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Boston Celtics’ Kyrie Irving coy on possible reunion with LeBron James

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BOSTON (AP) — Kyrie Irving is playing coy about the possibility of reuniting with his former Cleveland Cavaliers teammate LeBron James next season in Boston.

The Celtics guard on Tuesday deferred when asked about the prospect of the team pursuing James this summer. The 33-year-old James has a player option to remain in Cleveland next season but could opt for free agency.

“In this business, I’ve kind of experienced it all and I’ve seen a lot, so we’ll see what management decides,” Irving said when asked if he would be open to playing alongside James again.

Irving was drafted No. 1 overall by the Cavaliers in 2011 and played three seasons with James, from 2014-17. The duo made three straight trips to the NBA Finals, winning a championship in 2016.

“Obviously, it’s a business at the end of the day,” Irving said. “Ownership and management, they’re going to feel what’s best for our future and I’m fully supportive of (them). We’ll see what happens.”

Irving was traded to Boston last August and averaged 24.4 points and 5.1 assists over 60 games in his first season with the Celtics.

The five-time All-Star missed the last 15 games of the regular season and the entirety of the playoffs after undergoing left knee surgery.

“To kind of have something like that unexpected, it was hurtful, because just a lot of what I wanted to accomplish with our guys and individually as one of the leaders of the team,” Irving said.

Irving also had a separate surgery in May to repair a deviated septum, a procedure that kept him away from the sidelines for Game 7 of the Celtics’ Eastern Conference Finals series against James and the Cavaliers.

“Obviously, it wasn’t going to feel the same (not being there), but I was just so proud of our guys and what they did,” Irving said. “They passed a lot of expectations, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

Cleveland beat Boston 87-79 in Game 7 to send James to his eighth consecutive Finals series. The Cavaliers were swept by the Golden State Warriors, dropping James’ personal Finals record to 3-6.

The Celtics expect Irving to be completely recovered by the start of training camp in the fall.

“I’m feeling good,” Irving said. “It was going to be a process coming back, just making sure I’m healthy enough for September. Just trying not to push it too hard.”

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Report: Isaiah Thomas may not be ready for Denver Nuggets training camp

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Isaiah Thomas’ availability for training camp remains in question as he continues to work his way back from hip surgery, according to Nuggets reporter Christopher Dempsey.

Asked about Thomas’ recovery, Denver Nuggets President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly said Thomas is progressing but won’t be rushed back.
 

“We’ll see. Like all of our guys, we want to be especially sensitive to Isaiah,” Connelly said. “I think he probably has rushed back [in the past]. We want Isaiah to be right. So, he’s working his butt off a couple times a day with our guys. He’s getting better by the day. But we’re not trying to win the preseason. Whenever he’s ready, he’ll be out there and I’m sure he’ll be impactful.”

Thomas, who played in just 32 games last season for the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Lakers, had had arthroscopic hip surgery back in March.

The two-time All-Star signed with the Nuggets on July 12.



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Report: Philadelphia Sixers promote Elton Brand to general manager

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Elton Brand is in charge of the Philadelphia 76ers.

A person familiar with the situation says the Sixers have made Brand their new general manager, replacing Bryan Colangelo. Colangelo resigned in June as the 76ers’ president of basketball operations after what an investigation concluded was “careless and in some instances reckless” sharing of sensitive team information on Twitter.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Tuesday because the move had not been officially announced. Brand is expected to be introduced at a news conference on Thursday.

Brand had worked for the Sixers as vice president of operations and also served as the general manager of the Delaware Blue Coats, the 76ers’ G League affiliate.

Brand was the No. 1 pick of the 1999 draft by the Chicago Bulls and played two stints with the Sixers.

Sixers coach Brett Brown had served as Philadelphia’s interim GM and said earlier Tuesday he wasn’t interested in holding both jobs. Brown pledged the Sixers would name a general manager before the season started.

“This is not something that interests me. I do not believe in the role that I have as a head coach that it’s tenable,” Brown said. “We will have, to the best of my knowledge, a general manager appointed, announced by the start of the season. And it’s not me. It was never going to be.”

Hours later, the Sixers had their guy.

