April 8, 2020 | 7:24 am EDT Update
Two weeks ago, former Kentucky star Karl-Anthony Towns announced his mother, Jacqueline Cruz, was not only diagnosed with COVID-19, but had since been placed in a medically induced coma. In our first public update since that announcement, UK head coach John Calipari told fans “Ms. Jackie” was still fighting for her life in the hospital.
There was no word of an update on how Towns’ mom, Jacqueline Cruz, had been doing since then until Monday, when John Calipari, Towns’ college coach at Kentucky, said she is still in the hospital. Calipari held a Facebook Live chat and said he has been getting updates from Towns’ father, Karl Sr., on Cruz’s condition in a New Jersey hospital. “She’s fighting. She’s there …” Calipari said. “Keep praying for her. Send her unbelievably positive thoughts, and I just can’t wait until she gets out of that hospital.”
“Ms. Jackie, Karl-Anthony Towns’ mother, is still in that hospital fighting. She’s there,” Calipari said in a Facebook Live video stream Monday evening. “We get updates, every single day we get an update from Karl Sr. about how she’s doing from the nurses at the ICU.” Most importantly, Calipari asked fans to continue to pray for her and send positive thoughts her way during this difficult time. “Keep praying for her, send her unbelievably positive thoughts,” the Kentucky head coach said. “I can’t wait until she gets out of that hospital. It’s been a tough road.”
The Mavericks are set to Dirk Nowitzki’s jersey at the start of next season. During the ceremony, taking place during the team’s second game, the hope was to also unveil the model a Nowitzki statue—no doubt in his signature one-legged jumper pose—that will eventually stand outside the American Airlines Center. Now, that might not happen. “You know, this obviously slowed it down,” Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told me in a recent interview. “The hope was to have a model ready to show the second game of this coming season when we retire his jersey. We’ll have to see how everything plays out.”
The longest-tenured Knick will enter the final year of his rookie contract, making a hefty $6.2 million in 2020-21. Knicks fans either love or hate their 2017 lottery pick it seems. “Knicks fans, they love the team,’’ Ntilikina said. “They really want the team to be successful. They really have that drive with basketball. Also that’s what makes it really special to be able to play at the Garden.’’
Mike Vorkunov: NBPA held a call with agents today. One of the things they told them was to expect what was described as a large reduction in BRI for 2021. But there were no concrete details about free agency. The salary cap should be calculated fairly and not off 2020 as a springboard number.
The writings were on the wall and FIBA Europe confirmed today the obvious. No basketball tournaments will be held this summer and the fate of Eurobasket 2021 will be decided on Thursday. Per the press release: The FIBA Europe Board convened on Tuesday to discuss and take decisions about upcoming events. The meeting, which took place via video conference, was chaired by FIBA Europe President Turgay Demirel, with FIBA President Hamane Niang, FIBA Secretary General Andreas Zagklis and FIBA Executive Director Europe Kamil Novak also in attendance.
Fisher, 45, a retired pro after 18 years in the NBA, former New York Knicks head coach and currently head coach of the Los Angeles Sparks, reflected on his time with the one-time MVP and 18-time All-Star Bryant, via ESPN’s First Take. “It’s been up and down. There [have] been days and moments where I feel inspired and motivated and energetic to keep moving on, keep working on … to be great.”
Fisher also referenced Bryant’s commitment to women’s athletics and women’s basketball as the departed Lakers legend remained steadfast in providing an opportunity for 13-year-old daughter Gianna, who also perished along with seven others in the Calabasas, California, helicopter crash in late January. “There are other days where it is a struggle … obviously they have been showing old games of ours, every time you look up there’s something Kobe-related that sometimes makes it tough to accept the fact that he’s not here, makes me feel like I can hit him up when I see him … “I know he would want us all to keep pushing on and channel our inner toughness and keep being who we are, try to be the best version of ourselves.”
April 7, 2020 | 9:30 pm EDT Update
National Basketball Association owners could get some financial relief in the form of of returned pay in any compensation deal with players, according to multiple people with knowledge of the situation.
