Kyrie Irving has his finger on the Brooklyn Nets’ dead man’s switch

“Trade me”

A dull day with the Brooklyn Nets is merely the calm before a Kyrie Irving storm. On Friday afternoon, the Nets star point guard added another chapter to his tumultuous tenure in Brooklyn by placing his finger on a metaphorical dead man’s switch by outright requesting a trade from the Nets.

Last week, Irving’s agent went on the record with Bleacher Reports’ Chris Haynes to express his client’s desire to sign an extension with the Nets. Irving was known as a cantankerous figure, but in Brooklyn, the distractions appeared to escalate every season. An agreement with Irving would undoubtedly be a one-sided affair. Irving will poke and prod at the guardrails and then cross the third rail when that doesn’t garner enough of a reaction. When the Nets didn’t acquiesce to his most recent demands for a long-term deal, he requested a trade. Now the Nets have to wonder whether he’ll sit out if his demands are met. Don’t give me that screwface. It’s not outside the realm of possibilities.

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When healthy, Irving has been a sorcerer with the ball and one of the most creative shotmakers in the entire league. It was worth making one last run at a title and fulfilling the promise of this duo. We should have known trouble was brewing when his social media pages started percolating with more cryptic Da Vinci Code clues. A week after being named an All-Star starter, Irving has stuck another banana in the tailpipe of this Nets franchise.

The saddest part of this saga is that the Brooklyn Nets were finally flying high. Head coach Jacque Vaughn appeared to have Irving’s ear. Their switching defense was more imposing than it had ever been during Steve Nash’s run. Irving pulling this nonsensical sabotage now is the madness he manifests. Between Nov. 27 and Jan. 8, which is when Kevin Durant sprained his MCL, they’d won 17 of 19 games and were ascending fast.

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Durant’s knee has barely had time to heal, before a shiv was placed in his back by the point guard he committed to the Nets with back in 2020. The Nets shouldn’t be surprised either. They stuck with him through his refusal to get vaccinated, after he took time off to go partying maskless in the middle of the 2021-22 season during a winter COVID spike across the country and after he served a suspension related to an anti-semitic film he promoted, then took a week to disavow. In the offseason, Irving threatened to opt out, then opted in after they found a shallow market for Irving.

Irving’s request doesn’t just shake up the franchise at the deadline, but it also impales Durant’s career. Durant hitching his wagon to Irving has been the biggest mistake he’s ever made. After the serene two championships in four years Durant won with Golden State, and Irving’s championship years as LeBron James’ sidekick in Cleveland, he and Irving sought to build something as equals. Instead, Irving has written a horror story for Durant. His destructive tendencies were a wedge that played a part in driving away James Harden. He single-handedly tanked the Nets and prior to that, set the Celtics championship project back a few years. Don’t forget, he also requested a trade away from the Cavaliers after the 2017 Finals. This is his pattern.

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Ramifications of an Irving trade

So let’s unpack the trade deadline ramifications. The outcomes for Irving are fairly straightforward. Los Angeles is the only franchise that has the will and the pieces to negotiate a trade for Irving and his expiring contract. Russell Westbrook has been a supplemental piece off the bench for the Lakers and his $47 million salary will be instrumental in matching Irving’s contract if a trade were negotiated.

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However, for Brooklyn, this would be a deal to strengthen the future. The Lakers would likely need to surrender their 2027 and 2029 first-round picks, but it’s an exchange the Lakers would make in an instant. If Rob Pelinka is savvy enough, he’d lop Joe Harris into the deal as well to provide the NBA’s worst shooting team with another floor-spacing sharpshooter. Then, they’d have to appease him with a contract extension. Fortunately, LeBron is the league’s only proven Kyrie whisperer, and if the Clippers leap on an Irving trade, Laker Nation will be fuming. The Heat are skulking around, but Pat Riley, Jimmy Butler, and Kyrie Irving feel like a match near a leaky gas line.

For Durant, this could take a while. The elephant in the room is the Golden State Warriors. If Irving gets his reunion with James, Golden State should do everything in its power to get involved somehow. A sleepy trade deadline, just got a shock to the heart. The more things change, you can always count on Kyrie Irving to set the world on fire.

