SLAM: Jordan Clarkson recently said that aside from himself, you, Larry Nance Jr, Roy Hibbert and Anthony Brown were the top Call of Duty players on the team last year. Is anyone else nice at COD? D’Angelo Russell: I honestly don’t know. We got a lot of vets on our team so I’m not sure if they even know what Call of Duty is, but I would say that’s about it. Maybe Julius [Randle]. He’s a fan and is good at it. SLAM: If you could pick one or two other players and form a squad, would you guys come out with the W against one of these top teams participating in the Call of Duty Championships? D’Angelo Russell: Oh yeah, I’d get my boy Devin Booker and Karl-Anthony Towns and we’d be successful.
Jerebko brought the five-man team over from Australia to suburban Detroit to train and prepare for its next event. Jerebko, 29, was an avid video game player in his youth and seized the opportunity for team ownership. “Sports and computer games were my childhood growing up,” Jerebko said. “Basically, I started off playing all types of games. I started playing CS:GO in sixth grade and it kind of kept me away from partying and going out and doing stupid stuff. It was video games and sports. It helped me stay focused. Playing in the NBA, you are always gaming and you get your work done and you’ve got a lot of hours to kill, so video games come natural for a lot of NBA athletes.”
Boston Celtics forward Jonas Jerebko has bought the rights to the Renegades franchise from Christopher "MonteCristo" Mykles. “The opportunity to own Renegades and bring some of my knowledge from professional basketball to eSports is incredible,” said Jerebko in a press release. “I grew up in the video game era, and I was exposed to Counter-Strike at a young age. I have watched the eSports world explode and, for me, it’s really exciting to be a team owner and help push the industry forward.”
Although Jerebko said he's aware that esports has very much turned into the wild, wild west, he hopes he can lend credibility to the sport. That means that Jerebko, who has served as team player representative for the National Basketball Players Association, doesn't have a problem with pro gamers having rights. "The Call of Duty players we were negotiating with were under contract last year and weren't getting paid for three to five months," Jerebko said. "That's not going to happen with me. You get a paycheck on time."
Ending off the podcast, Arnovitz asked if Morey could see himself pursuing opportunities outside of the NBA. While Morey reassured him that he will continue his work in the NBA, he said that if he were to go anywhere else, it would be esports. "I think it's the 1950s basketball right now, where there's that kind of opportunity," he said.
Lin was one of the thousands of fans who packed the KeyArena for five days leading into Sunday's final. He has been playing Dota since he was 16 years old with his brothers Josh and Joseph. He says he still plays three to four times a week, even during the NBA season, especially on the road, when he's in his hotel room. "They were playing and I started playing just because I wanted to hang out with them," Lin said of his brothers. "At first it was an awful game, because I was going 0 for 10 every single game with Bounty Hunter. How do you go 0 for 10 with Bounty Hunter? But eventually when I started to learn the game and get better, I started realizing this is like basketball. It's about having each other's back, being loyal, being at that right place at the right time, outsmarting the other team. And there's this huge mental component in this competition that I've always thrived off of. That's why I love playing it."
"They're doing something that everyone loves doing, but they just do it at another level and they're extremely talented. That's why you have this fanaticism, and that's why you have people lined up at midnight asking for autographs." "It's really not any different than sports," Lin continued, "except with sports there's more of a physical component of you doing it yourself, whereas in video games you're just controlling a hero that does the same thing. It's the unique talent of the players that is the draw."
For The Win: What has it been like learning more about this different sort of (eSports) world? Rick Fox: That we’re not so different. Just mastering excellence is I think what defines you as a pro. Playing and competing and winning under pressure, having a career where you’re idolized by young men and women who want to do exactly what you’re doing, jumping out of bed and being passionate about your career, I like at all those things and I look at the people that surround the players that are on Echo Fox. I see their dedication, their focus, their work ethic, how much time they put in, and it mirrors a lot of what it took for me to get as good as I got. And then I interacted with them just as I interacted with many of my former teammates. There’s so many different forms and expressions when it comes to professional sports and what makes it a professional athletes. I know eSports in general is grabbing more respect and inclusion is something that I subscribe to in general, so having them join the fraternity of professional athletes actually is no longer a debate. It must happen.
