As basketball calendars continue to get pushed back across the globe, the uncertainty hasn’t diminished, and the lasting effects on the nomadic players, teams, and leagues—including the NBA—only grow. Craft considers himself lucky, in large part because he and his family are safe, but also because he had decided before the season that this would be his last one playing basketball; the 29-year-old is planning to return to Ohio State to finish medical school. “Contracts next year for players are going to be abysmal, unless you had a guarantee that you had signed from this previous year,” Craft said, referencing clubs’ reeling financials. “I do not envy those players that are having to make these decisions moving forward.”
When basketball stopped in Italy around early March, Aaron Craft faced a decision that many U.S. basketball players abroad had to consider: go home or wait out the pandemic on foreign soil? Two of Craft’s American teammates on his Italian club, Aquila Basket, didn’t hesitate; they flew home as soon as possible. Craft had a personal holdup. He didn’t think it would be safe for his then-13-month-old baby to travel in the middle of such a frenzy, so he and his wife bunkered down in Trento, six hours north of Rome.
“Another factor was we were obligated contractually [to stay] at the time,” Craft said. “If we left and couldn’t come back, we forfeit the rest of our contract and salary. So we just didn’t think it was worth the chance.” While quarantining, the Crafts settled into a routine with their son, but outside things were getting worse. The death counts were rising both at home and in Italy, and lockdowns were tightening locally. Craft’s wife was stopped multiple times by Italian police on outdoor runs and told to go home. A few weeks into their decision to stay, the scales started to tip the other way. A return for basketball in Italy looked increasingly unlikely, and the risk of staying there outweighed the risk of losing any money.
“We were like, ‘OK, we’ll leave and just take our chances,’” Craft, now in Ohio, said. “‘If I need to come back, I can come back by myself and not put my wife and son through it.’”
Scott Agness: Pacers will NOT be opening up their practice facility on Friday, the first date allowed by the NBA, for individual workouts. Indy’s stay-at-home order was extended to May 15. Nate McMillan encouraged players to ramp up training and mentally prepare for the season to resume.
Portland Trail Blazers star CJ McCollum is urging the NBA to adopt a balance between proper coronavirus safety measures and players getting back to work with the league allowing teams to open their facilities on Friday. The Trail Blazers, along with the Denver Nuggets and Cleveland Cavaliers, plan to open their facilities Friday in states in which the government has eased the stay-at-home mandate during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s been almost two months since the NBA suspended its season on March 11, and the league is seeking to exhaust all options in hopes of salvaging the 2019-20 season. Players are encouraged to stay in shape until health experts are able to decide whether a return to league play is feasible.
“I am worried like the rest of the world, but I like that it is optional and I’m pleased with the caution, structure and measures the Blazers organization has put in place to ensure the safest environment possible for all parties involved,” McCollum told Yahoo Sports. “I get the measures [the league is] taking, but you have to think at some point when there are drastic measures that need to be taken, ‘Is it really worth it?’ It’s either safe or it’s not. … And let’s just be honest, man, it’s not like it will be the first time players got gym access outside of the team’s facilities. Some people have been working out, if we’re being honest.”
Despite feeling uneasy about working out at the team facility, McCollum — who is also vice president of the National Basketball Players Association — intends to go in on Saturday to evaluate if it’s possible to safely execute a workout with so many restrictions. “The issue is you can go to your practice facility, but there’s all these stipulations,” McCollum told Yahoo Sports. “You can’t use certain stuff, can’t do certain stuff. Now they’re talking about you might have to be 12 feet away from your strength coach. How are you going to lift 12 feet away from somebody?”
The longer this basketball hiatus continues, the likelihood of canceling the season increases exponentially. McCollum is just like everyone else when it comes to not knowing what’s going to occur. “I don’t know, man,” he said. “I’m probably as optimistic as the casual fan. Some days you feel like there’s a chance, and then some days you’re like, ‘I don’t know.’ But in the meantime, if you go to work out at the facility, I get it. Work out, but we’ve got to figure out a balance between what’s safe and what’s forcing it.”
