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Kyrie Irving was mad. Then he went out and scored a career-high 44 points, though the Cavs lost to the Bobcats Saturday.
Irving had been mad in interviews and on his Twitter account over first a Cleveland Browns NFL player, Josh Gordon, saying on ESPN his neighbor, Irving teammate Dion Waiters, was in a “rift” with Irving. Then it was longtime Cleveland writer Brian Windhorst, now with ESPN—that pesky ESPN—writing that Irving wants out of Cleveland. This, of course, was nothing new and often rumored and speculated the last year with reports Irving wants to return to his native East Coast.
Irving said Gordon should “mind his own business,” and wrote on his Twitter he was, “Sick to my stomach with all these rumors and accusations…and B.S. headlines.” Irving didn’t say he would re-sign with the Cavs after this season. And after losing LeBron James, owner Dan Gilbert had said—though he says a lot of things—that he’d trade a top player before allowing a star to leave again.
That could all throw the NBA draft into some interesting turmoil.
Would you trade the No. 1 pick for Kyrie Irving? The No. 3? The No. 5? After all, here’s a potential all-league point guard and MVP of the past All-Star game. Can you be guaranteed that with one of these draft picks?
Of course, the question is with whom Irving would re-sign. Some team executives have said privately they believe Irving will re-sign with the Cavs to get the financial security. And given he’s only 22, he can be a free agent when he’s 26 or 27. But he could also let the Cavs know he won’t re-sign. Not that the Cavs have been so great in the draft, but perhaps a top pick in this draft and a player would have to be appealing.
You’d doubt Irving would want to play for the Bucks or Magic. But what about a building block with the Celtics? They are the team to watch. Perhaps a package built around Rajon Rondo and the draft pick? Maybe Ohio Stater and Columbus native Jared Sullinger. We know Danny Ainge rebuilt the Celtics using the draft for trades. He’d probably like to do it again. How about the Lakers? You know Kobe wants actual players and not rookies. The 76ers? Probably not, but it is East and they have plenty of picks and some players to throw in.
Perhaps similarly with Kevin Love. You figure teams would wait until he becomes a free agent in the summer of 2015. But what if you want to make sure? Maybe that Lakers’ high lottery pick looks good. Maybe Boston’s. Expect to hear a lot of discussion involving trades for the top five picks in this draft. It was once taboo to trade a high lottery pick. But circumstances may suggest otherwise this year.
Jordan’s Bobcats one of NBA’s surprise teams
-- C’mon, a little cheer for Michael Jordan. He hasn’t been getting many. Long questioned as an executive, Jordan’s Bobcats have been one of the big surprise teams of the NBA this season in clinching just their second playoff spot in franchise history and with a chance to have only their second even winning season. Management’s moves to bring in coach Steve Clifford and the most overlooked signing in Al Jefferson has changed their infamous losing culture to a team you should be wary of in the playoffs two seasons after setting the all-time record for worst season in NBA history at 7-59. They now have a chance to double their win total from last season in perhaps one of the most impressive turnarounds in NBA history. How about 28-120 the last two seasons to now 39-38. “The first day of training camp, I said, ‘If we commit ourselves to the things we need to do, we have a chance (to make the playoffs),’” Jefferson told the Charlotte Observer when the Bobcats clinched Saturday. Said Kemba Walker: “We’ve been the worst two teams in the NBA (the last two seasons). That to now? Night and Day!” OK, Mike. You can do some “I told you sos” now. If Charlotte defeats Washington Wednesday, the Bobcats could move to sixth in the East.
Is criticism for Dumars unwarranted?
