Nets, Celtics, Pelicans in pursuit of no Kevin Durant trade

There is an old saw in sports. Sometimes the best deals are the ones you don’t make.

To which, given the way this NBA season has unfolded, especially over the past month, we now have to add: Sometimes the best trade bids are the ones you don’t respect.

After Kevin Durant asked to be traded this offseason, the Nets responded with the equivalent of a “We’ll look into it and get back to you” letter, setting up a superlative request (which was their right) and essentially playing. four corners before reaching joint ceasefire with their superstar. The team then spent the early parts of the season mixed up with Steve Nash being fired as head coach, their flirtation with the disgraced Ime Udoka as his potential replacement and, most importantly, the whole Kyrie Irving thing. balagan. All under .500 while playing basketball.

Now they are the hottest team in the NBA, and quietly, as the Nets sometimes seem to be the least when they are playing real basketball, even if they are playing very well, they are starting to look like a title contender. it was rumored to be.

Kevin Durant is averaging 30 points per game on historically efficient shooting.

The Nets have won nine games in a row. They’re up to third in the Eastern Conference standings (3-6 subway series against the Knicks. We can dream). They’re up to seventh in the league in net rating, outscoring opponents by 3.2 points per 100 possessions, the No. 5 offense and the No. 12 defense. Since Jacques Vaughan took over as manager on November 1, they are third in the league on clean sheet. As Irving returned on November 20 from saying [stern voice] go and think long and hard about what you’re doingthey are 15-3 and tied for third in the NBA in net rating over that span.

And Durant does it by not dunking and playing great basketball. He is averaging 30 points and shooting a career-best 56.3 percent from the field, including 62.6 percent on 2-point attempts. He’s adding 6.6 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.5 blocks a night, playing the fourth-most minutes in the NBA. At age 34, again attached to Achilles. Adjusted for 3-pointers and free throws, Durant’s true shooting percentage of 67.3 is the 37th best in NBA history in a single season behind a number of big men who didn’t shoot (including this season’s Nic Claxton option) and one-off drives from Kyle Korver types of scorers and an unprecedented 30 a night from scorers. Again, he’s 34 years old.

Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets is considering his options as he is being defended by Donovan Mitchell of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Since Kyrie Irving returned from his team suspension, the Nets are third in the NBA in net worth.
NBAE via Getty Images

Durant’s excellent play against the background of the rise in the rankings and the Nets’ relatively long stretch without the need to reset the controversial counter in recent days allows them to talk about the benefit of “focusing on basketball.” Its context is as follows. Look, our jobs are a lot easier without all the questions about our second-best player dropping anti-Semitism.

But it’s not just the Nets who have emerged better for not complying with Durant’s initial request and winning the battle against “player empowerment” for The Man.

The Celtics and Pelicans, two of the teams most often mentioned as possible destinations for Durant, and thus the two teams that ultimately decided not to trade for him, are potential Finals teams that enjoy great atmosphere. (The less said about the Raptors and Scottie Barnes, the better.)

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) drives to the basket during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets, Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2022.
The great play of Jayson Tatum (0) and Jaylen Brown (7) rewarded the decision of the best Celtics in the league not to participate in the Durant deal.

The Celtics are the consensus best team in the NBA with a league-leading 25-10 record and the advanced stats to back it up. Jayson Tatum is the MVP of a world where we forget about Nikola Jokic (maybe even one where we don’t remember), and Jaylen Brown, who would be the linchpin of a Nets comeback, is scoring 27 points in a night as his wingman. .

The Pelicans are the surprise of the league, sitting one game out of first place in the Western Conference and combining the top six offense and defense. Zion Williamson stirs people up. They’re deep, they’re young, and they’re fun. And one of the draft picks they surely had to raid from their closet in the Durant deal. The Lakers’ 2023 unprotected first-round pick, currently ranked seventh in the lottery.

