August 7, 2020 | 2:01 pm EDT Update
It started out as most of these things do: With an ill-advised tweet. On July 13 when the NBA announced the schedule for its restart games, the eyes of Toronto Raptors fans narrowed on an Aug. 9 date with the Memphis Grizzlies. In recent years following the franchise’s move from Vancouver to Memphis, Canada’s former second team has morphed into, well, Canada’s second team. Armed with former Raptor Jonas Valanciunas and exciting Canadians in Dillon Brooks and Brandon Clarke – with recent cameos from Delon Wright, C.J. Miles and Bruno Caboclo – the Grizzlies were a natural Western Conference rooting interest for Raptors fans.
Best of all, the league also announced that the Sunday matinee would be a throwback affair of sorts. The Raptors would wear their newly reintroduced white pinstripe throwback from their inaugural seasons (voted in 2018 as the second-best Raptors jersey in an unofficial poll), while the Grizzlies would wear their teal alternate with “Vancouver” above “Grizzlies” across the chest. Being as I am, I couldn’t leave well-enough alone. And so I sent a tweet that sent me on the kind of wild goose chase I’d only been warned I’d get into when I entered the NBA Twitter Private Eye game.
When the Raptors and Grizzlies were awarded expansion franchises for the 1995-96 season, a healthy rivalry was anticipated. While some rivalries are built on playoff series and animosity, others are based on proximity. A pair of new Canadian teams expected to struggle out of the gate were natural to pit against each other, and putting something on the line was a clever way to make sure both sides had a chance at bragging rights during some lean years. The decision was made that the Raptors and Grizzlies would square off in each preseason, with the winner being awarded The Naismith Cup, in honour of the Canadian inventor of the sport, James Naismith.
If the choice to award the Cup in exhibition games strikes you as strange, consider that the teams, in conjunction with NBA Canada, used it as an opportunity to host the events around the country. The five Naismith Cup matches held between 1995 and 2000 (the 1998 game was cancelled due to the lockout) were played in Winnipeg, Calgary, Halifax, Edmonton, and Ottawa. That’s a tradition the Raptors do their best to continue to this day, holding recent training camps in Victoria or Quebec City, and exhibition games in Montreal, Vancouver, and London. (They still owe St. John’s a game, as former Raptors general manager and current CEO of Canada Basketball Glen Grunwald is quick to remind us.) The touring Naismith Cup games were well-attended, ranging from 8,190 to 15,104 fans in attendance.
August 7, 2020 | 1:25 pm EDT Update
August 7, 2020 | 12:17 pm EDT Update
Except, perhaps, this one: What if those eight teams joined the rest of their colleagues inside the Walt Disney World bubble for training after the eliminated teams departed? Sources say the NBA has been exploring that possibility for quite some time now, and that the idea was raised most recently on the aforementioned governors call. And in some ways, it makes perfect sense.
On the most recent episode of the Bulls Talk Podcast, NBC Sports Chicago Bulls insider K.C. Johnson broke down the latest scuttlebut: Well, the latest is, you really got only one shared goal between these eight teams and that is to get some kind of formal group activities authorized by the league and the players association. How that plays out and the form that takes, there are different goals. There are some teams that wouldn’t mind doing a bubble. There are other teams that would rather stay in their own practice facilities and not travel. There are other teams that want to do regional scrimmages against another team. And complicating this is that Michele Roberts, the executive director of the players association, is on record as saying: Unless there are the exact same safety protocols going on in Orlando for the second bubble, it’s a non-starter for her.
The league’s attention mostly has been in Orlando, obviously, and that was a signficant financial undertaking. So you’d also have to factor in that, what kind of financial undertaking would they commit to these eight teams. It did look like there was some positive momentum for, not a bubble, but for each team to be able to hold some sort of offseason training sessions, group sessions in their own facilities, like OTAs in the NFL. And I don’t think that’s dead, but there’s certainly not as much optimism as there was maybe a week, ten days ago for that. I mean, it’s fluid, and there’s nothing definitive yet, but you may be staring at that dreaded eight month window between formal group activities for these eight teams.
Emiliano Carchia: Fenerbahce’s Vice President Semih Ozsoy says that nobody made an offer for Jan Vesely: “We were with Jan a moment ago. He is happy here. Our fans can rest assured”
I’ve heard from players that the lack of a crowd feels awkward. The normal energy isn’t there. That stinks. But the quiet has benefits for TV viewers: We hear every “Hell no!” from bench players mocking opponent shooters. Those shooters hear it, too; the bubble is producing record levels of mean-mugging and bad words directed at bench jokesters. A reminder for refs: Shooters who return taunts at yappy benches should be immune from technical fouls.
August 7, 2020 | 9:23 am EDT Update
Marc Stein: On a City v Real Madrid day, this Facundo Campazzo update seems appropriate: Campazzo’s move to the NBA in October free agency has never looked more likely, league sources say Real has known for three months, sources say, that the Argentinean playmaker plans to go to the NBA
Durant believes Crawford can add a lot to a team even in a limited role. “You need people like that on your roster, even if they’re the 15th, 14th man,” he said. “I think Jamal can provide a lot for you in that role, you know what I’m saying? If you can throw somebody like him out there, end of a playoff game or end of a game, he can definitely win you a game, hit some shots. “And you minimize his role? Give him a few minutes with the third unit or the second unit? He’ll get buckets. He can swing a game, be an x-factor still.”
