Because sources say James, whose Lakers have as good a chance at the title as any of the 22 teams invited to Walt Disney World, believes playing in Orlando won’t deter his ability to continue inspiring change. He wants to keep making his mark off the court. He wants to play basketball. And as has always been the case, he clearly believes he can do both at the same time.
Meanwhile, Irving – who sources say approved the plan when it was agreed upon on June 5 only to reverse course later – has suddenly positioned himself as the most notable spokesman for players who don’t want the season to be resumed in Orlando. It’s worth noting, of course, that Irving was still expected to miss the rest of the season because of a shoulder surgery that took place in February. According to our Shams Charania, Irving made it clear on the call that he sees great value in bringing an end to this season: “I’m willing to give up everything I have (for social reform),” he said. The meeting’s host, as it were, was identified as “Ky Birving.”
Chris Haynes: Yahoo Sources: Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving organizes inspiring, galvanizing conference call that led to players opening up on a season restart. Irving: "If it's worth the risk [to play], then let's go do it. If not, we've got options for both ways." https://t.co/O87fYMCX8x
Still, it’s telling that only 80-plus players logged on for the call after an invitation was sent to the entire playing body. According to Charania, NBPA president Chris Paul (of the Oklahoma City Thunder) was among those on the call. “We have a responsibility to start making more conscious decisions,” the invitation that was obtained by The Athletic read. “The choices we make not only affect us as individuals, but everyone as a whole. We are fighting together to change the system and stand by one another in solidarity. Especially during these times of civil/social unrest. Because of our competitive nature, there has been an unnecessary division amongst us. In joining together we have the ability to empower one another. We reach out to you because we want all of your voices to be heard.”
For James, there are potential basketball ramifications on the Lakers front here too. According to Charania, Lakers big man Dwight Howard was among those players who spoke about possibly sitting out and Lakers guard Avery Bradley was known to be on the call and vocal as well.
Marc Stein: Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony were among the prominent voices on the Kyrie Irving-organized player call tonight, league sources Chris Paul, NBPA president, took part as well
Were you part of the call with Kyrie? Green: "No. I tried to get on the call. I couldn’t get in. I didn’t know there was one (Friday). I thought it was (Saturday). So I don’t know about a call (Friday). If there was one (Friday), I was invited to one and couldn’t get on. But somebody told me it was (Saturday). There was a call today?
So with that said, did you sense most of the guys were in favor of resuming the season as opposed to feeling there’s too much risk involved? Green: "I think most guys wanted the season to come back. I didn’t think guys were against the season coming back or wanting it to be canceled. We’re all for it and didn’t want to lose out on the season. They didn’t want to lose out on winning a championship. They didn’t want to lose out on maximizing their dollar. If we lost the season, we would’ve lost a good portion of our checks."
In the days leading up to Friday's call among dozens of NBA players to discuss the plan for the restart of the 2019-20 season, a significant number of players on an Eastern Conference playoff team expressed strong concern about playing in Orlando, sources told SNY.
According to multiple players, agents and executives, the belief is that the season is not in serious peril — not yet, at least. But fueled by several concerns, perhaps most prominently that a return to play would serve as a distraction from the Black Lives Matter movement and steps toward racial equality and police reform, there are players considering the possibility of not returning when the season reconvenes.
Other players have concerns about returning to play in Orlando, where it’s not clear how much freedom players will have once they’re on the Disney campus. Sources said the plan is for players to have access to shared spaces like outdoor pool areas, but things as simple as dining with friends on other teams might not be feasible.
According to sources, Disney workers will wear masks any time they share space with anyone who is part of the NBA campus. Those workers also will always maintain at least six feet of distance. Employees also would receive temperature checks.
There are even executives worried that teams down 2-0 in the first round, with no home games looming, will not bring what we are accustomed to seeing as "backs against the wall" effort. I have more faith in players feeling the usual competitive juices, but that line of thought is out there.
