Kyrie Irving denied hitting out at Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James after saying he finally has a team-mate he trusts in Brooklyn Nets colleague Kevin Durant.

Irving and Durant teamed up in Brooklyn ahead of the 2019-20 NBA season, though the latter is yet to play since his blockbuster switch from the Golden State Warriors due to an Achilles injury.

A 2016 NBA champion alongside James with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Irving caused a stir during his appearance on Durant's new podcast.

Addressing crunch-time situations and clutch moments, Irving – who arrived from the Boston Celtics via free agency – said: "One thing I've always been comfortable with, I felt like I was the best option on every team I played for down the stretch.

"This is the first time in my career I've looked down and be like, 'That mother****** can make that shot too'. And he'll probably do it a lot easier.

"It's not so much deferring, because in past situations where I didn't take the last shot I felt guilty. I want this game-winning shot, but also you want to trust your team-mates. Not that I didn't trust my team-mates, but I felt like I was the best option."

Many perceived Irving's comments as a dig at three-time NBA champion James, who is trying to win his fourth title via the Lakers this season.

Irving and James spent three years together before the former number one pick opted to leave for the Celtics in 2017.

Following backlash, Irving addressed his comments in a video via social media, saying: "Why must it always be brother against brother? Why? If I'm addressing anyone, I'll say their name.

"Come on, don't listen to the false narratives. Let people live their lives. It's just a game. Talk about the art, talk about the sport, we talk openly and freely. But, because we live in click-bait society, it becomes something bigger.

"You don't have to defend it. It's just what media is. It's entertainment. I'm not going to let it put me against anybody anymore at any point. That's not what it's about. We talk freely, openly and that's our society. Say how you feel. Don't have to put me against anyone else. It's never been about that, it's about love."

During the podcast, Irving and Durant also discussed new Nets head coach Steve Nash.

Hall of Famer Nash has taken his first steps into senior coaching, appointed by the Nets to permanently replace Kenny Atkinson, despite the two-time NBA MVP's lack of experience.

Irving said: "I don't really see us having a head coach. KD could be a head coach, I could be a head coach [some days]."

Durant previously worked with former Phoenix Suns and Lakers guard Nash for three seasons at the Warriors, where the latter was a player consultant.

"I think having Steve there and collaborating with our floor general every day is only gonna yield good results for our scorers like myself and Taurean [Prince], Caris [LaVert] and Spencer [Dinwiddie]," Durant said. "Them having that relationship I think is gonna be key for us going forward.

"I think a lot of people may question our leadership, overall or just us two. But when me and Ky talked about being coached every single day, I think that's leading by example and I think a lot of our team-mates are gonna follow that."

Steve Nash described Kevin Durant as one of the NBA's greatest ever players and labelled Kyrie Irving one of his all-time favourites as the Brooklyn Nets head coach expressed his excitement at being able to work with the All-Star duo.

Nash has taken his first steps into senior coaching, appointed by the Nets, despite the Basketball Hall of Famer's lack of experience.

After filling the void left by Kenny Atkinson in Brooklyn, first-time coach and two-time NBA MVP Nash will have the opportunity to lead Durant and Irving.

Nash previously worked with two-time NBA champion and two-time Finals MVP Durant for three seasons at the Golden State Warriors, where he was a player development consultant.

Durant is yet to play for the Nets due to an Achilles injury after his high-profile arrival from the Warriors in 2019.

"It's a privilege to work with one of the greatest players to ever play the game," Nash said on Wednesday. "Someone who is incredibly coachable, inquisitive, and that lends itself to the question of searching.

"I think what I meant was that Kevin's always searching, he's always curious, inquisitive, developing as a human being. So he's a deep person who has a lot of goals and a lot about him, not just in basketball terms. I think my comment is more about Kevin as a human being, the type of person he is, about how he's always trying to grow, always trying to learn and always asking how he can get better.

"A big part of that is that Kevin is somebody that is never afraid to say, 'help me with this', 'what do you think about that', so that's the type of confidence and security it takes to be able to ask for help or know what they don't know. And he has that along with an incredible drive, work ethic, toughness and historic talent."

Nash is also relishing the chance to coach 2016 NBA champion and six-time All-Star Irving, who also joined the Nets in 2019 after opting to leave the Boston Celtics.

Irving was limited to just 20 games because of a shoulder injury as the Nets went on to lose in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs in 2019-20.

