Kyrie Irving

New York Notes: Knicks, Nets, Dinwiddie, Irving

The Knicks aren’t focused on contending this season, but that doesn’t mean that coach David Fizdale doesn’t have concerns about how his young team is playing. As Zach Braziller writes for The New York Post, Fizdale is frustrated with the lack of defense he is seeing on a nightly basis, and with good reason.

As Braziller points out, the Knicks have allowed at least 109 points in 21 straight games and currently rank 29th in the league with a defensive rating of 113.5, ahead of only the struggling Cavaliers.

Fizdale voiced his concerns regarding the team’s lack of weak side defense and the struggles to adjust defensive schemes. The Knicks may not be focused on the win-loss column, but Fizdale would surely love to see more effort and execution on the defensive end from his young players.

There’s more from the Atlantic division:

  • While the Nets currently sit in seventh in the Eastern Conference, Brian Lewis of The New York Post points out that they will have to go through a tough stretch of the schedule in the near future, which will test their playoff chances.
  • Speaking of the Nets, they would surely love to see Spencer Dinwiddie snap out of his slump as they enter this stretch of the schedule. As Brian Lewis points out, Dinwiddie is averaging just 11.5 points and 3.3 assists per game while shooting 35.1% and 16.7% from deep in the past four games, far cries from his season averages.
  • Hopeful Knicks fans have certainly enjoyed seeing the frustration being expressed by Kyrie Irving recently. Marc Berman of The New York Post wrote about how the Knicks may be able to take advantage of Irving’s frustrations and the Celtics underachieving so far this season.

Celtics Notes: Locker Room, Irving, Morris, Rozier

The Celtics‘ disappointing season may have split the locker room between veterans and some of the young players who helped reach the conference finals last year, suggests Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated (hat tip to Darren Hartwell of NBC Sports Boston). The Eastern Conference favorites heading into the season, the Celtics are in fifth place at 25-17 as some players have been resistant to accepting new roles with the return of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward from injuries.

“It does seem like there’s a divide in that locker room between the veterans on that team and the younger players on that team,” Mannix said Saturday on the Celtics’ post-game show. “I don’t know how big that divide is, how significant it is, is it fractured. But there does seem to be kind of a chasm that exists between those two sides.”

Boston is coming off a disastrous trip to Florida that included two losses and a pair of incidents that shined a light on the internal conflicts. Marcus Morris and Jaylen Brown exchanged words during a time out Thursday in Miami, and Irving was visibly upset after an unsuccessful play at the end of last night’s game in Orlando.

There’s more today from Boston:

  • Irving seemed to take a shot at his younger teammates in post-game comments Saturday, saying the Celtics are lacking the “experience” it takes to compete for a title, relays Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston“You’ve got to appreciate being out there and just competing,” Irving said as part of a long answer on why the team has gone through peaks and valleys. “It doesn’t matter who you’re going against. It matters the type of preparation you have, what you’re going out and trying to accomplish. What’s the big picture? What are we doing here? These are things I don’t think some of my teammates have faced just every single day. It’s not easy to be great.”
  • Morris’ brand of leadership is exactly what the team needs, contends A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston. In addition to being the Celtics’ most consistent player throughout the season, Morris has lived up to his reputation for being willing to confront teammates who he believes aren’t giving their best effort. “To be the team we want to be, we have to be open with each other and be able to discuss things that are going on, on the court,” Morris said. “If it leads to a little bumping, pushing and shoving … it’s nothing. You move past that type of stuff and keep going.”
  • Terry Rozier had another bad performance last night, missing all five of his shots in 17 minutes, and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge may have missed his best chance to trade him, writes Keith Smith on CelticsBlog. Rozier will be a restricted free agent this summer.

Kyrie Irving To Miss Extended Time?

As we relayed yesterdayCeltics guard Kyrie Irving suffered a scratched cornea in Monday’s loss to the Spurs after being on the receiving end of an accidental elbow from Marco Belinelli. Irving was able to reenter the game, but it now appears that the injury to both eyes is more severe than previously anticipated.

Speaking earlier today to Zolak & Bertrand of Boston’s 98.5 The Sports Hub (h/t to NBC Sports Boston), head coach Brad Stevens sounded confident that Irving will miss both tonight’s game against the Timberwolves and beyond.

“Yes (Irving’s absence may extend beyond tonight’s game), but that will be re-evaluated tomorrow. He got swiped across the face, and it was a unique deal because it got both eyes. And the right eye was the initial concern with the corneal abrasion.”

“(Now today) the left eye had some inflammation so I mean he was not feeling good. We watched film for, you know, an hour and a half in my office yesterday and (Kyrie) was wearing sunglasses and he’s not doing so hot once he takes those sunglasses off.”

