Storyline: Lakers Front Office

836 rumors in this storyline

The Los Angeles Lakers have returned approximately $4.6 million that they received from a federal government program intended to help small businesses weather the economic burden caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the team said in a statement to ESPN on Monday. The Lakers, one of the NBA’s most profitable franchises, applied for relief through the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, and were among the companies and nonprofits granted loans during the first round of distributions. But after reports that several large or highly capitalized entities were securing aid from the program’s initial $349 billion pool — while hundreds of thousands of smaller businesses were shut out — the Lakers said they returned the money. “The Lakers qualified for and received a loan under the Payroll Protection Program,” the Lakers said in a statement to ESPN. “Once we found out the funds from the program had been depleted, we repaid the loan so that financial support would be directed to those most in need. The Lakers remain completely committed to supporting both our employees and our community.”

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Shaquille O’Neal: “The same thing that was going on in this documentary was going on with me. It was told to me that if we don’t win the series [2004 NBA Finals vs. Detroit Pistons] I’m out of there.” Chris Broussard: “It was told to you before the series started??” Shaq: “Yes, from somebody upstairs in the office, ‘Hey, if you don’t win this series, they’re looking to make changes’… I knew once we lost that it was time for me to do something else.” (Full Audio Above)

Through all of the Lakers’ self-inflicted drama, James remained silent — not even a passive-aggressive grumble on social media — as he gave the team space to work through the situation. James has sounded off in the past for far less significant organizational setbacks than these. He was frustrated, even angry, about these events, sources said, but his support didn’t waver. The message that came from James’ camp throughout the ordeal reflected only support for Buss and Pelinka.

Through all of the Lakers’ self-inflicted drama, James remained silent — not even a passive-aggressive grumble on social media — as he gave the team space to work through the situation. James has sounded off in the past for far less significant organizational setbacks than these. He was frustrated, even angry, about these events, sources said, but his support didn’t waver. The message that came from James’ camp throughout the ordeal reflected only support for Buss and Pelinka.

Through it all, a source said, the Lakers’ pursuit of roster changes in the past week was half-hearted. And that goes back to the tragic helicopter crash that took the life of Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others on January 26, just 11 days ahead of the trade deadline. While much of the league has begun to move on from Bryant’s death, these Lakers are just in the early stages of that process. Going through the experience together has bonded them and it proved difficult to break that bond within the roster for the sake of some trade or another.

The wave of fancier job names stretches far beyond the Lakers, though — the titles on business cards of personnel around the league have become more scrutinized and yet more inscrutable. And yet they mean something in the NBA. “Oh, it matters,” said Bobby Marks, a former Brooklyn Nets assistant general manager who now works as ESPN’s front-office insider. Travis Schlenk, the Atlanta Hawks’ president of basketball operations, echoed the sentiment. “I know they’re important, and they’re important to my staff,” he said.

Does he miss it? “Part of me wishes I was there,” he says. But then looks down at those bikes. “But this is what I do. … This is what I’ve done for 40 years. … I’m never that guy that has one step in, one step out. I’m not that dude, and I couldn’t do that anymore.” He believes he should be given a fair share of credit for the Lakers’ fast start. “This team would not be in the position it’s in without me,” he says.

He talks about the trades he and Pelinka made to clear the salary cap space to sign James, notably the dealing of Timofey Mozgov and D’Angelo Russell. He talks about his recruitment of James. He talks about the players they drafted — Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart — who were included in the deal for Anthony Davis. ”This was my strategy, this is what I thought we’d be in three years,” he says. “I knew we were on the right track. Everybody wanted to do it their way, but I’m good with who I am. … I think people respect what I’ve done for the team.”

The Lakers hired Vogel, arriving under the shakiest circumstances. Vogel had been first contacted only to be an assistant. His introductory press conference was the one eclipsed by Magic Johnson’s latest TV broadside against Pelinka. Vogel was asked to take Jason Kidd, who had tried to promote himself as a head coaching candidate, as an assistant, a suggestion the new coach could hardly have resisted. Kidd has a well-known reputation for backstage intrigue. The Lakers are so sensitive to suggestions that he will undercut Vogel, they have told press people that Jason doesn’t want to do interviews, making him their first assistant who’s off-limits to the press.

