August 8, 2020 | 9:01 am EDT Update
How about Alvin Gentry and the New Orleans Pelicans? Executive VP David Griffin and Pelicans ownership have a decision to make with a year left on Gentry’s contract, sources said. Consider two relationships Griffin has back to his front-office days in Cleveland and Phoenix, respectively, if there’s a change in New Orleans: LA Clippers assistant Ty Lue and Los Angeles Lakers assistant Jason Kidd, sources said.
The NBA has told teams that the plan remains to start on Dec. 1, but pushing back that date would require a level of confidence that a delay would ultimately result in the reopening of arenas to the public. If so, the NBA would be willing to hold back the start — perhaps even months. An opening night of Martin Luther King Jr. Day — Jan. 18 — is a consideration. February and March are realistic too if a combination of vaccines, therapeutics and rapid-response testing for COVID-19 could contribute to the possibility of public gatherings.
There’s hope for vaccines, but the league has prepared teams for the reality that mass distribution would be unlikely for a full year, sources said. For now too there’s a skepticism about the reliability of rapid-response testing. They’re hopeful that advances in the technology could facilitate ways to get fans into arenas — even if it means less than capacity. Teams are already modeling options that include a few thousand fans to buildings filled closer to capacity.
The NBA will consider playing games in practice facilities that are more cost effective and more easily repurposed for television, sources said. Another idea: What if some markets could house fans, but others can’t? That has opened a conversation about neutral-site games. NBA teams could move operations to other league cities — or more likely, non-NBA markets — that could allow for paying customers.
For now, here’s one idea on the league’s whiteboard, sources said: If the NBA believes it can significantly push back the start of the season to buy time on getting fans back into arenas, they’ve brainstormed the idea of a month-long Olympic break reminiscent of how the NHL has handled the Winter Olympics.
Were those teams chasing the Western Conference’s play-in tournament thrilled with the Utah Jazz’s decision to sit four starters with injuries and rest center Rudy Gobert in a loss to the San Antonio Spurs? Among teams trying to catch the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth seed, they were somewhere between displeased and livid, sources said. The Jazz violated nothing of the league’s resting rules with Gobert, and properly documented injuries to four more starters, but the optics of the starting five sitting out in an eminently winnable game against the Spurs were harsh.
Is the Orlando bubble a possible destination for the eight teams left out of the restart to run offseason training camps once the first batch of 22 teams are eliminated? The NBPA has no interest in that idea, sources said. It’s a non-starter. The inevitable solution for the eight teams left out of Orlando: The NBA and NBPA agreeing upon voluntary workouts in the team facilities, sources said. The NBPA won’t agree to mandatory reporting for players on the eight teams outside of the restart but will eventually allow it on a voluntary level, sources said. Several of the teams are frustrated and angry over how far they feel they’re falling behind the teams in the bubble, and are aggressively voicing that to the league office.
Grizzlies star rookie Ja Morant, meanwhile, awoke Friday in a terrible mood. It was his daughter Kaari’s first birthday and he, of course, would not be there to celebrate. He, like Pop, is in the bubble. “I talked with my parents and told them it was probably one of the toughest days of my life, not being able to be at my daughter’s first birthday party,” Morant said.
On Friday, Patty Mills did not play. He is not injured, but is sitting games out intermittently so younger players can get a chance, according to a team official. LaMarcus Aldridge is out for the season after shoulder surgery. DeMar DeRozan, who turned 31 on Friday, scored 13 points. Marco Belinelli returned after missing the last three games with a sore foot.
Olympiacos Piraeus announced that forward Kostas Papanikolaou tested positive for COVID-19. Papanikolaou was found to be carrying the coronavirus during the testing ahead of the team’s preseason preparation.
Sens. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., wrote to the commissioner of the NBA on Thursday, demanding answers over the organization’s relationship to a basketball training camp in the Xinjiang region in China — and accusing the organization of having misled lawmakers. In the letter, dated Thursday, the senators say “it is our understanding that the NBA has not been forthcoming with members of the Senate regarding questions surrounding the NBA’s relationship with the Xinjiang basketball academy.”
August 8, 2020 | 4:02 am EDT Update
We’re a ways off from next season, but league sources have told me that the NBA is looking at options that include creating regional bubbles, should the COVID-19 pandemic still prevent normal business in the fall. Teams would report to a bubble for short stints—around a month—which would be followed by 1-2 weeks off. Ideally, the NBA would like to play an 82-game schedule that starts in December. A December start would allow the league to end the season in late June, putting the NBA back on a normal schedule and, importantly, not compete with the Olympics next summer. The players union is expected to take issue with that, preferring teams, particularly those making deep playoff runs, have more time off.
