“I’ve seen him play great basketball in the playoffs,” Spoelstra said when asked after the game if he’s ever seen Adebayo play better, given the stakes (on the road in the conference finals, coming off a blowout loss at home) and circumstances (Butler missed the entire second half with a knee injury). “I really have. He’s a winning player. And you know, he really is the heart and soul of our group. You can count on him all the time. He doesn’t get caught up in all the noise and everything. He’s just out there competing. Playing winning basketball. Doing it on both ends and doing what is necessary. Tonight we needed the scoring and we needed that offensive punch early on. Then when Jimmy was out in the second half, he just stabilized us. It got a little gnarly out there and when it did, we were able to get the ball to Bam and just get something coherent.”
June 26, 2022 | 6:52 am EDT Update
Not much of Murdock’s take was optimistic if you’re a Nets fan. Indeed, he referred to the franchise’s current situation as “destruction” in the podcast and suggested perhaps more firmly than other pundits that Durant could indeed leave. “The vision is on the verge of crumbling,” he wrote. “It didn’t have to be this way,” he said, summing up. “This team … and it’s ironic. Kevin came to reconcile relationships, build relationships with his BFF’s and it’s not working out. It’s doing the exact opposite. And you juxtapose that with Golden State winning…” “Now, you have reports that Kyrie is looking elsewhere. I made some calls. Kevin Durant has not talked to the team in weeks. I don’t think Kevin is confident in the front office right now. I don’t know if he’s at the stage of leaving but there’s a big uneasiness from not only from the Kyrie side, but the KD side as well.”
And Murdock reiterated reports that Durant, who had in the past recruited free agents, is not doing that now. “At least right now, he’s one of those guys who doesn’t want to recruit, isn’t in the position to recruit or doesn’t feel like he is a position to recruit whether you like that or not.
At the center of it, Murdock pointed out multiple times is the Nets relationship with Irving. “His biggest beef is that he feels that the front office didn’t grow to understand Kyrie, whatever that means. I would push back on that when a guy leaves for two weeks at a time … Kyrie earns the lion’s share of the blame. But I think KD believes that ‘hey, you guys didn’t understand this guy. You didn’t try to figure out where he was coming from.’”
Still, Durant believes the Nets didn’t support Irving particularly when they decided not to play him at all in October, after he refused to get vaccinated like all but a handful of NBA players, then brought him back in October. “That’s just how he feels. ‘Hey man, I brought this guy in, him and Kyrie, and the front office didn’t do enough to support him at a time when we needed to support him.”
Moreover, Murdock pointed to the Nets decision to dump Adam Harrington, their long-time assistant coach and director of development, as a big negative for KD. Durant and Harrington go back to KD’s time in Oklahoma City when Harrington was his shooting coach. “And here’s another thing, KOC, the Nets got rid of Adam Harrington. who’s very close to Kevin. He’s one of Kevin’s guys. And that had a big ripple effect on how Kevin feels about this right now. He’s still in this figure-it-out mode but there is some fire to that smoke that he’s kind of reevaluating where he stands with this.”
LeBron James and Kyrie Irving won a ring together before, and it may not have been their last … ’cause Matt Barnes tells TMZ Sports the Lakers could be smelling champagne if Kyrie Irving joins L.A. Matt — who played for the Purple and Gold for two seasons — spoke about the recent Irving rumors out at LAX this week … and he told us if Uncle Drew ends up with the Lakers, it could result in the franchise’s 18th championship.
The Hawks could still pursue Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton in free agency. Sources tell The Athletic that the Hawks’ interest in the 23-year-old would be contingent on landing him for less than a max contract. That may not be an option, as the Pistons, who have the cap space for a max contract, are expected to be aggressive in their pursuit of Ayton in free agency.