NBA Rumor: Season Resuming?

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Even within these strange, sad times we’re living in, yesterday’s decision feels like it will echo for years to come. Just how historic was it? Len Elmore: From the standpoint of a unified position by a team, across leagues, it’s right up there with the assassinations of Dr. King and, before that even, JFK. How can you conduct sport when there’s so many larger, more significant things at hand? However, what makes this unprecedented is the fact that there’s a reason, a basis behind this. This is a protest of systemic racism catalyzed by another shooting of an unarmed Black man. We’ve never seen that. And it wasn’t spurred on by any kind of national power. This was done by the individual players, predominantly Black players, who are standing up and using their platform to make a statement. And the question is, will you sustain the impact or is this just a one-off thing that comes and goes?

Last night the league tweeted that the three playoff games have been “postponed” and will be rescheduled. Can you explain why they did this? Len Elmore: At this stage, they think that it bodes well to sympathize. Let’s see how long that lasts. The longer the players decide they’re not gonna play, the more you have an impact on the league and the owners, on their pocketbook and their profitability. If this thing lasts a week, two weeks, then it becomes a different story. This league right now is trying to maintain good will between those who are essentially adversarial, the union and management. But the longer they stay out, the more that good will dissipates.

NBA will paint Black Lives Matter on court sidelines

The NBA is planning to paint “Black Lives Matter” on the court inside both sidelines in all three arenas it will use at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, when it resumes the 2019-20 season late next month, league sources told ESPN. The WNBA is also discussing painting “Black Lives Matter” on the court when it begins its abbreviated 2020 season at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, sources said.

On a conference call with reporters Friday, leaders of both the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association said the league and union were discussing several methods of using the NBA’s platform in Orlando to call attention to racial equality, social justice and police brutality. Over the weekend, Chris Paul, president of the players’ union, told ESPN that the league and union were collaborating to allow players to wear uniforms with personalized messages linked to social justice on the backs of their jerseys in place of players’ last names.

Emotions are running high, from people tired of quarantine, frustrated they’ll need to burrow deeper into their hermitage, to those believing society should go back to normal regardless of the consequences. Add in the growing Black Lives Matter movement, aspiring to facilitate significant societal changes in response to the killing of George Floyd and several similar racial injustices, and the answer only grows murkier. “It’s about money, clearly,” one Western Conference executive said. “I’m just curious to see what practices they use if multiple people get it. At what point do they shut it down?”

Emotions are running high, from people tired of quarantine, frustrated they’ll need to burrow deeper into their hermitage, to those believing society should go back to normal regardless of the consequences. Add in the growing Black Lives Matter movement, aspiring to facilitate significant societal changes in response to the killing of George Floyd and several similar racial injustices, and the answer only grows murkier. “It’s about money, clearly,” one Western Conference executive said. “I’m just curious to see what practices they use if multiple people get it. At what point do they shut it down?”

NBA and NBPA finalize return plan for 2019-20 season

The National Basketball Association and the National Basketball Players Association announced today that they have finalized a comprehensive plan for a July 30 restart to the 2019-20 season, which includes stringent health and safety protocols, a single-site campus at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and the goal of taking collective action to combat systemic racism and promote social justice. In addition, the NBA and Disney have reached an agreement that makes the Arena, the Field House and Visa Athletic Center at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex the venues for all games for the remainder of the season, which will resume with 22 teams returning to play and with no fans in attendance.

As announced on Wednesday, the NBA and the NBPA have agreed in principle that the goal of the season restart will be to find tangible and sustainable ways to address racial inequality across the country. Leaders from the NBA and the NBPA have also discussed strategies to increase Black representation across the NBA and its teams, ensure greater inclusion of Black-owned and operated businesses across NBA business activities, and form an NBA foundation to expand educational and economic development opportunities across the Black community. In recognition that long-term change can only come from an informed and sustained commitment, conversations regarding these efforts will continue and additional details will be released at a later date.

“We have worked together with the Players Association to establish a restart plan that prioritizes health and safety, preserves competitive fairness and provides a platform to address social justice issues,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “We are grateful to our longtime collaborator Disney for its role in playing host and making this return to play possible, and we also thank the public health officials and infectious disease specialists who helped guide the creation of comprehensive medical protocols and protections.”

“It is very exciting to officially announce the restart of the 2019-2020 season,” said NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts. “It has taken true collaboration between the League and the Union – special kudos to our Executive Committee and several other team reps – along with the continued support and assistance from medical experts, public health officials and many others. Additionally, our platform in Orlando presents a unique opportunity to extend the ongoing fight against systemic racism and police brutality in this country. We will continue to work with our players and the League to develop specific plans in Orlando as well as long-term initiatives to bring about real change on these issues.”

