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All-Star guard Kyrie Irving said that before he committed to re-signing with the Boston Celtics, he strongly considered the New York Knicks as a potential free-agent destination.

“I mean, every team was under consideration, but obviously New York held a special place for me,” Irving said after the Celtics’ 103-101 win over the Knicks on Saturday night. “Just being from (New) Jersey and, obviously, envisioning myself as a free agent and ultimately taking a meeting and playing for (Knicks head coach David Fizdale) and a great young core that they have here. Thinking about playing with (Kristaps Porzingis). That was a big thing before I made my decision just to … plan on re-signing back with Boston. But yeah of course New York was a strong consideration.”

Irving, 26, said last month that plans to re-sign with the Celtics. He has a player option for 2019-20, the final season of his five-year, $94 million contract.

“I think if you were in my position, I think it would be an easy decision,” Irving said of his decision to commit to the Celtics. “Thinking about who we have (in Boston) and the future and what we’re set up for. For me, it was where I am in age and how I envision my career going. And kind of the lineage of guys that have come before me in the Boston Celtics is something I wanted to be a part of. Obviously, my dad and my mom met in Boston, so I had a lot of history there, as well. Obviously, being from New Jersey, (there’s) history there. But Boston, there’s nothing like it.”

Irving was one of the players in the 2019 free-agent class whom the Knicks had strong interest in, per league sources. With Irving presumably off the market, New York still plans to pursue a top free agent this summer — a class that includes Golden State forward Kevin Durant, Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard and Minnesota Timberwolves guard/forward Jimmy Butler.

New York currently projects to have $31 million in room, nearly enough money to afford a max free agent.

The projected max contract next season for a player with seven to nine years of service is $32.7 million. The projected max contract for a player with 10-plus years of service is $38.15 million.

So the Knicks will need to complete at least one more transaction that reduces their 2019-20 salary commitments to sign a free agent to a max contract.

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A Milwaukee officer involved in the stun gun arrest of Bucks player Sterling Brown has been fired because of social media posts mocking the incident, the city’s police chief said Thursday.

Police Chief Alfonso Morales said the firing decision was not tied to anything Erik Andrade did when Brown was arrested, but he explained that the social media posts compromised the officer’s ability to testify in other cases. Morales spoke about the case at a Marquette University event.

Brown sued the police department in June and accused officers of using excessive force and targeting him because he’s black. A group of officers swarmed on him at a Walgreens parking lot because he didn’t immediately remove his hands from his pockets. Brown was standing with the officers waiting for a citation for parking in a disabled spot early on Jan. 26, but never he appeared to threaten police before or during his arrest, according to police body camera videos.

Andrade later mocked Brown on Facebook for his arrest .

“Nice meeting Sterling Brown of the Milwaukee Bucks at work this morning! Lol[hash]FearTheDeer,” one Facebook post read, referencing a slogan used to cheer on the Bucks at games. Andrade also posted a racist meme of Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant.

Morales said in a statement that Andrade’s posts violate the department’s social media policies.

“They have a racist connotation and are derogatory, mocking an individual who was recently the subject of officers’ use of force,” Morales said. “Such comments also directly affect his credibility and ability to testify in future hearings as a member of this Department. I have not, and will not, tolerate such behavior.”

Andrade was at the scene when Brown was arrested but was not among the officers who took him down, according to police. A total of 11 officers involved in the arrest were disciplined or retrained, but Andrade was not among those punished at the time.

The president of the Milwaukee Police Association, Mike Crivello, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on behalf of Andrade. Andrade does not have a listed phone number.

Morales apologized to Brown for his officers’ actions and the Bucks’ second-year guard was never charged with anything.

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The San Antonio Spurs have reached an agreement on a one-year deal with free-agent wing Quincy Pondexter, league sources told ESPN.

After multiple surgical procedures on his left knee and contracting the skin infection MRSA, sources said Pondexter is finally fully healthy.

The news comes on the same day that longtime Spurs guard Manu Ginobili announced his retirement.

Pondexter, 30, played in 23 games for the Chicago Bulls during the 2017-18 season before being waived.

When healthy, the 6-foot-7 swingman was one of the league’s conventional 3-and-D players.