Kobe Bryant and Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka maintain a really close relationship, but the NBA legend knows better to distance himself from the team’s affairs. In a recent appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, the Lakers icon stressed confidence in his former agent’s capability to handle business for the purple and gold. “No, I stay away from it. I’m real close with Rob obviously, and we’ll talk often, just as a sounding board for him. I stay away from that stuff. And Rob is more than capable of handling the job and all the pressure that comes along with that.”

Wade’s rationale sounds similar to the reasoning Magic Johnson gave when he surprisingly stepped down as the Lakers’ president of basketball operations before the final game of the regular season. During his impromptu news conference that day, Johnson said he thought about Wade and his inability to tweet at him or be at his final game because of his job. “I was shocked when he mentioned me when he resigned,” Wade said. “Magic lives an amazing life. I just got done seeing him in St. Tropez, as he’s celebrating his 60th birthday. He wanted to get back to that life. I was just appreciative that I was someone that he thought of and how he wanted to get a chance to see me play or to reach out before my last game. I wish he could have been there, but it was cool that he said that.”

Turner also provided the first details we’ve gotten to this point regarding what specifically Leonard and his camp wanted to learn from their conversation with Johnson: “There was one interesting question (Leonard) had for Magic: ‘Did you guys try to trade for me when I was in San Antonio?’ And the answer was ‘yes, but because it was Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs, and our history, they were asking for 2,000 draft picks — well, not 2,000 — like four draft picks, first-round draft picks, and we just couldn’t do that.’ And that was one of his questions.

While Cuban offered his support for the Lakers’ ownership — “I love Jeanie,” he said of Jeanie Buss, L.A.’s controlling owner and governor — he was dismayed by former team president Magic Johnson declaring on ESPN’s First Take last month that he would be interested in buying the team. “That’s a little bit self-serving,” Cuban said. “I don’t think Magic could afford them. And that’s no disrespect to Magic. That’s a reflection of just how well Jeanie has done.”

Cuban is the father of three children. His eldest daughter, 15-year-old Alexis, is only slightly younger than Jeanie Buss was when she started working for the pro sports franchises owned by her father, Dr. Jerry Buss. Cuban said he can empathize with the family dynamic at play in L.A. “Jeanie is smart,” he said. “I think, not to speak for Jeanie, but the hardest thing for Jeanie has been that it’s family. And so there will be a time when my kids [take over] or not my kids, and I have to make a decision on how to integrate my family and who takes on what role, and that’s not going to be easy.

“So Jeanie had to balance all that, and that’s a credit to her that she made her decisions. She stuck by them, and she made the tough calls. So Jeanie gets all the credit in the world. And unless you’re there, it’s really hard to understand. How do you balance the personal issues of a family with what you want to do for an organization? That’s near impossible to make those decisions, and Jeanie had to deal with it, and she did the best she can, so she deserves a ton of credit.”
1 year ago via ESPN

Pointing upstairs, toward his office, Johnson drove home his point. He had a large stack of resumes sitting on his desk — “a thousand” of them, multiple staffers recall him saying — and he could replace any of them at any time. “It was shocking,” said one Lakers coaching staff member who was present. “If you’re going to be in this business, you bring enough pressure on yourself. You don’t need more pressure, especially from someone who’s supposed to be an ally.”
1 year ago via ESPN

According to nearly two dozen current and former team staffers, ranging from occupants of executive suites to office cubicles, in addition to league sources and others close to the team, the Lakers under Johnson and Pelinka were fraught with dysfunction, on and off the court. These sources, who feared reprisal and weren’t authorized to speak publicly, describe Pelinka and Johnson as managers who made unilateral free-agent acquisitions; triggered a spate of tampering investigations and fines; berated staffers, including Walton; and created an in-house culture that many current and former longtime staffers said marginalized their colleagues, inspired fear and led to feelings of anxiety severe enough that at least two staffers suffered panic attacks.
1 year ago via ESPN

