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Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash calls team’s decision on Kyrie Irving ‘difficult’ but ‘sound’

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Calling it a “difficult” but “sound” decision, Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash addressed the team Wednesday and began the process of moving forward without Kyrie Irving.

A day after the Nets decided not to allow their starting point guard to practice or play with them until he complies with New York City’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, Nash and star guard James Harden said they would gladly welcome Irving back but are ready to move on for now.

“Everyone had their say,” Nash told reporters after Nets practice about the decision-making process. “It takes time to make decisions like that. This is a difficult decision. But I think it was a sound one and one that makes complete sense to everyone.

“We are just going to move on, and if things change, it would be incredible to have him back in the fold. It was a tenuous situation to have a player in and out like that. There’s more clarity, and we can focus on the future and get going.”

General manager Sean Marks announced on Tuesday that he and Nets owner Joe Tsai decided to end the uncertainty surrounding Irving and not let him join the team until he gets at least one vaccination shot as required by New York City’s mandate to play in New York. Irving was allowed to practice with the Nets at their private team facility in Brooklyn but could not play in any games in New York City unless he got at least one vaccination shot.

Harden said that he and Kevin Durant spoke with parties involved in the decision and that he wants to win a championship and feels the organization is aligned. Harden added that he has not spoken to Irving since the decision was made on Tuesday.

“Sean [Marks], Steve [Nash], me, KD, Kyrie, we all had conversations,” Harden told reporters. “Kyrie believes in his beliefs, and he stands firm and strong on that. And for us, we respect it. We all love Ky. But as far as us, we have a job to do.

“Individually, myself, I am still wanting to set myself up for a championship,” Harden continued. “And I feel like the entire organization is on the same path and we are all in this as a collective unit.”

Nash said that management’s move allows the team to finally focus on what is ahead without constant uncertainty potentially putting “an extra strain” on the Nets and their title aspirations.

“For guys to be able to not have the uncertainty I think is important,” Nash said. “It’s not kind of hanging over us. A decision was made, and I think that can be beneficial to us starting to really build and have that understanding that this is what’s happening instead of we were living in a world that was very uncertain. We weren’t sure from one day to the next what was going to change or what was going to happen. That can be difficult, and that can put an extra strain on everybody.”

Harden said the players now know their roles moving forward and that includes a little more on the shoulders of the Nets’ two big stars.

“I have no say so in that,” Harden said of the Irving decision. “I can only state my opinion, and we got to continue to move forward. Obviously, we would love to have Kyrie here.”

Harden later added: “We still have two pretty good leaders on the team. Know what I mean? And obviously Ky is our leader as well. We still have myself and Kevin [Durant]. [We] have to lead, which we are pretty good at that, and go out there and be great every single night.”

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New Orleans Pelicans, ‘trying to be here in the community and help rebuild’ following Hurricane Ida, hold practice at Nicholls State

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THIBODAUX, La. — For roughly an hour, the New Orleans Pelicans mostly rode in silence as they traveled to Nicholls State University for an open practice.

The drive from the practice facility in the suburb of Metairie out to the campus is among one of the hardest-hit areas of the state from Hurricane Ida, which made landfall Aug. 29.

Veteran Garrett Temple, who is from nearby Baton Rouge and played at LSU when Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005, said a few people made eye contact with him on the drive filled with knocked-down houses, tarped roofs and fallen trees.

“I saw [Brandon Ingram] look at it a couple of times,” Temple said. “He just looked at me and was shaking his head like, ‘Damn, this is tough. This is tough.’

“Again, a city like New Orleans or Baton Rouge, you don’t really notice. But the smaller towns really get devastated. It’s harder for them to come back. It takes longer for them to come back. If your eyes were out the window a little bit, you were able to see enough.”

Temple was a freshman during Katrina and remembers extended family members coming to stay with his family.

“Me being from here, understanding how these things devastate areas, seeing still a month past, a month more past the hurricane, still seeing the devastation it has caused, it makes you grateful,” Temple said. “That’s part of the reason we’re donating what we’re donating to Nicholls State. Hopefully, we’re able to get past this. This season is dedicated to the victims of Hurricane Ida.”

Rookie Trey Murphy said he was almost lost for words on the drive.

“It was crazy because it’s [been] a month and they are still suffering from it,” Murphy said. “It makes you sympathize for the people and really understand and put yourself in your shoes. I’m glad we were able to do something for these people.”

Following the practice, coach Willie Green announced the team was donating $100,000 to Nicholls State through the team’s Gulf Coast Renewal Fund.

He added that he thought being able to have practice in the area helped some with the morale of the community.

“We’re just trying to be here in the community and help rebuild,” Green said. “I think it’s great. That’s what it’s about. Basketball, spots in general, it’s a platform to give people joy. People that don’t necessarily get to see the Pelicans often. They could see these guys up close and personal and then we get to engage in the community here. It’s the best of both sides.

“It’s tough. You see it on TV but when you see it in real life driving through, it’s touching. … They find a way to rebuild. They find a way to continue to have joy. And they do it together.”

And for the Pelicans, the hourlong ride had a lasting effect.

“I think everyone was looking out the windows in awe,” Green said. “Seeing the debris, seeing the homes that got battered by the hurricane. It was tough. It made it real for us today.”

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Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry scores 41, puts on show in preseason finale

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SAN FRANCISCO — Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry looks primed for another run at the third MVP award of his career.

The 33-year-old guard scored 41 points during Friday’s 119-97 win over the Portland Trail Blazers, the final preseason game before Tuesday’s regular season opener against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center.

“He’s been building up perfectly from before camp started to all of the training over the summer to now,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after the game. “Obviously missed the game in L.A. the other night, that was part of the plan, he didn’t need to play all five games, but the last few days he got a lot of individual work in and he’s clearly ready to roll for the regular season so he’s in a great place.”

The 41 points are tied for the third-most in a preseason game over the last 15 years. It’s also Curry’s third career 40-point game in the preseason, the most by any player over the last 15 years, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information.

The performance also capped a 5-0 preseason record for a Warriors group that is no longer surprised when they see Curry go off offensively the way he did Friday — even in a preseason game that has little meaning.

“The guy’s a machine,” Kerr said. “It’s just amazing how he looks after himself physically, emotionally, he’s just an incredible athlete at the peak of his powers still at 33. He’s just remarkable to observe and obviously we’re lucky to have him leading the way for us.”

Chants of “MVP! MVP” echoed through Chase Center as fans embraced the type of Curry performance that has become commonplace through his time with the organization. Curry went 13-for-23 from the field and 7-for-14 from the three point line in 30 minutes.

“It’s always fun to watch when Steph puts on a show like that,” Warriors center Kevon Looney said. “We see it a lot and it’s getting close to the real games so you see him turn it up. Our team played pretty well so [it’s] exciting to get to opening night.”

The Warriors announced after the game that they have waived Gary Payton II, Jordan Bell, Avery Bradley and Mychal Mulder. Kerr said that, for the time being, the Warriors would leave the 15th spot on the roster open.

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Sacramento Kings exercising third-year option on Tyrese Haliburton, source says

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The Sacramento Kings are exercising the third-year option on guard Tyrese Haliburton, a source told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Friday.

Haliburton averaged 13.0 points, 5.3 assists and 1.5 steals in 58 games last season and was named to the NBA All-Rookie first team.

He suffered a season-ending knee injury in early May. The injury did not require surgery.

Haliburton was selected 12th overall in the 2020 NBA draft out of Iowa State.

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