Kyrie Irving

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.

Kyrie Irving Seeks Contract Extension In Brooklyn

Kyrie Irving is ready to talk to the Nets about a contract extension, but no discussions have taken place yet, writes Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report.

Irving is eligible for a veteran extension that would pay him up to about $200MM over four years. A report last week indicated that a shorter deal with Brooklyn might be more realistic.

“Around Kyrie and staying with the Nets? I have reached out to the Nets regarding this,” said his agent, Shetellia Irving. “We have had no significant conversations to date. The desire is to make Brooklyn home, with the right type of extension, which means the ball is in the Nets’ court to communicate now if their desire is the same.”

Irving will be an unrestricted free agent this summer if the two sides can’t agree on an extension. He had the opportunity to enter free agency last offseason by turning down his $36.5MM player option, but there was said to be little interest in him around the league following a season in which his playing time was limited because of his refusal to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The situation may be different if Irving hits the free agent market this year. He has been on his best behavior since an early-season suspension for promoting an antisemitic film and has helped the Nets climb into contention for the top seed in the East.

Irving is averaging 26.7 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5.0 assists through 35 games and is the leader among Eastern Conference guards in the latest round of All-Star voting.

Nets Notes: Irving, Claxton, Simmons, O’Neale

The Nets have pulled out of their 0-4 tailspin since Kevin Durant‘s injury, thanks to another huge performance from Kyrie Irving, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Brooklyn won its second straight road game Sunday night, rallying past the Warriors behind Irving’s 38 points and nine assists. He said he doesn’t mind carrying the scoring load with Durant sidelined, but he believes it’s important to get everyone involved.

“It doesn’t matter who has the ball in their hands as long as they’re being aggressive [and] it’s the best shot for our team,” Irving said. “Objectively this team sport is to win basketball games, not identify one person to carry everybody every single night … it’s just a team attitude, team atmosphere and living with the results.” 

Following an early-season suspension, Irving’s relationship with the Nets has improved significantly, to the point that there’s now a belief that an offseason extension might be in play. In a separate story, Lewis notes that Irving has become more comfortable in a leadership role and the rest of the team is benefiting.

“That’s what he does,” Royce O’Neale said after Irving scored 48 points Friday at Utah. “Right now he’s leading us, and we follow his lead. We’re trusting him, he’s trusting us. So to see him go off like that is always special. You could just tell he had it going.”

There’s more on the Nets:

  • Opponents are resorting to a hacking strategy with center Nic Claxton, but he’s not intimidated by it, Lewis adds in another piece. Claxton is shooting just 47.1% from the foul line this season and was 6-for-15 against Golden State. “I definitely take it as a challenge,” Claxton said. “I don’t care. If teams are fouling me, it’s almost a sign of respect. They can’t stop us, our team defensively and I just got to go up and knock the shots down. I’m going to take on that challenge every single time.” 
  • The Nets had to figure out a new offensive strategy without Durant, and they’ve been more effective with Irving as the primary ball-handler rather than Ben Simmons, Lewis observes.
  • O’Neale was grateful to get a warm reception Friday in his first game back in Utah since being traded to Brooklyn over the summer, according to Lewis. “It’s a great feeling, all the love they showed,” O’Neale said. “I was here for five years, had a lot of great memories here and to feel that welcome back meant a lot.”

Scotto’s Latest: Irving, Rockets, McMillan, D. Williams, Goodwin, Sumner

It seemed highly unlikely at times this past summer and fall that Nets star Kyrie Irving would even finish the season in Brooklyn, let alone stick with the team beyond 2022/23. But now several executives around the NBA believe that Irving will remain with the Nets this summer rather than leaving for a new team in free agency, according to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype.

“I think Kyrie ends up with a short extension with the Nets,” one executive predicted. “A sign-and-trade for Kyrie this summer would be tough given the length needed and assets to make it happen from another team. I think there’s an incentive for an extension on a one-plus-one or two-year deal.”

The Lakers, who were rumored to have interest in Irving during the 2022 offseason, loom as perhaps the biggest threat to lure him away from the Nets during the summer of 2023. They’re currently on track to open up about $30MM in cap space and could offer Kyrie the opportunity to form a Big Three alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

Here’s more from Scotto:

  • The Rockets are expected to go “star hunting” during the offseason, according to Scotto, who notes that Houston will have a significant chunk of cap space and wants to be more competitive in 2023/24.
  • Echoing previous reports, Scotto says the prevailing belief from outside the Hawks‘ organization is that head coach Nate McMillan won’t still be coaching the team next season.
  • Donovan Williams‘ new two-way contract with the Hawks covers next season in addition to the rest of this one, according to Scotto, who tweets that Atlanta has long been intrigued by Williams’ upside.
  • Wizards two-way player Jordan Goodwin is a strong candidate to be promoted to Washington’s 15-man roster before the end of this season, assuming the team can open up a spot, league sources tell Scotto. Goodwin is 10th among Wizards in minutes played this season, having earned playing time over several players who are on standard contracts.
  • Before he signed with the Nets over the summer, guard Edmond Sumner also received interest from the Suns, Pistons, and Pacers, per Scotto. Sumner worked out for Phoenix and had a workout scheduled with Detroit that he had to miss due to COVID-19.