In the office, the staffer apologized and later, off site, began to cry, according to multiple people with knowledge of the incident. In the months ahead, she would suffer increased anxiety and panic attacks. She was prescribed anti-anxiety medication, quit the Lakers after more than two decades with the team, and began several weeks of therapy, multiple people familiar with the matter said. She gave her notice on Dec. 18, 2017, the same day Kobe Bryant’s two jerseys were retired. A Lakers executive said he also suffered panic attacks and had to be prescribed anti-anxiety medication. “Every day you go in there and you get this horrible feeling of anxiety,” the executive said. “In the last year, I can’t tell you how many panic attacks I’ve had from the s— that has happened there.”
1 year ago via ESPN

“There was one time when Kobe, who I worked with for 18 years, was going back to play in Madison Square Garden, and he had just seen ‘The Dark Knight,'” Pelinka said. “Obviously, you guys saw that movie, and he’s like, ‘Hey, hook me up with dinner with Heath Ledger, because he got so locked into that role. I want to know how he mentally went there.’ So, he had dinner with Heath, and he talked about how he locks in for a role. “And Kobe used some of that in his game against the Knicks.” “The Dark Knight” was released in July 2008, six months after Ledger died. A source with direct knowledge said no such arrangement was made and no dinner ever took place.

The Los Angeles Lakers have hired Judy Seto as Director of Sports Performance, it was announced today. Seto will report to General Manager Rob Pelinka and will oversee the medical care and optimize the health and performance of Lakers players. Seto most recently served as Director of Sports Performance for Select Physical Therapy, where she developed, designed and implemented sports science concepts and technology to maximize athletic performance, minimize injury risk and facilitate timely return to competition. Returning to the Lakers after serving as the team’s head physical therapist from 2011-16, she has previously worked in physical therapy roles with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles-based HealthSouth and the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic.

“If you want to elevate yourself, I’m all for that,” Johnson said. “But there’s a way to get that, and it’s not talking about the person that’s above you.” Pelinka remains with the Lakers as general manager. “I didn’t like those things [Pelinka] was saying behind my back, that I wasn’t in the office enough,” Johnson said. “So I started getting calls from my friends outside of basketball saying those things now were said to them. … Not just in the Lakers, into the media and so on.”

Pelinka responded on Monday afternoon at the press conference to introduce Vogel. He said that he talked with Johnson two days prior about the team having the No. 4 pick in the draft and denied all of Johnson’s accusations. “It’s saddening and disheartening to think things (that are a) misperception,” Pelinka said. “I think all of us in life have been through things where there are third-party whispers or he-said-she-said things that aren’t true… These things are surprising to hear and disheartening, but I look forward to the opportunity to sit down with him and talk to him because it’s simply not true.”
1 year ago via ESPN

Jeanie Buss had questioned Magic Johnson several times in the wake of his public resignation, asking to know if there were any issues with Rob Pelinka or anyone else in the organization. They spoke on the phone for hours. They went to a private dinner at Wally’s in Beverly Hills on May 2. Multiple Lakers sources told ESPN that each time, Johnson said nothing beyond what he’d said on April 9 — that he didn’t feel like he could be Magic in this role and wanted his freedom back.
1 year ago via ESPN

Linda Rambis, executive director, special projects. Don’t let the title fool you: Rambis is Buss’ longtime best friend and most trusted adviser. League sources have described her as a “shadow owner.” And while the buzz over Rambis gaining the most influence in the organization has intensified since Johnson stepped down, the fact is she has been Buss’ consigliere for four decades. Rambis, who was then Linda Zafrani, was one of the first hires by Jerry Buss when he purchased the Lakers in 1979, according to an article in The Beach Reporter. He reportedly introduced her to Jeanie and the two became friends and eventually worked together on the tennis and volleyball initiatives at The Forum.
1 year ago via ESPN

Johnson hired Rambis, a former Lakers forward and assistant coach, to be an adviser to the president in September 2018. With Johnson gone, Rambis has emerged as a powerful voice in basketball operations and played a major role in the coaching search, as Wojnarowski reported. Rambis has held positions with several organizations over his career, from assistant coach to head coach to assistant general manager, many of them served under Jackson with the Lakers and Knicks. His most recent job before rejoining the Lakers was as associate head coach of the Knicks from 2014-15 to 2017-18. Wojnarowski reported Jackson and Rambis strongly considered Vogel’s candidacy in New York before hiring Jeff Hornacek in 2016. Vogel would later tell New York reporters that he was surprised the Knicks didn’t hire him based on how his interview with Jackson went.

According to a person familiar with the negotiations, it wasn’t general manager Rob Pelinka but senior basketball adviser Kurt Rambis who orchestrated the Vogel hiring. He also made the move for Jason Kidd, who will serve on the bench as an assistant coach. Multiple executives, when polled, suggested the Lakers should make sure they have their front-office hierarchy established before hiring a coach, and it appears they have, with Rambis stepping into that role. One executive even called him the Lakers’ “shadow president.”
1 year ago via ESPN

Vogel’s emerging candidacy speaks to the significant influence of Lakers adviser Kurt Rambis and former coach Phil Jackson, whose opinions weigh heavily with owner Jeanie Buss. Vogel was the runner-up to Jeff Hornacek when Jackson hired a New York Knicks replacement for Derek Fisher in the summer of 2016. Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka has spent the past few days gathering information from those who have worked with both Vogel and Kidd about how they believe those two could complement each other on a Lakers coaching staff, league sources said.

It looks like Los Angeles Lakers owner Jeanie Buss is counting on general manager Rob Pelinka to turn the franchise around without any help. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the Lakers reportedly told coaching candidates they won’t hire anyone above Pelinka and that he’s in charge. Magic Johnson stepped down from his president role before the season ended. Pelinka has been leading the coaching search. “I know they told all of the candidates who interviewed Rob is the GM,” Wojnarowski said on the Woj pod. “Rob is going to be in charge. That’s who you’re going to answer to. We’re not bringing in anybody in over him.”

LeBron stunned by Magic's exit

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James didn’t believe it when he was told Magic Johnson had stepped down as president of basketball operations for the Lakers. In his first public comments since Johnson decided to leave the Lakers in April before the season ended, James relayed the story of how he found out from Randy Mims, James’ chief of staff. “My right hand comes to me and says, ‘Magic just stepped down,’ ” James said on HBO’s The Shop, which aired Saturday. “I’m like, ‘You mean from out of his car? Get the (expletive) out of my face.’ … He’s like, ‘Go check your phone.’ “

James, who was in the Lakers’ locker room but not playing in that night’s game, checked his phone. Indeed, Johnson held an impromptu and bizarre news conference, informing reporters of his resignation. “No one had no idea,” James said on his show. “We were like, ‘Damn, like right now?’ It was literally 70 minutes on the clock before (the game). I’m not playing, but my team is still playing, and you kind of decide to do that right here, right now. I feel like there’s a time and place for things, and I believe that you knew that you were going to make that decision, so why would you do it here and why would you do it now?”

“He explained to me Year 1 is going to be tough. … But I was OK with the process. At Year 16, you aren’t really supposed to be worrying about no damn process, especially for me because I’m in championship-mind mode all the time. “So it was just weird for him to just be like, ‘I’m out of here’ and not even have no like, ‘Hey Bron, kiss my (expletive). I’m out of here.’ I would’ve been OK with that. ‘Hey Bron, it’s Magic. Kiss my (expletive), I’m gone.’ Not even that.”

James and Paul met with Johnson and Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka on the Saturday before that franchise-altering press conference for what was essentially James’ exit interview. They talked about the team’s and James’ goals for the offseason, according to a person with knowledge of the meeting. There was no indication that Johnson was on his way out. Then, about 90 minutes before the finale to one of the most disappointing seasons in Lakers history, Johnson held an impromptu press conference. He told a throng of reporters he was stepping down because the job wasn’t making him happy, because he didn’t want to have to ask owner Jeanie Buss to fire Luke Walton as coach, and because he was tired of being accused of tampering with other teams’ players so frequently.

