Storyline: Jahlil Okafor Free Agency

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With the Brooklyn Nets signing Ed Davis and acquiring Kenneth Faried in a trade, and with Sean Marks giving the impression Tuesday that they’re closing in on their final 2018-19 roster, the short-lived Jahlil Okafor era in Brooklyn looks dead. “I won’t comment on Jahlil, because he’s not here right now,” Marks said bluntly. “But again, I will always bet on our coaching staff. Our coaching staff have done a heck of a job, our performance team, in terms of how they develop guys.” Marks then noted the need for a “floor spacer,” which Okafor is not. Hours later, of course, the Nets signed Treveon Graham, who is a floor space and despite his size, can play the 4.

According to sources, Okafor, the No. 3 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, worked out for four teams last Wednesday in Las Vegas, and remains hopeful of signing with a team ahead of training camp next fall. Okafor averaged 17.5 points per game as a rookie in Philadelphia in 2015-16. He has spent the last few months working out in Miami with trainers David Alexander and Idan Ravin, fueling speculation that he could land with the Heat, especially if Miami finds a trading partner for Hassan Whiteside.

The career track so far for Jahlil Okafor, the third pick in the Draft overall just three flipping years ago, continues to astound. He is an unrestricted free agent after having been an afterthought in Brooklyn, which won exactly 28 games last season. Okafor is working this summer with player development yoda Idan Ravin, trying to show prospective teams he’s aware he must show improvement on the perimeter. Ravin has been reconstructing Okafor’s jump shot and improving his ability to score on face-ups and off the dribble. No one’s saying Okafor hasn’t been a disappointment so far as a pro. But in a league where there are so many bad teams, it’s astonishing no one has yet to give the still just 22-year-old Okafor a real look.

And while Okafor has professed to be happy with the Nets, how will he weigh court time, money, playing style, an opportunity to win and other factors in where he signs? “All that goes into it,” said Okafor, who did not play in Sunday’s 108-96 loss to the Pistons. “But honestly I have no experience with this whatsoever, so I’m just trying to finish the season strong. [I’ll have] guidance from people who’ve dealt with what I’m going to deal with, and lean on them. I really don’t know what to expect. But, at the end of the day, I want to play basketball.”
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March 31, 2020 | 2:03 pm EDT Update
SB NATION: I’ll begin with a question I find myself asking just about everyone I talk to these days: How are you staying safe? And, did you consider traveling home once the NBA allowed its players to do so, or just bunker down and stay put? PAT CONNAUGHTON: I stayed in Milwaukee. I tried to look at it from a variety of different angles. For me, I’m from the Boston area and Massachusetts was arguably hit worse than the majority of other places, so going home didn’t really make sense for me, for my own health but also for the safety of my family. We’re fortunate to be in the NBA. We might as well stay close to our team just in case, God forbid something does happen and we need access to doctors, we have team doctors. If we need access to food for some reason, the chefs are trying to help us out when they can. There’s different things that I think teams are doing to help their players that stick around.
Storyline: Coronavirus
SB: Being part of such a special season with the Bucks, how often do you think about the possibility that the season is over, and how you might never get an opportunity to finish what you started? How difficult would that be, given all the hard work that was put in and what the expectations were? PAT CONNAUGHTON: It’s tough because you look at it from a few different lenses. You think seasons like this don’t come along every year, so if it ends that’s gonna suck. To be honest. But when you look at it from the lens of an athlete you’re like we, as a team, are very good. What is preventing us from doing it again next year? Obviously we would be disappointed, we’re having a great year, etc. But maybe it just makes us hungrier next year. Maybe it’s fuel on the fire, as opposed to something else. Giannis will be a year older, a year more skilled. We’ll all be getting better. If you look at it that way you can throw some positive light to it.
