Kyrie Irving

Eastern Notes: Simmons, Hachimura, Nets, Hawks, Magic

Although Ben Simmons has reported to the Sixers and head coach Doc Rivers has said he assumes the three-time All-Star plans to suit up and play for the team, we still don’t know when that will happen or what version of Simmons the club will get, writes Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice.com.

One source who spoke to Neubeck described Simmons as “going through the motions” during his individual workouts this week, though that source said things have improved each day since the 25-year-old’s return. The expectation is that Simmons will clear the health and safety protocols soon, but he’s considered “doubtful” to play in Friday’s preseason finale.

Within Neubeck’s report, he notes that the Sixers have shown little interest in a Pacers trade package that includes Malcolm Brogdon and/or Caris LeVert. The 76ers have been focused on acquiring a star, since trading Simmons for multiple “good” players isn’t something they believe will improve their title odds or increase their chances of acquiring another impact player down the road, Neubeck explains.

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Wizards forward Rui Hachimura remains in the health and safety protocols after recently reporting to the team, and he may miss some time at the beginning of the regular season as he gets back up to speed and adjusts to a new playbook and coaching staff, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. “I don’t think (him catching up) is way down the line,” head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “We already have some edits that we’ll send to him. Obviously, when he’s ready we’ll spend some time away from the court to try to help him get back up to speed. That in itself is going to take some time.”
  • Nets forward Kevin Durant admitted to reporters on Thursday that Kyrie Irving‘s absence is not an “ideal” situation and said he’d rather be playing alongside his friend this season. However, Durant added that he’s confident “things will work out the best for both parties” and said he’s not upset about the situation. “What is being mad going to do?” Durant said, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. “We are not going to change his mind, know what I’m saying? We’ll let him figure out what he needs to do and the team figure out what they need to do.”
  • Nets head coach Steve Nash plans to lean on the team’s depth to replace Kyrie Irving, rather than putting that responsibility on one player, writes Greg Joyce of The New York Post. Bruce Brown and Patty Mills are among the obvious candidates for increased roles.
  • John Hollinger of The Athletic liked the Hawks‘ offseason moves and is optimistic about the club’s chances of avoiding regression in 2021/22, projecting them to win 50 games and a playoff series. Predictably, Hollinger is far less bullish on the Magic, forecasting a 21-win season and a last-place finish in the East for Orlando.

League Expected To Push For Super-Max Changes In CBA

League executives are expected to push for major changes in super-max contracts and medical evaluations for draft prospects, among numerous other issues, in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report.

The Ben Simmons saga has shined a light on the general failure of super-max contracts to keep star players on their current teams, Fischer writes. League executives are expected to seek stipulations in super-max contracts that would penalize players if they are granted trade requests. There are also concerns, particularly in small markets, of surrounding those players with enough talent to contend, since those contracts can eat up as much as 35% of a team’s cap.

The fact that Simmons requested a trade only one year into his five-year, $170MM contract from one of the league’s top Eastern Conference contenders has raised concerned among league officials, Fischer reports. Those executives have recently discussed the possibility of salary repercussions for such players who want out.

The proposals could include a “reverse trade kicker,” where those players would lose 15% of their salary when they’re dealt; a forfeiture of upwards of 70% of their salary; or losing a chunk of their guaranteed money.

To encourage the cooperation of the Players Association, the owners may give up a bigger slice of the BRI (Basketball Related Income).

League officials have also expressed frustration that players such as Kyrie Irving don’t have a vaccine requirement, yet basketball and business operations staffers have a vaccine mandate. They’re hoping that discrepancy could lead concessions by the union.

Another major sticking point is that draft prospects are not mandated to provide medical information to teams. Some agents have withheld a prospect’s medical information from certain teams to steer their clients to a preferred destination, Fischer notes.

Luxury-tax structures, the buyout market, G League exclusivity rights, two-way roster spots, the calendar order of the draft and free agency, and restricted free agency could also be topics of discussion during the next CBA negotiations, Fischer adds.

The current Collective Bargaining Agreement runs through the 2023/24 season, with a mutual opt-out date in December 2022.

Kyrie Irving Confirms He’s Unvaccinated, Says He’s Not Retiring

Appearing on Instagram Live on Wednesday night (video link), Nets guard Kyrie Irving publicly confirmed for the first time that he remains unvaccinated against COVID-19.

Due to a New York City mandate that requires individuals to have received at least one vaccine shot in order to enter public indoor venues, Irving is ineligible to play in over half of Brooklyn’s games this season. The Nets announced this week that Irving won’t be permitted to play or practice with the team – even on the road – until he can be a full-time participant.