Rockets sources, however, said that D'Antoni has determined that he would coach if the season resumes, in large part because of confidence in NBA commissioner Adam Silver and the league office to create as safe an environment as possible. Sources said D'Antoni, who has been sheltering in place at his Houston home and plans to take precautions such as wearing a mask, has faith that Silver would not allow the league to resume if the safety of players, coaches and staffers would be compromised.
Tina Cervasio: Garrett Temple: #Nets Garrett Temple tells me on @fox5ny about NBPA scheduled call, where #NBA Commish Adam Silver will be checking in. "We actually have a call on Friday w/the League. I've been on a few calls as 1 of the vice presidents on the executive committee for our union. And just trying to figure it out at the end of the day. It's so fluid & really nobody has a single answer. We know obviously it's not going to happen this month, if it does start...maybe late June. Obviously a bunch of different scenarios have been thrown out, but until States, have lifted certain regulations and until we can try to get this thing, this virus under control, we really don't know what's going to happen."
Tim Reynolds: Wednesday is the day the Heat are now targeting for a reopening of their facility to players for voluntary workouts, per source. (Disclaimer: Dates for virtually everything in sports right now should be called "fluid.")
Adrian Wojnarowski: Head coaches will not be allowed to participate or observe the player workouts, per sources.
Shams Charania: Date the Lakers are targeting as of now to reopen practice facility under NBA's protocols: May 16, sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium.
Mike Trudell: Vogel on a potential return to action 1/2: "If it was up to me, I think we need some games. I don’t know if they have to be regular season games in terms of finishing the season. Maybe they’re exhibition games that you treat as sort of your dress rehearsal."
Mike Trudell: Vogel on if he’s optimistic about eventual resumption of play this season: "I’m an optimist by nature. I feel like we’re gonna have an opportunity to finish the season. I’m very well aware that there is a possibility that it does not happen."
Tim Reynolds: NBA teams can reopen Friday, most will wait, and Erik Spoelstra sums things up perfectly: “There's a flickering of a light that we're all feeling right now, but I think it's also important that we all stay extremely aware and vigilant as we take these incremental steps forward."
Ira Winderman: On NBA Twitter with Ernie Johnson, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra non-committal to Monday as start of Heat opening gym to players.
Giant cinnamon rolls are sweeping the state of Oregon and beyond for a great cause. Portland's Whitney Rutz is using her baking skills to boost the happiness of healthcare workers in the area as well as fundraise for the Oregon Food Bank. After Whitney had two friends diagnosed with COVID-19, she wanted to do her part to help out during the pandemic. Whitney’s husband, Paul, and their daughter have been a big part in designing the boxes that house what Rutz calls, “Whitney’s Giant Ass Cinnamon Rolls.” It started with baking huge, delicious looking, cinnamon rolls as a way for Rutz to cope with the pandemic, and then quickly turned into the realization she could auction off the tasty treats. Once the enormous cinnamon rolls went viral on social media, Rutz partnered with the Oregon Food Bank.
Now, enter Portland Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. Coach Stotts is featured on this week's special cinnamon roll box design and even posed for a picture with the box. Whitney’s husband, Paul, a Portland-based portrait painter, designed the Coach Stotts inspired box. Whitney told NBCSNW, Coach Stotts "has been so incredibly generous with his time in working with us to put his image on the boxes and autograph them."
Ramona Shelburne: NBA Players Association Executive Director Michele Roberts and NBA commissioner Adam Silver will hold a call for all players on Friday May 8, sources told ESPN.
The individual workouts are voluntary and there are strict guidelines that go beyond those the NBA disclosed in a comprehensive memo sent to teams more than a week ago. “This isn’t a hangout session for the guys,” a source said. “We’ve read the riot act so to speak to these guys. I think they are appreciative of us trying to find the right way to get the building open because they need the outlet and want to work out and this is the safest place for them to do it."
