New Orleans Pelicans young star Zion Williamson suffered from leg cramping this week and missed parts of practice before leaving the team Thursday, sources told The Athletic.
The Pelicans announced Thursday that Williamson left the Disney campus on Thursday to tend to an urgent family medical matter. Williamson was spotted being attended to by medical personnel at a recent practice, but he is “fine” and the cramping was “not an issue,” a source said. The cramping is not the reason Williamson left Thursday, the source added, but was something he dealt with.
With the NBA controlling who is allowed in and out of the bubble, life is actually a lot easier for the league’s star players. Just take LeBron James, who can now walk around without hoards of fans racing up to him. “Whenever you go downstairs, you’re going to see somebody,” Kemba Walker told Rooks, comparing bubble life to summer camp. “Like, the other night, me and [Jayson Tatum] were walking to get some food and we saw ‘Bron. We saw ‘Bron, J.R. [Smith], Jared Dudley and [Kyle Kuzma].”
While Oladipo’s rehab was negatively impacted by the coronavirus, he had an advantage over many because he has a personal physical therapist — who was among the 35 individuals on the Pacers’ traveling party to Disney, by the way — access to a gym and weights in his garage. If he needed something more, he could have elected to remain in Indianapolis during quarantine, with the practice facility at his disposal, rather than going to his home to Orlando. Twice he mentioned not having the resources to truly test his knee, referring to playing against competition in a group setting. But neither have most players.
While so many of his peers document their NBA bubble experience in Orlando, Fla., on social media with quick cellphone videos or snapshots of life inside the league’s answer to the coronavirus pandemic, Thybulle has taken it next level, shooting and editing footage in real time. The result is the first — and thus far only — documentary from inside the NBA’s Disney campus. His first two episodes of “Welcome to the Bubble” have been viewed more than 575,000 times on YouTube in four days. He’s also posting the episodes on Instagram.
“It was just so apparent that this was, hopefully, a once-in-a-lifetime deal and something that’s going to be pretty historic,” Thybulle said Wednesday. “… It’s nice to have memories, something to remember it with. I figured this was a perfect time to create those memories and start documenting them.” The camera is the fun part of this. Thybulle shoots with a Canon Eos 5D Mark IV, which retails for $2,499, a video camera that can shoot video in 4K resolution.
Thybulle’s videos aren’t a documentary in the strict sense. Say there’s an argument between teammates after a tough loss — that probably won’t end up online. “It’s a balance,” he said. “I don’t want to put guys in there and not have them in their best light necessarily, because at the end of the day, these are my brothers, my teammates. That comes first. I don’t want to ruffle any feathers. Just keeping things light and fun. That’s why I’m doing this stuff.”
How would you have approached keeping the players in shape during the long layoff, both mentally and physically? And do you think there’ll be any significant unique situations, like injuries you might not have had in a regular NBA season, in Orlando? Gary Vitti: It’s a level playing field because all 22 teams that are going in are in the same boat. Are you in as good of shape as you were [when the season was interrupted in March] at game 65? No, obviously you’re not. But everybody else is the same. It’s just like going into the NBA season in basically September, October, November. But you’re doing it now in July and August. You’re just moving the calendar, but basically, the number of days and the weeks are about the same.
Gary Vitti: I’m thinking that all of these players are going to come in pretty rested. All their aches and pains are gone. Any injuries that they’ve had have been treated and rehabbed. They’ve had plenty of time to get well. These are professional athletes. They want to play. They are competitive guys. It’s not like they’ve been sitting around eating and drinking beer and laying on the sofa. I think most of them have done what they’ve had to do.
Jason Anderson: Sacramento Kings coach Luke Walton says Alex Len has cleared COVID-19 protocols and will travel to Orlando tonight.
Melissa Rohlin: . @Jared Dudley said he sees the other top teams around campus nearly everyday. He says that's fine for now, but when games start and a team is down in a playoff series that could change. "They might need to add a little more security," he joked.
Tim Bontemps: Zion Williamson will quarantine for 4 days upon return to the NBA's bubble if he has a negative test each day he's outside the bubble if he's gone for 7 days or less, or each day for the final 7 days he's gone if longer than that. If he doesn't, he will quarantine for 10 days.
