NBA rumors: Isaiah Thomas to miss start of the season

Wizards guard Isaiah Thomas underwent successful surgery to repair a rupture of the radial collateral ligament of his left thumb today. The injury occurred during routine workouts on Monday. Thomas is expected to miss 6-8 weeks before returning to action.

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Isaiah Thomas is hopeful his season with the Denver Nuggets and a full 2019 summer of work become a pathway back into an NBA rotation, a full-time resumption of a career sidetracked with hip surgery. "Nobody knew what to expect with me coming off hip surgery last year, and two summers of rehab," Thomas told ESPN. "Now, I can go back to being a gym rat this summer, work on my game again, and build my body back up --- my muscle mass, my leg strength -- all like I had going into the 2017 season."
"Denver allowed me to take really as much time as I needed, to get back to 100 percent health," Thomas told ESPN. "Obviously I wanted to play and I thought I could've contributed in the regular season and playoffs, but I understood (coach Michael Malone's) decision and I think I contributed in other ways as a leader, as someone who was there to answer the questions of the younger guys. I stayed ready and prepared to play."
"Isaiah was fantastic this season," Denver's president of basketball operations Tim Connelly told ESPN. "His voice in the locker room was invaluable. I'm sure it was frustrating for him not playing as much as he hoped, but he never allowed that frustration to negatively impact his approach. We wouldn't have had the success we had this year without him."
Nearly a year after a hip procedure, Denver Nuggets guard Isaiah Thomas will make his return to play against the Sacramento Kings Wednesday, league sources tell ESPN. Thomas, who was upgraded to questionable for the Nuggets game against Sacramento in Denver, made his decision to play on Wednesday morning.
Thomas practiced five-on-five on Tuesday with the Nuggets and woke up feeling ready to make his return. Thomas, 29, would be returning to a Nuggets (38-15) team that is currently within 2.5 games game of first place Golden State in the West, and employing a bevy of talented guards.
Michael Singer: The decision to play tomorrow is up to Isaiah Thomas, I'm told. He'll work with trainers, development staff before the game and make a determination. He's been upping his live action, including taking part in 5v5 runs.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Denver guard Isaiah Thomas will decide early in the day about possibly making his season debut vs. Sacramento on Wednesday, league source tells ESPN. Nuggets have upgraded Thomas to questionable. He's been out since hip surgery last March.
One of Crawford’s strongest NBA relationships is actually with a former Celtic who was traded for Irving. Isaiah Thomas and Crawford share Seattle-Tacoma roots, and the latter is bullish on Thomas’ future as he prepares to return from his hip problem. “That’s a brother,” Crawford said. “He’ll be a monster when he comes back. I couldn’t imagine him missing one day of basketball, and with all this time he’s missed, he’s going to be a monster. I’m excited for him.”
TJ McBride: Malone refuted the new report on Isaiah Thomas looking to return before or after the All-Star break. Malone said that there is no timetable for Thomas’ return and not to believe every report.
Thomas has been gathering momentum in his rehabilitation process from hip surgery in March, and there's hope among Thomas and the Nuggets organization he could return as soon as a Feb. 11-13 homestand against Miami and Sacramento, sources said. There's strong confidence that he will return no later than the first game of the post-All Star break on Feb. 22 in Dallas, league sources said.
Harrison Wind: Michael Malone today on Isaiah Thomas and Michael Porter Jr who are both without timelines to return. On Thomas: “...I don't think any of us envisioned it going (this far into the season)...” Porter has gone through non-contact parts of practice. “The guy has a pure jump shot." pic.twitter.com/Ws3ywQZBBk
Former Celtics All-Star Isaiah Thomas has yet to play in a game for the Nuggets this season as he continues to work his way back from last March’s hip surgery. Suns guard Jamal Crawford, who has been one of Thomas’s closest friends for more than 10 years, said he speaks to the point guard every day. And as the doubters pile on — just as they have throughout Thomas’s career — Crawford said that Thomas is just using it as fuel. “It’s going to create an even bigger monster, how hungry he’ll be to get back out on that court,” Crawford said. “He loves basketball and he’d be hungry if he missed one game. The fact that he missed all this time, he’s going to be a monster.”
