Kevin Durant

Antetokounmpo, James Head All-Star Starters; Embiid Falls Short

Lakers forward LeBron James tied Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on Thursday with his 19th NBA All-Star selection. James, who currently shares the record with Abdul-Jabbar for most All-Star Games played with 18, was chosen as a starter, according to a league press release.

All of the starters were revealed on Thursday night.

Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, Pelicans forward Zion Williamson, Warriors guard Stephen Curry and Mavericks guard Luka Doncic were the other starters chosen out of the Western Conference. James will serve as a team captain for the sixth straight year, since he received the most votes.

Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, named a team captain for the third time, heads the list of starters out of the Eastern Conference. Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, Nets forward Kevin Durant, Nets guard Kyrie Irving, and Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell will join him, but the league’s second-leading scorer, Sixers center Joel Embiid (33.4 PPG), didn’t garner enough votes.

The starters are selected by a weighted voting process with the fan vote accounting for half of the final outcome. The player and media portions of the vote each counted for 25 percent. Three frontcourt players and two guards were selected from each conference.

Embiid finished third in the player and media voting among Eastern Conference frontcourt players but fourth in the fan voting. All voting results can be found here.

The game will be played Feb. 19 in Salt Lake City. James and Antetokounmpo will choose their teams shortly before the game begins. James will set the league record for most All-Star appearances if he plays, since Abdul-Jabbar did not play in the 1973 game after being chosen.

The reserves, which are chosen by the league’s coaches, will be announced Feb. 2.

Atlantic Notes: Fournier, Durant, Tatum, Raptors

Asked directly if he wants to remain with the Knicks, Evan Fournier paused to consider his answer before responding, writes Zach Braziller of The New York Post. As the veteran wing eventually explained, while his preference would be to stay in New York, that may not be the case if he’s going to remain out of the team’s rotation.

“Best-case scenario, I want to stay here. I want to play here,” Fournier said. “I had a bunch of different choices in free agency and I wanted to be a Knick. I love New York. I wanted to play for (head coach Tom Thibodeau). So I’d love to stay, but I’d love to play.”

Fournier went on to say that he feels like he’s in the best shape of his career and that he’d rather not spend some of his prime years sitting on the bench.

“I should be in my prime. I am in my prime,” he said, per Braziller. “You want to play, for sure. Especially as a competitor. It’s not like I forgot how to play. Last year I had a different role and somehow I was able to break a 30-year-old franchise record (most three-pointers in a season). So I am going to find a way to adapt to any situation.”

The veteran wing has been ruled out of Tuesday’s game vs. Cleveland for personal reasons, the Knicks announced (via Twitter). According to Steve Popper of Newsday (Twitter link), Fournier’s wife gave birth today.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • It’s uncertain after today’s update from the team whether Kevin Durant will be healthy in time to play in next month’s All-Star Game, but if the decision is up to him, the Nets star would like to suit up in Salt Lake City, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. “I want to play tomorrow if I can,” Durant said. “So that’s what my sense of urgency is. Obviously, I don’t want to rush anything. I want to make sure I’m 100%. But yeah, I want to play. I want to be a part of all these events.”
  • Celtics forward Jayson Tatum didn’t rule out the possibility that his sore left wrist will require surgery after the season, but indicated that he has no plans to miss extended time during the season, using rest and injury management to play through the ailment, per Bobby Manning of CLNS Media.
  • Eric Koreen and John Hollinger of The Athletic teamed up to take a closer look at the Raptors‘ approach to the trade deadline and various factors the team should be considering as it weighs its options. Hollinger views the Lakers as one logical trade partner for Gary Trent Jr., pointing out that L.A. would be in position to re-sign the veteran swingman to a new contract this summer.

Nets Pleased With Kevin Durant’s Progress In Recovery

Kevin Durant is making progress toward returning from his right MCL sprain, the Nets announced (via Twitter). Durant underwent his two-week reevaluation Monday, and the doctor was pleased with the state of his recovery.

Durant will resume running and on-court basketball activities this week, the team added, and he will be reassessed again in two more weeks.

