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Kyrie Irving’s ‘Uncle Drew’ experience: Trade rumors, life lessons and beard conspiracies

Irving is not quite sure how much acting he will have left in him. The schedule last summer was grinding and, at one point, his strength and conditioning coach politely said, Next movie you’re doing, you’re going to be retired.

But he took the job seriously. He studied his lines and was active in making changes in front of the camera.

I was trying to come in every single day, he said, remembering my lines so that I would not be like, ‘Line! Please?’ I did not want to be that person.

The most plausible way the Heat deal Whiteside, then, would be for another dominant defensive big man, and the most prominent on the market is Clippers center DeAndre Jordan. But Jordan can be a free agent this summer, and with the Clippers looking to keep cap space clear, they’d likely only want to be included in a Whiteside deal if there was a third team to take Whiteside’s contract.

The advanced numbers already paint Ball as an impact defender, which is unusual for a 20-year-old rookie. The Lakers’ defense improves by 5.4 points per 100 possessions when he’s on the court, and he’s currently ranked third among point guards in ESPN’s Defensive Real Plus-Minus (plus-1.93). There can be some noise with those stats, so it’ll be interesting to see how sustainable they are.

The feeling among executives around the league is that James will choose between bolting for the Lakers and sticking with the Cavaliers next summer. The Lakers would offer him what he is looking for down the stretch of his career �� a good place to move his family, a ready-made winning situation (if he could bring another top-tier star with him) and an opportunity to be connected with the entertainment industry. From a lifestyle standpoint, LA would be hard to beat.

But James remains connected to his home in Ohio, too, and has shown that he can get himself involved in all aspects of industry �� from talent management to acting and movie production �� even when playing in Cleveland. The Internet is wondrous that way. The challenge for the Cavs was to show that the team had a future beyond the cobbled-together group of misfits it trotted out this year.

The two captains selected from some of the league’s brightest stars, including Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis and James Harden.

Players that have never been in the same conference were put together, and of course, some guys who might not be so fond of one another ended up on the same team. Though the order of picks was not made public, selections did not disappoint.

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In this scenario, there is also the outside chance of a sign-and-trade deal that would cause a larger disruption to the Warriors’ roster, and simply moving other players off the books would ruin Golden State’s depth.

This isn’t jumping over a gap in the map to reach the flag like Super Mario Bros. This is like going back through every level of Banjo-Kazooie looking for the Jinjos you haven’t found yet. Put a less nerdy way, bringing James’ immense talents to Oakland, Calif., would be a challenge.

As you can see from the above scenarios, the Warriors would remain a dominant team with James in the starting lineup but also lose contributors who have made them the annual title favorites.

Everybody eats, All-Star shooting guard Bradley Beal said after the win against Toronto. That’s our motto when we move the ball.

This should be seen as good news for Wall. There will be less of a workload he’ll have to carry upon his return, his teammates will have gotten more scoring reps, and Beal will have more confidence as a leader in the locker room. Most importantly, he’ll actually have a clean bill of health and return to full strength, and not the form that allows 49 points from Russell Westbrook.

After following the Hayward signing with using two of the league’s best veteran contracts (Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder) as key pieces in the Irving trade, the Celtics have a strange salary distribution: Hayward and Horford make between $27.5 and $30 million this season, Irving makes a little under $19 million and no one else makes more than Jayson Tatum’s $5.6 million.

For a stable team, that structure can work very well. Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier and Semi Ojeleye are all on cheap contracts for multiple seasons with the prospect of restricted free agency afterward, and Marcus Morris is on a bargain deal for this year and next.

In playoff moments when spacing gets tight and rebounding is brutish, the Bucks will have to think hard about sliding Antetokounmpo or Jabari Parker to center.

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Average Joe Ingles is anything but for the Utah Jazz

That’s part of the package of intangibles with Ingles. He doesn’t take too much seriously, but on that short list are his responsibilities as one of the Jazz’s leaders along with Gobert.

Ingles considers it important that he displays a certain kind of positive energy when he’s on the bench, and his wife will let him hear about it on the rare occasions when that energy is lacking. (It pisses me off sometimes, but it’s good, he says of Renae’s constructive criticism.) Teammates respect that Ingles takes as much pride in making an extra pass or the proper defensive rotation as he does in his 3-point percentage.

Boston Celtics: After shooting at least 48.0 percent in each of the first three months of the season, rookie Jayson Tatum’s efficiency has plummeted. The third overall pick last June shot 41.9 percent in January and is shooting 42.0 percent in February while adding very little else (2.7 RPG, 1.8 APG and 0.8 3PG) in 10 games this month. It’s time to pump the brakes on Tatum.

