This morning’s headlines:
- Durant downplays Irving-James spat
- Celtics to retire Pierce’s No. 34 next season
- Haslem would welcome a Wade return to Heat
Durant: Irving-James rift ‘regular’ problem in NBA — In the wake of free agency and offseason player movement, the Kyrie Irving trade chatter has arguably been the top story running in NBA circles. Throw in talk of a rift between Irving and teammate LeBron James and that leapfrogs just about anything else on the NBA-fan radar. To Warriors star Kevin Durant, though, talk of discord among star teammates is just another day in the NBA office, writes Chris Haynes of ESPN.com:
Trade requests occur routinely behind the scenes without anyone knowing, Durant said.
“It’s just a regular NBA problem, right? A lot of teams have gone through this before,” Durant told ESPN. “They’ll figure it out. That’s a great organization, a championship organization. They’ll figure it out.”
James and Irving haven’t communicated since the request was made in July. Two alpha males on the same team not getting along isn’t new territory. The Cavaliers seek young assets in return for Irving, but newly hired general manager Koby Altman will be patient and is willing to extend the asset search into the regular season.
“It’s not the end of the world,” Durant said. “Both of those guys won a championship together. They love each other. If Kyrie wants to do something else, that’s on him. I’m sure whatever happens, it’ll work out for the best for both of them. But it’s just a normal NBA problem. It’s just two big stars that it’s happening to.”
Durant is a few days removed from playing pickup games in New York with James, Carmelo Anthony, among others NBA players. James flew in from Cleveland and Durant made the trip from the Maryland-area.
He downplayed the star-studded exhibition, saying it was just guys getting together to play basketball.
“That’s all it is at the end of the day. It’s pickup,” he said. “It’s nothing serious about it, to be honest. We’ve been doing this our whole lives. We just went out there and played. If somebody wants to hoop, we just hoop. We just went out there and played, bro. Nothing too serious.”
Celtics to retire Pierce’s No. 34 this season — The lore of the Celtics is legendary, what with their NBA-record 17 titles as well as a legacy of winning and great players. Paul Pierce checks the boxes in all of the above categories, spending 15 standout seasons in Boston while also leading the team to the 2008 NBA title. Come next season, he’ll become the 23rd player in Celtics history to have his jersey retired, writes Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe:
Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca said that Paul Pierce’s No. 34 will be retired this upcoming season.
“It’s going to be fantastic,” Pagliuca said. “For our era, the most recent era, he embodied the Celtics’ leadership, the Celtics’ brand and was the MVP of the championship team. So it’s going to be fantastic to see that happen.”
Pierce’s 34 will be the 22nd number to hang in the rafters at TD Garden. The Celtics will soon announce the date of the ceremony.
The Celtics selected Pierce with the 10th pick of the 1998 draft. The 10-time All-Star averaged 21.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game over 15 seasons in Boston and helped guide the team to the 2008 NBA title.
Pierce was traded to the Nets in 2013 as part of the massive deal that netted Boston four future first-round draft picks, two of which have been used on potential rising stars Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.
Haslem on Wade speculation: ‘We’d love to have you’ — In this space yesterday, we brought you the news from ESPN.com that the Bulls and Dwyane Wade were expected to reach a buyout deal sometime this season. Once that came to light, speculation started as to where, hypothetically, Wade would go next. In an interview WQAM in Miami, former Wade teammate and current Heat player Udonis Haslem said he would love to see Wade return to Miami. Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel has more:
Thursday, during an appearance on WQAM, Heat captain Udonis Haslem, who, like Wade, began his NBA career with the Heat in 2003, addressed the latest Wade conjecture.
“I talk to D-Wade every day,” he said, having recently completed a promotional tour in China alongside Wade. “My advice to D-Wade and his advice has always been to me is, ‘Take it one day at a time. Just take it one day at a time, step by step.’
“We kind of understand the direction that Chicago is going in. We kind of understand the direction that Dwyane wants to go in the last couple of years of his career. The business side of things sometimes doesn’t always allow both sides to co-exist.”
“My advice,” Haslem said, “to him is, ‘Hey, we’d love to have you, but take it one step at a time, take it one day at a time, and be involved with what’s going on with your family. I think the situation with Chicago and everything that’s going on, it’s just a frustrating situation on both sides.”
Those comments came a day after Heat center Hassan Whiteside posted a GIF on Twitter nodding to the possibility of again playing alongside his former Heat teammate.
Last month, Dion Waiters, who took Wade’s place as the Heat starting shooting guard last season, was asked on Twitter about whether there would be room on mythical Waiters Island for a Wade return to the Heat, responding, “any day of the week.”
As it is, the Heat are loaded in their backcourt, with the return of Goran Dragic, Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson, Rodney McGruder, Wayne Ellington and this summer’s re-signing of Waiters.
Plus, there remains the higher math in Chicago, with the Bulls to potentially leverage Wade’s $23.8 million expiring contract as part of their rebuild.
The degree of a Wade buyout by the Bulls could impact his ability to become whole, with the Heat limited to a $4.3 million mid-level exception to spend this season, having already reached the 2017-18 salary cap with the offseason signings of Waiters, James Johnson and Kelly Olynyk.
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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Might Marc Gasol be open to a change of scenery? … James Harden takes the drive-by dunk challenge to a whole new level … KJ McDaniels has reportedly agreed to a deal with the Raptors … Add Dikembe Mutombo to the list of people who may be interested in buying the Rockets … Kevin Durant reportedly will not accept an invitation to the White House … Chris Webber’s classic Kings squad from 2001-02 will be in the new edition of NBA 2K …