Last summer Thomas, who once had visions of signing a maximum-salary contract when he reached free agency, inked a one-year deal with the Nuggets for $2 million, the veteran’s minimum. “With him, nothing’s ever come easy, so why expect it now?” Crawford said. “Not that he did, but in general that’s just his journey. He’s doing well, considering everything. He’s working to get back. He loves the game as much as anybody I’ve ever been around, so I know it’s killing him.”
Thomas, who is targeting a return some time this month, has had to channel his energy into being a leader in practices, on the sidelines and in huddles. It’s also not uncommon to see him jawing with opponents during games, his suited frame teeming with animation. “I see Isaiah’s true personality at times, but I also see there are times where he’s frustrated,” Malone said. “Some guys when they’re out and they’re not playing, they’re okay with that. We have two guys in Will Barton and Isaiah Thomas, it’s killing both of those guys not to be able to play.”
Katy Winge: Talked with @Isaiah Thomas this morning about Sue Bird. I started the conversation by asking what comes to his mind when he hears that name. "A legend. A basketball legend." He also told me Bird was someone he turned to before deciding to get hip surgery. His full thoughts: pic.twitter.com/795d5b0poD

http://twitter.com/katywinge/status/1063886447369953280

https://www.instagram.com/p/BqBhjcJFU6c/?utm_source=ig_twitter_share&igshid=ggnurcceg9ho
Michael Singer: Isaiah Thomas is targeting a return from hip surgery next month. Confirming @Adrian Wojnarowski report.
Harrison Wind: Michael Malone was asked about the reported December timetable for Isaiah Thomas to return. “It’s day-by-day,” Malone said. “We haven’t put a timeline out there from the get-go….When he comes back we’re going to make sure he’s ready to come back & play and play at a high level."
Smart has no doubt that Thomas, who has spent his entire life in basketball overcoming the cynicism of the basketball establishment, will eventually succeed again, this time as a proven veteran scorer on a team of young stars. “Oh man, IT, man, he’s gonna be alright,” said Smart. “I think it’s good he’s taken this full year off to rehab that body and give himself a chance to be ready for next season. Get his mind back right, clear his mind and get focused. But this will do justice for him and he’ll come back strong.”
“Every time,” Smart said Monday morning of whether he still feels for Isaiah Thomas’ plight. “That’s a guy who put his heart and soul in every game and sacrificed a lot. The passing of his sister (Chyna), and he comes out and goes crazy. Anybody in their right mind would have understood him taking that time out to be with his family and the mourning of his sister, but that’s the type of person IT is – a competitor.
Harrison Wind: Gary Harris (left hamstring strain) is questionable for tomorrow’s preseason opener vs Lakers. Isaiah Thomas (right hip surgery), Michael Porter Jr (low back surgery), Jarred Vanderbilt (right foot surgery) are all out.
Adrian Wojnarowski: As Isaiah Thomas continues to rehab his hip, Denver is signing veteran guard Donald Sloan to a training camp deal, league sources tell ESPN. Denver has 15 guaranteed contracts.
Chris Dempsey: Isaiah Thomas continues to rehab from arthroscopic hip surgery in March. His availability for training camp next week remains in question. Here is Tim Connelly, #Nuggets President of Basketball Ops, on Thomas' status during an interview for Wednesday's Nuggets 360 on @AltitudeTV

https://twitter.com/chrisadempsey/status/1042179809709707264
Thomas, 29, admits he returned from his hip injury sooner than he would have liked – and may have cost himself millions of dollars in the process. “If I could do it all over again, I wish I would have sat out a little longer for sure,” Thomas said. “But we could always play the what-if game.”