Kyrie wants out of Brooklyn

Image for article titled Kyrie wants out of Brooklyn

Brooklyn Nets heat magnet and resident conspiracy theorist Kyrie Irving wants the team to deal him elsewhere prior to the NBA trade deadline, as reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and The Athletic’s Shams Charania.

Irving, the mercurial point guard who was No. 3 in our 2022 Idiot of the Year list, is currently averaging 27.1 points per game for Brooklyn (31-20), who sits third in the Atlantic Division.

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His teammate Kevin Durant requested the Nets trade him back in June.

As I’m sure you remember, in since-deleted messages on his social media, Irving promoted the book and documentary Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America, which pushes several lies about the Jewish people and their mistreatment of people of color. Nike subsequently suspended its relationship with Irving, who later declared he was “free.”

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He didn’t apologize until after the Nets suspended him and the Anti-Defamation League rejected his donation.

Irving is also a known flat earther, and anti-vaxxer, claiming his stance on the COVID-19 vaccine cost him over $100 million.

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“I gave up four years, 100-and-something million deciding to be unvaccinated and that was the decision,” Irving had said at Nets media day in September. “[Get this] contract, get vaccinated or be unvaccinated and there’s a level of uncertainty of your future, whether you’re going to be in this league, whether you’re going to be on this team, so I had to deal with that real-life circumstance of losing my job for this decision.”

When it comes to load management, Steph Curry says it’s not the players who want it

Image for article titled When it comes to load management, Steph Curry says it's not the players who want it

The gentrifiers of Brooklyn caught a raw deal on Monday night. The Los Angeles Lakers are in New York on a back-to-back, meaning that LeBron James and Anthony Davis were only going to play one game. People who purchased tickets for the Brooklyn Nets game received the short end of the load management stick. It’s the same end of the stick attendees of the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers’ most recent matchup were stuck with on Jan. 20, when Stephen Curry and several other Warriors’ starters did not play.

Load management is a bummer for the fans, especially when they want to see players on teams that only visit once per year. All NBA teams take road trips, and a back-to-back will likely be on the schedule during that period. Most star players do not dress for both of those games. Following the Warriors’ 128-120 win against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Curry reminded those who have a problem with players resting that the people in the jerseys and shorts don’t make the decision on when they’re out of the lineup.

Steph Curry on load management

“I campaign to play every game,” Curry told the media. “That’s the misconception about load management. It’s never the player that’s saying, ‘Hey, I wanna sit.’”

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That is most certainly a message that Charles Barkley, Stephen A. Smith, Chris Mad Dog” Russo, Mike Greenberg, or anyone who has an issue with players missing a few games in which they might be healthy enough to play should hear. Barkley has recently been the most outspoken when he said on Sirius XM Radio’s NBA Today that he wants the owners to “put their foot in [the players’] asses in this next CBA.”

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Sir Charles’ ire shouldn’t be directed at Curry or anyone else. The person who makes that call for the Warriors is Health and Performance Director David Taylor.

Draymond Green’s thoughts

“We have the best science guy in the game in Dave Taylor. Why would we ignore him?” Draymond Green said to Fox Sports’ Ric Buecher. “There are guys who played in this league who tried to play all 82 games who can’t walk anymore. So, toughness is what you make of it.”

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Do people really believe that four Warriors starters met privately and decided not to play in Cleveland, or that Davis and James did the same on the flight to New York, or that Manu Ginobli, Tony Parker, and Tim Duncan all elected not to play on a TNT Thursday night in 2013?

These are decisions made by the coaches, player personnel, and training staff. People who are familiar with Larry Bird’s back going out on him before he played 10 NBA seasons. They remember Barkley’s knee problems in the mid-1990s. Isiah Thomas ruptured an Achilles tendon in 1994 and retired after 13 seasons. Kevin Durant ruptured an Achilles in his 12th season and averaged a shade under 30 points per game in his 14th.

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Extending careers

Players’ careers are being extended and championship windows are staying open longer. The Warriors won their first title with Curry in 2015, and fifth championship in 2022. Hell, the San Antonio Spurs won their first championship in 1999, and their fifth title in 2014. Celtics’ fans loved watching Bird dive into the stands for loose balls every night, but they probably would have preferred him to be healthy in the early 1990s, and the Celtics competing against the Chicago Bulls for NBA Championships.