At this crossroad, the Lakers are still preeminent in town. Horrid as their season was, and noble as the Clippers’ season was, the Lakers had a 2.23 cable, more than four times the Clippers’ 0.56 rating. Unfortunately for the Lakers, they’re at a low ebb with sky high goals and huge expectations but new, uncertain management and no nucleus to speak of, since they would trade any, or all, of their players aside from LeBron James. The teams have one thing in common: About to commit the huge cap room they spent years accumulating, this is their last, best chance to be someone.

Nobody knows for certain who is running the Los Angeles Lakers right now. Rob Pelinka seems to be entrenched as the general manager of the team, but there is still a stubborn faction of reporters convinced that a new president of basketball operations is coming before the offseason begins in earnest. Jeanie Buss is the team’s owner, but according to Amin Elhassan on ESPN (via Dan Feldman of NBC Sports), Linda Rambis is the one that’s actually pulling the strings. “Some agents and GMs around the league have dubbed her the shadow owner of the Lakers, that everything goes through Linda Rambis, and if you want to convince Jeanie of something, you’ve got to get Linda first.” Ramona Shelburne later confirmed this as the status quo in Lakerland.

And now, with less than three months remaining before free agency formally begins and with the Anthony Davis trade talks with New Orleans expected to re-start as well, this question remains: Is Pelinka capable of steering the Lakers out of this abyss — hiring the right coach to replace the departed Luke Walton, closing a deal or two along the way — and fulfilling their title-contending dreams? It depends on whom you ask, but the vast majority of agents and executives polled by The Athletic have serious doubts. Pelinka has no shortage of detractors around the league, with the issues raised ranging from his trustworthiness to his communication style and relatability. The question of trust has dogged Pelinka since 2004, when his then-client Carlos Boozer reneged on a verbal commitment to re-sign with Cleveland and took a more lucrative offer with Utah.

But there are also respected power brokers who say they’ve had functional and positive experiences dealing with Pelinka, and who believe that his background as a player (he went to two Finals Fours with those Fab Five Michigan teams), attorney and prominent agent who built and ran his own agency is a fit for the Lakers. What’s more, Pelinka was widely known to be handling the lion’s share of the daily duties before Johnson’s departure. He was, in essence, running the front office already.

According to sources, the Lakers never reached out to LeBron’s former general manager in Cleveland, David Griffin, before he agreed to join New Orleans. Sources also say that they haven’t reached out to the Warriors regarding general manager Bob Myers. Ditto for Jerry West, the Clippers consultant who told The Athletic recently that he wasn’t sure what his future held past this summer but who now appears likely to remain in his current role going forward. (Ideas had circulated about West possibly heading for the Lakers alongside a younger, high-level GM.)

The Lakers remain holed up with no team official having appeared in public since Magic Johnson resigned April 9. Jeanie Buss is reportedly going forward with Rob Pelinka but has yet to confirm that, or let him appear to reassure fans… and free agents… that they’re still the Lakers, proceeding on the same agenda. As little as Pelinka’s controversy-filled career as an agent prepared him for this, he’s a bright guy who can handle himself in public. Jeanie won’t even trust him with that.

Criticized for not looking outside the organization, Jeanie’s answer is More Family. A veritable delegation of Busses went to Philadelphia last week to interview 76er assistant coach Monty Williams: Jeanie, Jesse Buss, Joey Buss, plus Pelinka, Linda and Kurt Rambis and Tim Harris, yet another Laker executive who hasn’t participated in basketball ops until now. Ominously for the Lakers, July 1 is looming with free agents gathering final impressions of who’s dynamic and who’s defunct.

