This morning's headlines:
- Irving not anxious about game vs. Cavs
- Ainge 'understands' where Thomas is coming from
- Griffin says playoffs are goal for Clippers now
- Porzingis expects to play in season-opener
Irving not worrying about opener vs. Cavs -- Five days from now, Kyrie Irving and his new team, the Boston Celtics, will be gearing up for his old team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, in the season-opening game of 2017-18 (8 ET, TNT). There will be no lack of storylines for that game and build-up as well, yet to Irving, it's just another date on the calendar. Irving spoke with The Undefeated's Marc J. Spears about that first game back in Cleveland, whether his jersey should be retired there and more:
While Irving is expecting a wild return to Cleveland during the first NBA regular-season game of the season Tuesday, he doesn’t appear to be anxious.
“No. Why would it be? It’s just hoops,” Irving said before Wednesday’s shootaround in preparation for a preseason game against the Charlotte Hornets. “It’s just hooping. I understand the magnitude … But I know what it is going to entail in terms of marketing, whatever the case may be, to garner up this energy to make people feel a certain type of way. I get all that. It’s part of the game. It’s been a part of the game for a while. But, it’s just two hoops and a basketball.
“It’s all love no matter what. I have heard boos at times to hearing cheers in the parade. I’ve been in the championship parade as well as being down 30 in ‘Q Arena.’ So, I’ve heard it all. It’s just good to be there and hoop against a great team like the Cavs.”
Irving said he respects the body of work he left in Cleveland.
“You can always look back, and it’s a standstill in time where you look back at what happened. The amount of emotion and sacrifice it took to get something that special in Cleveland, and the only [NBA] championship, at that … The way we did it was 1-of-1. We are 1-of-1 in NBA history, so that is pretty awesome,” Irving said.
The Cavaliers have seven retired jerseys hanging in the rafters of Quicken Loans Area: Austin Carr, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Nate Thurmond, Bobby “Bingo” Smith, Larry Nance, Brad Daugherty and Mark Price. James’ No. 23 figures to be retired soon after he retires. With Irving’s body of work, should the Cavaliers retire his No. 2 jersey in time?
“I don’t know. I don’t know if it will ever happen,” Irving said. “I’m appreciative of [my career in Cleveland]. The multiple legacies I want to live in my life, Cleveland is definitely part of one. Whether it’s appreciated or not, it doesn’t matter to me. I think the effect, the actual time I spent there, is what matters most and actually trying to be remembered for what happened.”
The Celtics have won an NBA-best 17 championships and this upcoming season marks the 10-year anniversary of the last title in 2008. Irving acknowledged that he definitely noticed all the old championship banners hanging inside the Celtics’ practice facility gym. He also noticed an 18th banner with no words on it and a spotlight shining on it.
With a talented roster on his new team, Irving said, the “ultimate mission” is to be playing in June in the 2018 NBA Finals. Irving and the Celtics would likely have to eliminate the Cavaliers in the playoffs to do that.
“The most important one is the empty one that is up there,” Irving said. “There is a light shining on it. I asked Brad [Stevens] one day if he put it up there purposely for a reason. And he said it had been there for a while since the 2008 [NBA championship] banner. I know where the goal is. I know where the goal lies and the importance it. And now we have to just finish the steps on how to accomplish that.”
Ainge wishes Thomas nothing but the best -- In a new interview with Sports Illustrated, Cleveland Cavaliers guard Isaiah Thomas made it clear he may never talk to Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge again. In the wake of those comments, Ainge had nothing but positive things to say about his former point guard. Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald has more:
Ainge sympathizes, even if he has no regrets.
“That’s the hard part of the job,” Ainge said at yesterday’s Shamrock Foundation charity golf tournament in Plymouth. “I know there’s a lot of feelings that go on when these types of things happen. I was a player who was traded twice, so I understand his sentiments. But you guys know how much I love Isaiah. He’s a great kid, and I wish him the best.”
Ainge said he hasn’t talked with Thomas since the night of the trade, and has no idea if they will talk anytime soon.
“I would try to, but I have no idea,” Ainge said. “That takes two people. He obviously said some things today. He has some strong feelings, strong emotions and I understand them. I think there’s just feelings there. There’s emotions. I think everybody understands it.”
