Kyrie Irving

Atlantic Notes: Irving, Williams, Ojeleye, Celtics

Kyrie Irving tops the Knicks’ wish list in free agency next summer because he’s their most realistic target, A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston opines. Kevin Durant or Kawhi Leonard would elevate the franchise even more than Irving but both of those potential free agents would be much harder to land, Blakely continues. Securing Irving’s services won’t be easy, either, but the Knicks have a better chance with the Celtics point guard, who grew up in New Jersey. It’s not only his ability but potential availability that makes him attractive to the Knicks’ front office, Blakely adds. Blakely declared that Irving topped the Knicks’ wish list during a podcast this week.

We have more from around the Atlantic Division:

  • Bringing in Alan Williams is a low-risk flier for the Nets, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. The team has been stockpiling big men and rebounders and the 6’8” Williams fits both those categories, Lewis continues. It’s rare to land a fourth-year pro on a two-way contract who has averaged 15 rebounds per 36 minutes over his career, Lewis points out. Williams reached an agreement with Brooklyn on Friday.
  • Semi Ojeleye was probably the biggest beneficiary of Gordon Hayward’s injury last season but he hasn’t established a steady spot in the Celtics rotation, Blakely examines in a player profile. While Ojeleye has shown the ability to defend multiple frontcourt positions and switch out on guards, he’ll simply have to be ready to contribute any way he can with the return of Hayward, Blakely adds. Ojeleye appeared in 73 regular -season games last season.
  • With the return of Hayward and Irving from injuries, it’s tough to find any reason why the Celtics won’t roll to the Eastern Conference title, Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports opines. The team’s closest competitors – Toronto, Milwaukee and Philadelphia – can’t match the Celtics’ depth and overall talent, Mannix continues. Even the team’s projected second unit of Terry RozierMarcus SmartJaylen BrownMarcus Morris and Daniel Theis could compete for a playoff spot, Mannix notes.

Central Rumors: Redick, Irving, Brown, Cavs

Sixers guard J.J. Redick nearly signed with the Pacers in free agency, he revealed during a podcast with ESPN’s Zach Lowe. Redick’s comment was tweeted by Scott Agness of The Athletic. Redick stayed with Philadelphia after the Sixers improved their one-year offer to $12.25MM but that was still less than the Pacers were willing to pay. “I wouldn’t have started but I felt like I fit what they needed,” Redick said. “I just envisioned playing two-man (game) with (Domantas) Sabonis.”

In other news around the Atlantic Division:

  • The Knicks’ desire to sign Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving could have a negative impact on the Bulls’ free agency plans next summer, according to an NBC Sports Chicago post. The Knicks have reportedly made Irving their No. 1 target in free agency and it’s been previously rumored that Irving and Jimmy Butler might join forces. If the Bulls wanted to bring back Butler after trading him away last summer, Irving’s potential interest in the Knicks could sidetrack that plan, the report adds.
  • One of the officers involved in the Sterling Brown arrest last January has been fired, according to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story passed along by NBC Sports. The Bucks swingman filed a civil lawsuit against the Milwaukee police department after he was arrested and tasered for a parking violation. The officer was fired for violating social media policy and not for his conduct the night of Brown’s arrest, the city’s police chief told the Journal Sentinel.
  • The Cavaliers could be more interesting and successful without LeBron James than many people expect, Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer opines. The development of first-round pick Collin SextonAnte Zizic and Cedi Osman will be intriguing to watch and GM Koby Altman will likely make more moves during the season to reshape the team’s future, Pluto continues. Trading J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson, who have seemed disinterested during the regular season during the James era, would move the process along, Pluto adds.

Kyrie Irving Tops Knicks’ Summer Wish List

Kyrie Irving will be the Knicks’ top target in free agency next summer, A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston said in an appearance on the Bulls talk podcast (hat tip to Kurt Helin of NBC Sports).

Irving is expected to opt out of a $21.3MM salary for next season and become part of a stellar free agent class that will also include Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Klay Thompson. The Knicks will have enough cap room to make a maximum offer if they use the stretch provision on Joakim Noah, and team officials see Irving as the best fit and most accessible target.

“I can tell you right now, the New York Knicks, he is their No. 1 target,” Blakely said. “I’ve spoken with people within that organization. They have made it absolutely crystal clear to me that, if they had their pick of guys that are going to be in the free agent market this summer, Kyrie would be their first, second, third and fourth choice.”

Irving is about to enter his second season with the Celtics after being acquired from Cleveland last summer. He missed the playoffs after having surgery on his left knee late in the season, but has reportedly made a full recovery and is expected to be ready for training camp. Irving posted a 24.4/3.8/5.1 line in 60 games last season.

