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Rafter talk, Born Ready 2.0 & return games for everybody

Kyrie returns for Brooklyn

This week saw Brooklyn guard Kyrie Irving get his first action of the season in two separate games.

Keep in mind, as an unvaccinated player, Irving is only eligible to play in road games for the Nets.

Irving made his season debut in Indiana Wednesday, Jan. 5, pouring in 22 points in 32 minutes on 9-of-17 from the field.

He also tallied four assists, three rebounds, three steals and a block.

Brooklyn won the game 129-121 after Irving scored five straight points late to push the lead to 10.

The Nets at the time were 14-3 on the road.

The team didn’t have another road game until Monday, Jan. 10, when it played the Trail Blazers in Portland.

Irving logged 40 minutes, scoring 22 points to go along with eight rebounds, four assists, a steal and a block.

He even got the three-point stroke going, knocking down three of his eight attempts.

Late in the game, Irving tweaked his ankle chasing a loose ball with Portland forward Nassir Little.

After the game, Irving called it a “bad play.”

Little dove for the ball as it headed out of bounds, at the same time Irving was attempting to plant before looking to avoid a sliding Little.

However, he could not avoid it in time as his left ankle was rolled onto.

Irving did remain in the game but Brooklyn lost 114-108 to Portland.

He is expected to play at Chicago Wednesday, Jan. 12 with tipoff set for 7 p.m. The game can be seen on ESPN.

No. 41 raised to the rafters

As expected, No. 41 will never be worn by a Dallas Maverick ever again.

Future Hall-of-Famer Dirk Nowitzki had his jersey retired at the American Airlines Center Wednesday, Jan. 5.

His No. 41 jersey was raised to the rafters above a court where he retired three seasons prior.

Nowitzki spent his entire 21-season career with the Dallas franchise after being acquired from the Milwaukee Bucks along with forward Pat Garrity in exchange for forward Robert Traylor on draft night.

That one decision shaped the entire franchise as Garrity was later flipped for future Hall-of-Famer Steve Nash.

Nowitzki scored 31,560 points during his career, good for sixth all-time in league history. In addition, he’s one of seven players to ever surpass the 30,000-point mark.

Over his career, Nowitzki was named an NBA all-star 14 times, made the All-NBA 1st, 2nd or 3rd teams 12 times, was a three-point champion in 2006, joined the 50-40-90 club the year after along with being named the league’s Most Valuable Player in 2007.

He captured his lone NBA championship in 2011 when he helped the Mavericks beat the Miami Heat’s Big 3 in its first year of its inception.

Not to mention, the host of awards the European has won internationally.

Current head coach and former teammate Jason Kidd jokingly asked Nowitzki if he wanted to come back via a 10-day contract considering the hardships circulating the league.

However, the moment of the night came when team governor Mark Cuban notified the world that he had one more promise to fulfill to his former superstar.

At the conclusion of his speech, Cuban unveiled a small table-sized statue of Dirk’s signature one-legged jump shot with three basketballs flowing off his fingertips.

It was then that Cuban announced plans to erect that statue outside the front of the American Airlines Center where Dirk had starred for two decades prior.

Nowitzki will be eligible for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2023.

Born Ready again

Once the Atlanta Hawks didn’t re-up with guard Lance Stephenson on a second 10-day contract, it opened the door for a reunion elsewhere.

The Indiana Pacers jumped at the opportunity to bring Born Ready back aboard, signing the veteran to a 10-day deal on New Year’s Day.

Stephenson scored 11 points combined in his first two games after scoring 11 points in six games with Atlanta during that stint.

His play was rewarded with a boost in minutes that opened the door for Stephenson to respond with 20 points in five-plus first quarter minutes against the Brooklyn Nets.

He finished the game with a season-high 30 points, his most since Mar. 16, 2016, in 32 minutes. Through the first two games of the season, he played a combined 30 minutes.

Three nights later, Stephenson dished out a career-high 14 assists with 16 points and six rebounds in a 12-point win over the Utah Jazz.

However, that’s the only win in the five games for the Pacers since re-signing Stephenson.

Indiana has opted to bring Stephenson back on a second 10-day contract under the hardship exception.

Since rejoining his former team, Stephenson has brought back his And-One sneakers in a Pacer colorway.

He has now dubbed them his “Like Mikes.”

Klay Day

A day dubbed as “Klay Day” was 941 days in the making.

It had been 941 days since guard Klay Thompson last played basketball in the NBA.

The three-time champion tore his ACL in game six of the NBA Finals June 13, 2019 against the Toronto Raptors on a dunk attempt while being fouled.

Despite being halfway to the Golden State locker room, Thompson returned to the floor to shoot his two free throws to ensure he could remain eligible for the game.

From there, it was surgery, recovery and rehab while the Raptors beat the Warriors in the NBA Finals as Thompson sat watching from home.

Thirteen months after his ACL tear, Thompson tore his Achilles tendon playing pickup basketball during the offseason.

Therein the same process of surgery-recovery-rehab began all over again.

Since then, Golden State has been really particular about when to bring back their all-star guard.

Two main factors were taken into consideration to the public: The team was waiting for him to be completely healthy and it was waiting for the perfect home game.

The perfect home game came in the form of a Sunday, Jan. 9 matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

It came against the same Cavs that Thompson has seen four times in the NBA Finals, coming out 3-1 in said appearances.

In addition, it was his first ever game at Chase Center as the building opened in 2019.

Thompson returned to multiple ovations, a special intro video and was the final starter announced.

Fellow three-time champion, Draymond Green started the game despite suffering from a calf injury. After the game, he was quoted saying starting the game was the least he could do considering Thompson’s two free throws in the NBA Finals on a torn ACL.

An intentional foul was taken in the first seconds of the game to relieve Green.

From there, it was business as usual for Thompson and the Warriors.

Forty ticks into the game, Thompson scored his first bucket in two years on a driving floater.

With 1:18 left in the first half, he connected on his first three-pointer.

By the end of the game, Thompson scored 17 points on 18 shots in 20 minutes.

Guard Steph Curry, who also shares three rings with Thompson, said after the game, “That is so Klay Thompson,” when asked about the 18 shot attempts in 20 minutes.

“And I love it,” he added.

Thompson’s 17 points was good for second on the Golden State roster behind Curry’s 28 points.

In his first game back, Thompson played in about four and a half minute intervals.


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