It is unclear what the league might do if a team suffers an outbreak that removes enough key players at once as to render it unrecognizable. The current calendar -- Game 7 of the Finals on Oct. 13, next season beginning in early December -- offers little to no wiggle room for an extended delay of any playoff series. The NBA could push next season back, but it is wary of infringing on the 2021 Olympics (should those proceed), sources said.
Where do things stand right now with talks the NBA and NBPA are having? Green: "It’s very up in the air right now. There are still a lot of moving parts. We’re trying to figure that out. We have 80 percent knowledge of how Orlando is going to be. There are still moving parts to figure out, which teams are going to stay where, how they’re going to do it and how they’re operating in the bubble. Right now, the bubble doesn’t seem as effective as they would like or as lenient as we would like. We’ll have to figure it out." What are the main concerns about the bubble? Green: "The biggest concern is for most teams is hotels, who is staying where, the space, friends and family visiting, seeing how they are going to quarantine them, if we’re going to be quarantined and for how long if we leave the bubble. How often testing is going to be?"
Bobby Marks: Players have the right to do as they choose. However, the economics on not playing are devastating: 💰$1.2B in lost player salary (35% of total pay) 🏀NBA now having leverage to tear up the CBA and negotiate a new one. 💰$2B lost in revenue to the league
Jared Dudley: I’ve done interviews taking about this, Ive talked to over 30 young and vet players about it... Huge financial implications if we don’t play.. Saliers cut in half and possible no season the following year
"I was very pleased to see that the intent was not reckless at all" Dr. Fauci spoke with @michaelkimHD on his thoughts with the NBA's return to play plan. ( @WatchMarquee )
As the NBA nears the resumption of the 2019-20 season on July 31, a new reality is beginning to emerge. The NBA’s Board of Governors approved a 22-team return format for the season last week, followed by the National Basketball Players Association ratifying it the next day, beginning seemingly inevitable momentum toward a return to play out the conclusion of the season that was halted in March. However, there is now a group of players looking to take a stand by not playing in the league’s intended resumption and their primary reason for doing so would be in support of the nationwide movement fighting for social justice reform.
Sources tell The Athletic that a group consisting of 80-plus players — including NBPA Vice President Kyrie Irving, NBPA president Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Donovan Mitchell and Avery Bradley — discussed finding unity and a way to attack a cause amid the nationwide unrest stemming from racial injustice, systematic racism and police brutality as well as what the world continues to face during the coronavirus pandemic.
Irving and several players on the call, including Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony and Donovan Mitchell, spoke out about not supporting the restarted season because of ongoing social injustice, racism and coronavirus concerns, according to sources. Bradley, the Lakers guard, was the second person to speak on the call behind Irving and was vocal throughout, urging players to take a stand and utilize this moment to “play chess, not checkers,” those sources said.
“I don’t support going into Orlando,” Irving told the players. “I’m not with the systematic racism and the b-------. … Something smells a little fishy. Whether we want to admit it or not, we are targeted as black men every day we wake up.”
ESPN reported on Wednesday that players had been on conference calls, discussing a variety of concerns that included conditions inside the Disney World bubble. The Athletic can confirm that was part of the conversation and the growing concern among players, but sources say the chief concern and impetus behind this growing movement surrounds social justice reform. Several notable players started discussions on the movement within the past two weeks, starting with rank-and-file players and supported by the star power of Irving and Durant. It has led to several virtual meetings with many players.
Among the players on the call Friday: Milwaukee’s Malcolm Brogdon, Portland’s CJ McCollum, Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, Indiana’s Justin Holiday, San Antonio’s Rudy, Brooklyn’s Spencer Dinwiddie, Sacramento’s Harrison Barnes, Orlando’s Al-Farouq Aminu, Philadelphia’s Tobias Harris, Toronto’s Kyle Lowry, Utah’s Mike Conley Jr., Portland’s Zach Collins and Indiana’s Myles Turner. Former NBA player and NBPA executive Roger Mason Jr. was also on the call, sources said.