Boston is hoping to re-sign Irving, of course, but the team will be faced with some tough financial choices. Terry Rozier, who excelled in the playoffs in Irving’s absence, is entering a contract year, Marcus Morris will be a free agent and Al Horford and Aron Baynes can join Irving in opting out of their 2019/20 deals.

Celtics Notes: Irving, Horford, Baynes

The Celtics hold the second spot in ESPN’s Future Power Rankings, with a roster full of players with All-Star potential and as many as three extra first-round picks coming their way next June, as Kevin Pelton details. One of those picks will be Sacramento’s unless it lands at No. 1.

However, the franchise could take a long-term hit this offseason should Kyrie Irving depart in free agency. The Celtics will be capped out and won’t have the ability to sign a major replacement should Irving leave the New England area. If the point guard does stick around, the team will face luxury-tax concerns, though Pelton is confident in GM Danny Ainge’s ability to properly navigate through the potential woes.

Here’s more from Boston:

  • We have yet another indicator that Irving should be healthy heading into the Celtics‘ training camp with the point guard playing fullcourt basketball over the weekend, as Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe passes along. Irving was on the court in Miami playing alongside Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kelly Olynyk among others.
  • The Celtics will continue to give Al Horford some run at the four, pairing him with Aron Baynes on the court, and A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports believes the duo will provide elite defense in the paint. Baynes and Horford played 13.3 minutes per game together last season and they had the best defensive rating (95.0) among all of Boston’s pairings with at least 10 minutes per game together.
  • The Horford-Baynes pairing also provides the team with top 3-point range, as Blakely notes in the same piece. The Celtics shot 44.4% from downtown when the two bigs were on the floor, the best among all the team’s two-man combinations.

Atlantic Notes: Korkmaz, Irving, Hayward, Nets

Furkan Korkmaz is hoping to have a bigger role with the Sixers this season, he said in an interview with Bein Sports Turkey (hat tip to Orazaio Cauchi of Sportando). The 21-year-old only got into 14 NBA games last season, averaging 5.7 minutes per night. During the first two months of the year, he spent most of his time in the G League.

“I want to be in the rotation this season, I want to play more minutes,” Korkmaz said. “Of course, I don’t know how many minutes specifically I’ll play, but I’d like to have a more stable role. I think I have something to say in this league and I hope this season will be different than the last one.”

Korkmaz was the 26th selection in the 2016 draft and spent a season in Turkey before coming to Philadelphia. He showed off his scoring prowess in this year’s Las Vegas Summer League with a 40-point performance against Boston.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward have made significant progress in their return from injures, according to Ashith Mathur of AmicoHoops. A source who watched them play pickup games at the Celtics‘ practice facility said both players “look impressive” with a little more than two weeks to go until training camp. Irving had knee surgery in April that forced him to miss the playoffs, while Hayward suffered a season-ending ankle injury on opening night. Both have been training at full speed for about a month, Mathur adds, and Hayward should be cleared for five-on-five action next week.
  • With the Celtics poised to add another top prospect to their collection of young talent, A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston takes a look ahead to next year’s draft. Boston could have as many as three first-rounders in June and will get the better pick from the Kings or Sixers [No. 1 protected], which is almost certain to be Sacramento’s. Blakely tabs Duke’s R.J. Barrett and Zion Williamson, North Carolina’s Nassir Little, Arkansas’ Daniel Gafford and Sekou Doumbouya of France as potential future Celtics.
  • The Nets may have maximized their resources better than anyone this summer, writes Jesse Blancarte in Basketball Insiders’ season preview for Brooklyn. Highlights include unloading Timofey Mozgov‘s hefty contract, re-signing Joe Harris and landing free agents Ed Davis and Shabazz Napier on affordable contracts. The consensus among the writers in the preview is that Brooklyn may be ready to challenge for a playoff spot.

Celtics Notes: Williams, Irving, Tatum, Baynes

Rookie center Robert Williams is optimistic that his troublesome right knee will allow him to be ready when training camp opens September 25, relays A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston. Williams hasn’t been cleared yet for five-on-five drills, but he says rehab work on the knee is going well.

“I’m still taking it day by day,” Williams said. “These people [Celtics] have a lot of time, a lot of money invested in you. They don’t want to mess up what they got going. I’m thankful for the trainers and coaches.”

