers, Knicks, Wizards, Thunder

The NBA’s new guidelines regarding its health and safety protocols have resulted in several players being released from protocols this morning. The league and its players union agreed Monday to shorten the minimum required quarantine period for a vaccinated COVID-positive players and coaches from 10 days to six.

Here is the latest news on who has entered and cleared protocols today:

  • Nets stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are out of protocols, as is LaMarcus Aldridge, tweets Tim Bontemps of ESPN. While Durant and Aldridge may be ready for Thursday’s game, Irving is still working his way back into game condition and remains ineligible to play in home games because he hasn’t met New York City’s vaccine requirement.
  • Timberwolves forward Taurean Prince has cleared protocols and will rejoin the team, but won’t play tonight against the Knicks, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Minnesota also gets back Anthony Edwards and Naz Reid (Twitter link).
  • Cavaliers power forward Evan Mobley has cleared protocols and is set to reunite with the club today, Shams Charania of The Athletic reports (via Twitter). Chris Fedor of tweets that the Cavaliers hope to have Mobley play in tonight’s game against the Pelicans, but will put him through his pregame paces first to gauge his conditioning level.
  • Unfortunately, just as one of Cleveland’s best players recovers, another will be absent. Cavaliers guard Darius Garland, enjoying a nearly All-Star-level season with Cleveland, has entered the NBA’s coronavirus protocols, tweets Kelsey Russo of The Athletic.
  • Knicks rookie point guard guard Miles McBride has cleared protocols, the team has announced (via Twitter). New York adds that he has rejoined the team ahead of its game tonight against the Timberwolves.
  • Veteran Heat power forward Udonis Haslem has entered the league’s coronavirus protocols, writes Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald. Heat point guard Kyle Lowry is also in protocols. Miami assistant coach Chris Quinn will return to the sidelines, Chiang adds.
  • Wizards forwards Rui Hachimura and Montrezl Harrell have entered the league’s COVID-19 protocols, joining six other Washington players, the team has announced (Twitter link). Hachimura has missed the Wizards’ entire season thus far due to personal reasons. Among the others, unvaccinated All-Star guard Bradley Beal is still in protocols and Wallace reports that his status is “questionable” prior to the Wizards’ upcoming contest against the Heat tonight. Center Thomas Bryant, wing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and guards Anthony Gill, Aaron Holiday and Raul Neto are still in protocols.
  • Thunder rookie guard Josh Giddey has entered the league’s health and safety protocols, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link). Head coach Mark Daigneault has also entered the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols, and will be replaced by assistant coach Mike Wilks starting with this evening’s contest against the Kings, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (via Twitter). Wilks, a former journeyman NBA guard, suited up for four games with the Thunder during the 2009/10 season, Joe Mussatto of the Oklahoman adds (Twitter link). Players Darius Bazley, Tre Mann, Aleksej Pokusevski, and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl remain in the protocols for Oklahoma City.
  • Keep track of all the players currently in COVID-19 protocols through out our daily tracker.

Arthur Hill contributed to this report.

New York Notes: Harden, Durant, Irving, Grimes, Knicks

The Nets are feeling good after winning a pair of games in Los Angeles and seeing James Harden playing at an MVP level again, writes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Harden, who struggled early in the season with the lingering effects of a hamstring injury, had 39 points, 15 assists and 8 rebounds on Monday as Brooklyn pounded the Clippers. The Nets have remained at the top of the East despite playing all season without Kyrie Irving and having Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge in health and safety protocols.

“Confidence is through the roof,” Harden said. “Now just you add KD, and Kai, and LaMarcus and Joe Harris (who’s out after ankle surgery), and that’s four of our best players, four of our top players that are out. Our confidence level for our bench and guys that are in the game is high.”

Harden seems as good as ever after returning last week from his own stay in the protocols. He had 39 points in a Christmas Day win over the Lakers, giving him back-to-back 30-point games for the first time all season.

“I was starting to feel good right before (entering the protocols December 14),” Harden said. “Like body starting to feel good. That break, or COVID, or protocol, or rest, whatever you want to call it, it could have went two ways. I just overly locked in on my body, my eating, and when I was able to start working out, my workouts.”

There’s more from New York:

  • Coach Steve Nash said “there’s a good chance” Durant will clear protocols in time for Thursday’s game, per Adam Zagoria of Irving’s future is more uncertain because seven of the next nine games are in Brooklyn, where he is ineligible to play because he’s not vaccinated. Nash expects him to need a week or two to get ready once he’s out of protocols. “He’s isolating, so that kinda puts another layer to the ramp-up,” Nash said. “It’s not like he’s been working out. I’d imagine it’s going to be closer to two weeks once he comes out of protocols. We’ll see how it goes though because we have to evaluate him from a physical and performance standpoint, and then a basketball standpoint as well.”
  • Quentin Grimes is taking advantage of an opportunity with the short-handed Knicks, notes Zach Braziller of The New York Post. The rookie guard hit five three-pointers in two straight games, which came 13 days apart because he spent time in protocols.
  • Currently tied for 11th in the East at 15-18, the Knicks can boost their playoff hopes with several upcoming games against teams that are dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks, according to Steve Popper of Newsday. Their current road trip includes Minnesota, which has seven players in protocols, Detroit, which is also missing seven players, and Toronto, which is down 10 players and could barely field a team for its last game.