Brooklyn Nets: While some first-year players such as Tatum appear to have hit the rookie wall, Brooklyn big man Jarrett Allen is picking up steam as we get ready to enter March. The No. 22 pick in 2017 is averaging 12.9 PPG, 6.8 RPG and 1.0 BPG the past 10 games while shooting a torrid 61.6 percent during that stretch.

Charlotte Hornets: Dwight Howard fell short of a double-double against Chicago on Tuesday night, but he has three in his past five games and ranks fourth in the league with 38 double-doubles on the season. Howard isn’t the big-name player he once was in fantasy, but his scoring, rebound and block numbers have remained very consistent the past four seasons, and he hasn’t slowed down yet

I don’t think we sit here and say, ‘Oh, she’s racist or that’s racial tension,’ I’m surprised. We know that was going on. I’m just trying to shed a greater light and a positive light on the bad aura or the energy that some of the people are trying to give to the people of America and to the world.

I’m not the negative side. Me having this platform, I’m just trying to shed a positive light on what I feel like is right. Am I always right? Can I have everybody follow me? I don’t think so, James added. But I’m looking at my boys right here, teaching them what’s right and what’s wrong, and we see what happens after that.

The Brow and Simmons dialed inZach Lowe details a few of the 10 things he likes and doesn’t like, including Anthony Davis outsmarting his opponents and Ben Simmons channeling his inner Manu Ginobili. For the rest of the list, check out Lowe’s column on ESPN.com.

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It was late August in Atlanta, and Kyrie Irving was in a decidedly different environment. Normally, his summer would be planned to the day, between vacations and working out, depending on how far into the postseason his team went, how his commitments to Team USA shaped up and what he wanted to work on to improve his game that offseason.

But 2017 was no ordinary summer. Two months earlier, after the Cavaliers �� the only professional franchise Irving had known in his six years in the NBA �� had been ousted from the NBA Finals by the Warriors, Irving asked Cleveland for a trade out of town. Shortly thereafter, Irving headed to Georgia to begin work on the first feature film of his career, starring his ornery, youngblood-trashing, fundamentals-loving basketball guru of a character, Uncle Drew. Amid all the turmoil, the elderly Uncle Drew was getting his own movie.

And there’s always the ultimate Laker wish: signing Cavs star LeBron James. It is unlikely James will leave Cleveland, but speculation around the league is that if he were to go anywhere, it would be to LA, where he owns a home.

That is a full-blown life right there, being a professional basketball player and acting in the summer.

The movie will hit theaters at the end of June. For Irving, it will be an odd next step for a character he created years ago, one that rose to prominence in a series of advertisements for Pepsi Max. That was strange enough for Irving. But to have Uncle Drew memorialized in celluloid?

Think about the journey that it took to get here and thinking where it started in Jersey, said Irving, who grew up in New Jersey, starring at St. Patrick High School alongside Hornets forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. It started with internet shorts, inspiration coming from an old dude taking a skateboard out of a briefcase, and turned into Uncle Drew schooling youngbloods and now it turned into a full-blown movie. Man, it’s awesome.

Z-Bo is also one of the most charitable individuals in the league, and he really spread the love in Memphis. A quick Google search of Zach Randolph charity will bring up at least one profile a year since 2011. Any player whose contributions on and off the court warrant a jersey retirement while that player is still in the league deserves a long tribute at the very least.

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Irving did his best to keep his basketball life separate from his new foray in thespianism. But it was impossible to keep them entirely apart. He could only chuckle, for example, when pictures of him late last summer began circulating, without his well-known beard. There was speculation that the removal of the beard represented some kind of clean break from the Cavs, celebrating his new life in Boston.

Denver is always tough to beat on their home court. The Nuggets showed that this week with wins over both the Warriors and Thunder. No one dominated against Golden State on Saturday, but the complete team effort was more than enough to win. Will Barton had 25 points and five rebounds.

As for the Jazz, Ricky Rubio was a perfect 9 for 9 from the floor through three quarters and finished the night 11 for 14 with a season-high 34 points. Utah has a way to go before they fully recover from losing Gordon Hayward, but they have shown some good things this season especially with the addition of Rookie of the Year candidate Donovan Mitchell.

It was a night of duels Saturday as Pistons center Andre Drummond won the matchup with Heat guard Goran Dragic in a 111-107 win. Dragic was great with 33 points and six assists, but Drummond was historic with 23 points, 20 rebounds, four steals and four blocks. This was the first 20-20-4-4 performance since 1989 when Hakeem Olajuwon did it for the Rockets.