Thomas, 29, admits he returned from his hip injury sooner than he would have liked – and may have cost himself millions of dollars in the process. “If I could do it all over again, I wish I would have sat out a little longer for sure,” Thomas said. “But we could always play the what-if game.”
More than three hours after the first day of practice wrapped up last Thursday, Isaiah Thomas was still working out on the court inside UNLV’s practice facility with Phil Handy, one of the NBA’s top player development coaches, who was recently hired by the Toronto Raptors. Despite still recovering from hip surgery earlier this year, Thomas was in Vegas and participating as much as he could, wanting to show how much it meant to him to be part of the program. It also served as yet another reminder of how much has changed for him since he exited the 2017 playoffs with a hip injury that sent his career careening in a very different direction from where it was not long ago.
"If I didn't play in the playoffs, I'd be OK," Thomas says. "I'd be getting paid. I'd be who I am -- who I was. But you couldn't tell me in that moment in time -- with everything I was going through -- that, OK, I should just sit out. I don't think Boston went about it the right way, as well. "But at the same time, it was hard for me to sit out. I just lost my sister, one of the closest people in my life. Basketball was the only thing that was going to help me out. I played until I literally couldn't play anymore. And that was not a good business decision if I was looking in the long term, but I was looking in the 'right now.' That's just what it was.
Thomas has dropped in free-agent stature almost through no fault of his own. The problem here is his hip, which front-office execs around the league fear is either pre-arthritic or already arthritic. Maybe the only way that Thomas has hurt his own free agency has been by not choosing to have hip surgery sooner during last season, when he was an All-Star and an MVP candidate for the Celtics. "It’s a red flag that he did not have surgery on it," one general manager told Sporting News. "If you have a problem that can be fixed heading into your free-agent year, you get surgery. If there is concern that you can’t fix it with surgery, that means probably there is something more wrong. It is something that, obviously, the doctors will look at closely."
"Just given the way he played last year," another NBA executive said, "I think you can’t go more than one year on him. Maybe you can do two years if you hold the second year at your option. That’s before you even get into whether he is healthy."
Off the floor, he would be subject to more swelling and increased pain. Of course, he’s gotten accustomed to hip pain in recent years. But any team that signs him this summer will protect itself against the possibility that Thomas has serious hip damage. "I think everybody likes the guy," the GM said. "You root for him. But do you want to pay him $12 or 14 million when you know you’re also paying for all the headaches that his health could give you? Someone will get him, but it’s going to be a low-risk deal."
A year ago, Thomas seemed destined to land a maximum contract in the summer of 2018. Now, he faces a questionable market in which there are already only a few teams with max slots available. Will anyone want to spend that kind of money on a player with an unproven hip? Thomas said he was unconcerned with free agency. “The results will show that the surgery only fixed it,” he said. “The world knew that I never got my labrum fixed when I was going through that and trying to heal on my own. … The decision that I made it felt like it was the best decision for me personally, individually, as a basketball player for the rest of my career.”
“I just feel like it was the right decision to do this to fix the problem,” Thomas said, “which I never solely fixed. I just tried to let it heal on his own and I think I did the best I possibly could while doing that. “Now the problem is fixed and (I’m on) the road back to 100 percent.”
Ohm Youngmisuk: Isaiah Thomas is here at Staples with the Lakers for the first time since hip surgery. He's walking with the aid of one crutch but in good spirits.
Miami Heat center Kelly Olynyk said he reached out to former Celtics teammate and two-time All-Star Isaiah Thomas before he underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair his right hip Thursday in New York. “I played with him for three years,” Olynyk said. “Unbelievable dude. He helped us immensely. He’s just been in a real tough situation. It’s been a tough year especially at the time of his career when things were looking so bright.”
“I don’t know what will happen in terms of [Isaiah Thomas'] contract, but he deserves to make money in this game,” said Olynyk, who signed a four-year, $50 million deal with the Heat this summer. “He’s brought a lot to the game, brought a lot to that city in Boston. Anywhere he goes, he gives his heart and soul to the game of basketball. Last year, [during our playoff run] we didn’t know it, but he was sacrificing his own career for everybody in that city. No one knew that at the time.
