Kyrie Irving

Suns Notes: Paul, Payne, Ross, Warren, Irving, Ayton

Chris Paul didn’t participate in the Suns‘ practice on Wednesday and he’s not expected to play when their series with the Nuggets resumes Friday night in Phoenix, writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Although the team is listing Paul as day-to-day with a strained left groin, sources tell Rankin that he’s expected to miss at least a week, which lines up with another report from Tuesday night.

Paul suffered the injury midway through the third quarter of Game 2 while jumping for a defensive rebound. He grabbed at his groin area when he landed and was quickly replaced. Game 4 is Sunday, and it appears Paul’s next realistic chance to play will be next Tuesday in Game 5 if the Suns can extend the series without their veteran leader.

“Gratefully, he didn’t tear it or something like that where he’s done for the season,” coach Monty Williams said. “You always have to look at the bright side of a tough situation. We’re just grateful that it wasn’t worse than we thought.” 

There’s more from Phoenix:

  • Paul’s spot in the starting lineup is likely to go to Cameron Payne, Rankin adds. Payne, who replaced Paul after the Game 2 injury, started a career-high 15 games this season when Paul was unavailable. Payne recently returned from a lower back injury that limited him to four total minutes in the first-round series.
  • With the team needing more production from its bench, Williams indicated that Terrence Ross and T.J. Warren could have larger roles in Game 3, Rankin adds in another Arizona Republic story. Both players were acquired in February to boost the Suns’ offense, but they’ve seen limited action during the playoffs. “I can do a better job of putting more scorers on the floor and living with whatever warts may come with that just to free those guys up so they don’t have to do it every single time down the floor,” Williams said. “We’ll make those adjustments accordingly.”
  • Phoenix could try to land Kyrie Irving in a sign-and-trade deal this summer, speculates John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 FM (audio link). His reasoning is that Kevin Durant enjoys having Irving as a teammate, even though things didn’t work out as planned in Brooklyn, and Irving faces a limited market in free agency. Gambadoro states that the deal could see Deandre Ayton shipped to the Mavericks, who need to find a reliable center.

Western Notes: Irving, Wiggins, Poole, Murray

The Mavericks said after the season they intended to re-sign Kyrie Irving and that’s what’s Steve Bulpett is hearing from rival executives. However, Luka Doncic will have to get used to not having the ball in his hands all the time and they’ve got to upgrade the roster defensively, Bulpett writes.

“Kyrie was on great behavior — like he was doing everything to try to win over Luka and be a teammate. Every single player on that team and everyone in the organization loves Kyrie from his time there so far,” one GM told Bulpett. “I do think there’s some skepticism going forward for what (the Mavericks are) going to offer him. Like, they’re not completely naïve.”

The Mavericks can offer Irving a five-year contract worth up to $272MM.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • Andrew Wiggins surprised many people by how effective he was against Sacramento despite a long layoff due to personal reasons. The Warriors forward averaged 18.1 points and 5.9 rebounds in the first-round series and told The Athletic’s Sam Amick he should be even better against the Lakers. “I feel like in Game 1, once I scored a couple points, I was like, ‘Pffft, I’m back. I’m good.’ My feel for the game was still there. My rhythm and my conditioning felt good enough to compete,” he said. “So I think I’m only going to get (better), because my conditioning still needs to get better. I feel like there’s still more. I mean, last year I was picking up full court (defensively) the whole playoffs, and I didn’t do that yet. It’s coming though.”
  • In contrast, Warriors guard Jordan Poole had a rough series against the Kings, Tim Kawakami of The Athletic notes. He shot 33.8% from the field and struggled defensively against Sacramento’s guards. Poole’s four-year, $123MM extension kicks in next season and the Warriors hope he’ll pick it up against the Lakers. “Wasn’t his best series, obviously,” coach Steve Kerr said.
  • Kings rookie forward Keegan Murray came away from the playoffs feeling optimistic about his future, Hunter Patterson of The Athletic writes. The lottery pick averaged 9.7 points and 6.8 rebounds in the first-round series. He’ll work with Domantas Sabonis during the offseason. “This series made me more confident than anything in my ability to move forward and my ceiling of how good I can be in the NBA,” Murray said.

