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



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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‘We want to win’ — Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid excited to add Jimmy Butler



The Philadelphia 76ers’ trade for Jimmy Butler came as a surprise to the team when the news broke before their game against the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday.

“There’s a sad side to it,” Ben Simmons said after the team’s short-handed loss to Memphis. “But obviously, there’s a business side and whatever the front office decides to help us win, whatever they want to add. We are open to Jimmy and can’t wait for him to get here. I’m excited to play with him.”

Simmons said he spoke with Butler earlier in the day about their plans for the new-look Sixers.


NBA TV analyzes how the trade for Butler affects Philadelphia.

“Between me, [Joel Embiid] and Jimmy, we all have that similar mindset of we hate losing, that pisses us off and we want to win,” Simmons said. “A guy like him who can come in, score the ball, veteran leadership, experience — he’s going to fit in here. Our culture is winning, playing together as a team and playing hard. I think he’s going to bring that.”

While Embiid hadn’t talked with Butler yet, he did get the chance to discuss the trade with two players who have plenty of experience with Butler — former Timberwolves teammates Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.

“They thought that he was going to be good for us,” Embiid said after the game. “They thought that we were definitely going to get along. He wants to win. [Wiggins] told me that he thought that we were going to win the East for sure.”


Are the Sixers the best team in the East after their trade for Butler?

The addition of Butler isn’t without its downsides, though, as the Sixers were forced to say goodbye to longtime teammates Dario Saric and Robert Covington.

“I miss Dario and [Covington],” said Embiid. “They gave us a lot the past couple of years. I felt like we were starting to play really well together and figure it out. Dario was finding himself again, and Cov is first-team all-defense, doing his job and knocking down shots. I felt like we were starting to like really figure it out and play well together.

“But it’s a business. Gotta move on. Love those guys. Wish them luck. I miss them, I love them. Gotta keep in touch with them.”

With Butler soon to be in the fold, Embiid and Simmons aren’t worried about how the four-time All-Star will affect the team’s offensive ball movement.

“I think he’s going to help us a lot offensively and especially defensively,” said Embiid. “With the type of system we play, we like to move the ball. The ball goes through everybody’s hands, so I don’t think bringing someone else will take the ball out of my hands or Ben’s hands. We are going to figure it out. I’m sure he’s coming in here willing to fit in.

“I’m excited to see where he takes us, and how much better we are going to look.”

“It’s not going to affect my game. I know how to play,” Simmons said. “I know what I’m good at. I know what I can do on the floor, him coming in helps us, and having another scorer on the floor, and another vet who will play the game the right way.”

> Schuhmann: How does trade affect Sixers?

The deal is reportedly expected to be finalized on Monday when the two teams make the trade official with the league offices. Butler’s first game with the Sixers could come on Wednesday when the team visits the Orlando Magic (7 ET, NBA League Pass).

* * *


Look back at Jimmy Butler’s timeline with the Timberwolves.

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About Last Night: Rockets’ woes continue




That was Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni’s recent answer, simple yet so perfectly evocative, when asked about his team’s miserable offensive performance to start 2018-19. 

Those woes continued Saturday against the Spurs as the Rockets sputtered once again en route to a toothless 96-89 loss

Even as the rest of the NBA enjoys a turbo-charged renaissance, it marked the sixth time the Rockets have failed to score 100 points in 11 games this season. They did so just eight times last season, when they led the league in offensive efficiency at 114.7 points per 100 possessions. 

Bump the threshold down to 90, and they’ve not only doubled every other team’s total this season with four, they’ve already surpassed their total of three from the past two seasons combined

The Rockets entered Saturday’s game ranked 27th at 105.4 per 100, and a pitiful 29th in raw points per game at 102.8. Both figures dropped even further after they shot a miserable 33.3 percent with just 11 assists on 30 field goals against the Spurs. 

Yuck, indeed. 

And the pièce de résistance: The Carmelo Anthony Experiment has failed miserably so far, to the point that the Rockets are reportedly pondering whether they even want him on the team anymore. (To whit: Anthony has more missed field goals than the sum total of his made baskets, assists, steals and blocked shots.)

With five months until the playoffs begin, the Rockets obviously have plenty of time to turn things around. Exactly how they’re going to do that, however, remains a mystery. 