LeBron gave a weird answer about this. He agreed that he and the Lakers were looking for a rhythm on offense. And then he said: “It’s just some things that you can’t control that’s here, that I really don’t want to talk about, that’s off the floor.” What did he mean? The food? The fishing? Tee times not abundant enough? I wrote down on a piece of paper what I thought he meant and showed it to him, and his answer was “Hell, nah.” So, whatever. It was an interesting thing to hear and there is obviously something on LeBron’s mind beyond Davis and his other teammates bending the rim with the bricks they’re throwing up there.
“I play every game to win,” Williamson said. “I can’t really speak personally for my teammates, I feel like they do play every game to win. The sense of urgency, personally I think we don’t want to play like that. You just want to play the game to win anyway. I feel like when you play with a sense of urgency, you just start doing stuff that you don’t usually do.”
“Y’all know that I’m always optimistic and always see the best in situations like this, and it’s why I said what I said a few months ago when I said, ‘If we don’t have a chance to compete for a playoff spot, I don’t want to play,'” Lillard said. “Because I knew if we did have a chance to play for a playoff spot, it would look something like it looks right now.”
In 20 minutes against the Mavericks, Zubac put up a perfect: 21 points and 15 rebounds on 10/10 FGs. His play earned massive praise from his teammates. “Zu is like a little brother,” Paul George said. “He’s got a ton of upside. He really has tons of potential. He can do a lot of things. I’ve seen it. I’ve been on the other end when he was with the Lakers and he dominated.”
How did how does the knee feel right now? And as you project forward to the playoffs? Do you see it being any kind of, you know, inhibition to your ability? Kemba Walker: Well, it feels good man. That’s me being completely honest. You know, the whole reason I’m only stretching is to see how it reacts after every game. And it’s been it’s been doing well and it’s me feeling better and better after every game, so I’m definitely trending upwards. I think I’m gonna be fine. I think I’ll be fine.
Obviously the physical aspect of recovering from an Achilles tear and then an ACL tear is intense. When I saw you around the Lakers this year you looked like you were in great shape. How hard is the mental aspect of the recovery? DeMarcus Cousins: It’s tough, no lie. I’d be lying to say it’s been an easy journey or it hasn’t been tough. It’s definitely been a rough journey. But that’s the nature of this business. That’s what separates the guys that last 15 years in the league to the guys that have a short stint. The thing that I preach to a lot of young players and the younger generation in general, when it comes to being successful or being the best you can be in the business, whatever the field may be, it’s going to take a commitment. There’s going to be ups and downs but as long as you’re committed to whatever you’re doing in life, that’s what it’s going to take. I accept this is part of the business. All I can do is work my tail off to get back to where I want to be.
Do you feel like you’re missing out on a once-in-a-lifetime experience by deciding not to play? DeMarcus Cousins: I miss basketball in general. I’ve been playing this game since I was a kid, and I’ve never been away from it for this long, so I’m missing it more than ever. But due to the circumstances, it’s a different game right now. Nothing but respect to the guys who went out there to the bubble and are doing what they’re doing. For me, it just wasn’t the right situation or the right time to be trying to force myself. It’s already me battling to get healthy and the obstacles in front of me. On top of that to add the different elements that are amongst us, it wasn’t the right time for me. I look forward to next season.
August 7, 2020 | 1:39 am EDT Update
Kemba Walker, the four-time All-Star point guard who joined the Boston Celtics in 2019 after eight years with the Charlotte Hornets, said the Knicks were “very serious” contenders for his services: “To be honest, yes. Yes, very serious. Very,” Walker said on The Ringer’s R2C2 podcast with Ryan Ruocco and CC Sabathia. “… Before Boston actually came along, the Knicks was one of my top priorities, actually, because I was thinking they were gonna get another player, but it didn’t work out.”
Bobby Marks: The Suns did something creative with the Cameron Payne contract for next year. The 2020/21 salary has a team option but only $25K guaranteed if the Suns exercise it. That means Payne is essentially on a non-guaranteed contract next year even if the option is picked up.
David Carro: Very exciting to announce @facucampazzo joins @OctagonBballEU family! Welcome to arguably the best point guard in @EuroLeague Big heart, humble person and magic talent all together. With the best: @claudio_villita Honored. @FairPlayCM
Per Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, the supposed hierarchy system has somewhat been ignored, as concerned parties deemed that their pleas will be addressed quickly if they cut off the middleman. Instead of using the so-called “snitch hotline”, players are reaching out directly to Commissioner Adam Silver. “Much has been said about the anonymous tip hotline intended for players and staff to report violations inside the bubble. But what I found out was that players have been circumventing that process. Multiple players are personally calling Commissioner Adam Silver to issue their complaints about things they’re seeing in the bubble,” Haynes revealed during the third quarter of the Clippers-Mavericks game on Thursday.