Repeating many of the same points that were conveyed through sources by Shams Charania of The Athletic on Tuesday, Irving claimed on Wednesday that his decision is “not about being anti-vax,” adding that he’s “being true to what feels good for me” and understands the ramifications of remaining unvaccinated, as Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN details.

“I am going to just continue to stay in shape, be ready to play, be ready to rock out with my teammates and just be part of this whole thing,” Irving said, though he gave no indication that he plans to receive the vaccine. “This is not a political thing; this is not about the NBA, not about any organization. This is about my life and what I am choosing to do.”

The death toll from COVID-19 has surpassed 700,000 in the United States and 4.5 million worldwide, while many others are still dealing with long-term health effects from the virus. Data has shown that the vaccines reduce the risk of infection and drastically lessen the likelihood of an affected individual being hospitalized or dying. NBPA executive director Michele Roberts has stated that about 96% of the NBA’s players are vaccinated.

Irving said on Wednesday he was under the belief entering the fall that he’d be able to receive an exemption that would make him eligible to play in New York this season. It’s unclear whether or not he applied for a medical or religious exemption. Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins attempted to get a religious exemption in the hopes of circumventing a similar mandate in San Francisco, but his request was denied by the NBA and the city stated it wouldn’t have approved such an exemption anyway. Wiggins subsequently agreed to get vaccinated.

Irving, on the other hand, appears to be digging in his heels, telling viewers on his Instagram Live that he’s prepared to face the financial consequences of his decision.

The NBA has indicated that players who are ineligible to play in games due to local vaccine mandates will lose 1/91.6th of their salary for each game they miss. While the NBPA has pushed back against the league’s interpretation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the expectation is that Irving’s stance will cost him $381K per game over the course of 43 games (41 in Brooklyn, plus two at Madison Square Garden), for a total of nearly $16.4MM in lost base salary, plus more in incentives that he’ll be unable to achieve.

Though it remains unclear if we’ll see Irving at all on the court this season, he stressed on Wednesday that he has no intention of walking away from basketball altogether.

“No, I am not retiring. And no, I am not going and leaving this game like this,” Irving said. “There is still so much more work to do.”

Nets general manager Sean Marks previously expressed interest in signing Irving to a contract extension this offseason, but multiple reports have suggested those discussions are no longer taking place, for obvious reasons.

Atlantic Notes: Simmons, Irving, Brown, Horford

The Sixers are preparing to use the same strategy whether Ben Simmons is part of the team or not, writes Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The situation is surrounded by uncertainty even after Simmons made a surprise appearance in Philadelphia Monday night, then met with management on Tuesday. He still wants to be traded and the Sixers have promised to oblige, but no traction has been reported on any potential deal.

Coach Doc Rivers is downplaying the level of distraction, telling reporters, there’s not a Plan A and Plan B depending on whether Simmons is involved. “It’s only a Plan A,” Rivers said. “What we run, you don’t change just because one guy comes on the floor.”

Simmons’ absence has left a void at point guard because he typically initiates the offense when he’s on the court. Injuries have delayed Rivers’ plans to name a starter as Tyrese Maxey, who has adductor tightness, and Shake Milton, who’s dealing with a sprained ankle, both missed Monday’s preseason game.

“Obviously, spacing is going to change with Ben out there,” Seth Curry said. “But we know how to adjust. Everybody knows how to play basketball. It’s not too different from the stuff we did last year. It’s just trying to execute stuff better.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Nets star James Harden confirms that he and Kevin Durant were both consulted before management reached the decision not to allow Kyrie Irving to be a part-time player, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Harden says he supports his teammate, but doesn’t want the situation to become a distraction. “Kyrie believes in his beliefs, and he stands firm and strong on that. And for us, we respect it,” Harden said. “We all love Ky. But as far as us, we have a job to do. Individually, myself, I am still wanting to set myself up for a championship. And I feel like the entire organization is on the same path and we are all in this as a collective unit.”
  • Celtics coach Ime Udoka expects Jaylen Brown to be ready for opening night following a bout with COVID-19, tweets Boston writer Mark Murphy. He added that it will be a “tight timeline” for Al Horford to play.
  • Rich Levine of Boston.com examines the long-term prospects for Celtics second-round pick Juhann Begarin, who will play this season in France.

Latest On Kyrie Irving

After issuing a press release on Tuesday announcing that Kyrie Irving won’t practice or play for the Nets until he can be a “full participant,” general manager Sean Marks spoke to reporters to provide more details on the team’s decision, as Tim Bontemps of ESPN and Alex Schiffer of The Athletic write.