Lakers Notes: James, Curry, Davis, Bamba, Russell, Roster

The playoff matchup between the LeBron James-led Lakers and Stephen Curry-led Warriors should be a thriller. James has great respect for what Curry, who scored 50 points on Sunday to close out the Kings, has accomplished, Dave McMenamin of ESPN writes.

“[Curry] puts in the work,” James said. “And when you put in the work, nine times out of 10 you’re going to see the results. And he’s done that throughout his whole, entire career. I have nothing but the utmost respect for Steph and everything he’s been able to accomplish, not only on the floor but also off the floor, too. It’s just great to have people like that in this league to set an example for the generation to come.”

James says that Curry presents an imposing defensive challenge for the entire team.

“You’ve seen some of the shots, the routine shots, that Steph was making in Game 7 that everybody was going crazy after,” James said. “That’s just Steph. When you’re that great, you make tough shots like that. So, we’ve got to be locked in and not hurt ourselves.”

We have more on the Lakers:

  • The team comes into the second round in relatively good health. James (right foot soreness) and Anthony Davis (right foot stress injury) are listed as probable for Game 1 on Tuesday, Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times tweets. Mohamed Bamba (left ankle soreness) is listed as questionable.
  • D’Angelo Russell, who will be a free agent after the season, poured in 31 points when the Lakers knocked out the second-seeded Grizzlies in Game 6. Performances like that could enhance Russell’s chances of re-signing with the team, Joe Vardon of The Athletic writes. The Lakers are reportedly not interested in signing Kyrie Irving and reuniting him with James.
  • Thanks to the changes made in-season, the new-look Lakers have all the pieces in place to win the championship, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer opines. The club now has shot creators who can provide a spark and take pressure off of James and Davis.

Lakers Reportedly Don’t Plan To Pursue Kyrie Irving

The Lakers have long been linked to guard Kyrie Irving, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.

The eight-time All-Star sat courtside for Game 6 on Friday as the Lakers advanced to the second round and congratulated former teammate LeBron James in the arena tunnel after the game, writes Tim Cato of The Athletic (it’s worth noting Irving also sat courtside for Sunday’s Game 7 between Golden State and Sacramento).

Despite his obvious ties to James and Los Angeles’ previously rumored interest in Irving, the team doesn’t plan to pursue him in free agency, sources tell Cato. As Cato notes, the Lakers would have to shed several salaries — including multiple players they traded for that helped turn their season around — to create enough cap room to try and sign Irving.

The Mavericks, meanwhile, are still optimistic about their chances of re-signing Irving, and rival teams believe that’s the most likely outcome as well, according to Cato’s sources.

As Cato details, it was, by all accounts, an unpleasant season for Dallas. After reaching the Western Conference Finals in 2021/22, the Mavs regressed and went 38-44, missing the playoffs (and the play-in tournament). “I’m glad it’s over,” an unnamed player said before the final game of the season.

Cato points to the Mavericks’ inability to retain Jalen Brunson as the pivot point in their decline. Brunson has said multiple times he hoped to remain with Dallas, while owner Mark Cuban blamed Brunson’s father Rick for the guard’s departure.

Cuban recently claimed Brunson’s side never gave the Mavs an offer he would accept in free agency, but a team source tells Cato that Brunson’s agents did reach out to the Mavs to inquire about a potential offer, only to be told that it would be revealed at a meeting, which was ultimately cancelled.

Either way, it’s clear that the Mavs didn’t value Brunson as much as the Knicks did, and the Mavericks were left to pick up the pieces.

One acquisition Dallas seemed to sour on throughout the season was big man Christian Wood, another unrestricted free agent who is not expected to be brought back, according to Cato.

Cato’s story features several more details on the Mavericks’ “season of misery” and their potential offseason plans, and is worth checking out in full for readers who subscribe to The Athletic.

Lakers Notes: LeBron, Davis, Reaves, Irving

LeBron James said the Lakers brought a “Game 7 mentality” to the court Friday night as they eliminated the Grizzlies with a 40-point win, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN. It was only Game 6, so L.A. had two chances to close out the series, but the players were determined not to return to Memphis. The Lakers took control right from the start and held a 17-point lead at halftime.