Everyone attempting to enter the facility will have their temperature taken outside while also answering a verbal questionnaire about how they’re feeling, where they’ve been, who they’ve been in contact with and a number of other questions intended to give the medical staff comfort. The Cavs will also limit the access points to enter and exit and plan to turn away anyone who doesn’t pass their screening tests.
Udonis Haslem: Shoutout my brother @Dwyane Wade and our family at @800degrees Aventura for providing these meals to frontline workers. Stopped at @BaptistHealthSF Doctors Hospital, @MiamiPD Central and North Stations today. Not enough chicken wings or pizza to thank yall for what you do lol. #og pic.twitter.com/OUawfwXFW3
The Hawks will not open their practice facility Friday, according to general manager Travis Schlenk, but are looking at next week as a potential timetable.
Sarah Todd: The Utah Jazz are offering refunds and credits to season ticket holders for the 2019-20 season. As for the 2020-21 season, for those who are on a payment plan, a deferment of March's payment was offered but not April and no word on May. For those who have paid in full, no word
The Cleveland Cavaliers are reopening their practice facility for limited individual workouts starting on Friday, league sources tell cleveland.com. General manager Koby Altman and the medical staff informed players during Zoom calls on Wednesday afternoon, sources say.
Not every team in a market with softened stay-at-home orders is planning to reopen on May 8, the target date the NBA recently set. However, after lengthy discussions with Gov. Mike DeWine’s office, the NBA, health professionals, team doctors, the Cleveland Clinic, staff members and players, the Cavaliers believe they have proper coronavirus protocols in place to keep players healthy, safe and protected if they want to use the gym, weight room and training room -- the only three areas that will be available. Players will not have access to the locker room, hot/cold tub, kitchen, player’s lounge or the many other areas inside Cleveland Clinic Courts.
The Trail Blazers’ practice facility will once again be open to players Friday -- the first time they will be allowed there since the NBA directed all teams' practice areas closed to players in mid-March.
This will allow players to resume basketball activities -- shooting and ballhandling drills -- and get into their weight room and other facility amenities. It is not considered a sign that the league is any closer to resuming play.
Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck has donated $1 million toward local efforts to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, according to The Boston Globe. The report detailed the efforts being made by scientists at Mass General Hospital and Mass. Eye and Ear to try to protect people from the disease. Grousbeck is no stranger to the local medical industry, as he is the chairman of the board for Mass. Eye and Ear, where the Grousbeck Gene Therapy Center is named after him.
“My wife and I wanted to do something to fight COVID-19, and we have total faith in [director of the Grousbeck Gene Therapy Center Luk Vandenberghe] and the quality of his team,” Grousbeck told the Globe. “We will need several vaccines to succeed to cure the world, and we’re trying to cure the world here.” “This is a major priority of the institution,” Vandenberghe told the Globe. “We’re trying to move as fast as possible.”
Marc Stein: NBA teams will receive a further update Wednesday on the various specifics involved, league sources say, with any strength and conditioning activities (such as weightlifting with a spotter) prohibited if it requires players and staff members to be closer than 12 feet apart
Marc Stein: Orlando, for example, would have the right to open up Friday if the NBA maintains its current schedule ... but a team spokesman says the Magic are still gathering details on making a re-opening work as smoothly as possible for players and staff and do not yet have a set timetable
NBA teams are putting protocols in place to safely reopen practice facilities, but it’s unknown when the league’s four California teams will get the green light in the gradual process to roll back restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday that California is moving into Stage 2 of the state’s four-phase plan to ease restrictions, allowing retail, manufacturing and other low-risk businesses to reopen beginning Friday. Stage 3 will involve reopening places like hair salons, gyms, theaters and churches, and allowing for sports without live audiences. Live-audience sporting events won’t be permitted until Stage 4.
NBA teams might not be able to return to their practice facilities until the third stage in the governor’s plan, but the Golden State Warriors are preparing for that possibility now. Raymond Ridder, the team’s senior vice president of communications, said the Warriors are developing plans in consultation with city leaders in San Francisco.