For comparison’s sake, Irving’s former teammate, LeBron James, suffered a corneal abrasion towards the end of the 2016/17 regular season in a game against the Hornets, but didn’t miss any playing time, so hopefully Irving will be back on the court before too long.

In 34 games so far this season, Irving is averaging 23.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 6.6 assists per game and looks well on his way to a third consecutive All-Star game berth.

Stein’s Predictions: Davis, Leonard, Durant, Cousins

Anthony Davis will turn down a “supermax” extension from the Pelicans, setting up a frenzied competition between the Lakers and Celtics to pull off a trade, predicts Marc Stein of the New York Times in his latest newsletter. It’s one of several prognostications the veteran basketball writer offers up in a New Year’s Day column, but it’s the most explosive and one that will dominate NBA headlines throughout the summer if it comes true.

Davis could short-circuit the story by accepting the offer from New Orleans, which would pay him close to $240MM. But Stein expects Davis to value a shot at winning over money and look to join a loaded lineup in either Los Angeles or Boston. Stein also predicts the Lakers will be aggressive in trying to talk the Pelicans into a deal before the February 7 deadline while there’s not another strong suitor in sight. The Celtics can’t trade for Davis until Kyrie Irving opts out of his current deal because of an NBA rule prohibiting a team from acquiring two players currently on designated rookie extensions through trade.

Stein offers a few more significant personnel-related predictions:

  • Despite Kawhi Leonard‘s success in Toronto, Stein expects him to sign with the Clippers in July. He adds that the Raptors will likely need to win a title to keep their new star from heading home to Southern California in free agency and predicts Toronto will start rebuilding if Leonard leaves, including a trade of Kyle Lowry.
  • Kevin Durant may spend one more season with the Warriors before looking to move on in free agency. Stein admits there’s a lot of chatter about Durant joining the Knicks, but he believes the allure of playing in the new Chase Center will keep him him around for another year.
  • A “wise insider” tells Stein that DeMarcus Cousins will consider returning to the Warriors for another season, although they can only offer a modest raise on his $5.3MM salary. Stein expects other prominent free agents, such as Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler and Klay Thompson, to stay where they are.
  • Carmelo Anthony, currently in limbo on the Rockets‘ roster while looking for his next NBA opportunity, may have played his last game. It has been nearly two months since Anthony was last on the court and it doesn’t appear anyone is willing to take a chance on him, even at a minimum salary.
  • Kevin Love trade talks will heat up soon, and Stein believes the Nuggets should get involved as they try to hold onto the top spot in the West. Love is projected to return from toe surgery this month and will become eligible to be dealt on January 24, a little more than two weeks before the deadline.

Atlantic Notes: Kanter, Irving, Sixers, Raptors

Enes Kanter has expressed a desire to play more minutes, with the clash between him and the Knicks only just getting started, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. Kanter has averaged 26.6 minutes per game, starting in 23 of the team’s 37 games this season.

“We’re down by like 40 or 50,” Kanter said, according to Berman. “It’s very embarrassing. I understand we want our young guys to get better, but it’s very painful to watch it. … I have no idea why they’re doing that.”

Kanter is referring to the Knicks’ blowout loss at Utah last weekend, a game in which New York trailed by as many as 40 points. He shot 0-for-6 from the field and registered a minus-30 rating in 17 minutes of action, only adding to his frustration.

Kanter and the Knicks could explore a buyout or trade in the coming weeks, Berman notes, but Kanter’s love for the fans and city of New York may play a role in his eventual decision.

“I like it here,’’ Kanter said, as relayed by Berman in a separate story. “I like the fans here. Lot of good people here. Lot of good teammates. And I’m trying to stay positive, trying to support my teammates. All I can do right now, it’s a test and it’s definitely one of the hardest tests of my career. I’ve just got to stay positive.

“I do love New York. I’ve got no problem with New York. I’ve got no problem with the team, the organization or the fans. I love the media. [But] I want to play.”

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division today:

  • Celtics guard Kyrie Irving suffered a scratched cornea in his left eye against the Spurs on Monday, according to A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports. Irving was on the receiving end of an accidental elbow from Marco Belinelli, but later re-entered the game for his team. “It’s both eyes,” Irving, who was wearing sunglasses, said postgame. “He [Belinell] smacked the s— out of me. He caught me pretty good.” Celtics coach Brad Stevens noted Irving would take antibiotics, but that he isn’t sure what the injury holds beyond Monday.
  • The Sixers are interested in adding perimeter help before the end of the season, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer notes. Philadelphia completed a blockbuster deal to acquire All-Star Jimmy Butler in November, but the team club lacks the perimeter talent needed to become a well-rounded contender outside of its “Big Three.” The NBA’s trade deadline falls on February 7 this season.
  • Several Raptors players have seen their roles change over the past 12 months, Doug Smith of the Toronto Star writes. The Raptors hired a new head coach in Nick Nurse, re-signed Fred VanVleet on a multi-year deal, and struck a blockbuster trade to acquire Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green in the summer of 2018. Despite the moving parts, Toronto currently holds a 27-11 record and the No. 2 record in the Eastern Conference.