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The NBA is a grind and it’s getting more and more physically taxing every year. Players are coming in with significant mileage on their bodies from rigorous AAU and foreign professional league schedules. Now they fly to 29 other cities and have to guard Nikola Jokić on the break and in the paint.

For those who buy individual game tickets to NBA games, yes it will continue to be a letdown when management sits the best players down but things could be worse. You could be a Denver Nuggets fan in Colorado. Your favorite team has the best record in the Western Conference, but like most cable subscribers in the state, you are an Xfinity customer and therefore have no access to the channel in which the games are aired.

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Success for the business will always be prioritized over day-to-day consumer satisfaction. So those of you who buy tickets on a load management day, feel free to be upset. Just make sure you’re angry at the correct people. The same decision-makers in other industries are enjoying record profits while your egg prices are rising.

A rising tide lift all boats and it’s time we threw Jason Whitlock’s ilk overboard

Image for article titled A rising tide lift all boats and it's time we threw Jason Whitlock’s ilk overboard

Choosing between women’s and men’s sports is a false choice. If you’re a certain blogger for Glenn Beck’s conservative Blaze media, revisionist history can be a comfort zone that vilifies feminism in sports as your woke sports boogeyman, but makes you look like a headass instead. Jason Whitlock’s resentment-driven tweet on women’s basketball’s place at the bottom of the sports hierarchy eventually led to a longer missive against women’s societal advancements and the fall of masculinity.

Oddly enough, in a link I don’t care to share, Whitlock proceeded to blame feminism for everything ranging from drag queens, to the degradation of the nuclear family, and the decline of biblical values. In Whitlock’s opinion, the glass ceiling wasn’t sturdy enough.

He pontificated in his Wednesday column: “As technology advanced and curbed the natural hardships of basic survival, American men led the world in granting freedom and autonomy to women. Feminists have taken advantage of man’s instinct to please women, casting themselves as long-suffering victims of male supremacy, and reshaped American society into a culture that favors the weaker sex.”

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In fairness to Whitlock, let’s analyze all the excellent points he made.

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Hold on a second. I read the entire screed. Something will squeeze out soon…

Whitlock spews more garbage

He did attempt to trace a crooked link between modern society and early man’s roles as hunter-gathers, but it doubled as a rant against evolution. Imagine beginning your argument for a return to medieval masculinity by bemoaning women’s sports on TV. As usual, the intellectual cupboard is bare. Whitlock’s fragility over women’s sports is indicative of the obstacles women in workplaces have always faced. For a contingent of dudes who take his word as gospel though, women’s sports are their bête noire.

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Battling over an alternate view of history that makes a case for how sexism was good or opining that the women from the Greatest Generation who took occupations in defense plants and factories during the war effort of the 1940s defanged American culture is a fascinating insight into how a twisted mind justifies itself. Don’t give yourself hemorrhoids trying to mine wisdom from those thought turds, and never roll with a pig in his sty.

Women’s leagues have helped usher in sports’ golden age

If you’ve browsed the front page of Deadspin’s space lately, or any industry leaders like Fox Sports, ESPN, CBS Sports, or Yahoo Sports, you’d know the myth of the feminist agenda pushing men’s sports aside is a pile of crap. America’s Big 4 leagues, plus NASCAR, Formula 1, college football, and college basketball have reigned supreme since being given a 50 to 75-year year head start over organized women’s athletics.

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In a few short months, the U.S. Women’s National Team will defend their World Cup so you can expect to see their faces plastered all over ESPN screens between now and then. The USWNT has won half of the first eight Women’s World Cups FIFA’s held, but had to grapple with U.S. Soccer for pay commensurate with men last year. Their decades-long push was reminiscent of Billie Jean King and the “Original Nine’s” early enterprising. Their revolutionary founding of the WTA is one of the impetus for women’s tennis being on a more equal footing with the men’s tour.

The most prominent leagues have had to share space in an increasingly crowded room (pickleball has entered the chat), but this is the golden age of live sports. The continued growth of women’s leagues has been nearly as monumental as streaming has been to prestige television. The only downside to the panoply of options at our disposal is the paradox of choice.

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Dawn Staley and Kim Mulkey are college basketball titans

Today men’s college basketball is in a rut. It’s as rife with parity, as it is empty in name-brand, blue-chip talent, or upper-echelon teams. The inverse of men’s hoops’ suboptimal tornado of middle-of-the-road teams, is happening in the division where Dawn Staley’s South Carolina Gamecocks are cruising toward a repeat. Fans love dynasties and one may be building in Columbia.

