Storyline: Rich DeVos Death

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ORLANDOMAGIC.COM: You got to know Mr. DeVos quite well during your first stint with the Magic and you briefly met with him again before you took the job this time around. What are some of your fondest memories of your interactions with him? STEVE CLIFFORD: “It was a very difficult day when we lost him. As much as anything, like most of us, I was always a big fan of his. More than anything, it was always about how supportive he was for the team. I’ve read all of his books and I loved his message of perseverance, discipline in life and positivity is one I’ll always remember. “Two things I’ll always remember about Mr. DeVos was how much we’d always enjoy him stopping in before the games and saying `hi’ and something positive to everyone. Then, every year before the season, we’d fly down to West Palm to visit with him and he’d sit everybody down and give us a message that our players and staff all enjoyed.’’

Baumann: One of the great things about Rich DeVos was his work in the community. This (youth camp) is just another fruit of his labor as well, right Aaron? What can you say about the passing of Rich DeVos this week? Aaron Gordon: It’s sad man. It’s a huge hit to this organization. He was always super encouraging. Always proud of us. He was one of my biggest fans. He had plenty of advice to share with the team. Plenty of antidotes. Hopefully we can get something going for him.

Just as they had done numerous times before, past and present NBA players such as Shaquille O’Neal, Jameer Nelson and others, reached out to Magic CEO Alex Martins concerning Mr. DeVos. On Thursday, several contacted Martins and Magic leaders to pass along their condolences and fond memories about a man they considered to be, “the best owner in the NBA.’’ “You’d be amazed at how many players and former players I’ve already heard from today, including Shaq and Jameer and several others,’’ said Martins after announcing that DeVos – the Magic’s owner since 1991 – had died at his home in Ada, Mich.

In that respect, the Magic captured two Eastern Conference crowns, five division titles and won at least 50 games seven times during DeVos’ ownership. Twice, the Magic came close to winning a championship for Central Florida, losing in the NBA Finals in heartbreaking fashion in 1995 and 2009. Martins said being unable to secure a championship for DeVos will always be one of his greatest disappointments professionally. “My biggest regret today is that we didn’t bring him an NBA championship,’’ said the Magic CEO, who had known and worked with DeVos for the past 27 years. “We’ve said for years that we’ve got to get this done before he left us and that is the unfinished business, unfortunately. He wanted (an NBA championship) badly, but it’s not like he walked around saying it to everyone, `I’ve got to get an NBA championship; I want a NBA championship.’ You knew it from his actions and you knew it from the resources that he brought to the organization and you knew it from the way that he encouraged everyone.’’

Despite being confined to a wheelchair much of the past two years, he attended approximately 20 home games while rooting on the team from his customary seat along the baseline near the Magic bench. Before and after games, he’d show his support to the team’s players and coaches in the best way he knew how – through genuine, heart-felt words of encouragement. “He was in that locker room every night that he was here in the building. And he’d go around to every single player in that locker room – before and after the game – encouraging them before the game and shaking their hands afterwards even after a loss and telling them, `That’s OK, you gave it your best,’’’ Martins recalled. “That’s what who he was. He did want to win a championship and we wanted to win a championship for him. I’d say my biggest regret today is that we didn’t win a championship before he left us.’’
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January 20, 2020 | 12:46 pm UTC Update
“Thankful, most of all,” Carter says of the treatment. “And I say that because I was an opponent for 22 years for most of these teams and obviously these are great organizations that are class acts and for them to do that is great. “I just enjoy playing the game regardless of being an opponent of these different organizations … regardless, it’s a brotherhood, it’s a small community and it makes for an emotional roller coaster.”
And he will hearken back to those glory days of the early 2000s and that special night in Oakland he got to witness in person. “I tell you what, I was thankful that I was able to be there and see those guys win. I remember sitting next to Tracy (McGrady) and thinking, ‘Do you believe what’s about to happen?’ There was like two minutes left, and it was like, ‘Dude, this is unreal.’
“It’s different, but I prefer my people on the East Coast,” Bradley said. “Some people might be offended by that, but I mean, especially knowing I’m from the West Coast. I don’t know if it’s because it’s home for me or what, but I just feel like people are real good friends. That’s all it is. I could go years without talking to someone in Boston but [when] I see them, it’s a real friendship. People are honest, that’s the culture. East Coast, but specifically Boston. People are just good people.”
Even if he does decide to play, he may make his signal behind the scenes in the coming weeks and let the world know when he arrives at training camp. For now, Wiggins is keeping his cards close to his chest. “I’m not sure [about the summer],” he said Saturday after recording his first career triple-double in a Timberwolves loss to the Toronto Raptors. “Right now my team is struggling a little bit [they were five games out of the 8th seed in the West as of Sunday] so we have to get back and try to get in a playoff run. That’s my main goal right now. And after that I’m going to decide on Canada Basketball.”