Over the past several months, the United States has dealt with the coronavirus pandemic, which suspended the NBA season on March 11, followed by protests throughout the country after the May 25 killing of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis. Several NBA players have led protests throughout the nation, such as Boston’s Jaylen Brown, Indiana’s Malcolm Brogdon, Golden State’s Curry, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, Houston’s Russell Westbrook, San Antonio’s DeMar DeRozan and Harris among others.
Paul and Nets guard Garrett Temple, who are with Irving on the NBPA leadership board, provided insights on Friday’s call. Several points were made on the call, according to sources: — Anthony stressed unity, having a sole message and allowing the young players in the NBA a voice. At one point, Anthony suggested having all 80 players on the call donating $25,000 to a cause that they wanted.
— McCollum stated that players must be prepared for the financial dip if they choose not to play, and owners completely ripping apart the collective bargaining agreement. — The NBPA’s leadership stated it is believed no fans will be permitted into games for the entire 2020-21 season. — Howard stressed to players that playing in Orlando will become a distraction from the issues the country is facing, and that they need to unify and use this moment to create a change.
Irving and Bradley have led the communication efforts of this group. Sources said Irving has been extremely vocal on NBPA calls during the suspension of the season, challenging executive director Michele Roberts and president Chris Paul last Friday about what efforts are being made to align the players and league for sponsorship and endorsement money — or whether it should be solely the players’ responsibility. This was Irving’s way of questioning the norms set forth by the NBPA, sources said.
According to sources, the players’ union said on a call Monday that “any player who doesn’t want to play, doesn’t have to” with no financial loss, as long as said player has an agreement with his franchise and/or a medical excuse. Sources said commissioner Adam Silver reiterated that sentiment on Thursday’s call with 30 general managers, making it clear that those who do not want to come to the Orlando bubble, do not have to.
Jeff Goodman: Sources: It was a wide-ranging call with 80 or so NBA players, and multiple voices. Kyrie, CP3, Melo all vocal. One quote from Kyrie: “There’s only 20 guys actually getting paid, and I’m part of that. Let’s not pretend there’s not a tiered system purposely to divide all of us.”
When the National Basketball Players Association conducted a conference call and vote on restarting the season a week ago, Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving was an active participant -- although his questions were of a mundane nature. Sources say Irving asked, as an injured player, if he would count among the Nets' allotted 35 people should he want to join the Orlando bubble. Could he sit in the stands to cheer on his teammates? Use a sauna for his rehab?
He had a question about NBA sponsors on campus, and whether they would be supplying players with products. A union official asked him for an example, and Irving mentioned a popular adult beverage -- before insisting that he had indeed simply shared an example; and wondered what food might be provided to players under league partnerships. All in all, his inquiries weren't of weighty consequence.
There were two dozen-plus team representatives and several more executive committee members on the call, and Irving's stature as one of the NBPA's six elected vice presidents, in addition to his credentials as an NBA champion and All-Star Game MVP, elevated him among those peers voting on the call. The final tally: 28-0.
Looking back, the call itself was much less a discussion on the merits of restarting the season, and much more a Q and A with NBPA executive director Michele Roberts and president Chris Paul on the mechanics and rules expected to govern teams, players and the bubble environment, sources said. So, yes, it surprised several of his NBPA colleagues that Irving -- lost to the season with shoulder surgery in March -- was simultaneously lending his voice to a different discussion with rank-and-file union members on upending the league's plans for a 22-team restart at Disney World in Orlando, sources said.
Irving is expected to be a significant voice on a call Friday night that's predicted to include a large percentage of the league's players, sources said. Irving has been a leader in sharing his thoughts on race and wealth in America, asking how precisely a predominately black group of NBA players should proceed in this climate of racial transformation in the country.
Irving has forged a reputation as a disruptor within his career, and that's emerging again at this crucial moment for the NBA. Irving's stance has pitted him against the league's establishment, including his former Cavaliers teammate LeBron James, once again. There's significant support to resume the season among the league's superstars -- most of whom are on playoff contenders -- and Irving seems to be relishing the clash.