He was the 26th pick in the 2010 NBA draft.

He will have an opportunity to compete for rotational minutes and also serve as a veteran leader for the Spurs’ young core.

Pondexter has averaged 5.0 points and 2.0 rebounds per game for his career.

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With his team mired in a four-game losing streak that has extended the Cleveland Cavaliers’ rut to a 3-9 record since Dec. 19, LeBron James acknowledged his 15th season in the NBA has been harder than the ones that preceded it.
LeBron James says that this season with the Cavs has been harder than the ones that came before.
“It’s been very challenging,” James said after practice Wednesday. “Just from the simple fact of how many guys have been in and out. This is a difficult year for our team. Seems like I say that every year, but this one has been even more challenging.

“With everybody who has been out and coming back in, and the rotations, and things of that nature, it’s been very challenging on our team. But we have to figure it out. At the end of the day, we have a game every other day or every two days just like everybody else in the NBA. We have to go out and play.”

The Cavaliers have missed 124 games to injury this season, tied for 7th-most in the NBA, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

James was reminded that he characterized last season as the “strangest” of his career and was asked to pick which was worse.

“I don’t like to use the word ‘worse’ too much,” James replied. “It’s another challenging year.”

The Cavs’ harshest exposure point has been point guard, with Isaiah Thomas missing 38 games because of a hip injury and Derrick Rose missing 36 games with an ankle injury. There is some relief around the corner on that front, with Thomas’ minutes restriction being loosened (he played a season-high 32 against Golden State on Monday) and Rose practicing Wednesday and saying he expects to be ready to play Thursday when the Cavs host the Orlando Magic.

Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said he is focusing on the good stretches Cleveland showed in its last two losses to Indiana and Golden State while waiting for his team to get whole for the first time all season before he judges its ceiling. Following the Warriors game, ESPN published a story citing multiple prominent Cavs players who expressed doubt about Cleveland’s championship capability without executing a roster upgrade before the Feb. 8 trade deadline.

“I know how good we can be,” Lue said. “Once we get healthy, minutes restrictions are off, guys are back, we’re going to be fine. And, you know, with the point guard, the head of the snake, I.T., right now just trying to find his rhythm, get his legs, and we’re going to be fine. I’ve seen where people said ‘sources say,’ and I look down the roster and I don’t see no guy named ‘sources,’ so we got to talk to [general manager] Koby [Altman] about getting another position or something. I don’t know, but we’re going to be fine. The guys are putting in the work. The last couple of games have been very positive even though we lost, so things are going to be fine.”

Lue was asked if his players believe they can win a championship this season.

“I don’t know which guys, but I believe so. I think a lot of the guys think that we can win,” Lue said. “We’ve been playing well as of late, the last couple games, and we’ve got to continue to build off of that. So I feel confident.”

When James was asked a similar question, if the Cavs have “enough” to win a championship, he was less direct in his answer.

“That’s our goal and that’s what we got to work towards,” James said. “That’s what we’re here for.”

The Cavs held a rare practice Wednesday, including a live scrimmage portion. Lue said it lightened the atmosphere.

“Good mood today, everyone was in high spirits, good spirits,” said Lue.

Following the Magic game, the Cavs host the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday and then go on the road to play the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday.

“Just come out and compete,” James said when asked what the Cavs need to do in order to build belief again. “Come out and compete. Get better every day. You show up to work every day like it’s your last opportunity to play, and then you live with the results.”

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Isaiah Thomas and Dwyane Wade were out of the lineup for the Cleveland Cavaliers against Indiana.

Thomas has not yet been cleared to play on consecutive nights as he continues to play his way back from an injured right hip. Wade was resting.

Two other guards, Iman Shumpert and Derrick Rose, were also unavailable for the Cavs on Friday night.

Shumpert missed his 20th consecutive game since having arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. Rose hasn’t played since early December because of a sprained left ankle.

Domantas Sabonis made his second straight start at center for the Pacers as Myles Turner sat with an injured right elbow.

The Central Division-leading Cavaliers have lost six of eight and are 0-2 against the Pacers this season.