The NBA could reportedly delay the start of next season – currently planned for Dec. 1 – if fan attendance becomes foreseeable. How long would the league wait? Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times: one plan includes starting in March if the NBA feels they can get fans in the arena by then, as well as not lose personnel and viewership to the Summer Olympics.
For the Heat, COVID-19 hasn’t been an issue since Derrick Jones Jr., Bam Adebayo and Kendrick Nunn returned after testing positive for the virus in June while in Miami – something each of them subsequently disclosed. (Nunn is now out for other reasons, as detailed below.) But that doesn’t mean there haven’t been some behind-the-scenes glitches. According to a league source briefed by a member of the Heat’s traveling party, at least four Heat players have had some uneasy moments or been ensnared in COVID testing glitches, with the Heat and the players not at fault for any of those.
Multiple Heat players have received inconclusive test results or false positives, according to the source. Those players have subsequently tested negative in each of two additional tests and were permitted to join the team for practice after those two additional tests.
Heat guard Kendrick Nunn will miss Saturday’s game against Phoenix for personal reasons and has left the NBA bubble, according to multiple sources. Erik Spoelstra did not mention any issue with Nunn during a Zoom session earlier in the day. Nunn – who previously confirmed he tested positive for COVID-19 in June – has left the bubble for reasons unrelated to COVID-19, according to a source. He’s expected back soon, according to another source, but it’s undetermined how many days he would be required to quarantine when he returns.
Durant, who didn’t play at all this 2019-20, said he’d like to see a panel of ex-coaches or ex-players involved in choosing awards moving forward. “To me, if you’re averaging 30 points a game, you’ve gotta be one of the 15 best players in the league,” Kevin Durant said about Bradley Beal’s All-NBA case during an interview on Elite Media Group’s Play For Keeps Podcast (via SNY). “That’s hard to do. I know the pace and more shots up and it’s somewhat easier to do (in today’s game) but it’s still hard to average 30.”
“In between games I got three texts from Michael…saying, ‘I have to be better, I can do better, stay with me,’ all those things,” Malone explained. “I said, ‘Michael, I’m not going anywhere. I’m gonna stay with you. You’re a hell of a young player and you’re gonna continue to grow.’” “I just told him that I could bring a lot more,” Porter said of the texts he sent Malone. “I didn’t bring the energy, I didn’t bring the effort and enthusiasm last game, and that can never be the case.” “I just told him that I know that, and especially with Jamal and Gary and Will out, I gotta be a guy that steps up and kind of takes on a role,” Porter added. “So I told him I understand that, and it would not happen again.”
Joel Rush: “He’s young, he’s gonna learn the game, he’s gonna learn the calls, he’s gonna learn everything, you know. He’s a big target for me. I really like to play with him. He’s a really good shooter, he’s attacking the glass, he’s a talented player.” -Nikola Jokic on Michael Porter Jr.
At 1-4 in the NBA restart, the Kings have shown they aren’t ready for the fire and they might not be ready for prime time. “I think it starts with individual accountability, just in terms of the effort we are putting out there on a consistent basis,” veteran Harrison Barnes said following the Kings’ 119-106 loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Friday. “It’s hard to win in this league and to be consistent, you have to do that every single night.”
“Frustration is high,” Barnes admitted. “I don’t know if it’s disappointing, but it’s frustrating. Coming into this game, we knew it was more mental than physical. It was meeting force with force. It was being disciplined. It didn’t matter what scheme we had or what game plan we had if we didn’t have any effort.”
“This is kind of how the playoff games are looking like and everyone reads the scouting report,” guard Bogdan Bogdanovic said. “And there’s no real place for mistakes, those simple mistakes, turnovers, missing wide-open shots or missing layups or missing free throws. Everything is important here.”
It’s nice to hear about Jeffries’ plans for the future because sometimes it can be hard to hear him at all. He is notoriously quiet and reserved. In Stockton, Ellis would occasionally designate practices where only Jeffries was allowed to talk. He wanted the 22-year-old prospect to come out of his shell and lead with his words, not just his actions. “When I first got here, or when I first got to the league, I was pretty hesitant to speak up on anything like that,” Jeffries said. “But I feel like as time went on I spent more time with the guys and during practice I felt more comfortable.”
