After years of steady growth, compensation packages for head coaches are expected to diminish as revenue projections crater due to the fallout from the coronavirus. While a couple of teams might splurge for a candidate they feel they can’t live without, robust four-year deals for $5 million to $6 million a year for coaches who have never paced a sideline in June will be harder to come by. Likewise, average annual salaries for first-timers will shrink. And some teams could opt for a rookie head coach to save money. It’s not just head coaches, either. First, second and even third assistants who have seen tremendous growth in their pay stubs may see a rollback, and coaching staffs that have grown in numbers could be contracted in size. No two vacancies are the same, and recognizing the characteristics of an opening reveals a lot about how an organization defines its current mission and where it is in its developmental arc. The following list details how each of those categories are defined by the insiders we spoke to.
Now that the NBA has a plan for a return to play, teams are beginning to prepare for the league to reopen. Only 22 teams are invited back to play games in Orlando, but all teams must still prepare for the draft and free agency. On Monday, the league held a call with player agents to discuss plans over the coming months. All plans are subject to change due to the uncertain future of the coronavirus pandemic. But here’s what was shared on that call, all according to league sources.
Players currently living outside the country are advised to return to their team’s city on June 15. Players currently in the United States should return on June 22. The date for international players is one week earlier because some states have required quarantine periods for people arriving from overseas. However, Raptors and Nets players could have the option to go elsewhere ahead of time; Toronto has complications due to international travel, and Brooklyn has one of the highest coronavirus rates in the country. The NBA is still working with those teams on a place for them to go. Under this timeline, teams would begin testing players for the coronavirus on June 23, likely every other day. Teams would then undergo a two-week training camp.
Not all teams will arrive in Orlando at the same time. Arrival times will be staggered to reduce the risk of infection. The exact dates and times are still to be determined, but all teams are tentatively scheduled to arrive between July 7 and 9. Upon arrival, all team members will be tested and then could be quarantined in their rooms for 36 hours. Daily testing will follow the quarantine period. The league is exploring the use of a saliva mouth swab to replace the uncomfortable deep-nasal swab often used for the coronavirus.
If a player tests positive, they will need to quarantine for at least 10 days and have two negative tests before rejoining their team. The same is true if a player leaves the league’s Disney World campus, which will be closed off to the public. If a player leaves and returns, they will need to quarantine for at least 10 days and test negative twice before rejoining.
Looking ahead to next season: Certain players have guaranteed contract dates or player option dates that must be sorted out. The solution being negotiated is straightforward: The date would change in proportion to the original calendar. Gordon Hayward and Andre Drummond, for example, had until June 29, two days before the old first day of free agency on July 1, to pick up their options for next season. Under this proposal, that date would move to October 16, two days before the new free agency opening on October 18.
McGee, the Lakers center, has asthma and suffered from pneumonia last year, two things that could put him at greater risk if he had a COVID-19 infection. McGee said recently that he does not worry about the illness. While McGee isn’t worried, others are. Some players are concerned about visiting older family members after exposing themselves during play.
“I would wait until it was all over, but I think that just the fact that I would be there [in Orlando] already, knowing that as soon as this is over I can go home it would make it a lot easier,” said Maurice Harkless, speaking before it was known that his Knicks would not be among the teams invited to Orlando, where he has relatives. Harkless did not go back to see his family after the season was suspended, because he’d played against two teams, the Detroit Pistons and Utah Jazz, who had players test positive for COVID-19. “My grandma is really old,” Harkless said. “I didn’t want to risk it not knowing, so I came here [to L.A.].”
Tim Reynolds: Another 62 positive COVID tests in Orange County, Fla. - home of Disney - were reported yesterday. That's 257 in the last 5 days, or roughly the same amount from the previous 9 days. In mid-May about 1% of all tests in Orange were coming back positive. The rate last week: 2.38%.