Atlantic Notes: Ntilikina, Horford, Sixers, Irving

Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina is set to return to the rotation after sitting out of the team’s game on Christmas, Marc Berman of The New York Post writes. The Knicks will play the Bucks on Thursday night, the second matchup between the teams this week.

“He’s a pro, man,” coach David Fizdale said of Ntilikina. “He says, ‘Coach, don’t you worry about that.’ That’s how he talks. He says, ‘I don’t want you to worry about that. I know you are going to get me back in there at some point and I won’t let you down.’

“For a 20-year-old kid to think that way and talk that way even though I know it hurt him, and I know it was hard on him, and I didn’t want to do that to him — he just handled it great. I want him to have a shot back at these guys.”

Ntilikina’s sudden benching likely harmed his confidence, but the 20-year-old has stayed ready for a second opportunity. His mother traveled to New York for the Christmas Day game, according to Berman, making the sudden DNP sting even more for the second-year player.

Ntilikina has averaged 6.3 points per contest in 31 games this season, shooting 34% from the field and 29% from 3-point range. The Knicks drafted him with the No. 8 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Al Horford‘s return brought a calming effect to the Celtics this week, Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports writes. Horford returned to Boston’s lineup on Christmas against the 76ers, producing nine rebounds, six assists and solid all-around leadership. “[Horford] just brings a calming presence,” said teammate Kyrie Irving. “[There’s] nothing like having a plus-12[-year] vet out there that knows how to play basketball. He makes the game a lot easier with screening, rebounding, defense, all the intangibles that just demand that effort. And he’s just always locked in, in the game plan.”
  • Despite Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid not being a flawless fit together, the duo still has several years to work out the kinks and improve as members of the Sixers, David Murphy of opines. Philadelphia currently owns a 22-13 record behind the production of Simmons, Embiid and Jimmy Butler, good for fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
  • Despite the Celtics‘ recent success, All-Star Kyrie Irving will need more help if the team hopes to make a late postseason run, Sean Deveney of The Sporting News writes. The Celtics were expected to be at the top of their conference entering 2019, but the team holds just a 20-13 record and the fifth seed 33 games into the season. Boston sports a talented mix of players around Irving that includes Horford, Jayson Tatum and Gordon Hayward.

Celtics Hold Team Meeting After Blowout Loss To Bucks

After getting beat badly at home last night by the Bucks, trailing at one point by as many as 26 points, the Celtics held a private team meeting in their locker room to clear the air after three straight losses, reports Tim Bontemps of ESPN.

Per Bontemps, the biggest criticism of the team’s recent play, and the reason for the meeting, was a feeling from star point guard Kyrie Irving that the team lacked cohesiveness and that certain players were playing selfish over the last few games.

“At this point it comes down to cohesion, being able to trust the pass, trust what we have going on out there,” Irving said. “Obviously some selfish play out there where … we have some really talented guys, but we’re better as a team sharing the basketball… I get caught up in that as well. For me it’s a hard challenge, because there’s a balance I have. I literally can do anything I want out there, but at the same time it’s what can I do for my teammates to be more successful. I have to be very conscious of that.”

The Celtics’ poor performance probably could have been attributed to player absence. Forward Marcus Morris and big men Al Horford and Aron Baynes are all out with injury. But, the team apparently will not use that as an excuse, as the meeting reflects.

Irving didn’t name names, but based on his comments and a quick hook from head coach Brad Stevens after a couple poor sequences in Friday’s loss, at least some of the blame appears to be going towards young forward Jayson Tatum, a breakout star during last season’s playoff run who appears to be going through somewhat of a sophomore slump at this point.

When asked whether he had an answer for the team’s struggles, Tatum did not, but he ultimately thinks everything will be “all right.” The Celtics take the floor again tomorrow night against the Hornets, where the team will look to regroup after last night’s loss.

Celtics Notes: Irving, Smart, Brown, Draft Picks

Basketball has become “fun” again for the Celtics, which Kyrie Irving sees as the main explanation for the team’s recent success, relays Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. Boston, which entered the season as the Eastern Conference favorite, has now won seven in a row after a 10-10 start and Irving believes the team just needed to get through a transition period.

“New group. New environment. New things to figure out,” he explained. “Expectations you have for what you want to be and how you want to win. We expected things to come easy. That’s being part of a team environment. Even the best teams had to go through trials of figuring out what they look like every day.”