The midrange jumper in the video below comes from a game against the Warriors in November. Ball shows a lack of confidence in his shot and hesitates in attacking an opening. He doesn’t want to take the open 3-pointer once Andre Iguodala goes under the screen set by Julius Randle and chooses to settle for a shot he knows will not end in two points for his team. That’s why he instantly attacks the offensive glass.

Saturday was a virtual blood-bath as several of the proverbial top teams in both conferences were saddled with losses. The Warriors, who have not played well at all this week, fell to the Nuggets 115-108, the Spurs lost to the Jazz 120-111, and the Cavaliers were outclassed by the Rockets in a 120-88 thumping.

Despite Saturday’s results, one thing is still likely: the Warriors, Cavaliers and Spurs will factor into the NBA Finals this season and there is a good chance they will all be in their prospective conference finals at the end of the season. However, the Rockets are clearly good enough to crash the party and the Nuggets are a formidable opponent who can hand even the best teams big losses.

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We can be calm and rational about this whole LeBron James-to-the-Warriors thing, right? Nah, we’re probably already past that point.

The wildfire started after ESPN’s Chris Haynes reported early Thursday morning that James could meet with the Warriors this summer during free agency if Golden State is able to create a slot for a max salary. Twitter lit up like a Christmas tree, and the usual ranting and raving came from the professional loud people.

But here’s what the report actually said if you break it down: the Warriors could secure a sit-down conversation with James if they had a max salary available for him, and James would listen out of respect for the Warriors’ winning culture, per Haynes. All of that information is extremely far from a reality in which James is wearing a Warriors jersey.

For that reason, all eyes should be on how Ball improves as a scorer for the remainder of this season. His play since the Knicks game on Dec. 12 has been a step in the right direction, but being sidelined since Jan. 15 with an MCL sprain could impact some of the momentum he’s built up when he returns to the lineup. It’ll also be worth monitoring his on-ball defense when he returns, particularly when it comes to how he matches up with the best point guards in the NBA. As valuable as his switchability is to a team like the Lakers, he has to prove that he can match up with his own position in order to reach his full potential as a defender.

Unless ownership is far more frugal than expected, the Celtics would be willing to become a luxury tax team for a few seasons if they could add an elite talent on top of their current team. Even if that is true, trade rules are constraining for teams at or over the salary cap, and even more stringent for teams over the luxury tax because of situations like this one.

Kemba Walker, Hornets: This might be a longshot, but any time an All-Star caliber point guard is on the market, it’s a big deal. It was reported last month the Hornets had made Walker available in trade talks, but they want to attach one of their less desirable contracts (like Nic Batum, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marvin Williams or Dwight Howard). Keep an eye on Walker, but don’t count on a trade.

With Ersan Ilyasova gone, the Hawks now have (basically) four centers, and they’ve dabbled a bit with the biggest, least rangy combination of them: Dewayne Dedmon and Former Inexplicable Starter Miles Plumlee. I wrote about the Knicks’ bastardized lineups last week.

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Falcons’ Quinn: Blame isn’t on Steve Sarkisian alone

Atlanta’s season ended in disappointing fashion, topped off by a peculiar play call on fourth and goal.

Speaking of Ryan, Atlanta is entering the offseason with the quarterback atop its list of priorities. Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff told reporters Thursday Ryan’s next contract is the team’s main focus before the start of the 2018 season, adding I don’t think it’s going to be that difficult of a negotiation, per the team’s official site.

Sometimes freak accidents happen, Kraft said. Thank goodness it wasn’t as severe as we thought it could be, but you don’t know, and today will be a great test. There isn’t anyone who is mentally tougher and prepares harder than Tommy and we’ll see.

Brady split open his right thumb on Wednesday, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported. Brady was listed as limited on Friday after sitting out practice on Thursday. Per Rapoport, the New England quarterback was slinging the pigskin fine on Friday.

With Brady set to play on Sunday, the Patriots will attempt to make their eighth Super Bowl.

The demise of the Pats is greatly exaggerated. Kraft said Sunday he plans on Brady and Bill Belichick being part of the organization for the foreseeable future.

I started the season pitching good and everything was good, Pineda said. It was one moment it’s fine and … broken a ligament, so we don’t have control for that. I feel bad, but it’s the baseball game.

We are excited to have Austin join the Giants, said Giants senior vice president and general manager Bobby Evans. He is a talented and versatile player who will strengthen our roster and provide additional depth at all three outfield positions.

