NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Irving tries to quell rumors of his desire to leave — Every week on ESPN.com, NBA reporter Chad Ford does a weekly chat with fans about various league topics. The issue of Kyrie Irving‘s long-term future with the Cleveland Cavaliers came up in the discussion, and Ford said that Irving has been “telling people privately he wants out of Cleveland.” After Cleveland’s 31-point loss in New York last night, Irving addressed the concerns about his future, writes Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal:
Kyrie Irving said he enjoys being in Cleveland and playing for the Cavaliers, but stopped short of saying he’ll take a max contract offer if he’s presented with one this summer.
“There’s been so much so-called reports coming out that I don’t want to be here. That’s what you guys get paid to do, but that’s just so much negative attention,” Irving said following the Cavs’ 117-86 loss to the Knicks. “I know we’re struggling, but it’s not about me. It’s about our team. It’s about us fighting every day for each other and me fighting for my teammates.
“Yes, I’m in Cleveland. I enjoy myself. I enjoy going out and competing at the highest level for the Cleveland Cavaliers. That’s what it’s about. It’s not about me and it’s not about this controversy, ‘Do I privately want out when my contract is up?’ I’m still in my rookie contract and I’m happy to be here. And I’m pretty sure I’m going to be here for a long time. I’m not saying anything to tell the future, but I’m pretty sure the relationship I have with Dan Gilbert and management extends off the court. I enjoy being here.”
When told he can sign a lucrative contract this summer, Irving said, “I’m aware of that,” but stopped short of saying he’d sign here long term.
“It’s still too early to say. I’m still trying to get through this season,” he said. “Everybody is trying to antagonize this team and put it on me. I’m here for my teammates, I’m here for Coach [Mike] Brown and the coaching staff and I’m going to play my heart out every single night for the Cleveland Cavaliers.”
No. 2: Miller, Nuggets may try to mend fences — Ty Lawson has a shoulder injury. Nate Robinson has a sprained ACL. Those two facts leave the Denver Nuggets’ point guard depth in a precarious state and could lead to exiled guard Andre Miller returning to the fold. Miller hasn’t played in a game for Denver since an Jan. 1 incident in which he yelled at coach Brian Shaw during a game. Christopher Dempsy of The Denver Post has more on what’s next for Miller and the Nuggets.
The Nuggets’ situation at point guard has thinned to the point of extinction if Ty Lawson is not able to play Friday night against the Toronto Raptors. The paucity of players at that position has the Nuggets considering all of their options … perhaps including asking exiled playmaker Andre Miller to play.
In addition to Lawson, backup point guard Nate Robinson was diagnosed with a sprained ACL in his left knee, suffered Wednesday night against Charlotte.
“We will explore whatever we need to explore to help us out in this situation,” Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said Thursday. “We have 15 players on the roster.”
Miller is one of those players, but he hasn’t played since the incident Jan. 1 when he yelled at Shaw during a game. Miller has been excused from all team activities ever since and the Nuggets are actively trying to trade him, though nothing is imminent. The NBA’s trade deadline is Feb. 20.
But the Nuggets need bodies at Lawson’s all-important position, and Miller is one right in front of them.
“He’s one of the 15 guys on the roster,” Shaw said. “So, yeah, it’s an option that probably will be explored.”
It is a longshot, to be sure.
Miller has been away from the Nuggets for a month, and outside of an injury there has been no move by either side to orchestrate a return to the team. Shaw and Miller still have not talked to each other since the incident, but Shaw insists he would have no problems coaching him if the situation were to arise.
Nothing like that would even take place without an extensive conversation among all levels of team management. General manager Tim Connelly recently has been out of the country.
“I’ll get together with the front office and discuss whatever options we may have,” Shaw said.
In a blast from the recent postseason past, Barnes exploded for a few dunks and knifing drives early against the Clippers as the Warriors built a large lead.
If Barnes finds a comfort zone and plays like that for the rest of the season … the Warriors will be a much deeper, much more dangerous team.
But generally this season, the Warriors’ second unit has been broken offensively without Barnes at electric top form — and he has looked harried and uncertain.
They’re the Warriors’ double X-factors. Barring a major trade, they’re the franchise’s best hope for this season and largest open question.
For now, coach Mark Jackson is giving both his full support, and he makes it clear that though they’re both bench players, they play two different roles.
Heading into Thursday’s game, Green was averaging just over 19 minutes a game, up from 13.4 minutes as a rookie.
Barnes was averaging 29.3 minutes, after averaging 25.4 minutes his rookie season.
The first Warriors reserve player to get into the game was Barnes — for Klay Thompson. The second was Jordan Crawford — for Andre Iguodala.
The third reserve to check in was Green — for David Lee.
And almost immediately after getting into the game, Barnes started rocketing to the basket for easy baskets; he had 10 points at halftime — his first double-digit game since Jan. 15, eight games ago.
“When you believe in somebody that doesn’t mean you just believe in them when they’re rolling,” Jackson said before the game. “The Harrison Barnes that showed up 12 games in the playoffs started the whole year — that guy didn’t play 82 nights.
“We believed he had that in him and I still do. So he will play his minutes, he will get his calls, he will get his touches, and he’s going to be just fine.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Kevin Durant says he plans to play until he’s 40 … How will Lance Stephenson react to his All-Star Game snub going forward? … The Philippines wants to naturalize Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee for their national team … Famous NBA fan Jimmy Goldstein got a picture of David Stern’s retirement party cake. Pretty cool …
ICYMI(s) of The Night: The Cavs-Knicks game at MSG became the J.R. Smith highlight show with two big dunks and a crossover on Tristan Thompson that’ll live on for a while …: