Kyrie Irving

Nets Notes: Durant, Irving, LeVert, Luwawu-Cabarrot

Nets stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving have been “brutally honest” with their input into the team’s coaching situation, but neither will be in Orlando to watch interim coach Jacque Vaughn in action, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. General manager Sean Marks discussed their input during a Friday interview with WFAN.

“It would not be smart of us if we were not to involve some of these key players in this decision,” Marks said. “Kevin, Kyrie, we’re going to pick their brains on what they’re looking for in a leader, what they need. They’ve been brutally honest so far. I’m not going to be asking Kevin to come down to Orlando to evaluate anybody. When you get to the level of those elite players, they have ultimate goals in mind. They want to be held accountable. Kevin and Kyrie have told me they want to win a championship in Brooklyn.”

Marks noted that Irving is “doing well” in his recovery from shoulder surgery in March, but implied that the team never gave serious consideration to having Irving or Durant play in Orlando, citing the “risk-reward” factor and how it could affect the franchise in the long run.

There’s more Nets news this morning:

  • With a severely short-handed team headed for the NBA’s restart, Brooklyn’s next decision will be how much to use Caris LeVert, Lewis adds in the same piece. LeVert has a history of being injured and is considered the team’s best trade asset if it decides to pursue a third star. “I don’t make those decisions; I feel like that’s outside of me. That’s Sean and ownership. That’s not really my job to think of those things,” LeVert said.
  • The Nets’ roster woes will provide an opportunity for Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot to prove he deserves a larger role, Lewis states in a separate story. After being waived in a preseason, then working his way onto the roster through a two-way contract and a pair of 10-day deals, Luwawu-Cabarrot should see plenty of playing time in Orlando. “It’s huge for us, huge for me,” he said. “Obviously, we’re going to miss them. But as we say this year and as it’s always been, it’s next man up. You have to stay ready and be ready to play … I’m sure they’ll support us and we’ll try and do the best job we can.”
  • Matt Brooks and Chris Milholen of NetsDaily discuss potential replacements for DeAndre Jordan, who tested positive for COVID-19 this week.

Nets Notes: Vaughn, Durant, Irving

Given how depleted Brooklyn’s roster is as a result of injuries and opt-outs, head coach Jacque Vaughn will face a tall task in Orlando this summer as he looks to help the Nets secure a playoff spot and make some noise in the postseason, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post.

Vaughn, who took over for former head coach Kenny Atkinson less than a week before the NBA went on hiatus in March, won his first two games, but will be without Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, DeAndre Jordan, Wilson Chandler, Nicolas Claxton, and possibly Spencer Dinwiddie when play resumes.

Given the unusual circumstances, the Nets’ evaluation of Vaughn this summer will be about more than just his record in Orlando, general manager Sean Marks said on Wednesday, as Lewis writes in a separate story.

“It’s completely unfair to say it’s going to be about wins and losses at this point. Jacque has been a prominent part of this organization the last four years,” Marks said. “We know what Jacque is about and the type of person he is and the character and the leader that he is. … We’ll just see what happens down the line.”

Although the Nets are considered a good bet to conduct a full-fledged coaching search at season’s end, reports have indicated that Vaughn has a legitimate chance to claim the permanent job. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reiterated that point during his Woj Pod podcast this week, suggesting that he’d take Vaughn against the field if he were predicting Brooklyn’s 2020/21 head coach (hat tip to RealGM).

Here’s more on the Nets:

  • Despite their gutted roster, the Nets never entertained the possibility of skipping the NBA restart altogether, Marks said on Wednesday, per Brian Mahoney of The Associated Press. “Look, we have a job to do,” the GM told reporters. “Again, we have to bring a team to Orlando. We will bring a team to Orlando. We will go down there and we will compete. That’s our jobs here.”
  • Although Kevin Durant won’t be active – or in attendance – when the Nets resume play later this month, the former MVP will continue to have a voice in the team’s basketball decisions leading up to the 2020/21 season, according to Marks. “He continues to be a very loud voice in terms of where we’re going in the future and what we’re doing and I involve him like the other players and staff and how we’ll continue to build this team and how we move forward,” Marks told reporters, including Ian Begley of SNY.tv. The GM added that he’s been in touch with Durant regularly since the hiatus began in March.
  • Marks also confirmed on Wednesday that Kyrie Irving won’t be part of the Nets’ traveling party to Orlando this summer, writes Begley.

Atlantic Notes: Irving, Nets, Tatum, Durant, Knicks

In a recent group chat, Kyrie Irving urged his Nets teammates to skip the restarted season this summer, according to Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News, who says the star guard also put forth the idea of players starting their own league.