-- The Bulls have the Detroit Pistons at the United Center Friday. It’s a lost season for the Pistons with substantial changes expected, including perhaps general manager Joe Dumars. Dumars has been under siege of late and even declined to speak publicly last week when they had a Bad Boys championship reunion in Detroit, which is too bad. True, the Pistons have plummeted in recent seasons with some free agency choices that haven’t worked out. But the Pistons are not that far away. They have done exceptionally well in the draft. Dumars selected Greg Monroe with the No. 7 pick in 2010 and he’d be No. 3 or No. 4 if the draft were done over. He picked Andre Drummond No. 9 in 2012 and now he’d likely be maybe No. 3. Maybe even No. 2 behind Anthony Davis. Dumars also arguably has been the third most successful executive of the NBA’s 21st century behind the Spurs and Miami. Dumars in losing Grant Hill in free agency in 2000 talked Orlando out of Ben Wallace to get Hill a larger contract. Consider with a 32-win team in 2001, Dumars put together teams without getting one high level free agent that won at least 50 games the next seven seasons, made six conference finals and won a championship. Few can boast a record anywhere close. One of those mentioned as a possible successor if Dumars were to leave is former Pistons star Isiah Thomas. And before everyone objects, a recent study of the draft over the last 20 years found Thomas the most effective executive in draft personnel with Rookie of the Year Daman Stoudemire at No. 7 and Tracy McGrady at No. 9. Thomas also drafted Marcus Camby for Toronto, setting them up for an excellent future they wasted. With the Knicks, Thomas used low first rounders to draft David Lee, Trevor Ariza, Wilson Chandler and Nate Robinson, all still productive NBA players in major roles. Thomas was supposed to have the job Dumars eventually got. But Thomas got into a dispute with owner Bill Davidson, who then tabbed Dumars instead.
NBA news and notes
-- It may be the Bulls next Sunday who have a chance to finally put the Knicks out of their misery for this season. ABC bailed out on the game in their “flex” agreement and opted for Pacers/Thunder over the originally scheduled Bulls/Knicks. Of course, the way the Pacers are going ABC may want to switch back. That Bulls game now moves to 6:30 p.m. from noon. After losing to Miami Sunday with Carmelo Anthony with a bruised shoulder shooting four of 17 and nine for 31 in the last two games with the loss to Washington Friday, the Knicks probably have to win out in four games against the Bulls, Nets and Toronto twice. OK, Phil, it’s just about your turn. … It seems the Philadelphia media is anxious for positive 76ers news. Former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell wrote a story that led the Philadelphia Inquirer web site reporting he was told by Villanova coach Jay Wright that Creighton player of the year Doug McDermott is the next Larry Bird. Here we go again: White scorer; next Bird. Wrote Rendell, who advocated the 76ers picking McDermott with the first rounder they’ll get from the Pelicans from the Jrue Holiday trade, quoting Wright: "Doug McDermott is simply the best player in college basketball and he is the closest thing to Larry Bird that I have ever seen. He's the best post player in the country, as well as the best perimeter shooter in the country. He is a terrific rebounder, definitely not soft and can defend the perimeter. And, like Bird, he moves incredibly well without the ball." Pro scouts see McDermott, shorter than Bird and various other big white shooters like Dirk Nowitzki, as more a wing player at shooting guard or small forward. … Though the Heat nudged past the free fall Pacers. that top seed isn’t quite wrapped yet with Dwyane Wade still being rested. The Heat this week play the Nets, against whom they are 0-3, then in Memphis against the Grizzlies pushing to make the playoffs and home Friday for likely the deciding game against Indiana. As your statements go, that game would be one for the Pacers to make to give themselves any belief for the playoffs. Announcing: Eastern Conference finals opponent for Miami wide open.
-- He’s back to being Omer the magnificent. Omer Asik, over his earlier season injuries and disappointment in being a backup center, has been the big Turk again. Asik had 18 points, 23 rebounds (his second 23-rebound game in the last four), three steals and three blocks in the Rockets’ Sunday overtime comeback win. He’s averaging 12 points and 16 rebounds the last five games with Dwight Howard injured. It pretty much wrapped up a fourth seed and first round home court for the Rockets, who’ll likely open against Portland or Golden State. … Give Kevin Durant credit for pretty much ignoring that latest made up ESPN record of things that have happened since they went on the air, that being Durant’s stretch of 25-point games, Sunday surpassing Michael Jordan’s 40 straight. Said Durant: “Everybody keeps putting me in the same sentence as Michael Jordan. But Wilt Chamberlain did it like 180 games in a row. So it’s a long ways to get up there.” Now they call it the “three-point era” to pretend Wilt didn’t exist. Funny how baseball still acknowledges the existence of Babe Ruth. … No one much believes the Clippers can be a Finals team, but they are getting back their injured players and still have a chance of overtaking the Thunder for second. Also interesting that Chris Paul told ESPN about coach Doc Rivers in his no excuse mentality. “Doc always says he doesn’t talk to you if you’re hurt,” said Paul. “I’ve never been on a team like that. Usually when a guy’s out, guys in the locker room are saying it’s going to be tough tonight without this guy, but we rally around each other.” Said Jamal Crawford: “Doc Rivers is that good. There are no excuses. It’s Doc. I think I’ve had a great year. Blake went to an MVP level. Chris is having another one of his years, but Doc is the true MVP of this team. He keeps us prepared. He keeps us locked in. We know exactly what we’re supposed to do night in and night out. He sets that standard for us.”… It may be the end this week for Steve Nash, who has become the most unlikely of Hall of Famers as his health issues may permit maybe one more appearance for the Lakers. He has a season left on his contract and wants to try again next season. But the Lakers could waive him this summer and be able to spread out his remaining $9.7 million over three seasons. It could make the difference in signing a free agent. But it’s been an amazing career for a guy playing for the Canadian national team in the early 1990’s when NBA scouts were saying he was too small and slow to have an NBA career.