The Kings have said their facilities will remain closed until further notice. They are working with the NBA to “review all options for return to play in consultation with public health officials and in line with governmental directives and guidance,” but they haven’t addressed Newsom’s plan or the possibility of reopening their practice facility.
Mark Berman: From the #Rockets: The Houston Rockets hosted a blood drive at Toyota Center for Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center. Donors included Rockets employees and members of the general public who registered online. Donors were treated to a meal from Rockets owner @TilmanJFertitta...” pic.twitter.com/c2NRM1ke3p
Nearly two months into the suspension of the NBA season, there remains hope, and perhaps even confidence, that there will be basketball again this year. “People are very optimistic that we’ll start the season again,” Nuggets center Mason Plumlee told The Denver Post by phone on Tuesday when asked about conversations with fellow players. “There have been a lot of proposals thrown around. … From the union meetings, I’ve learned that there are developing plans and strategies to bring the season back.”
Asked specifically about a “bubble” city or quarantine scenario, Plumlee said it was plausible. Proposals have included playing out the season in either Las Vegas or, potentially, Walt Disney World in Orlando, with no fans. “I do (think it’s possible) if they have enough rapid testing kits,” Plumlee said. “People know that we’re playing for the TV at this point. It’s unrealistic to expect any kind of attendance. I know that they’ve talked about cutting down the travel party. I’ve heard proposals of one city, two cities, three cities with 10 teams, an expedited finish to the season or a differentiated version of the playoffs.
“I feel like Michele Roberts (executive director of the NBPA) and (Commissioner) Adam Silver are having ongoing discussions and they’re going to do everything they can to get the season back, but not at the expense of anybody’s health or put anybody in a risky situation.”
The NBA is targeting Friday as a potential date to reopen team practice facilities in cities and states where local governments have loosened stay-at-home orders amid the COVID-19 pandemic. But the Miami Heat does not plan to allow players to start working out at AmericanAirlines Arena until Monday at the earliest, a league source confirmed to the Miami Herald.
NBA practice facilities will only be allowed to reopen if permitted by orders from local government. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said Friday during an interview with South Florida radio personality Andy Slater that the Heat will be allowed to hold workouts at its downtown Miami arena if the NBA reopens practice facilities Friday.
The Heat is still finalizing details for its plan to reopen the arena to players with hopes of starting to allow use of the practice facility on Monday, as the NBA has strict guidelines teams must follow. Among the restrictions the league has put instituted ... No more than four players would be permitted at a facility at any one time. No head coach or assistant coaches could participate. Group activity remains prohibited, including practices or scrimmages.
The Big 3 will delay a quarantined, reality show 3-on-3 pre-season basketball tournament from this month to either August or September because of ongoing concerns about the novel coronavirus, a person familiar with the developments told USA TODAY Sports. The Big 3, which originally planned to begin its fourth season on June 20 in Memphis, is aiming to start the season in either the fall or the winter, the person added. “It’s a fluid situation,” a person familiar with the situation told USA TODAY Sports. “It’s hard to provide a fixed date, but it’s happening.”
Big3 co-founder Jeff Kwatinetz previously told USA TODAY Sports that he and Ice Cube, the other Big3 co-founder and hip hop mogul, remained flexible on when to launch operations both because of their extensive planning and to account for public safety. "Ice Cube and I are in the business of entertaining people," Kwatinetz said in late March. "In times like this, they need entertainment. We have to make sure it’s safe and that the basketball is credible and really competitive. We feel like we’re able to do that."
Martins said the league now is looking at a possible return later in the summer and is considering pushing back the start of the 2020-21 season if that’s what it takes to complete the current season. He said the NBA is willing to extend the season into September if necessary. “Our league has decided that we’re going to try to get in as much of our season and playoffs as the data will allow us to,” Martins told the Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force’s Guidelines for Business Reopening Working Group Tuesday morning. “We’ll play as late as Labor Day if we have to and even delay, as was reported this past week, we’ve been having initial discussions about even delaying the start of next season based on trying to get as much as this season in as possible.”