"First of all, Kyrie's one of my favourite players of all time," said Nash. "He's brilliant; skill level historically off the charts. Creative. Guts. Competitiveness.

"For me to get to coach him is really a pleasure. We have a relationship going back to when he was a rookie, playing against him. Got a chance to train with him for a couple days in New York City after I retired. Must have been five, six years ago. And I got a chance to speak to him since taking the job.

"I'm excited to develop that relationship, watching him continue to show greatness on the floor and to continue to get to know him in a really meaningful way, because he's an incredible person.

"The gestures and the things he's done around the WNBA or social justice, these are the things I really admire. For him to put himself in that position with his platform, to help people, shows there's a really deep person there that I've gotten to know but look forward to getting to really know and understand and learn from."

Steve Nash claimed to have the confidence of Kevin Durant after taking his first coaching job and is excited to work with the former Golden State Warrior and Kyrie Irving at the Brooklyn Nets.

Nash, a two-time NBA MVP and Hall of Fame point guard as a player, was named as the new Nets head coach on Thursday, reportedly signing a four-year contract.

The move sees Nash again link up with Durant, who was at Golden State when the 46-year-old was a consultant to Steve Kerr on a team that won two titles.

Durant is yet to feature for Brooklyn due to the Achilles tear he suffered playing for the Warriors in the 2019 Finals ahead of his free agency move.

The 31-year-old was joined in making the move to the Nets by Irving, who plays in Nash's old position and is also familiar with the new appointment.

Nash told ESPN's The Undefeated: "[Durant] is one of the greatest players I've ever seen and to have his confidence is really important. There is a respect and admiration there for me.

"For me and Ky, our relationship is important. He is the [point guard] and I'm the coach.

"I'm thrilled I get the opportunity to know him better and to understand him, how he plays and what he sees and to be here to help him refine his gifts."

Having said in the team's statement he had wanted to take the step into coaching "when the time was right", Nash added: "The coaching itch was always there.

"In a way, I kind of kept it to myself to give me the freedom of not being on the radar of coaching expectancy.

"I've always known in the back of my mind that I'd love to do it."

The Milwaukee Bucks restarted a fierce discussion about sports and politics on Wednesday evening after they boycotted their Eastern Conference first-round playoff game against the Orlando Magic.

Their boycott comes in the aftermath of yet another police shooting of a black man, Jacob Blake, in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Sunday. Blake is reportedly paralyzed from the waist down.

It would not have been easy for the Wisconsin-based team to have made this decision which will hit the bottom line of broadcasters, the league itself, their team and eventually, the players.

In June, the Brooklyn Nets player Kyrie Irving led a conference call involving 80 players and vehemently argued against the league’s restart once the COVID-19 pandemic took hold of the United States. His drive was to highlight the plight of Black America as they protested the killing of George Floyd another unarmed black man, murdered by a police officer who had a knee on his neck on a road in Minneapolis.

However, his call against the restart came at a time when the NBA was already on pause because of the coronavirus and a boycott would not have made the same kind of impact it would at this point in time.

Kyrie who is vice president of the National Basketball Players Association was right about one thing, playing games wouldn’t have solved the problems of racial injustice. However, boycotting the league then, wouldn’t have had the same result either.

Quite possibly a more perfect opportunity would have been boycotting the finals, whether it would have been the conference finals or the actual NBA finals. But the recent incidents have brought forward this latest action by the players and it now seems more appropriate to impose their will and send the strongest-possible message.

Let’s also be blunt about another point re Kyrie Irving. His worldwide view hasn’t always been spherical, but this is a different sphere. Any boycott with him as the face or voice would have been met with derision and a huge lack of credibility. And the importance of that moment, that movement and that effort would have been lost. Of course, every voice matters when it comes to the cause of racial equality. However, any charge and any course of action must be strategic, surgical and full of thought. And the messenger must be as solid as the message.

I don’t think the players would have boycotted these games if there was compassion from the current occupant in the White House.

Let’s also be fair, extra-judicial killings of unarmed black people have been going on for a while. And while there was a sense of empathy coming from the previous President of the USA, there now appears to be apathy from the current administration on this matter.

The US elections are in November, and the new NBA season is set to begin December 1. This boycott is poised to strongly push a referendum against President Donald Trump, and it is coming two months before voters go to the polls. This is now strategic.

