May 29, 2020 | 11:26 am EDT Update
ON A SUNNY day in mid-April, the sun crested over Los Angeles, but Paul wished to be over a thousand miles away: poring over film in Oklahoma City, preparing for Game 2 or 3 of a first-round series. He wanted to be hooping. Instead of getting up shots in his team’s practice facility, Paul has been having direct conversations with Silver more than once a week as the liaison between the commissioner and the players. Paul has served as a sounding board for those looking for advice, ideas or an outlet for their frustration.
“Hell, I need to vent at times,” Paul said. “I just look at it as guys are actually concerned and they want to know what’s going on. They should have a say in their future.” Between homeschooling his kids and finding time to take online Spanish classes (“I’m trying to get better at something,” he said.), Paul has had calls almost every morning — most often union-related — and more in the afternoon.
“He’s never said, ‘Can I get back to you?’ Never,” Roberts said of Paul, who will often surprise Roberts’ staff by jumping on a conference call to offer encouragement and share ideas. “Being accessible has been a godsend.”
As rumblings of restart options and hypothetical scenarios have dotted their social media timelines, players across the league have been peppering Paul with the same questions curious basketball fans might have. “When are we going to play? How are we going to play? Where are we going to play?” said executive committee member Anthony Tolliver, outlining what’s being posed to Paul. “Are we going to try and finish the regular season? Is it worth it? Is it going to be too much? Are we going to bring guys back and possibly be subject to a bunch of injuries because of the circumstances? Just walking through and talking through all that stuff.”
PAUL’S VOICE CARRIES weight in conversations with the players’ union, but he doesn’t look to dominate them. He approaches a conference call much in the same way he approaches the game. “I frequently joke about this, he’s obviously a point guard and his claim to fame in terms of skill set is his ability to read the room, read the floor and pass the ball,” Roberts said. “He does that in meetings too. “If Chris sees a player who has not said much, he’ll ask, ‘John, what do you think about this? Come on, weigh in.’ That’s what he does. It’s a delight.”
NBA Central: Brian Windhorst says the NBA wants to make sure Zion Williamson is involved in the playoff plan, per @GetUpESPN pic.twitter.com/QuSWmRj2DI
Rudy Gay: Tough times don’t last, tough people do!! Honored to visit the staff at @chasebrexton Health Care in my hometown of Baltimore & present a 50k check via @directrelief to those working tirelessly to treat patients throughout the pandemic. Thank u to all on the frontline, be safe 🙏🏾 pic.twitter.com/v4Y5MMCB0c
May 29, 2020 | 9:29 am EDT Update
But I do cover sports, and the NBA is a huge, global league, that millions of people care about. And I respect that this is important to you. So, I’m going to concentrate on that below. After speaking to a couple dozen folks at all levels, from owners on down, the past few days, here’s the lay of the land, with the league’s Board of Governors set to meet with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver Friday, a day after Silver spoke with the league’s GMs: The GM meeting, per a source, focused on the different potential playing formats after the restart, and the impacts of each on the final regular-season standings and other issues. But no definitive dates or decisions were made.
“I’m fairly certain that Disney is going to work,” a high-ranking official with knowledge of the union’s thoughts said Thursday. “Vegas had some of the logistical things we needed but didn’t have the environment that could enhance our health protocols. Vegas scared me to death. Florida worried me a little bit because of the state opening up so early, but having a venue that can basically be closed off, I do think we can check off the venue issue off our list. I think we’ve got that down.”
There is a lot of support among teams and agents to include as many teams as possible. “I’m pushing for all,” one prominent agent said Wednesday. “I’m hearing the league wants to go to directly to the playoffs and I personally don’t think that’s fair to all the players who missed this season and want to participate. My suggestion for a format has always been 3-4 games for everyone, (a) play-in tournament for the eighth seed and then (a) regular playoff format.”
Problem is, Antetokounmpo has trademarked his “Greek Freak” nickname. Eady, in a series of tweets in March aimed at Antetokounmpo, said he stopped selling the shirts after getting a cease-and-desist letter last October from the player’s lawyers. That led to more legal wrangling, none of which Eady wanted to discuss in specifics other than to say he has taken out a small loan to cover a cash settlement to the lawsuit. The situation is an example that experts say is one the risks that star athletes face: Protect their trademarks using the legal system or face the loss of those protections that allow them to control their image, brand and related monetization – which can be worth millions of dollars.