“We understood that we had an opportunity to play in front of our fans, and we wanted to try to end it tonight,” James said.

James had promised to play better following a subpar Game 5, and he kept his word, hitting seven of his first eight shots on the way to 22 points, along with six assists and five rebounds. The victory gave James another career milestone, tying him with former Laker Derek Fisher for the most playoff series wins with 40.

“He’s playing with a sense of urgency,” coach Darvin Ham said of his 38-year-old star. “He knows there’s only so many more of these (postseason runs) he’s going to be able to participate in. So he’s definitely been in the moment.”

There’s more on the Lakers:

  • L.A. seems almost unbeatable when Anthony Davis is at the top of his game, states Jim Alexander of The Orange County Register. Along with his 16 points and 14 rebounds on Friday, Davis blocked five shots and affected numerous others. He showed throughout the series that he can dominate the game on defense even when his shot isn’t falling. “No matter what I’m doing, I want to be able to leave a mark on the game defensively and that can kind of fuel my offensive game and the team’s offensive game, and also fuel the defensive end for us as a collective,” Davis said. “So you know, I just (think) next play mentality and just keep going and keep playing and the rest will take care of itself.”
  • The Lakers can expect strong competition for Austin Reaves when he becomes a free agent this summer, McMenamin adds in another ESPN story. An unidentified Western Conference executive said Reaves would be a good fit on “literally every team in the league” because of his age, skills and salary. The Lakers hold his Early Bird rights and are limited to an $11.4MM offer in the first year of a new contract, but Reaves expressed a desire to stay in L.A. “I would love to be here my whole career,” he said. “Just the way that the fans treat me, the love they have for me, as an undrafted player, it’s kind of like they raised me type of vibe. … It feels like it’s meant to be. It feels like this all happened for a reason and this is where I should be.”
  • Kyrie Irving was among the fans at courtside for Friday’s game, McMenamin tweets. The Lakers reportedly had interest in acquiring the impending free agent last summer and again before he was traded to the Mavericks in February. Irving left in the third quarter because of the lopsided score, but not before visiting with James’ close friend and business associate Maverick Carter (Twitter link).

Western Notes: Lindsey, Udoka, Borrego, Westbrook, Holmgren, Blazers, Towns

The Mavericks are in advanced discussions with former Jazz executive Dennis Lindsey to join the organization as a special assistant to GM Nico Harrison, Marc Stein of the Stein Line reports (via Twitter). Harrison has been seeking an experienced sounding-board voice to join the front office in a consultant’s role, dating to last offseason.

Following their failure to make the playoffs, the Mavericks have a pivotal offseason that includes trying to re-sign Kyrie Irving and finding ways to improve the roster, despite limited trade assets and salary cap issues.

We have more on the Western Conference:

  • The Rockets will interview former Celtics head coach Ime Udoka for their head coaching job on Wednesday, Kelly Iko of The Athletic tweets. They interviewed former Hornets head coach James Borrego on Monday for their head coaching job, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype tweets. The Rockets have already interviewed former Lakers head coach Frank Vogel and are expected to interview a number of experienced head coaches and prominent assistant coaches in their search to replace Stephen Silas.
  • Russell Westbrook is unlikely to be suspended for Game 2 of the Clippers’ series against the Suns, Chris Haynes of TNT tweets. Westbrook had a verbal altercation with a fan during halftime of Game 1 on Sunday.
  • Chet Holmgren missed the entire season due to a Lisfranc injury in his right foot but the Thunder big man is ready to get back on the court, according to Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. Holmgren, the No. 2 pick in last year’s draft, says most of the recovery and rehab process is behind him. “I’m pretty much past the rehab part of this journey,” Holmgren said, “and now I’m progressing more into the 5-on-5 stuff and kind of taking away any restrictions that I have to this point.”
  • There could be a major change with the Trail Blazers’ guard rotation, Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian notes. General manager Joe Cronin must decide whether Anfernee Simons and Shaedon Sharpe are part of the team’s long-term plans. Either or both could be traded for the All-Star level talent that Damian Lillard craves. Conversely, Simons and Sharpe could be the backcourt starters if Lillard is dealt and Portland goes into a full rebuild.
  • The Timberwolves will look to bounce back from their 29-point loss to top seed Denver when they play Game 2 on Wednesday. They’ll need a huge series from Karl-Anthony Towns to have any chance in the series, as Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic details.
  • The matchup against Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets could show just how far the Timberwolves are from becoming a true contender and whether the Towns-Rudy Gobert pairing can get them to that point, Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune opines.

