Kyrie Irving

Atlantic Notes: Hayward, Sixers, Nets, Leonard, VanVleet

The Celtics announced on Wednesday that forward Gordon Hayward is listed as doubtful for Thursday’s Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN (Twitter link).

As Bontemps points out, this is the first time Hayward has been upgraded from “out” since he suffered a Grade 3 ankle sprain in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. The Celtics replaced Hayward in the starting lineup with Marcus Smart, who is averaging 15.3 PPG, 5.6 RPG, and 4.2 APG.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic Division:

  • After losing the development rights to Penn’s Landing to a rival bidder last week, the Sixers have signaled their dissatisfaction with playing at the Wells Fargo Center, writes Jacob Adelman of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The Sixers want their own arena for a variety of reasons, including the ability to gain schedule flexibility, which they currently do not have. Philadelphia’s lease at the Wells Fargo Center reportedly runs out in 2031. The Inquirer goes on to lists various locations within Philadelphia that the Sixers could use to build their new arena.
  • Long Island Nets guard Devin Cannady spoke with Alex Schiffer of The Athletic about working out with Nets superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in Los Angeles. The NBA G League guard recalled a game of 2-on-2 where he had trouble defending Irving. Durant stopped the game and instead gave tips Cannady to help him. “If I got the confidence from KD,” Cannady said to Schiffer. “Then I don’t need to hold back anymore at all.” The former Princeton standout also said that Durant looks good and healthy in the workouts.
  • One of the reasons why Kawhi Leonard wanted to go to the Clippers is because he felt the Raptors weren’t good enough to repeat, according to Josh Lewenberg of TSN (Twitter link). The Finals MVP reportedly said this last summer in his meeting with Toronto’s front office. Leonard ultimately ended up signing a three-year deal with Los Angeles and teaming up with Paul George. However, his old team didn’t experience a significant drop-off, finishing with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference and losing in Game 7 of the Eastern Semifinals.
  • With the Raptors’ season coming to an end last week, Blake Murphy of The Athletic explains what it would take to re-sign Fred VanVleet while also maintaining max cap space for the 2021 offseason. VanVleet is set to be an unrestricted free agent and is reportedly expected to receive interest from the Knicks, Pistons, and Suns. Murphy details various scenarios involving OG Anunoby‘s rookie-scale extension, which he is eligible for this offseason, the 2021 free-agent class, and Norman Powell‘s player option.

Atlantic Notes: Nash, Sixers, Lue, Raptors, Tatum

Having poached Kevin Durant from Golden State a year ago, the Nets have now hired away Steve Nash – a former Warriors player development consultant – to be their new head coach.

However, Warriors president of basketball operations Bob Myers respects Nets GM Sean Marks professionally and personally and sees no reason to treat Brooklyn “like some kind of pillager,” writes ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Myers also understands why the Nets would target someone like Nash to coach Durant and Kyrie Irving.

“Steve Nash has the ability to walk out onto the court and earn the immediate respect of Kevin Durant or Steph Curry or Klay Thompson — and there aren’t too many people in the world who can do that,” Myers told Wojnarowski. “More than that, though, he can communicate with them effectively and efficiently.

“… There’s not a lot of teaching left for the most accomplished players in the world. Steph is not going to listen to many people about his jump shot. Steve might be one of the only people in the world outside of Dell (Curry) that he’d give an audience on that conversation.”

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • After the Nets hired Nash and Villanova’s Jay Wright withdrew from consideration for the Sixers‘ head coaching job, Philadelphia appears likely to aggressively pursue Tyronn Lue for their head coaching position, according to Chris Mannix of SI.com (via Twitter). Mannix reiterates that there’s strong mutual interest between Lue and the 76ers, as we’ve heard before.
  • The Raptors had a better regular season record this year than they did in 2018/19, but without Kawhi Leonard to bail them out on offense, they’ll need scorers to step up in order to make another deep playoff run, writes Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca.
  • Celtics forward Jayson Tatum tells Shams Charania of The Athletic that he remains close with former teammate Kyrie Irving. “Ky is like my big brother,” Tatum said. “We still talk to this day, and we’ve talked a few times this playoffs. He always encourages me to be special. Having that relationship with him and having somebody like him in my ear at a young age, it means a lot.”

