The Nets, Celtics and Pelicans fell to no Kevin Durant trades
There’s an old saying in sports: sometimes the best trades are the ones you don’t make.
To which, given how this NBA season has played out, especially over the past month, we now have to add: Sometimes the best trade requests are the ones you don’t honor.
After Kevin Durant asked to be traded this offseason, the Nets responded with the equivalent of the “We’ll look into it and circle back to you” email, setting a very high asking price (which was their right!) and basically playing four corners until to arrive a co-branded truce with his superstar. The team then spent the early parts of the season in various embarrassing modes the dismissal of Steve Nash as head coach, his flirting with the disgraced Ime Udoka as its potential substitute and, above all, all Kyrie Irving they babble. All while playing sub-.500 basketball.
Now they’re the hottest team in the NBA, and quietly, because it sometimes seems like the Nets are less relevant when they’re playing real basketball, even if they’re playing it really well, they’re starting to look like the contender to the title that they rumored to be.
The Nets have won nine games in a row. They are third in the Eastern Conference standings (a 3-6 metro series against the Knicks? We can dream). They rank seventh in the league in net rating, outscoring opponents by 3.2 points per 100 possessions, with the No. 5 offense and No. 12 defense. Since Jacque Vaughn took over as coach on Nov. 1 , are third in the league in net rating. Since Irving returned on November 20 to be informed [stern voice] to go and think long and hard about what you’ve donethey are 15-3 and are also third in the NBA in net rating during that span.
And Durant is making it happen by not being angry and playing wonderful basketball. He is averaging 30 points and is shooting a career-best 56.3 percent from the field, including 62.6 percent on 2-point attempts. He adds 6.6 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.5 blocks per night while playing the fourth most minutes in the NBA. At the age of 34, with a reinstated Achilles. Durant’s true shooting percentage, adjusted for 3-pointers and free throws, of 67.3 is the 37th-best single-season mark in NBA history behind a group of big men who didn’t shoot ( including this season’s version on Nic Claxton) and spot-on campaigns from Kyle Korver’s shooting types, and he has no precedent for a 30-a-night scorer. Again, he’s 34 years old.
Durant’s superlative play amid this rise in the standings and the Nets’ relatively long stretch without needing to reset the days counter since the last controversy allows them to recite a comforting argument about benefiting from a “focus on basketball“. The subtext of which is: Look, our jobs are a lot easier without all the questions about our second-best player’s refusal to deny anti-Semitism.
But it’s not just the Nets who have come out better for not giving in to Durant’s initial request and winning a round for The Man in the fight against “player empowerment.”
The Celtics and Pelicans, two of the teams most frequently mentioned as Durant’s possible destinations and therefore two teams that ultimately decided not to trade for him, are potential Finals teams that enjoy excellent vibes . (The less said the Raptors and Scottie Barnesthe best.)
The Celtics are the consensus best team in the NBA, with a league-leading 25-10 record and advanced metrics to back it up. Jayson Tatum is the MVP of the world in which we forget about Nikola Jokic (maybe even one where not) and Jaylen Brown, who would have been the centerpiece of the Nets’ return — is scoring 27 a night as his fullback.
The Pelicans are the surprise of the league, jumping within a game of first place in the Western Conference and putting together a top six offense and defense. Zion Williamson is crushing people. They’re deep, they’re young, and they’re fun. And one of the draft picks they surely would have had to steal from their closet in a Durant deal? The Lakers’ 2023 unprotected first-round pick, who is currently seventh in the lottery.
Today’s last page
We have to take 35 seconds to marvel at the Knicks, which is longer than it took them to blow a nine-point lead late in regulation en route to a crushing 126-121 overtime loss Tuesday night to an imperial Luka Doncic and the Mavericks.
• Doncic finished with 60 points, 21 rebounds and 10 assists, the first triple-double of this magnitude in NBA history. take the man his recovery beer.
• The Knicks took a 112-103 lead on a pair of free throws by Miles McBride with 33.9 seconds left. The Mavericks then got a 3-pointer and a Doncic and-1 layup around a Quentin Grimes turnover to cut the lead to three, and the Knicks still led by three when they fouled Doncic at the 4 ,2 seconds from the end. He converted the first free throw, missed the second on purpose, corralled the rebound and hit a skinny one while falling to force OT. brutal
• Until 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, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
• Tom Thibodeau said: “It’s tough. It’s a shame we didn’t get out of here with a win.”
• Jalen Brunson the game was lost — his return to his old stomping grounds in Dallas — because of the sore hip 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 lacerated right index finger and did not return.
• The Knicks (18-17) have lost four straight since snapping a four-game winning streak.
The journey of Kodai Senga
Steve Cohen has a good idea of what he’ll be paying next season. The Mets’ record-breaking roster is filled with Cy Young Award winners and All-Stars, veterans and established performers in New York.
But the biggest wild card in the Mets owner’s budget is how Japanese pitcher Kodai Senga, who signed a five-year, $75 million contract this month, will fare in his first season in the majors. Senga, who will be 30 next month, has wanted this opportunity. He spent several years trying 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.
As detailed in a new Sports+ feature released this morning, Senga was an unheralded prospect who became one of his country’s biggest stars, whose unwavering confidence led him to select perhaps the most pressured and potentially rewarding destination on the free agent market.
“I just told him, ‘You better do good,'” Brooklyn native Dennis Sarfate, Senga’s longtime teammate (2014-21), told Senga before he joined the Mets. “It can be tough if you’re not up to par with this signing, so you better make that $15 million a year because they’re going to let you know if you don’t. I thought I’d pick the West Coast, be more near Japan and with the ride… But I guess I wanted the big lights.”
— Howie Kussoy
The last time most people read or considered “Mikaela Shiffrin” and “giant slalom” in the same sentence, if ever, was during the 2022 Beijing Olympics, which happened a less than 11 months, according to my amazing calculations. That’s when he was America’s skiing superstar suffered through one hell of an Olympicscrashes the giant slalom, slalom and alpine combined and not getting a medal despite being favored in several tests.
Shiffrin was the image of disappointment. That she was the best skier in the world only made her pains more puzzling to the viewing public and made the armchair debate about her state of mind more intense.
But let’s take it back: Mikaela Shiffrin won the World Cup giant slalom race Tuesday in Semmering, Austria. It was her 78th career World Cup win, putting her four wins shy of the women’s record held by Lindsey Vonn. It was her fourth World Cup win of the young season — she leads the standings — as well as her first victory in the giant slalom event in more than a year. She is still the best skier in the world.
Shiffrin, 27, was set to run another giant slalom on Wednesday and a slalom on Thursday in Semmering with Vonn’s mark in her sights.
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