Big things were expected from the Celtics with both Irving and Gordon Hayward healthy to start the season. However, some of the younger players who helped the team reach the conference finals last season had to adjust to new roles. Coach Brad Stevens appears to have found a winning combination with Marcus Smart, Marcus Morris, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford joining Irving in the starting lineup and Hayward, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier as the top reserves.

“Terry and Gordon and Jaylen are starters in this league,” Irving said. “That’s not a prototypical second unit.”

There’s more today from Boston:

  • Brown agrees with that assessment, even as he struggles through a difficult season, writes ESPN’s Jackie MacMullen. For now, he’s trying to adjust to his new bench role. “People are throwing out all these numbers, these stats, and they are saying this, saying that,” Brown said. “I have unwavering faith in my ability, and I believe our coaching staff does, too. If anyone can handle this, I can. I’ve been through a lot in my short life. I’ll be all right.”
  • Even though his shooting remains erratic, the Celtics don’t have any regrets about the four-year, $52MM deal they gave Smart over the summer, according to Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. The versatile guard is hitting just .385 from the field and .301 from 3-point range, but his contributions in other areas overshadow his shooting woes. “You know, he’s a bulldog,” Morris said of his teammate. “He’s been doing that since he’s been in the NBA. Even when I was on a different team, he was doing the same thing. He continues to do it. He’s a guy that you love to have on your team.”
  • Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston examines the Celtics’ stockpile of potential first-rounders for next year and notes that surprising starts by the Kings, Grizzlies and Clippers may decrease the expected value of those picks.

Atlantic Notes: Korkmaz, Irving, Knicks, Leonard

Despite being unhappy with his playing time in October, Furkan Korkmaz has received more opportunities in the past few weeks with the Sixers. Korkmaz has played in 15 of the 76ers’ last 16 games, scoring 18 points in 34 minutes against the Nets on Wednesday.

Korkmaz admitted that he wasn’t ready to see significant playing time last season, but took leaps forward as an all-around basketball player during the offseason. There was an expectation entering the 2018/19 season that he would see more time on the court, as has been the case recently.

“At the time I was telling to people, even like my agent, my parents, my sister, it doesn’t matter who, I was telling them I want to play this year,” Korkmaz told Jessica Camerato, who profiled him for an in-depth Basketball Insiders story. “It was my goal. It was my second year … I knew that I wasn’t ready last year. I wasn’t ready. I knew that. I just worked hard, even when I got injured.

“But I feel like I improved a lot then, not as basketball, physically, as my body. I was saying to people, ‘I want to play,’ … I never got down mentally. I knew that my time will come, but I didn’t know when.”

Korkmaz, 21, was drafted by the Sixers with the No. 26 pick in 2016 after spending multiple seasons overseas. He’s scoring 5.8 points per game on 43% shooting from the floor, 34% from 3-point range and 86% from the charity stripe so far this season, and could earn more minutes as the season progresses if he doesn’t get traded.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

Celtics Notes: Storylines, Hayward, Brown, Assets

In a recent article, Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston wrote about four storylines to watch in anticipation of the Celtics next game against the Knicks tomorrow night: offensive improvement while Kyrie Irving is on the bench, reintegrating Jaylen Brown, the long-term starters, and minutes to go around when everybody is healthy.

The Celtics own a team-best offensive rating of 109.6 when Irving is on the court this season, a figure that would place Boston in the NBA’s top ten. But when Irving sits, that number drops to 95, which would rank far below the Hawks’ league worst rating of 100.5.

Brown has missed the last three games after suffering a back bruise against the Mavericks a couple weeks back. He could start tomorrow night, but the team has won three games in a row with Marcus Smart and Marcus Morris starting, and head coach Brad Stevens may elect to keep that group intact.

Stevens’ challenge in selecting who to start is figuring out how to balance the lineup with the most talent, and thus the most potential, with the lineup that is giving the team the most success right now. Eventually, Boston might work its way back to the Irving-Brown-Jayson TatumGordon HaywardAl Horford lineup, but keeping Smart and Morris on the bench is a risk.

In the Celtics’ last four wins, they’ve been shorthanded, which some may argue shows that some players play better with more minutes. Terry Rozier has reportedly conveyed his displeasure with his playing time already this season, and as mentioned above, Stevens will need to balance playing time between Smart, Morris, Hayward, and Brown as the season plays out.

There’s more from Boston:

  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald writes that Hayward’s struggle to reintegrate himself after last season’s horrific injury is also a result of how much the Celtics have changed since he arrived in the summer of 2017.
  • In another piece for NBC Sports Boston, Forsberg relays that Brown is open to coming of the bench in his return from injury. Brown downplayed the significance of becoming a reserve, and said he will embrace any role Stevens has in mind for him.
  • As we relayed yesterday, the value of some of the Celtics trade assets have depreciated a little this season, with the Kings, Clippers, and Grizzlies outperforming expectations and Brown not as impressive as many anticipated.