And therein lies further image peril: The risk of going to court is that it can be seen as a famous rich person being greedy and cruel in trying to squash an entrepreneur. “Making an example of a few unauthorized vendors can ward off others. But trademark overreach can also alienate athletes from their fans — especially if those devoted fans are the ones imagining and creating the apparel,” said Stephen Stanwood of Campbell, Calif.-based Stanwood Law that specialized in such cases. Antetokounmpo has filed 13 trademark infringement lawsuits in federal court since July in the Southern District of New York, of which at least five have been settled, court records show. A lawsuit filed Wednesday was the eighth filed this month, and it’s unknown many cease-and-desist letters halted sales of knockoff merch before they came to become lawsuits.
Enes Kanter: Are you freaking kidding me? State police in Minnesota arresting @CNN reporter @OmarJimenez while he’s on air Meanwhile, the cop who murdered #GeorgeFloyd continues to walk free. They arrested a @CNN reporter before the killers of #GeorgeFloyd 🤦🏻♂️ 🤦🏻♂️ pic.twitter.com/WFJYVEC15X
May 29, 2020 | 7:50 am EDT Update
When the season was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, multiple players were approaching eligibility for contract bonuses. With basketball likely to return this summer, the league and the NBPA have to negotiate what will happen to that money. Sources told ESPN that the most likely outcome will be similar to how the league handled bonuses during the lockout-shortened season in 2011-12. Contract incentives initially intended for 82 games were prorated to account for the 66-game season. For example, a player with a $500,000 bonus in his contract for playing in 70 games qualified for the bonus if he played in 56 games. However, performance bonuses based on averages — such as shooting percentages — were not adjusted.
Fournier has $1.1 million in incentives, with $600,000 broken down into four categories: first-round appearance in the playoffs, second-round appearance, conference finals and Finals. Fournier will also need to appear in 75% of the games played per round. Likely outcome: There will be a negotiation when it comes to Fournier’s incentives. The guard has already met the required number of games (60), but the Magic might have to win a play-in game to make the postseason. When the season was postponed, Orlando was 5.5 games ahead of Washington for the final playoff spot in the East. If Orlando loses a play-in, does that mean Fournier doesn’t get his first-round appearance bonus?
Between homeschooling his kids and finding time to take online Spanish classes (“I’m trying to get better at something,” he said.), Paul has had calls almost every morning — most often union-related — and more in the afternoon. “He’s never said, ‘Can I get back to you?’ Never,” Roberts said of Paul, who will often surprise Roberts’ staff by jumping on a conference call to offer encouragement and share ideas. “Being accessible has been a godsend.”
As union president, Paul possesses the rare ability to gather the league’s top stars — LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant — on conference calls. That buy-in wasn’t there before, and high-ranking union members view Paul’s long-time superstar status as a big reason for the change. Players are more invested in their futures. They want more say. They want more power. “Our meetings are much more engaged now. That’s because of Chris,” Roberts said. “He won’t allow an issue to be presented and then not discussed.”
Paul’s competitiveness spills over into the role, but any beefs he has across the league don’t carry into meetings with players. “Pretty much everybody that I can imagine would have an on-court beef with him,” Tolliver said. “I’ve never seen any sort of negative confrontation [off the court]. “Most people’s experience with him is he’s so competitive … but that also is good for whenever he’s your president and he’s fighting [for] the things you want.”
Tim MacMahon: Anytime Luka (Doncic) goes overseas and people don’t see him there’s going to be these rumors, ‘He’s beefing up again, he’s looking puffy. That rumor’s out there. I asked. I was told that he looks looks fine on their Zoom calls, he’s been working out and he’s actually been playing pickleball over Slovenia.
Spencer Dinwiddie: … so here we go, I’ll explain this again for hot take Twitter. The question was revolving around what a less athletic KD could possibly look like because of how serious an Achilles injury is, especially for Bball players. Let me also first preface this with I don’t know what stage of rehab he’s at, I don’t have insider information, I don’t know when he’s going to return to play or any of that. This is my personal speculation from a basketball fan perspective. (Yes I appreciate HOFs, which he is) At 80% athleticism or so, which takes away his hyper mobility/dexterity for a 7fter. Who has a game that was built around mid post iso, pick/pop, a unblockable left foot turn around fade and overall extreme revolutionary proficiency in terms of a jumper/touch at that size. Sounds a lot like Dirk to me… and at the end of the day we’re comparing clear cut HOFs. Y’all acting like I said dirk was a bum or something
Georges Niang: In this time we need to come together as humans regardless of race, gender and enthicity! And do the right thing and try our best to spread love and positivity! What is happening to our country is devastating and we need to come together and change that now!