Shams Charania: Sources: The NBA has sent memo to teams reminding them that interacting with or bringing an unauthorized person on Disney Campus is prohibited. Teams are required to utilize part of next team meeting to brief/discuss health protocols.
Christian Clark: Zion Williamson left Orlando to attend to an urgent family medical issue, Pelicans say. He will rejoin the team at a later date. "We fully support Zion's decision," David Griffin says.
Chris Haynes: Houston Rockets star James Harden plans to participate in his first practice today from Orlando, league sources tell Yahoo Sports.
Sources said the nature of the calls into the “snitch line” have been for things like failures to wear a mask or being within six feet of someone away from the court. The same sources said neither Holmes — who walked too far off campus to meet a food delivery person — nor Caboclo (who left his room during the initial 36-hour quarantine period mandated for all players upon arriving to campus) were busted through calls to the anonymous line. But their violations, breaking quarantine and leaving campus, are two of the big no-nos.
One thing that’s very new is the NBA hotline. It’s a good idea for players to have a place to report possible infractions of the bubble protocol, because everyone wants to stay safe from the coronavirus pandemic while living in Florida, which is reporting record numbers of positive cases and hospitalizations. But there seems to be a question whether players would actually use it or not. “I probably won't use it,” said DiVincenzo. “We're taking every precaution following all the protocols, so I think we're worried about ourselves, and we're not worried about anything else. “We trust the NBA. We trust the protocols in place. We trust ourselves. So, getting into it with other teams, and calling hotlines… I think we're just policing ourselves to kind of focus in ourselves – and if we follow it, I think we feel good about everything. It's not about getting into it with other teams.”
“I mean, hopefully we’re at the point to where we’re adults and we don’t need consequences to motivate our actions,” Lakers guard Alex Caruso said. “We’re all here for a reason. If you didn’t want to come, you didn’t have to come. They put rules in place to keep everybody safe, to make sure we can all continue to do what we want to do and play basketball. So the 10 days is obviously an intimidating number. That might be the motivation behind it to put a little bit of fear into you to follow the rules. My hope is we’re all professionals for a reason (and) we can continue to hold ourselves to that level and that standard.”
Chris Vernon on Bruno Caboclo breaking quarantine: "He was hungry. And he left his room to ask about getting more food, I swear to God. He went downstairs and asked them about how we could get more food instead of like calling from his room and they're like, what are you doing? That's how he broke quarantine. He tried to get more food.
The NBA bubble’s anonymous tip line for violations, otherwise known as the “snitch hotline,” may be working too well. Last week, during the league’s initial quarantine period, someone called the hotline to snitch on Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler as he was attempting to do a workout from his hotel room. “A security guard received a complaint of disturbance for loud thumping,” Chris Haynes reported during an NBA on TNT segment. “Sources told me that the security guard went over to investigate, found the room, and found Jimmy Butler drenched in sweat with practice gear on from head to toe. He was dribbling a basketball throughout his room the whole time.”
Utah Jazz All-Star center Rudy Gobert, the first NBA player to test positive for the coronavirus, in March, won't be relying on the league's anonymous safety tip line to hold others accountable within the Orlando bubble. "I don't know if someone's gonna use it, but I think it's sort of petty," said Gobert, a two-time Defensive Player of the Year. "At the same time, you want to make sure that people respect the rules.
When asked if the hotline could be a problem, Clippers coach Doc Rivers instead made light of it before saying he also understands the reasoning that the hotline is in place. "I turned in LeBron [James] yesterday. I'm turning in Pop [Spurs coach Gregg Popovich] today. I'm trying to turn all these guys in," Rivers joked. "I think it's phenomenal. We are going to be the only team left when I am done with this hotline thing. No, it's funny. I don't think it's a problem at all. I think it's good. "This is not some normal thing. COVID is obviously ... it's not only that you can get sick, but you can get other people sick, so this is very important for all of us. We want to do our jobs. So I think having a hotline, I guess that is what they are calling it, I guess that is important."