The repayments will hit hardest for players who receive their paychecks on a six-month cycle, who receive more money per pay cycle but don’t get checks during the off-season. (Agents usually prefer 12-month payment plans to protect players from over-spending, and to keep them from struggling once the season ends and paychecks stop rolling in.) It will also hit hard for some players who received advance payments on their contracts. Teams often use advances to lure free agent players to sign deals sooner, at times offering full or partial payment of contracts upfront.
According to the people, who asked to remain anonymous because the call was confidential, NBPA executive director Michelle Roberts offered no road map as to how owners will want to recover funds, but warned agents returns would be solicited should the league cancel the remainder of its games due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Jim Eichenhofer: David Griffin on @NBATV on 2019-20 #Pelicans: “We had moments and flashes of what we hope to see, but it would be incredibly valuable to get to see a little bit more. At the same time, we feel like we’ve made it clear that we’re going to be a team to deal with in the future.”
Evan Daniels: CSU Northridge sophomore Lamine Diane is declaring for the NBA Draft. Averaged 25.6 points and 10.2 rebounds this past season.
April 7, 2020 | 8:31 pm EDT Update
Front office stability has been a gift and curse for the Chicago Bulls, a marquee franchise that’s finally beginning to act like it. Team President and COO Michael Reinsdorf, son of managing partner Jerry Reinsdorf, has taken more of a leading role in the last couple of seasons and is spearheading the search to hire a new top basketball executive. Multiple sources tell Yahoo Sports Denver Nuggets general manager Arturas Karnisovas is the leader in the clubhouse. Karnisovas has a strong draft record and is known to be good in player development, two of the bullet points the Bulls have earmarked for their next top basketball executive.
Paxson has been involved in the implementation of the search and restructuring of the organization. He’s a favorite of Jerry Reinsdorf, having been a player on championship teams, a broadcaster and now, as executive vice-president. Sources say he’ll be as involved or uninvolved as the new head of basketball operations wants him to be, and it hasn’t been a deterrent in the search, given the awkward nature on its face.
The team now comes together every Friday virtually through Zoom. It’s the new reality NBA teams face with the season suspended, but coach Taylor Jenkins has made sure the meetings are less formal and more fun. “We do some trivia games, try to keep it lighthearted and see as many smiles and some playful banter back and forth as if guys were in the locker room,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins was hopeful the season would resume but also placed basketball in a bigger context “This is a global pandemic, and we realize that basketball pales in comparison to what’s happening in just life in general,” Jenkins said. “We do realize that basketball is a big portion of people’s daily lives and happiness and outlets, just like sports in general. But we all do realize that doesn’t come without making sure there’s a safe world that we’re living in.”
“Hopefully we’re doing enough in the meantime to keep our guys engaged,” Jenkins said, “whether that’s physically through our performance team or mentally so that when we do come back together as a team that very first practice, everyone’s been hearing the same message and we pick up from where we left off.”
April 7, 2020 | 7:31 pm EDT Update
Harris not only loves basketball, but being in Brooklyn. In February, the pending unrestricted free agent said he hopes to re-sign with the Nets this summer, and Monday he told YES Network’s Ian Eagle he would love to remain a Net for life. “In [an] ideal world, I’d play my whole career in Brooklyn,” Harris said. “I came in with [GM] Sean [Marks] even the ownership. It’s just one of those things where you have a close connection with a lot of people that are within the organization. You kind of all came in together.
With the coronavirus pandemic gripping much of society and four Nets having tested positive for COVID-19, Joe Harris reassured fans he is healthy — albeit stuck in quarantine and having to find creative ways to do what he’s best known for: shoot the rock. “Yeah, everybody is good health-wise thankfully,” Harris said Monday in an Instagram Live session on the NBA account. “Obviously crazy times for everybody, but definitely fortunate on my side of things that everything is going well.”