In the last several months, Mo Bamba has employed his platform as a professional athlete to encourage children to stay in school, urge adults to vote in the upcoming election and ask people to donate money to provide food for children, the elderly and frontline workers in need. And now, he’s imploring you to do something else. Something he has learned from painful experience. He wants you to take precautions against the coronavirus. On Thursday, Bamba revealed to The Athletic that he suffered from COVID-19 in June.
The illness temporarily robbed him of his senses of smell and taste, made him unusually fatigued and caused muscle soreness. “I think the lesson is to take it seriously, to take it as seriously as possible,” said Bamba, who added he doesn’t know how he contracted the coronavirus. “I think we all play a part in making sure that we all stay safe. It’s going to take everyone.”
After pausing, and then listing the five teams behind Milwaukee in the standings — Toronto, Boston, Miami, Indiana and Philadelphia — the NBA’s reigning and presumptive Most Valuable Player made his choice for who has the best chance of stopping the Bucks: Themselves. “I think the biggest challenge for us is ourselves,” Antetokounmpo said. “How are we going to play? How hard are we going to play? Are we going to play for one another? Are we going to defend hard? Are we going to be able to rebound the ball? Are we going to be able to make the extra effort? Are we going to dive on the floor? “It’s all about us. It’s all about us.”
“When it comes to the whole ‘all eyes are on me,’ I feel like a lot of eyes have been on me since high school, so that feeling was nothing new. I don’t consider it being thrown in the fire because I’ve been playing basketball my whole life. But it was definitely a dream come true to finally get thrown out there and enjoy the moment,” recalls Williamson. “If I’m being honest with you, it was very frustrating at first. I’m in the game and I feel like I could maybe change the outcome and you hear the horn go off. You know it ain’t for nobody but you because your time is up. It’s one of those sickening feelings, because I’m one of those players that if I could do anything to help my team win, I want to do it. So it was very frustrating at first from that perspective. But outside of that, it was a blast.”
“I have social media but I don’t let social media dictate my life. I will never let that happen,” he says. “But as far as winning Rookie of the Year and competing in that race, I’m a competitor. If there’s a chance that I could win it, I’m going to go after it. I’m not going to doubt that. Ja [Morant] has had an incredible season and he is the current front-runner, but it’s not over until they announce who it is, so, I’m going to keep battling for it. [A few weeks after our shoot, the NBA announced that performance in Orlando would not be taken into consideration for the player awards.—Ed.] But my top priority is getting into the playoffs first.”
“If you know T.J. Warren,” Pacers guard Aaron Holiday said, “you know he’s a bucket.” The explanation isn’t complicated, either. Warren works—constantly. Teammates say he only thinks about the game. His mentor, ex-Pacer David West, was equally committed. “I play a lot of basketball,” Warren said. “Whether I’m at home or with my friends, I just want to be a hooper.”
Warren didn’t work on his three-point shot during the pandemic. Like many, he couldn’t find a gym. At the parks he went to, the rims weren’t ten feet high. The work, Warren says, came mentally. He watched a lot of film. He “locked in” on his weaknesses. Pacers coach Nate McMillan has encouraged Warren to be aggressive, and Warren has embraced it. “I’ve always been the underdog,” Warren said. “I’m comfortable with that. I just have to keep getting better day by day.”
On a day that felt a lot like the first Thursday of the NCAA tournament, with 12 teams playing in games that spanned almost 12 hours, Booker felt like the biggest star, the leader of the bubble’s Cinderella team running through upset after upset, beating the Indiana Pacers, previously unbeaten in the restart, 114-99. “I mean it’s fun, it’s everything I could ask for. … It’s the winning part that most excited me,” Booker said on a videoconference while wearing a Kobe Bryant shirt. “I’ve been in the NBA five years now and haven’t had that much success. But I’m working hard every day to turn that narrative, to change that narrative. We have a good bunch in here to do it.”
With 20 points in the Suns win over the Pacers, Devin Booker notched the 200th 20-point game of his career. He is the 6th youngest player in NBA history to accomplish the feat and the fastest in Suns franchise history (338 games). h/t @EliasSports
Ohm Youngmisuk: Asked where he thinks the Clippers are right now on a scale of 1-to-10, Doc Rivers says the contenders are at about a “six or seven” until Montrezl Harrell and Patrick Beverley can come back espn.com/nba/story/_/id…
Philadelphia 76ers coach Brett Brown did his best to put on a brave face as he spoke to the media Thursday afternoon. But in the wake of learning that All-Star Ben Simmons would be out indefinitely with a subluxation of his left patella, Brown couldn’t help but admit the obvious frustration over the situation. “This one stings, for sure,” Brown said.
Brown said the Sixers should know within the next 24 hours what the next steps for Simmons will be. The team said in its statement Thursday that treatment options were being considered. Simmons has already been ruled out for Friday’s game against the Orlando Magic. “Yeah, it’s a little frustrating sometimes,” guard Josh Richardson said of losing Simmons. “But that’s the way the game goes. So we’re going to just have to have a next-man-up mentality like we’ve had all year. Guys will pick up the slack, and when we get him back, he’ll fit back in seamlessly.