Kyrie Irving

Atlantic Notes: VanVleet, Nets, Drummond, Flynn

In the absence of injured veteran point guard Kyle Lowry, Raptors guard Fred VanVleet has provided Toronto a glimpse of the next era of its core leadership, per Dave Feschuk of The Toronto Star. The 34-year-old Lowry has served as the longtime emotional center driving Toronto. He will be an unrestricted free agent when the season ends. The Raptors have posted an encouraging 16-2 record without Lowry over the past two seasons.

VanVleet has averaged 22.0 PPG and 7.1 APG across 15 Raptors games without Lowry during the 2019/20 and 2020/21 seasons, Feschuk goes on to note.

“Any time a guy goes down, it’s that next-man-up mentality that we have always had around here and something that I have tried to continue to do is just increase my level of play when he’s out,” VanVleet said of adjusting to the absence of his current Raptors backcourt mate. “I thought the entire team just picked it up a notch when he went down and that’s what you like to see.”

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • A strained left hamstring will continue to sideline Nets All-Star forward Kevin Durant as Brooklyn takes on the Lakers in a TNT bout tonight, according to Brian Lewis of the New York Post. Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets that the other injured Nets All-Star, guard Kyrie Irving, will be returning to action for Brooklyn tonight. Irving missed the Nets’ latest game, a 128-124 thriller against the Suns on Tuesday night, due to a lower back injury.
  • Now that the Cavaliers have established they are officially benching center Andre Drummond ahead of a trade or possible buyout, the Knicks should consider adding the big man to their ranks via trade, argues Marc Berman of the New York Post. Berman notes that New York considered trading for Drummond last season before he was ultimately shipped to Cleveland by the Pistons.
  • The Raptors are recalling rookie point guard Malachi Flynn from their G League affiliate, Raptors 905, per Blake Murphy of The Athletic (via Twitter). Murphy adds that Flynn is available to play for the club tonight (Twitter link) in its current contest against the Bucks.

2021 NBA All-Star Game Starters Revealed

The NBA has revealed its 2021 All-Star Game starters. Here are those names:

Eastern Conference

After missing all of the 2019/20 season while he recovered from a ruptured Achilles tendon, Durant is making his triumphant return to the All-Star Game. In his first appearance as a Brooklyn player, the 11-time All-Star will captain a team, having led the Eastern Conference in fan votes.

[RELATED: Community Shootaround: Eastern All-Stars]

This is the seventh All-Star appearance for Durant’s teammate Irving. Antetokounmpo, the reigning two-time MVP, has just made his fifth All-Star game. A frontrunner for the 2021 MVP award, Embiid is appearing in his fourth such contest. Beal will be making his first All-Star start after playing as a reserve in the 2018 and 2019 All-Star contests. The Wizards are the No. 13 seed in the East.

Western Conference

James, who was the top vote-getter in the Western Conference and the entire NBA with 5,922,554 fan votes, will again be a team captain. He will be suiting up for his 17th All-Star appearance, the third-most ever behind only fellow Laker legends Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (19 appearances) and Kobe Bryant (18). James was previously tied for making the third-most cumulative All-Star contests alongside Hall of Fame Nets and Sixers wing Julius Erving, who was selected into five ABA All-Star games and 11 NBA All-Star games.

Jokic, an early top MVP contender along with James and Embiid, will earn his first All-Star start in his third appearance in the game. Curry will partake in his seventh All-Star contest, while Leonard has just been voted into his fifth All-Star game.

[RELATED: Community Shootaround: Western All-Stars]

Doncic barely edged out Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard to be the second All-Star guard next to Curry among the starters, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports tweets. Despite extended absences from starters CJ McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic, and Zach Collins, the Blazers boast an 18-10 record, good for the No. 4 seed in the crowded West, largely thanks to Lillard. The Mavericks, meanwhile, are 13-15, the No. 10 seed in the West.

As was the case during the last two years, the top vote-getters of each conference will captain a team, and will be able to draft players from either conference. The “Elam Ending,” which made the conclusion of last year’s game much more entertaining than it had been in recent years, is set to return again this year.

Earlier today, the league officially announced that the 2021 All-Star Game is set to take place at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, as a one-night event on March 7. The evening will also include its three All-Star weekend mainstay events: the Skills Competition, the Three-Point Contest and the Dunk Contest.

A full list of fan voting totals is viewable at this Twitter link, courtesy of Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. The complete voting breakdown by position and conference, including media and player votes, can be found at the bottom of this press release.