Taylor Rooks of Bleacher Report (Twitter link) hears from sources that Irving never said the Nets should start their own league in response to the bubble plan. However, the wording of that denial leaves some room for interpretation — it doesn’t mean Irving never floated the concept, or that it wasn’t part of a separate conversation from the one about participating in the bubble.

Either way, it’s an eyebrow-raising idea. It’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility that the world’s best players could launch and run a successful league, but it would be a long, challenging process to get enough players on board and to attempt to build the sort of infrastructure the NBA already has in place. For now, it’s not really a realistic possibility.

For what it’s worth, Rooks adds that Irving left the group chat following the publication of Bondy’s report.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic division:

  • Within that same Daily News article, Bondy cites a source who says Celtics forward Jayson Tatum has expressed some reluctance about playing this summer, since he’s eligible for a maximum-salary extension this offseason and feels as if there will be an elevated risk of injury when play resumes. While Bondy’s report may be accurate, I’d be shocked if Tatum didn’t ultimately suit up — even a major injury likely wouldn’t prevent the C’s from offering him a lucrative long-term deal.
  • Even at full strength, the Nets wouldn’t be a real threat to win the title this season, according to Marc Stein of The New York Times, who lauds Kevin Durant‘s willingness to remain patient with his Achilles recovery rather than pushing to return to action in Orlando.
  • As first reported by Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic (Twitter link), the Knicks are hiring Pelicans scout Alex Kline to a front office role. Kline will take on a larger role in New York, working under new assistant GM Walt Perrin, league sources tell Vorkunov.

Avery Bradley, Players’ Coalition Outline Priorities Prior To NBA Return

Avery Bradley, who co-leads the players’ coalition along with Kyrie Irving, spoke with Malika Andrews and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com to outline what the group would like to see done before the NBA resumes its season.

Among the priorities is the improved hiring practices for black front office and head coaching positions in the NBA. Bradley also suggested that the league’s front offices should better reflect its composition of players. Currently, there are just eight black general managers – including only four that have final say on basketball decisions – and seven black head coaches.

“Regardless of how much media coverage will be received, talking and raising awareness about social injustice isn’t enough,” Bradley said. “Are we that self-centered to believe no one in the world is aware of racism right now? That as athletes, we solve the real issues by using our platforms to speak?

“We don’t need to say more. We need to find a way to achieve more. Protesting during an anthem, wearing T-shirts is great, but we need to see real actions being put in to the works.”

Another priority is which organizations the league does business with and which foundations it provides donations to. The black community should be better represented in those areas, Bradley argues. Additionally, Bradley calls for the owners to stand behind the players. The Lakers guard hopes that the league’s owners will follow the charitable work of Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Hornets owner Michael Jordan. Both made substantial contributions in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

“I agree [the] Orlando [restart] will give the players checks to contribute back into their communities,” Bradley said. “But how much of that bubble check are players actually able to contribute? Why [is] all of the responsibility being put on the players?”

Bradley added that he hasn’t seen a plan from the NBA for league-wide action.

“Don’t put all of the weight on your player to take care of the issue,” Bradley said. “If you care about us, you can’t remain silent and in the background.”

Other players are behind Irving and Bradley, though the ESPN duo notes that many are reluctant to speak out for fear of backlash.

“The actual act of sitting out doesn’t directly fight systemic racism,” Bradley said. “But it does highlight the reality that without black athletes, the NBA wouldn’t be what it is today. The league has a responsibility to our communities in helping to empower us — just as we have made the NBA brand strong.”

Irving-Led Coalition Details Concerns

A player coalition led by Nets star Kyrie Irving and Lakers guard Avery Bradley is pursuing a further examination of the league’s plan to restart the season in Orlando, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Malika Andrews report.

At the top of the coalition’s wish list is a commitment of resources and methods to move forward an agenda of social justice reforms.

The group also has issues with the resumption of play in Orlando’s Disney complex, including an uptick in positive coronavirus cases in Florida; the restrictive environment in the bubble, insurance for players regarding potential illnesses; and the risk of injuries during an accelerated finish.

After a conference call that included nearly 100 players voicing concerns over the restart plan on Friday, a call engineered by Irving, another conference call that included about 40 individuals was held on Monday.

A statement issued to ESPN from the group read in part:

“Native indigenous African Caribbean men and women entertaining the world, we will continue to use our voices and platforms for positive change and truth. … We are combating the issues that matter most: We will not accept the racial injustices that continue to be ignored in our communities. We will not be kept in the dark when it comes to our health and well-being. And we will not ignore the financial motivations/expectations that have prevented us historically from making sound decisions.”