Brand played in 1,058 career games over 18 seasons with the Bulls, the Los Angeles Clippers, Dallas, Atlanta and the Sixers. He posted career averages of 16 points, nine rebounds, two assists and two blocks per game. A two-time All-Star and the 2000 rookie of the year, Brand was also the recipient of the 2005-06 Joe Dumars Trophy, presented each season to the player who exemplifies the ideals of sportsmanship on the court.

The person familiar with the decisions also said Ned Cohen will remain assistant general manager and Marc Eversley will stay as senior vice president of player personnel. They both interviewed for the GM job. Alex Rucker was promoted to executive vice president of basketball operations.

The Sixers won 52 games last season and beat Miami in the first round of the playoffs before they were eliminated in the conference semifinals by Boston. Under Brown’s watch, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons have blossomed into two of the top young players in the league.

The Sixers were rocked when an independent review found that Colangelo’s wife, Barbara Bottini, operated four Twitter accounts it investigated, and she admitted using private information to criticize the Sixers and rival colleagues.

Colangelo and his predecessor Sam Hinkie, who hired Brown, had the final say in player personnel decisions. Brown said he was looking “for a partner” in personnel moves with the new GM.

“I do have a voice. I’ve always had a voice here,” Brown said. “I think as the head coach, it should be that, to a point. I get the role of the general manager.”

Brown said losing Colangelo was a “game-changer” but said his absence or lack of a general manager had nothing to do with the Sixers striking out in their bid to land LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, a lower-tier free agent – or anyone beyond a couple of modest pickups such as Wilson Chandler.

“I think we would all be naive to think free agents choose a basketball program because of a general manager,” Brown said. “They come because of Joel and Ben. And I hope the coach has got a little bit to do with it.”

He added: “The general manager situation had zero to do with us not being able to acquire one of those talents.”

Brown, who took the 76ers from 10 wins to the third seed in the Eastern Conference in just two seasons, agreed in May to a three-year contract extension that runs through the 2021-2022 season.

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Toronto Raptors GM Masai Ujiri says Kawhi Leonard ‘in right frame of mind’

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TORONTO (AP) — Kawhi Leonard has yet to address the media in Toronto since his trade to the Raptors, but team president Masai Ujiri said Tuesday that his star acquisition is happy and healthy.

“He is determined and seems in the right frame of mind,” Ujiri said. “You will be hearing from him shortly. I think there is a fire inside of him and we are all excited about that.”

Leonard was the centerpiece of one of the NBA’s biggest offseason trades. The Raptors acquired the two-time Defensive Player of the Year from the San Antonio Spurs along with Danny Green in exchange for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a draft pick. Ujiri swung the deal while in Kenya working with his nonprofit, Giants of Africa.

While Leonard has remained mum on the move, Ujiri said he’s not concerned about the 27-year-old’s commitment to the franchise, saying Leonard worked out with Raptors coaches in Los Angeles, and has visited Toronto a couple of times.

“Basketball person. Just loves the game,” he said. “Wants to play the game and very competitive. You can tell he is a very competitive kid. It’s about basketball. Once you just start to talk about basketball his eyes change.”

The Raptors open training camp next week in Vancouver, and Ujiri said Leonard, who had a much-discussed falling-out with the Spurs, won’t get any special treatment.

“There is nothing we are going to do different. We are going to be ourselves. I think the situation with him in San Antonio, which I don’t want to talk about because I don’t know much about it, but he’s a quiet kid,” Ujiri said. “That’s his nature. We can’t all be the same kind of people. But he is as engaging as he would want to be and he’s very interesting. There is no maintenance with him. There are no tons of people around him. His [focus] is on basketball which is what you want. He is a basketball junkie.”

Ujiri said it was a difficult decision to trade DeRozan and that veteran guard Kyle Lowry also took the trade hard. Lowry refused to discuss the trade with reporters during a U.S. national team training camp in Las Vegas in late July.

“Kyle is close to DeMar and he’s going to be sensitive,” Ujiri said. “That was a blow to him. I think basketball-wise Kyle is always ready, he’s always going to be ready, he’s training hard and he’ll be ready.”

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