Storyline: Season Resuming?

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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.”

As agents have warned their players, the long-term consequences of canceling the season could be even more severe than the short-term hit. If the NBA couldn’t resume play because the majority of players decided to sit out, there’s a strong possibility that the owners would terminate the current collective bargaining agreement and force a lockout. (If the cancellation was due to COVID-19, it seems unlikely that the owners would terminate the CBA). Right now, the CBA is relatively player-friendly, but that could change if the season is canceled and the CBA is ripped up.

Many agents of rising 2021 free agents are telling their clients: choose security. They know that the superstars, as ever, will get paid next summer, but any player looking at the Mid-Level Exception of lower in ’21 may have problems, because they think a) teams will be cutting budgets in response to COVID (i.e., less willing to pay the luxury tax in 2021, with some teams slashing below that number), and b) most teams will only carry 14 players, one short of the maximum 15 allowed, and worry more about re-signing their own players instead of forging out to aggressively sign others.

“Before this year, you knew what that crop of ’21 is going to be,” one prominent agent, speaking on background, said. “It’s going to be even more crowded, because you’re going to have a significantly higher number of players (this summer) doing 1+1s (two-year deals with a player option for the second season). … I’m very lucky that I’m not going nuts going into this free agency. It’s going to be a bloodbath. We don’t know what the cap is going to be, but if it stays the same, how many owners are going to go with more than 13 guys?”

Further clouding 2021 is that COVID-19, far from being off in the wings just because some states decided to reopen, is back center stage, destroying lives with a vengeance in multiple states, which have seen spikes in cases in the last fortnight. So while the plan is to finish this season in Orlando, we can’t say with certainty – yet – that that’s going to come to fruition. And what happens for 2021 in a worst-case scenario, if the virus forces the NBA and union to cancel the rest of this season?

“We don’t know whether they’re going to play or not,” another top agent said. “I know everyone’s assuming they’re going to play, but you see all these things going on, people coming back (testing positive) from football, people protesting, I don’t know the effects of all this. … you can’t tell me that if I’m a 65-year-old executive, with a family, that I’m comfortable being in this bubble? Me, it’s just too much unknown. … it probably makes sense for everybody to sign a one-year deal. Even the big free agents like Davis – sign a one-year deal (this summer) and see what the numbers are for ’21, and sign a contract based off the projections for that.”

NBA Central: Brian Windhorst says an overwhelming majority of players are excited and ready for Orlando “From what I understand, it is going to happen . . . They’re on the verge of coming to an agreement that could be announced in the next 48 hours.” (🎥 ESPN) pic.twitter.com/2ezKKxrItg

Sacramento Kings guard Bogdan Bogdanovic said that playing the rest of the NBA season in July and August reminds him of FIBA’s tournaments. A kind of competition he’s highly familiar with. It looks like, honestly, like some FIBA competition overseas,” Bogdanovic said in an interview with ABC. “It’s pretty much in the same time. August, July. It’s pretty much the same. I have experience with it. You can’t visit the city and you can’t walk around, this is going to be a little bit different with that bubble inside. New experience in life.”

This is what Parham does for a living. His job is to reach people, often professional athletes. Parham is a licensed psychologist and the counseling professor in the School of Education at Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles. Before he took the position with the NBPA, he was a consulting psychologist for the Los Angeles Lakers and worked with the NBA, NFL and several U.S. Olympic teams for years. Parham is also Black. This detail provides important context in an NBA community filled with white leaders and the surrounding racial crisis in America. The NBPA represents a player pool that is approximately 81 percent Black, but that ratio dips precipitously the higher you climb on the NBA’s ladder of power.

A handful of players involved in Friday’s call over concerns about plans to restart the 2019-20 season expressed strongly that they would consider not playing, according to a source familiar with the call. But some veterans on the call open to sitting out had a question for the players, such as Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving, who supported the idea. “They were asking, ‘What’s the plan?'” a source familiar with the call said of the response of some veterans on the call. “Even the players who supported the idea of sitting, they were asking about a plan of action. There was no plan.'”

How safe is the NBA’s proposed Orlando bubble for restarting the 2019-20 season? No one will know for sure until 22 teams move into the Disney property and test it out, but according to Sacramento Kings co-owner and chairman Vivek Ranadivé, the parameters put in place by the league will make the bubble concept safer than being at home. “Nothing is going to be ever a 100 percent foolproof,” Ranadivé told CNBC’s Tyler Mathisen during a recent interview on “Power Lunch”. “When you walk into a grocery store, you’re taking chances. We have a close relationship with Disney’s Bob Iger and I have a high level of confidence that we’re going to be safer in Orlando than most people would be at home.”

