Troubles keep piling up for Kyrie Irving.
Already suspended five games by the Nets for a Tweet promoting an antisemitic movie (then his refusal to apologize for it until after the suspension), Nike has suspended its working relationship with Irving, the company announced late on Friday. Here is the full statement from Nike:
“At Nike, we believe there is no place for hate speech and we condemn any form of antisemitism. To that end, we’ve made the decision to suspend our relationship with Kyrie Irving effective immediately and will no longer launch the Kyrie 8. We are deeply saddened and disappointed by the situation and its impact on everyone.”
Irving’s signature line is one of Nike’s better-selling basketball shoes, particularly some earlier models. However, his contract with the shoe giant was set to end in October of next year, and there had been reports Nike did not plan to extend that deal before this current incident. Now it seems highly unlikely there will ever be another new Kyrie shoe with Nike.
Nike’s biggest-selling shoe among active players belongs to Irving’s former teammate LeBron James, who spoke about Irving’s situation Friday night after the Lakers fell to the Jazz.
LeBron James on Kyrie Irving, says he doesn’t condone Irving’s post and that what he said was harmful to a lot of people. pic.twitter.com/hqrKZE08Lw
— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) November 5, 2022
“Me, personally, I don’t condone any hate to any kinds, any race, to Jewish communities, to Black communities, to Asian communities. You guys know where I stand… I believe what Kyrie did caused some harm to a lot of people… He apologized. But he caused some harm, and I think it’s unfortunate. I don’t stand on the position to harm people when it comes to your voice or your platform or anything. So it doesn’t matter what color your skin is, how tall you are, what position you’re in — if you are promoting or soliciting or saying harmful things to any community that harm people, then I don’t respect it. I don’t condone it.”
When Irving tried to find a trade out of Brooklyn last summer, the Lakers were reportedly the most interested suitor. However, among the issues, Irving was looking for a lengthy contract extension off his current deal — something the Nets refused to offer, leading to Irving’s desire to move on — and the Lakers were not willing to offer that kind of extension either, reports Adrian Wojnarowski at ESPN.
“I think it speaks to what happened last summer when Brooklyn was resistant to giving Kyrie Irving a long-term, guaranteed contract,” said Adrian Wojnarowski. “So were the Lakers in a sign-and-trade scenario with Brooklyn…
“Kyrie Irving is back right where he was this summer, which is having to prove himself. Prove that he can be trusted. Prove that he’s be a good faith partner for an NBA team, whether it’s Brooklyn or elsewhere in the league.”
Irving does not have that trust in Brooklyn, although according to reports team owner Joe Tsai tried to give it to him. The Nets took heat in the media for what appeared to be a reaction to Irving’s Tweet promoting this antisemitic movie filled with disinformation (it denied the holocaust happened, for example). According to reporting from Ramona Shelburne and Wojnarowski at ESPN, Tsai thought this was a “teachable moment” with Irving and treated it that way, despite pressure from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and Nets GM Sean Marks.
“Against the backdrop of calls for swift action, sources said Tsai had resisted and insisted on taking time to educate Irving on the horrors of antisemitism…
“As it turned out, the redemptive arc that Tsai had imagined for his star had devolved into what the owner felt was a repetitive exercise in Irving’s betrayal of good faith, sources said. For nearly a week, Tsai kept extending the clock to give Irving a chance to get this right for himself, the franchise and the Jewish community — and Irving never returned a single of his text messages, sources said.”
The Nets eventually suspended Irving for five games, costing him nearly $1.3 million.
And the financial hits keep on coming for Irving with Nike suspending their relationship with him as well.
“The best player on earth can’t get a call. It’s amazing.”
Lakers coach Darvin Ham made that comment out of frustration after another game where the Lakers felt robbed at the end. He wasn’t the only Laker.
LeBron James was once again brilliant — 41 points, nine rebounds and eight assists — but with the game tied against the Celtics and 4.1 seconds on the clock, he drove the lane and didn’t get the foul call when it clearly looked like Jayson Tatum hit him on the arm as he shot.
Wow. Just wow…
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) January 29, 2023
After the game, referee crew chief Eric Lewis admitted the officials missed the call:
“There was contact. At the time, during the game, we did not see a foul. The crew missed the play.”
LeBron couldn’t believe it… pic.twitter.com/Qa6zd886Hc
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 29, 2023
Patrick Beverley picked up a technical foul for bringing a photographer’s camera over to the referee to show evidence of the foul.