The #NuestraMejoVictoria solidarity initiative, promoted by the Spanish athletes Pau Gasol and Rafa Nadal together with Red Cross, has raised over 14 million euros, thus exceeding “by far” the goal set when it was launched with the aim of helping those affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Tim Reynolds: Much of the Disney resort -- where the NBA plans to play starting next month -- is in Orange County, which saw 195 new cases of COVID-19 over a four-day span ending Friday, per state records. Over a four-day span from May 7-10, 40 cases were diagnosed there. Something to watch.
Thaddeus Young acknowledged he wished he and the Bulls were going to Orlando with the chosen 22 teams and was confident he'd be fine. He said his health worries are about family. "Everybody has a concern about contracting the virus, but you have guys that understand we have to play also in order to keep the league moving forward," Young said. "For me, I worry more along the lines of my family's aspect. We have a young league and a lot of these guys in the league they don't have kids or they don't have a family. They may have a girlfriend that they're dealing with. Besides that, it's just kind of them. My worry is more along the lines of me being with all the other guys and then coming back home to my family.”
It was less than three months ago that a single confirmed case prompted the entire league to shut down, and Jeff Van Gundy, the longtime coach and ESPN analyst, isn’t sure how players will react if the virus surfaces. “Right now we’re somewhat underestimating the fear of that scenario,” Jeff Van Gundy told the Daily News. “For the players on the guy’s team, for the players who have played against that team or will play against that team or that will play against that team. I’m not sure we know — because I know I don’t know, if that fear is going to be more than I expect, less than I expect.”
Van Gundy also noted that the reaction might be dictated by who contracts the virus. “And what if, God forbid, it happens to one of our star players?” Van Gundy says. “It’s one thing if it happens to a 12th man, for competitive reasons, but also for the amount of fear it drives. What if it happens to one of the all-time guys in league?”
Nets Daily: I don't expect this to happen with the new Nets or with most NBA players but during the lockout season, some players believed the season was over and let themselves go. One Nets player arrived in camp 35 pounds overweight.
Several other aspects of the NBA’s return were discussed, which The Athletic learned via sources: – A plan to play 2-to-3 exhibition games before regular season – 1,600 maximum people on campus – Coronavirus testing every day; minimum seven days of quarantine for a player who tests positive – Players and family must stay inside the bubble; families can enter after the first round – If a player contracts the virus, the NBA says they plan to continue playing
Shams Charania: Sources: The NBPA informed players today that NBA/NBPA will conduct coronavirus testing every night during resumed season -- likely mouth swabs/light nasal swabs and not full invasive nasal swab. Minimum seven days quarantine for a player if positive.
Vancouver’s Doug Eberhardt is a skills development coach with the Houston Rockets. He had to be quarantined back in mid-March as the NBA shut things down after Utah Jazz centre Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. “For the players being young and in superior condition, the fear [of the virus] isn’t so much their own physical being, as much as it is the potential to spread it to others. The fear [of COVID-19] is always going to be a part of it.” Eberhardt says.
Testing and safety is the greatest concern for returning to action for any league in any part of the world, and though there won’t be details released on that right away, it sounds like the NBA has a plan in place. “The league is not expected to stop play because of a single positive test,” Eberhardt says. “The NBA would look at isolating that person, continuing to monitor both that player and their colleagues. An outbreak within a team though, would be problematic, and obviously they would have to re-evaluate if that happened.”
In mid-May, after the NBA suspended its season, officials at the NBPA organized a Zoom call with players. They sought to focus on mental health -- to listen to concerns and provide resources -- and wanted to interact with a specific group that they found was experiencing the pandemic in a different way. The session was led by Dr. William D. Parham, the NBPA's director of mental health and wellness, and former NBA guard and NBPA Player Wellness Counselor, Keyon Dooling, "[Letting them know] that they have support of the brotherhood is very important," Dooling said.
About 30 international players dialed in from cities around the U.S., sharing concerns about loved ones thousands of miles away and about when and how they might be able to see them again. They asked about their ability to leave the country and come back, about their family members' ability to leave and come back, and whether family members would be able to join a "bubble" environment if the NBA season resumes. The call, originally scheduled for an hour, went for more than 90 minutes. For as many different languages and backgrounds as the players shared and for as much as they've been in isolation in recent months, they found common ground. "They discovered that everybody is in the same storm," Zuretti said.