Duane Rankin: “It’s very disrespectful.” T.J. Warren talks on @NBAonTNT about the #Suns trading him for cash considerations. pic.twitter.com/hxZOOgPMen
The Philadelphia 76ers have no clarity on how long All-Star forward Ben Simmons will be sidelined after partially dislocating his left knee cap. For the sake of preparing his team for the postseason, however, has Sixers coach Brett Brown told his players to brace for the worst-case scenario? “No,” Brown told USA TODAY Sports following the Sixers’ 114-108 win over the Orlando Magic on Friday. “Everybody thinks different things, so I don’t want to be full of (BS) and say, ‘No, everybody thinks he’s playing tomorrow.’ People know we were just trying to play tonight knowing we didn’t have Ben and that we’re going to learn more later. But no is the short answer.”
The Miami Heat will be without Jimmy Butler for a third consecutive game Saturday against Phoenix, while Goran Dragic is getting closer to a return from an ankle injury. Erik Spoelstra said on Friday that there was “no change” in the status of Butler, who has missed two games with what the team is now officially listing as foot soreness. A source said it’s primarily the ankle that is bothering him.
Butler’s agent, Bernie Lee, told The Miami Herald on Friday: “Jimmy had his final scan yesterday. And we understand what he’s dealing with. And he’s working his butt off to get back on the floor ASAP and to be ready for the playoffs.”
Speaking of coaches, they have spoken—and polos should be here to stay. Several head coaches told me they love the new semi-casual sideline attire approved by the league for the restart. Erik Spoelstra says not only is it more comfortable, it’s more functional for coaches who move around a lot. Scott Brooks said while he was initially against it, he has enjoyed dressing down in Orlando.
I’ve been told by a “sneakerhead” source in China that Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry will soon have his own brand under the umbrella of Under Armour, just like how Michael Jordan has his Jordan Brand at Nike. His new “Curry8 Flow” is supposed to drop sometime in the Fall. I have heard both August and September as possible release time frames, so I don’t have strong intel on that.
The shoe that the NBA banned Michael Jordan from wearing 36 years ago is finally returning this weekend — but it won’t be easy to get. Italian retailer Back Door Bottega on Instagram is currently hosting a raffle for a chance to buy the Nike Air Ship Pro when it releases tomorrow. Retail images show that the premium leather upper dons the iconic black and red — or “Bred” — color scheme inspired by the Chicago Bulls, while incorporating the original duo-lacing setup seen on the midfoot. The brand has given the classic shoe a modern twist by adding its latest React foam in the midsole and the sole unit of the classic Nike Pro Circuit tennis shoe.
Still, it makes for great entertainment when they do trade barbs. And the scene was set for more entertaining moments when Green joined Barkley, Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith on Friday’s episode of “Inside the NBA” on TNT. As expected, it didn’t take long for the jokes to ensue. Early in the show, their seemingly contentious relationship was brought up, and the panel addressed it with plenty of humor. “So you started it,” Smith said to Barkley. “I never had any kind of beef. You started the beef.” “And I love the way you punked him,” Smith told Green. “I’ve seen triple-single on my Instagram too many times, man,” Green responded amid plenty of laughter. “Way too many times.”
Daryl Morey: You need to just put @ColinCowherd in the @OldTakesExposed Hall of Fame so he doesn’t take over your feed completely – he is unfair to other contestants with his consistent effort and performance
Steph Curry is not physically in Orlando for the restart to the 2019-20 NBA season. But the Warriors superstar could be making a virtual appearance in the bubble when the Dallas Mavericks take the court in the playoffs. “When they get to the first round, I might be in there and wear my Dallas uniform and make everybody go crazy,” Steph recently told CNBC’s Jabari Young.
Well-respected Kerith Burke still has her job for NBC Sports Bay Area. In Chicago, studio host Leah Rahimi was let go, with White Sox and Bulls sideline reporter Chuck Garfien reportedly taking on some of her duties. In Washington and Philadelphia, sideline reporters Chris Miller (who is also a studio host) and Serena Winters remain to cover the Wizards and Sixers, respectively.
Abby Chin: But, this isn’t goodbye just yet. When I received the news, I was offered the choice to finish out the season and I’m taking it! I’m not ready for this incredible ride to be over. I’ll see you tonight. Go #Celtics
August 7, 2020 | 10:05 pm EDT Update
Donovan Mitchell: It’s been a long five months. Surreal. Scary. Confusing. Boring. Terrifying. I don’t even know anymore. How many emotions can you fit into five months? It’s been everything. March 11, 2020. Jazz vs. Thunder. It feels like it’s one of those moments where 10 years from now people will be like, “Man, where were you when it went down?” I know everybody says it felt like being in a movie, but to actually be on the floor when the security guards came running out to shut down the NBA season … surreal doesn’t even explain it.