Kelly Olynyk on Isaiah Thomas: “If you look back a year now, he literally sacrificed his career, his earnings, everything for that stretch. And then to get traded and get traded again and now to have surgery, I don’t know if he has any regrets or looks at it a different way, but you just wish him the best. Good people deserve good things in this world and hopefully it comes for him.”
So what’s next? There are only a handful of teams with real cap space this summer and even fewer where Thomas makes sense. The Sixers will have room — they also have Markelle Fultz. The Mavericks have room. But there’s Dennis Smith, too. Chicago and Atlanta are rebuilding and make no sense for a near-30-year-old point guard coming off a brutal season. “No one is going long there [with a deal], in all likelihood,” former Cavs GM David Griffin told Yahoo Sports. “[The hip] is a very significant factor. His whole game is predicated upon quickness and creating shot separation. If he can’t do that, he is a small non-defender.”
Ryan Ward: #Lakers will provide an update on Isaiah Thomas after his surgery. Unfortunate turn of events for the vet who was hoping to make an impression before hitting free agency
Bill Oram: Isaiah Thomas will not rejoin Lakers for Wednesday’s game against Dallas. Will miss his third straight game with hip soreness.
Mike Trudell: Isaiah Thomas is not with the Lakers today, as he is going to New York to evaluate options for his hip. He missed last game due to soreness in the hip, and was ruled out of tonight’s game previously.
Thomas, meanwhile, estimated he’s at about 75-80 percent as he continues to work his way back from that hip injury. A hindered Thomas, coupled with an injured-and-absent Love, could spell disastrous for a Cavs team that will fall to fourth in the East if they lose to Miami at home on Wednesday. 20. “I don’t have anything I used to have right now and I know I will at one point, but it’s just a process that I gotta really be patient with myself,” Thomas said. “Set small goals to reach, because coming back I just want it all right now. It’s just not realistic for anybody that’s been out as long as I have.”
Thomas made his Cleveland Cavaliers debut Tuesday, coming off the bench to score 17 points in 19 minutes in a win over the Portland Trail Blazers. And he'll make his first start with the Cavs on Saturday, taking over the spot that Jose Calderon filled as a stopgap solution, when Cleveland plays the Orlando Magic. His minute restriction will be loosened, if only incrementally.
A source told ESPN that Thomas would be held to 8-to-12 minutes in his debut. "I know it's going to take time at first and we got to go through the steps of going out there and playing in the game and figuring those things out but once I get comfortable then all the restrictions got to be off soon," Thomas said.
Isaiah Thomas can envision his emotional return to TD Garden if he’s cleared to play against his former team, the Boston Celtics, next Wednesday. But as the two-time All-Star point guard found out days ago in Sacramento, where he pushed to make his Cavaliers debut, the team’s training and medical staff will not make a rash decision. Thomas took another step in his recovery from a torn labrum in his right hip Friday, participating in a five-on-five scrimmage against teammates at St. Helena High School. Coach Tyronn Lue said Thomas pushed the pace, got into the paint and scored on pick-and-rolls. “Really looked good,” Lue said in a conference call with beat writers.
Whenever Isaiah Thomas makes his return — and Jan. 2 at home vs. POR is the earliest that could be — he will be held out of back-to-backs, per Ty Lue. So if he plays against Portland, that means he won't play in Boston the next day. Also, whenever he returns he'll be on a minute restriction.
The Cleveland Cavaliers will hold a rare road practice this week for the specific purpose of having Isaiah Thomas scrimmage with his teammates in a full-court, live setting for the first time since joining the team in August. "It'll be a practice, get some shots up, cover defensive rules and principles and also scrimmage a little bit so Isaiah can get a feel and play 5-on-5," Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said before Cleveland played the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday.