In a couple of months we will know if it works, but there should be no going back for the players like the NBA announced earlier today. If they are going to risk it… risk it all.

It appears the mindset of the Los Angeles teams is one of the same at the moment as there are reports that both the Lakers and Clippers voted to quit the postseason.

My first article spoke about black athletes being more than their talent, and they should utilize their platforms to speak out in a society which finds it difficult to adapt to a more inclusive way.

Another moment has been introduced to opportunity.

Donald Oliver is a football and cricket commentator and a senior producer at SportsMax. Learn more about him at www.thedonaldoliver.com or email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  

Kyrie Irving has committed $1.5million to help pay WNBA players who have opted out of the 2020 season due to the coronavirus pandemic or social justice movements.

The latest WNBA campaign belatedly got under way behind closed doors on Saturday, but some stars have decided to sit out this year.

The season was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, with health and safety concerns persisting, while the Black Lives Matter movement has come to the fore in the intervening period following the death of George Floyd in police custody.

Those players who are continuing protested during the national anthem as the games restarted, and the name of Breonna Taylor - a black woman shot by police officers - was displayed on jerseys.

But Brooklyn Nets point guard Irving does not want those on a comparatively modest wage to suffer if they decide they do not want to play.

Teaming up with Natasha Cloud - who has opted out - and Jewell Loyd, the former NBA champion launched the KAI Empowerment Initiative on Monday.

Affected WNBA players can apply online for support.

Irving said in a statement: "With the help of Natasha Cloud and Jewell Loyd, I have connected with several WNBA players who have decided to play and those who have decided not to play.

"In these conversations, I have learned about the challenges and opportunities of their decisions and how it will impact their lives, family, and overall wellbeing.

"This platform was created to provide support for all WNBA players in hopes to relieve some of the financial strain imposed during these challenging times.

"Whether a person decided to fight for social justice, play basketball, focus on physical or mental health, or simply connect with their families, this initiative can hopefully support their priorities and decisions."

Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving is donating $323,000 and meals to charities during the coronavirus pandemic.

The COVID-19 crisis has brought sport to a standstill across the world, while people are struggling financially as various clubs and organisations reduce costs.

There have been over 16,400 coronavirus deaths globally, with more than 540 of those in the United States.

Irving, a 2016 NBA champion and six-time All-Star, used social media on Monday to announce that he is partnering up with Feeding America – a non-profit organisation – and City Harvest in New York City.

"Thank you all for the birthday love, I'm extremely grateful for the support," Irving wrote in an Instagram post. "Seeing the effects of COVID-19 reach our loved ones, our schools, our jobs, and access to food has really impacted me.

"I am excited to partner with @feedingamerica and @lineagelogistics to launch the Share A Meal campaign to help marginalised communities get the food resources they require during this time, and to work with our local partner @cityharvestnyc to distribute 250k meals to my neighbors in need across the NY area. In addition to that I am donating $323k to Feeding America and @lineagelogistics will match $200k of what we raise together. 

"I am asking my fans, friends, family and partners to join me in helping our communities by donating at the link in my bio. Thank you to everyone on the front line working to keep all of us safe, healthy, and fed. Together we can change the world one small gesture at a time."

New interim head coach Jacque Vaughn has vowed to "truly listen" to the Brooklyn Nets' key players as he looks to work differently to former boss Kenny Atkinson.

Vaughn was named coach until the end of the season on Saturday, stepping up from his role as assistant to Atkinson, who departed after three and a half years.

General manager Sean Marks suggested "another voice" was needed in a locker room that includes high-profile 2019 signings Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.

Vaughn was reluctant to go into detail on the issues but explained his attentive new approach.

"Overall we met as a group," Vaughn said. "Sean addressed the group and I had a chance to quickly address the group.

"And then my point was to meet with each individual, spend time with them, hear their thoughts, basically listen. I've been able to do that throughout the course of the morning."

Irving has played just 20 games this season due to injuries, while Durant is yet to return from an Achilles rupture suffered with the Golden State Warriors in last year's NBA Finals.

Vaughn would not comment on the suggestion the team's veteran players had been unimpressed by Atkinson, but he spoke of a "great conversation" with Irving.

"I don't want to speak for those guys," he said, quoted in the New York Post. "What I will say is I initiated the offer of what can we do differently. I'm not sure if that was expressed to Kenny from other guys.

"What I will say is that, in today's game, you have to be able to continually reinforce your philosophy and continue to communicate with guys.