We knew some people were feeling sick, but it didn’t even enter our minds that somebody could have coronavirus. Back then, it was still such an unknown thing. It was something you saw on the news. It wasn’t real life, you know? So when the dudes in the Men in Black suits came running out onto the floor, my first thought was literally, O.K., there’s probably a leak in the ceiling or something. Then there’s more and more dudes in suits, and you’re like, Is the FBI swarming this building right now? They took us back to the locker room, and everybody’s phones were going crazy. Calls, not just texts. That’s when you know something’s up. Then they told us that nobody was allowed to leave, and that’s when you really know something’s up.
When we found out that Rudy had tested positive, that was a really difficult first hour. You’re thinking of everybody you came in contact with (I was just with my mom and sister in New York), you’re googling stuff (always a bad idea), you’re trying to respond to all the people who are worried about you. It was so many different emotions. But we were locked down in there for eight hours, man. There’s only so long you can be nervous. After the first hour, we couldn’t take it anymore. We shut off all the TVs and we put our phones on silent and we just tried to break the tension by talking and just enjoying each other’s company. We learned a lot about one another in that moment. And I know this is going to sound weird, but when I think back on those seven hours, it was a really important moment in my life. It was deep.
That was a really profound moment. Especially with everything that came after it. When I tested positive myself, I was in full isolation at my mom’s house in Connecticut. They put me down in the basement with a blanket and an Xbox. No windows. No fresh air. Full-on vampire mode. My mom would leave a plate of food at the top of the stairs for me, and I’d crack the door open and snatch the plate and a beam of sunlight would hit me like … I don’t even know … like I was Count Chocula or something. I was down there for two weeks, just waiting. Just hoping that I wouldn’t wake up the next day showing symptoms. And the weirdest part was that I guess I was like Patient Zero or whatever, so my mom was telling me that there were cars camped outside the house 24/7. What they were looking for, I don’t know. Meanwhile I’m down in the bunker playing Call of Duty.
A large table sat in the middle of a conference room at the law offices of Gray, Plant, Mooty and Mooty and Bennett. On one side, a financially stressed owner of the Minnesota Timberwolves with roots in Minneapolis’s hardscrabble North side sat with a cadre of lawyers and accountants, holding a No. 10 envelope in his hand with a number written on it.
On the other side of the table, a former state senator from rural Minnesota who had built an empire thanks to business success in printing and agriculture stared right back at him after handing over an 8 1/2-x-11 sheet of paper with his offer to buy the team. After listening to his accountants and attorneys tell him there was no way they could consider an offer presented in such simplistic form, the beleaguered Marv Wolfenson stood up, walked around the table and approached an opportunistic Glen Taylor. Wolfenson extended his hand to accept the offer. Taylor stood up and accepted. Having just spent $88 million to rescue the Timberwolves from extinction, Taylor just had one more question. “Does somebody have the phone number for the NBA?”
A few weeks before it became known that he is seriously exploring selling the Timberwolves, Taylor reflected on the chaotic process that thrust him into the owner’s chair back in 1994. It is a wild tale filled with visions of runaway horses, vampire sightings and white-knuckle negotiations that prevented the team from hopping a riverboat down to New Orleans just five years after the league made a celebrated return to the Twin Cities. And it all came together for the famously frugal Taylor during a meeting in his hotel room with the 32-year-old chief of staff for Commissioner David Stern, a lawyer by the name of Adam Silver. “It was one of those rooms where when you open the door, it just barely makes it past the bed,” Silver said with a chuckle. “It was a very small room.”
The twists and turns are befitting a franchise that has spent the vast majority of its 32 years of existence trying to find its way. That lifespan — at least in Minnesota — would have been a lot shorter had Taylor not emerged out of nowhere to hammer out a deal during a breakneck week of negotiation, and without speaking to a single soul at the league office. After shaking hands with Wolfenson in that law office, Taylor returned to his hotel room, dialed a general number for the NBA and a receptionist picked up. “I said, ‘I just bought the Minnesota Timberwolves and I would like to speak to somebody about that,’” Taylor said. “She laughed just like you just did. Like, what are you talking about?”
Fifteen minutes later, Taylor received a phone call from Silver. Twenty-six years later, Silver and more than a dozen others still have a clear picture of those harrowing days during the summer of ’94 when the future of the Timberwolves was hanging in the balance. Every person interviewed includes their job title at the time of the transaction. “It was a difficult situation, there’s no question, until Glen emerged and put the deal together,” Silver said in a phone call from Orlando, where the NBA is finishing out the 2020 season. “It was very unclear we would’ve been able to keep the team there. Glen saved the team in Minneapolis.”