Irving, a VP in the Players’ Association, was a part of the union’s ratification vote on June 5 for the resumption of play. He’s out for the season after undergoing shoulder surgery.

The NBA and NBPA are working on solutions in order to get as many players as possible to rejoin the 22 teams involved the restart plan this month, the ESPN duo adds.

And-Ones: WNBA, Ball Brothers, Kyrie, FA Contracts

Like the NBA, the WNBA now has a plan in place to resume play in Florida next month. The WNBA announced today in a press release that it will play a 22-game regular season at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, beginning in July.

We will continue to consult with medical experts and public health officials as well as players, team owners and other stakeholders as we move forward with our execution plan,” commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement. “And, despite the disruption caused by the global pandemic to our 2020 season, the WNBA and its Board of Governors believe strongly in supporting and valuing the elite women athletes who play in the WNBA and therefore, players will receive their full pay and benefits during the 2020 season.”

While the NBA was in the midst of its season when the pandemic forced a stoppage, the WNBA’s 2020 campaign had yet to tip off. The season, which would normally consist of 34 games, had originally been scheduled to begin on May 15, but was postponed indefinitely in April.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • As expected, the Ball brothers – Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball, G League guard LiAngelo Ball, and projected 2020 lottery pick LaMelo Ball – have officially signed with Roc Nation Sports for representation, the agency announced today (Twitter link). An April report had indicated that the three brothers were joining Roc Nation together.
  • Although Kyrie Irving has taken plenty of flak for his stance on resuming the season, Michael Lee of The Athletic argues that Irving is just doing his job as an NBPA vice president, and isn’t being an agitator just for the sake of it. In Lee’s view, Irving isn’t trying to blow up the NBA’s restart plan, but is making sure that players’ concerns are heard and addressed.
  • Setting aside rookie contracts and maximum-salary deals, John Hollinger of The Athletic lists the 10 current free agent contracts that he feels represent the best value for teams. The Clippers‘ deal with Ivica Zubac, the Mavericks‘ with Dorian Finney-Smith, and the Celtics‘ with Marcus Smart top Hollinger’s list.

More Details Emerge From Friday’s Conference Call

We relayed details last night about a conference call regarding player objections to the plan to restart the NBA season in Orlando. More information on that call, which involved in excess of 80 players, has been released by Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Charania confirms that Kyrie Irving was the leader of the effort to make players reconsider their support of finishing the season. He spoke first and offered a direct message to his peers, telling them, “I don’t support going into Orlando. I’m not with the systematic racism and the bull–. … Something smells a little fishy. Whether we want to admit it or not, we are targeted as black men every day we wake up.”

Avery Bradley, who was outspoken throughout the conversation, was the first player to follow Irving’s comments. He encouraged the players to take a stand and to use the opportunity to “play chess, not checkers.” Other prominent names on the call included union president Chris PaulKevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard and Donovan Mitchell.

Players have been involved in conversations for the past two weeks, sources tell Charania, expressing concerns about the games in Orlando and the restrictive conditions that are rumored to be part of the bubble environment. The opposition began among “rank-and-file” players, with Irving and Durant providing prominent voices.

Sources offered Charania a few more tidbits from the conference call:

  • Anthony emphasized the need for player unity and the importance of conveying a single message. He also urged all 80 players on the call to donate $25K to a cause of their choice.
  • CJ McCollum told players they have to be prepared for financial setbacks if they choose not to play and the possibility that owners will nullify the current Collective Bargaining Agreement.
  • Howard warned that resuming the season will distract from the social justice issues the country is focused on. He encouraged players to use the moment as a catalyst for change.
  • Mitchell talked about players “being behind the 8-ball” by being forced into a competitive environment after being idle for so long. “We’re taking a big injury risk,” he told his fellow players.
  • NBPA leadership doesn’t expect fans to be allowed into games at any point during the 2020/21 season, which would result in another huge revenue loss for the league.

Players’ Conference Call Focuses On Restart Concerns

More than 80 players participated in a conference call on Friday night to address concerns over the NBA’s restart plan, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.

Nets guard Kyrie Irving was the leading voice on the call, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. While the NBA has solidified key restart dates, a plan approved by player reps last week, Irving has emerged as the most prominent player with major reservations about resuming the season.

Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and Donovan Mitchell were among the participants on the call, and numerous players voiced their concerns about finishing the season amid nationwide unrest regarding social injustice and racism, Charania adds.