“We looked at everything. When you make a decision like this, it’s one that you don’t want to do hastily,” Marks said, per Bontemps. “… I think we all know what our objective is this year and how this, a decision like this, may be able to (impact) that ultimate objective. They are never easy decisions, but at the end of the day, I think we are looking at putting a group of people that are going to be able to participate fully and that is what this comes down to. And we’re not looking for partners that are going to be half time.

“I don’t think that would be fair to not only the team and staff and ownership and fans, but to be quite frank, not fair on Kyrie either when you are putting somebody out there that potentially can’t get the right ramp-ups and right buildups and so forth and look as good as he or the team should under a different set of circumstances. That is why this decision was ultimately made.”

Asked if Nets stars James Harden and Kevin Durant had a say in the decision to sideline Irving, Marks said that “everyone” in the organization was kept in the loop about the situation, but stressed that he and team owner Joe Tsai made the final call.

“Ultimately, this decision was Joe Tsai and myself, and this decision came down to what we felt was the right move for the organization at this time,” Marks said.

Irving is the only player on the Nets who remains unvaccinated against COVID-19. A New York City executive order requires individuals who work in the city to have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine in order to enter indoor venues such as Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden.

The NBA has stated that players who are ineligible to play in games due to local vaccine mandates will lose 1/91.6th of their salary for each game they miss. While the NBPA has pushed back against the league’s interpretation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the expectation is that Irving’s stance will cost him $381K per game over the course of 43 games (41 in Brooklyn, plus two at MSG), for a total of nearly $16.4MM in lost salary.

Marks confirmed on Tuesday that Irving will only be docked salary for games in New York. As former Celtics and Suns executive Ryan McDonough explains (via Twitter), the decision to continue paying Irving for road games neutralizes Kyrie’s ability to involve the NBPA and file a grievance.

Here’s more on Irving:

  • As of now, Irving has no plans to be vaccinated and there’s no indication New York City’s policy on unvaccinated individuals will change any time soon, writes Shams Charania of The Athletic. According to Charania, rival teams think Brooklyn would be open to a “significant” trade offer for Irving, but that kind of offer probably won’t be on the table, given that it’s unclear how willing Kyrie would be to join another team.
  • Executives polled by Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports believe an Irving trade is possible, but only under “special circumstances,” since there are concerns he could retire if he’s dealt. “I don’t know if I’d touch him, but you have to look at it, for the sake of your team,” one exec told Goodwill.
  • Head coach Steve Nash told reporters today that he supports the Nets’ decision on Irving, per Ian Begley of SNY.tv (Twitter link). Nash said he’d love to have Irving back with the team if the situation changes, but believes it would have been a “tenuous situation” to have a player with the team off and on.
  • Harden said he respects Irving’s stance and would love to have him back in the lineup, but acknowledged that the Nets will benefit from knowing who will be available on a night-to-night basis (Twitter link via Begley).

Ben Simmons Takes Physical, Meets With Sixers’ Brass

After returning to Philadelphia on Monday, Sixers star Ben Simmons took his required physical and met with the team’s brass on Tuesday, per Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. That meeting included president of basketball operations Daryl Morey and general manager Elton Brand, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, who says sources described it only as “brief.”

Both Pompey and Shelburne indicate that Simmons won’t be cleared to participate in any team-related activities until at least Friday, due to the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols. As Brian Windhorst observed during an appearance on ESPN’s Get Up (video link) on Wednesday, that timeline suggests Simmons may not yet be fully vaccinated, since the league requires fully vaccinated players to register just one negative PCR test in order to interact with other players. Players who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated require at least four negative tests upon reporting to the team, according to ESPN.

We don’t know yet whether Simmons actually intends to return to the court and play for the 76ers following his holdout, but for what it’s worth, Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report says the 25-year-old’s physical showed no signs that he isn’t healthy. Simmons will be able to begin conducting individual workouts with the assistance of Sixers coaches on Wednesday, Fischer notes.

As we wait to see what the next steps are for the Sixers and Simmons, there’s no indication that the team is anywhere close to making a trade. Both Fischer and Sam Amick of The Athletic have heard that Philadelphia continues to hold out hope that a star like Damian Lillard or Bradley Beal will become dissatisfied with his situation and ask for a trade, but that remains a long shot unless the Trail Blazers or Wizards get off to a really disastrous start this season.

According to Amick, Simmons’ camp hasn’t ruled out the possibility of a trade to the Nets, but sources with knowledge of the situation tell The Athletic that the Sixers have exhibited zero interest in pursuing a deal involving Kyrie Irving.