January 20, 2020 | 1:29 am UTC Update
January 19, 2020 | 10:33 pm UTC Update
January 19, 2020 | 10:08 pm UTC Update
January 19, 2020 | 9:19 pm UTC Update
And now here we are, with the Sixers charging headlong toward the playoffs, ready to make good on what head coach Brett Brown has proclaimed is a championship-caliber team. This is new territory for Brown, who was hired as coach seven years ago, just when the team embarked on an epic intentional collapse — dubbed “The Process” — in order to position itself near the head of the worst-goes-first line in the drafting of the best college players. The team set records for losing over four years, and Brown, all along, stood behind this method, often talking about his players as if helping them become men might be his real job. Was Nerlens Noel, a center the team drafted in the early days of the Process, engaged in timeouts? Was he helping teammates off the floor? How was he comporting himself on planes when the team went on the road? At the end of 2014, when Embiid was proving to be high-maintenance as he rehabbed a broken foot, Brown said this: “Joel Embiid has a good heart. At the end of the day, he has a good heart. I don’t throw that sentence out lightly. That needs to be the criteria of everybody in here.”
Meanwhile, Brown’s approach hasn’t changed. He talks up his best players, never criticizing them publicly. And to this point, it’s worked, obviously: Embiid and Simmons, 25 and 23 years old, are All Stars. But they still have a big piece of themselves to overcome, or to unlock. They still need to grow up. Which gives Brown, who started out in Philly with all the room in the world, a dilemma: Suddenly, he has very little time. Sixers owner Josh Harris has a history of listening to the noise of fans and media, plenty of whom think the team’s head coach should stop babying his two stars and force-feed their growth, given that they’re being paid tens of millions a year and we’re so close to that championship.
IT MIGHT SEEM, then, a bit strange that Brett Brown talks a lot about toughness as central to what he’s all about, though it’s not by accident. “Philly tough, Philly strong” was the banner phrase of an early-season team promo featuring the coach’s voice. Talking toughness is a part of getting his team to play in a certain style, but for Brown, it’s also been a natural way of connecting to the city, of molding a certain persona. “You become a spokesperson and mouthpiece of the owners and players,” Brown says. “I am quite calculated on what I want to talk about.” It helps his standing here, too.
But Brown, who’s 58, does come by toughness, in his own way, naturally. He grew up in seaside Maine towns where his father coached basketball. His father’s father made a living taking wealthy businessmen from New York and Boston and Montreal to fish or hunt moose and bear in Northern Maine. And his father — Brett’s great-grandfather — had a job as a railroad switchman, changing the tracks to direct trains either to Quebec or Montreal. “He had to shovel snow off the tracks and remove dead animals, too,” Brown says. “Which could be anything.”
January 19, 2020 | 7:24 pm UTC Update
January 19, 2020 | 6:26 pm UTC Update

Curry already looks ready to play in his post-practice sessions. Judging by his shooting, his broken left hand looks healed. He is no longer wearing the brace. But he hasn’t played since Oct. 30. Saturday was his 40th game missed since the injury. By the All-Star break, Curry will have missed 51 games — the most he’s missed in a season since he missed 40 games in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season when he severely sprained his right ankle.
Last week, I passed along how the Pacers were informed that Domantas Sabonis could not hurt his left knee anymore but would have to play through pain in the meantime. Many were upset with that strategy and wanted to see Sabonis take it easy. We’ve seen other guys play through injuries, and it often leads to something else, sometimes something worse. So I went to Sabonis to get the full story. Many players hate discussing injuries; they’d rather talk about almost anything else. Sabonis, though, opened up and shared what he had learned.
Storyline: Domantas Sabonis Injury
“I’ve been told it’s a bone bruise, so there’s swelling in the bone that all doctors say it can’t get worse unless you get hit in that same spot,” he said. Sabonis was evaluated by the team doctor, and then his representatives also had him checked out by two additional specialists, which is normal. And all three doctors were in agreement: It’s simply a bone bruise and he’s not subject to additional risk by continuing to play on it.
“It’s the same thing if I get hit in my healthy knee,” Sabonis said, pointing to his right knee. “There’s the same chance. It’s not a muscle or anything, so by doing more stuff, you can’t technically get it worse.” Sabonis tried the rest thing. He strategically didn’t do much on it for three days. He didn’t practice before their game in Chicago on Jan. 10 and didn’t play in the game, and the team had the following day off. “Not even ice helps it,” he said. “You can’t really put anything on it. It just has to heal.”
January 19, 2020 | 5:27 pm UTC Update

Jazz extend Royce O'Neale

Utah Jazz forward Royce O’Neale has agreed to a four-year, $36 million contract extension, agents Ty Sullivan and Steven Heumann of CAA Sports told ESPN. O’Neale plans to sign the deal on Sunday, the agents said. Although he could’ve become a restricted free agent this summer, O’Neale and his reps negotiated a long-term deal that keeps him with the franchise that signed him out of Europe in 2017.
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For what it’s worth, the Rockets weren’t depressed following the loss — not like Westbrook would ever let it get to that point. “Nobody put their head down in here,” Westbrook said. “If I see it, I’ll go grab it myself and put their head up. It’s no reason to put your head down. We’re all blessed to have an amazing job, to be able to support our families and to go out and play basketball — something that we all love to do. There’s no reason you should ever walk out of here with your head down. I’m obviously disappointed [with] the loss, but we got bigger things in life that’s bigger than a basketball game.”