That time frame takes him to February 7, which is about a week before the All-Star break. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski suggests the Nets might consider holding Durant out through the break to give him more time to fully recover before returning February 24 (Twitter link). However, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic there’s optimism that Durant will return in time to play in the All-Star Game (Twitter link).

The Nets are 2-4 since Durant was injured January 8, dropping their first four games and then responding with back-to-back road victories. Kyrie Irving has taken on more of the scoring load to help the team survive without Durant’s production.

Durant was in the midst of an MVP-type season before the injury, averaging 29.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists in 39 games.

Atlantic Notes: Irving, Knicks Rotation, VanVleet, Siakam

Kyrie Irving hasn’t been able to produce during the fourth quarter since Kevin Durant was sidelined by a knee injury, Brian Lewis of the New York Post notes. Against Boston on Thursday, the Nets star guard shot 3-of-10, missing all three 3-point attempts, in the last 12 minutes. Against the Thunder on Sunday, Irving had just two points on 1-for-4 shooting in the fourth quarter.

“I’m doing the best job I can. I wish I could make a few more shots within the minutes and be efficient,” Irving said of those Nets’ losses. “I know that’ll come, and I’ll continue to prepare the best way I know how and be a better example for the guys in the locker room.”

The Nets were without both stars on Tuesday. Irving missed the game against San Antonio with right calf soreness, Nick Friedell of ESPN tweets.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Jalen Brunson, Quentin Grimes, RJ Barrett, Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson and Immanuel Quickley have absorbed a vast majority of the minutes in Tom Thibodeau’s latest Knicks rotation, according to Fred Katz of The Athletic. The Knicks could use another source of offense if they continue with that rotation, which means a trade to address that need is a possibility. Houston’s Eric Gordon or a wing player could be the target.
  • With Fred VanVleet likely to decline his player option in order to become a free agent this summer, the Raptors are in a tricky situation regarding their point guard, Eric Koreen of The Athletic writes. A hot streak by VanVleet could help them move him for a suitable package before the deadline. If the Raptors decide not to trade him, they had better be prepared to make a serious long-term commitment this summer, despite his off year.
  • If the Raptors can get an offer for Pascal Siakam like Utah did for Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, they should strongly consider it, Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype opines. Toronto could seek multiple unprotected first-round picks, prospects, and good veterans on team-friendly deals for Siakam. Teams like Dallas, Phoenix, and Atlanta would be great fits for Siakam and could all make strong offers for him, Gozlan adds. That would facilitate a reshaping of their core group without an extended rebuild.

Nets Notes: Warren, Durant, D. Smith, Watanabe

It didn’t take T.J. Warren long to prove he can still play at a high level, but the Nets are focused more on keeping him healthy for the playoffs than maximizing his contributions during the regular season, writes Greg Joyce of The New York Post. Warren missed nearly two full seasons due to foot injuries before returning to the court in early December.

“Every game, I’m feeling more and more like myself,” he said. “Two years is a long time, two calendar years going through multiple foot problems. But I feel great. Mentally, I’m in a good space. I just want to continue to get better and help this team win as much as I can.”

Through 17 games, Warren is averaging 10.5 points off the bench in 20.4 minutes per night. Coach Jacque Vaughn considered moving Warren into the starting lineup in the wake of Kevin Durant‘s injury, but opted for Joe Harris instead in an effort to control Warren’s workload.

“I’ve told him this message: That’s my No. 1 goal, that he’s healthy and hooping in the playoffs, showing his skills off to the rest of the world,” Vaughn said. “That would be the kind of guiding light. Will I be tempted at times (to push his minutes) if he’s rolling? For sure, every coach would be. But hopefully for his longevity, for the group, we’ll put him in a position to succeed the whole year.”

