Kevin Durant’s Ultimatum Shows Nets The Price Of Playing The Superstar Game

With Kevin Durant’s trade request, the Brooklyn Nets are now realizing the consequences of a superstar team – and it could potentially change how the league operates with its own team-building strategies.

NBA Playoff Preview: Suns Look For Finals Redemption, While It’s Anyone’s Game In The East

With the play-in tournaments coming to a close, the NBA playoffs are ready to kick off. While there was a clear, dominant 64-win team during the regular season in the Phoenix Suns, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll steamroll their way to a championship, one they’ve been aching for ever since they lost in the Finals last year. There are plenty of contenders who could conceivably make their way into June, with some pretenders in between.

In the West, the (No. 1 seed) Suns will take on the (No. 8) Los Angeles Clippers/New Orleans Pelicans (pending play-in result); the (No. 2) Memphis Grizzlies play the (No. 7) Minnesota Timberwolves; the (No. 3) Golden State Warriors go against the (No. 6) Denver Nuggets; and the (No. 4) Dallas Mavericks play the (No. 5) Utah Jazz.

The East features the (No. 1) Miami Heat against the (No. 8) Atlanta Hawks/Cleveland Cavaliers; the (No. 2) Boston Celtics playing the (No. 7) Brooklyn Nets; the (No. 3) Milwaukee Bucks versus the (No. 6) Chicago Bulls; and the (No. 4) Philadelphia 76ers against the (No. 5) Toronto Raptors.

According to analytics site FiveThirtyEight, the 51-31 Celtics have the highest odds to win the NBA Finals at 31%, followed by the Suns at 21%. The defending champion Bucks sit third with 13%, with the Warriors and Heat tied at 8%.

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If you’re hoping for March Madness-style play in Heat v. Hawks/Cavaliers and Suns v. Clippers/Pelicans, don’t get your hopes up. There have only been five instances of an eight seed pulling off a victory against a one seed, and they were bolstered by injuries or favorable matchups. Unless Devin Booker or Jimmy Butler goes down, Miami and Phoenix should be moving on easily, no matter the opponent.

Likewise, experienced, playoff-built teams like the Bucks and Warriors should also look to win in five or six games. The Grizzlies, the second-youngest team in the NBA with an average age of 23.9, are favored by many to win their first playoff series since the 2010-2011 season.

Closer matchups could involve the Joel Embiid-led 76ers against the Raptors, where Philadelphia went just 1-3 against Toronto in the regular season. Additionally hurting them will be the partial loss of All-Defensive player Matisse Thybulle (3.4 STL%), who’s unable to play in Canada due to his vaccination status.

The Mavericks will need Luka Dončić, the seventh-highest scorer in the league, healthy in order to overcome the Nuggets and reigning MVP Nikola Jokić, though skepticism by NBA insiders show Dončić may not be ready for the series opener due to a mild calf strain. Analyzing Denver, The Dallas Morning News noted that while Dallas’ defensive style has been able to slow Jokić, he can still cause frustration on the boards.

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The most fascinating series might end up being the Celtics versus the Brooklyn Nets, a team that — what once looked to be a potential dynasty — now finds itself as the seventh seed. Of course, the players don’t exactly match that seeding. Oft-injured Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, who put up 29.9 and 27.4 PPG respectively, will be available.

As ESPN senior writer Kevin Pelton notes, Brooklyn is 10-5 in games since the James Harden trade where Durant and Irving both play. Meanwhile, Boston could be without Robert Williams III, who put up a 22.1 player efficiency rating and 102.4 defensive rating (highest in the league) during the regular season.

Still, Boston possesses higher-power offense in Jason Tatum (26.9 PPG, 4.6 defensive win shares) and Jaylen Brown (23.6 PPG, 47.3 FG%). Pelton explained that because of Boston’s talent, Brooklyn will need to step up their performances – much more than what they’ve shown over the past few weeks against obvious lesser matchups.

“I think the outcome of the series will ultimately depend on Brooklyn’s ability to reach a higher level than we’ve seen in the last few weeks,” Pelton wrote. “The Nets didn’t exactly dominate a series of teams that were lottery-bound, short-handed or both.”

The playoffs begin on Saturday, April 16 with the Jazz and Mavericks kicking off at 1:00 p.m. ET.

Basketball going into Net

Kyrie Irving Continues His Stance Against The COVID-19 Vaccine As Nets Forbid Him From Playing

As the NBA season gets ready to kick off tonight, one of its biggest stars has grabbed the spotlight – but for all the wrong reasons. Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving has refused to receive the COVID-19 vaccination, which could have severe consequences.

Irving took to Instagram Live last Wednesday night, stating that he’s unvaccinated, has no plans to retire, and claims he was promised a vaccine exemption from the NBA. “I’m not going to be used as a person in this agenda,” Irving said. “This is my life, I get to do whatever I want.”

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Irving did clarify multiple times during the stream that this has nothing to do with his team or teammates, but rather “what’s going on in the world.” Irving also stressed that this situation is “bigger than basketball.”

Irving isn’t the only NBA star who has spoken out against receiving a vaccination. Golden State Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins had been strongly opposed, saying in March that he would have to be forced and that he applied for religious exemption, which was denied. Wiggins eventually got the shot, although he said it was “not something I wanted to do.”

Nets’ general manager Sean Marks released a statement on Irving, saying that while the player has a right to his own choice regarding the vaccination, he will not be eligible to play for the Brooklyn Nets as long as he remains a “part-time” player.

Given the evolving nature of the situation and after thorough deliberation, we have decided Kyrie Irving will not play or practice with the team until he is eligible to be a full participant. Kyrie has made a personal choice, and we respect his individual right to choose. Currently the choice restricts his ability to be a full-time member of the team, and we will not permit any member of our team to participate with part-time availability.

As CBS Sports notes, while the Nets could have played Irving in road games, they opted otherwise in order to show they want his full availability. Under New York City’s current vaccine mandate — which requires at least one dose in order to use indoor dining, fitness, and entertainment — Irving would be unable to play in home games at the Barclays Center.

In regards to whether the NBA was involved in the decision or whether the team will face disapproval from the NBA Player’s Association, Marks said that all parties that “needed to be consulted on this, were” and that conversations with Irving went “good.”

Irving would also stand to lose money for missing games. Irving signed a four-year, $136 million contract with the Nets in 2019. In 2021-22, Irving is set to earn a salary of $34,916,200, all of which is guaranteed. However, the star hasn’t showed any concern for possible financial losses. “It’s not always about the money baby,” Irving said in his livestream. “It’s about choosing what’s best for you. You think I really wanna lose money?”

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The seven-time NBA All-Star’s absence will clearly effect the team. The Nets are in win-now mode, and will spend about $110 million total on three players this year alone – Irving, Kevin Durant, and James Harden. “We want him here for the whole thing,” Durant said regarding Irving. “We want him here for games, home games, practices, away games, shootarounds, all of it, so hopefully we figure this thing out.”

This is just the latest controversial story in the 29-year-old’s career. Back in 2018, Irving commented that the Earth wasn’t round, but rather flat. He later apologized for his statements and said he does “research on both sides.”

According to ESPN, the NBA reached a 95% total vaccination among its around-500 players. This rate also includes players who have received just one dose. As part of the league’s COVID-19 protocols, unvaccinated players will have to undergo daily testing. However, both vaccinated and unvaccinated players will be required to wear masks in facilities and when traveling.