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Rookie forward Kyle Kuzma came to Luke Walton’s defense on Monday, saying that the Los Angeles Lakers stand by their head coach.

Kuzma said the narrative out there that the team quit on Walton was “upsetting.” LaVar Ball told ESPN’s Jeff Goodman that Walton had lost control of the team and “they don’t want to play for him.”

“I don’t think that’s the case,” Kuzma said Monday. “When you lose games, at the end of the day Luke isn’t the one going out and shooting 2-for-15, turning the ball over, having turnovers or missing free throws. That’s us. Can’t blame the coaching staff for everything. It’s mutual, of course. Players mess up, coaches mess up. We as a team have to be more accountable.”

“It’s just a lot of white noise, in a sense,” added Kuzma, who scored 14 points in a 132-113 win over Atlanta on Sunday to snap a nine-game losing slide. “Luke is my guy. I love playing for him. I’m sure most of us love playing for him too. … We stand by Luke. I know the front office does.”

Kuzma, who is close with Lonzo Ball, said it is increasingly difficult for today’s generation of NBA players to avoid all the chatter on social media.

“In our society, social media’s so big in our lives,” Kuzma explained. “It’s all over the place. ESPN puts out anything for clicks now, it kind of seems like. You can’t really hide from it, it’s just a thing that you have to deal with and just move past it. No other generation of NBA players has to deal with what we have to deal with in our era.”

“We just gotta stay locked in as a family and listen to the people that really matter in our lives, basketball lives,” Kuzma added. “That’s everybody in this organization. A lot of times you have losing streaks, you can go home and listen to people and let them be in your ears, but the people that really matter are the people in the Lakers organization.”

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Paul Pierce does not want to share his night with Isaiah Thomas when the Boston Celtics retire Pierce’s No. 34 jersey next month.

Pierce said Thursday that he would prefer the Celtics not run their planned in-game tribute video for Thomas’ on-court return Feb. 11, the same night the Celtics will send Pierce’s jersey to the rafters following a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“I’m not saying Isaiah shouldn’t get a tribute video … but on Feb. 11, the night I get my jersey retired, I’m not sure I want to look up at the JumboTron and see Isaiah highlights,’ Pierce said Thursday during an appearance on ESPN’s The Jump.

Pierce did playfully offer one compromise for how the Celtics could run a Thomas tribute video that night: “You could Instagram it.”

Pierce noted that he was present for Kobe Bryant’s recent jersey retirement in Los Angeles and said he liked how the Lakers used game stoppages to play videos that honored Bryant’s career.
Paul Pierce's No. 34 will be the 22nd number retired by the Celtics.
“I enjoyed watching that throughout the game,” Pierce said. “Hopefully the Boston Celtics will do that for me. I’m not sure I want to see an Isaiah video that night.”

The Celtics had planned to run a tribute video for Thomas when the Cavaliers visited the Garden on Wednesday, but Thomas, who sat out the game after returning to action for the first time in seven months on Tuesday night, asked if the team would wait until February so he could be on the court and bring his family to Boston for the moment.

Thomas said he didn’t think he would infringe on Pierce’s night with an in-game tribute.

“That’s Pierce’s night. But, like, the video tribute ain’t the whole night,” Thomas said. “I just wanted my family to be here to see it. That’s what it came down to. I wanted to be able to play. And I wanted my family to experience the love and appreciation this city and this organization is going to give me on that night. And when my representatives reached out to these guys, [the Celtics] were all for it. They agreed on it.

“I don’t know why [some people are] so mad about it. I’m not taking nothing from Paul Pierce. He did 15 years here so there’s nothing that I can take from him. But if they choose to do it that night, that would be great and I would be honored. And my family and friends can see how much they appreciated me here.”

Thomas played only 2 ½ seasons in Boston but left an indelible mark while helping the team return to basketball prominence.

During his weekly appearance on Boston sports radio 98.5 the Sports Hub on Thursday morning, Celtics general manager Danny Ainge said he didn’t see any problem with the brief tribute to Thomas.

“I think Paul said it best: He’s going to be the appetizer, the main course and the dessert. I thought that was pretty funny,” Ainge told the “Toucher and Rich” program. “I think it won’t interfere with Paul. And Paul understands that, everybody understands that. It’ll be a great game and a great moment. And Isaiah deserves it, in our minds.