PAT CONNAUGHTON: The other light you look at it, just being open and honest, there are guys that are on contract years. There are guys that, I mean, personally I don’t have a technical contract for next year or anything. So you look at it like how does it affect free agency? How does it affect the salary cap? What does our team look like next year if the season were to end and not continue, and the playoffs weren’t to happen and there weren’t a champion to be crowned. I think all of those are unknown. I could sit here for 24 straight hours and put down a sheet of paper, pros, cons, all these different scenarios, but I don’t think that does me any good. We don’t know. Nobody knows. The NBA is full of much smarter people than myself. Adam Silver is great. The owners are all very smart guys. The general managers are very smart guys. Obviously the player’s union, Michelle. Chris Paul. All them are very smart. I believe the best interest of as many players as possible and all the teams and the league itself will be what’s most important and what will be accomplished. So for me to worry about those sorts of things, sure, but at the same time it’s not gonna help me. I’m not gonna figure out, sitting in this apartment in the next month and a half, what the answers are.
March 31, 2020 | 12:24 pm EDT Update
Isaiah Thomas: “I was a junior when I entered the draft. I had a year of eligibility left. I wrote down my pros and cons — all the good things by putting my name in the draft and all the negative things that could possibly happen, which can go from not getting drafted to going in the second round to getting drafted and then there being a lockout and no money coming in, and not knowing what to do next. My final decision was that I’m going to just bet on myself. I’ll figure things out. I just felt like college wasn’t going to do anything for me going forward. But on the back end of things, yes, the lockout was on my mind.”
March 31, 2020 | 10:36 am EDT Update
Borrego liked the contrast of styles: the run-and-gun Nuggets against the behemoth Lakers, starting the Pau Gasol-Andrew Bynum mega-frontcourt. Bynum averaged 17 points and 12 rebounds per game for the series, and put up a triple-double — including 10 blocked shots — in the Lakers’ Game 1 win. “A lot of our guys probably don’t even know Andrew Bynum,” Borrego said. The series was also incredibly physical. The offensive teams rebounded almost 37% of all misses, a mark that would lead the league today by a laughable margin. The teams combined for 47 offensive rebounds in the Lakers’ 96-87 win in Game 7; Gasol had six — all in a row — on one pivotal fourth-quarter possession. “Part of this is to show them what physical playoff basketball looks like,” Borrego said. “This is where we want to get to someday. Let’s study it.”
All the players said they enjoyed learning more about the classic NBA characters in that series. Obviously, today’s players love watching peak Bryant — now more than ever. Bynum has become something of a curiosity. “People forget how good Bynum was,” Zeller said. “He was a monster.” Caleb Martin said he was surprised at the speed and athleticism of a young Danilo Gallinari, playing almost full time as a wing. “You know of these guys, but you never sit down and actually watch them play a full game,” Cody Martin said.
On a recent episode of The Lake Lake Show podcast, Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report suggested that “it could be three or four years until the league is back in balance”. Pincus also went into depth on how the NBA will return. Where he stated that the league are considering canceling games. Which will create financial implications for players, even more so the high-end stars like LeBron James. “Players typically get paid on the 1st and 15th of every month and the 1st would be a full check. But the league hasn’t committed to the 15th… it means they’re considering canceling games. Because by the rules, they can’t dock players for games that are rescheduled. They can only dock from players for games that are canceled.”
Storyline: Coronavirus
“If they were going down that path they might start with canceling a few games. Why cancel a lot, right? There’s no reason to until you have a better feel. I could see them canceling 3 games and start deducting 3 games worth of money from each player’s check. For someone like LeBron James, that’s in the neighbourhood of $400,000 per game. So you’re talking about deducting $1.2 million from LeBron’s check. So it’s not a small amount.”
March 31, 2020 | 7:46 am EDT Update
ESPN’s NBA insider Brian Windhorst, on his recent podcast, expressed his thoughts what the offseason will most likely bring to big name free-agent DeMarcus Cousins. “I think DeMarcus Cousins is looking at a make good contract, even if it’s more than a minimum. I think that after a series of injuries he’s had, all of which indicates that he’s coming back too fast, doing too much, he needs even more time of coming back from this. He’s gonna have a job in the league, but I don’t think it’s gonna be a big money,” the NBA insider said.