These conversations struck a chord for Zuretti, particularly his personal communications with San Antonio Spurs guard Marco Belinelli, New Orleans Pelicans rookie Nicolo Melli and Oklahoma City Thunder wing Danilo Gallinari. They are the NBA's three active Italian players, and Zuretti too hails from Italy, specifically Rome, where his family members still live. "I'm walking in their shoes," he said, "so I know how it feels."
AT FIRST, BELINELLI didn't think COVID-19 would be that bad. Maybe just a fever -- that's it. But then he talked to his father, Daniele, who worked as a doctor for 42 years. From Italy, his father offered a simple warning: "Be careful." By mid-February, during the NBA All-Star break, Belinelli vacationed with Gallinari in Turks and Caicos, near the Bahamas, and the shadow of Italy's intensifying battle with the virus loomed over them. On Feb. 22, Belinelli tweeted an article about the virus. His parents were going to visit him in San Antonio, but they decided against it for safety reasons.
Belinelli, along with his countrymates Gallinari and Melli, sought insight from back home to grasp a better understanding of what was happening. Melli sent a flurry of texts to a friend serving as an emergency responder in his Italian hometown. During breaks between long shifts, the friend texted back grisly details. "It was so bad that their army had to come out and pick up the corpses, the bodies, from the hospital," Melli said. "And they cannot have a funeral. Family cannot be there. They cannot give the last hug, the last kiss. They cannot see each other in the eyes. "They die alone, suffering."
Tim Reynolds: Adam Silver says it is possible that "certain coaches" may not be able to be the bench coach when play resumes at Disney "in order to protect them." Gregg Popovich is 71. Mike D'Antoni is 69. Alvin Gentry is 65. The CDC says people 65 and older are at higher risk.
Tania Ganguli: Silver says that based on conversations with health officials he does not believe the league would need to shut down if a player tests positive for Covid-19. They'll isolate him, trace his contacts and continue testing daily and believe that will be enough to contain it.
Vucevic is hopeful that fans can still enjoy watching games on television and that sports can help heal a nation fractured in recent months and weeks by death, sickness and protests over racial inequality. ``For everybody, it’s great that the NBA is going to be back. Mainly for the fans, people have gone through a lot – first, with the virus and now with everything that’s happened in the last two weeks with George Floyd, I think it will be great for people to have basketball to watch and support,’’ Vucevic said. ``Unfortunately, nobody will be able to be there to watch us and we’ll miss the fans. One of the best things is to play in packed areas, 20,000 fans coming to support us, but it is what it is with this situation and we’ll try to make the best of it.”
“Well, again, we just decided amongst the owners what we think’s the best course,” Sarver said. “That has to be agreed upon by the players union. The logistics with Disney — you know a number of these hotels have had layoffs, have been partially closed or fully closed, and so there’s a re-startup there. And then there’s the whole health concern with COVID-19 and how that plays out and making sure that we go back to what our first priority was, which was the health and safety of the players and the staff.”
Among the 22 teams going to Orlando, several have coaches or staff members around or beyond 60 years old -- including Mike D'Antoni (69), Gregg Popovich (71), Alvin Gentry (65), Terry Stotts (62) and Rick Carlisle (60). It is expected that they will all take part, but doing so will only add to the concern about the potential for positive tests within the bubble.
Howard Beck: For those asking: The NBA has drafted an exhaustive set of protocols to deal w/coronavirus when the league restarts. It's being finalized and needs final sign-off from the players assoc, which is expected soon. Expect more details next week.
Adam Johnson: Still no news about the G League season all but likely being cancelled. The last correspondence to teams regarding shutdown/Covid? April 30th according to multiple league sources.