Rumors have swirled since before the Dallas Mavericks departed Dallas for the NBA bubble at Disney World whether the whole team would arrive and participate in the league’s restart. Most recently, the internet has been buzzing about whether Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is with the team. Wednesday afternoon, head coach Rick Carlisle addressed MKG’s situation during a press conference with the media. “We’re working to get him here logistically,” Carlisle said, “and we hope that that happens soon.”
Mike Trudell: Markieff Morris has not been with the Lakers in Orlando due to an excused absence. The reserve forward is expected to join the team in the bubble soon, however.
Marc Berman: Gregg Popovich on Zoom tonight ripped Texas governor for his handling of the coronavirus spike, saying the top politicians in Texas are “cowards” and feels much safer in Orlando bubble. “The bubble is not Florida,” Popovich said.
Taylor Rooks: For 24 hours, I thought I had COVID-19. I was told that I was positive for coronavirus. It was an incredibly scary day. I’m okay, it was a false positive. I explain more here. Thankful to the NBA for taking the necessary steps here in Orlando.
Brandon Rahbar: Gallinari says he wouldn’t change anything about the bubble set up. “I’ve been able to travel around the world. I’ve seen bad situations. Our set up is great. There is nothing to complain about.”
Salman Ali: James Harden will need to get a couple of negative COVID-19 tests and spend 36 hours in isolation before he's cleared to practice with the team.
Mike Trudell: KCP said the bubble has been good for him. “I’m not a big complainer.” At home, he’s with his two kids and wife, chilling at home, sometimes playing video games or on his laptop. He typically lays low, and is good focusing on basketball.
Ohm Youngmisuk: Doc Rivers jokes about the NBA bubble hotline: "I turned in LeBron yesterday. I turned Pop in today. I am trying to turn all these guys in... we are going to be the only team left when I am done... No, I don't think it's a problem."
Andrew Greif: Asked whether Landry Shamet, Ivica Zubac or Marcus Morris have arrived on campus yet and begun the quarantine process, Doc Rivers said he doesn't know. The Clippers do have JaMychal Green available for practice today, for the first time.
Ohm Youngmisuk: Clippers' JaMychal Green says his grandmother passed away and that delayed his arrival to Orlando.
Mike Trudell: Why will people follow rules in the bubble? “Everybody here wants to play,” said KCP. “That’s my mindset. I’m going to follow every rule that’s here."
Marc Stein: A knock on the heavy brown door of my first-floor hotel room at Walt Disney World finally came Sunday night just before 10 p.m. This was the all-business knock I was waiting for. Three technicians from BioReference Laboratories wearing white coats and face shields, and accompanied by an N.B.A. representative, had arrived to administer my first-ever coronavirus test.
Marc Stein: According to the rules in the N.B.A.’s corner of Disney World, no one is allowed inside the 314-square-foot room I am restricted to through Sunday. So I slid a chair up to the doorway to receive a swab of each nostril and my throat. The sticks were snapped and placed in a tube, then stored in a crate to take back to the lab. The swabs, roughly five hours after I checked in, took less than a minute.
Closer to 20 journalists, compared to the anticipated 10, have been approved to enter, a reflection of the considerable curiosity surrounding 22 teams living and playing at a single site without fans. That includes journalists from The Associated Press, The Athletic, The Boston Globe, The Dallas Morning News, The Los Angeles Times, Southern California News Group, Sports Illustrated, USA Today, The Washington Post and The New York Times. A like number of journalists from the league’s official media partners, ESPN and Turner, is also expected, including one reporter from each who was allowed to arrive early to complete their quarantines before teams started arriving on July 7: Malika Andrews (ESPN) and Chris Haynes (Turner/Yahoo).
Tania Ganguli: Fourth COVID test administered just now. Will have three more after this. These nice people are my closest human contact this week, which is why they have so much protective gear on.
Brad Townsend: The Mavs' practice gym today was adjacent to one of the playing venues. Rick Carlisle says he peeked around the curtain and was blown away by the way the arena is set up. "Very cool." Discussed how there will be "virtual fans" and noise.