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.

Pacific Notes: LeBron, R. Jackson, Ayton, Dozier

LeBron James is disputing the nature of a weekend report by Sam Amick of The Athletic that he’s becoming impatient for Lakers management to upgrade the roster. The story suggests that James was sending a message to the front office with his comments after Saturday’s game, but in a response on Twitter, James said that wasn’t his intention.

“Hey Sam actually my patience isn’t waning,” he wrote. “You make it sound like I’m frustrated when I’m really not. I told you over and over, my job is focused on the guys in the locker room, my job isn’t the roster. That’s the reality of that conversation. And I said what I said with the Upmost respect and calmness cause that’s the mood I’m in! Your welcome! 5 game winning streak.”

While L.A. has climbed back into the playoff race with its recent hot streak, speculation is starting to build around the league that James may want to finish his career somewhere else, according to Sean Deveney of Heavy. Executives have told Deveney that multiple teams are preparing for the possibility that James will try to force a trade this summer, if only so they don’t get caught off guard like they did with Kevin Durant‘s trade request last year.

One executive tells Deveney that the Lakers are hoping to get through this season without trading their first-round picks in 2027 and 2029 and then use their cap room, which could top $30MM, to acquire free agents who would appeal to James, such as Kyrie Irving or Draymond Green. If that doesn’t happen, league executives see the Cavaliers, Heat and Suns as the most likely destinations if James does force his way out.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Coach Tyronn Lue tinkered with the lineup as the Clippers dropped their sixth straight game on Sunday night, writes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Reggie Jackson, who has been the starting point guard for the past two-plus seasons, played just eight minutes, all in the first half, as Lue turned to Terance Mann to improve the team’s defense. Lue explained that the change isn’t necessarily permanent. “No, I just think tonight it was Reggie,” he said. “Then tomorrow, it could be somebody else. Just kind of experimenting with different things. When you lose five games in a row, you want to try some different things.”
  • The Suns were missing four rotation players due to injuries as they fell below .500 Sunday night, so Deandre Ayton is determined to keep playing despite tweaking his left ankle late in the game, per Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. “I finished the jump hook and my left leg just drifted off behind me and twisted it. So it feels like it’s a day-by-day thing,” Ayton said. “No ankle is stopping me right now. I’m on a mission so I’m going to be up on my feet. No worries about that.”
  • Coach Mike Brown was upset about the Kings‘ defense in Saturday’s loss to the Lakers, and the team sees potential help in PJ Dozier, who’s expected to sign a 10-day contract, writes Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee.

Atlantic Notes: Watanabe, Irving, Raptors, Sixers

Yuta Watanabe is leading the NBA with a .521 3PT%, but he hasn’t been earning playing time for the Nets solely because of his three-point shooting, according to head coach Jacque Vaughn.

“He’s doing a little bit (of) everything,” Vaughn said, per Brian Lewis of The New York Post. “… He’s getting his hands on balls, whether that’s being in the paint and plugging the paint, coming back and tipping balls. Being around the basketball and being in a good position, great drive to the rim, which was aggressive. So he’s grown as a basketball player.”

Watanabe has averaged a career-high 19.2 minutes per game this season for the Nets while playing on a minimum-salary contract that technically remains non-guaranteed. It’s a safe bet to assume the 28-year-old forward will remain with the club through January 7, which is the deadline for teams to waive players on non-guaranteed contracts and avoid paying their full-season salaries.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • At one point this fall, Kyrie Irving‘s NBA future beyond this season seemed up in the air, but the star guard has been reaffirming his case for a maximum-salary contract with his play in recent weeks, Mark W. Sanchez for The New York Post writes. It also no longer seems outlandish that Irving could remain in Brooklyn beyond this season, though it remains to be seen whether the Nets or any other team will be open to making a long-term offer.
  • Given the talent on the Raptors‘ roster, potential buyers around the NBA are keeping a close eye on Toronto and may be reluctant to move forward on other deals until they see if the Raptors will be sellers, writes Michael Grange of “Toronto are the first domino,” a league source who has been monitoring the Raptors told Grange. “What they do will affect teams all across the league: Dallas, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Atlanta – not that it’s about deals with any particular team, just that people are going to be waiting to see what the Raptors do before they make their moves. Toronto could set the market.”
  • Injuries have prevented the Sixers from taking an extended look at three-guard lineups this season, but they got a chance to do so on Monday night, with P.J. Tucker logging just 18 minutes. Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice explores the pros and cons of those guard-heavy five-man units — especially the ones featuring James Harden, Tyrese Maxey, and De’Anthony Melton.