Isaiah Thomas was out Wednesday in Sacramento, and coach Tyronn Lue was quick to rule him out for Saturday's game at Utah, and then hedged a bit by saying "I don't know" when asked if he was already sure Thomas wasn't playing against the Jazz.
Isaiah Thomas update: Ty Lue said that Thomas was "a little sore, but nothing serious" after his full-court scrimmage with the Canton Charge on Thursday. Thomas went through practice with the Cavs on Saturday which was mostly walk-through preparation and "a lot of shooting drills live, full court."
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May 26, 2020 | 5:47 pm EDT Update
In Cuban’s proposal, the top 10 teams from both conferences would qualify for the postseason and be re-seeded based on record. There would be two play-in matchups — either single games or a best-of-three series — pitting seeds 17 vs. 20 and 18 vs. 19. The winners would advance to play the 15th and 16th seeds for the final spots in the playoff bracket. The playoffs would then proceed with best-of-seven series.
A point Cuban emphasizes is that all but two teams — the exceptions being the Minnesota Timberwolves and Golden State Warriors — would have a mathematical possibility of qualifying for the postseason under his proposal. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Atlanta Hawks, the teams at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, are four games behind the 10th-place Charlotte Hornets. “It’s fair. It’s entertaining,” Cuban told ESPN.
May 26, 2020 | 3:25 pm EDT Update
That all changed in 2006. A couple of days before Bryant would score 81 points against the Toronto Raptors, Colangelo invited him to his office in Phoenix. The Lakers were in town to face the Suns, but Colangelo had something else on his mind: He wanted Bryant to represent the United States at the 2008 Olympics. “I knew in advance that he really wanted to be a part of U.S.A. Basketball,” said Colangelo, who had taken over as managing director of the men’s national team after its disastrous third-place finish at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens — a far cry from the standard of excellence set by Michael Jordan and the so-called Dream Team that won gold in 1992. “It was on his list of things that he wanted to accomplish, because he had never played for U.S.A. Basketball. No junior teams or anything like that. So it was important to him, and his commitment was huge.”
“I think Kobe challenged everybody,” said Jim Boeheim, one of the team’s assistants and the head coach of men’s basketball at Syracuse. “He was like, ‘I’m going to defend the toughest guy on every team, I’m going to push everyone, so just come along with me.’ And he did that from Day 1.” For Colangelo, it was a window into greatness. The foundation for all of Bryant’s feats — the 81-point game, the scoring titles, the series-clinching jump shots, the three championships he had already won with the Lakers — was his work ethic and desire. The spectacular was rooted in the mundane, in the monotony of hard labor.
At the Olympics, Bryant helped lead the way in the gold-medal final against Spain — and did it with flair. With just over three minutes remaining in a tight game, Bryant effectively sealed the win with a 4-point play. He raised an index finger to his lips to silence the Spanish fans in the crowd. A few minutes later, as the Americans celebrated on the court, Colangelo embraced the player he had once dreamed of drafting. The wait, in some ways, was worth it. “How often does someone have an objective, a goal, and have it perfectly executed?” Colangelo asked. “It was just so special.”
Storyline: USA Basketball
We spoke with Ken Goldin who tells us the previous record for the most expensive MJ game-used threads was $173k for Michael’s 1984 Team USA jersey. The uniform is pretty sick … a size 46 jersey made by Champion, with a black base and red pinstripes. It’s pretty sweet. And, get this … Goldin Auctions also tells TMZ Sports a game-used Lebron James jersey also sold recently … for $371,200!!!
During our conversation, I asked Wilt, “Since we’re in Cleveland, would you mind if I asked you a few questions about the time you almost became a Cavalier?” The 7-foot-1 Chamberlain paused, then let out a huge laugh and said, “You remember that, huh?” Wilt didn’t want to talk specifics, but confirmed the team did indeed want him to come out of retirement and play for it in November 1979. “The Cavs did want me (to return to the NBA), but they weren’t the only ones,” he said. “They weren’t the first team, nor the last, to talk to me (about playing again).” “Bulls, Cavaliers, Nets, Knicks twice, Sixers twice, Mavericks, Suns, Clippers — those are all the teams who tried to get me in the last decade,” Chamberlain said before accepting the Living Legend Award from the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association at its annual dinner in 1991.
