Kyrie Irving

Atlantic Notes: Casey, Smart, Celtics, Nets

Dwane Casey made his return to Toronto on Wednesday, guiding the Pistons to a 106-104 victory over the Raptors in his first game back since being fired as Toronto’s coach. The Raptors made the surprising decision to let go of Casey after his team was swept by the Cavaliers in the spring.

“Nobody likes getting fired,” Casey told Rod Beard of The Detroit News. “If anybody expects you to like who fired you or be happy with that, that’s not realistic. The fans are some of the best fans in all of sports, whether it’s soccer, baseball or basketball.

“From that standpoint, there are no hard feelings, but you always have a (figurative) two-by-four on your shoulder for the person who fired you when you were doing well.”

Casey’s peers believed he was doing well, voting for him to win the Coach of the Year award around the time he was dismissed from Toronto. Wednesday’s victory could signify a sense of revenge against his former team.

“It is specifically pointing the finger at me — and that’s their prerogative,” Casey said. “They said I was the problem. I know what we did over a seven-year period there and starting from the rebuilding, developing and in the lottery to where they are now.

“They can’t take that away. A lot of people can take credit for all the good and put all the bad on me — and that’s fine.”

There’s more out of the Atlantic division tonight:

  • The Celtics could benefit from starting Marcus Smart, A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston writes. “I’d like to see us find some consistency at some point,” head coach Brad Stevens said. “I think that it’s not consistent, whatever our issues are.” The Celtics have started the 2018/19 season with an 8-6 record.
  • Kyrie Irving downplayed his call for the Celtics to sign another veteran, explaining his comments to the media this week. “I wasn’t speaking about anyone specific,” Irving said, according to Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. “I just was speaking to like a vet that’s been through a championship run, through championship runs, that’s able to be patient with this team as well as understand what we’re going through of just figuring out the pieces and how they mesh well together.” Celtics general manager Danny Ainge claimed he hasn’t spoken to Irving about his comments.
  • Nets training camp invitee Mitch Creek is continuing to pursue his dream of becoming an NBA player, as relayed by NetsDaily. Creek, 26, called the Nets “an elite program everywhere you go” and praised the coaching staff, performance team and others. He currently plays for the Long Island Nets, Brooklyn’s G League affiliate.

Atlantic Notes: Knicks, Thomas, Butler, Theis

Any dreams the Knicks may have had about teaming up Jimmy Butler and Kyrie Irving next season appear to be dead, writes Zach Braziller of The New York Post. The Sixers are considered likely to re-sign Butler to a long-term contract after acquiring him from Minnesota in a deal that should become official tomorrow. That follows Irving’s declaration last month that he intends to remain with the Celtics when he hits free agency.

Butler and Irving are friends and there was talk earlier this year that they might be interested in teaming up in New York, with Butler “liking” an Instagram comment that suggested such a move. New York would have needed to trade for one of them, then sign the other next summer. The Knicks were on the list of teams that Butler gave the Timberwolves when he first made his trade request, but they never seemed interested in making a deal.

The Knicks’ options to land a franchise-changing star in free agency are beginning to dwindle, Braziller notes, and their success may depend on getting Kevin Durant or Kawhi Leonard to consider New York.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Knicks forward Lance Thomas had been experiencing knee pain for weeks before deciding to have surgery on Thursday, tweets Ian Begley of ESPN. “Lance is our leader and we just [want to] get him back feeling good and get him back in that locker room with his voice,” coach David Fizdale said. Thomas will be re-evaluated in about a month, with Kevin Knox and Mario Hezonja expected to get more minutes while he’s sidelined. Fizdale may also use bigger lineups with Noah Vonleh at power forward (Twitter link).
  • Sixers center Joel Embiid got a positive report on Butler when he reached out to Timberwolves stars Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, relays Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Even though Butler clashed with both players during his time in Minnesota, they expect him to be a positive influence in Philadelphia. “They thought that he was going to be good for us,” Embiid said. “They thought that we were definitely going to get along. He wants to win. Wiggs told me that he thought that we were going to win the East for sure.”
  • Celtics center Daniel Theis, who has been sidelined with a plantar fascia tear since October 27, hopes to return next week, tweets A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston.