The Brooklyn Nets are expected to continue to reshape their roster around Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. “I believe they have telegraphed they intend to use some of their young talent to acquire a third star along with Kyrie and Durant,” said Brian Windhorst. “Now, we can get enter a healthy debate here about whether Caris LeVert is that third star and they make the decision that he is. But my feel reading the tea leaves, paying attention to what Sean Marks has said and also being aware of some conversations they had at the trade deadline, which was sticking the toe in the water on some things, I think they’re going to swing for the fences whenever the season comes. They’re going to have to potentially hire a coach that is going to help them do that.”
Joe Harris is a pending free agent, one who likely will get a big raise this summer. But the sharpshooter wants to re-sign with the Nets, partly to take a shot at a title playing alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. “Yeah, definitely! Why wouldn’t you?” Harris asked rhetorically before the season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Storyline: Joe Harris Free Agency
On the Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis duo: Jason Terry: “They’re still headed down as one of the all-time dynamic duos in the history of the game, if they continue to win and then have success in the playoffs, and hopefully take us to another NBA finals and win a championship. Because they’re so young. When you have two young stars as KP and Luka, and the talent that they possess, they have yet to really reach their full potential and I think the chemistry that they’ve gained this season by playing together is going to continue to grow.
Jason Terry: “KP is learning that ‘hey maybe it might not be at the four position, maybe at the five position where I can be most dangerous and effective.’ Luka is also understanding ‘hey I might not have to take over an entire ball game, I can kind of conserve my energy and be the closer very similar to what Dirk [Nowitzki] was and kind of let KP get off early in games.
Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic was all set to make his triumphant return on Sunday, Mar. 15 against the Houston Rockets. It was a home game for the Blazers. An early matinee game on national television. It was 10 days away from Nurk’s one-year mark of his leg injury. And to the Bosnian Beast, it was a “perfect” game to make his debut for the 2019-20 season. In choosing that day to return, it was a collective effort by Nurkic’s camp along with the entire Trail Blazers organization. In a recent interview with NBC Sports Northwest’s Trail Blazers Insider Dwight Jaynes, Nurk detailed what went into the decision making of that game.
Bosnia-Herzegovina is 9 hours ahead of Portland, OR; thus, the timing of a noon tip-off in Rip City also worked out great for his family and friends back home. It was an earlier game Sunday, and of course, I need to look [out] for my people back home. It was perfect for them too. It was like 8:30pm back home. So, everybody was pretty much set up and I thought it was a really good game because it was [a] home game and I really wanted to play [at] home first. — Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic told our Dwight Jaynes
After his teenage brother Dorian tragically died of heart disease, Dawkins tapped into his basketball network to pay for a memorial and an AAU team in Dorian’s memory. He says he quickly raised more than a hundred thousand dollars from some of the most important people in the sport. His network mattered. Before long, NBA agent Andy Miller noticed Dawkins and hired him. Fast forward a few years and Dawkins is at the NBA draft, barely legal to drink, sitting in the green room with Miller and Elfrid Payton’s family. Rodney Hood, Fred VanVleet … Dawkins was instrumental in directing their careers, in the belly of the basketball beast. “Everybody knew Andy was paying players,” Dawkins says in “The Scheme.” “Andy’s been paying players since I was born. It wasn’t, like, a secret.”
The president of the Spanish Basketball Federation, Jorge Garbajosa, wants to ensure the future of the National Team bench and for this, a new contract extension could be offered to Sergio Scariolo until 2024, according to AS.com. The Italian coach’s agreement with the Federation would come to an end after the 2020 Olympics. However, with the current worldwide health crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the postponement of the Games in Tokyo until 2021, a new scenario is created.
Storyline: Olympic Games
Every bit of help is key amidst this coronavirus pandemic, whether it’s food, cash or medical supplies. The Nets, Barclays Center and Alibaba — all owned by Joe Tsai — have been providing all of the above. With live sports shut down and teams and arenas getting squeezed economically, many hourly workers have been laid off or face pay cuts. But Nets and Barclays Center employees are getting the same checks they would have if they’d worked events as scheduled through the end of May. And it’s not just NBA games, but concerts, Islanders games, college basketball like the A-10 tourney and even graduations. A source familiar with the unions and the overall process told The Post the checks cut could end up totaling an estimated $6 million.