While his contractual obligations with the Lakers prevented Chamberlain from playing for the Conquistadors in the ABA in 1974, they were no longer a roadblock to him returning to the NBA with the Cavaliers in 1979. Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss said his team would not ask Cleveland for compensation for signing Chamberlain, should it take place. “I think it would be great for the NBA if Wilt were to play and I do not want to put anything in the way of this happening,” Buss told the Associated Press on Nov. 20, 1979. “I would enjoy seeing him play again, so I am sure would thousands of basketball fans.”
“Cavs GM Ron Hrovat, a basketball neophyte, was entrusted with the responsibility of hand-delivering the contract to Chamberlain’s palatial home in Bel Air,” the Hall of Famer wrote. “Nobody was there when Hrovat arrived, so he stuck the contract in the gate. By the time Chamberlain showed up, the papers were strewn around his yard.” Which did not sit well with Wilt. “Chamberlain immediately got Albeck on the phone,” Vecsey wrote. “‘Forget it, Little Man,’ he said, using his endearing nickname for Albeck. “I can’t play for a team that handles its business like that.” Albeck lamented how the Cavaliers’ pursuit of Chamberlain concluded. “He was this close to coming back,” he told Vecsey, holding his thumb and index finger an inch apart.
May 26, 2020 | 3:13 pm EDT Update
Based on the final standings within each group, eight teams would advance out of pool play into a bracket meant to mimic the league’s normal postseason structure, sources told ESPN’s Zach Lowe. Several current postseason teams were not initially enthusiastic about that proposal, sources told Lowe. A slump in group play could result in what is currently a solid playoff team — even one slated for home-court advantage in the first round of a normal postseason — failing to advance into the eight-team tournament, while a present-day lottery team might get hot and make the final eight.
Storyline: Season Resuming?
Nets center Jarrett Allen returned to the team’s recently reopened practice facility in Brooklyn on Tuesday wearing a face mask. The team opened its facility for voluntary workouts followingGov. Andrew Cuomo’s Sunday announcement that said New York sports teams can hold in-state training camps. “I believe sports that can come back without people in the stadium, without having people in the arena, do it. Do it,” Cuomo said. “Work out the economics if you can. We want you up. We want people to be able to watch sports to the extent people are still staying home. It gives people something to do.”
ESPN’s recently aired documentary series “The Last Dance,” chronicling Michael Jordan’s final championship season with the Chicago Bulls, rekindled interest in Jordan’s long-running feud with Isiah Thomas, including how the Pistons’ star was left off the 1992 Dream Team that won Olympic gold in Barcelona. Author Jack McCallum addressed the controversy in the most recent episode of his “The Dream Team Tapes” podcast series. McCallum said Jordan brought up the issue of Thomas himself in a 2011 interview. “When they called me and asked me to play — Rod Thorn called me. I said ‘Rod, I won’t play if Isiah Thomas is on the team.’ He assured me. He said, ‘Chuck doesn’t want Isiah. So, Isiah is not going to be part of the team,’” Jordan said on the recording that McCallum played during the podcast.
May 26, 2020 | 12:13 pm EDT Update
During the years of basketball supplier talks, during which Spalding for a time was for sale, the NBA even considered buying a stake in the company. “Anything and everything was on the table. We talked about all of those things. Joint ventures, different models. Throughout the span of the last few years, we just couldn’t agree on what they looked like,” LaRocca said. There’s no bad blood, he added. “We had been exploring all of those and exploring different ways our partnership could be structured, to help grow sports,” LaRocca said. “It was never any animosity. We just had a difference of opinion.”