Concerns about Williams’ health and work ethic caused him to slip in the draft, where the Celtics found him too tempting to pass up at No. 27. Williams acknowledges that he needs to rebuild his image, which wasn’t helped when he overslept for his introductory press conference or failed to make the first Summer League practice because of a missed flight. He said he has been inspired by the example set by his teammates.

“Every morning I’m going in at 8, 8:30 [to work out],” Williams said.Al [Horford] and [Aron] Baynes, they’re in at 6 a.m. Their workout day has ended. See that repetition every day … I learned a lot from them already.” 

There’s more today out of Boston:

  • Clippers coach Doc Rivers believes another successful season is the best way to convince Kyrie Irving to stay in Boston when he hits free agency next summer, Blakely writes in a separate story. “At the end of the day, I think it’ll come down to winning,” Rivers said. “I really believe that. If you win enough, they usually want to stay.”
  • Jayson Tatum showed he has the talent to become a star during his rookie season, but the wealth of talent in Boston may keep him from reaching that level for a while, Blakely contends in another piece. With Marcus Morris set for free agency next summer and Irving, Horford and Baynes all with option years, Tatum’s role is likely to expand in the future.
  • The desire to play for a contender was enough to keep Baynes in Boston, notes Taylor C. Snow of NBA.com. The Australian center didn’t look around much in free agency before re-signing with the Celtics for $11MM over two seasons. “It’s one of those things where I enjoy and want to be in a place where they want me as well,” Baynes said. “And that’s definitely something that I’ve felt from the front office and everyone involved.”

Western Rumors: Rozier, Williams, Durant, Rockets

The Celtics’ Terry Rozier and the Nets’ Spencer Dinwiddie are two of the logical trade targets for the Suns in their search for a point guard, according to Frank Urbina of HoopsHype. Rozier is a solid two-way player coming off a career year but the Suns would likely have to offer a package that included an unprotected first-rounder to catch Boston’s attention. A trade for Dinwiddie would be more plausible and he’d be a good fit with Phoenix considering his size, perimeter shooting and pick-and-roll prowess, Urbina continues. The Clippers’ Patrick Beverley, the Cavaliers’ George Hill and the Hornets’ Kemba Walker are some of the other names Urbina throws out as potential targets. The Suns are searching for a starting point guard after trading away Brandon Knight to the Rockets last week.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • The Pelicans signed Troy Williams, Kenrich Williams and Garlon Green to partially-guaranteed contracts in the hope of finding one reliable small forward, Scott Kushner of the New Orleans Advocate notes. That trio will compete for a roster spot, though the potential addition of swingman Tyrone Wallacesigned to an offer sheet on Monday — could change that. “They just told me they’re bringing some guys in and having them go head-on to see who wins a spot,” Kenrich Williams told Kushner.
  • By buying out Luol Deng‘s contract and using the stretch provision, the Lakers gave themselves a chance to offer Kevin Durant a max salary in free agency, as Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders examines. The Lakers now project to have $38.2MM in cap space, which would be just enough to afford Durant, Pincus continues. If they can’t land Durant, they’ll certainly have enough to bring in another All-Star level talent. Other high-level potential free agents, including Kawhi Leonard, Klay ThompsonDeMarcus Cousins, Jimmy Butler, Walker and Kyrie Irving, could command a first-year salary of $33MM, leaving the Lakers with another $5MM to spend in other ways, Pincus adds.
  • The Rockets took a frugal approach this summer and it could cost them a title, Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post opines. They traded away Ryan Anderson and allowed two key wing players to walk in free agency. In turn, they signed three players on veteran’s minimum deals and adding a couple of bench players in the Anderson trade, Bontemps notes. So while Houston execs had said they were unconcerned about the luxury tax, their actions showed they wanted to save some money, Bontemps adds.

Atlantic Notes: Irving, Brown, Nets, Sixers

When Danny Ainge decided to pursue Kyrie Irving last summer, he didn’t have a tough sell to the rest of the organization, relays Chris Forsberg of ESPN. The Celtics‘ president of basketball operations said there was complete agreement in the front office on the deal that sent Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and Brooklyn’s unprotected first-rounder to Cleveland.

“I feel like there’s opportunities that you have to look at and explore, and Kyrie was one of those opportunities that, unanimously, internally it was something that we all felt like we should do,” Ainge said. “Everybody, unanimously, wanted to do it.”

Forsberg recounts the details of last summer’s blockbuster, including the eight-day wait as the teams tried to work out compensation after the Cavaliers claimed Thomas’ hip was in worse shape than they were led to believe. Irving was shooting his “Uncle Drew” movie at the time, and fellow cast members recall his excitement once the deal was completed. Ainge, meanwhile, was concerned that it might get rescinded.