Shams Charania: Sources: Additional dates NBA informed on Board of Governors call: - June 15, players located internationally return to market - June 21, all players report - June 22, coronavirus testing begins
Shams Charania: Sources: The NBA informed the Board of Governors of scheduled dates: - Training camp: June 30, July 7 travel to Orlando - 2019-20 season: July 31 - Free agency: Oct. 18 - 2020-21 targets: Nov. 10 training camp, Dec. 1 opening night (can remain fluid)
Shams Charania: The NBA's Board of Governors have approved the 22-team format to resume 2019-20 season, sources tell @The Athletic @Stadium.
Adrian Wojnarowski: The NBA’s Board of Governors has voted to approve the league’s 22-team format to restart the 2019-2020 season in Orlando, source tells ESPN.
As you point out, there are a great many challenges in putting a game together in an outside environment, let alone hundreds of them. This is probably akin to what the league faces in putting together the Summer League, except on a larger scale. Just think of the challenges in assembling the support staff to make this thing happen: Things like stat crews, timekeepers, referees, ambulances and medical arrangements. All of these people need to be found, lodged, and kept disease-free while the league is going on.
Then there’s the next level, where you find a lot of things in the Ops Manual that aren’t anywhere else. The league needs to invent a lot of rules in a very short time to deal with things like potentially expanded rosters, two-way rules, and waiver restrictions (can one of the “uninvited” teams still sign players or claim them on waivers?), and the fact that a complete calendar change has invalidated many of the dates in contracts and the league calendar.
Finally, the league needs to deal with the much larger issue of KEEPING EVERYONE ALIVE, which absolutely should be the thing that takes up the bulk of the league’s attention and resources. How does the league minimize or eliminate the worst-case scenario of a season-ending outbreak? For me, that priority is the one that should trump everything else, and it doesn’t feel like that’s happening. Where do you stand on this?
Even from the standpoint of just looking at the money, abrupt cancellation of the remainder of the 2019-20 season isn’t the worst-case scenario. Severe impingement on 2020-21 and beyond is of a larger magnitude. Which only reinforces your point that safety has to be at minimum an equal pillar in the priorities for a restart. It seems to me we’re seeing a lot of mission creep here. When what should be a simple-in-prospect, but difficult-in-execution attempt to maximize for the combination of viewership/revenue and safety is giving way to a Christmas Tree situation where everyone is trying to hang their favorite ornamental solutioneering on the restart, no matter how inapposite the current, narrow demands of the moment.
The Timberwolves will play 64 games this season. The Mavericks will play 75-77 games before the traditional playoffs. Should Dallas players get paid a higher percentage of their salaries than Minnesota players? That’s one of the thorny questions as the NBA resumes its season.
Each year, the salary cap is set to a number designed to get total player salaries to about 50% of league-wide revenue. Obviously, that’s a difficult target to hit precisely. So, there are mechanisms to adjust the distribution of money if necessary. If their total slated salaries are higher than 50% of revenue, players don’t receive their full salaries. If their total salaries are lower than 50% of revenue, players get a shortfall check from owners. Coronavirus has disrupted that well-oiled system
On the other hand, they don’t have to do any more work. Other players must travel to Orlando, live under restrictions, play games with heightened injury concerns and risk contracting coronavirus just so the league can increase its revenue. Should eliminated players reap the rewards while sitting home? This tension also exists in normal times. Players across 16 playoff teams divvied up just $20 million total for competing in the 2018 playoffs, and the amount was similar last year. Player income is largely earned on the regular season, even though the players playing in the playoffs disproportionately draw the revenue that funds everyone.
Omari Sanfoka II: Pistons announce they will reopen their practice facility tomorrow for voluntary, individual player workouts. Described as “phase one” of the reopening process pic.twitter.com/qbBKyuWDI2
Tim Reynolds: NBA player on what he's been told to expect when his team gets to the Disney/ESPN complex: "Lots of testing and lots of rules."
As the NBA models a 22-team format for the season's proposed resumption beginning July 31 in Orlando, a timeline shared with teams as a last possible date for a Finals Game 7 lands on Oct. 12, sources told ESPN. Commissioner Adam Silver is expected to have a proposal to take to a vote of the NBA's Board of Governors on Thursday, sources said. The expectation is that the NBA draft and the opening of free agency would follow in sequential order in October, sources said.