Wilson also will supply balls for the WNBA, NBA G League, NBA 2K League and Basketball Africa League. The NBA and Wilson haven’t disclosed the terms of the deal other than to say it’s multiyear, but it’s believed to be 10 years. The NBA’s relationship with Wilson isn’t a new one. The company provided NBA game balls from 1946, when the NBA launched as the Basketball Association of America, until Spalding took over the contract in 1983. “We didn’t spend a lot of time having to get to know them or know what they’ve done throughout the course of this history and brand,” LaRocca said.
ShotTracker and other companies are trying to land an eventual deal to have the NBA and NCAA and other leagues use their motion-tracking technology in balls and to put such sensors on players. The goal is to create customized next-gen metrics for coaching, players, medical staff, media, fans and gamblers. “Over the last several years we have worked with both Wilson and Spalding chipped balls. Wilson makes an incredible and imperceptible chipped basketball. At this time, I don’t know how this switch impacts the process for the NBA,” Ross said via email.
Storyline: Official Ball
May 26, 2020 | 11:59 am EDT Update
Groups could then be randomly drawn, with one team from each tier going into each group. The NBA is working on approaches to fairly balance the groupings, such as limiting each group to only three Western Conference teams, according to multiple front office sources. Drawings for the group stage could be televised, league sources say. The NBA draft lottery has yielded between 2.4 million and 4.4 million viewers the past 10 years on ESPN; a live drawing of the groups, even with Silver and a representative from every team broadcasting from their own homes, would do major numbers. Here’s one draw of the groups based on a random number generator:
One concern raised by team executives is the possibility of a “group of death”—a term used by soccer fans to describe groups that are far stronger than others, making it unfair for the top contenders. For example, if groups are randomly drawn, there is an unlikely-but-possible scenario that the Bucks could end up in a group with the Celtics, Rockets, Mavericks, and Pelicans—arguably the four best teams in Tiers 2 through 5. As an alternative to having groups randomly selected, multiple league sources say the league has considered allowing Tier 1 teams—the Bucks, Lakers, Raptors, Clippers—to draft their own groups. Now that would make for some drama during a selection show.
But Eastern Conference teams have already pushed back at the league for the group stage suggestion, according to league sources. The East is weaker than the West, and teams wouldn’t want to give up leverage in future discussions to reseed the postseason or remove conferences entirely. It’s a fair point, but conferences aren’t going away any time soon due to challenges and concerns with coast-to-coast travel, even under normal circumstances. In my opinion, the groups are balanced almost every single way you distribute teams from each tier. All teams in Tier 2 and 3 are relatively even, and with the exception of the Mavericks, the same can be said for Tiers 4 and 5. Any minor kinks could be ironed out if the league and the NBPA agree to fully explore this scenario.
Storyline: Season Resuming?
It’s unclear how these games would count toward existing contracts with regional sports networks (RSN) and national television stations (ESPN, TNT, and ABC). NBA teams have deals with RSNs for regular-season games; once teams hit roughly 70 games aired on their RSN, the league retains 100 percent of the revenue from those contracts. The NBA also has national deals to air a decided number of games on each network. So it’s unknown how group stage games would financially fulfill either of those contracts. But conversations with sources on both the league side and television side believe an agreement can easily be reached because of the potentially massive ratings that could follow. Group-stage games could realistically air “side by side” on both a team’s regional sports network and on national television, just like most first-round games already do.
May 26, 2020 | 11:46 am EDT Update

Damian Lillard to sit if Blazers don't have shot at playoffs

If the NBA resumes the 2019-20 season by electing to play a handful of games with all teams just to reach 70 games to fulfill regional television deals, Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard knows his next move. “If we come back and they’re just like, ‘We’re adding a few games to finish the regular season,’ and they’re throwing us out there for meaningless games and we don’t have a true opportunity to get into the playoffs, I’m going to be with my team because I’m a part of the team. But I’m not going to be participating. I’m telling you that right now. And you can put that [expletive] in there,” Lillard told Yahoo Sports on Tuesday morning via phone.
