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More on Russia-Ukraine War

Some EuroLeague players who spoke to BasketNews couldn't hide their astonishment at finding themselves unable to leave Russian clubs unrestrained. Russia began its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, more than a month ago, and has faced heavy financial sanctions.
According to Ian Begley of SNY, Jarrell Brantley, the first to leave the Tatarstan club, was sued by UNICS. Mario Hezonja, OJ Mayo, Marco Spissu, Tonye Jekiri, and coach Velimir Perasovic stayed to finish the VTB United League season. However, John Brown, Isaiah Canaan, Lorenzo Brown, John Holland, and Brantley didn't return. Per BasketNews sources, some of these players had lucrative offers to switch teams, but UNICS didn't approve these moves.
Popovich then unleashed a scathing condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The incessant images of the casualties, of the buildings leveled by bombs and of families torn apart are taking an emotional toll, he said. “I’m actually glad that stuff’s on TV,” said Popovich, a graduate of the Air Force Academy who majored in Soviet studies, speaks Russian and was a United States intelligence officer. “When things started to come on TV about Vietnam, that’s when it changed. People didn’t know what the hell was going on in Vietnam with all the lies we were told and all the atrocities all over the place, back and forth. “Here, any sane individual would be traumatized by what they’re seeing. It’s still impossible for us [to imagine]. We can’t feel what it would be like to drive your wife and daughter or son to the border and say goodbye and know you’re going to go back and die. Because the Russians are going to pull this bulls--t.”
Popovich, a 73-year-old of Serbo-Croatian heritage, did not spare American politicians, such as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, as well as specific “news” outlets that seem to be exploiting the war of countries with very different levels of firepower. “Those are the people who really make me sick,” he said. “For political or personal reasons, they’re willing to jump on the Putin bandwagon and use that. Guys like Cruz and Hawley. You can go down the list. They’re just despicable people for even thinking about saying the things they’ve said. “And then you’ve got the people at Fox News that I won’t even name. They know what they’re saying. They’re highly intelligent people. But they’re still willing to do it. They’re just lickspittles of the highest order.”
The legendary Lithuanian basketball player Arvydas Sabonis expressed his opinion as well. "I don't communicate with Russians. I chatted with Alexander Volkov, other Ukrainians. They are all out of balance," Sabonis told Rokas Pakenas of "Propaganda did not begin yesterday. Everyone got used to living well. And when it's good, it's good - what to change. We will never be able to believe these liars ever again in our lives. Pigeons of peace... A country of peace! Is there such peace here? To bomb children and free people? No words. I have no desire to communicate with them."
When Russians invaded Ukraine and started the war, many famous basketball people went publicly to address Russia's violence and aggression. The legendary Lithuanian basketball player Arvydas Sabonis expressed his opinion as well.
"I don't communicate with Russians. I chatted with Alexander Volkov, other Ukrainians. They are all out of balance," Sabonis told Rokas Pakenas of "Propaganda did not begin yesterday. Everyone got used to living well. And when it's good, it's good - what to change.
Sabonis also added: "Statistics show that 70% of people in Russia support this war. Of course, I hope this number is much lower. But the fact that my word will change little there. You cannot do much. Who understands the situation - understands it. And you will not change the opinion of others. Russia has shown the whole world that we cannot believe in this country."
What Fratello is seeing, “it’s horrendous,” he said by phone before departing with the Clippers en route to their game Friday in Atlanta, where he’ll do color commentary on the Bally Sports broadcast – and where he forged his initial connection with Ukraine. Sasha Volkov – whom the Hawks drafted in 1986 and who played for Fratello for two seasons thereafter – invited his former coach to help Ukraine establish itself as a formidable presence on the world basketball stage.
There’s a recent photo of Volkov that has circulated on social media depicting him in army fatigues with a gun at his side. To Fratello’s understanding, Volkov has been working with neighbors to protect their community outside of Kyiv from looters while also, yes, “hoping and praying that they don’t get bombed.” “I’ve talked a couple of times with him and his daughter, and they are all – I’m not sure nervous is the right word – but they are all very aware of what they say on the phone,” Fratello said. “They never know who’s listening and how they will hold it against you. “So when I talk to him, I try not to ask questions that will put him in jeopardy. The most important thing is that they’re safe. Anything more, it’s not relevant. It’s not like I can drive there and help.”
Enes Kanter Freedom believes his open criticism of the NBA is the reason he is no longer on a roster, but he clearly is not going to let that silence him. Freedom blasted the NBA and the Boston Celtics on Twitter Sunday for picking and choosing which human rights movements to support. The 29-year-old called his former team “hypocrites” for wearing Ukraine pins. Freedom said he also supports Ukraine but noted that the Celtics “begged” him to not wear anti-China sneakers a few months ago. “Who chooses whose lives are more important?” Freedom wrote. “Is there not much profit from Russia?”
Enes FREEDOM: Hypocrites! I see @Celtics coaching staff wearing Ukrainian flag pins, which I support What about Syria,Afghanistan,Uyghurs, Hong Kong,Tibet,Taiwan Why is it okay to speak up about human rights violations there but not in other countries? Is there not much profit from Russia?
Enes FREEDOM: How is it fair when I wore shoes to bring awareness about Human Rights violations around the world, @Celtics begged me to remove them and threatened to ban me, #Celtics now wear Ukrainian flag pins. Who approved this @NBPA / @NBA ? Who chooses whose lives are more important?
Ukranian Kyrylo Fesenko, the normally extremely jovial former Utah Jazz player, is about midway through a phone interview on the Russian invasion of his home country. Suddenly, he turns the tables. He starts asking the questions. “Do you know where is the closest bomb shelter for you?”