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UConn is still a threat on Feb. 5, however, its biggest obstacle resides within the SEC.

Kim Mulkey and Staley have taken the baton as college basketball’s preeminent rivalry. The juiciest storyline in college basketball, regardless of gender, is the upcoming tilt between the only undefeated teams left in the nation. Hopefully, someone informs Alfalfa’s He-Man Womun Haters club not to switch on the late-night SportsCenter shows on the night of Feb. 18.

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The halcyon yesteryear of the UConn-Tennessee rivalry is long gone in the Vols’ post-Pat Summitt era. Even with former Naismith Player of the Year Paige Bueckers on the mend for the entire season and phenom Azzi Fudd in and out of the lineup, UConn has been firmly entrenched in the top 10. Tennessee is still on the road back to prominence under Kellie Harper and was promptly smacked down by the Huskies on Thursday night.

While we’re on that note, contrary to the Blaze TV blogger’s soliloquy about women’s advancements coming off the backs of men’s work, the infrastructure for modern women’s basketball was originally built by the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women. At its peak, the AIAW’s membership consisted of 280 colleges that held championships across 19 sports, including women’s hoops. The AIAW was a women’s collegiate sports organization founded by women, but in 1981, the NCAA took over from the AIAW after 120 schools left for the more economically advantaged NCAA.

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Breanna Stewart’s free agency

Over in the WNBA, free agency is in full bloom. Candace Parker is vacillating on whether to wind her career down in Chicago or with one last hurrah in Los Angeles. Free agent center Brionna Jones, the reigning Sixth Player of the Year, is essentially seeking to branch out after her second Finals appearance. Think of a bigger James Harden in 2012, trying to loosen himself from Oklahoma City’s bench.

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The bulk of WNBA free agency attention is trained on Breanna Stewart’s movements. Reportedly, Stewart has whittled her choice down to approximately four teams, including her home state New York Liberty, a pairing with Elena Delle Donne in Washington, running it back with a depleted Seattle Storm roster, or zagging unexpectedly to the Minnesota Lynx.

There’s no planned primetime TV special starring Jim Gray, or Hannah Storm for the internet Whitlocks to carp about, but the Liberty are what everyone in the league office is undoubtedly rooting for. Imagine if LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh had chosen the Knicks in 2010. Or if Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Harden had been a more well-adjusted collection of personalities. Stewart linking up with 2020’s No. 1 overall pick, Sabrina Ionescu, recently acquired 2021 WNBA MVP Jonquel Jones, and free agent Courtney Vandersloot would be the culmination of an arms race with the Las Vegas Aces.

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In addition to looking out for her own future, Stewart is using her clout to engineer solutions to funding charter flights for the league’s 12 teams. Stewart’s efforts have reignited the discourse around the WNBA’s problematic travel arrangements. We’ve long known that cramming long athletes onto commercial flights dozens of times a season is a hindrance to peak performance, but the WNBA hasn’t quite taken it to heart yet and Stewart’s not keen on waiting until the CBA expires in 2028 to address it.

Ultimately, for every sports fan with Whitlock’s attitude, there’s Kobe Bryant. Kobe and others understood that a rising tide lifts all boats. In his final years, Kobe became an advocate for women’s hoops. Then, three years and a day ago, he perished on his way to coach his daughter’s AAU team. But if you’re having trouble choosing between living in a shared reality where the Black Mamba’s noblesse oblige spirit is considered ruinous to culture or one where internet Whitlocks signify strength, your worldview is bass-ackwards and you’ve got your head on the wrong side of your torso.

We’ve got 2 words for ya: Sixers-Nets

Keep on trollin’, baby

We need a Philadelphia 76ers vs. Brooklyn Nets series in the postseason. For the trolling, if not the talent. These teams squared off Wednesday night with only Philly at full strength since Kevin Durant is still sidelined for Brooklyn. Although he wasn’t on the court, Durant managed to make his presence felt via Twitter. Big surprise. The two-time NBA champ took to Twitter to express his dissatisfaction with Sixers star Joel Embiid’s DX crotch chop, #SuckIt celebration following an acrobatic layup.