The league will announce the 14 players who will comprise the All-Star reserves on Tuesday, February 22, at 7 p.m. ET, per Omari Sankofa II of the Detroit Free Press (via Twitter).

Injury Updates: McCollum, Culver, George, Leonard, Irving

Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum has been allowed to shed his walking boot and will advance to the next stage of his rehabilitation, according to a team press release. McCollum, who was examined on Tuesday, will be reevaluated again in two weeks. McCollum suffered a small hairline fracture to the lateral cuneiform against Atlanta on January 16.

We have more injury news:

  • Timberwolves wing Jarrett Culver has been upgraded to on-court activity this week, according to a team press release. He suffered a left ankle sprain against Golden State on January 25. Culver is expected to be reevaluated next week, with potential to return to play late next week.
  • Clippers forward Paul George, who hasn’t played since February 3 due to bone edema in his right toe, will miss Wednesday’s game against Utah, the team’s PR department announced. Kawhi Leonard, who sat out against Miami on Monday due to a left lower leg contusion, is listed as questionable.
  • Nets guard Kyrie Irving was ruled out on Tuesday due to back tightness. Coach Steve Nash said it’s a short-term issue and that Irving should return soon, Adam Zagoria of the New York Times tweets. Brooklyn plays the Lakers on Thursday and Clippers on Friday.

Nets Notes: Durant, Irving, Harden, Dinwiddie

Kevin Durant‘s return to Golden State was much friendlier than anyone could have imagined when he left the team two years ago, writes Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic. Although there were no fans Saturday to welcome him back because of COVID-19 restrictions, the organization played a tribute video, followed by a standing ovation from members of the front office. After the Nets posted a lopsided victory, Durant greeted everyone on the Warriors‘ bench.

“Kevin came here and gave us three years of just incredible basketball,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said. “The least we could do is welcome him back with open arms. I think everybody was genuinely happy to see him, obviously, healthy and playing at such a high level again. That’s the main thing. The guy gave everything to us for three years and then left with a devastating injury. So there should be a lot of love for him. He did so much for us.”

There’s more from Brooklyn:

  • A month into their partnership in the Nets’ backcourt, Kyrie Irving and James Harden have worked out a new arrangement, according to Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Irving decided this week that Harden should take over the point guard role, and the former MVP responded with 16 assists Saturday night. “(The talk) went quick, it went professionally and we looked at each other in agreement and James was like, ‘OK, I’m the point guard and you’re the shooting guard,’” Irving said. “It’s easy to play off somebody that’s willing to complement your game and ready to sacrifice and it’s easy to do. I’ve been waiting for this opportunity.”
  • Spencer Dinwiddie offered an update on his rehab from a partially torn ACL in an Instagram post Saturday, relays Kristian Winfield of The New York Daily News. The Nets received a Disabled Player Exception for Dinwiddie’s injury, but he says he’s far ahead of schedule and hasn’t given up hope of playing again this season. “I share his sense of optimism for him being back playing, being as good as he ever was. But I certainly don’t want to put any undue pressure, unrealistic expectations on him returning this season,” coach Steve Nash said. “My No. 1 concern with Spencer is long-term health and ability to play and finish his career at a really high level. That to me is way more important than trying to rush him back for our own self-interest here.”
  • A NetsDaily story examines whether Brooklyn would still be interested in Hawks forward John Collins after being involved in trade talks for him last season.

Atlantic Notes: Rivers, Ntilikina, Langford, Nets Big Three

New Sixers head coach Doc Rivers deserves a lot of credit for the 18-7 Philadelphia’s current perch as the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference standings, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Rivers commands respect in the Sixers locker room due to his championship pedigree and prior success across head coaching stops in Orlando, Boston, and most recently Los Angeles. Sixers center Joel Embiid is enjoying his best season as a pro thus far, averaging career-bests in scoring (29.1 PPG), steals (1.4 SPG), and shooting (.547/.377.855).

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Knicks reserve guard Frank Ntilikina is not traveling with New York for the team’s game against the Wizards tomorrow despite continuing to test negative for the novel coronavirus, according to Ian Begley of SNY. Ntilikina has been held out of team activities since Tuesday after contact tracing determined he had been close to someone who later recorded a positive test for COVID-19.
  • Celtics head coach Brad Stevens indicated in comments today that reserve guard Romeo Langford will not be back with the club until after the NBA All-Star break in March, per Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald (via Twitter). Langford had a right wrist surgery to address torn ligaments in his shooting wrist in September.
  • The Nets still hope to improve the on-court dynamic between their new Big Three of All-Stars Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden now that everybody is healthy, writes Brian Lewis of the New York Post. “It’s funny,” head coach Steve Nash noted. “[It’s been] four weeks already, Kevin and [Irving] and James have played 5 ½ games, if you include the Raptors game, together.”