“It’s like you’re a real estate agent and someone has agreed to buy your house, but until the papers are signed and the bank is on board, the sale doesn’t go through,” he said. “And that’s sort of how it is after you make any deal in our league. It’s never done until it’s done.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Gordon Hayward‘s return may cut into Jaylen Brown‘s playing time, but Brown will still serve an important role for the Celtics this season, writes A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston. Brown is an elite defender, Blakely notes, and he provides lineup flexibility if coach Brad Stevens wants to change his starting five depending on matchups.
  • The Nets are among three NBA teams that haven’t filled either two-way slot and that’s not likely to change before training camp, according to Net Income of NetsDaily. The team plans to have players compete for the spots in camp. Brooklyn signed Jake Wiley and Yakuba Outtara to two-way deals last summer and wound up replacing them with Milton Doyle and James Webb.
  • The Sixers are expected to begin interviews for their GM opening on Tuesday, tweets Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. They have received permission to talk with Larry Harris (Warriors), Gersson Rosas (Rockets), and Justin Zanik (Jazz), and all three are set to interview the week. Mike Sielski of the Inquirer is criticizing the team for keeping the position open for so long after Bryan Colangelo’s departure in June.

Celtics Notes: Irving, Hayward, Stevens

The Celtics have the ability to offer Kyrie Irving the most money next summer when he hits free agency. They can also offer him a familiar situation and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski believes Irving will ultimately look at the situation in Boston and stay put.

“I still would take Boston against the rest of the field,” Wojnarowski said on  The Woj Pod (h/t NBC Sports Boston). “I still think in the end there comes a moment of truth when you look around, and you have to make a decision about somewhere else. And when you really start inspecting the questions that are in almost any other circumstance he would go to, you would say: ‘Boy, it’s pretty good here.’ … I still think it is going to be really hard to walk away from this [Boston].”

The Knicks loom as a possible destination for Irving, so would any team with enough cap space to fit him and Jimmy Butler on a pair of max deals, as the duo has been rumored to have interest in teaming up.

Here’s more from Boston:

  • Both Gordon Hayward and Irving will enter camp ready to play at full speed, Chris Forsberg of ESPN.com relays. “I don’t want to hype it up too much, but I’m saying that if our training camp were starting today that they would be here today going full speed,” GM Danny Ainge said. “It’s not like they need an extra month. I think that they know they have an extra month, so they are sort of pacing themselves. They’re playing as if to build up to that opening day of training camp [Sept. 26].”
  • Brad Stevens will face more pressure this season than any of his previous five in Boston, A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports writes. The scribe believes the Celtics have the talent and depth to live up to the expectations.
  • Hayward’s health will be a key storyline for the Celtics this season, Blakely writes in a separate piece. The team will need his versatility on the court if they are going to compete with top teams like the Rockets and Warriors.

Ainge: Irving, Hayward Should Be At ‘Full Speed’ For Camp

Celtics stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward are returning from major leg injuries, but team president of basketball operations Danny Ainge is confident that both players will be ready to go when training camp gets underway next month. Ainge told ESPN’s Chris Forsberg that Irving and Hayward already appear close to 100% after finishing last season on the shelf.

“I don’t want to hype it up too much, but I’m saying that if our training camp were starting today that they would be here today going full speed,” Ainge said of the two veterans. “It’s not like they need an extra month. I think that they know they have an extra month, so they are sort of pacing themselves. They’re playing as if to build up to that opening day of training camp (September 26).”

Hayward only played five minutes in his first season as a Celtic, with his year coming to an abrupt end when he landed awkwardly and suffered a bad break of his left ankle on opening night. As for Irving, he was nagged by knee issues and eventually underwent season-ending surgery in April on his troublesome left knee.

The Celtics won two playoff series and pushed the Cavaliers to Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals without Hayward and Irving, and now have their sights set on bigger goals with both players on the road to recovery. Ainge, who says he’s “really excited” about seeing the duo back on the court, told Forsberg that the team will ramp up activity for Hayward and Irving during camp. Boston will have the luxury of easing its stars back into key roles since the team has a ton of depth it can lean on in the early going.

“They’ll both be here within the next week or so; by the time Labor Day is over, they will all be playing 5-on-5,” Ainge said of Hayward and Irving. “I think it’s just a matter of, if they’re not playing 5-on-5 now, then it’s only because they want it more of a controlled environment, I guess. They’re doing everything — dunking the basketball off both legs and playing one-on-one live and jumping and cutting and defending. I’m excited for them.”