"I'm not as interested in him as the messenger than I am in the message," one Western Conference player told ESPN on Friday. In some instances in the past several days, Irving has assured some in the NBPA that he's aligned with the broader plan surrounding the league's return in Orlando -- and then directed a far more skeptical tone to players he has engaged with within the Nets and across the league, sources said.
In recent days, Irving has been one of the prominent player voices tapping into the hearts, minds and ambitions of his peers in the wake of George Floyd's death in police custody. Players are discussing everything now -- from the limitations of freedom in the proposed bubble, the value of the remaining season for many teams and players, the risk of sickness and injury, and yes, the pain, anguish and determination of communities throughout the country on the issues of police brutality and racial inequality.
While many players are arguing that these discussions benefit from the global stage a resumption of play would offer, with the eyes of the world turning to Orlando, the argument hasn't been so simple for some players. "Once we start playing basketball again, the news will turn from systemic racism to who did what in the game last night. It's a crucial time for us to be able to play and blend that and impact what's happening in our communities," one widely respected NBA player told ESPN. "We are asking ourselves, 'Where and how can we make the biggest impact?' Mental health is part of the discussion too, and how we handle all of that in a bubble."
The limitations of the NBA bubble form a significant part of players' uncertainty too. There appear to be players who will choose to stay home, but how many? And for what ultimate reasons? Several players who have participated in these recent calls and conversations tell ESPN that they're still leaning toward playing in Orlando but want to keep listening and talking about a number of the factors that concern them.
As they're talking to each other, many players are hearing stern warnings from their agents -- especially on the financial implications of a lost season. Agents have spent the latter stages of this week delivering foreboding warnings on the short- and long-term financial impact if the season gets blown up.
Players are already losing an estimated $300 million in salary, and terminating the rest of the season would cost another 25% of salary with owners exercising the force majeure provision. That's on top of losing an additional 10% held in escrow that would be lost to the league too. NBA players would stand to lose $1.2 billion in salary this season. There exist larger fears for next season. The NBA has the ability to terminate the collective bargaining agreement that already includes a mutual opt-out in 2022-2023. Already, the NBA and NBPA have to negotiate a long list of financial and competitive items to account for the loss of revenue, but agents expect that the league would react to the cancellation of this season by blowing up the CBA, locking out the players and moving to implement a more unfavorable financial share of basketball-related income, which is now essentially a 50-50 split.
The NBA has its superstars on board for a resumption, but it needs a broader base of its players to be fully committed to Orlando. For now, there's restlessness and uncertainty and a Friday night call with Irving on the line. The NBPA's vice president has become far less communicative with the executive committee and leadership and far more engaged with the rank-and-file membership. For a superstar who counted himself out of the season, suddenly, the clock's ticking down and the ball's in Irving's hands again.
Several high-profile players have been communicating with others en masse about the financial and practical implications if they don’t play, sources said. If there are no more games, the owners can and will likely activate the force majeure clause and re-open the collective bargaining agreement, and the players would have little leverage with the owners because of how the economy has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Every business deal the league has will be up for renegotiation, which could be a nightmare for players because of the way revenue has risen over the last several years. The salary cap is already expected to take a dip this offseason due to the postponed season.
“There’s no bigger platform than playing and being able to get your message out there,” a high-ranking black executive told Yahoo Sports, but he was not aware of the players’ specific plans to spread their message. “It’s understandable to have concerns, especially the guys who are parents and may have their kids during the summers because of custody arrangements. I can see players being against some of the restrictions of the bubble.”
Tim Reynolds: Per source, Disney personnel on-site for NBA restart will all be in PPE (masks, gloves where appropriate) at all times. They'll also undergo daily screening, including temperature checks. Also: hotel workers will be assigned certain areas and won't rotate thru properties.