There’s more from Brooklyn:

  • The Nets haven’t decided how involved Durant will be while he recovers from his sprained MCL, according to Alec Sturm of Nets Daily. Vaughn explained that Durant hasn’t been on the bench because the team doesn’t want to risk someone running into him during game action. It also hasn’t been determined how much Durant will travel with the team and whether he’ll consider playing in the All-Star Game, although Vaughn expressed hope that he’ll be fully recovered by the February 19 event.
  • Vaughn also offered some insight into Dru Smith, who signed a two-way contract with the Nets on Friday, Sturm adds. “A guard that has some athleticism, good size, competes, so areas that we really love,” Vaughn said at Saturday’s practice. “I think he has some upside to get better. So (we) look forward to him being a part of our group and getting him involved pretty quickly with (G League affiliate) Long Island. He just landed and went through his physical, so he’ll be around and there’s a possibility he’ll be with the rest of the group watching tomorrow.”
  • Brian Lewis of The New York Post (subscription required) talks to Yuta Watanabe about the impact his success in Brooklyn is having in Japan.

Nets Notes: Durant, Warren, Trade Deadline, Claxton

With Nets All-NBA forward Kevin Durant now expected to be absent for around one month with an MCL sprain, Brian Lewis of The New York Post wonders if the club can weather life without him better than it did last year.

Lewis notes that Brooklyn went 5-16 in Durant’s absence with another sprained MCL last year. The Nets lost their first game following Durant’s injury this season, a 109-98 defeat on Thursday night against the Celtics.

“With K we know what we’re up against with him not being in lineup,” All-Star Brooklyn point guard Kyrie Irving said. “We can say it every single day, but we don’t have time for any excuses. We’ve just got to keep moving forward and stay mature about it.”

Nick Friedell of ESPN observes that the team does not want to view the Durant injury as a crutch this season.

I’m not giving this group a chance to make excuses,” head coach Jacque Vaughn noted Wednesday. “Here to play. Here to win. Here to compete. It doesn’t change. Love them.”

There’s more out of Brooklyn:

  • Though reserve Brooklyn forward T.J. Warren has been Durant’s primary backup when he’s been available this year, Vaughn does not intend to amp up Warren’s minutes much while Durant sits, per Peter Botte of The New York Post. “I said from the beginning, the thing is keeping T.J. healthy to the end of the year,” Vaughn said. “We’ll continue to see how we’re going to manage the rotations — who starts, who’s the first sub, what the second group looks like; all of that changes… But no, T.J. won’t be playing 40 minutes.” Botte notes that Yuta Watanabe, Cam Thomas and Markieff Morris could be getting more run to replace Durant by committee.
  • The Nets will be actively on the hunt for roster improvements at the February 9 trade deadline, particularly in the frontcourt, reveals Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (YouTube video). “What the Nets get to do now is evaluate their roster without Kevin Durant, who’s been such a dominant force for them,” Woj said. “So now for Brooklyn, they have some time to see how these players play before they make some decisions, probably closer to the trade deadline, on deals.”
  • Starting Brooklyn center Nic Claxton used the 2022 offseason as a springboard to improve this season, writes Net Income of Nets Daily. He re-signed with the Nets on a two-year, $20MM deal over the summer, and has developed nicely as a rim-rolling defender in 2022/23. Claxton is averaging a career-most 11.9 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 2.6 BPG and 1.5 APG. He is also connecting on a career-best 73.8% of his field goals.

Kevin Durant Expected To Miss One Month With MCL Sprain

3:47pm: Durant is expected to miss around a month with the injury, Wojnarowski reports for

10:50am: Nets star Kevin Durant suffered an MCL sprain in his right knee and will be reevaluated in two weeks, the team announced in a press release.

Nets officials are relieved by the diagnosis, which was the result of an MRI this morning, and there’s optimism that Durant will miss less time than he did last season when he was sidelined for six weeks with a similar injury, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

Durant left Sunday’s game against the Heat in the third quarter after a collision with Jimmy Butler, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. After having his shot blocked, Butler fell backward into Durant’s knee (video link from Michael Scotto of HoopsHype). Durant tried to stay in the game, but he wasn’t able to move well and appeared to be massaging the knee to lessen the pain, Lewis adds.

“Those plays are scary, because when someone’s not looking with what’s going on anything can happen in those moments,” said Kyrie Irving, who came off the bench to help Durant to his feet. “So I’m grateful that all that time that he’s put in the weight room putting his body in a great position, his body was able to save from something worse. … With [Durant] we know what we’re up against with him not being in lineup. We can say it every single day, but we don’t have time for any excuses. We’ve just got to keep moving forward and stay mature about it.”