Nets Notes: Irving, Jordan, Eastern Contenders

The Nets suffered a third consecutive loss on Tuesday, dropping a 122-111 decision to the last-place Pistons, prompting some self-reflection from star guard Kyrie Irving and head coach Steve Nash, among others. Irving said the team looked “very average,” as Malika Andrews of ESPN writes, while Nash said the club needed to improve its “competitive spirit,” per Brian Lewis of The New York Post.

The Nets responded on Wednesday with a 104-94 victory over Indiana — it was just the second time since acquiring James Harden on January 17 that Brooklyn had allowed fewer than 100 points in a game.

That game, which Brooklyn led by as many as 36 points, was an encouraging sign, but the Nets will need to string together more wins like it to show that they’re truly elite, says Mike Vaccaro of The New York Post. The team, which has a modest 15-12 overall record, has too often looked discombobulated and disinterested, according to Vaccaro.

Here’s more on the Nets:

  • Although Kyrie Irving‘s injured right index finger only forced him to miss one game, he admitted that it bothered him in his return on Tuesday, as Brian Lewis writes for The New York Post. “It’s uncomfortable, but at the same time I don’t want to make any excuses,” Irving said. “I’m out there, put myself out there, do a lot of treatment on it and we’re down a few players obviously, as well, so you just want to go out there and compete and worry about the pain later.”
  • Nets center DeAndre Jordan bounced back nicely after sideline clashes with James Harden and Steve Nash on Tuesday, Lewis notes in a separate story for The Post. “If I’m honest, it was an emotional night (Tuesday),” Nash said. “D.J. and I got upset at each other for a minute. I know D.J. got upset a few times during the game. So I’m proud of him because he bounced back with an incredible attitude, effort, performance.”
  • Tim Bontemps of ESPN polled a handful of coaches, scouts, and executives from around the league on which Eastern teams are capable of reaching the NBA Finals and found that the Nets and Bucks are still considered the two frontrunners, despite the fact that the 76ers are currently the conference’s No. 1 seed.

Atlantic Notes: Rose, Durant, Curry, Williams

Derrick Rose, officially acquired from Detroit by the Knicks on Monday, is eager for his second stint in the Big Apple, Marc Berman of the New York Post relays. Rose posted his sentiments on his Instagram account. “Other hoopers always used to tell me that if I ever had the chance to play in the MECCA go for it,” Rose wrote. “I’m getting a second chance. … Got to make this one count. But I’m built for it.” Rose played in New York during the 2016/17 season but the previous regime opted not to re-sign him. The former MVP, who is on an expiring contract, was averaging 14.2 PPG and 4.2 APG as Detroit’s sixth man this season.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Kevin Durant isn’t expected to be available until late this week due to contact tracing but Nets coach Steve Nash said lightheartedly that his superstar forward hasn’t registered any positive coronavirus tests, Malika Andrews of ESPN tweets“He’s taken about 90 negative tests,” Nash said. Kyrie Irving, who missed the loss to Philadelphia with a sprained right finger, is expected to play against Detroit on Tuesday, Andrews adds.
  • Seth Curry was encouraged by his 11-point performance against Brooklyn on Saturday, Marc Narducci of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Curry, who missed approximately two weeks last month due to a bout with COVID-19, went scoreless in the Sixers’ previous two games. “I felt a little bit better all night, even in the first half, when I wasn’t making shots, I felt better than I have in the past week or two,” Curry said. “I think the key for me (Saturday) was I was able to get a little of my burst back and have more energy out on the floor offensively and defensively.”
  • Grant Williams‘ improved 3-point shooting this season is largely due to better footwork, according to Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe. The Celtics forward has made 46.7% of his attempts this season after knocking down just 25% of his long-range shots in his rookie campaign.

Nets Notes: Pelle, Shamet, Irving, Drummond

Center Norvel Pelle played just 17 minutes before fouling out Saturday in his first game with the Nets, but he showed how he can help the team as a rim protector, writes Alex Schiffer of The Athletic. Pelle, who had to wait through a seven-day quarantine after signing last week, blocked three shots during his short stint. Coach Steve Nash expects better things once Pelle works through conditioning issues.