The NBA said Wednesday the Pelicans and the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation worked together on the city’s restart bid. “New Orleans has a rich history of hosting world-class sports and entertainment events — including NBA All-Star Games in 2008, 2014 and 2017,” NBA executive vice president Kelly Flatow said. “The New Orleans Pelicans and the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation collaborated to propose a safe and healthy environment for the NBA’s return to play. We’re appreciative of their leadership and support.”

Some are terrified, not only for the people who could spend up to three months in COVID-19 ravaged Florida starting in mid-July but also for the incredible damage the league could incur for years to come if too many players test positive and it all comes crashing down. “If the cases keep spiking in Florida, things are going to happen,” one GM told The Athletic on Monday. “I’m really, really concerned for the league big-picture wise in many, many ways.”

Others are mildly concerned, trusting of Commissioner Adam Silver and his staff that shared their 113-page “Health and Safety Protocols” memo with teams last week but also wary of the physical risks and mental health challenges that this unnatural environment will present for players and staff members alike. And that was before the positive tests of players such as Denver’s Nikola Jokic started rolling in on Tuesday. “It’s the hindsight of ‘Was it worth it?’ that worries me,” another GM said. “If something happens, it’s (the question of) ‘Was it worth it?’ If everything goes great, it’s historic, and it’ll be remembered throughout history. ‘Remember the Bubble?’ or whatever they’re going to call it. It’ll be a special thing as long as we can make it through.”

ESPN, one of the NBA’s top partners, tweeted a 28-second video on June 4 to the 36.5 million followers of its “SportsCenter” account — “When You Wish Upon a Star” playing with fireworks popping around Disney’s iconic castle. The reason for the celebration? “The NBA is Back,” the ad ends. The video was the network’s response to a 29-1 vote of teams in favor of restarting the NBA season with 22 teams on the Disney World campus, reason for basketball fans and the network that airs a sizable chunk of the league’s games to celebrate. Privately, though, some NBA executives and team officials scoffed. The road to the NBA season was far from complete and bringing the NBA “back” was no guarantee.

Last Tuesday through Saturday, according to state data, 17 percent of coronavirus tests in the county returned positive results. That was a significant jump from the 10-day period before that, from June 6 to 15, when the positive rate was 5 percent. The spike is yet another source of apprehension to manage for league and union officials, who just emerged from weeks of complicated discussions to come to terms on all the health and safety restrictions for its restart beginning July 7.

Teams are set to ramp up training this week. A transaction window will soon open. Seeding games and the playoffs are scheduled for Disney World. When will the union actually approve this plan? Brian Windhorst of ESPN on Sunday: “This, from what everybody that I talked to, right now is too big to fail. The overwhelming majority of players are excited. They want to be there. From what I understand, Hannah, it is going to happen. They’re on the verge of coming to an agreement. That could be announced in the next 48 hours, certainly before training camps re-open the middle of this week. We are headed towards at least a restart of training camp with agreement from the union very soon.”

Magic CEO confident Orlando bubble idea is safe

Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins told the Orlando Sentinel on Friday the NBA restart committee feels confident in the league’s safety plans. “We had a number of guiding principles as we had discussions about the restart and how we would restart, and the No. 1 guiding principle for us, for the league overall, is the health and safety of our players, coaches and staff that will be on the campus at Disney,” Martins said. “We have consulted with some of the top medical experts in the country, epidemiologists from Columbia University and Johns Hopkins, and others, [including] a former surgeon general [Vivek Murthy].

“So a lot of time and effort has been put into the safety protocols. We’re confident that the protocols that are in place will keep everybody on the Disney campus confined and amongst each other, and with little to no exposure of anyone else from the community. So in saying that, I’m confident that we have a safe plan in place and that despite the recent rise in cases in Florida that it will be a safe environment for all of our players, coaches and staff that are at Disney.”

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September 16, 2021 | 8:36 pm EDT Update
NBA star Giannis Antetokounmpo was in Greece for a meeting with the country’s prime minister Thursday and a special ceremony to bestow Greek citizenship on his mother Veronica and younger brother Alex. Antetokounmpo, who led the Milwaukee Bucks to the NBA championship in July, attended the ceremony at the official residence of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. The 26-year-old Antetokounmpo was born in Athens, the son of Nigerian immigrants. He was granted Greek citizenship in 2013, allowing him to travel to the United States and join the Bucks later that year.
“We always felt Greek, but now we have an official stamp and we are happy,” Antetokounmpo told reporters after the ceremony. “Alex and my mom are Greek citizens now.” Antetokounmpo also traveled to Greece in August with his brother Thanassis, carrying the Larry O’Brien NBA championship trophy. He took the trophy to the ancient Acropolis in Athens to celebrate with members of his family.
September 16, 2021 | 8:07 pm EDT Update