According to sources, the Lakers never reached out to LeBron’s former general manager in Cleveland, Dave Griffin, before he agreed to join New Orleans. Sources also say that they haven’t reached out to the Warriors regarding general manager Bob Myers. Ditto for Jerry West, the Clippers consultant who told The Athletic recently that he wasn’t sure what his future held past this summer but now appears likely to remain in his current role going forward (ideas had circulated about West possibly heading for the Lakers alongside a younger, high-level GM). Pat Riley’s name has been discussed in media circles as well – and his ties to LeBron from their Miami days as well as the Lakers organization would certainly qualify as a unique and high-level fit – but the Heat president made it clear in his postseason press conference that he has no interest.
More HoopsHype Rumors
May 29, 2020 | 12:56 pm EDT Update
Even in the middle of a pandemic, when nobody is playing, Bradley Beal’s name still emerged in trade rumors. The New York Daily News last week reported that the Brooklyn Nets have had “internal discussions” about pursuing the 26-year-old Wizards guard, who signed a two-year, $72 million extension in October. “It’s not the first time I’ve heard this kind of talk,” Beal told ESPN. “It’s interesting. To me, I look at it as a sign of respect, that I’ve been doing good things and guys want to play with me.
Storyline: Bradley Beal to Nets?
“That’s an unbelievable feeling. When you hear that Kyrie [Irving] and KD [Kevin Durant] want you, s—, that’s amazing. At the same time, you don’t know how much there is to it, or how easy it would be to do. And I’ve put down roots in D.C. I’ve dedicated myself to this town, this community. I love it here, and it would feel great to know I could grind out winning here instead of jumping to another team. “But I’d be naive to say that I don’t think about it when these stories come up.”
Prior to Leon Rose taking over, other areas of need identified by New York’s front office/scouts included a forward who can stretch the floor. One person in touch with members of the organization at the time said part of the thinking for the club’s offseason was centered around finding players who complement rookie RJ Barrett. “If you want to complement Barrett, that’s where I’d go,” one opposing front office member said. “Adding (a guard and big man who can shoot from the perimeter), you space the floor and make things easier for him. The floor was so crowded for them this year.”
If the Knicks decide to look for a forward via free agency who can shoot, Danilo Gallinari, Carmelo Anthony and Christian Wood are potential options. Some members of the Knicks front office were enamored with Wood over the course of the season. Regarding Anthony, prior to free agency last summer, the Knicks strongly considered signing the ex-Knick if they were able to land two other stars. They missed out on the stars in free agency, which took Anthony out of their plans. Rose, the current team president, was Anthony’s agent. The two remain close. Worth pointing out: the Knicks being open to looking for a big who can shoot doesn’t necessarily reflect a desire to move on from Randle.
Storyline: Carmelo Anthony Free Agency
May 29, 2020 | 11:55 am EDT Update

May 29, 2020 | 11:26 am EDT Update
ON A SUNNY day in mid-April, the sun crested over Los Angeles, but Paul wished to be over a thousand miles away: poring over film in Oklahoma City, preparing for Game 2 or 3 of a first-round series. He wanted to be hooping. Instead of getting up shots in his team’s practice facility, Paul has been having direct conversations with Silver more than once a week as the liaison between the commissioner and the players. Paul has served as a sounding board for those looking for advice, ideas or an outlet for their frustration.
“Hell, I need to vent at times,” Paul said. “I just look at it as guys are actually concerned and they want to know what’s going on. They should have a say in their future.” Between homeschooling his kids and finding time to take online Spanish classes (“I’m trying to get better at something,” he said.), Paul has had calls almost every morning — most often union-related — and more in the afternoon.
As rumblings of restart options and hypothetical scenarios have dotted their social media timelines, players across the league have been peppering Paul with the same questions curious basketball fans might have. “When are we going to play? How are we going to play? Where are we going to play?” said executive committee member Anthony Tolliver, outlining what’s being posed to Paul. “Are we going to try and finish the regular season? Is it worth it? Is it going to be too much? Are we going to bring guys back and possibly be subject to a bunch of injuries because of the circumstances? Just walking through and talking through all that stuff.”
PAUL’S VOICE CARRIES weight in conversations with the players’ union, but he doesn’t look to dominate them. He approaches a conference call much in the same way he approaches the game. “I frequently joke about this, he’s obviously a point guard and his claim to fame in terms of skill set is his ability to read the room, read the floor and pass the ball,” Roberts said. “He does that in meetings too. “If Chris sees a player who has not said much, he’ll ask, ‘John, what do you think about this? Come on, weigh in.’ That’s what he does. It’s a delight.”