Pat Bev really picked up a camera to troll the ref over his missed call 💀 pic.twitter.com/2pxXCneQkn
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 29, 2023
These losses are a punch to the gut for a Laker team with little margin for error and trying to make up ground in the West (at 23-27 they sit 13th in the conference). But LeBron sees a pattern — he is scoring 30.2 points per game (sixth in the league) but is getting to the line just 4.9 times per game, fewer than anyone else in the top nine in the league in scoring.
“I don’t get it. I’m attacking the paint, just as much as any of the guys in this league that’s shooting double-digit free throws a night, and I don’t get it. I don’t understand it,” James said postgame in Boston.
The other Lakers were a little more direct.
Anthony Davis shared his thoughts on the no-call at the end of regulation vs. Boston.
(via @jovanbuha) pic.twitter.com/Daad91VtPB
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) January 29, 2023
Boston pulled away in overtime to get the 125-121 win, snapping their own three-game losing streak.
HIGHLIGHTS: Celtics force OT and get a much-needed win vs LeBron & the Lakers
Presented by @tmobile pic.twitter.com/pQrk7gakme
— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) January 29, 2023
LeBron finished with 41, Anthony Davis 16 (on 6-of-15 shooting off the bench) and Beverley had 15 including a key putback dunk. Jaylen Brown scored 37 for Boston, Tatum 30 and Malcolm Brogdon had 26 off the bench.
There are no moral victories for these Lakers more than halfway into the season, playing the team with the best record in the NBA close and almost winning does not count. Time is running out on LeBron and his team, they need to string together some wins. They felt they should have gotten the chance to win this one.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Joel Embiid won the battle of MVP candidates with 47 points and 18 rebounds as the Philadelphia 76ers extended their winning streak to seven games with a 126-119 win over Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets on Saturday.
Jokic and Embiid have finished first and second in voting for the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award over the last two seasons. Both are among the top candidates for MVP as this season hits the halfway mark, although Embiid was not named among the All-Star starters from the Eastern Conference.
🔥 EMVPIID 🔥
47 PTS | 18 REB | 5 AST | 3 STL | 2 BLK | @myteamtoyota pic.twitter.com/tFpRh1tf7Q
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) January 28, 2023
“I’m used to it and it’s not the first time,” Embiid said. “I think it’s more of a motivation to go out there and try to win the whole thing. That’s the only way that I’ll get that respect.”
Jokic gave Embiid a nod for his play.
“He’s really talented,” Jokic told the Denver Post of Embiid. “Really shifty.”
Joel Embiid put on a MONSTER performance in the Sixers W. #NBARivalsWeek pic.twitter.com/TiXwFAFsZE
— NBA (@NBA) January 28, 2023
James Harden had 17 points and 13 assists, and Tobias Harris scored all 14 of his points in the second half after being shut down by Denver’s defense in the first half.
“We were able to figure some things out and get some stops,” Harris said. “Guys stepping up and making shots was huge for us to cut the deficit in the fourth quarter to try and make something happen.”
Jokic had 24 points, eight rebounds and nine assists for Denver, which has lost three of its last four games. Jamal Murray chipped in 22 points and Michael Porter added 20.
“We turned it over and they just turned up the pressure on us,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “They got to the basket way too easy with their attack mentality. And we just got way too careless with the basketball.”
Embiid has scored 40 or more points nine times this season and 35 times in his career. In addition to the All-Star snub, Embiid was also given a $25,000 fine by the NBA on Friday for an on-court demonstration after-basket celebration during Wednesday night’s win over Brooklyn.
“Let’s keep offending Joel by fining him and not putting him among the All-Star starters,” Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers said sarcastically.
The Nuggets began the day with the second-best team field goal percentage at 50.7% and tops in 3-point percentage at 39.5%. In the first half, they overwhelmed Philadelphia’s perimeter defense, shooting 65.9% (29 for 44) from the floor and 10 of 17 (58.8%) from beyond the 3-point line. The hot shooting helped the Nuggets to a 73-58 lead at halftime.
Embiid started to take over toward the end of the third quarter, putting together a 16-point quarter on 5-of-6 shooting that keyed a 14-0 run that allowed the Sixers to close within 99-98 early in the fourth.