The Nets collapsed last year after Durant sprained his MCL in mid-January, Lewis notes. The team was fighting for the best record in the East before the injury, but lost 11 straight games and went 5-16 overall in his absence to wind up in the play-in tournament.

Durant has been playing at an MVP level this season, averaging 29.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists as the Nets have moved into second place in the East. Brooklyn will play six games over the next two weeks, including Thursday’s showdown with the Celtics, so this will be a crucial stretch of the schedule until Durant can return.

Kevin Durant Departs With Knee Injury

7:50pm: Durant will have an MRI on Monday, according to Nets coach Jacque Vaughn, Nick Friedell of ESPN tweets.

7:15pm: Nets superstar Kevin Durant exited Sunday’s game against Miami with a right knee injury, the team tweets.

The Heat’s Jimmy Butler fell onto Durant’s knee after Ben Simmons blocked Butler’s shot late in the third quarter. Durant played two more possessions before retreating to the locker room, Frank Isola tweets.

Brooklyn has been the hottest team in the league since its 6-9 start, winning 20 of its last 24 games. Durant, of course, has been the biggest part of that success, averaging 30.0 points, 6.8 rebounds and 5.4 assists per night.

Durant has battled multiple injuries in recent years. Last season, Durant sprained the MCL in his left knee on January 15 and was sidelined for over a month. Brooklyn went 5–17 in his absence and its season feel apart.

Durant said in April that his injury “derailed” the Nets’ season. The team will have to hope Durant’s latest injury is nothing serious and there won’t be a repeat.

Kevin Durant Explains How He, Nets Were Able To Move Beyond Trade Request

Kevin Durant wanted to go somewhere else last summer, issuing a trade request to the Nets because he had lost confidence in the front office, the coaching staff, and the organization’s ability to put together a winning team. But when a deal didn’t work out, Durant recommitted himself to Brooklyn and now he’s playing at an MVP level while the Nets are in the running for the NBA’s best record.

In a compilation of interviews with Nick Friedell of ESPN, Durant says his trade request wasn’t nearly as disruptive as those made by other stars, explaining that the impact was lessened because it came during the offseason.

“This was a summertime thing. We wasn’t playing no games,” Durant said. “I didn’t interfere with what we were doing on the court every day. It wasn’t a question of what you were asking my teammates every day after a game or a practice. What I did didn’t get in the way of the games that was being played, so I felt like that’s the difference in everything. So we hashed that all up right before camp, and it was cool, it didn’t get in the way of the hoops. So that’s the difference between what happened with those guys and [me].”

Durant was able to put the chaotic summer behind him as soon as training camp opened. Still, the Nets stumbled out of the gate, beset by lingering media questions about Durant’s desire to be in Brooklyn, along with a suspension for Kyrie Irving related to his promotion of an antisemitic film and doubts regarding Ben Simmons‘ availability due to physical and psychological issues.

The season turned around when Steve Nash and the Nets agreed to part ways after a 2-5 start and Jacque Vaughn replaced him as head coach. A coaching change was one of the demands that Durant made during an offseason meeting with owner Joe Tsai, and it paid immediate dividends. Brooklyn is 23-8 under Vaughn and is tied for second in the East after winning 16 of its last 18 games. Durant remains near his career peak at age 34, averaging 29.9 points, 6.7 rebounds and 5.5 assists through 37 games.

“My whole thing was like — are we, does the process matter to us? And that’s one thing I did know that people here enjoy, grinding,” he said. “So that was the most important thing for me. Titles and stuff come with the process in which you — how you prepare. It was more so, ‘All right, are we going to practice harder? Are we going to pay more attention to detail?’ Not just everybody else, all of us, me included. Is that going to be preached to us every day? I had the faith that that would happen because I voiced that throughout the summer as well. Even behind the scenes, like, ‘Yo, this is what I like to do. This is how I like to practice.’ I’ve been saying that for the last couple years, so I figured at that point with me going through that, they understood what I value. That’s what I was hanging my hat on, the preparation side of it.”