Fischer names the Cavaliers, Pistons, Rockets, Pacers, Timberwolves, Blazers, Kings, Spurs, and Raptors as the nine teams that have remained at least somewhat engaged with Philadelphia, and adds that a “mystery” 10th club has also had “substantive” discussions with the Sixers as of late. Not even Klutch Sports is certain of the identity of that 10th team, per Fischer, who cautions that the mystery suitor still hasn’t come close to meeting Morey’s asking price.

Here’s more on Simmons:

  • Sources tell Fischer that the Sixers have informed potential trade partners whose offers would be heavy on draft picks that their best bet would be a three-team structure in which Philadelphia lands at least one impact player, since Morey and his front office are interested in win-now pieces rather than future assets.
  • Although the Timberwolves still have interest in Simmons following their front office shake-up, new head of basketball operations Sachin Gupta isn’t believed to be pursuing the three-time All-Star as aggressively as Gersson Rosas did, according to Fischer.
  • The Kings remain unwilling to discuss either De’Aaron Fox or Tyrese Haliburton in a potential Simmons deal, while the Sixers appear unmoved by the idea of acquiring Dejounte Murray and/or Lonnie Walker from the Spurs, sources tell Bleacher Report. Fischer adds that there’s a belief the Pistons would entertain trading Jerami Grant in a deal for Simmons.
  • Improving the relationship between Simmons and head coach Doc Rivers is believed to be a priority for the Sixers if Simmons is going to stick around for a little while, according to Fischer, who says the two men never seemed to build a strong rapport last season. Sources tell Bleacher Report that during an offseason meeting at agent Rich Paul‘s home, when the Sixers confirmed they intended to fine Simmons for not complying with the terms of his deal, Rivers shouted, “It’s in your f–king contract” to report to training camp and play for the team.

Nets Won’t Permit Kyrie Irving To Be Part-Time Player

The Nets have decided that they’re not comfortable with guard Kyrie Irving only playing in half the team’s games due to his vaccination status. Brooklyn issued a press release today announcing that Irving won’t play or practice with the team until he can be a “full participant,” with general manager Sean Marks explaining the organization’s stance.

“Kyrie has made a personal choice, and we respect his individual right to choose,” Marks said in a statement. “Currently the choice restricts his ability to be a full-time member of the team, and we will not permit any member of our team to participate with part-time availability.

“It is imperative that we continue to build chemistry as a team and remain true to our long-established values of togetherness and sacrifice. Our championship goals for the season have not changed, and to achieve these goals each member of our organization must pull in the same direction. We are excited for the start of the season and look forward to a successful campaign that will make the borough of Brooklyn proud.”

Irving is the only player on the Nets who remains unvaccinated against COVID-19. A New York City executive order requires individuals who work in the city to have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine in order to enter indoor venues such as Barclays Center.

The Nets appeared to catch a break last week when the city deemed the team’s practice facility, the HSS Center, a private office building, allowing Irving to practice both at home and on the road. However, there was no wiggle room on his ability to play in games in New York.

Taking into account the Nets’ 41 home games and their two games at Madison Square Garden, Irving would be ineligible to play in 43 of 82 regular season contests this season as long as he remains unvaccinated and the city’s executive order remains unchanged.

Although Irving would have been eligible to play in Brooklyn’s other 39 games, it would have been a very stop-and-start process, especially since the Nets have seven home stands this season of three games or more. The team has decided it would be untenable to have the point guard only available on the road, a decision that involved stars Kevin Durant and James Harden in addition to Marks and team owner Joe Tsai, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (link via RealGM).

Now that the Nets have clarified their position, it’ll be fascinating to see what comes next. Irving could immediately end the standoff by agreeing to be vaccinated, but if he digs in his heels, the team will have to determine whether it will indefinitely suspend the seven-time All-Star.

Exploring the trade market is another option the Nets could consider, since Irving would be eligible to play in all 82 games in most other NBA cities. However, the 29-year-old isn’t expected to have a ton of trade value, given his mercurial personality and his expiring contract.

Atlantic Notes: Nash, Irving, Sixers, Raptors

Kyrie Irving is back with the Nets, but he won’t be traveling with the team for tomorrow’s preseason game at Philadelphia, and coach Steve Nash seems resigned to the fact that Irving is going to start missing home games unless he gets vaccinated, according to Brian Lewis of the New York Post.

I think we recognize he’s not playing home games,” said Nash. “We’re going to have to for sure play without him this year; so it just depends on when, where and how much.”

However, Nash also noted that things can change quickly in this unprecedented situation, per Lewis.

Right now we assume he’s not going to be available for home games,” Nash said. “Anything can change. Who’s to say, the city’s ordinance could change? Anything could change.”