“If I knew, I’d tell you,” said Chris Paul, who shot 4 for 13. “I don’t know. I think … the law of averages will kick in at some point, so I’m expecting us to get unbelievably hot. We’re still figuring it out.”


Trade Steph?

Hahahaha, of course not. The planet would spontaneously explode before the Warriors even considered moving game-breaking, two-time MVP Stephen Curry. 

But you have to hand it to Warriors reserve Quinn Cook: Give him an opportunity, and he’ll invariably make the most of it. Starting just the 19th game of his career in the injured Curry’s stead, Cook poured in a season-high 27 points to help the Warriors dismantle the Nets 116-100

It continued his history of strong play in the starting lineup, having averaged 14.6 points on 49.3-percent shooting in his previous 18 opens for the Warriors.

Despite such impressive production, Cook has found playing time tough to come by with the Warriors, for obvious reasons. Which makes Warriors coach Steve Kerr even more grateful to have such a dependable option when injuries and other circumstances inevitably arise. 

“That’s the mark of a pro,” Kerr said. ”He’s a great fit for us. Always prepared and always ready. His role is going to swing wildly based on our health and what’s happening out on the floor but he’s always ready.” 


Quinn Cook gives the Warriors a huge lift with 27 points against the Nets.


Like Mike

To be very clear, Zach LaVine is not Michael Jordan.


That said, the flamboyant Bulls guard did a pretty passable impersonation with a series of high-altitude maneuvers in his team’s 99-98 triumph over the Cavaliers. So good, in fact, that the Bulls themselves couldn’t help but notice the similarity between the two on LaVine’s slick reverse layup.

For good measure, LaVine added this putback slam off a missed free throw, yet another callback to one of Jordan’s many specialties when it came to scoring the basketball in the most athletic, stylish manner possible.


Elite Company

The 76ers fell to the Grizzlies in overtime, in part because All-Star center Joel Embiid shot just 4 for 15 with six turnovers. 

He nonetheless racked up his 13th double-double in 14 games this season, becoming the first Sixers player to do so since Moses Malone in 1982-83.

Could it be a good omen on an already great day for the Sixers? Malone won his third MVP award that season while leading them to their most recent championship.  


Elite Company II 

DeMar DeRozan struggled through a rare off night against the Rockets with just 13 points on 4-for-13 shooting. 

He still finished the night averaging 25.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 6.5 assists, joining Kevin Durant and (of course) LeBron James as the only NBA players to reach those thresholds this season. 


Stat Of The Night

71.7 — That’s the individual defensive rating, as measured by points allowed per 100 possessions when he was on the court, for new Lakers center Tyson Chandler during his 23-minute stint against the Kings. 

To put that into perspective, the Lakers are giving up 109.1 per 100 as a team this season, good enough to rank 17th in the league.

It comes on the heels of a 97.9 rating in Chandler’s Lakers debut against the Timberwolves, providing another sign that his addition could be just what they need to shore up the leaky defense that has plagued them during their uneven start. 


D Up

Jabari Parker made headlines this summer during his introductory press conference with the Bulls, when he said NBA players aren’t paid to play defense. (Given how offensive production has soared this season, he might have had a point.)

But even Parker can be suitably motivated with the game on the line, preserving his team’s one-point win over the Cavs with a clutch block. 


Jabari Parker comes up with the clutch block against the Cavaliers.


Don’t forget the donuts

Veterans frequently mess with rookies just because they can. Such was the case the other day when some unidentified Hawks — not to drop dimes or anything, but Jeremy Lin reportedly had a leading role — filled Trae Young’s $138,000 Audi with popcorn. 

Clippers rookie Jerome Robinson became the latest victim of this time-honored NBA tradition, and he has no one to blame but himself. According to Tobias Harris, Robinson drew his teammates’ ire by forgetting breakfast for their morning shootaround. 


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Reports: Jimmy Butler dealt to 76ers, creating Big 3 in Philadelphia



Jimmy Butler has his wish: He’s out of Minnesota.

And just like that, Philadelphia has a new Big Three – one that could make serious noise in the Eastern Conference.

