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NO MORE KYRIE: The Brooklyn Nets announced on Wednesday that Kyrie Irving would miss the rest of the season after the All-Star ball-handler undergoes a procedure to help clean up a shoulder problem that’s been bothering him for a while. Even despite Irving being in and out of the lineup all year due to different injury troubles, there’s no doubt this is a huge loss for Brooklyn, as Irving was absolutely balling when he did suit up, averaging 27.4 points, 6.4 assists and 1.4 steals per game while shooting 39.4 percent from three and a league-leading 92.2 percent from the foul stripe.
On the campaign, Brooklyn boasts a 25-29 record, good enough to have them sitting No. 7 in the East with a 4.5 game lead on the ninth-place team, the Orlando Magic, so the Nets should be able to earn a playoff spot even without him. However, not having an All-NBA-level point guard with championship experience puts a definite cap on Brooklyn’s upside in the postseason.
At the same time, the Nets’ successful 2019 offseason was always more so about 2020-21 and beyond, and less so about this season, since Kevin Durant was never expected to play this year. Now, with a fully healthy Irving a returning Durant, the Nets will look like a brand-new team next campaign, one that should be potent enough to push for legitimate contention.
LAST NIGHT IN THE ASSOCIATION: Trae Young got his revenge on Jimmy Butler and the Heat, dropping 50 points on Miami in a 129-124 win for Atlanta. He made sure to chip the All-Star forward after the game, too, as a measure of payback for Butler doing the same to Young a few months ago. After a hot start to the season, Miami is now 1-5 in their last six and 11-12 over their last 23.
Meanwhile, in Golden State during what was an otherwise uneventful 135-105 Rockets win over the Warriors, Russell Westbrook got into it with members of the Warriors’ bench, including Klay Thompson, before eventually getting ejected. It’s almost hilarious how unbothered Thompson looks while Russ is going off.
GIANNIS’ FUTURE: Although there’s always talk about Giannis Antetokounmpo’s future with the Bucks, most league execs believe the reigning MVP will re-sign with Milwaukee when the time comes. The only way that might change is if the Bucks disappoint in the playoffs this year.
BREAKING UP THE PAIR: Executives around the league think that if the Sixers eventually decide to make a major trade, they’d choose to stick with Ben Simmons and move Joel Embiid.
ONE ON ONE: We talked to Isaiah Thomas recently, who says he’d love to join the Celtics again and become part of what they’re building. Thomas opened up about a bunch of other interesting topics, too.
CHANGES IN CHICAGO? The Bulls could be looking to change their front-office structure, and one candidate they’re interested in becoming their next general manager is current Pacers GM Chad Buchanan, who’s doing great work over in Indiana.
HIGH-FLYING ROBBERY: Aaron Gordon is still feeling “some type of way” about how the dunk contest turned out, but he’s doing his best to shift his focus on helping the Magic with their playoff push.
KNICKS COACHING SEARCH: The Knicks have been tied to some pretty big coaching names recently, but Julius Randle thinks very highly of interim head coach Mike Miller, making it seem like he wouldn’t mind if Miller was the Knicks’ guy full-time.
DANGERS OF AAU: Because Rui Hachimura didn’t play a ton of AAU basketball like many of his draft counterparts, the Japanese forward should have way more longevity as a professional. A lot of intriguing thoughts from league execs in that article on why playing so much AAU ball as high-schoolers is bad for American players.
SALARY QUIZ: WHO’S THIS NBA PLAYER? 🤔
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