"I've always tried to put myself in a position that any player can come to me as an assistant coach. Whether that was talking about on-the-court stuff or off-the-court stuff, guys need that.

"I think it's a skill to be someone who can listen. It's a tough skill to truly listen, and I've tried to do that through my career."

Kyrie Irving has undergone successful surgery to fix an impingement in his right shoulder, as announced by the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday.

Point guard Irving had already been ruled out for the remainder of the NBA season due to the problem.

The six-time All-Star had already missed 26 games in his debut campaign with Brooklyn, who confirmed he is set to make a full recovery in a short statement.

During his 20 appearances for the Nets, the 27-year-old averaged 27.4 points and 6.4 assists.

He marked his debut for the franchise with 50 points against the Minnesota Timberwolves last October, while he managed 54 against the Chicago Bulls in February.

The Nets – who have been without long-term absentee Kevin Durant throughout the season due to an Achilles injury – sit eighth in the Eastern Conference with a 26-33 record.

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving will undergo surgery on his shoulder and miss the rest of the NBA season.

Irving has missed a large part of his first campaign in Brooklyn due to a shoulder injury, making just 20 appearances in 2019-20.

And the 27-year-old will miss the remainder of the season as he undergoes arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder, the team announced on Thursday.

"He's obviously upset about this and we're here to support him, support the process moving forward with him and the rehabilitation," Nets general manager Sean Marks told a news conference.

"He saw specialists including our own people at HSS and it's been a group consensus that at this point in time and this juncture that this is the best cause of action."

Irving averaged 27.4 points, 6.4 assists and 5.2 rebounds in his 20 games this season.

Brooklyn are 25-28 and in seventh in the Eastern Conference ahead of facing the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday.

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving is set to see another specialist to assess his shoulder injury.

Irving has only played 20 games for the Nets (25-28) this season, missing a large part of the campaign due to his shoulder.

Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson revealed on Tuesday that Irving would see another specialist this week.

"The shoulder is a tough thing," he said, via ESPN.

"I just think it was an on and off thing where it's bothering you. Some days you feel good, some days you don't feel good.

"But I think it got to the point it was, 'Hey, let's see another specialist'."

Irving is averaging 27.4 points, 6.4 assists and 5.2 rebounds for the Nets this season.

Brooklyn are seventh in the Eastern Conference and face the Philadelphia 76ers (34-21) on Thursday.

Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving will be out for at least a week after suffering a medial ligament sprain in a loss to the Washington Wizards.

Irving hurt his right knee in the fourth quarter of Saturday's 113-107 NBA defeat in Washington.

Coming off a season-high 54 points against the Chicago Bulls, Irving became tangled up with Wizards guard Bradley Beal and fell awkwardly on his knee.

The Nets tweeted on Sunday said: "An MRI perform this morning on Kyrie Irving's right knee confirmed last night's diagnosis of a medial ligament sprain. Irving will be re-evaluated in one week."

Irving has already endured an injury-hit campaign, with the Nets guard – who arrived from the Boston Celtics to join fellow recruit Kevin Durant in Brooklyn – missing 26 games due to a right shoulder impingement.

The 2016 NBA champion and six-time All-Star also missed a game with a hamstring injury, while he sat out against the New York Knicks following the tragic death of Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant.

Irving is averaging 27.4 points, 6.4 assists and 5.2 rebounds per game for the Nets this season.

 

LeBron James registered a triple-double to earn the Los Angeles Lakers an uplifting win on Saturday, while Kyrie Irving suffered an injury scare.

The Lakers needed a boost against the Sacramento Kings after paying emotional tributes to Kobe Bryant and subsequently losing to the Portland Trail Blazers less than 24 hours earlier.

Their star man delivered at Golden 1 Center, James posting 15 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists in a 129-113 victory that snapped a three-game slump.

Irving sent a shock through the Brooklyn Nets when his right knee bent awkwardly under Bradley Beal (34 points) in the fourth quarter of a 113-107 road loss to the Washington Wizards.

The Nets described the injury as a knee sprain and Irving, who received treatment on the floor, said he needed further assessment.

"Just got to get an MRI. X-rays were negative. Just go home and see what's going on," the Brooklyn guard told reporters.

"I've done some pretty decent things to my knees in the past. The most important thing was my ACL, just making sure it was fine. It was just a weird, weird, weird, weird fall. I just felt a lot stretching and tension afterwards. Just a bad fall."