FTW: What’s your stance on eSports and has that changed? Recently, ESPN has been getting into it, it’s now seen more of as a legitimate sport whereas before it was viewed as just video games and not a real sport. KB: I think people are really interested in watching people problem solve. It doesn’t matter what industry. People are very fascinated by that — seeing the struggles people go through and how they overcome it. I think this was just a matter of time before it caught fire. To be able to sit and watch a performance on TV and watch how the gamers are figuring out those challenges amongst themselves, you can’t help but be interested.
NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal became one of the latest sports stars to jump into eSports when he became part owner of NRG earlier this year along with Alex Rodriguez. NRG fields a pro League of Legends and Counter-Strike team, and beginning May 24th NRG will compete in the new Counter-Strike: Global Offensive ELEAGUE, which will be televised on TBS. Shaq says he now has a Ph.D. in CS:GO, and in this hilarious video became part of the scenery on a few different maps.
The Nets parent company, Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment announced Wednesday that ESL, the world’s largest esports company, will bring the East Coast’s largest esports tournament to Barclays Center in October. ESports are online video game competitions. Now, as esports grows, big tournaments will be conducted live in large venues like Barclays. Barclays Center will play host to a US$250,000 Counter-Strike: Global Offensive competition, with more games joining the tournament’s lineup to be announced in the coming weeks. Esports has become a top priority for BS&E, Mikhail Prokhorov's "mother ship" for sports and entertainment, particularly CEO Brett Yormark.
October 20, 2021 | 9:48 am EDT Update
Tucker declined to discuss the offer he received from the Bucks in free agency. “I was pretty surprised,” Tucker said of not ending up back with the Bucks. “You win a championship and you’re part of winning something special like that, you would expect that. A chance of it not happening? There’s a chance. It didn’t happen. Does it happen a lot? I don’t think so, not in that situation, not in those situations. You watch role guys in series in the past, usually those guys go back. So I’ll take my situation as just that, a particular situation. I move on from it and keep it going.”
Tucker was successful in helping the Bucks win a championship in July, but just three months later he’ll be facing his former team as a member of the Heat. “I don’t even want to talk about it,” Tucker said when asked about specifics regarding his departure from Milwaukee. “It’s that far removed from my mind now. Like it’s something that happened. Everything worked out. I’m happy where I’m at. And I move on.”
But Thursday’s matchup against the Bucks feels somewhat personal for at least one player on the Heat’s roster, and he actually won an NBA championship with Milwaukee last season: Veteran forward P.J. Tucker. “I mean, come on, we’re competitors. I was part of that,” Tucker said this week of facing his former team on Thursday at FTX Arena (8 p.m., Bally Sports Sun). “To not be back? For sure. You know it’s like natural human behavior. Definitely, I want to win this game better than I want to win any other game. Yes, I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t.”
There’s an expectation that Williamson will resume play under a minutes restriction when he does take the floor, sources said, typical for stars returning from injury. But with Williamson, who bristled at the training wheels Pelicans officials placed on his reintegration from a torn meniscus injury as a rookie, it could be a higher-stakes game of poker.
When he joined the Pelicans’ recent preseason trip to Minnesota, several league personnel on hand were struck by his heavier appearance than his listed playing weight last season of 284 pounds. “I know Zion at 280, and he was not 280,” said one observer. “These are the injuries you have to be the most concerned about, a foot injury for a guy with noted weight issues,” said one Western Conference executive.
There’s a strong belief in league circles that the Pelicans were unaware of that procedure until Williamson reported to New Orleans ahead of media day, although one team source contacted by B/R maintained the Pelicans and Williamson were aligned on the injury’s timeline.
Before Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin addressed reporters last Thursday, word was already circling around the league that Williamson was unlikely to make his 2021-22 debut before November, at the earliest. It was even known in rival front offices that Griffin planned to speak on the matter rather than issue a press release. This all comes after league figures raised a collective eyebrow when Griffin blamed Williamson’s season-ending finger injury on poor officiating.
Tatum’s post-COVID-19 recovery ramp-up saw him turn into one of the league’s top free-throw machines, drawing 7.6 a night in the final 18 games of the regular season. It started with his 53-point explosion against Minnesota on April 9, which seemed to be his springboard to the next level of his game. That would have ranked him seventh in the league for the season, right between fellow Hanlen client Bradley Beal and James Harden. He was averaging just 4.4 free throw attempts per game up to that point but kept it going in the playoffs with four double-digit free-throw attempt nights in six games (including the Play-In Tournament game against Beal’s Wizards) and going 62 of 66 overall in those games.