Mavericks Optimistic They’ll Re-Sign Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving met with Mavericks general manager Nico Harrison and expressed his gratitude for how he was treated by the organization. Harrison, in turn, told the media on Tuesday that re-signing Irving is the organization’s top priority this offseason, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon.

“I think the things that he said along the way about how he feels here, how he feels appreciated, how he feels accepted and allowed to be himself — those are the things that he said kind of consistently,” Harrison said. “That’s what gives me the optimism that he wants to be here.”

The Mavs went 7-18 after the blockbuster trade with the Nets that sent Irving to Dallas and dropped out of the playoff race. They had an 5-11 record when both Irving and Luka Doncic played.

Yet Harrison insists they can thrive in the long-term.

“I think Luka and Kai work together,” he said. “I think when we have that talented of a player — that talented of two players — I think they work together. I really think it’s the players around them … kind of knowing their role with having those two guys out on the floor at the same time. I think that’s the thing that we need to work on.”

Irving declined to meet with the media after the season.

Whether Dallas will offer Irving a maximum contract, or something close to it, remains to be seen. He is eligible for a five-year, $272MM contract with the Mavericks or a four-year, $201.7MM deal with another team.

Doncic told the media he wants to the organization to re-sign Irving. The Mavs have some internal concerns about whether Doncic might request a trade next offseason if the team doesn’t show significant progress in 2023/24, sources within the organization have told MacMahon.

Harrison says it’s his responsibility to make sure Doncic doesn’t feel the need to request a trade.

“He’s under contract, so I don’t go to sleep at night worried about, ‘Is Luka going to be a Maverick?’ Because he is a Maverick, and he’s under contract. Obviously, if that changes, then we’ll have to reevaluate it,” Harrison said. “But I think our job really to keep Luka happy, if you will, is surrounding him by the right players to help him win.”

Southwest Notes: Zion, Kyrie, Luka, Mavs, Rockets

Pelicans forward Zion Williamson isn’t particularly close to returning to action, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

While we already knew that New Orleans won’t have the former No. 1 overall pick available for the play-in tournament, it sounds like the team also isn’t counting on Williamson returning from a hamstring injury in time to play in a first-round series, should the Pelicans win a pair of play-in contests.

Sources tell Charania that there’s “no expectation” Williamson will be on the court at all during the first round of the playoffs, as his conditioning level isn’t close to where it needs to be. Perhaps if the Pelicans can win two play-in games and then knock off the top-seeded Nuggets in the first round, we could see Zion again this spring, but that’s a long shot.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Mavericks star Luka Doncic said during his exit interview with the media on Monday that he’d like to see the team re-sign Kyrie Irving this summer, as Eddie Sefko of relays. “I think it’s a great fit,” Doncic said. “Obviously people are going to say no, look at the results we’re having. But like I said, chemistry, relationships take time. And I wish he can still be here. He’s a great player. He just wants peace. And a great person.”
  • The Mavericks consulted with the league office before submitting their player availability designations last Friday, sources tell Marc Stein (Substack link). The franchise is now under NBA investigation for its decision to rest healthy players in that game, and Stein suggests that the Mavs’ mistake was being too honest with the media on Friday about their motivations. Stein likens the league’s stance on tanking to its approach to tampering and free agency gun-jumping, writing that the least discreet teams are the ones that get penalized.
  • The Rockets expect to begin their head coaching interviews before the end of the week, reports Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscription required). Ime Udoka, Frank Vogel, and Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson are among Houston’s initial targets, Feigen adds, confirming previous reporting. General manager Rafael Stone said the team is seeking a candidate who has a “real vision” for how to use the Rockets’ young players and incorporate veterans. “The next coach … is going to know much more than Stephen (Silas) did what they’re walking into,” Stone said. “We’ll have free agency and the draft picks. And we have a young core of guys who I think are very, very likely to be with us for the next year or two.”
  • While Silas handled the Rockets‘ young core with an understanding and supportive approach, the team may be seeking a replacement with a “fierier style” who will “lean more toward critical when appropriate,” Feigen writes in a separate Houston Chronicle story (subscription required).