A handful of players involved in Friday’s call over concerns about plans to restart the 2019-20 season expressed strongly that they would consider not playing, according to a source familiar with the call. But some veterans on the call open to sitting out had a question for the players, such as Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving, who supported the idea. “They were asking, ‘What’s the plan?'” a source familiar with the call said of the response of some veterans on the call. “Even the players who supported the idea of sitting, they were asking about a plan of action. There was no plan.'”

How safe is the NBA’s proposed Orlando bubble for restarting the 2019-20 season? No one will know for sure until 22 teams move into the Disney property and test it out, but according to Sacramento Kings co-owner and chairman Vivek Ranadivé, the parameters put in place by the league will make the bubble concept safer than being at home. “Nothing is going to be ever a 100 percent foolproof,” Ranadivé told CNBC’s Tyler Mathisen during a recent interview on “Power Lunch”. “When you walk into a grocery store, you’re taking chances. We have a close relationship with Disney’s Bob Iger and I have a high level of confidence that we’re going to be safer in Orlando than most people would be at home.”

Still, as the league hurtles toward a restart later in the summer, Favors tells The Athletic he’s “probably” going to commit to return to the Pelicans, and is making plans on a return to New Orleans early next week. He’s looking forward to playing ball again, but also looking forward to continuing to push a message designed to change the landscape of race relations within the country. He doesn’t view the Orlando bubble as perfect. He’s been home in Atlanta for the last three months, spending a lot of time with his family. His children are small, and not seeing them for an extended period will be a jolt.


“We feel the medical review process is designed to flag only those individuals who pose significant threats of substantial harm to themselves that cannot be reduced or eliminated by the NBA’s considerable steps to create a healthy and safe atmosphere in Orlando. “Adam (Silver) and the NBA have created a situation in Orlando that is likely far safer than in our coaches’ home markets. Absent a significant threat, we believe a coach should be able to understand and assume their individual risks, waive liability, and coach in Orlando.”

Warren LeGarie, the agent for D’Antoni and Gentry, told ESPN on Wednesday: “I hope there is a basketball solution to this issue rather than a legal one.” The 113-page health and safety protocols sent to teams late Tuesday outlined a multi-layered process for the identification and potential “protection” of team employees designated as higher-risk. All team staffers will fill out a questionnaire probing for individual risk factors, including: asthma; heart problems; ongoing cancer treatments; smoking habits; a body mass index above 40 as a measure of obesity; kidney or liver diseases; and other indications of a compromised immune system.

