NBA

Nets welcome back Durant but Irving still absent

By Sports Desk January 10, 2021

Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant is available for Sunday's contest against the Oklahoma City Thunder, though Kyrie Irving remains out.

Durant missed three consecutive games due to the NBA's coronavirus health and safety protocols, but the two-time champion and Finals MVP is set to return at home to the Thunder in Brooklyn.

After sitting out the 2019-20 season due to an Achilles injury, Durant is averaging 28.2 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game for the Nets this term.

Durant – the 2014 MVP – is also shooting 51.4 per cent from the field and 45.5 per cent from three-point range as Steve Nash's Nets sit at 5-5 in the Eastern Conference.

Nets team-mate Irving, meanwhile, will again be absent due to personal reasons.

NBA champion and six-time All-Star Irving has missed the past two games for the Nets.

Irving is averaging 27.1 points, 6.1 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game in Brooklyn this season.

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    The first Test of England's tour of Australia begins on December 8, though it has been reported that a host of players are considering withdrawing from travelling.

    This would be due to the strict COVID-19 protocols in place for travellers arriving in Australia, with new arrivals having to undergo a mandatory isolation period in a hotel.

    Earlier this year, tennis stars such as Novak Djokovic had to spend up to two weeks in their hotel rooms prior to taking part in the Australian Open.

    Australia do plan to ease those restrictions for fully vaccinated travellers, but only once 80 per cent of the nation's adult population have received both doses.

    Prime minister Morrison says that figure will hit 50 per cent this week, while he discussed the matter with United Kingdom counterpart Boris Johnson in Washington D.C.

    However, he insisted England's squad would have no special arrangements made for them.

    "I would love to see the Ashes go ahead, as I shared with Boris last night," Morrison said, as reported by BBC Sport.

    "But there's no special deals there, because what we're looking to have is vaccinated people being able to travel.

    "I don't see a great deal of difference in skilled workers or students who will be able to come to Australia when you reach those vaccination rates.

    "Those who are coming for that purpose when it comes to their profession, which is playing cricket, I don't see the difference between that and someone who's coming as a skilled, qualified engineer or someone who's coming to be ready for study."

    Cricket Australia is set to provide details around the travel and quarantine arrangements for the tour to the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) this week. 

    England players will then be able to make decisions on whether they wish to be included in. the squad, which will be announced in early October. 

    Prime minister Johnson said: "I raised it and he said he was going to do his best for the families. He merely undertook to come back and see if he could find a solution."

  • Warriors owner Lacob fined $50k for Simmons comments Warriors owner Lacob fined $50k for Simmons comments

    The NBA fined Golden State Warriors owner Joe Lacob $50,000 for violating the team's anti-tampering rule following his comments about Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons.

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    "In some ways, it doesn't really fit what we're doing," Lacob told the San Francisco Chronicle.

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    Rivers, midweek, told ESPN the 76ers will try to convince Simmons to stay with the franchise amid trade talk.

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  • 76ers and Doc Rivers want to convince Ben Simmons to stay amid trade talk 76ers and Doc Rivers want to convince Ben Simmons to stay amid trade talk

    Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers said the championship contenders will try to convince Ben Simmons to stay after confirming the disgruntled All-Star wants to leave the NBA franchise.

    Rivers was speaking on Wednesday, in response to reports Simmons told the 76ers he will not attend training camp next week and does not plan to play for the team again.

    It comes after Simmons' forgettable playoff campaign with the 76ers last season – the 25-year-old Australian failed to impress in the shock Eastern Conference semi-final loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

    Amid reported interest from the likes of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers, Rivers discussed Simmons' future in Philadelphia.

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    "He gave his reasons, which we obviously didn't agree with. But you know, in sports, there's been so many times this has happened that hasn't been reported and the guy comes back.

    "Listen, we're going to go through it, we're going to always do what's best for the team, but I can tell you up front, we would love to get Ben back.

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    A three-time All-Star and elite defender, Simmons and his shooting problems were laid bare during the 2021 postseason with the top-seeded 76ers.

    Former number one draft pick Simmons had no fourth-quarter field-goal attempts in his last four games of the playoffs last season. He is the only NBA player in the last 20 seasons to have four consecutive postseason games with no field-goal attempts in the fourth quarter during a season in which he was an All-Star.

    Simmons averaged just 10.1 field-goal attempts in 2020-21 – a career low, which dropped to 7.9 in the playoffs. It is the same story with his scoring as it dropped to a career worst 14.3 points per game and 11.9 in the postseason – both career lows.

    Then there is Simmons and free throws. He was exposed by rival teams as they regularly sent him to the line, with the Melbourne-born guard making just 25 of 73 shots in the 2020-21 playoffs. His 34.2 free-throw percentage is the lowest ever in a single postseason.

    Rivers also tried to clarify comments he made following Philadelphia's elimination at the hands of the Hawks in June.

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    "The question was asked about Ben, it was the first question after we just lost Game 7, my answer was, 'I'm not answering any of that stuff right now guys, I don't even know how to answer that.' That had nothing to do what's about Ben, I was basically just saying, 'I'm not answering that crap, those questions.'

    "It was being portrayed that I was out there saying I don't think we can win with Ben, and I do. I told Ben that the next day. What really disappointed me was the next day I went on and said, 'Guys, y'all knew exactly what I was talking about,' and no one heard it.

    "They just kept running their narrative. I've been in sports a long time, and I'm not misrepresented very often, but in that case, I was. But it is what it is. Ben knows, [agent] Rich [Paul] knows, and I know."

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