“We all love Isaiah and are grateful for him and all that he’s done for us as well. Obviously you can’t compare the two, but Isaiah has been very gracious through this whole process. He hasn’t made any demands; he just had one request and we granted him that request.”

Pierce spent his first 15 seasons with Boston and — after stints with the Brooklyn Nets, Washington Wizards, and LA Clippers — signed a one-day contract with the Celtics this offseason to retire as a member of the organization that drafted him.

Pierce’s No. 34 will be the 22nd number retired by the Celtics and the first since Cedric Maxwell’s No. 31 was retired in December 2003.

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With Cleveland set to play Golden State for the first time since its NBA Finals loss in June dropped LeBron James’ career record to 3-5 in the championship round, the Cavaliers star said he doesn’t dwell on the team’s Game 3 collapse that all but assured the Warriors their second ring in three years.

“No,” James said Sunday when asked whether Game 3 — which the Warriors closed on an 11-0 run to erase a six-point Cavs lead with 3:09 remaining — still sticks with him. “No. I mean, listen. I’ve lost five Finals. What are you going to do about it? No.

“What’s going to stick with me is seeing my daughter smile, seeing my kids graduate high school, college. Hopefully my daughter will go off and meet the man of her dreams. That’s what’s going to stick with me. I keep telling you all, these games and wins and losses — yeah, I love it — but it’s not the be all and end all for me. So I’ve had so many moments in this game that I’m going to cherish. But Game 3 here in the Finals or a game there, I’m good. I don’t lose sleep anymore.”

The eventual series win helped Warriors forward Kevin Durant sleep easy, as he captured the first title in his 10-year career and avenged a Finals loss to James and the Miami Heat in 2012 as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Durant was key to the Warriors’ comeback in Game 3, scoring 14 points in the fourth quarter, including a go-ahead 3-pointer over James with 45.3 seconds left. He was named Finals MVP after Golden State won the series in five games.

Last month, Durant told GQ that hitting the shot over James caused him to think: “I felt like he was passing the torch to me.”

Durant added: “That was the best moment I ever had … I made the game-winning shot in the Finals against my f—ing idol. Somebody that I really, really, really followed since I was a ninth-grade high schooler.”

James, who told NBA TV’s Steve Smith during a sit-down interview in February 2014 that he was “inspired” by Durant because he believed the scoring machine was “next” in line to be great, said that their career arcs — Durant is 29, James turns 33 next week — have kept that dynamic in place.

“I don’t think it’s changed,” James said. “He’s always kind of been the guy that has an opportunity to be next. I don’t want to say ‘next.’ How many seasons is it for KD? It’s not even like he’s next. He’s been here. He’s been doing it at a high level for so long. So it’s not even next or now or whatever the case may be. He’s one of the best players that we have in the world, and he’s proven that over and over again. So, it’s not even next or now, it’s like, he’s here. He doesn’t have to prove himself to anybody.”

While Durant’s standing in the game might have been secure with or without that Game 3 shot, it certainly was a memorable moment for all involved.

“It was a big-time shot,” said James, who went on to become the first player in Finals history to average a triple-double for the series, albeit in a losing effort. “It was a big-time shot. I wish I could have that play over again. I was a little bit too far off of him. I still got a great contest, but I was still too far off of him. So, I wish I could have that play back, but you can’t. But it was a big-time moment for him, obviously. They played exceptionally well last year in the Finals. He was definitely the difference-maker.”

Monday’s Christmas Day rematch will be missing some of the rivalry’s biggest names — two-time MVP Stephen Curry is out with an ankle injury, while newly acquired Cavs guard Isaiah Thomas also is out. Thomas still awaits his season debut as he recovers from a torn labrum in his hip. But James acknowledged the excitement the matchup conjures up regardless.

“Absolutely,” James said. “You would be unhuman if it didn’t. But obviously, this is a new format, this is a new team for us. We’re still trying to continue to put things together and put pieces together. But yeah, you would be unhuman if you played three straight Finals versus a team and you felt nothing when you went out on the floor against them. So absolutely.”