May 29, 2020 | 9:29 am EDT Update
But I do cover sports, and the NBA is a huge, global league, that millions of people care about. And I respect that this is important to you. So, I’m going to concentrate on that below. After speaking to a couple dozen folks at all levels, from owners on down, the past few days, here’s the lay of the land, with the league’s Board of Governors set to meet with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver Friday, a day after Silver spoke with the league’s GMs: The GM meeting, per a source, focused on the different potential playing formats after the restart, and the impacts of each on the final regular-season standings and other issues. But no definitive dates or decisions were made.
Storyline: Season Resuming?
“I’m fairly certain that Disney is going to work,” a high-ranking official with knowledge of the union’s thoughts said Thursday. “Vegas had some of the logistical things we needed but didn’t have the environment that could enhance our health protocols. Vegas scared me to death. Florida worried me a little bit because of the state opening up so early, but having a venue that can basically be closed off, I do think we can check off the venue issue off our list. I think we’ve got that down.”
There is a lot of support among teams and agents to include as many teams as possible. “I’m pushing for all,” one prominent agent said Wednesday. “I’m hearing the league wants to go to directly to the playoffs and I personally don’t think that’s fair to all the players who missed this season and want to participate. My suggestion for a format has always been 3-4 games for everyone, (a) play-in tournament for the eighth seed and then (a) regular playoff format.”
Problem is, Antetokounmpo has trademarked his “Greek Freak” nickname. Eady, in a series of tweets in March aimed at Antetokounmpo, said he stopped selling the shirts after getting a cease-and-desist letter last October from the player’s lawyers. That led to more legal wrangling, none of which Eady wanted to discuss in specifics other than to say he has taken out a small loan to cover a cash settlement to the lawsuit. The situation is an example that experts say is one the risks that star athletes face: Protect their trademarks using the legal system or face the loss of those protections that allow them to control their image, brand and related monetization – which can be worth millions of dollars.
And therein lies further image peril: The risk of going to court is that it can be seen as a famous rich person being greedy and cruel in trying to squash an entrepreneur. “Making an example of a few unauthorized vendors can ward off others. But trademark overreach can also alienate athletes from their fans — especially if those devoted fans are the ones imagining and creating the apparel,” said Stephen Stanwood of Campbell, Calif.-based Stanwood Law that specialized in such cases. Antetokounmpo has filed 13 trademark infringement lawsuits in federal court since July in the Southern District of New York, of which at least five have been settled, court records show. A lawsuit filed Wednesday was the eighth filed this month, and it’s unknown many cease-and-desist letters halted sales of knockoff merch before they came to become lawsuits.
May 29, 2020 | 7:50 am EDT Update
When the season was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, multiple players were approaching eligibility for contract bonuses. With basketball likely to return this summer, the league and the NBPA have to negotiate what will happen to that money. Sources told ESPN that the most likely outcome will be similar to how the league handled bonuses during the lockout-shortened season in 2011-12. Contract incentives initially intended for 82 games were prorated to account for the 66-game season. For example, a player with a $500,000 bonus in his contract for playing in 70 games qualified for the bonus if he played in 56 games. However, performance bonuses based on averages — such as shooting percentages — were not adjusted.
Fournier has $1.1 million in incentives, with $600,000 broken down into four categories: first-round appearance in the playoffs, second-round appearance, conference finals and Finals. Fournier will also need to appear in 75% of the games played per round. Likely outcome: There will be a negotiation when it comes to Fournier’s incentives. The guard has already met the required number of games (60), but the Magic might have to win a play-in game to make the postseason. When the season was postponed, Orlando was 5.5 games ahead of Washington for the final playoff spot in the East. If Orlando loses a play-in, does that mean Fournier doesn’t get his first-round appearance bonus?
Between homeschooling his kids and finding time to take online Spanish classes (“I’m trying to get better at something,” he said.), Paul has had calls almost every morning — most often union-related — and more in the afternoon. “He’s never said, ‘Can I get back to you?’ Never,” Roberts said of Paul, who will often surprise Roberts’ staff by jumping on a conference call to offer encouragement and share ideas. “Being accessible has been a godsend.”
As union president, Paul possesses the rare ability to gather the league’s top stars — LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant — on conference calls. That buy-in wasn’t there before, and high-ranking union members view Paul’s long-time superstar status as a big reason for the change. Players are more invested in their futures. They want more say. They want more power. “Our meetings are much more engaged now. That’s because of Chris,” Roberts said. “He won’t allow an issue to be presented and then not discussed.”
Paul’s competitiveness spills over into the role, but any beefs he has across the league don’t carry into meetings with players. “Pretty much everybody that I can imagine would have an on-court beef with him,” Tolliver said. “I’ve never seen any sort of negative confrontation [off the court]. “Most people’s experience with him is he’s so competitive … but that also is good for whenever he’s your president and he’s fighting [for] the things you want.”
Spencer Dinwiddie: … so here we go, I’ll explain this again for hot take Twitter. The question was revolving around what a less athletic KD could possibly look like because of how serious an Achilles injury is, especially for Bball players. Let me also first preface this with I don’t know what stage of rehab he’s at, I don’t have insider information, I don’t know when he’s going to return to play or any of that. This is my personal speculation from a basketball fan perspective. (Yes I appreciate HOFs, which he is) At 80% athleticism or so, which takes away his hyper mobility/dexterity for a 7fter. Who has a game that was built around mid post iso, pick/pop, a unblockable left foot turn around fade and overall extreme revolutionary proficiency in terms of a jumper/touch at that size. Sounds a lot like Dirk to me… and at the end of the day we’re comparing clear cut HOFs. Y’all acting like I said dirk was a bum or something