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NFL, players’ union to jointly address anthem issues in ‘civil and constructive way’

The owners appear likely to consider the possibility during the meeting of requiring players to stand for the anthem. In a letter to NFL teams Tuesday, Goodell wrote: Like many of our fans, we believe that everyone should stand for the national anthem.

The league has been under pressure from President Trump to compel players to stand for the anthem rather than allow players to kneel in protest.

Seattle Seahawks vs. Oakland Raiders, Tottenham stadium, Oct. 14.

Game times for each contest will be announced at a later date. The NFL releases the full 2018 schedule around mid-April.

The decision to cut back from four games to three in 2018 was made in part to ensure the new Tottenham Hotspur stadium is in order following its opening.

The three-game London slate offers international fans a bevy of enticing matchups.

Raiders coach Jon Gruden will meet the London media just over a month into his ballyhooed return to the sideline. Oakland will try to slow Russell Wilson’s magic as the Super Bowl-winning quarterback breaks in a new offensive coordinator.

Jones cited the threats of discipline against him and wrote: Such severe threats of retaliation further demonstrate the dysfunction of the current process, and show the danger of reposing excessive power in a single executive position or committee where an owner’s right to his franchise is threatened simply because he questions the negotiation process of a compensation package.

The league and other owners say no further ratification vote of the owners is required after they voted, 32-0, in May to authorize the compensation committee to negotiate the deal with Goodell.

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Poll: Patriots still reign supreme as America’s least favorite NFL team

In the midst of the Deflategate saga last year, the Patriots passed the Cowboys as America’s most disliked NFL team. Not surprisingly, a run to the Super Bowl hasn’t changed things.

For the second year in a row, New England was tabbed as least favorite squad by the most respondents in an annual football-centric survey conducted by Public Policy Polling, although the margin over Dallas has tightened since last year’s poll.

As for the question of whether Lady Gaga was a good choice to perform during halftime of the Super Bowl, the survey broke down along notably partisan lines. While 45 percent overall opted for good to 38 percent who gave the thumbs-down, just 32 percent of Donald Trump voters were pro-Gaga, compared with 57 percent of Hillary Clinton voters.

The Cowboys, you see, have this wide receiver named Cole Beasley, and with 11:46 remaining in the game and Dallas ahead 16-3 with the ball on its 24-yard line, quarterback Dak Prescott looked to his left and fired it in Beasley’s direction. What happened next will show up on every highlight reel of the 2017 season and may haunt the dreams of singed cornerback Eli Apple.

Coming into the game, Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (who was out with an ankle injury) and the Cowboys’ Dez Bryant had gotten all the attention �� especially Beckham, what with all the drama about whether he could or could not play.

He’s not the only one who can catch footballs I guess, Beasley said after the game (via the Dallas Morning News). I never want to act surprised when I catch the ball. That’s what you’re supposed to do.

Even Bryant thought it was the catch of the year �� so far.

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Ask 5: Which QB do you prefer, Baker Mayfield or Josh Allen?

Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield and Wyoming’s Josh Allen are two of the best, and most polarizing, QBs available in this year’s draft. We’ll get a chance to see them compete on the same stage next week when they participate in the Reese’s Senior Bowl. NFL Network will have live coverage of Senior Bowl practices beginning at 1 p.m. ET on Jan. 23, and tune in for exclusive coverage of the game on Jan. 27 at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Conclusion: I know some of these executives believe this is an obvious choice, but I find it difficult because these two guys are almost polar opposites. Allen has prototype size, arm strength and mobility while Mayfield is a creative wizard with outstanding ball placement and savvy. It took some time for me to decide how to rank the QBs in the 2018 draft class. How’d it shake out? Stay tuned. I’ll be releasing my top 50 prospects list early next week.

Wilks finished his first season as Carolina’s defensive coordinator after five years as the team’s secondary coach. Wilks also interviewed for the head coaching jobs with the Tennessee Titans and New York Giants.

Wilks will take over a talented Cardinals defense. With pass-rushing demon Chandler Jones, secondary stalwarts Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu and a bevy of young players, including safety Budda Baker and linebacker Haason Reddick, Arizona could boast the top defense in the NFC West under Wilks.

There will be questions on the offensive side of the ball, where quarterback Carson Palmer retired and Larry Fitzgerald is undecided on his future. Who Wilks taps for his offensive coordinator will be vital to Arizona’s success in 2018 and down the road. The Cardinals are interviewing former Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell for the job, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported, per a source.

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