Shams Charania: Sources: Protocols for Disney staff working NBA return site: - Always wearing facemasks/gloves - Strict physical distancing, never within 6 feet of NBA participant - Temperature/symptom checks - Housekeeping staff will never be in the room at same time as NBA participants
Vincent Goodwill: Yahoo sources cont’d: The high profile players are also relaying that the NBPA won’t have any leverage negotiating a new CBA with owners in the middle of a pandemic
There is a significant number of NBA players who are disappointed that everyone wasn’t given the opportunity to vote on whether to restart the 2019-20 season, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Last week, the National Basketball Players Association executive committee and its board of representatives approved the league’s 22-team, return-to-play format to be held at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, in late July.
Marc Stein: Aug. 30 is the first day family and friends would be allowed onto the NBA campus, league sources say
Shams Charania: Sources: NBA's expected restart dates: - July 30-Aug. 14: Seeding games - Aug.15-16: Play-in tournaments - Aug. 17: Playoffs begin - Aug. 30: Family/guests of teams arrive - Aug. 31-Sept. 13: Conf. Semifinals - Sept. 15-Sept. 28: Conf. Finals - Sept. 30-Oct. 13: NBA Finals
Adrian Wojnarowski: NBA has instructed teams of full training camp timeline, including July 9-29 in Orlando with three intersquad scrimmages, sources tell ESPN. Again, season re-starts on July 30.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Players traveling outside of the U.S. need to report by June 15 to team markets -- rest of players need to arrive by June 22, per sources.
Shams Charania: Health and safety: The NBA's required coronavirus testing window for teams: June 23-30, sources tell @The Athletic @Stadium.
Shams Charania: Sources: The NBA has informed teams that starting today, up to two coaches/development personnel can work out a player. Beginning June 23, a team’s head coach can supervise a player’s workout.
Now that the NBA has planned to resume at Disney, there are now more specific questions about fully sequestering the location. Will the food servers be tested every day? The housekeepers? The custodians? More broadly: What’s the point of quarantining for several weeks and doing daily tests for 22 NBA teams if Disney staff won’t be doing the same? “This isn’t a bubble. This is a mesh hat,” says one high-level NBA executive who has been briefed on the NBA’s plans but isn’t authorized to speak publicly. Disney workers have not been told to quarantine on campus, according to Eric Clinton, president of Disney’s labor union, United Here Local 362, which represents custodians and ride operators. Clinton told NBC Sports that it was “unlikely” that staffers would be subject to daily testing and quarantine measures like NBA players and team staffers.
Some executives and players have expressed concern about the double-standard of being held to such strict standards while Disney staffers are free to go home to their families and live at their residences. Some team officials have even suggested allowing teams to fly in and out on charter. If Disney staffers are free to come and go as they please, why can’t NBA players?
It’s not just those head coaches that fall in that age range. New Orleans assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik (67), Lakers assistant coach Lionel Hollins (66) and Houston assistant coach John Lucas (66) will be facing those CDC-issued concerns along with referees Ken Mauer (65) and Michael Smith (65). A source close to the situation told NBC Sports that older NBA referees have not yet been given word about whether they will be going to Orlando.
“What everyone wants to know is how likely is it that an athlete would suffer long-term lung or other organ damage that jeopardizes their career,” Binney says. “My response to that is nobody on planet Earth, that we know of, has had this disease for more than seven months. It’s literally impossible for me to tell you that. I literally can’t tell you anything about what this disease does in a human body after seven months. That knowledge doesn’t exist in the universe.”
As the NBA firms up its 22-team Orlando restart schedule, 14 of the teams will be eliminated within 53 days of arriving -- and only four teams will remain after 67 days, sources said. The NBA has been working to make clear to players that the actual commitment of time for most teams in Orlando, Florida, may be less daunting than originally perceived, especially once seen in the context of the timetables constructed into the league's revised schedule.
The NBA expects the conference finals will end within a maximum of 82 days, leaving the two NBA finalists, sources said. The league expects the NBA Finals could start by Sept. 30.