“People are very optimistic that we’ll start the season again,” Nuggets center Mason Plumlee told The Denver Post by phone on Tuesday when asked about conversations with fellow players. “There have been a lot of proposals thrown around. … From the union meetings, I’ve learned that there are developing plans and strategies to bring the season back.” Asked specifically about a “bubble” city or quarantine scenario, Plumlee said it was plausible. Proposals have included playing out the season in either Las Vegas or, potentially, Walt Disney World in Orlando, with no fans.
“I do (think it’s possible) if they have enough rapid testing kits,” Plumlee said. “People know that we’re playing for the TV at this point. It’s unrealistic to expect any kind of attendance. I know that they’ve talked about cutting down the travel party. I’ve heard proposals of one city, two cities, three cities with 10 teams, an expedited finish to the season or a differentiated version of the playoffs. “I feel like Michele Roberts (executive director of the NBPA) and (Commissioner) Adam Silver are having ongoing discussions and they’re going to do everything they can to get the season back, but not at the expense of anybody’s health or put anybody in a risky situation.”
Sirius XM NBA: Nets Governor Joe Tsai suggests some teams out of playoff contention are not interested in restarting the regular season. If your team has already been eliminated, would you rather they...
Minutes before tip-off, the Jazz announced that Rudy Gobert had tested positive for COVID-19 and the game was canceled as Utah's players were placed in isolation in their locker room. Soon enough, the entire season was put on hold, and Oladipo's source of income was suddenly in question. "I was switching back and forth between games when the alert came on," Oladipo told Insider. "I was like 'Whoa, are you serious?' And they had to stop games and they came out with the announcement that the rest of the season was canceled." "It was a different type of 'Whoa, what do we do now?' type of feeling," he added.
Tsai said NBA commissioner Adam Silver is primarily focused on safety. “I think Adam has said, ‘We are not looking at a date.’ Setting a target date doesn’t make any sense,” Tsai said. “Let’s look at the data. I think one of the most important things is, to Dr. [Anthony] Fauci’s point, you have to have enough tests. One of the most pernicious things about COVID-19 is you can be asymptomatic and be infectious, so you can infect other people while you look perfectly healthy. That’s a big problem. Without tests to identify those that are contagious, and then we try to isolate them, it’s really very difficult to restart and keep everybody safe and healthy.”
Can the league find a way back to safely playing games in the near future? The answer is far from simple, said Dr. Rand McClain, Chief Medical Officer for Los Angeles-based LCR Health. But after qualifying with the fact that he's an "eternal optimist," he broke down the reason he sees the NBA's return as anything but a pipe dream. "The linchpin in this has always been the testing," McClain said in an interview on NOLA.com's Bird Watch podcast. "And that is available, so anyone who says it isn’t feasible logistically or otherwise – it is feasible."
"I believe it’s going to happen because medically it’s feasible to reduce the amount of risk to something I think most would be willing to assume … we may find out in a week, if not months, that rules that we’re enforcing in the NBA, in these bubbles, is much stricter than the public at large," McClain said. "So, is that being reckless or are we being even more protective than everybody else?"
One of the sports stars helping to give back during the COVID-19 pandemic is Louisiana Tech legend and NBA Hall of Famer Karl Malone. The Malone family, including Karl’s son K.J. who played football at LSU, as well as dozens of helpers from the community handed out over 80,000 pounds of food to those in need in Union Parish.
While the NBA is still hoping to return to action this season, the French Pro A league has shuttered its season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tony Parker, the president and majority owner of the French Pro A men’s and women’s basketball club ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne, said it was an easy decision. “We were the first French team that let our players go home,” Parker told The Undefeated. “It was bigger than sports. Health is bigger than everything. … It was an easy decision to let everyone go home because it was important that they were with their families. “I knew really quickly that we were going to be confined a long time. … When I talked to [French] government people, I knew it was going to be four or five months or a year before we got back to normal.”