May 29, 2020 | 2:57 am EDT Update
A source said no vote has been scheduled on that yet after Commissioner Adam Silver had a conference call with team general managers on Thursday, but momentum seems to be building for a return-to-play scenario that includes only teams in playoff positions — and possibly ones just on the outside to give them a chance to earn a way in the postseason. But teams like the Wolves would be out in those scenarios.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver held a conference call with NBA general managers on Thursday to review the results of the survey delivered to teams last week regarding potential formats to resume play. “There was zero commitment to any one plan,” a general manager told me over the phone. “But it was a call to gather more information.”
Half of the league’s general managers voted to go straight to the playoffs and cancel the rest of the regular season, sources said. Just over half of the league voted to reseed the playoffs 1 to 16 without factoring in conference affiliation.
General managers were surveyed about a “playoffs-plus” format—either a play-in tournament between the bubble teams to determine the final seeds in the playoffs, or a World Cup–style group stage, which would replace the end of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs with a round-robin format. About 75 percent of teams voted in favor of a play-in tournament, sources said, while 25 percent of teams voted in favor of the group stage.
Even if teams vote in their own best interests, it’s still noteworthy that there is leaguewide support behind more dramatic changes that were balked at in the past—such as playoff reseeding and play-in tournaments. My personal impression from conversations with sources across the league is that Silver is surveying teams to see if there is hunger for a new format the league may be able to use beyond this summer’s restart. Perhaps
But rumblings across the league suggest the NBA will require teams to arrive at Disney World around July 16, at which point they’ll quarantine for a to-be-determined amount of time before group workouts resume and scrimmages begin. And then, games could begin on Friday, July 31. But all of that will be determined in the coming days and weeks, and anything as of now is simply tentative or speculation.
As for what the Wolves would like to see? A source said they will go along with whatever scenario is in the best interest of the league. Wolves coach Ryan Saunders has often said he wished he had a training camp to install systems instead of having to do it on the fly with a team that was largely assembled at the early February trade deadline.
According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst on The Hoop Collective, the league may dismiss the idea of playing as many as 90 regular season games and go right to group-stage type opening round because it will give Zion Williamson and the Pelicans a better chance of making the 16-team playoffs. “I’ll tell you one thing: that scenario gets Zion Williamson in,” Windhorst said. “Look, I’ve just heard… I’m not saying the NBA is going this route, I’m just saying I’ve already heard this scenario that no matter what happens, the cutoff line will be the Pelicans. They’ll be in. It will be the first time in the history of the NBA that the league kicked the ball into the fairway for New Orleans.”
Do you think the Nets will trade for Bradley Beal. What do you think they would have to give up? David Aldridge: No. At least not this summer. Wizards have zero interest in moving Beal, and certainly aren’t going to even think about doing so until he and Wall play together again for a season.
Lillard sees longtime teammate CJ McCollum going through his routine with Blazers player development coach Jon Yim, but the backcourt runningmates won’t get a chance to chop it up, at least not face-to-face. There exists a cardinal rule: one guy, one coach, one basket. Then for the first time in what feels like an eternity, Lillard runs through his greatest hits, the barrage of long-range bombs, the floaters, the repertoire that makes him Damian Lillard. “The whole first week was a breath of fresh air,” Lillard says. “On a certain level, it was exciting. You’re finally back on the court and you’re seeing everyone’s faces again.”
Though Lillard’s workout is abbreviated and restricted, he can finally release the pent-up energy accumulated while being locked out of the gym for nearly two months. The return for Lillard and his teammates comes with both anticipation of what he hopes will be more basketball ahead, but also some disorientation. “There’s so much stuff you never realize or appreciate you have access to until you’re without it,” Lillard says. “But it was still good to be back.”
BY MAY 15, one week after the Blazers reopened, the novelty of returning to the facility has worn off for Lillard. While he still values the opportunity to get some portion of his work in, the restrictions are becoming onerous and, truthfully, just strange. “The second week everyone is like, ‘All right, this is kind of weird,'” Lillard says. “The excitement is gone and now it’s, ‘What going on?'”