Ainge was asked if Thomas’ desire to remain a Celtic was a compliment to the organization.
“He was a great Celtic and I think everybody who watched him play and was in the locker room with him knows how great he was. He’ll be part of Celtic history forever.”
Griffin says playoffs are first goal for Clippers now -- Six seasons of Chris Paul equaled six seasons of the playoffs for the LA Clippers. Now that Paul has moved along to the Houston Rockets, is that the end of the postseason run for the Clippers? Blake Griffin isn't hoping so, but knows that it is hardly a given for his crew in a stacked Western Conference, writes Elliott Teaford of the Orange County Register:
Now that the start of the regular season can be measured in days rather than weeks, the question had to be asked and answered Wednesday. What is a realistic goal for the Clippers for the upcoming season after an offseason with so many changes?
“Make the playoffs,” Blake Griffin said. “I don’t really see any other goal. Obviously, it’s to win a championship. Every team starts out at the beginning of the year saying, ‘We want to win a championship,’ but you’ve got to have a goal of getting to the playoffs first.”
Griffin disagreed with a reporter’s suggestion that 2017-18 would be a transitional season for the Clippers, what with nine new players on the roster and past standouts such as Chris Paul, Jamal Crawford and J.J. Redick now playing elsewhere.
“I wouldn’t really call it a transitional season,” Griffin said. “We have new players. To me, transitional makes it seem like it’s a rebuilding year or something like that. I guess it would be rebuilding if we had done something. We haven’t really done anything over the past five, six years.
“It’s different. It’s a different team. It’s a different look. I don’t know about transitional.”
A rash of injuries recently has made it difficult to imagine what sort of team the Clippers could become this season. Their rotation will be disjointed for the third consecutive exhibition. Three starters and two key backups aren’t expected to play because of injuries against the Kings.
Measuring the Clippers’ progress during the preseason has been difficult.
“It’s kind of tough to tell because of the injuries,” Griffin said. “We’ve had a lot of guys sitting out. That always throws off your rhythm a little bit. I like our understanding of our offense. Our understanding of our defense is there. It’s just a matter of getting everybody on the same page.
“You have to do that with reps, and we haven’t really been able to get the reps we’ve wanted the last four, five days or whatever it’s been since we’ve been back (after holding training camp in Hawaii). This next week of practice and games will be important for us.”
Porzingis plans to play in season-opener -- New York's Friday's home date with the Washington Wizards (7:30 p.m. ET, NBA League Pass) marks the final preseason game for both the Wizards and Knicks. While star forward Kristaps Porzingis is iffy for that game, he's planning on being in the lineup for the season-opener next week in Oklahoma City. Marc Berman of the New York Post has more:
The next time you see Kristaps Porzingis on the court, he may be shaking hands with mentor Carmelo Anthony at center court in Oklahoma City before tip-off.
Whether Porzingis’ sore right hip allows him to play the preseason finale against Washington on Friday is still a mystery, but the Knicks’ 22-year-old franchise player vowed he’ll be there for the season opener Oct. 19 against the Thunder.
Porzingis sat out Wednesday’s practice after missing Monday’s exhibition loss to Houston. He was shut down Sunday for the second half in Brooklyn with the new ailment, but team doctors haven’t classified it as serious.
“Forty percent yes, 60 percent no,’’ Porzingis said when asked if he would be back Friday. “[It] depends how I feel [Thursday] with running, shooting. We’ll see. I’m lifting my leg up. It’s getting better from [Tuesday].”
Later in the interview, he tried to be more optimistic.
“I hope to play the last game and be ready for the season,” Porzingis said. “I’m like a lizard. I recover quickly.”
This latest malady, he believes, occurred from overcompensating on a sore ankle. Porzingis had hip issues during his pre-draft workouts in 2015.
Doctors told him he may have to “put more pressure on another part of the body.’’ Porzingis said he has learned to work a lot on correct “posture.’’
“I’m 7-3, maybe 7-5, I don’t know,’’ said Porzingis, who has brought his own personal physio therapist from Latvia to New York for the season. “I have to do all the preventative stuff."
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