Mavericks Notes: Doncic, Irving, Wood, Investigation

In an attempt to ward off trade speculation, Luka Doncic told reporters on Sunday that he’s happy in Dallas, but his demeanor at the podium suggested otherwise, writes Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News. Doncic was clearly disturbed by the Mavericks‘ late-season collapse that resulted in an early vacation, and he wasn’t on board with the choice to rest rotation players on Friday while there was still a chance to make the play-in tournament.

“I didn’t like that decision,” he said. “That’s it.”

Doncic also said, “Something’s got to change,” but refused to elaborate on specifics, adding, “I don’t want to talk to the media about it.”

Teams around the league are monitoring Doncic’s situation, but he doesn’t have much leverage to push for a trade even if he decides he wants out of Dallas, according to Sean Deveney of Heavy. The maximum extension that Doncic signed in 2021 will keep him under contract through the 2026/27 season.

“The only way he can force a trade is to sit out like Ben Simmons did and anyone who knows anything about Luka knows he is not going to do that. There’s just no way,” a Western Conference executive told Deveney. “Anyone saying they’re going to trade him isn’t looking at the facts, or it is wishful thinking. Why trade him? You have him signed through 2027. This is not an issue until 2025 or 2026. That’s just the reality, the way the CBA is set up. He has not been in town long enough to start asking out.”

There’s more from Dallas:

  • Kyrie Irving didn’t address the media after Sunday’s game, but coach Jason Kidd indicated that Irving has enjoyed his time with the Mavericks and will be open to re-signing in free agency, Townsend adds. “I think he’s excited to be here,” Kidd said. “He’s excited to work with Luka. He believes that we have a chance to win. And so this is a big summer, not just for us as Mavs, but for Kai. Everything we’ve done is to show that this is a great city, a great organization. And now it’s time to continue to build that process of winning the championship.”
  • Free agent big man Christian Wood seems unlikely to return, Marc Stein writes in his latest Subtack article. Stein notes that there was talk of an extension for Wood before the Irving trade, but now it doesn’t appear that Dallas will try to re-sign him. Stein adds that JaVale McGee and Tim Hardaway Jr. also have uncertain futures, but their contracts won’t make them easy to move.
  • David Aldridge of The Athletic questions the wisdom of the NBA’s investigation of the Mavericks for resting healthy players, claiming it’s no different than what numerous other teams have done.

Western Notes: Gobert, Anderson, Irving, Doncic, Dunn

The confrontation between the Timberwolves’ Rudy Gobert and Kyle Anderson got physical when Anderson profanely told Gobert to shut up during a timeout, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets. The argument began with Anderson telling Gobert to block some shots and Gobert replying that Anderson should grab some rebounds.

The duo also had a heated verbal exchange in the locker room at halftime, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. Timberwolves guard Mike Conley played a crucial role in calming things down and getting the team refocused.

After being told to leave the building, Gobert sent an apologetic text message to his Timberwolves teammates in a group chat, ESPN’s Andrew Lopez tweets. Anderson said he’ll talk things over with Gobert. “We’ll speak about it and move on. We’re grown men,” Anderson said.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • Kyrie Irving is headed to unrestricted free agency. What are his plans? He kept that to himself after the Mavericks’ disappointing season ended on Sunday. He declined to speak to the media, the only Dallas player to do so, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon tweets.
  • As for the Mavericks’ franchise player, he provided some comforting words to the team’s fans. Luka Doncic says he’s happy where he is, MacMahon adds in another tweet, an indication that he won’t be asking for a trade any time soon. “I’m happy here, so there’s nothing to worry (about),” Doncic said.
  • Kris Dunn gave the Jazz a boost in the second half of the season and looks poised to help the team next season as well, Andy Larsen of the Salt Lake Tribune opines. Dunn showed improved scoring form, compared to his previous NBA stops, and he remains a quality defender. Dunn signed a multiyear deal with Utah last month, though his veteran’s minimum deal for next season isn’t guaranteed until October 23. Dunn had 26 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists against the Lakers on Sunday.