NBA Super-Max Candidates To Watch In 2018/19

The Designated Veteran Extension, as we explain our glossary entry on the subject, is a relatively new addition to the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. It allows players with 7-9 years of experience, who would normally qualify for a maximum starting salary of 30% of the cap, to qualify for a “super-max” contract that starts at 35% of the cap, a level normally reserved players with 10+ years of experience.

A player who has seven or eight years of NBA service with one or two years left on his contract becomes eligible for a Designated Veteran Extension if he meets the required performance criteria and hasn’t been traded since his first four years in the league. A Designated Veteran contract can also be signed by a player who is technically a free agent if he has eight or nine years of service and meets the required criteria.

The performance criteria is as follows (only one of the following must be true):

  • The player was named to an All-NBA team in the most recent season, or in two of the last three seasons.
  • The player was named the NBA MVP in any of the three most recent seasons.
  • The player was named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in the most recent season, or in two of the last three seasons.

With those criteria in mind, it’s worth keeping an eye on several players who could qualify for a super-max veteran contract with their play this season. Let’s dive in and examine a few of those guys…

Players who already qualify for a super-max contract:

Davis can’t yet sign a Designated Veteran Extension, but his All-NBA appearances over the last two seasons have ensured that he’ll qualify, even if he somehow doesn’t earn another All-NBA nod in 2018/19.

As of next July, the Pelicans will be able to offer Davis a contract extension that tacks an additional five years onto his $27.09MM salary for 2019/20. Based on the NBA’s latest cap projection for 2020/21 ($118MM), that five-year extension would be worth a staggering $239.54MM.

Players who could qualify for a super-max contract by meeting the criteria in 2018/19:

Technically, any player who earns an All-NBA spot in 2018/19 and meets the contract criteria can qualify for a super-max, but the players listed above are probably the only legitimately viable candidates. And even in this group, guys like Beal and Drummond are a real stretch — if they were to improbably make an All-NBA team, their clubs still probably wouldn’t put Designated Veteran Extension offers on the table, since they’re not bona fide superstars.

Thompson and Walker will both be unrestricted free agents in 2019, so if they meet the DVE criteria, they’d be eligible for five-year contracts with their respective teams worth up to a projected $221.27MM. Lillard and Green are still under contract for at least one more year beyond this season, but they’d qualify for super-max extensions if they meet the criteria — Lillard could get an extra four years, while Green could get five.

A team can only give Designated Veteran Extensions to two players, so the Warriors wouldn’t be able to offer both Thompson and Green super-max contracts, since Stephen Curry already has one. On the plus side, Kevin Durant won’t figure into this equation for Golden State, since he has 10+ years of experience. A deal starting at 35% of the cap for Durant wouldn’t count toward the Dubs’ super-max limit.

Finally, while Antetokounmpo can qualify for a super-max by earning All-NBA honors this season, he wouldn’t actually be able to sign such a deal until 2020, since he’ll only have six years of experience at the end of the 2018/19 campaign. Essentially, he’d be in the same spot that Anthony Davis is in now.

Players who can no longer qualify for a super-max contract because they were traded:

Butler, Irving, and Leonard are probably more worthy of a super-max investment than most of the players in the above group, but they no longer qualify because they were traded while on their second contracts — Butler from the Bulls, Irving from the Cavaliers, and Leonard from the Spurs. They’ll need to reach 10 years of NBA experience before qualifying for a starting salary worth up to 35% of the cap.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Celtics Notes: Rozier, Irving, Lottery, Morris

The Celtics should resist the temptation to trade backup point guard Terry Rozier, writes Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. A report surfaced this morning that Rozier is dissatisfied with his reduced role and several teams are waiting to see if Boston decides to deal him.

Rozier had a breakthrough performance in the postseason after Kyrie Irving was sidelined by knee surgery. Rozier averaged more than 36 minutes per night, posted a 16.5/5.3/5.7 line and helped the Celtics reach Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. With Irving back on the court, Rozier is playing fewer than 23 minutes a game and his numbers have fallen across the board, which is bad news as he heads toward free agency.

Given Irving’s injury history, Rozier still has a lot of value in Boston, and even if he remains a reserve, he may be the most explosive scorer the Celtics can bring off their bench. Boston’s front office is confident it will eventually get value for Rozier, Forsberg adds, even if it’s in a sign-and-trade next summer.