It will be the 12th Christmas Day game of James’ 15-year career and the eighth he has played on the road.

“I’ve had a lot of games that kind of stood out,” James said, reflecting on the holiday hoops he has played. “I mean, playing in the Staples Center is always a treat. I’ve never had an opportunity to play in the Garden, but playing in the Staples Center, I’ve been there quite a few times. So, it’s kind of always fun to be in L.A. and play in front of that crowd and have that atmosphere. So, I’ve only had probably four games at home out of the 12, so, but being in the Staples Center has always been pretty good.”

Some people might construe these comments by James, who can become a free agent this summer, as him leaving another clue about his potential interest in joining the Lakers. However, there are other reasons to mention the Christmas games in L.A. One was against Kobe Bryant when both players were in the primes of their careers. Another took place when Bryant was injured as James and the Heat rolled through in the midst of a dominant run and James caught a one-handed alley-oop off the glass from Dwyane Wade to complete a play that still makes it onto James highlight mixes on Instagram.

“That ranks probably one or two of my best Christmas Day moments, for sure,” James said.

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New York Knicks star Kristaps Porzingis will miss the team’s game Monday against the Charlotte Hornets due to lingering discomfort in his injured left knee.

Porzingis tested his knee prior to the game but was ruled out by the team approximately 90 minutes before tipoff.

Porzingis originally suffered the knee injury in the first half of Thursday’s win over the Brooklyn Nets. The 22-year-old twisted his left knee when he received the ball in the post. He continued to play but then pulled himself out of the game early in the third quarter.

The Knicks appear to be taking a cautious approach with the injury, which is not expected to sideline Porzingis for an extended period.

He’s officially listed as day-to-day and his status for the Knicks’ next game — against Boston on Thursday — is unknown at this point.

The Knicks (16-13) are 2-4 in games that Porzingis misses due to injury (that record includes their win over the Miami Heat on Nov. 29, in which Porzingis exited three minutes into the first quarter with an ankle injury). New York beat the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday without Porzingis and its second-leading scorer, Tim Hardaway Jr., who is out indefinitely with a stress injury in his lower left leg.

The Knicks have a significant void to fill with both players out. Porzingis and Hardaway Jr. are averaging a combined 43 points per game. Porzingis has been off to a strong start in his third season, averaging 25.5 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.1 blocks.

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Matt Barnes is wrapping up his wild ride through the NBA.

The 37-year-old forward, who won a title with the Golden State Warriors last season but hasn’t played this season, posted his retirement announcement on Instagram on Monday.

He wrote: “Had a cool 15yr run!! Traveled the world met alota cool people, some will be brothers for the rest of my life! BUT NOW…. You telling me I can dress like this for business meetings & make more money off the court than I made ON?? & spend more time with my kids??!!Ha… MEEEEE the one that wasn’t suppose to be s— & ended up making it!! Let’s Do it! Love me or HATE ME, I DID IT MY WAY!”

Barnes was hard-nosed and confrontational on the court and had a few run-ins off it. In the past few years he was embroiled in a feud with former Lakers player and Knicks coach Derek Fisher, who was dating Barnes’ ex-wife, Gloria Govan.

In June, Barnes pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct violation in New York to avoid criminal charges stemming from a nightclub incident. A related civil suit has been filed against Barnes and former teammate DeMarcus Cousins in a New York District Court by two plaintiffs, Jasmine Besiso and Myrone Powell. The lawsuit alleges that Barnes grabbed Besiso by her neck and began choking her at approximately 3 a.m. after a fight broke out in the VIP section of the Avenue club.

Barnes, who never averaged more than 10.3 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, played for nine NBA teams over a 14-year career. He usually came off the bench and was counted on to add a spark — physically and emotionally. He twice was in the top 10 in the NBA in fouls committed.

The second-round draft pick out of UCLA averaged 8.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per game in his career and appeared in 12 playoff games for the Warriors this season.

He appeared in 12 playoff games for the Warriors last season.

Barnes has been running a foundation that helps raise money for cancer patients. He has said that he is working with UCLA to establish a scholarship fund for children who beat cancer and want to attend college.