Durant addresses a variety of topics during the lengthy interview. Here are some of the highlights:

On how the team was able to survive the early-season drama that surrounded Irving:

“Because we was together regardless. I think coming into the training camp, we understood that it’s going to be a lot on us from a media standpoint, from just the noise in general around our team, so I think that made us tighter once camp started. So we was able to take the Kyrie stuff and move in stride because we were already stuck together before that. We started to win some games, started to get better as a team, and do some things out there that work for us. And now it seems like everything was patched all together, but it felt like it was always cool, to be honest.”

On the perception among some fans that many regular season games lack intensity:

“Fans have become more entitled than anything. So they’re starting to question our motives for the game, or how we approach the game. The ones that do question — like who are you? Just shut up and watch the game tonight. We go as hard as we want to go. We go as hard as our bodies allow us to go at this point. They only see us when the games come on, but the travel, the practices, the shootarounds — we’re constantly moving around. So every game’s not going to be a high-intensity playoff game.”

On the concern that some teams may decide to tank during the second half of the season for a better shot at drafting Victor Wembanyama:

“Teams have been tanking for a minute. What, you’re going to force them to be competitive? I don’t see a problem with it, because each year there’s only a few teams that can win it anyway. So the rest of the league is trying to figure out where they are. And that’s pretty smart business if you’re a team and you know you’re not going to be a playoff team or play-in team, you might as well try to play for [the No. 1 pick]. You might as well try to get some of the guys who probably won’t get real rotation minutes if you have a good team, get them some reps and maybe those guys can change their lives as well.”

Nets Notes: Turnaround, Vaughn, Simmons, Harris

The drama that surrounded the Nets throughout the summer and in the early part of the season is a distant memory now that Brooklyn has reeled off 11 straight wins and is in the race for the best record in the league, writes Nick Friedell of ESPN.

The franchise was in constant turmoil last season, highlighted by Kyrie Irving‘s uncertain playing status due to his refusal to get the COVID vaccine, James Harden‘s desire to leave, and Ben Simmons‘ unavailability after being acquired. It continued after Brooklyn was swept in the first round of the playoffs, as the summer brought Kevin Durant‘s trade demand, Irving’s last-minute decision to exercise his player option and a general uncertainty heading into training camp about whether all the pieces could fit together.

“It was one of those years you reflect on and you see the turning points in the organization,” Durant said Saturday after his team ended 2022 with a victory in Charlotte. “We’ve seen different moments that brought us together as a group. You see, at this point now towards the end of the year, you start to see us come together and perform what we’ve been looking to do these last couple of years, which was a solid team that plays hard every night. So we went through a lot in this calendar year, but we’re looking for bigger and better things in 2023.”

There’s more on the Nets:

  • The turnaround began with the decision to make Jacque Vaughn the new head coach after Steve Nash and the organization parted ways in early November, Friedell adds. Suspended Celtics coach Ime Udoka was originally considered the favorite for the job, but Brooklyn turned to Vaughn, who has brought stability to the team and appeals to players with a relaxed style that includes less time spent on practice and shootarounds. “He gives you an ease,” Irving said. “When you come into the locker room nothing’s forced, he’s not too high or too low. He’s just holding himself to a high standard, exemplifying what a leader should look like. So as our head coach, as our leader, I’ve been able to learn some things from him.”
  • Brooklyn is also benefiting from improved play by Simmons, who says he has learned how to handle the ups and downs of NBA life, per Brian Lewis of The New York Post. “It’s not getting too carried away knowing we have a long year and guys understand that,” Simmons said after battling through an illness to play Saturday night. “My experiences in Philly, we had a young team and we had guys who are not used to being in the league for that long, and not knowing how to win and not knowing it’s not easy to win. We have a lot of vets on the team, Ky, Kev, guys like that and understanding it’s game-by-game and not getting too carried away with the noise, which has been great.”
  • The Nets are optimistic that Joe Harris will be able to return Monday after missing the past four games with soreness in his left knee, Lewis adds.