KYRIE RETURNS: In his first game back since Nov. 14, after a total of 25 contests missed due to a lingering shoulder injury, to be exact, Kyrie Irving performed brilliantly for the Nets, dropping 21 points on 10-of-11 shooting, along with four rebounds and three assists to lead the way for Brooklyn in a 108-86 win over the Hawks. Sure, Atlanta boasts one of the worst defenses in the league and were without Trae Young, but regardless, Irving looking that on point after missing so much time was a nice reminder of what a dominant player he can be.
After the win, the Nets sit at 18-20 and No. 7 in the Eastern Conference. They’ve now won their last two games after dropping five in a row, and couldn’t be getting Irving back at a better time, as their next five contests are against some of the NBA’s best, including the Bucks, Lakers and Sixers.
Brooklyn has a chance to make a statement over the next week and a half, because if they’re able to rally behind Irving and go at least 3-2 in that stretch, it’ll signal that they’re a different team with the six-time All-Star and 2016 champion in their lineup. Regardless, with a healthy Irving in the fold, the Nets could pose matchup problems to whoever they face in the postseason. A proven playoff performer like Irving makes that much of a difference come April and May.
LATEST TRADE SCUTTLE: The weekend brought along a new batch of trade rumors in the NBA.
🏀 Philadelphia’s quest to acquire more shooting continues, as the latest scuttle indicates they’re interested in two Pistons’ 2-guards, Luke Kennard and Langston Galloway. Landing the former would be quite a bit more expensive than the latter.
🏀 Buzz continues to linger about a potential Andre-Drummond-to-the-Knicks trade.
🏀 The Pacers are happy with their monstrous, old-school frontcourt, and are turning away teams who ask about Myles Turner. A bit odd considering Turner continues to have an up-and-down season while Domantas Sabonis is performing near an All-Star level.
YESTERDAY IN THE ASSOCIATION: DeMar DeRozan had his second game back in Toronto as a Spur yesterday, and threw down this absurd dunk over Raptors big man Chris Boucher for two of his 25 points. He led the way for San Antonio, who came back from down 18 to beat Toronto.
VET WAIVED: 14-year NBA veteran swingman CJ Miles, who averaged 6.4 points over 10 games this season, was waived by the Wizards yesterday. We could be approaching the end of the line for Miles’ NBA career, as he’s almost 33 and has already missed a lot of time over the last few seasons due to injury.
HISTORY MADE: Over the weekend, Celtics wing Jayson Tatum became the third Boston player ever to score over 40 points in 30 minutes or fewer. The other two guys on that list? Larry Bird and Tommy Heinsohn. Decent little group there.
PLAYER UPSET: Bulls guard Denzel Valentine isn’t happy with his role in Chicago this season, as he’s playing a career-low 12.2 minutes per game and has been a healthy scratch multiple times over the campaign. Valentine says he won’t demand a trade, but the Bulls are reportedly not expected to try and retain him when he hits free agency this summer.
KOBE SPEAKS: Future NBA Hall-of-Famer Kobe Bryant discusses some of the lowest moments of his career, including losing to the Celtics in the 2008 Finals and not getting much playing time as a rookie.
TEAM LEGEND RETIREMENT: Heat big man Udonis Haslem, who has spent 16 years with the team and is expected to retire this summer, said he hasn’t thought about what his jersey retirement ceremony in Miami will be like, but said it will last a week and will feature parties all over the city.
TURNING THINGS AROUND: Cavs guards Collin Sexton and Darius Garland have started to perform better recently, including on Saturday when the duo led Cleveland to a shocking win on the road in Denver. Team veterans Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson have been very supportive of Garland in particular, which makes sense since he’s the rookie of the backcourt.
TROUBLING INJURY: Justise Winslow was sent home from Miami’s road trip early because his back injury flared up again. Winslow will see a back specialist soon, and one veteran Heat reporter believes Winslow disagrees with how the team is dealing with the injury. This could get tricky for the Heat.
SETTING AN EXAMPLE: Celtics big man Enes Kanter still doesn’t care much for LeBron James, but he admits that he thought James opening a charter school was an amazing act. He was so impressed, in fact, that Kanter is applying to open a charter school of his own in Oklahoma City, one for low-income and immigrant students.
MORE PHILANTHROPY: Thon Maker and eight other Australian NBA players have committed to donate $750,000 to brush-fire relief and recovery efforts in Australia.
BODY AND MIND WELLNESS: Blazers big man Zach Collins has spent the downtime in his months-long injury recovery not just rehabbing to repair his shoulder, but also working on improving his mental health.
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