“We discussed supplies. I want to thank Michael Evans from Alibaba, who is here with us today,” Cuomo said at Monday’s press briefing. “I want to thank Elizabeth Jennings [the chief of staff] from the Asia Society, who is here with us today, who are helping us source supplies.“We’re in a situation where you have 50 states all competing for supplies, the federal government is now also competing for supplies, private hospitals are also competing for supplies. We’ve created a situation where you literally have hundreds of entities looking to buy the same exact materials basically from the same place, which is China.”
ABC/ESPN’s highly anticipated 10-part Michael Jordan documentary, “The Last Dance,” is being moved up to April, The Post has learned. Sources said the start date will be Sunday, April 19. It was originally slated for June. ABC/ESPN plans to make an announcement on “Good Morning America” on Tuesday, according to sources.
There are a couple possible reasons for the delay. The first is obviously coronavirus. We talked before about the delays and pushbacks we’d see in production with factories in China being shut down over the virus. Some of those are up and running again, though, so this might not be the case. The second is Nike still might not know what direction they want to go in with Kobe’s line — especially since resellers gobbled it up. Coming up with a strategy for the future of the line is imperative.
It looks like a facsimile of the Kobe VI plastered on top of the LeBron XIII lows. It’s a clunky and low cut which is never really a good combination for a hoop shoe. It’s important for Nike to get things right with Antetokounmpo because of his status in the landscape.of his sport now and going forward. Getring it right with him isn’t as easy as it seems. Giannis is ostensibly a big man with guard skills — even more so than LeBron James. On the other side, Zion Williamson is the future of Jordan Brand and he has the same problem.
March 30, 2020 | 9:31 pm EDT Update
The Utah Sports Commission recognized Gobert for his excellence on the court, as well as his impact on the state of Utah. Gobert has established Rudy’s Kids Foundation which supports charities that directly impact the lives of youth in Utah, as well as a program that donates money to ShelterKids and Salt Lake County Youth Services, and the Utah Refugee Connection with every blocked shot Gobert records on the floor.
Khem Birch was one of the key pieces of Canada’s squad during the 2019 FIBA World Cup, and felt playing under Nurse did wonders for his professional development. After spending some time learning from him, Birch now understands why Nurse is viewed as one of the NBA’s top coaches. “Team Canada has a lot of potential, especially with coach Nurse. With the roster we had, I think he did a really good job, and I imagine if we had all our guys I think we would have won the whole thing,” Birch said during an interview on Sportsnet 590 The Fan’s Good Show Monday.
Chris Ballard: After almost 20 years, today is my last at Sports Illustrated. Hell of a ride. I got to work alongside childhood idols, collaborate with some of the best editors in the business, and live out a dream. Best job in the world, I always said, and it was. A few thoughts:

Storyline: Media Layoffs
March 30, 2020 | 9:08 pm EDT Update
Jayson Tatum is luckier than most people nowadays. When he was potentially exposed to COVID-19, the Boston Celtics found their way to test him and the rest of the team. Since returning from Milwaukee, where the team was scheduled to face the Bucks when the NBA shut down, Tatum has been holed up in his house. “It was scary when (Marcus) Smart found out that he had it and he didn’t have any symptoms,” Smart told Jeff Goodman on the latest episode of the Good N’ Plenty podcast. “So it was like ‘wow, any of us could have it at this point.’”
Tatum says one of the hardest parts of the process was waiting for the test results, which were held up by a backlog. Tatum spent a week-and-a-half home in Boston, but unable to see his son. “That was the longest I’ve ever been in the same place as him and I couldn’t see him,” Tatum said. “So that was tough… I was FaceTiming with him every night. I was FaceTiming with him throughout the day.”
Storyline: Coronavirus
Nets and Barclays Center employees are getting the same checks they would have if they’d worked events as scheduled through the end of May. And it’s not just NBA games, but concerts, Islanders games, college basketball like the A-10 tourney and even graduations. A source familiar with the unions and the overall process told The Post the checks cut could end up totaling an estimated $6 million. Barclays Center also donated 10,000 pounds of food from the arena to City Harvest, the city’s biggest food bank. (The arena’s food and beverage partner Levy helped facilitate the donation).