With both teams at full strength, we’d be looking at a chippy yet hilariously immature seven-game series with plenty of crotch-chopping and sensitivity to go around. In keeping with the late 1990s pro wrestling theme, this matchup would be like the D-Generation X-Nation of Domination feud for all the old-school WWF/WWE fans.

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The NBA is reminding us of the WWF

Those two factions weren’t the main event at the time but were the best on the card some nights. The same can be said about the Sixers and Nets despite their current standings. Boston and Milwaukee (when healthy) are seen as the class of the Eastern Conference. Based on matchups, the Celtics and Bucks are the main event in the East. The Sixers and Nets are good but not quite as good as the others — fitting for the undercard. In ’98, that was the story of The Rock/NOD and Triple H/DX. Both are very good, but not on Stone Cold Steve Austin, or The Undertaker’s level.

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Embiid would be on Durant’s last nerve with his hip thrusting and trolling nature. Durant probably gets a kick out of it to some extent, but he’s all business on the court and seems to smile rarely. JoelTroel” is having fun most of the time while dominating in a way we haven’t seen from too many big men. The bonus of trash-talking Ben Simmons for potentially seven games probably excites Embiid.

Hopefully, these teams finish the season ranked No. 2 and No. 3 in the East, so we get that second-round series. That is, if the Nets don’t slip up again in the first round. Durant vs. Embiid would be comical for an entire series, and I’m there for all of it. Every KD mid-range shot right down to every trolling crotch chop of Embiid’s following a tough basket. Kyrie Irving and James Harden would be afterthoughts behind Embiid, Durant, and Simmons being constantly taunted by Joel. NBA, please make this happen. Do whatever it takes, but we need this in our lives. 

Who wants to tell Bob Myers that nobody cares?

Nobody cares, Bob.

There’s nothing more inside sports than talking shop about general managers and team presidents. Obviously, their job is vital to the success of the organization. It’s just, no one really needs to know more than that. Golden State Warriors GM Bob Myers has been leaking his contract negotiations to the press since early December, and yet nobody gives a shit.

I don’t know how many chits Myers had to cash in to get The Athletic to pen an entirely too long exposé on “Why the Warriors are in danger of losing Bob Myers,” but it had to be a lot considering the sports insider outlet published this puff piece on Myers’ new podcast the same day.

Myers has a new podcast to promote

The longtime Dubs front office guy said there wasn’t an “epiphany” that prompted this unnecessary piece of media; it’s “more checking in with myself.” Dude, if you want to do that, buy a journal. Your mind isn’t that complex that we need to hear unscripted conversations with basketball personalities. Half the guests Myers booked already have their own pods. Shit, everybody has a pod.

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Myers’ podcast is an Omaha Productions… production, because of course it is. The more ventures Peyton Manning puts out, the more upset I get that he used my hometown to call hot routes and sponsor Pat McAfee. Who is asking for more content from front office people? If the algorithm that suggests podcasts for you spits out the “Lead By Example” show, featuring some sports exec you’ve never heard speak before, you should question your life decisions.

Going deep about the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference sounds like a great way to prematurely get out of a date that you don’t want to be on. (If she’s into it, that’s even more of an indication to turn and run.)

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Dos Equis already has a world’s most interesting man, so please stop submitting your audition tapes, Bob. It’s uncomfortable.

The Splash Bros. revolutionized the NBA, not Golden State’s front office

Myers didn’t orchestrate a trade to move up to get Steph Curry. The greatest shooter of all time fell to Golden State because Minnesota took two point guards who weren’t Curry. Klay Thompson was selected at the tailend of the lottery; it wasn’t like it was some leap to select him at 11. And Myers wasn’t even there when they took Curry, and was just an assistant GM when they took Thompson.

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The GM may have had a hand in the Hamptons meet-and-greet between Kevin Durant, Steph, Klay, and Draymond Green, but it wasn’t some brilliant ploy he concocted that landed KD.

The Warriors, like every other NBA team, got a huge opportunity when the cap increased, and had the players, staff, and championship window in place to entice Durant. Do you think the Trail Blazers were trying to overpay Meyers Leonard and Evan Turner rather than sign the Slim Reaper? I mean, come on.

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If Steve Kerr or a member of the Big Three was on their way out of the Bay Area, it would merit multiple leaked stories to The Athletic and a podcast or two. However, no one. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Gives a fuck about Bob. Retire, take a new gig, get scammed by a hedge fund manager, I don’t care. The nerve of this guy. 