Brian Lewis: Jamal Crawford cleared quarantine and practiced today for the #Nets. #NBA @Jamal Crawford
Malcolm Brogdon is back with the Pacers. The Pacers point guard practiced Wednesday in Orlando and coach Nate McMillan said he's in good shape ahead of the NBA restart on Aug. 1. "I thought today he looked really out there with our group," McMillan said. "It was good to have all of our guys together going through a practice today. He looked pretty good."
“I come out of my hotel room. I’m familiar with the air here, the humidity,” Rivers said. “It feels like I’m home, but I’m not home. It’s been really weird. “I’m losing my mind a little bit. I’m just staying focused because I’m so excited to be here playing basketball. This has been very difficult for me. I’m 20 minutes from my home. I just got a home here in Orlando. It’s where my girl is, my family is, my son is right down the street from there. It’s been hard knowing they’re 20 minutes away. So close, yet so far.”
While the Pacers have been more than generous with Oladipo by allowing him to govern his recovery from right knee surgery, the NBA, a league source told IndyStar, has taken issue with the optics of a seemingly healthy player sitting out while in the “bubble” as other players such as Spencer Dinwiddie, DeAndre Jordan, Trevor Ariza, Avery Bradley and Davis Bertans have forfeited salary by opting out because of COVID-19, child care issues and injury concerns.
A league source told IndyStar two months ago that Oladipo wouldn’t participate in the restart. That changed, however, as the opt-in date grew closer. Another league source said he’d “definitely” play. That quickly shifted again when Oladipo voiced concerns about re-injury while McMillan and president Kevin Pritchard gushed over how good he looked in individual workouts when the team regrouped in Indianapolis following a four-month stoppage.
Spending an extended stretch away from home during the summer, while unprecedented as part of an NBA season, isn’t exactly a foreign concept for those with USA Basketball experience like the Olympics and the World Cup. Plenty of players and coaches at Walt Disney World see parallels between those experiences and this challenge. “I had that opportunity to work with the Olympic team and preparation was very similar to what we’re going through here,” said McMillan, who was an assistant under Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski on the USA Basketball staff from 2006 through 2012. “Having a training camp, basically, at a hotel and getting ready for a 45- to 60-day season. … We’re going to have three scrimmage games, eight so-called regular season games and then we’re in the playoffs so it’s very similar to preparing to play for the gold medal.”
Pacers center Myles Turner was with the U.S. team that competed in China last summer at the World Cup, a group that spent more than seven weeks together between training camp, exhibition games in the U.S. and Australia, and then the tournament itself. The Pacers have clinched a playoff spot, so they’re assured of spending at least seven weeks at Disney this summer. It’s another long summer for Turner, and he’s not complaining. “There is a lot of similarity in how it’s set up, but for me personally, I just think that it’s a great time for everybody to kind of stay focused,” Turner said. “There’s no distractions. Everybody’s locked in and focused. So, there’s really not a lot that can go wrong in a basketball sense.”
Players who have been through the World Cup or Olympic grinds agree that there’s a level of familiarity with this sort of schedule and situation. “It helps tremendously,” said Toronto guard Kyle Lowry, who was part of the U.S. gold-medal-winning team at the Olympics in 2016. “In Rio it was a lot more strict and tighter because we were living on a boat. That experience was pretty awesome. … But living on a boat, to be in a smaller room and not have as many amenities it really kind of prepared me for this.”
Amid concerns among teams over the potential for false positives impacting players returning from COVID-19, the NBA on Wednesday updated its protocols to add an antibody test for players and staff who have recovered from the virus, according to a memo obtained by ESPN. Because people who have recovered from COVID-19 can still have dead virus cells in their system be detected by tests, the league has now included the antibody test as part of its protocol for players and staff returning from the virus, according to the memo, obtained by ESPN.
As the league has resumed play inside the league's bubble at Walt Disney World Resort, teams have worried about the potential for prominent players to have false positive tests -- particularly during the postseason, sources told ESPN. On a recent call with the league's general managers, the question of what would happen if a false positive test takes place on a game day was raised to the league, sources said. At least one player who contracted COVID-19, recovered and was subsequently cleared to travel to Orlando had registered several negative tests in Orlando and cleared quarantine upon arrival but later tested positive, sources said.