Atlantic Notes: Walker, Rose, Simmons, Durant, Raptors

Kemba Walker capped off his comeback week with a triple-double in today’s win over the Hawks, leading to questions about why coach Tom Thibodeau pulled him from the Knicks‘ lineup in the first place, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Eight days ago, there were questions about whether Walker would ever play for New York again, but now it appears he has reclaimed the starting point guard job.

“I take it as a blessing in disguise — God works in mysterious ways, man,’’ Walker said of his temporary benching. “He helped me stay humble, grounded and got me through a tough situation. Guys went down and I’m back — the first game (in Boston) versus my old team in the starting lineup. The rest is history. This is not how I pictured it. But I’m not complaining, either.’’ 

After being held out of action for more than three weeks, Walker got a chance last Saturday against the Celtics due to a combination of injuries and players in the health and safety protocols. He responded with 29 points, then followed with 21 Tuesday against the Pistons and 44 Thursday against the Wizards before today’s 10-10-12 performance.

“Since he came back, he’s come out with a consistent energy,’’ Julius Randle said. “It’s a lot of fun to play with. We’re feeding off each other. We kind of got a second shot at it.’’

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • With Derrick Rose likely sidelined until at least mid-February following ankle surgery, the Knicks are searching for ways to make up for the absence of their most dependable guard, observes Fred Katz of The Athletic. The ankle has been a season-long issue for Rose, who tweaked it during the team’s second preseason game, Katz adds. Although he was able to practice the next day, Rose had to miss three games in November with ankle soreness, which lingered until the decision to have surgery.
  • There was little discussion at the G League showcase in Las Vegas about the Sixers working out a Ben Simmons trade any time soon, Marc Stein of Substack said on his latest podcast. He adds that trade talks have taken a back seat in the wake of roster upheavals caused by COVID-19. Appearing today on “NBA Countdown,” ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said there has been no progress on a deal or on Simmons returning to play for Philadelphia.
  • Head coach Steve Nash said the Nets haven’t received any word that Kevin Durant will test out of protocols in time to play against the Clippers on Monday, tweets Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Although it remains possible, Lewis states that it appears unlikely Durant will play.
  • Sunday’s game with the Cavaliers is still on, but the Raptors flew into Cleveland today with just four roster players and a limited number of coaches and staff members, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports. Toronto has 10 players in health and safety protocols and is hoping to have at least four hardship additions cleared by game time.

COVID-19 Updates: Hawks, Blazers, Celtics, Bucks, Nets

Wesley Iwundu, who just signed a 10-day contract with the Hawks on Thursday, has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link). Iwundu played 23 minutes in the Hawks’ 98-96 victory over the Sixers Thursday night, scoring two points and grabbing five rebounds. ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets that the Hawks will need to sign another replacement player to replace Iwundu — himself a replacement player.

Hawks big man Onyeka Okongwu, who made his season debut last week, has entered the protocols as well, Sarah K. Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets. In three games this season (22.3 MPG), Okongwu is averaging 10.3 PPG, 5.7 RPG, and 2.0 BPG. The Hawks now have nine players in the protocols.

Here are a few more COVID-related updates:

  • Backup point guard Dennis Smith Jr. and two-way rookie Trendon Watford have entered the protocols for the Trail Blazers and the rest of the team will now be re-tested, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (via Twitter). DSJ and Watford are the only players currently in the protocols for the Blazers.
  • The Celtics have four new players entering the protocols: C.J. Miles, Justin Jackson, Aaron Nesmith, and Bruno Fernando, tweets Jared Weiss of The Athletic. However, Al Horford, Juan Hernangomez, Jabari Parker, and Brodric Thomas, who’ve all been in the protocols, are listed as questionable for Saturday’s game against Milwaukee, so they could be exiting the protocols soon. Until those four are cleared, the Celtics will have 12 players in the COVID-19 protocols — the largest outbreak in the NBA.
  • In addition to Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bobby Portis has exited the protocols for the Bucks, Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press tweets. Like Horford and the other Celtics, Donte DiVincenzo, who’s also been in the protocols, is listed as questionable to make his season debut Saturday.
  • Meanwhile, Bruce Brown and James Johnson have exited the protocols for the Nets, but seven others, including star Kevin Durant, remain in the protocols for their game Saturday against the Lakers, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (via Twitter).
  • Warriors rookie Moses Moody has entered the protocols, according to Anthony Slater of The Athletic (Twitter link). Golden State now has four players in the protocols.