During the call, one unnamed player texted Wojnarowski regarding some of the issues raised during the call (Twitter link), including playing in the Orlando bubble: “(Kyrie)’s trying to give players a platform to be able to have a discussion — on the bubble, racial equality and unity. … It’s a good call.”

Irving underwent season-ending shoulder surgery in March. His presence in Orlando would only be as an interested observer and to support his Nets teammates.

Irving was an active participant in last week’s call when the reps agreed to the restart plan and only chimed in with mundane questions. Thus, his actions to organize a broader conference call that could change or even halt the restart plan has surprised several of his NBPA colleagues, according to Wojnarowski.

Irving’s stance has pitted him against many of the league’s superstars, most of whom have strongly supported the resumption of the season. Irving seems to be relishing the clash, Wojnarowski adds.

Growing Concern About NBA’s Restart Plan

Even as the NBA works to finalize specific dates for various aspects of its resumed season, there’s “growing concern” about the plan among players, according to Howard Beck of Bleacher Report (via Twitter).

Taylor Rooks of Bleacher Report (via Twitter) reports that approximately 150 players are planning to take part in a conference call tonight to discuss what they can do to take a stand expressing their concerns and reservations about the league’s Orlando plan.

Beck (Twitter link) hears that up to 200 players may be involved in that call, adding that NBPA vice president Kyrie Irving has been a “driving force” in raising concerns and organizing player discussions. Irving believes that the idea of not returning to play should be considered, given the importance of the anti-racism activism currently happening in the U.S. and around the world, tweets Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

According to Beck, one agent estimated that about two-thirds of the league’s top 40 players may refuse to play based on the current information presented by the league.

As we’ve detailed in previous stories, players’ concerns are related to their health and safety, spending significant time away from their families, and directing the spotlight away from social justice issues. Beck suggests that the proposed restrictions involving freedom of movement within the so-called “bubble” in Orlando are also a key factor.

Although players will technically be allowed to leave the campus-like Disney environment after reporting in July, as Jared Dudley explained last month, recent reports have suggested they’d be subject to a 10-day quarantine period for doing so. In other words, leaving the “bubble” likely wouldn’t be a viable option for a player once the season officially resumes, since it would mean missing at least four or five games.

On top of that, as ESPN’s Zach Lowe (video link) and Tom Haberstroh of NBC Sports (Twitter link) have pointed out today, the Disney support staff involved in the restart won’t be subject to the same protocols as players, coaches, and other NBA personnel. Those Disney staffers would be free to come and go from the premises as needed, without necessarily being tested daily for COVID-19.

Players who are already apprehensive about spending weeks or months on the Disney campus may push back against the idea of doing so if they feel as if the “bubble” isn’t really a bubble and that their safety could be compromised by support staffers.

Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports (Twitter links) hears from a Walt Disney World source that there would be Disney employees willing to stay in the “bubble” for months on end to help complete the season and reduce health risks, but it’s unclear whether Disney and/or the NBA would ask those staffers to do so.

Kevin Durant Confirms “My Season Is Over”

Confirming a Friday report, star forward Kevin Durant told Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated in a wide-ranging interview that he won’t play for the Nets when the 2019/20 season resumes this summer.

“My season is over. I don’t plan on playing at all,” Durant said. “We decided last summer when it first happened that I was just going to wait until the following season. I had no plans of playing at all this season.”

Durant tore his Achilles tendon nearly a year ago during the 2019 NBA Finals and had originally been ruled out for the entire 2019/20 season. When the coronavirus pandemic resulted in the end of the season being postponed, there was some speculation that KD might not have to wait until 2020/21 to make his Nets debut after all. However, reports in recent weeks continually indicated that was unlikely to be the case.

Prior to the suspension of the season in March, Durant had progressed to scrimmaging with teammates, but his rehab process slowed down when practice facilities became unavailable and group activities were no longer permitted. The former MVP told Spears that his rehab is still going well and that he’s “feeling like a normal player again,” but said putting off his return until next season is the right call.

“It’s just best for me to wait,” Durant said. “I don’t think I’m ready to play that type of intensity right now in the next month. It gives me more time to get ready for next season and the rest of my career.”

As for teammate Kyrie Irving, the expectation for now is that he also won’t be healthy enough to return for the Nets this summer in Orlando. Irving is recovering from undergoing shoulder surgery earlier this year.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter), Irving suggested on Friday’s NBPA conference call that he may end up joining the Nets this summer as an inactive player supporting his teammates.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.