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“If we come back and I don’t have an opportunity to make the playoffs, I will show up to work, I’ll be at practice and I’ll be with my team. I’m going to do all that [expletive] and then I’m going to be sitting right on that bench during the games,” Lillard told Yahoo Sports. “If they come back and say it’s something like a tournament, play-in style, between the No. 7 and No. 12 seeds, if we’re playing for playoff spots, then I think that’s perfect.”
A potential Los Angeles Lakers-Trail Blazers matchup likely would be the most anticipated series of the first round. “I just feel like that would be the matchup people want to see,” Lillard told Yahoo Sports. “And not to say nobody wants to see Memphis, because they’re in the eighth and they’ve been in the eighth spot for a while. They’ve earned that. You can’t take anything away from Memphis. They play hard, they’re exciting and they’ve got a lot of young talent. The Lakers would have their hands full playing against them. Memphis beat the Lakers this year. Memphis would have nothing to lose. I feel like both series could be a little bit hectic for the Lakers, but I think more so us, because of the experience and where we are in our careers. Not too long ago, we played them in L.A. and obviously I had a great game and we won a close one, and in the playoffs, I’m sure they would come up with some type of game plan to not allow that to happen. But I want to compete. That’s what we want.”
May 26, 2020 | 10:53 am EDT Update
Mixed into the congratulatory comments — “nice kill brother” and “glad to see some hunting content back on your page” — are people calling him “cruel,” “disgusting” and telling him to “shoot baskets not animals.” “I don’t really pay that no attention,” Hill says. “Most people that always have something against hunting are the same ones that go out to a restaurant to eat a steak or order a burger. So I always say, if you really see all those animals [get] to your plate, you’d probably think differently about hunters. “If you’re hunting just to kill s—, you have a problem.”
Hill, 34 and envisioning life after basketball, is pouring his time away from the court into learning more about animal care, overseeing projects — expanding a lake and building a “barndominium” are currently underway — and watching over his vast, 850-acre ranch and its exotic residents. In August 2017, he purchased the massive plot of land here in Texas Hill Country, a 35-minute drive north of his family’s offseason home in San Antonio. Over time, the property has been bulldozed, sculpted and preened into a sprawling ranch.
Hill says he purchases his animals from Texas-based licensed specialty breeders. According to Lonesome Bull Ranch — an exotic wildlife breeder in Corpus Christi — zebras run anywhere from $3,950 to $5,750. The most expensive animals on Hill’s property are the female sable antelope and kudu, which cost $20,000 to $25,000 apiece. He only keeps herbivores that can nibble on the grass, roots and shrubs. Just a few have names. A baby zebra born last summer is named Suki after the Bucks’ strength and conditioning coach, Suki Hobson, who visited the ranch days after it was born. Zayden named one of the kangaroos “Hoppy.”
In Texas, owning exotic animals such as zebras and kangaroos is legal. Texas residents, according to the state health and safety codes, need a permit for “dangerous wild animals,” such as lions, tigers, cougars, leopards and cheetahs, among others. The Texas Animal Health Commission, in an email to ESPN, explained that there are only regulations for moving zebras into Texas from another state, requiring the zebras to have a certificate of veterinary inspection and a permit.
Nic credits everything his dad taught him for his ability to navigate his first NBA season, which was postponed in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. Nic agreed that with his father’s experiences to learn from, he has approached his career in the NBA differently than he might have otherwise. “He just told me, ‘It’s just a business and you need to be ready for whatever,’ ” Nic said. “People aren’t going to just hand you anything, that’s just life, sports, basketball.”
May 26, 2020 | 8:26 am EDT Update
In team-by-team virtual calls with players this week, NBPA executive director Michele Roberts said the “overwhelming” sentiment has been that “they really want to play” and resume the 2019-20 NBA season, most likely in late July at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Florida. “It’s time. It’s time,” Roberts told ESPN. “It’s been two and a half months of, ‘What if?’ My players need some level of certainty. I think everybody does.”
Storyline: Season Resuming?
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