Right now we’re just trying to remain flexible, open-minded and figure it out as we go, because information is coming in by the half-day here, whether it’s Paul [Millsap’s health and safety protocol] situation, Kyrie’s situation or the laws. We found out Friday he could come in the building, so things are shifting. No one’s been through this before, and we’re just trying to figure it out as we go.”

Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Tyrese Maxey and Shake Milton of the Sixers appear locked in a battle over the starting point guard spot with Ben Simmons still away from the team, writes Derek Bodner of The Athletic. The players have taken turns starting the team’s first two preseason games, with mixed results for both. However, Bodner thinks Maxey has much higher upside and should be given the opportunity to start, given Milton’s physical limitations.
  • In the same article, Bodner notes that second-year guard Isaiah Joe has been outstanding thus far in the preseason and is making a strong case for a spot in the Sixers‘ rotation. Joe is averaging 16.5 PPG while shooting 7-12 (58.3%) from three, and he’s also shown growth as a shot-creator and defender. Coach Doc Rivers has taken notice, per Bodner. “He’s starting to put the ball on the floor. That’s something he couldn’t do (last year),” Rivers said. “He made plays tonight getting into the paint there’s no way he could have done that last year. Good for him because he’s putting all the work in.”
  • The Raptors have been impressed with free agent acquisition Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk thus far, writes Doug Smith of the Toronto Star.
  • Khem Birch is out of health and safety protocols and could be available for the Raptors tomorrow against Houston, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports.

New York Notes: Irving, Bacon, Selden, G League

Kyrie Irving rejoined the Nets for a light workout at the Brooklyn Park Bridge earlier this afternoon, writes Zach Braziller of the New York Post.

Braziller notes that before the public event, Irving posted a tweet that seemed to indicate he still might be hesitant to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Irving received a large ovation from the crowd, and new teammate Patty Mills seems glad to have him back, Braziller relays.

“I think we’re taking it one step at a time, so to have everyone here outside at this [event] is pretty special,” Mills said.

Braziller opines that this represents minor progress, but Irving’s vaccination status is still front and center for the team.

Here’s more from New York:

  • Dwayne Bacon and Wayne Selden appear to be the frontrunners for the 15th roster spot for the Knicks, relays Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. Coach Tom Thibodeau appears non-committal as to who might have the upper hand. “We have a number of guys who are battling it out,” Thibodeau said. “(Bacon) is a good competitor and obviously his length, his wing play. Wayne Selden has been terrific, along with Dwayne. Both guys are really solid veterans that can add to a team.” Thibodeau also said that M.J. Walker and Aamir Simms are still in the running as well, per Bondy, and who wins out might come down to who shows the most in practices.
  • The Knicks‘ G League affiliate, the Westchester Knicks, will be relocating to Bridgeport, CT for the upcoming season, the team announced in a press release. The team’s normal home arena, the Westchester County Center, is currently being used as a COVID-19 vaccination site.
  • In a member-only article, Brian Lewis of The New York Post writes that he believes that Irving’s situation has morphed into a public crisis for the Nets.

New York Notes: Durant, Irving, Harden, Burks, Fournier

Kevin Durant‘s latest comments on Kyrie Irving sounded like a plea for the Nets All-Star point guard to get vaccinated and rejoin the team for the entire season, as Nets Videos relays (Twitter link).

“We want him here for the whole thing,” Durant said. “We want him here for games, home games, practices, away games, shootarounds all of it. Hopefully, we can figure this thing out.”

The latest development on the Irving saga came Friday, when the team was informed that he could practice with the team but not play in home games.

We have more from the New York City teams:

  • Nets guard James Harden struggled in his preseason debut on Friday against Milwaukee, scoring eight points and committing four turnovers. Harden said it was an odd experience after missing playoff games and spending most of the offseason recovering from a hamstring strain, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. “Practice is different obviously, but just being on the court and having to move felt weird. But I’ll get adjusted to it,” he said.
  • Alec Burks‘ ability to make an immediate impact on a game is a luxury for Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau, Peter Botte of the New York Post writes. “We were in desperate need of shooting, so he provided shot-making, playmaking,” Thibodeau said. “He can go off the dribble, can play three positions, and he can function as a starter or a guy off the bench. As soon as you put him in the game, he’s ready to go.” Burks re-signed with the Knicks in August on a three-year, $30MM pact.
  • Knicks wing Evan Fournier was added mainly to bring some offensive punch but he vows to not be a defensive liability, Botte relays in a separate story. “I consider myself a guy that competes really hard, so I’m not concerned about the defense at all,” he said. “Even as a unit, we’re going to be good defensively.” Fournier was acquired in a sign-and-trade from Boston on a four-year deal worth up to $78MM.