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.

Cavaliers Notes: Rubio, Mobley, Mitchell, Irving

Cavaliers guard Ricky Rubio, who was cleared earlier this month to participate in 5-on-5 work, is getting close to making his season debut following his recovery from a torn left ACL. Head coach J.B. Bickerstaff indicated today that Rubio’s return could come at some point early in the new year, per Kelsey Russo of The Athletic (Twitter link).

“I would expect him, if things go the right way, sometime early next month,” Bickerstaff said. “So we’re definitely progressing in the right direction.”

Rubio began last season in Cleveland and played a key role in the Cavaliers’ early-season success, but sustained an ACL tear on December 28, almost exactly one year ago. He was subsequently traded to Indiana as a salary-matching piece when the team acquired Caris LeVert.

The Cavs were 20-13 entering the game in which Rubio got injured, but lost that contest and then played .500 ball the rest of the way, falling out of the playoffs in the East after losing a pair of play-in games. They’re off to a 22-13 start this season as the veteran point guard works through the final stages of his rehab process.

Here are a few more Cavs-related notes:

  • As Russo writes for The Athletic, Nets star Kevin Durant said he believes Cavs big man Evan Mobley has a “bright future” in Cleveland after working out with the former No. 3 overall pick in the Los Angeles area over the summer. “A lot of guys coming into the league who can do pretty much all things on a court, and he’s one of those guys that can dribble, that can guard, block shots, shoot threes, finish over the rim,” Durant said. “So, he showcased that this summer. Seeing his work ethic up close is something I wanted to see as a fan of the game because you can see the potential if you see a guy work.”
  • Durant also praised Donovan Mitchell for the role he has played in the team’s strong start this season, per Robert Fenbers of “Donovan Mitchell is the key to this change for this team, and it’s the reason why you look at them as contenders at this point,” Durant said. “He is such a dynamic, dynamic player since the moment he has stepped into this league.”
  • Kyrie Irving is typically greeted with boos in Cleveland because of how his tenure with the team ended, but in spite of Irving’s trade request, Kevin Love believes his former teammate deserves to have his number retired by the Cavs, according to Chris Fedor of “Without a doubt. Absolutely. Right away, after his career ends,” Love said. “It’s not even a question to me. He needs to be up there. He made the biggest shot in franchise history and one of the most important shots in Finals history when you consider how it all went down — what it meant for the city, what it meant for his legacy, LeBron (James)‘s legacy and everything else, including that Golden State team that became a dynasty and was historically great.”

Nets Notes: Durant, Irving, Olympics, Warren, O’Neale

The Nets have been defined by chaos for most of the past year, but things have been quiet lately in Brooklyn as the team has moved up the Eastern Conference standings, writes Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. The early-season drama caused by a coaching change and Kyrie Irving‘s suspension has died down as the Nets have won 11 of their last 12 games to rise into fourth place.

“I get that other people don’t look at our roster as a championship roster, but when we get wins the way we get wins, you gotta pay attention to that,” Kevin Durant said. “When Kai (Irving) and Ben (Simmons) didn’t play, we beat teams by (nearly) 40 points. Any other team, it’s, ‘Hold on, what they doing over there?’ They take us for granted, me and Kai especially. We gotta jump through a Hula-Hoop of fire to be impressed.”

Brooklyn’s surge has been led by Durant, who is playing at an MVP level, averaging 32.0 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists in his last 11 games. Jacque Vaughn has provided a steady hand since taking over as head coach, and Irving has avoided controversy since his suspension ended.

“On the floor, it’s remarkable, God-like Hall-of-Fame level,” Durant said of Irving. “You see how he scores, how he makes plays. Just the fact his options, and his personal life … that’s what people have a (problem) with. But now that he’s playing and he’s here consistently, that hasn’t been a conversation surrounding anything.”

There’s more from Brooklyn:

  • The Warriors’ Steve Kerr, who will coach Team USA in the 2024 Olympics, said Wednesday that he plans to ask Durant to participate, tweets Nick Friedell of ESPN. Durant told reporters he’s willing to consider another Olympics appearance, but he believes it’s too early to make that decision.
  • After missing almost two full seasons, T.J. Warren is still trying to regain his touch on his three-point shot but his defense has been a pleasant surprise, according to Brian Lewis of The New York Post. It has helped him post a plus-8.1 net rating through eight games, which would be the highest of his career. “I feel like a lot of people didn’t think I can play defense,” Warren said. “I don’t know where that narrative came from, but I’ve been improving on that end as well as being a scorer. Just being aggressive when I’m locked in.”
  • Royce O’Neale, who ranked second in the league in minutes earlier this season, has seen his playing time reduced somewhat since returning from a two-game absence for personal reasons, Lewis adds. “It was great to get a rest,” O’Neale said. “I didn’t know I was number two in minutes, but that’s just me putting in a lot of hard work and being ready to play every game, every minute.”