“I have some basketballs around, I have enough space in my apartment where I can tinker around with some different basketball training apps like HomeCourt, do some different dribbling drills,” Harris said. “Then just little form shooting, if you’re sitting on the couch just watching Netflix hanging out I can just sit there shooting like you would back in the day when you were a kid, just laying there thinking about different scenarios, shooting the ball in your hands.”
Garnett said he will not call for his induction to be a ’08 Celtics reunion, but everybody is invited. “That’s not important,” he said Monday. “I wouldn’t dare ask those guys to do that. I’m not a guy to do that. If someone wants to do something on their own, fine. That ’08 team, I have connections with everybody on that team. We will forever be brothers. Nothing more, nothing less.”
Kevin Garnett: “I don’t want any games. If it’s real, it’s real, if it’s not, it’s not. People who want to show their appreciation for whatever it is, that’s cool. I would never put that on any of those guys. That team, those are bros for life. That includes Ray.”
“I’ve been very vocal on my distaste for what Ray did, that was real for everybody that was involved,” Garnett said. “That’s real life. We was in real beef with Miami at the time and very similar to if someone was to go from the Lakers to the Celtics and vice versa. No one will speak on the underlyings of it, but that was a real thing. Miami and Boston. That was a real thing. Yeah, Ray made a decision; I wouldn’t expect Ray to be at anything of mine. And vice versa. If I see him, I’ll speak. I’ll say hello to his family like always and keep it pushing. He knows that decision altered and made us all feel different.”
Middle Tennessee State will be without one of its top players next season. Junior guard C.J. Jones announced via Instagram that he had signed with Durrant Sports Management and is forgoing his senior season at MTSU.
April 7, 2020 | 5:28 pm EDT Update
The Lakers plan to ask top-level executives to voluntarily defer 20% of their pay as the team navigates its finances during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to people familiar with the situation. The requests have not been made, but will be done in hopes of avoiding cuts that impact lower level staff members. Once the deferments begin, they will last until the first regular season game of the 2020-21 season or mid-December, whichever comes sooner.
Teams have lost much of the revenue that would have come with those games. The Lakers are one of the league’s most profitable teams but made staff cuts during the lockout in 2011, as did many teams. The lockout year was the last time games were lost during the regular season.
Bogdan Bogdanovic and his Kings and Serbian National Team teammate Nemanja Bjelica have partnered with the Ana and Vlade Divac Foundation to donate medical-grade masks, ventilators and other needed supplies to hospitals in Serbia to support patients who test positive for COVID-19, those who have been exposed or at high risk.
“I feel like they need our help right now,” Bogdanovic told The Athletic. “It doesn’t matter where you donate, where you’re trying to help, I feel like the whole world needs some kind help. So it’s good to be there (to help), especially in this tough time. I’m just following the example of others I saw and I hope I will be an example for someone else.” According to the U.S. Embassy in Serbia, there are 2,200 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 58 deaths as of Monday. Commercial flights in and out of Serbia have been suspended indefinitely.
Bogdanovic plans to continue to monitor the happenings around the world and how he might be able to help. He also believes players can begin to look at their lives from a bigger perspective and what they might want to pursue after basketball. “I feel like everyone should see what is going on and what it might be like when you’re retired,” Bogdanovic said. “That’s what you can learn from this situation, and follow the rules that the government is giving us, the World Health Organization as well, for this pandemic to go away as quickly as it can.”
Dayton forward Obi Toppin completed a magical season as the winner of the 2020 John R. Wooden Award, the award’s committee announced on Tuesday. Toppin secured the award over Iowa star Luka Garza. Last week, Toppin won both the Naismith and Associated Press national player of the year awards.
April 7, 2020 | 4:32 pm EDT Update
Maury Hanks’ lengthy ordeal with COVID-19 stretches back a month but he’s back in his Knoxville-area home, though he’s still in recovery mode. He has lost 20 pounds and is trying to regain his strength. He is still experiencing issues with his balance. He is taking afternoon naps. He looks and feels like Tom Hanks’ character in “Castaway.”