There’s more Celtics news to pass along:

  • Irving has pledged to remain with the Celtics when he opts out of his current contract, but ESPN analyst Jalen Rose isn’t convinced that it’s a good fit, relays Adam London of NESN. Appearing on “Get Up!,” Rose said Irving is among the 12 most talented players in the league, but questioned whether his isolation style works on a team that emphasizes passing and cutting. He also suggested that Irving’s presence may be holding back younger players such as Rozier, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
  • In the wake of last night’s outstanding performance by Duke freshmen R.J. Barrett and Zion Williamson, Forsberg tweets the lottery odds for the Kings’ first-rounder that will likely go to the Celtics. Despite Sacramento’s respectable start, Forsberg finds that it has a 99.9% chance of ending up in the lottery, an 82.1% chance of falling between picks two and 10, a 25% chance of being between two and five and a 7.5% shot at being No. 1. Boston will get the higher pick between the Sixers and Kings, but the choice is protected if it’s first overall.
  • Marcus Morris credits an offseason regimen of  flexibility training, deep-tissue massage and meditation for his hot start to the new season, relays Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. At age 29, Morris is putting up career highs in scoring and rebounding, along with career bests in shooting from the field, foul line and 3-point range.

Atlantic Notes: Lee, Irving, Sixers, McConnell

Knicks swingman Courtney Lee is feeling a little better after receiving an injection to calm the nerve irritation in his neck, but it’s still not clear when he’ll be able to return to the court. As Steve Popper of Newsday writes, the team has struggled to diagnosis and treat Lee’s injury, which he describes as both a neck strain and neck spasms, but the veteran is hoping to get the go-ahead soon to do more than non-contact shooting drills.

Once Lee is ready to return, a regular role in the Knicks’ rotation isn’t a certainty, with the club focused on developing its younger players. However, while fellow veteran Enes Kanter hasn’t seemed entirely on board with his demotion to the second unit, Lee sounds ready to do whatever he’s asked by a team in the midst of a transition period, as Popper relays.

“That was a no-brainer, man,” Lee said of the Knicks’ decision to give their young players more minutes. “You look around the locker room, everybody is young. It’s not the team going young. It’s what we have. I’m a guy that’s just going to go out there, man, know my role, compete, help the team as much as possible, whether it’s leading vocally or by example. That’s my mindset: Is just to go out there and do whatever the team needs me to do.”

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Celtics guard Kyrie Irving received a $25K fine for throwing the ball into the stands at the end of Monday’s loss to Denver, the NBA announced today in a press release. Irving’s toss came after Jamal Murray took a last-second shot in an attempt to break the 50-point mark after the Nuggets had already secured the victory.
  • The Sixers‘ rotation is in flux to some extent, with the team struggling to integrate newcomers Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala as smoothly as they integrated Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli last season. As Sarah Todd of Philly.com details, injuries and a lack of defined roles for Chandler and Muscala have helped magnify those issues.
  • In a mailbag for The Athletic, Derek Bodner examines T.J. McConnell‘s future with the Sixers, suggesting that he’s one of the more likely players on the roster to be traded this season. In Bodner’s view, it’s hard to envision McConnell having a role on the club beyond this season unless something goes “terribly wrong” with Markelle Fultz.

Poll: Kyrie Irving’s Future

Kyrie Irving is one of several big-name players projected to reach unrestricted free agency during the summer of 2019, but it appears his free agency will be a mere formality. During the preseason, Irving announced to an arena of Celtics fans that he intends to re-sign with Boston next July. According to reports, the star point guard has privately conveyed a similar sentiment to C’s management.

Despite Irving’s proclamation, executives around the NBA still have Irving’s name on their free agent big boards for 2019, as ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported earlier this week. Windhorst notes that verbal commitments are just that, and that they don’t come with any guarantees — there’s nothing stopping Irving from changing his mind between now and July 1.

While that’s true, it undersells the explicit and public nature of the commitment Irving made this fall. Typically, when free-agents-to-be are asked about their futures, their answers are evasive. Some refuse to address the subject at all, telling reporters that they’re focused on the season or that they’ll let their agents handle the business side. Others express interest in re-signing with their current teams, but add a caveat or two — they “know it’s a business” or they “hope the team feels the same way” or they’ll “see what happens.”