A person with knowledge of the situation said Saturday that Butler is being traded to the 76ers in a package that will send Dario Saric and Robert Covington to the Timberwolves. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the trade had not yet been announced by either team and was still pending NBA approval, which is not expected until Monday.

Justin Patton will also be sent to Philadelphia, and Jerryd Bayless and a 2022 second-round pick are also going to Minnesota, the person said.

The Athletic first reported the agreement.


Take a closer look at Jimmy Butler’s roller coaster ride in Minnesota.

Philadelphia’s “Process” led it to the second round of the playoffs last season behind two of the game’s youngest, brightest stars in big man Joel Embiid and point guard Ben Simmons. Butler, an elite wing and outstanding defender, will join them in a quest to rule the Eastern Conference now that LeBron James has left that league to join the Los Angeles Lakers following eight straight trips to the NBA Finals with Miami and Cleveland.

The first order of business will be making the trade official, something that could come in time to get Butler in uniform for a game at Miami on Monday. The next step for Philadelphia will be coming to an agreement on an extension for Butler, a pending free agent who made clear to Minnesota that he would not be re-signing there in 2019.

Translated: The Wolves had to trade him, or they would lose him for nothing over the summer.

There has been Butler drama every step of the way this season.

ESPN reported that at his first practice with Minnesota this fall, Butler verbally challenged players, coaches and general manager Scott Layden while dominating in scrimmages, even when going up against stars like Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.

Butler said the report was true.

“All my emotion came out at one time,” Butler told ESPN later that day. “Was it the right way to do it? No. But I can’t control that when I’m out there competing. That’s my love of the game. That’s raw me. Me at my finest, me at my purest. That’s what you’re going to get inside the lines.”

Butler continued to be miserable in Minnesota, and the Timberwolves have gotten off to a lousy start waiting for this inevitable move. Minnesota finished a 0-5 road trip with a loss in Sacramento on Friday night and is 4-9 overall – winless in eight games on the road.

Butler played in 10 of those games, averaging 21.3 points. It was a peculiar arrangement; the Timberwolves were still running things through him often, even while the worst-kept secret in the NBA was that he wanted a change of address. Plenty of teams were mentioned along the way – Houston, the Los Angeles Clippers, Miami among them – as top candidates.

Butler, who turned 29 on Sept. 14, has been an All-Star in each of the last four seasons. There are also concerns, though they clearly didn’t put off Philadelphia. Butler has missed at least 15 games in four of the last five seasons, including a career-high 23 games last year while dealing with a knee injury.

Philadelphia will become Butler’s third team, after Chicago and Minnesota. He’s a career 16.5 point-per-game scorer, though that is skewed by his first two seasons that were very meager on the scoring front. He’s on pace this season to average at least 20 points for the fifth consecutive year.

“Welcome to the best sports city in America,” quarterback Carson Wentz of the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles tweeted to Butler.

Saric is in his third season and averaging 11.1 points, shooting only 36 percent. Covington had been a starter for Philadelphia for the bulk of the last four-plus seasons and is averaging 11.3 points per game this year.

Philadelphia and Minnesota don’t meet until Jan. 15. Butler’s return trip to Minnesota this season would be March 30, when he’s sure to be showered with boos from a Target Center crowd that jeered him at the beginning of the home opener before quickly letting up. Butler had 33 points on 10-for-12 shooting from the floor in 36 minutes that night against Cleveland, a reminder amid the drama why coach Tom Thibodeau was so eager to acquire him the year before.

Thibodeau swung a draft-night deal with Chicago that sent Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and a first-round pick that became Lauri Markkanen to the Bulls for Butler and a later first-rounder Minnesota used on Patton. In the wake of that move, long-frustrated Wolves fans figured they were finally on their way to contending in the Western Conference for the first time since the Kevin Garnett era ended.

Paired with Towns and Wiggins, the first overall picks in the 2015 and 2014 drafts, respectively, Butler immediately provided the experience, tenacity and defense the Wolves were missing, in addition to his scoring touch. He loved playing for Thibodeau, his coach for his first five seasons with the Bulls, and they helped Minnesota get to the playoffs last spring for the first time in 14 years.

But the roster never truly meshed. Butler used his brash, blunt personality to challenge Towns and Wiggins to become more consistent defenders.

And now, a new start awaits them all.

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