A change for the better

LeBron James

For sports fans who believe that NBA basketball has been “too playground” since Larry Bird retired in 1992, this year’s All-Star game is doing the opposite of reaching out to those fans.

The NBA is taking it all the way back to the schoolyard this year in Salt Lake City. Yes, the starters will still be voted on by a combination of the media, fans, and players. Also, there will still be 12 players from each conference, reserves voted on by the coaches. The difference this year, fans will get to see the players divided up live, in a pregame segment.

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No more East vs. West

For five seasons, the NBA has done away with East vs. West All-Star game matchup, and had the two leading vote-getters serve as captains who pick and choose teams from amongst the other all-stars. In 2018, it was done privately. LeBron James then tweeted out that he wished it had been done on television, so since then captains have made their picks live.

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While the process is aired on TNT, only Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Ernie Johnson, and Shaq are in the same room. The captains are in different parts of the country and no other players are televised. This season, if LeBron James and Kevin Durant — or whoever the leading vote-getter in the East is — decide to mess with James Harden by picking him last, he will be staring right at them if receives an All-Star selection.

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Taking a page out of the NHL’s book

The NHL did something similar to this from 2011-15, except they set it up like the actual draft. It was interesting, but it might have been more fun if the players were lined up at center ice and skated over to the side that chose them.

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The details on how exactly the choice of players is going to be executed have not yet been revealed. We will all find out together whether or not pyrotechnics will be involved, if Kevin Hart will be making witty comments about the players as they are picked, or if players will be elevated up from underneath the court once their names are called. I’m just happy they finally have gone all in with this pickup game style of dividing up the teams.

I used to enjoy the East vs. West matchups every year, regardless of how competitive the game was. NBA All-Star Weekend is one of my favorite events on the sports calendar. I never thought it needed fixing. If I was in charge I would bring back the old Stay in School Jam from the 1990s — more so for the mascot slam dunk contest than the wholesome message.

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As fun as it was to pull for the perpetual underdog Eastern Conference, change is fine with me as long as the idea is good. Bringing basketball back to its literal most elementary form, choosing teams at recess, sounded like a winner as soon as the NBA decided on it. Of course, it will be more embarrassing this year for a player to be the last pick in front of a national audience than it would be in front of 10 of his friends two decades ago, but NBA players receive large financial bonuses just for being selected as an all-star. That check should quickly remove any shame.

NBA fans, be sure to get to the T.V. a little bit earlier than usual on All-Star Sunday. It’s the most athletically similar your favorite players will ever be to you. Waiting to be selected for a pickup game in the middle of winter.

The case for trading LeBron James for Evan Mobley

Should Cleveland give up Evan Mobley for the return of Lebron James?

I’ve seen kiddie pools deeper than the unseasoned jambalaya VP Rob Pelinka has assembled for the Lakers around LeBron James. As a consequence, James’ enduring existence on a sub-.500 borderline playoff squad has created a rift where trade speculation festers and boils. During a recent appearance on The Ultimate Cleveland Sports Show, The Athletic’s senior NBA writer, Joe Vardon, poured a pot of hot water on the trade stove by rationalizing a bold, hypothetical trade of the Cav’s Evan Mobley for the NBA’s future scoring king.

“I think I would (make the trade). Having lived the championship year and then in 2019 I covered the Raptors run through the Finals,” explained Vardon. “I have become a firm believer that if you have a shot, take it. I would rather win one more now and walk away from whatever Evan Mobley gives you.”

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Vardon’s scalding hot take is nutty, but it’s not deranged. The best thing I can say about it is that I’ve heard worse. To get the contracts to match, an assortment of vets like Caris LeVert would have to be cobbled together on the Cavaliers’ side. but, that’s not the most demanding hurdle to clear. The rub from Vardon’s dance on the line between genius and insanity is that acquiring a 38-year-old James would dramatically narrow the decade-long window Mobley’s development presumably leaves ajar to two or three years, tops. James is a rapidly devaluing asset and Mobley is ascending, although he’ll never achieve James’ peak. He doesn’t need to.

What Evan Mobley means to Cleveland

In his current form, Mobley is a cog in the Cavaliers’ machine lauded for his size, precocious defensive IQ, and his overall versatility, but his upside is why Cleveland is considered one of the teams that will be leading the field in a few seasons. In the NBA though, promises are murky.