I do not. Neither did Fesenko’s family, living in Dnipro, Ukraine, until last week. “Do you know what to do when you hear the sound of an airstrike alarm?” I absolutely do not. And again, neither did Fesenko’s family until last week. “For my mom, for my stepfather, it is a new normal,” Fesenko says. “They are basically running back and forth to the bomb shelter every time that happens.”
Fesenko has been known for his relentless expression of positivity for his whole life — it’s the reason he’s beloved by Jazz fans. But the terror he’s seen on the news, the trauma he’s heard from those he loves, and the sheer senselessness of what’s going on; well, you can tell it’s affecting him.
For example, Fesenko has numerous Russian contacts, thanks to his time playing in Russia and its basketball league. From a local perspective, he overlapped with teammate Andrei Kirilenko for all four of the Ukrainian’s years in Utah. But at the moment, he’s shutting them all out. “The level of frustration and hatred in my heart right now is too high. From being civil and reasonable human being I am, I cannot speak with Russian people at this moment right now,” Fesenko said.
He continues, forcefully. You can hear it in his voice — he’s grappling with this new emotion: anger. “I need somebody to blame. I blame Russia. Yeah, of course, I blame most of all (Russian president Vladimir) Putin. But I also blame the people who are silent. The influencers who did not even say anything, I blame. I blame people for letting this bloody dictator to run freely this country into the ground. Right now, Russia is getting economically killed. I am not sure they’re going to recover from this hole for another 15-20 years.
Fighting had erupted in Ukraine. Former NBA player Toure’ Murry was still in the western city of Ternipol, Ukraine, where he played for professional basketball team BC Ternipol. He needed to get out of the country, and that wasn’t easy. Though fighting had not consumed Ternipol, he said missiles landed in a city two hours away. “It was difficult and confusing because my city was pretty far away from all the action that was going on in the beginning, but everything escalated pretty fast,” Murry told USA TODAY Sports. “I got a call from my team telling me it was pretty serious, and they had a car waiting.”
Murry got in the car on Friday but didn’t know where he was going. “There was risk of going to the Poland border and getting sent back. There was no guarantees,” Murry said. “So we took a leap of faith going through Romania. It worked out in terms of getting across the border. But going through the situation, we had no idea if we would get out.” After a 4-½-hour car ride to the Romanian border, Murry took a train to Bucharest and then flew to Amsterdam and home to Houston. That wasn’t the end of his worry. His brother, Yanick Murry, is an assistant coach with BC Budivelnyk in Kyiv, the site of an intense battle between Russians and Ukrainians. He just left the country on Sunday, fleeing to Warsaw, Poland. “His experience has been really, really tough,” Murry said. “He barely made it out.”
On Feb. 12, the U.S. ordered non-emergency employees to leave the U.S. embassy in Kyiv, and that prompted Stockton to plan his departure. “When the U.S. embassy left Kyiv, that generally means that something is imminent, or made me feel that something is imminent,” Stockton said. “As an American, that's my final security blanket. If stuff goes bad and the embassy's not here, then it's every man for himself, and you’ve got to try to find your own way out. “So when the embassy packed up and left, that was when the decision was made that we're not going to stay any longer and it's time for us to go home.”
Daniel Hackett has left CSKA Moscow, according to El Mundo Deportivo.
Hackett is the 7th player of CSKA Moscow that has left the Russian powerhouse since the war vs Ukraine has started. The athletes that have left are: Kevin Pangos, Tornike Shengelia, Iffe Lundberg, Marius Grigonis, Johannes Voigtmann and Joel Bolomboy.
After publicly displaying his support of Ukraine, Tornike Shengelia decided to terminate his stint at CSKA Moscow, according to Georgian outlet Commersant. “Toko Sengelia has not made any statement to any media outlet,” said his agent Nikos Varlas, “He is focused right now on the well-being of his family. When a decision is made regarding his future he will talk first and foremost with CSKA Moscow.”
Donatas Urbonas: The next EuroLeague meeting will be held on Monday, per BasketNews sources. Russian clubs and the EuroLeague will work on the relocation plan until then.
The Kings and visiting Denver Nuggets held a moment of silence and linked arms in a show of solidarity with Sacramento center Alex Len and his home country of Ukraine ahead of Thursday night's game. Len and Toronto Raptors wing Svi Mykhailiuk, the two Ukrainian players in the NBA this season, released a statement earlier Thursday condemning Russia's invasion of their country. "A great tragedy befell our dear homeland Ukraine," they said in a joint statement on social media. "We categorically condemn the war. Ukraine is a peaceful, sovereign state inhabited by people who want to decide their own destiny. We pray for our families, friends, relatives and all the people who are in the territory of Ukraine. We hope for an end to this terrible war as soon as possible.
Sean Cunningham: Before tonight's game tipped-off with the Kings and Nuggets in Sacramento, both teams joined arm-in-arm in support of Kings C Alex Len, whose home country of Ukraine has been invaded by Russia. Their message: "NO WAR."
Donatas Urbonas: Before Russia invaded Ukraine, EuroLeague and Belgrade agreed on a Final 4 relocation, per sources. The agreement still has to be approved by the EL teams. The official announcement might also be postponed due to war in Ukraine. The Final Four will be rescheduled as well.
Storyline: Russia-Ukraine War
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Steve Clifford officially back to Charlotte

Charlotte Hornets President of Basketball Operations & General Manager Mitch Kupchak announced today the team has named Steve Clifford head coach. Clifford, who previously served the team’s head coach from 2013-2018, returns to Charlotte, where his 196 wins ranks second in franchise history, sitting just 11 behind Allan Bristow.