In the final quarter, Philadelphia wore down a Nuggets team playing the final game of a three-game, week-long trip. P.J. Tucker– who had switched defenively to Jokic and slowed him down in the second half- followed a Harden missed 3-pointer with a tip-in with over a minute left to stretch the lead to five. Embiid then hit a 3-pointer to restore an eight-point lead.
“I’ve always like to think I am a closer and I am,” Embiid said. “Taking the last shot or taking a last second shot with the clock ticking is fun for me. I love getting into those types of possession where you have to make the plays. That’s where you find out who is who and who is made up for those kinds of moments.”
Take Myles Turner off the trade market.
After months of negotiations, the Pacers and Turner have agreed to a contract extension, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner has agreed on a two-year, $60M contract extension that includes an additional $17.1M renegotiation on his 2022-2023 salary, his agent Austin Brown of CAA Sports tells ESPN. pic.twitter.com/17nSSwN14z
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 28, 2023
This has since been confirmed by other sources.
Turner — back playing his natural center spot this season with Domantas Sabonis in Sacramento — is having the best season of his career, averaging 17.5 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks a game. He has been one of the keys to a surprisingly good Pacers team this season.
That $60 million contract extension number can be a little misleading. Turner was already making $18 million this season, but because the Pacers are $24.4 million under the salary cap, they can do a re-negotiation and extension with the big man, giving him a $17.1 million bump right now (to a total of $35.1 million for this season) and extend off of that for two years, the first at $20.2 million and the second at $19.9 million, according to Shams Charania.
Technically Turner can still be traded at the Feb. 9 deadline, but the Pacers have no intention of doing so (as this signing signals). There had been a lot of trade interest in Turner, going back to last summer, most prominently with the Los Angeles Lakers in a swap that would have sent Buddy Hield and Turner to the West Coast for Russell Westbrook and two first-round picks. That draft pick compensation kept the deal from getting done (the Pacers wanted two unprotected first-rounders).
Jaren Jackson Jr. has been a defensive monster since coming back from foot surgery, something obvious by the eye test but backed up by impressive stats: 3.1 blocks and a steal a game, opposing players are shooting 44% on shots he contests and when he is on the court the Grizzlies have. 106.8 defensive rating (which would be best in the league by more than three points). He is the frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year right now.
That led to a conspiracy theory post on Reddit about how the Memphis scorekeeper is padding Jackson’s stats, calling his numbers fraudulent. The post went viral — we all love to think we’re in on something nobody else knows — and has gotten to the point some Las Vegas sportsbooks have taken down Defensive Player of the Year betting.
The conspiracy theory does not hold water. At all.
The NBA pushed back on that theory by reminding people that all NBA stats are audited in real-time by someone watching the video in Secaucus (rebound or blocked shots being changed during a game is not uncommon because of this).
“In order to ensure the integrity of our game statistics, auditors, independent of the statisticians on-site, review all plays and stats decisions in real-time during NBA games,” NBA spokesman Tim Frank told NBC Sports. “If changes are necessary, they are made at that time or following a postgame review. All of the plays questioned in the post on Memphis games were scored consistently within the rules set forth by the NBA statisticians manual.”
Reddit has now labeled the post “Misleading.”
Another Reddit user compiled videos of the alleged stat padding incidents called out in the post, but watching them proves the NBA’s point that these were correctly assigned. For example, Jackson gets credit for steals on tipped balls, which is how steals are calculated. The video showed that many fans don’t understand the rules and definitions of what constitutes a steal or a block.
The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor went back and watched all 66 blocks Jackson had at home this season, using multiple camera angles, and found three that should not have been blocks — far from some great conspiracy.
I watched every block by Jaren Jackson Jr. in slow motion from alternate angles to investigate the NBA Reddit thread claiming the Grizzlies scorekeeper is “posting fraudulent numbers.”
But only 3 of his 66 home blocks are incorrectly labeled, a completely insignificant amount. pic.twitter.com/84ZiE1rPVD
— Kevin O’Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) January 28, 2023
On a more fundamental level than that, the NBA now has gambling and fantasy sports partners — if there was stat padding, those entities would be on it and the first to call out the league. The league’s statistics are big business — you can bet on the number of blocks or rebounds that Jackson or other players will get — and those gambling and fantasy entities also watch the games closely.
But we’ll be talking about this conspiracy theory again when NBA awards season pops up, because people want to believe, even in the face of evidence proving they are wrong. Not that we needed basketball to teach us that lesson.
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