The NBA and National Basketball Players Association are still discussing details on a format, and there is still room for the league to maneuver on the structure of a return-to-play ideas. The Board of Governors requires a three-fourths passage of the 30 teams on a plan, but there's an expectation among owners that they'll fall into line and overwhelmingly approve the commissioner's recommendation on a plan, sources said.
The NBA has been advancing on a plan that would include regular-season, play-in and playoff games for the 16 teams currently holding playoff position -- and six more teams within six games of the eighth seed in each conference, sources said. Those teams include New Orleans, Portland, San Antonio, Sacramento and Phoenix in the Western Conference -- and Washington in the East, sources said.
Nets Daily: Tillman Ferttita, Rockets owner on CNBC just now: NBA definitely has their act together. we all want this to happen. No issue there. We are going to play basketball at the end of July. Is it going to be 16 teams or 30 teams or 22 teams. We're all going to get together on Friday.
Bobby Marks: June 1 marks the second wave of salary reductions for NBA players. Starting on June 15, the 25% reduction per paycheck will either decrease or increase based on how many regular season games are played.
Nike announced Saturday it was canceling its 2020 Elite Youth Basketball League season because of the coronavirus pandemic, ending any chance the prestigious grassroots events would be played later in the summer or early in the fall. "As we continue to navigate the evolving impact of COVID-19, we are canceling the remainder of the 2020 EYBL season," the company announced on its EYBL website. "This was not a decision taken lightly, but the health and safety of our athletes, families, fans and employees is our top priority. We look forward to bringing the EYBL back in 2021."
Everything has changed in the last month because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Euroleague officially canceled the season on May 25. How was the process of dealing with the league? Bostjan Nachbar: It was actually a very long process. We started with the players in Milano feeling very insecure about what’s going on, because that’s where the first outbreak was. So we started feeling a big need to suspend the season during the second week of March. There was a lot of talk with players, a lot of misinformation and a lot of unsureness on what to do, but we decided to notify early that the players were wishing to suspend the league because they didn’t feel safe anymore to travel and play. After the competition was suspended it started two months of long process communicating with the Euroleague and really making them aware of the players’ stance throughout this process. The first thing we wanted to secure were the minimum salaries that players must receive because there were no “force majeure” rules in players’ contracts. So we were able to achieve the minimum standard for players today which is 80 percent of their annual salary. Then the next step was talking with the players about whether they would like to continue or not, whether they felt safe enough to continue with the competition.
Bostjan Nachbar: The Euroleague has a proposition to finish the season with a tournament in July. But the issue started mounting because players had difficulty traveling back the players and getting back on the court. So the biggest fear from players, interestingly enough, was not as much the virus itself but the injuries. They felt that having two to three weeks of training camp and then jumping right into the most important part of the season of playing up to nine games in 22 days was simply too much risk involved from the injury standpoint. So our communication was daily with the Euroleague, leading up to a meeting with two players from each team and the management of Euroleague in which the players were very direct and very honest about how they felt. And two days later the season was canceled.
That’s a big difference between the Euroleague and NBA, because the NBA is willing to adjust its schedule to the new situation. Bostjan Nachbar: Yeah, this is the big thing. People sometimes forget that the NBA operates on their own schedule and on their own timeline. In Europe, you always have to adjust whether it’s to European competitions or to domestic competitions, depending on which side you’re looking from. So this is why it’s so difficult to be your own boss. You always have to look for permissions or look for adjustments and agreements. And that makes it much more complicated.
You’re an example of a player who went to the NBA and returned to Europe. And coincidentally you were a teammate of the current president of the NBPA, Chris Paul. Does it help the relationship between both organizations? Bostjan Nachbar: Honestly, I didn’t have any discussion with Chris on this topic. But I had a great experience playing with Chris. He was a rookie the year that I played with him and it would be great to see him again and catch up, especially in the roles we are now. But I have to say that Michele Roberts has been extremely supportive of what we do. And she is the one we keep in touch director to director, so to say. Same goes for Matteo Zuretti who is their international department director and he’s been amazing in this process.