In Irving’s case, his declaration didn’t leave any ambiguity: He intends to re-sign with the Celtics, and is only waiting to do so because signing an extension now wouldn’t make sense from a financial perspective. It’s the sort of vow that we rarely hear from top free agents, many of whom prefer to keep their options open and don’t want to risk angering a fan base by making a promise they might not keep.

Still, we’re more than eight months away from July. If the Celtics struggle to meet expectations this season, will Irving be as enthusiastic about signing a long-term deal next offseason? If he suffers another knee injury, will the C’s be eager to put a massive multiyear off on the table? While Boston certainly wants to keep Irving, the team hasn’t made any promises of its own. It’s possible that the situation could change significantly in the coming months.

In my opinion, it would be very surprising if Irving and the Celtics don’t eventually finalize a new deal. However, it can’t be considered a total lock until he puts pen to paper next July.

What do you think? Does it make sense to essentially cross off Irving’s name from 2019’s list of free agents, or will he and/or the team have second thoughts within the next eight months?

Vote below in our poll and jump into the comment section to share your thoughts!

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NBA Execs Looking Ahead To 2019 Free Agency

Front office executives around the NBA, even on probable playoff teams, are already looking ahead to 2019’s free agent period, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com, who notes that next summer’s group of star free-agents-to-be is generating plenty of early interest.

As Windhorst details, executives believe that many of the top players in 2019 free agency are viable candidates to change teams. In 2018, LeBron James signed with a new team, but most of the league’s other elite free agents, such as Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, and Paul George, re-signed with their current clubs. In 2019, Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, and DeMarcus Cousins are all viewed as at least decent bets to change teams, particularly since there will be so much cap room available around the NBA.

Teams are also keeping a close eye on Anthony Davis and Kyrie Irving, per Windhorst. Davis can’t reach free agency until 2020, but will be eligible for a super-max extension in 2019. If the Pelicans struggle at all this season or if Davis doesn’t immediately sign that extension with New Orleans, potential trade suitors for the star big man will be calling the Pelicans.

As for Irving, he has verbally committed to re-signing with Boston, but nothing is set in stone yet — plus, the Celtics would likely be reluctant to put a five-year max offer on the table if the star point guard battles injuries again, which could change the equation.

Circling back to Durant and the Warriors, Windhorst also observes that many people around the league think 2018/19 will be the last season that the team’s current core remains together. Durant is considered more likely to leave than Klay Thompson, but execs also wonder about Draymond Green‘s future, Windhorst notes.

Green will be extension-eligible again next offseason in advance of his 2020 free agency, and could even qualify for a super-max extension if he earns All-NBA honors. The versatile big man has talked about having taken a discount on his last deal and suggested that he doesn’t intend to do so again this time around.

We’re still more than eight months away from the 2019 free agent period getting underway, but with so much cap room available and so many big-name free agents potentially in play, it figures to be the subject of a ton of speculation throughout the 2018/19 season.

Kyrie Irving Would Have Considered Joining Knicks

Kyrie Irving took the suspense out of his free agency plans by announcing that he will remain with the Celtics, but he said Saturday that the Knicks would have been in the running if he had wanted to change teams, relays Peter Botte of The New York Post.

Irving made the remarks during Boston’s first trip of the season to Madison Square Garden, telling reporters that he feels a strong connection to the area after growing up in New Jersey.

“Just being from Jersey and envisioning myself as a free agent and ultimately taking a meeting and playing for [coach David Fizdale] and the great young core they have here, thinking about playing with [Kristaps Porzingis], that was a big thing before I made my decision to sign back — or, I don’t want to get in trouble, to plan on re-signing back — with Boston,” Irving said. “But yeah, of course, New York was a strong consideration.”

The Knicks plan to be in position to offer a max contract during next summer’s free agency, and there were hopes that Irving might be the target. The five-time All-Star would have given the organization its best point guard in years and would have been an exciting running mate to team with Porzingis.

Irving believes he landed in a perfect situation with the Celtics after requesting a trade from the Cavaliers last summer. He is the leader of a talented team that many are projecting to reach the NBA Finals and is surrounded by a mix of veterans and young stars.