-- The Pacers’ collapse, though the season isn’t quite over yet, has been one of the most shocking and portends an early playoff ouster. Teams that close the season that way rarely go anywhere in the playoffs as the Pacers were blown out at home Sunday by Atlanta after a 23-point first half. No one wants to build up regular season games as “statement” games, but it is a statement when you fail to compete like the Pacers have. What’s been more surprising is the way some players appear to be giving up. Though the Pacers were in post-game damage control, saying it was matchups that forced Roy Hibbert’s second half benching, Hibbert was in an obvious pout during the game, avoiding huddles and openly disinterested in the results. He’d been vocal with media about selfish play and last week basically was told to shut up by coach Frank Vogel. Players have privately pointed to All-Star Paul George for being self-involved as George deals with several self-created off the court embarrassments that apparently have overwhelmed him. Lance Stephenson facing free agency and his first big pay day appears to be trying to show a bit too much as the players force up jump shots and ignore David West. The Hawks, Bobcats and Wizards now may be trying to jockey for position to get Indiana. … Not that it matters much, but lost in the mess of this season for the Pistons was Andre Drummond getting the most offensive rebounds in a season since Jayson Williams and Dennis Rodman in 1997-98. Since 2000, the most had been Elton Brand his first season after the Bulls traded him. … It has to be warning signs for the Thunder as they lost in Phoenix Sunday. No big deal as the Suns have had a terrific season. But Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined for 54 shots. The other three starters combined for eight. No other Thunder player had more than eight. Though Durant and Westbrook are terrific, the way they monopolize the ball makes their offense much more predictable to defend.
-- It’s NBA life for a second rounder. So it wasn’t that big a surprise when the Bulls released Erik Murphy last week. But the popular forward made a positive impression and teammates were pleased he was picked up on waivers by the Jazz. Said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau: "It's unfortunate. It was done more so for roster flexibility. I thought he did a great job for us, and I thought he had gotten significantly better. Great kid, hardworking, driven, smart. Those type of guys tend to improve as they go along. I think he has a very bright future.” Given the peculiarities of the collective bargaining agreement, it was to the Bulls’ advantage to go into the summer with veterans rather than a second round pick in the event of combining salaries in a deal. But Murphy could be a good fit in Utah with big men who play inside. … The Warriors continue in their curious playoff preparation by moving out yet another assistant coach, Darren Erman, after Brian Scalabrine had been “reassigned.” If it works, I wouldn’t want to be an assistant coach anywhere. … It may not make enough difference in the end, but one of the better comeback stories amidst all the New York hysteria has been Amar’e Stoudemire, who averaged 16.9 points and shot 57 percent averaging almost 30 minutes per game in playing all but one game in March. In the three April games, Stoudemire is averaging 14.5 points and shooting 67 percent. Given up for done with his serious knee problems, it’s a credit to him to have fought back to be a productive player. Though the tease may be J.R. Smith, who averaged 16 in the Knicks 11-4 March run back into playoff contention and 28 the last three games in going 24 of 50 threes in the last three games. … The Lakers tied their franchise record Sunday for losses in a season in losing the season series to the Clippers for the second consecutive season. It had previously happened twice in 42 years in L.A. The Clippers playing the Thunder Wednesday could determine second in the West. The Spurs are solid in first over the Thunder, who has defeated the Spurs all four times. Though the Suns made it 2-1 over the Thunder Sunday. It’s all about matchups.