Brooks addressed his rhetorical question to opposing coaches, who are the ones who get to vote as to which players make the All-Star squad. “If you don’t think he’s an All-Star, then why are you double-teaming every single time we play?” asked Brooks on a recent interview on the “Wizards Greatest Hits” broadcast, via Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington.
Spencer Dinwiddie understands that expectations are raised to championship if Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving return for the Orlando playoffs. But the Nets guard is unsure what his star teammates will decide. “That’s the billion dollar question. But that’s not something I can answer,” Dinwiddie said Wednesday morning on ESPN’s “First Take.” “I know they’re both working really hard. They’re two of the hardest working in the NBA on the court, and two phenomenal players. If they are able to return and that’s the decision they make, our aspirations turn from playoffs to championship. “If they’re not able to return, which they’ve pretty much said that’s kind of the stance that they’re taking, we still want to be a team that grinds to get to the playoffs and makes a run in the playoffs. But we also understand the talent they add with being two of the top-10 players in the league and KD being, in my opinion, the greatest scorer of all time.”
But Williams changed his mind after seeing LaMelo Ball play in a game early on against the Perth Wildcats and guard Damian Martin, a six-time NBL defensive player of the year. “That’s the benchmark for me,” Williams said of Perth. “Any import point guard who thinks they’re good, all we say is this: let’s see what he does against Perth and Damian Martin. They’re physical, they play extremely hard and they’re picking you up full court…. (But) Damian Martin couldn’t do anything with (Ball). They began doubling him, getting the ball out of his hand. Never seen that, ever.” Ball had 19 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists in the preseason game. He hit four 3-pointers. Williams, and the dozens of NBA scouts/front office personnel in attendance, came away impressed. “I said then, that’s the No. 1 pick in the draft. This was (September).”
The advantage of Thibodeau wanting a return to New York is the defensive wizard has worked with Rose before as a client of Creative Artists Agency. Some insiders believe Atkinson could be a better fit than Thibodeau because he’s reputedly better suited for a younger roster that is rebuilding.
The Bulls seem to have had a bad image in terms of perception by free agents for years, what kind of work do you think the new front office will have to do to rehabilitate that image? @Patrick H. A lot of it is relationships. If they carry the pre-existing relationships people I have talked to insist they do, the job could be easy. I’ve heard from more than a few people who have been extremely impressed with the direction of the franchise.
@Brian M. As you know, I would LOVE for the NBA to go back to Seattle. What I was told by owners well before the pandemic was that it was unlikely there’d be much support for expansion until at least the next TV deal (which is set to expire in 2024) is done. So I’m not holding out much hope at present for a groundswell of support for new teams. If this season were, for some reason, ultimately cancelled, maybe some feelings would change.
Despite his unwillingness to engage in the debate, Anthony did concede that he agrees with the consensus that Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time but also said that shouldn’t take anything away from what LeBron has accomplished. “You know, M.J. is the GOAT. He’s the greatest ever. We all know that and we all agree to that. Why can’t we say that, but also give LeBron his flowers while he’s here too?” Anthony said. “Why can’t we say, ‘M.J. was very great, LeBron is very great, Kobe is very great.’ We’re not allowed to say those things today, because it’s always this or that, and that’s just our society — you have to choose one.”
Drexler responded during an interview with SportsTalk 970. Drexler said: “That’s Michael’s documentary so obviously it’s going to be from his perspective. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion. A lot of times guys didn’t like each other from other teams, but as you get older, you’ve got to get beyond all of that and show some love and some respect for the people you played with and against. “This is a team game, it’s not one guy,” Drexler added. “You can have 50 points and 40 rebounds, but if you lose, are you less of a player than anybody on the other team? No, it’s a team game. So I hate when people act like it’s an individual competition. I didn’t take 35 shots and get 20 free throws a night, so I wasn’t going to score 40 points a night.”
May 28, 2020 | 8:00 pm EDT Update
Several league sources said the 2020 draft is expected to be pushed back from June 25 to early September. Two of the sources also said the board of governors would also discuss whether the upcoming free-agency period should be moved ahead of the draft. Free agency for the 2020-21 season will be moved from the scheduled start of 6 p.m. June 30.
There have been discussions about experimenting with having free agency before the draft this offseason. The National Basketball Players Association would have to agree to such a move, according to a source.