For a scout used to being on the road 25 days a month, that’s a shock to his system in itself. He is not fully recovered yet, though. “I’m to assume that I still have it,” for at least 12 more days, Hanks said on Tuesday. But he’s not complaining. “It’s a lot better than the alternative,” Hanks said Tuesday morning. “A week ago, they gave me a 12% chance of walking out of the hospital. I’ve always been a glass half-full guy. And I still am. But now, if the glass is a quarter full, I’m happy with that.”
What he’s sure of is that the coronavirus is nothing like the flu. He sees his experience as a cautionary tale for everyone. “It doesn’t matter what side of the aisle you’re on politically, people have got to take this thing seriously,” he said. “I really believe the next 60 days will be worse than the last 30. People have got to stay home and stay 10 feet apart, or whatever it is the doctors say we need to do. I can tell you first-hand, this is no joke. I don’t want anybody to go through what I went through.”
One good thing to come out of the stay-at-home order by Governor Steve Bullock has been increased family time, and one big sports family in Bozeman is making the most of it. What began as basketball game in the Embry house in Bozeman turned into an entire NBA All-Star Weekend. Parents Kade and Chelsea Embry and kids Ayla, Kash and Marlee competed in a 3-point shooting contest, a skills challenge and, of course, a dunk competition.
The Embry family posted the video on Facebook and got a huge response back from friends, who then started making their own versions of NBA All-Star Weekend in their homes. And it fuels a healthy family rivalry. Now the Embry’s are challenging families from all over to make their own NBA All-Star videos and post them online with the hashtag #NBAFamilyChallenge.
April 7, 2020 | 4:15 pm EDT Update
Adam Zagoria: Villanova’s Saddiq Bey, who won the Julius Erving Award, says he’ll test the NBA Draft process. “I will be definitely testing the waters and going through that process whenever I’ll be able to, and keeping my options open.”
Speaking on the NBA’s Instagram feed with Heat television host Jason Jackson, Adebayo spoke of itching to return from this NBA shutdown amid the new coronavirus pandemic. “It just makes you realize how fast something you work so hard on can be taken from you,” he said. “Because all you’re doing is sitting in the house and reflecting. You’re sitting here like, ‘Man, I want to go play basketball, but I can’t.’ “
Last summer, Adebayo was cut from the USA Basketball tryouts for the World Cup. That only added fuel to his fire. “For me, it’s just going out there and proving people wrong,” he said. “I took that to the chin, and it gave me a bigger chip on my shoulder for the season.” It is why he is hopeful that this is not all there will be for the 2019-20 season. “I’m thinking bigger picture; I want a championship,” he said. “I feel like we can make a run and make noise and do a lot of things that people said we couldn’t.”
The coincidence in the Bulls’ search for a new head of basketball operations isn’t as much that Zanik interviewed Monday and is considered a finalist for the job. It’s that Josh Paxson and Kevin O’Connor enjoy a respectful professional relationship, and the family ownership structures and philosophies of the Jazz and Bulls are similar. The Reinsdorfs, like the leaguewide perception of Jazz ownership, are known for running the business side and letting basketball operations do their jobs.
The Reinsdorfs are known for their loyalty and Paxson, along with Gar Forman, who has held the general manager title since 2009, has headed basketball operations for 17 years. But the perception that Paxson will be some hovering presence, going kicking and screaming into the night, is simply wrong. Early this season, Paxson communicated his vision to ownership for a new-look, more modern front office. He initiated some of this need for change.
NBA player Isaiah Thomas, a Tacoma native and former Washington Huskies star, is donating more than 1,000 meals to those in the UW Medical Center community impacted by COVID-19. The two-time NBA All Star will be donating the meals on April 7 and 14 at three main UW Medical Center locations.
April 7, 2020 | 4:02 pm EDT Update
Stefan Bondy: In a conference call just now with NBA agents, the players union reiterated there have been no decisions about the resumption of the season and there’s no consensus on a cutoff date for a decision.