The NBA is preparing to resume its season next month at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, after a more than three month break due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Indiana Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon, however, believes there are several players who are legitimately considering sitting out when the play resumes. “I’ve talked to a few guys that are super interested in sitting out possibly,” Brogdon said Thursday on The JJ Redick podcast. “At the end of the day, I was actually talking to Chris Paul the other day and he said, ‘Man, this is an individual decision that every man has to make for himself.’ I think that’s exactly what it is. I think it depends on your perspective.”
According to Brogdon, it also has a lot to do with George Floyd’s death in police custody last month in Minneapolis and the massive protests and movements that have come from it. “Some guys are going to say, ‘For health reasons, and COVID, and the long-term effects that we don’t understand about COVID, I want to sit out,’” Brogdon said on the podcast. “Other guys are going to say, ‘The black community and my people are going through too much for me to basically be distracted with basketball. I’m not going to prioritize this over the black community, I’m going to sit out.’ And then there’s another group of guys … who are going to say, ‘No, this is the most amount of money I’m going to make in my lifetime. It doesn’t make sense to hand this money back. I can do so much good in my community if I have this money.’ “I think it’s a matter of perspective. I think guys are gathering to really talk about and dive deep into the idea of not playing.“
As protests and social justice movements have taken place across the country in the wake of George Floyd's death, NBA players have discussed what role returning to play has in furthering or distracting from the cause. The Nets' Garrett Temple, a vice president for the National Basketball Players Association, told ESPN that he believes playing games and earning a paycheck is actually one of the best ways players can combat the systemic oppression of black people.
"The difference in the economic gap between white America and black America is astronomical," Temple said. "I can't in good conscience tell my brethren to throw away millions of dollars in order to create change that I don't see the direct impact of -- if there was a direct impact of laws changing, that would be a different story."
The 34-year-old says he believes that players have the opportunity to reinvest some of the money they earn into black communities, citing LeBron James and his I Promise School as an example. "So, when people bring up not playing -- we are a few black men that can make a little bit of money," Temple said. "It is not a lot of money when [you] think about it in the grand scheme of America. But we can start having a little bit of money, create a little bit of generational wealth. "But the fact that us not playing will hurt our pockets, I don't think that is the right way to go about it."
June 20, 2021 | 12:22 pm EDT Update
Justin Kubatko: Giannis Antetokounmpo tallied at least 30 points and 10 rebounds in each of the last five games of the 2021 ECS. Antetokounmpo is the first player to record at least five such games in a row in a single playoff series since Shaquille O’Neal in the 2000 NBA Finals. pic.twitter.com/NeBtfLklzL
Chase Hughes: Giannis Antetokounmpo is heading to his 2nd conference finals already at 26 years old. MJ didn’t do that until he was 27. Jordan was 28 when he won his 1st title, so was Shaq. LeBron and Steph were 27. Despite the narrative, Giannis is at worst on schedule for an all-time great.
June 20, 2021 | 11:22 am EDT Update
Adrian Wojnarowski: As expected, Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie plans to decline the $12.3M player option on his 2021-2022 contract and become an unrestricted free agent, sources tell ESPN. He has a Monday deadline. Dinwiddie missed most of the season with an ACL injury.
Justin Kubatko: Giannis Antetokounmpo last night: ✅ 40 PTS ✅ 13 REB ✅ 5 AST Antetokounmpo is just the third player in NBA postseason history to record at least 40p/10r/5a in a Game 7, joining Jerry West (1969) and Tim Duncan (2006). He’s the first player to do so on a winning team. pic.twitter.com/a6NcLlxQDi
June 20, 2021 | 10:02 am EDT Update
According to NBA insider Marc J. Spears, the 31-year-old point guard will most likely be moved by the Thunder. He thinks that the Los Angeles Lakers should try to get him. Spears also revealed that Kyle Kuzma appears to be leaving the 2020 NBA champions. “Man, I can’t see Kemba playing there. If I’m the Lakers, man, why not try to go after Kemba. To me it makes a lot of sense. Kuzma already looks like he’s on his way out,” Spears said on ESPN’s The Jump.