GCM: From a conditioning standpoint, how would you compare where you are now to how you felt when the season was suspended? Is this like starting over in a way? Valanciunas: It’s kind of like coming back from the summer. We’ve had two-and-a-half months off. But then again, I play with the (Lithuania) National Team every summer, so it’s not like you always have so much time off every summer. So it’s sort of like coming back and getting ready for training camp again, to get back in shape and into game rhythm. It’s unusual, with guys wearing masks and stuff, but it is sort of like getting yourself ready for training camp right now.
Even though Mutombo’s native DRC hasn’t been crushed by COVID-19 cases (69 deaths as of Friday), he brims with excitement that his foundation is helping to feed frontline workers and taking on other local initiatives. “We serve lunch and dinner to four hospitals with more than 80 doctors and nurses, which was great,” he said. “I’m glad that we took those initiatives. In the Congo, right now, we are launching a local mask production, so where we are making masks, we are asking people to start making masks at the foundation headquarters.”
When the coronavirus crisis shut down the NBA season, Cameron Johnson drove directly from Phoenix to Pittsburgh in a 28-hour trip so he could return to his Moon Township home. Before Johnson goes back, he wanted to give back. The Phoenix Suns rookie donated food and drinks Thursday morning to families at Hyde Elementary in the Moon Area School District, where his mother, Amy, is a school nurse.
Johnson filled 12 dozen bags with Chick-Fil-A chicken sandwiches and nuggets, bottled water and bags of chips. He spent nearly three hours handing them out with his mother, his father Gil and his brothers Donovan and Braylon alongside Hyde Elementary principal Joe Johnson, food service director Christie Leininger and school counselor Neil Tkatch.
Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter was “shocked” to hear that there are some NBA stars who don’t want to play at all before there is a vaccine for the coronavirus. Something that basically means that they don’t plan to return to court anytime soon since there’s nothing concrete regarding when a coronavirus cure will be available. In a video interview with NBC’s Chris Fosberg, Kanter revealed a discussion he had with some of his friends from other teams. The Turkish big man mentioned that his friends told him that certain superstars won’t play when the NBA resumes.
“This is my ninth year in the league, I have so many friends on different teams, right? I was actually talking to one of my friends and he said—I’m not going to tell who or which team—but he said, ‘”here’s so many guys on our team that they’re not going to play.’ They’re actually in the Eastern Conference, they’re in a playoff spot. And they’re like superstars. Like, if I told you who it is, you’d go crazy,” Kanter said. “They said ‘hey, we are not going to play,’ They said that until they find a vaccine, until they find a cure, they are not going to play,” Kanter later added before saying that: “I was shocked by those players that don’t want to play. If they don’t play… Those people are All-Star players.”
The league has polled its general managers, who largely have voted with self-interest as a motivator. Reportedly, 53% of the general managers voted for the return to include only the 16 teams in playoff position. However, the general managers are under the impression that their opinions are merely that — opinions. League sources believe Silver, with broadcast partners and medical advisors shaping his thinking, ultimately will be the one to make the decision about how the NBA resumes play.
Staples Center is one of the largest entertainment venues in Los Angeles, and as the city gets closer to Phase 4 of reopening, the arena is seeking accreditation on COVID-19 cleaning protocols. Phase 4 of the “Roadmap to Recovery” affects all entertainment venues where large groups gather, and are considered to be “highest risk.”
Safety measures are also integrated — they were planned before coronavirus suspended the 2019-20 NBA season. Sarver added that the facility was made with as few doors as possible. “The less spreading of germs, the better,” the owner said. “The idea is to have less door handles, door knobs to touch. Players can come in and out and do what they need to do and never touch a door handle.”
“What the World Health Organization is asking us to do, they’re asking all of us to be part of the solution or causing no more problems,” Mutombo said. “I think we’ve already seen so many deaths already. We’ve already lost so many loved ones. I think every one of us who’s living in America today … I think all of us knows somebody who has died from COVID-19, either a friend or friend of a friend or a family member.”