In the latest ‘What's In Your Glass,' comedian and actor Mike Epps joined Melo to talk basketball, movies, the state of the world, how basketball has evolved, and how Melo has returned to play feeling good. Epps is just like the rest of us: He wanted to know what the vibe has been like in the Orlando Bubble. "We can't call it a bubble no more, it's a campus," Melo joked.
It's like a Summer League... It's like a big ass AAU tournament down here. It's like an upscale AAU tournament down here. But, it's good because everybody – all the players is all on one campus. Even though we can't go to other hotels at the moment, but we making it due. The first couple of days was tough because we had to quarantine… But now you practicing, you playing, you're going through the day-to-day grind. -- Trail Blazers veteran Carmelo Anthony on what it's like in the Orlando Bubble
Anthony mentioned that having a four-month layoff due to the global pandemic actually has him feeling a certain way: Your body feels fresh. Your body and your mind feel fresh. Other than that everything else is – it is what it is… As long as you keep working and doing what you're doing, just sharpening your craft, you've got to keep your mind and your body right at the end of the day. -- Carmelo Anthony
Ira Winderman: Breaking Heat news from Disney quarantine from Erik Spoelstra, "Staff's been doing a lot of fishing." Says he plans to join in soon.
The policy will protect the NBA from interruptions like weather-related or structural problems that prevent buildings from operating. It will also cover incidents involving bodily injuries and property damage resulting from services and operations, CNBC has learned. But the policy will not cover the cost of expenses associated with the bubble, which amount to more than $150 million. The estimated to cost for a league-approved individual to attend the bubble is $60,000, according to a person will knowledge of the NBA’s planning.
If the NBA insured a league event in normal times, like a general policy valued at $100 million, it would pay a premium of roughly $500,000 or more, experts tell CNBC. But during this pandemic, premiums have increased.
Lori Nickel: Brook said that these are unique and abnormal circumstances. But the team chemistry is so good with the @Milwaukee Bucks that they want to hang out with each other / doesn’t sound like guys need to reach out to other guys in the week during downtime. 2
Lori Nickel: Of course, BroLo are the leading sources for the bucks on giving advice of where to go out and where to go on campus. Working with an NBA liaison to check for availability. The twin brothers - as we all know - are huge @Disney fans
Lori Nickel: Most interesting to me was Donte DiVincenzo saying he wouldn’t use that NBA hotline/snitch line. He trusts the NBA, the protocols and the self policing and really doesn’t want to get into reporting on other teams. Florida is of course seeing high numbers of hospitalizations 4
J. Michael Falgoust: Oladipo on why he made an announcement prematurely that he was out: "I didn't feel as if I would be capable of playing. I was always going to come to the bubble." #Pacers
J. Michael Falgoust: Oladipo on discussions with league about his getting paid if he doesn't play in Orlando: "I haven't talked to them. I don't have any control of that. I'm just focused on my knee" #Pacers
Pete Pranica: Gorgui Dieng says he's very confident with how the @Memphis Grizzlies are playing in camp. He also thinks the bubble is safer than the country at large.
Marc J. Spears: Blazers hosting a 30th birthday party in the bubble to celebrate @Damian Lillard big milestone tonight. Sources say there will also be other bubbles in Cristal as well as Crown Royal and the bday menu includes such favorites as lemon pepper wings and short ribs.Others surprises too
Tim Bontemps: Nate McMillan says Victor Oladipo has been clear from the beginning that he wanted to come to Orlando and continue working with the team. "That's the plan, and that's what we're doing now."
J. Michael Falgoust: McMillan on Oladipo: "He's been looking good. He's been working extremely hard ... He's a guy that just puts in his work, his time. ... He's been working hard." #Pacers
Marc Stein: Orlando's James Ennis III disclosed that he recently tested positive for the coronavirus but has recovered and, after gaining clearance, practiced today for the first time with the Magic
Josh Robbins: On a Zoom call with reporters, James Ennis III said he was the Magic player who tested positive for COVID-19. Ennis said he had a headache for 4-5 days and some nausea. Ennis said he's feeling well, and he practiced today for the first time in the bubble.