“I think if you were in my position, I think it would be an easy decision at this point,” Irving said. “Thinking about who we have, and the future and what we’re set up for, for me, where I am in age and how I envision my career going, and kind of the lineage of guys who’ve come before me in the Boston Celtics, is something that I wanted to be a part of.”

Eastern Notes: Parker, Howard, Irving, Sixers

Things aren’t off to a great start this fall for the Bulls‘ big-name free agent acquisition, Jabari Parker. Head coach Fred Hoiberg adjusted his starting lineup this week, moving Parker to the bench, and it paid dividends in the team’s 104-89 victory over the Pacers on Wednesday, as K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune details. While Hoiberg initially said his new lineup was “just an experiment,” Johnson hears from sources that the coach has had discussions with his staff about whether to move Parker out of the starting lineup, and sounded today like he might be committed to that change.

“With the second unit — and I talked to Jabari about this — we used him in more of a facilitating role and put the ball in his hands as really kind of a point forward. I liked the look of it,” said the Bulls’ head coach, per Johnson. “We’ll continue to evaluate. But I did like the look of both groups.”

Addressing the change on Thursday, Parker – who has started 150 of his 183 career regular season games – didn’t sound overly enthusiastic about coming off the bench for the Bulls. According to Johnson, the former No. 2 overall pick provided a “no comment” when asked if he’d be willing to take whatever role at this stage in his career, and said playing a reserve role would be a “huge adjustment for me.” However, he also added, “I’ve just got to change with the times.”

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Dwight Howard‘s availability for the Wizards to start the season remains in question. Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington wrote earlier this week that Howard had suffered a setback and visited a back specialist, while sources told Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link) that Howard had sustained a piriformis (buttocks) injury. While Howard will reportedly receive an injection to relieve the pain, the injury isn’t considered serious, according to Charania, so Washington should get its big free agent addition on the court before too long.
  • Discussing his decision to ask the Cavaliers for a trade, Kyrie Irving called it the “best thing” he’s done. Howard Beck of Bleacher Report has that quote and much more in an in-depth feature on the Celtics‘ starting point guard.
  • After promoting Elton Brand to general manager last month, the Sixers have named a new interim GM for their G League team, announcing today in a press release that Matt Lilly will serve as head of basketball operations for the Delaware Blue Coats. Brand previously held that position.

Celtics Notes: Rozier, Smart, Rotation, Irving

Despite Kyrie Irving‘s verbal commitment to re-signing with the team next summer, the Celtics have explored a potential contract extension for Terry Rozier, a source tells Brian Robb of BostonSportsJournal.com. The two sides have until next Monday to complete a deal. If they don’t, Rozier will remain on track to reach restricted free agency in 2019.

While Robb describes the Celtics as having been engaged and “active” in extension negotiations, it’s hard to imagine the two sides reaching an agreement in the coming days. With Irving expected to stick around long-term and Marcus Smart already locked up to a long-term deal, the Celtics would be committing a ton of money to point guards if they were to extend Rozier as well. Additionally, it’s not clear whether Rozier would be comfortable accepting a bench role for the next several years of his career by re-upping with the C’s.

“That’s something I’m really going to have to sit down and think about,” Rozier told Robb on Tuesday.

Here’s more out of Boston:

  • The NBA hit Marcus Smart with a $25K fine earlier this week for his role in an on-court altercation with J.R. Smith, the league announced in a press release. The incident, which resulted in Smart’s ejection, occurred during Saturday’s game against the Cavaliers. Smith was fined $15K.
  • The Celtics continue to work on figuring out their rotation for the regular season, as head coach Brad Stevens acknowledged after that Saturday loss to the Cavs. Taylor C. Snow of Celtics.com has the story.
  • Asked about the Celtics’ struggles during the preseason, Kyrie Irving said that he and his teammates “have to be a lot smarter,” as Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston details. “We have to be a lot more diligent in what we’re doing out there, a lot more communicative,” Irving said. “And it’s going to take some time for us to figure that out because we don’t have 1-2-3-4-5 set in stone. Like 2, 3, and 4 is like up in the air for us so you can see that our wings are having somewhat of a struggle just figuring out, ‘OK, who is the 4, who is the 3 here?'”
  • In a separate piece on Irving, Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe passes along some of the point guard’s observations on his time in Cleveland and what he learned from playing with LeBron James.