Storyline: Lonzo Ball Injury

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On the court, Ball has been encouraged by what he’s seen over multiple weeks at New Orleans’ voluntary workouts, which have been regularly attended by 15-plus players. “I think we have a chance (to be good). We have a lot of talent. We have a new team, where people have got to get to know each other, so we’ve got to start a little earlier,” Ball said, referring to one reason Pelicans players were motivated to participate. Ball missed 35 games last season due to injury, but said Tuesday of his health, “I’m good. Doing everything, 5-on-5, full-contact. I’m good.”

However, that doesn’t mean Ball is just sitting around and waiting to be healthy again. According to JaVale McGee, Ball has been in the gym every day trying to work his way back to full strength (via FS1’s “The Herd”): When people get injured they tend to go down in spirit but he’s had a great spirit this whole time he’s been injured. He’s been there every day working in the weight room, and this is coming from behind-the-scenes that sees it all. He’s training. He hasn’t missed a training session. You get fined for things like that and people are really paying attention to that, but he hasn’t missed any of that since I’ve been there, so it’s not like he’s not trying to get healthy. He just had a bad injury and it’s been lingering. That’s all it is.

The Lakers found out about Ball’s situation when Lonzo Ball called General Manager Rob Pelinka, and the organization informed him that they would not allow it and could void his contract if he went through with the procedure, sources said. The Lakers then arranged transportation to bring Ball home, sources said. This could have been a disastrous moment for the Lakers, with a core player potentially undergoing a procedure that could have blindsided the organization. But Johnson and Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka communicated with those around Lonzo, working with his then-agent Harrison Gaines to squash the procedure and bring him back to Los Angeles, sources around the team with knowledge of the situation said. Gaines declined to comment when reached by phone.

He spoke publicly Tuesday for the first time since January and his recent shutdown for the remainder of the season. Ball is ready. “I’m very, very motivated,” Ball told The Athletic. “I want to be the best I can be. I’m looking forward to this summer. I don’t look at it as added pressure, because I haven’t had a full summer yet to dedicate to myself. I have to keep working on my craft. I’m just happy that I’m going to be healthy. “It’s been frustrating. This is the second year that this has happened. But I have to stay positive, stay motivated.”


2 years ago via ESPN

Ball didn’t suffer any setbacks following his first contact practice on Thursday. “We’re gonna be patient,” Walton said. “No need to rush it right now. We’ll put minutes restrictions on him as he starts coming back in the preseason. And everything will be, ‘How do you feel?’ the next day, ‘How do you feel?’ that night. As long we keep checking those off and he’s fine, the minutes restrictions will go up and up until we decide to get rid of it all together.”
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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?'”
Spencer Dinwiddie understands that expectations are raised to championship if Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving return for the Orlando playoffs. But the Nets guard is unsure what his star teammates will decide. “That’s the billion dollar question. But that’s not something I can answer,” Dinwiddie said Wednesday morning on ESPN’s “First Take.” “I know they’re both working really hard. They’re two of the hardest working in the NBA on the court, and two phenomenal players. If they are able to return and that’s the decision they make, our aspirations turn from playoffs to championship. “If they’re not able to return, which they’ve pretty much said that’s kind of the stance that they’re taking, we still want to be a team that grinds to get to the playoffs and makes a run in the playoffs. But we also understand the talent they add with being two of the top-10 players in the league and KD being, in my opinion, the greatest scorer of all time.”
But Williams changed his mind after seeing LaMelo Ball play in a game early on against the Perth Wildcats and guard Damian Martin, a six-time NBL defensive player of the year. “That’s the benchmark for me,” Williams said of Perth. “Any import point guard who thinks they’re good, all we say is this: let’s see what he does against Perth and Damian Martin. They’re physical, they play extremely hard and they’re picking you up full court…. (But) Damian Martin couldn’t do anything with (Ball). They began doubling him, getting the ball out of his hand. Never seen that, ever.” Ball had 19 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists in the preseason game. He hit four 3-pointers. Williams, and the dozens of NBA scouts/front office personnel in attendance, came away impressed. “I said then, that’s the No. 1 pick in the draft. This was (September).”
The Bulls seem to have had a bad image in terms of perception by free agents for years, what kind of work do you think the new front office will have to do to rehabilitate that image? @Patrick H. A lot of it is relationships. If they carry the pre-existing relationships people I have talked to insist they do, the job could be easy. I’ve heard from more than a few people who have been extremely impressed with the direction of the franchise.
@Brian M. As you know, I would LOVE for the NBA to go back to Seattle. What I was told by owners well before the pandemic was that it was unlikely there’d be much support for expansion until at least the next TV deal (which is set to expire in 2024) is done. So I’m not holding out much hope at present for a groundswell of support for new teams. If this season were, for some reason, ultimately cancelled, maybe some feelings would change.