Shams Charania: NBA commissioner Adam Silver and the league office informed Board of Governors that July 31 is a target date for return of season, sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium.
Shams Charania: Sources: The NBA discussed four competition scenarios for restart with Board of Governors today: - 16 teams: Directly to playoffs - 20: Group/stage play - 22: Games to determine seeding, play-in tournament for final seed(s) - 30: 72-game regular season, with play-in tourney
As the NBA's board of governors met Friday afternoon to assess options for how to restart the season, the league's general managers have expressed their preference to go straight to the playoffs. In a survey of all 30 general managers, which was viewed by ESPN, 16 said they would prefer the league come back with just the typical 16 playoff teams, with the teams and seedings based on the standings when the season was suspended March 12. That was one of four potential return-to-play options presented, and it earned more votes than the other three options combined.
• Resume the regular season with all 30 teams followed by a play-in tournament (8 votes); • Go straight to the playoffs with either a play-in tournament or a World Cup-style group stage (5 votes); • Resume the regular season with all 30 teams and then go straight to the playoffs (1 vote).
In addition to preferring a return with just playoff teams, there also was a slight preference to keep the traditional playoff format, which received 16 votes. An option to reseed the 16 playoff teams regardless of conferences received 14 votes.
There were also several questions about what a potential "playoff-plus" model might look like, in terms of how many teams would be involved and how it would be formatted. A play-in tournament for the seventh and eighth spots in each conference -- with the top six advancing directly to the playoffs -- received the most votes with 13. A play-in tournament for the eighth spot in each conference received nine votes, while a group stage format got eight votes. When asked how many teams should participate in one of these expanded playoff formats, there were 15 votes for 20 teams, while seven voted for 24, five for 18 and three for 22.
Meanwhile, when asked on a 1-5 scale for what extent they would support increasing the number of inactive roster spots available to teams, 13 voted for "5" (strongly support), while eight others voted for either 3 or 4. There also was a strong preference to add two-way players to playoff rosters -- something that previously wasn't the case. Only three teams said they would vote against adding two-way players to playoff rosters, while 19 said they would support it if rosters remain the same size. The eight other teams said they would support adding two-way players even if rosters expanded beyond 15.
March 21, 2023 | 9:20 pm EDT Update
Thunder 'open-minded' to SGA playing in back-to-backs?
Joe Mussatto: Mark Daigneault said the Thunder is “open-minded” to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander playing on back-to-backs moving forward (like the upcoming one Thursday/Friday.) Daigneault said SGA has responded well from abdominal strain: “The back to backs are more on the table now when they were then.”
Neither Ayton nor Durant made the trip to Los Angeles. Durant is scheduled for a re-evaluation later this month.
“We have some things to clean up,” Suns All-Star guard Devin Booker said. “We know roles are going to change when KD comes back, but polishing everything up before he comes back is important, too.”
Scott Agness: #Pacers Tyrese Haliburton (right ankle sprain) has been upgraded to questionable. Chris Duarte (sore left ankle) is also questionable for Wednesday at Toronto.
March 21, 2023 | 7:58 pm EDT Update
Damian Lillard not interested in rebuilding with Portland
NBACentral: Damian Lillard says he’s not interested in rebuilding “That’s not what I’m interested in. That’s what the frustrating part of it is. Talking about what’s gonna happen next season. And us ‘building’. That’s not what I’m here to do especially at this stage of my career”
Coach Darvin Ham said this extended push hasn’t left his team mentally fatigued in any noticeable ways. He’s mostly seen the opposite. “It’s caused them to come to the game on high alert and high awareness,” he said. “Just having something to play for. You’d be surprised how comfortable guys are with that as opposed to having to play a meaningless game. The fact that these games carry so much weight, I think, is causing our guys to lock in more. I don’t see any stress. I just see guys figuring it out because they want to be a part of this team getting into the postseason and making a run. “So the stress, the anxiety, I don’t see that. My coaching staff and I, we talked about that this morning, they don’t see that from our players. I see a bit of hunger.”