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He’s also a few years away from fully realizing his potential and he’s bumped into a minor sophomore slump. It’s nothing to get too worried about yet, but there was a time when Ben Simmons was considered a generational specimen, and Karl Anthony-Towns was a 3-point pace-and-space-age K.G. incarnate. Just look at the shifting attitudes towards the 2022 season’s Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes half a season later for example. Wait, am I talking myself into this trade scenario?

The point is that investments in young, unproven players with a high valuation can be as unreliable as the return on an industry giant at its nadir. It’s a testament to James’ longevity that it’s a plausible notion that he’s still capable of spearheading a rising team to a championship. The only difference between the 2016 or 2020 LeBron and the 2023 version is the reduced load he can carry. James’ monopolization over the best player in the NBA discourse is over. He’s just one of the top-five players in the world as he closes on 40.

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The gamble for Cleveland would be significant, and President of Basketball Operations Koby Altman would only take that chance unless they were under extreme pressure to win now. That doesn’t appear to be the case.

However in the modern-day NBA, championship rosters are more volatile than they were in past generations. Look no further than the 2012 Oklahoma City Thunder or, to a lesser extent, the Mitchell-Gobert Jazz.

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The Cavs have the pieces to get a deal done

The Cavaliers’ depth is jarring in totality, which is what separates them from those Jazz squads. In order of descending impact, the Cavs boast Mitchell, Darius Garland, Mobley, Jarrett Allen, Kevin Love, Caris LeVert, and Ricky Rubio off the bench.

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Trading a young star for an aging vet who’s still got it is the riskiest genre of NBA trades. Below are a sampling of May-December player trades championship-starved franchises should consider if they’re willing to take bold chances. Each swap has an inherent risk involved, but the question one has to ask themselves is this one. Is one title, maybe two, worth the possibility of a future contention for a dozen more seasons?

Damian Lillard, 32, to the N.O. Pelicans for Brandon Ingram, 25 (plus Dyson Daniels)

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Not only would Lillard reunite with C.J. McCollum, but this could go down without either being the best player on the team. Damian Lillard draining shots from The Logo creates even more acreage inside the arc for Zion Williamson to stampede through.

Kevin Durant, 34, to the New York Knicks for RJ Barrett, 22 (plus two firsts)

If Kyrie skips town this offseason, it would make sense for the Nets to finally acquiesce to salvaging some young talent for their prized scorer. He’s increasingly going to need rest in the regular season as he encroaches on 35 which might make Tom Thibodeau explode, but his timeless skillset might be what lifts a spunky Knicks team from Eastern Conference also-ran to serious contender.

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DeMar DeRozan, 33, to the Miami Heat for Tyler Herro, 22

Heat Nation admires Tyler Herro, but their window is now. DeRozan and Butler are a rare breed of guards who eschew 3-pointers from their diets, but in the postseason when the game slows down, and especially in the all-important crunchtime, this would be one of the NBA’s best halfcourt duos. Meanwhile, Chicago gets to start over with Herro and Zach LaVine.

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The unpredictability of the NBA’s player empowerment era has upended the idea of teams staying the course. Teams have control over players for less time than ever. Michell enters free agency in 2026 and could theoretically exercise his unofficial pre-agency trade demands as early as 2025. Remember when San Antonio thought Kawhi Leonard would last forever? “A good time, not a long time” is the new NBA mantra. LeBron for Mobley sounds crazy on the surface of it, but the entire NBA is bananas this time of year. Ultimately it could pay off if both sides weighed the pros and cons.

James for Mobley’s 16-year age gap makes this the most extreme form of a May-December swap, the trade equivalent YOLO level to diving out of an airplane to catch up with your parachute. You could end up with a Harden for a Ben Simmons (plus Seth Curry and picks) swap, which wound up working for both sides, or get swindled like Minnesota did in the lopsided Kevin Garnett-Al Jefferson exchange. Boston has 17 titles and they still celebrate their only championship in the last four decades like it’s a national holiday.

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However, the millions James spends on his body are paying off. He even plays both ends of back-to-backs unlike a slew of his peers in their early 30s. King James has more Horcruxes around the league than any superstar in NBA history and most of them are situated in Cleveland for obvious reasons.