Today’s back page

The back cover of the New York Post on December 28, 2022.
New York Post

Mav – a smasher for sure

We should take 35 seconds to admire the Knicks, which is more time than it took to blow a nine-point lead at the end of regulation en route to a 126-121 upset loss at Lucca Imperial on Tuesday night. Doncic and the Mavericks.

• Doncic finished with 60 points, 21 rebounds and 10 assists, the first triple-double in NBA history. Get the man his recovery beer.

• The Knicks took a 112-103 lead on Myles McBride’s free throws with 33.9 seconds left. The Mavericks then got a 3-pointer and an and-1 from Doncic, which combined with a Quentin Grimes layup to cut the lead to three and the Knicks still up by three when they fouled Doncic with 4.2 seconds left. He made the first free throw, missed the second on purpose, turned and hit the skinny, and fell down to force OT. Cruel.

• Before the Knicks loss, NBA teams were 13,884-0 in the last 20 seasons when they led by at least nine points with 35 seconds or less remaining, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

• Tom Thibodeau said. “It’s hard. It’s a shame not to come out of here with a victory.”

• Jalen Brunson missed the game back at his former home base in Dallas because of a hamstring strain he suffered Sunday. It was the first game Brunson missed in a Knicks uniform. RJ Barrett left the game after just two minutes with a cut right index finger and did not return.

• The Knicks (18-17) have lost four straight after snapping a four-game winning streak.

The journey of Kodai Senga

Steve Cohen has a good idea of ​​what he’s paying for next season. The Mets’ record payroll is filled with Cy Young Award winners and All-Stars, veterans and established New York performers.

But the biggest wild card for the Mets owner’s budget is how Japanese pitcher Kodai Senga, who signed a five-year, $75 million contract this month, fares in his first season in charge. Senga, who turns 30 next month, has longed for the opportunity. He tried for several years to join the MLB, but was repeatedly denied permission by the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, who won six championships during Senga’s decade with the team.

Kodai Senga is pictured in the uniform of Japan's SoftBank Hawks and MLB's New York Mets, with Citi Field in the background.
Insert photo composite

As detailed in a new Sports+ feature published this morning, Senga was an unknown prospect who became one of his country’s biggest stars, whose unwavering confidence led him to choose perhaps the most pressured and potentially rewarding destination on the free agent market. .

“I just told him. “You better do well,” said Brooklyn native Dennis Sarfat, Senga’s longtime teammate (2014-2121), before joining the Mets. “It can be difficult if you’re not playing until that contract, so you better make that $15 million a year because they’re going to let you know if you’re not. I thought he would have chosen the West Coast, being closer to Japan and with the travel… But I guess he wanted the big lights.”

– Howie Kusoi

On the upper slope

Michaela Shiffrin of the United States competes during the first run of the FIS Women's Alpine Skiing World Cup Giant Slalom on December 27, 2022 in Semmering, Austria.
Mikaela Shiffrin reached her 78th career World Cup victory, four shy of the women’s all-time record.
AFP via Getty Images

The last time most people read or considered the same sentence about “Mikaela Shiffrin” and “giant slalom,” if they ever did, was during the 2022 Beijing Olympics, which was 11 months ago by my amazing calculations. That’s when the American skiing superstar suffered through hell at the Olympics, crashing out of the giant slalom, combined slalom and alpine skiing and failing to win a medal despite winning in several events.

Shiffrin was the picture of disappointment. That he was the best skier in the world only made his grief all the more stunning to the viewing public, and made the armchair debate about his state of mind all the more intense.

But let’s go back. Mikaela Shiffrin won the World Cup giant slalom race in Semmering, Austria on Tuesday. It was her 78th career World Cup victory, moving her four wins shy of Lindsey Vonn’s women’s record. It was his fourth World Cup win of the young season, leading him in the standings, and his first win in the giant slalom discipline in more than a year. She continues to be the best female skier in the world.

Shiffrin, 27, is scheduled to compete in another giant slalom on Wednesday and in Semmering on Thursday with Vonn in tow.


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