May 29, 2020 | 2:57 am EDT Update
General managers were surveyed about a “playoffs-plus” format—either a play-in tournament between the bubble teams to determine the final seeds in the playoffs, or a World Cup–style group stage, which would replace the end of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs with a round-robin format. About 75 percent of teams voted in favor of a play-in tournament, sources said, while 25 percent of teams voted in favor of the group stage.
Even if teams vote in their own best interests, it’s still noteworthy that there is leaguewide support behind more dramatic changes that were balked at in the past—such as playoff reseeding and play-in tournaments. My personal impression from conversations with sources across the league is that Silver is surveying teams to see if there is hunger for a new format the league may be able to use beyond this summer’s restart. Perhaps
Storyline: Season Resuming?
According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst on The Hoop Collective, the league may dismiss the idea of playing as many as 90 regular season games and go right to group-stage type opening round because it will give Zion Williamson and the Pelicans a better chance of making the 16-team playoffs. “I’ll tell you one thing: that scenario gets Zion Williamson in,” Windhorst said. “Look, I’ve just heard… I’m not saying the NBA is going this route, I’m just saying I’ve already heard this scenario that no matter what happens, the cutoff line will be the Pelicans. They’ll be in. It will be the first time in the history of the NBA that the league kicked the ball into the fairway for New Orleans.”
Storyline: Season Resuming?
Lillard sees longtime teammate CJ McCollum going through his routine with Blazers player development coach Jon Yim, but the backcourt runningmates won’t get a chance to chop it up, at least not face-to-face. There exists a cardinal rule: one guy, one coach, one basket. Then for the first time in what feels like an eternity, Lillard runs through his greatest hits, the barrage of long-range bombs, the floaters, the repertoire that makes him Damian Lillard. “The whole first week was a breath of fresh air,” Lillard says. “On a certain level, it was exciting. You’re finally back on the court and you’re seeing everyone’s faces again.”
Though Lillard’s workout is abbreviated and restricted, he can finally release the pent-up energy accumulated while being locked out of the gym for nearly two months. The return for Lillard and his teammates comes with both anticipation of what he hopes will be more basketball ahead, but also some disorientation. “There’s so much stuff you never realize or appreciate you have access to until you’re without it,” Lillard says. “But it was still good to be back.”
BY MAY 15, one week after the Blazers reopened, the novelty of returning to the facility has worn off for Lillard. While he still values the opportunity to get some portion of his work in, the restrictions are becoming onerous and, truthfully, just strange. “The second week everyone is like, ‘All right, this is kind of weird,'” Lillard says. “The excitement is gone and now it’s, ‘What going on?'”