More HoopsHype Rumors
November 25, 2020 | 10:41 am EST Update
In an intriguing piece of detail in this offseason, Zach Lowe of ESPN, divulged that the Detroit Pistons approached the Washington Wizards for a possible trade involving Blake Griffin and John Wall. Via Zach Lowe of ESPN: “The Pistons in recent weeks made an exploratory call to the Washington Wizards about a potential swap of Blake Griffin for John Wall, sources said, but Detroit’s real level of interest in that deal is unclear; they value Griffin, and the conversation led nowhere, sources said.”
“Some don’t really know how serious that can be,” Morant says when I ask him how hard it was to be confined in the bubble. “And, you know, a lot of people want to make jokes and stuff until they actually go through it.” Chris Paul, the head of the NBA players’ association and a 15-year veteran, said he similarly struggled with being away from his family, especially when he missed his daughter’s eighth birthday. “You ever seen on social media the thing that says, ‘Make sure you check on your strong friends’?” Paul asks me. “A lot of times, it’s the guys who may seem like they got everything together, you know? For me, shoot—I needed somebody to talk to at times.”
Storyline: Orlando Bubble
Most of the players felt the same way. On August 26, a few days after Blake’s shooting, George Hill asked for a breakfast meeting with head coach Mike Budenholzer and the rest of the coaching staff. Hill ordered the same breakfast he always did, with his double serving of bacon and a tangerine juice, and told them that he “didn’t feel comfortable playing” and wasn’t going to. “That was the last thing on my mind,” says Hill. “I didn’t want to do it.” It wasn’t just Blake who sparked his decision to sit out: It was Kyle Rittenhouse, a white 17-year-old who crossed state lines into Wisconsin and shot three protesters, leaving two dead and one seriously injured. “We let that kid go all the way back home,” Hill tells me. “They didn’t slam him on the ground. They didn’t put him in handcuffs. They didn’t do anything. They let him go all the way back to Illinois and arrested him the next day. If it was the other way around, would that have happened? I don’t think so.”
The following morning, members of the NBPA executive committee had a phone call with owners and executives across the league. Some of the most powerful people in sports were on that call, including Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan. “Michael was a calming influence,” Mavericks owner Mark Cuban tells me. “I think that was really impactful. Because in the back of everybody’s minds, people think, ‘Republicans buy sneakers too.’ And here was Michael Jordan stepping out and really connecting to players and really saying, ‘Okay, we’re all in this together. What do we need to do?’ ” It was LeBron James who had the final statement on the call. “I thought [LeBron] was really compelling,” Cuban recalls. “He talked about how we need to be able to connect to young African American kids. What really stuck with me was when he said a lot of kids where he grew up can’t afford cable and that the only way to watch our games is on cable. And we have a challenge [in addressing] those types of issues and lifting people up, so that it’s not about cable or watching the NBA on cable but more about: How do we help these kids improve where they are in life?”
Ujiri was emotional. He is intimately familiar with how it feels to be wronged by police just because you’re a Black man. The week prior, body cam footage from the 2019 NBA Finals had surfaced, showing a white police officer grabbing and shoving Masai as he tried to step on the court after his Raptors beat the Warriors for the championship. There it was, plain as day: Even a powerful Black man, the president of an NBA team, wasn’t safe from being brutalized by the police. Ujiri knew he had to show his players before they saw it elsewhere. “I cried when I showed the players my video,” he says. “And I cried when I got the video from the lawyer. And when my wife watched it [with me]… That was emotional, and I cried again.” In hindsight, Ujiri says he doesn’t regret returning to the bubble: “Honestly, Taylor, sports brings us all together. We have the ability to address these issues head-on and galvanize and hope for change and try to create that change. We have to be in that space, and the bubble was that space at that time.”
Storyline: Masai Ujiri Case
The cause of death was COVID-19, according to an announcement Monday by Hoffman Entertainment. Maas had first gone to the hospital on Nov. 15, near his home in Glenview, Ill. “It was very quick and unexpected,” Hoffman said Tuesday in a phone interview. In the days after Maas’s death, the reaction from across the sports world underscored just how deep a niche the couple had carved out. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban called the group “one of my favorite half time shows.” The Chicago Bulls and Oklahoma City Thunder were among the organizations and athletic departments that paid tribute on Twitter. Jeff Long, the athletic director at Kansas — where Quick Change became a yearly staple at Allen Fieldhouse — wrote on Twitter that he would “marvel at how they changed without a hint of how they did it! David was my personal favorite!”