 

Lillard extends incredible scoring streak

After blitzing the Lakers at Staples Center on Friday, the red-hot Damian Lillard continued his brilliant form to help the Trail Blazers top the Utah Jazz 124-107.

Lillard dropped 51 points on 17-of-29 shooting as he became the first player in NBA history to average 45 points and 10 assists across a six-game span.

Kawhi Leonard and Paul George combined for 52 points as they shared the floor for the first time since January 2 in the Los Angeles Clippers' 118-106 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Jaylen Brown put up 32 points and Jayson Tatum added 25 to inspire the Boston Celtics to a comfortable 116-95 victory against the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Dallas Mavericks overcame a two-game hiccup thanks in part to Jalen Brunson, who scored a season-high 27 points to sink the Atlanta Hawks 123-100.

Meanwhile, the Indiana Pacers lost forward T.J. Warren to a third-quarter head injury en route to a 92-85 defeat at the hands of the New York Knicks.

 

Gobert wilts against Whiteside

Named an All-Star for the first time this week, Rudy Gobert was given a dose of reality in the Jazz's lacklustre loss to the Trail Blazers.

Hassan Whiteside, the Frenchman's direct opponent, pulled down 10 more rebounds and tallied 11 extra points at Moda Center.

 

LeBron's brilliant pass

The league's eighth greatest assist provider displayed his vision with a classy cross-court dime for Avery Bradley.

 

Saturday's results

Los Angeles Clippers 118-106 Minnesota Timberwolves
New York Knicks 92-85 Indiana Pacers
Miami Heat 102-89 Orlando Magic
Washington Wizards 113-107 Brooklyn Nets
Golden State Warriors 131-112 Cleveland Cavaliers
Dallas Mavericks 123-100 Atlanta Hawks
Boston Celtics 116-95 Philadelphia 76ers
San Antonio Spurs 114-90 Charlotte Hornets
Los Angeles Lakers 129-113 Sacramento Kings
Portland Trail Blazers 124-107 Utah Jazz

 

Pelicans at Rockets

Zion Williamson and the improving New Orleans Pelicans (20-29) take on James Harden's Houston Rockets (30-18) in one of Sunday's four games.

Kyrie Irving put his stunning performance against the Chicago Bulls down to having a "Kobe mentality" after he scored a season-high 54 points on Friday.

The point guard made 19 of his 23 shot attempts in the Brooklyn Nets' 133-118 home victory - including hitting 10 in a row in the first half - as he surpassed his 50-point haul against the Minnesota Timberwolves back in October.

Irving revealed he was inspired by friend Kobe Bryant - who died in a helicopter crash last Sunday - after finishing with an astonishing 82.6 shooting percentage from the field.

He was also spurred on by the raucous support inside a sold-out Barclays Center, with chants of "MVP" from the crowd after the 27-year-old made a pair of free throws with just under four minutes remaining.

"I'm just happy to be back playing the game I love the most," Irving said in his on-court interview with YES Network.

"The most beautiful sound is just hearing these fans out here, having my family here, it just makes it all worth it

"The decision to come back home is well worth it. I'm cemented, I'm here, I'm grounded, I'm rooted. Just happy.

"I'm happy for my team-mates as well, they did a great job of giving me confidence. I hit a few shots in the first half and had to keep it going. The Kobe mentality, the Mamba mentality, is to keep going. It's all good."

Spencer Dinwiddie contributed 20 points off the bench while Taurean Prince, Jarrett Allen and Garrett Temple also reached double figures for the Nets, who improved to 21-26 for the season.

LeBron James shed tears, Usher sang 'Amazing Grace' and Staples Center fell silent in reverence to Kobe Bryant as the Los Angeles Lakers returned to the floor on Friday.

Fans crowded outside the venue and those inside, including the players, donned replica Bryant jerseys amid heartfelt tributes to a franchise legend and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna.

An emotional video played on the big screen and a 24.2 second moment of silence was taken to honour all seven victims of Sunday's helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.

James read their names and gave a speech asking for the event to be a "celebration" of Bryant before the on-court action against the visiting Portland Trail Blazers began.

After a subdued start, Damian Lillard lifted the energy in the third quarter, hitting 23 points en route to a game-high 48 to issue the Lakers a 127-119 loss.