Nets Will Consult Numerous Players in Coaching Search

The Nets plan to get input from several players as they look for their next head coach, according to Brian Lewis of The New York Post. As expected, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving will be consulted during the process, but sources tell Lewis that general manager Sean Marks plans to talk with DeAndre Jordan, Spencer Dinwiddie and possibly Caris LeVert as well.

“Yeah, I would say it would totally be not incredibly smart of us if we did not involve some of these key players in this decision. And that not only goes for Kevin,” Marks said. “Kevin, Kyrie; we’re going to pick their brains on what they’re looking for in a leader, what they want in a coach, what they need. The guys have been brutally honest so far.”

The additions of Durant and Irving in free agency last summer make the Brooklyn job one of the most attractive in the league. Kenny Atkinson appeared to be the coach of the future, but his surprising dismissal in March created an opening amid rumors that the two stars weren’t enamored with Atkinson’s style of play.

Jacque Vaughn was successful in an interim role, leading the Nets to two wins before the hiatus, followed by a 5-3 record in reseeding games even though half the roster wasn’t available. Vaughn has been promised consideration as the team looks for a permanent coach, and he has the advantage of working with Marks on three separate occasions in the past decade. However, he may be overshadowed by some bigger names on the market.

Vaughn and Clippers assistant Tyronn Lue are viewed as the early favorites for the job, Lewis notes, as Irving has interest in reuniting with his former coach in Cleveland. Joe Harris was also a Cavalier under Lue and called him “an excellent coach.”

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who served as a mentor to Marks in San Antonio, has been mentioned as a possibility, along with Jason Kidd, Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Jackson and Ime Udoka. Durant and his representatives reportedly have an interest in Jackson, Lewis adds.

Nets Rumors: Popovich, KD, Kyrie, Vaughn, TLC

Now that the Nets‘ season is over, the team’s long-anticipated search for a permanent new head coach can get underway. And as we learned earlier this month, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is expected to be atop Brooklyn’s wish list.

Popovich has given no indication that he wants to continue his career anywhere besides San Antonio, but the Nets will explore the possibility of luring the Spurs legend to Brooklyn, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

As Charania details, the Nets have a number of connections to Popovich and the Spurs, with general manager Sean Marks, assistant GM Andy Birdsong, and assistant coach Tiago Splitter among those who previously worked with or played for Popovich. Additionally, sources tell The Athletic that Popovich has long been a favorite of Kevin Durant, dating back to Oklahoma City’s 2015 head coaching search.

According to Charania, the Nets’ interest in Popovich is widely considered a pipe dream, but the team will still exhaust the possibility. They’d need to be granted permission to speak to him and would almost certainly need to send the Spurs some sort of compensation if talks became serious.

Here’s more on the Nets:

  • While Jacque Vaughn continues to receive consideration for the Nets’ permanent head coaching position, Durant and Kyrie Irving are interested in a “higher profile head coach,” according to ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan, who cites Popovich and Tyronn Lue as possibilities in that vein.
  • Vaughn expressed confidence following the end of the Nets’ season that he’s the right person for the club’s permanent head coaching role, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. “What I am confident in is my skill set as a coach, my ability to communicate and have relationship with guys, my ability to adjust on the fly, adjust with individuals,” Vaughn said. “Those things I’m very comfortable with, comfortable at this stage of my career of having a voice and choice with my players.”
  • Veteran swingman Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, who emerged as one of the Nets’ more reliable contributors during the summer restart, told a French outlet that he enjoys playing in Brooklyn and wants to remain with the team, as NetsDaily relays. The former first-round pick has a non-guaranteed $1.82MM salary for 2020/21, which looks like a pretty solid value based on TLC’s play this summer.
  • In an Insider-only ESPN.com article, Bobby Marks previews the Nets’ offseason, exploring Joe Harris‘ potential cost in free agency, what it would take to trade for a third star, and much more.