The Suns denied the notion that Oubre was out for Orlando as previously reported and spoke on him continuing to rehab back from meniscus surgery in early March. Oubre spoke for the first time since the surgery on Tuesday and said from Orlando his status is not up to him. “Health status is up to the staff,” he said. “I feel fine.
Head coach Monty Williams elaborated on where Oubre’s currently at. “There’s so many benchmarks for a guy like that coming off of a surgery,” he said Tuesday. “He’s totally healed, his body looks great but there’s still some things he would have to be comfortable doing. We would have to be comfortable based on our medical staff giving him the OK. But he looks great.”
Malika Andrews: Per league memo to teams obtained by ESPN, the NBA is addressing concerns about players who have recovered from COVID and continue to test positive. Teams have been concerned about false positive tests possibly sidelining healthy players.
Josh Robbins: Orlando Magic guard Markelle Fultz has arrived at the NBA bubble at Disney and has begun his quarantine, a league source said. Fultz did not join his teammates when they entered the bubble on July 7 in order to attend to a personal (non-COVID) matter.
So it should come as no surprise that the Miami Heat forward didn’t let quarantining in his hotel room upon arriving at the NBA’s Disney World bubble get in the way of his practice routine. TNT and Yahoo’s Chris Haynes reported that last week, when there was a complaint about thumping coming from one room in the Heat hotel. When security found the room and knocked on the door, there was “Jimmy Butler, drenched in sweat with practice gear on from head to toe. He was dribbling a basketball throughout his room.”
Marc Stein: James Harden has arrived at Walt Disney World tonight and will have to isolate and register three consecutive negative tests for COVID-19 before he is cleared to join the Rockets
Mark Berman: Mike D’Antoni on James Harden arriving at the NBA’s 2Bubble in Orlando: “Really happy that James is here. Now we’ll just wait for the team to be completely whole with Russell (Westbrook) & Luc Mbah a Moute (arriving).Good 1st step.I’m just really glad that James is here.” #Rockets
Eric Woodyard: Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert on using anonymous hotline: “I don’t know if someone’s gonna use it.” He says it’s more about respect and making sure guys socialize while respecting each other’s space.
Eric Woodyard: Jazz guard Mike Conley also says guys have went through enough training in regards to safety precautions in the Orlando bubble, so he hasn’t thought about using the anonymous hotline. “At this point, we’ve got to trust each other,” Conley says.
Royce Young: Blazers guard Anfernee Simons on the so-called "snitch line" getting some recent tips: "Me personally, I didn't see anything. So I'm not going to tell on nobody ... If I see somebody trying to sneak out I wouldn't say anything."
So, how is the former Warriors forward approaching the "bubble" at Disney World? "It's not really a different type of environment," the 2015 NBA Finals MVP said Saturday after practice. "The majority of the league comes from low to middle-class income families. We played in worse conditions. Obviously the NBA and every team should be giving all the players all the resources they need. "It's just getting the mental side right, making the most of the moment and putting forth the mental and physical effort to keep our game in a healthy place ... we're doing it as a collective. We're competing on the court, but hopefully the players are getting a chance to interact and keep each other in a good mental space."
Marc Stein: I am scheduled to be here until early September, before a handoff to my colleague Scott Cacciola. Of course, as we all know by now, planning in 2020 tends to be futile. So especially in these early stages, for me as much as anyone, bubble life is probably best approached day-to-day.
Marc Stein: According to the rules in the N.B.A.’s corner of Disney World, no one is allowed inside the 314-square-foot room I am restricted to through Sunday. So I slid a chair up to the doorway to receive a swab of each nostril and my throat. The sticks were snapped and placed in a tube, then stored in a crate to take back to the lab. The swabs, roughly five hours after I checked in, took less than a minute. I took my second coronavirus test Monday night, nearly 24 hours later, even before I had a result confirmed from the first. But the end goal remains unchanged: I need a week’s worth of negative results from daily tests to gain full entry into what everyone refers to as the N.B.A. bubble — even though league officials, as Commissioner Adam Silver put it last week, acknowledge that it is better described as a campus because it is by no means “hermetically sealed.”