Lillard became the first NBA player to make 40 three-point shots in a five-game span and the first to record at least 35 points, five rebounds, five assists and five three-pointers in five straight games.

Irving inspires Nets, Nuggets upset Bucks

On the other side of the country, an inspired Kyrie Irving paid a personal tribute to his old mentor in fitting fashion.

The Brooklyn Nets guard, who earlier in the week vowed to "carry the torch", shot 19-of-23 from the floor and hit seven three-pointers as he tallied 54 points, five rebounds and five assists in a 133-118 win over the Chicago Bulls.

James Harden (35 points, 16 rebounds) and Russell Westbrook (32 points, nine assists) did likewise, the pair leading the Houston Rockets to a 128-121 victory against the Dallas Mavericks, who were without the injured Luka Doncic.

Giannis Antetokounmpo played his part, putting up 31 points in a double-double at Fiserv Forum, but the Milwaukee Bucks failed to prolong their nine-game winning run, losing to the Denver Nuggets 127-115.

The Toronto Raptors had more success preserving a streak, recording a 10th successive victory thanks to Pascal Siakam's 30 points in a 105-92 road win over the Detroit Pistons.

Zion Williamson posted a career-high 24 points in 29 minutes to outscore draft rival Ja Morant at Smoothie King Center, the New Orleans Pelicans topping the Memphis Grizzlies 139-111.

 

Rubio struggles in Suns loss

The Phoenix Suns might have avoided a late 111-107 home loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder had Ricky Rubio made more of his shooting opportunities, the Spaniard going two-of-eight from the floor for eight points in 30 minutes.

 

Lillard too hot for Lakers

The Lakers simply could not stop Lillard, the All-Star reserve delivering a clinic in long-range shooting.

 

Friday's results

Toronto Raptors 105-92 Detroit Pistons
Houston Rockets 128-121 Dallas Mavericks
Brooklyn Nets 133-118 Chicago Bulls
New Orleans Pelicans 139-111 Memphis Grizzlies
Oklahoma City Thunder 111-107 Phoenix Suns
Denver Nuggets 127-115 Milwaukee Bucks
Portland Trail Blazers 127-119 Los Angeles Lakers

 

76ers at Celtics

Due to knee soreness, the Boston Celtics (32-15) could be without Kemba Walker for Saturday's game against the Philadelphia 76ers (31-18).

Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving vowed to "continue to carry the torch" following the death of his close friend and mentor Kobe Bryant.

Irving sat out the Nets' 110-97 defeat to New York Knicks at the weekend to grieve the loss of NBA great Bryant, who was one of nine people killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on Sunday.

The 27-year-old returned to the court on Wednesday and posted 20 points, five rebounds and five assists as the Nets prevailed 125-115 against the Detroit Pistons at Barclays Center.

After inspiring his side to victory, Irving paid a tearful tribute to Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and the other people that tragically died.

"It's just hard to even conjure up the words," he told ESPN. "You try to find a clear-cut message that you would send to Gigi and Kobe and everybody that lost their lives in such a tragedy like that. It's hard, you know. It's hard

"I've been trying to do this the last few days, just trying to getting ready for a moment like this. But I just gotta let it be, let it flow. I know he's there watching, as well as Gigi, as well as the young ballplayers that were on the plane.

"I was just with them at the Mamba Academy working out with them in the summertime, as well. Those young girls losing their lives. So it's heartbreaking for all of us. But I'm not the only one dealing with something. 

"I think the most beautiful thing is that it's connecting all of us. And his seeds that he's planted in all of us will continue to grow. his legacy is gonna live on forever, obviously.

"That man was a philosopher. He was a teacher. He left so many great things here for us to follow, and I’m just gonna continue to carry the torch."

The Nets paid a pre-game tribute that included a two-minute video, while two courtside seats were left vacant for Kobe and Gianna Bryant.

Irving was visibly emotional before the match and pointed to the sky as he left the court late in the fourth.

"Out there on the court, I am not the only one that is hurting," he told reporters post-game.

"I don't want to make this about me and just our relationship because we all shared something really, really strong with him.

"When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. I had that mentorship relationship with him, where I was able to ask him almost anything. 

"You know no matter how nervous I was or how fearful I was, he was just easy to approach with those type of questions.

"The ones about what goes on in the day-in and day-out basis of chasing something that's bigger than yourself and when you're trying to leave a legacy or something of a mark on a game."

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