Sacramento Kings guard Cory Joseph and his family are funding thousands of food donations to help feed school children in need as a result of the COVID-19 crisis across his home country of Canada. Joseph is facilitating the donations through Isthmus, one of the only programs in Canada to provide students with reliable access to food that bridges the food security gap they experience over the weekends. “With the platform I have, I feel it is my responsibility to help those in need, especially the children back home that are most vulnerable to the conditions of poverty,” said Joseph. “Growing up in the Toronto area I saw those realities, so I hold a special place in my heart for this next generation. I am very humbled to support these kids with greater food security through Isthmus during this pandemic so they can live healthy lives and go on to achieve their dreams.”
The league has forbidden players from playing basketball anywhere but at their homes since March 19. That directive was reiterated to teams in a confidential April 27 memorandum obtained by The Times, which said that players were to avoid public health clubs, fitness centers, gyms, college facilities or “the like.” Yet one Western Conference player, who requested anonymity, said he was aware of some fellow players who had ignored league and government directives, arranging secret shooting sessions in unauthorized gyms.
Then the coronavirus outbreak created a sudden need for at-home hoops because of the widespread closure of health clubs, community gyms and public parks on top of the N.B.A.’s mandate that all teams close their facilities. Numerous N.B.A. stars — including Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, Oklahoma City’s Chris Paul, Portland’s C.J. McCollum and, until recently, Boston’s Jayson Tatum — have said that they have gone weeks without shooting during what would normally be playoff time. “Whoever thought times would get like this where you can’t even have access to a basket or a gym?” Butler said. “Nobody thought it would come to this. But it has.”
Vucevic said he went about three weeks without being able to shoot until a neighbor installed an outdoor hoop and let him use it. “It was so much fun because I haven’t done it in a while,” Vucevic said. “You obviously miss it, but until you actually do it again, you don’t realize how much. It’s kind of like when I was little and I would just go in front of my house and just play — for hours. It reminds me of that.”
League rules also prohibit teams from purchasing home baskets for their players, which moved Butler to alleviate that issue for the Heat. Home kits, though, come with their own complications: Gabe Vincent and Kyle Alexander, Miami’s two players on two-way contracts, both live in a hotel and had nowhere to unbox Butler’s present. Then there’s an assembly issue. Leonard, who described himself as adept with tools, said it took six hours without the proper wrenches and with the limited equipment at his disposal. “Ever try putting together an Ikea dresser?” Leonard said. “This hoop was like putting together three of them.”
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Danilo Gallinari is far from optimistic that the season in the NBA will reboot amid the coronavirus crisis. “I have a negative feeling [on the season resumption],” Gallinari said while being interviewed by Italian Rai Sport. “Just thinking about the logistics that would be needed to create such a “bubble” in a place like Disneyworld.”
The Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando was reported by Shams Charania to be among the options considered by the NBA to hold the rest of the regular season plus the playoffs. The city of Las Vegas has also been included in some scenarios. “The only solution is to find ourselves in such a city and play without fans,” Gallinari mentioned.” At the same time, I’d like to do it with safety, with health. So, thinking about the logistics, the rules according to which this could happen… it’s really difficult to find a solution.”
Shams Charania: Beginning Monday, NBA teams are advising fans of their ticket refund and credit policies due to the suspended regular season, sources tell @The Athletic @Stadium.
In an interview for Le Parissien, Fournier repeated his belief that finds it difficult to see how the season will restart due to the many and different complexities involved in the matter. “I have periods where I believe in it and others where I believe less,” Fournier said. “At the moment, I’m in a mode where I don’t believe too much. It seems complicated to set it up. How many games could we play? Are we going straight into the playoffs? We mustn’t forget that some states are still in lockdown and the teams located there won’t be able to begin practices again as we could in a week. There would be a real lack of equity. I think it’d be better to put a stop to the season.
Stacey King: :I lost my older brother Lamoyne King yesterday morning to this deadly coronavirus so please take the necessary precautions to protect you & your loved ones. Stay inside, continue to practice social distancing & wear a mask. This disease is REAL people. #staysafe
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.