“He’s out of shape a little bit for NBA standards,” Nash said. “You could see him out there. I was proud of him for fighting through, trying to get his legs and his lungs going. He obviously has some instincts blocking shots, which is I think his reputation and why we looked at him. I was proud of the way he conducted himself and worked hard.”

Iman Shumpert, the Nets’ other free agent addition, didn’t play at all Saturday, and Nash isn’t sure when he’ll make his debut. He also had to quarantine and won’t participate in his first practice with the team until Monday.

There’s more from Brooklyn:

  • Landry Shamet seems to have rediscovered his shot and could be a valuable scoring option off the bench, Schiffer adds in the same story. He’s averaging 12 PPG and shooting 40% from 3-point range in his last five games. “Just change a few things mentally, stay solid, simplify,” Shamet said of breaking out of a slump. “It’s not the end of the world. It’s basketball. It’s just knowing what I’m capable of and knowing that I’m doing everything I’m supposed to be doing, working hard, taking care of my body, doing everything I’m supposed to be doing. It’s mostly mental.”
  • Kyrie Irving‘s sprained finger isn’t expected to be a long-term concern, according to Greg Joyce of The New York Post. Irving missed Saturday’s game and is being considered day-to-day. “(Irving) genuinely has a swollen finger and took a knock to it (Friday),” Nash said. “So hopefully it’s day-to-day. I think everybody’s proceeding as it is.”
  • ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski is the latest media figure to comment on the possibility of the Nets acquiring Cavaliers center Andre Drummond after a buyout. On Friday’s pre-game show, Wojnarowski said Drummond might be willing to take a buyout if the Cavs don’t trade him by the March 25 deadline. He suggests the Nets could offer Cleveland Spencer Dinwiddie, who is out for the season with an ACL injury, but other teams are also interested in the 27-year-old guard.

Kyrie Irving To Miss Game Due To Right Finger Sprain

Nets point guard Kyrie Irving will not play in Saturday’s contest against the Sixers in Philadelphia due to a right index finger sprain, the team announced in its injury report.

Irving played in the Nets’ 123-117 loss at home to the Raptors on Friday, notching 15 points, five rebounds, and five assists in 39 minutes. It was Irving’s first game scoring fewer than 20 points since January 25.

Ever since returning from an extended mercurial absence in early January, Irving has played well for the Nets. In total, Irving is averaging a career-high 27.5 PPG along with 5.7 APG and 4.8 RPG in 16 games.

Additionally, Brooklyn listed Kevin Durant as questionable for Saturday’s game despite a report he could miss multiple games and that he would not travel to the team to Philadelphia. Durant is undergoing health and safety protocols after a person he was around returned a positive COVID-19 test.

Atlantic Notes: Irving, Jersey Swaps, Sixers, Len

It hasn’t been a smooth transition since the Nets formed their Big Three, but Kyrie Irving remains confident that the group will eventually work, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Brooklyn is 3-2 since James Harden joined the team, including a pair of losses this week in Cleveland.

“Don’t trip. It’s a long journey,” Irving posted on Instagram. “We will be on that stage. The stage where the best of the best meet. … You know. The main stage. Where those who can, do. And those who cannot talk about those that are doing. If you rolling with us, great. Let’s rock. If you’re not, you know you wanna talk about our greatness anyway.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • As promised, the NBA is cracking down on post-game interactions between players to minimize COVID-19 risks, notes Liz Roscher of Yahoo. Irving and Miami’s Bam Adebayo were interrupted by a security guard Saturday night as they attempted to exchange jerseys. “I’ll give Kyrie the jersey on my own time,” Adebayo told reporters.
  • Sixers stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are committed to getting the most out of their partnership, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. They are interacting more off the court and trying to mesh their talents together on a Philadelphia team that has the East’s best record at 12-5. “We both see different things, so now for me and Jo, I think the relationship continues to grow,” Simmons said. “We talk a lot more now in terms of being on the floor and certain things we say. Knowing where he wants the ball, all the sets, and just flying, getting into the flow of the game, and just trying to read it the right way.”
  • After waiving Alex Len on Tuesday, the Raptors have a financial incentive to hope he stays with the Wizards, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. If Len remains on Washington’s roster past February 24, which is the last day to release players before their contracts become fully guaranteed, Toronto will receive a $126,029 offset on his $2.258M salary, which is still on the Raptors’ books.