New York Notes: LeVert, Crawford, Pinckney, Knicks

Kyrie Irving isn’t playing for the Nets this summer, but he’s staying connected with the team, having called Caris LeVert to talk to his teammate after the end of the seeding games last week.

“I talked to Ky (on Friday) morning, talked about the games and playoffs coming up and giving me encouragement,” LeVert told reporters, including Brian Lewis of The New York Post. “He’s watching all the games. He’s been in this position before, fighting for something.”

LeVert, who was named to the NBA’s All-Seeding Games Second Team over the weekend, has been the Nets’ leading scorer and primary play-maker during the restart. Assuming he’s still on the roster next season, he’ll share those duties with Irving and star forward Kevin Durant.

Here’s more on the Nets and New York’s other NBA team:

  • Nets guard Jamal Crawford still isn’t ready to return from his hamstring strain. According to Brian Lewis of The New York Post (Twitter link), head coach Jacque Vaughn said today that Crawford will miss the “first few games” of the series vs. Toronto before being re-evaluated.
  • Veteran assistant coach Ed Pinckney, who was on Tom Thibodeau‘s staffs in Chicago and Minnesota, isn’t a candidate to join Thibodeau with the Knicks, a source tells Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv (Twitter link). As we’ve heard throughout the month, Mike Miller and Mike Woodson remain good bets to join the Knicks as assistants.
  • The Knicks have hired Kelsey Roberts as a database/basketball analyst, reports Michael Scotto of HoopsHype (Twitter link). Roberts previously interned for Indiana and Miami.
  • In case you missed it, we previewed the Knicks‘ 2020 offseason earlier this afternoon.

New York Notes: Irving, T. Johnson, Knicks, Thibodeau

Nets guard Kyrie Irving isn’t participating in the NBA’s restart this summer, but he made headlines on Monday, announcing that he’s committing $1.5MM to supplement the income of WNBA players who choose not to take part in the 2020 season, as Brian Mahoney of The Associated Press details.

“Whether a person decided to fight for social justice, play basketball, focus on physical or mental health, or simply connect with their families, this initiative can hopefully support their priorities and decisions,” Irving said in a statement.

WNBA veterans such as Natasha Cloud and Renee Montgomery opted not to participate in the 2020 season for social reform reasons, while others – like LaToya Sanders – aren’t playing due to health concerns. Irving’s program will allow those players and others to apply for compensation by August 11, by recipients being notified by August 24, per Mahoney.

Here’s more on the NBA’s two New York teams:

  • Newly-signed Nets guard Tyler Johnson turned heads on Saturday during his first scrimmage with Brooklyn, per Zach Braziller of The New York Post. Johnson, who scored 17 points, said he felt better on Saturday than he had for a good portion of the season. “I’ve been very fortunate to come into an offense where everybody is looking to get everybody involved,” he said. “… I feel very confident that I can get in rhythm on this team.”
  • Now that the Knicks have made a decision on their new head coach, reaching a deal with Tom Thibodeau, it’s time for the team to start addressing its roster, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. As Popper observes, with eight veterans on track for potential free agency and no “can’t-miss” future star on the roster, the club has less talent to work with than either of Thibodeau’s previous squads.
  • Despite the underwhelming roster Thibodeau is inheriting, it looks as if the Knicks are more likely to try to compete for a playoff spot in 2020/21 than to tank, Marc Berman of The New York Post writes in a mailbag. Berman points out that if the franchise wanted an extended rebuild, it wouldn’t have hired Thibodeau over someone like Kenny Atkinson.

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

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

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

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

There’s more Nets news this morning:

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

Nets Notes: Vaughn, Durant, Irving

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s more on the Nets:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s more from around the Atlantic division:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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