Mark Medina: Luke Walton's message to Richaun Holmes for leaving the bubble: "There are strict rules and we know what they are. If we mess up, it doesn't just affect the individual, it affects the whole group. Hopefully we learned our lesson once, and it doesn't happen again."
May 19, 2022 | 12:59 am EDT Update
Jones told Burns & Gambo on Wednesday that he believes Deandre Ayton will be back with the Suns next season. “Deandre had an amazing season and he’s progressed every year and improved every year,” the GM said. “He’s been here and so he’s a big part of what we do. His future with us is something we will address at the proper time which is in the future. He’s a free agent and I’ve said all along, he’s about the same things we’re about which is winning. We’ll address it at the proper time.”
On possible supermax deal for Devin Booker and rookie extension for Cam Johnson. If Booker makes All-NBA this year, he’ll be eligible for a four-year deal worth $211 million while Johnson is up for a rookie extension heading into his fourth NBA season: James Jones: “That’s a part of the business. As your team improves, typically your payroll increases. We’re focused on improving the team and those guys, they deserve the credit. They deserve the accolades and the financial rewards that come with being good players and productive players. It doesn’t preclude us from doing anything. We’re not talking about a luxury tax issues or avoiding those things. That’s not something that’s going to prevent us from continuing to build this team and keep this team together.”
“Had a great year, just one of those nights,” said O’Neal as Ayton finished in Sunday’s Game 7 against Dallas with a career playoff-low five points on 2-of-5 shooting. “Phoenix had a great year, just one of those nights. This is a classy organization. This is a classy team. Can’t say bad things about them. They played hard. Again, even great players have one of those nights.” O’Neal, and fellow TNT NBA analysts Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley discussed Ayton’s future with the Suns after the top overall seed was eliminated by the Dallas Mavericks in Sunday’s Game 7 in Phoenix. “You’ve got to re-sign Ayton,” Barkley said.
“(McGee) played well, he was a great addition to the team, but it all hinges on Deandre Ayton,” Barkley said. “It’s him and Booker. They are the guys going forward. Chris is going to be 38 (years old). He’s going to get the ball to the right person, but it’s time for Booker and Ayton. You can’t have a bad game like they did. Chris, he had a tough night, but Ayton and Booker, they’ve got to play well.”
Once Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson slowed down, caught their breath and stopped rushing shots, the Splash Brothers got on a roll that proved too much for Dallas to stop. Especially because Andrew Wiggins worked end to end to make sure Luka Doncic couldn’t get going. Curry had 21 points and a game-high 12 rebounds, Golden State held Doncic in check and the Warriors beat the Mavericks 112-87 on Wednesday night for a 1-0 lead in the Western Conference finals. “Just make him work, that was the main thing,” Wiggins said.
Doncic scored 20 points but shot just 6 for 18 and 3 of 10 from deep. He made back-to-back 3-pointers late in the first half to get his team within 54-45 at the break, but Curry and Thompson heated up and helped the Warriors pull away in the second half. “A great job. That’s it,” Doncic said. “They did a great job.” Jalen Brunson scored 14 points but missed all five of his 3s for the surprising Mavs, who stunned the top-seeded Suns in a 123-90 thumping in Game 7 on Sunday in Phoenix.
“They did a really good job. Wiggins picking him up full court,” Mavs coach Jason Kidd said. “They went box-and-one, they went zone. We understood coming into the series that we were going to see that. We’ll go back and look at the video and see what we can do better.” Stopping Doncic, who was averaging 31.5 points in the playoffs, is the tall task this time after the Warriors already handled two-time reigning MVP Nikola Jokic of Denver in the first round, then Ja Morant early last series before his knee injury. “I thought Wiggs was fantastic,” coach Steve Kerr said. “Doncic is as difficult a cover as there is in this league. … It’s important to make him work. He’s so good. Any great player in the league you’re trying to limit the damage that they do.”