Jayson Tatum not considering sitting out

Jayson Tatum is not considering sitting out the restart of the season due to contract concerns, according to two league sources familiar with the Celtics All-Star’s plans. A report in the New York Daily News indicated that Tatum, who has been in town working out at the Celtics practice facility, was “reluctant to return” for concerns he would get hurt and that would impact his chances of signing a multi-year, max-salaried extension this offseason.
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August 15, 2020 | 4:13 pm EDT Update
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver responded to President Donald Trump referring to the league’s players as “nasty” and “dumb” for holding silent protests during the playing of the National Anthem. Silver defended the league’s players in an interview Friday with PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff, saying league administrators support some of the players who hold the anti-police brutality protests during the National Anthem.
Silver replied that roughly 55 million Americans have watched the NBA games leading up to the playoffs so far this year, particularly the coveted demographic of men between the ages of 18 to 49 years old. “And in terms of Black Lives Matter,” Silver continued, “we support it as a national movement. Depending on estimates, roughly 25 million Americans have protested for social justice in the country — in this country.”
Silver rejected criticism from Trump and conservatives who have accused the league of cozying up to China’s Communist Party simply to do business with the country’s massive fan base. The NBA is currently making billions of dollars off of its Chinese consumers, which came to a head last year when the Houston Rockets’ general manager tweeted out in support of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. “As a result, we were taken off the air, Chinese Central Television, for the first time in 30 years. And our games are still not back on the air, as a result of our supporting that general manager and supporting, frankly, American values, the values of free speech,” Silver said, adding that the NBA has had ties to China since the Washington Bullets played a game there in 1979.
August 15, 2020 | 2:11 pm EDT Update
August 15, 2020 | 1:34 pm EDT Update
“I’m grateful for and appreciative of Alvin’s commitment to the organization and, most importantly, the local community,” said Griffin. “The City of New Orleans is richer because of his presence here. These types of moves are often about fit and timing, and we believe now is the right time to make this change and bring in a new voice.”
Storyline: Alvin Gentry Firing
“I want to thank Alvin for his contributions to the Pelicans and the New Orleans community,” said Pelicans Owner Gayle Benson. “We believe that making a head coaching change is necessary at this time. I truly appreciate Alvin’s leadership, dedication and perseverance through some challenging circumstances over the past five seasons. He will always be a part of our Pelicans family, and we wish him and his family all the best in the future. Our intention moving forward is to find the right head coach that will guide this Pelicans team to compete for championships. That is what our fans deserve.”
August 15, 2020 | 12:37 pm EDT Update
Among those coaches expected to be part of the Pelicans search: Lakers assistant Jason Kidd, Clippers assistant Ty Lue and former Nets coach Kenny Atkinson, sources said. The Pelicans are also expected to have an interest in Brooklyn interim coach Jacque Vaughn, should the Nets decide not to retain him, sources said.
August 15, 2020 | 12:12 pm EDT Update
Knicks GM Scott Perry has been floated as a possibility for the newly opened Sacramento job following Vlade Divac’s firing Friday. Sacramento consultant Joe Dumars, Perry’s boss in Detroit, is running the GM search. According to a source, Bill Duffy, RJ Barrett’s agent, may be considered.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency authorization on Saturday allowing public use of a saliva-based test for the coronavirus developed at Yale University and funded by the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association. The test, known as SalivaDirect, is designed for widespread public screening. The cost per sample could be as low as about $4, though the cost to consumers will likely be higher than that — perhaps around $15 or $20 in some cases, according to expert sources.
Storyline: Coronavirus
Yale administered the saliva test to a group that included NBA players and staff in the lead-up to the league’s return to play and compared results to the nasal swab tests the same group took. The results almost universally matched, according to published research that has not yet been peer-reviewed. The leading coronavirus saliva test, developed at a Rutgers University lab and given the same permission by the FDA in mid-April, costs individual consumers up to $150 — though that can be reduced to $60 or $70 in some circumstances, said Andrew Brooks, an associate professor at Rutgers and chief operating officer of RUCDR Infinite Biologics, the lab behind the test. The Rutgers test can be taken at home and returns results in 24 to 48 hours.
August 15, 2020 | 11:34 am EDT Update
While the list of candidates may grow, several coaches and executives around the league believe there is one candidate who stands out amongst the current group – Atkinson. “I think the list will change, but out of the group mentioned, I think Kenny would be the favorite,” one general manager told HoopsHype. “Some of it depends on Arturas’ timeline, but Kenny can coach, and he can oversee player development. He will be able to compete on the court while also continuing to develop the young guys.”
Storyline: Bulls Coaching Job
“No brainer, Kenny Atkinson,” one NBA scout told HoopsHype. “It’s a young team. He will do for Chicago exactly what he did for Brooklyn. He’ll have them overachieve, outhustle and outwork teams on a nightly basis. They will be physical, smart, and tough to guard because they will share the ball. Plus, he’s a no-nonsense, direct, fair coach who relates very well to players. He’d be my pick.” In Chicago, Atkinson would be reunited with assistant coach Chris Fleming, whom he worked with for three seasons in Brooklyn.
Should Karnisovas consider hiring an assistant coach, Unseld Jr. is a prime candidate given their history with the Denver Nuggets. With the help of Unseld Jr., Denver’s defensive rating improved from 25th to 16th since being hired in 2015. “Kenny would be very good there,” another general manager told HoopsHype. “My gut is they go with an assistant coach that Arturas has worked with before. I think Unseld deserves a shot.”
Storyline: Bulls Coaching Job
“I think Vanterpool will be good if he gets an opportunity,” one former NBA executive told HoopsHype. “He’s a high-level player relator, which has been a piece they’re missing there.” Vanterpool was an assistant coach with the Blazers for six seasons while Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum emerged as one of the league’s premier backcourts. “Keep an eye on Ime Udoka,” an NBA scout told HoopsHype. “He’s a bright, young up and coming head coach candidate. It’s only a matter of time before he’s hired.”
Atlanta Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce was recording a podcast appearance with HoopsHype as news of Boylen’s firing broke. As a fellow coach tasked with developing a young team in a rebuild, the news hit home for Pierce. “For me, it’s disturbing,” Pierce told HoopsHype. “It’s upsetting. Jim’s a great man. I know the challenges that he was facing as a coach with a team that’s similarly young to ours. You’re trying to get that thing going. It’s not always the easiest task at hand when you’re dealing with the media, social media, young players, and the expectations of everyone. Everyone wants to win, and everyone wants to win right now.
Charles Barkley vs. the Miami Heat has practically been a television miniseries. And now, the loquacious “Inside the NBA” analyst is at it again, this time with his perspective on the Heat’s impending first-round playoff series against the Indiana Pacers. “The Miami Heat don’t scare anybody,” he said during his Thursday appearance on TNT. Barkley then noted the evolving antipathy between Heat All-Star forward Jimmy Butler and emerging Pacers scorer T.J. Warren. “And Jimmy’s going to have to control his emotions,” Barkley said. “Like, he’s the best player on that team. He’s a leader of that team. But if he’s going to spend all his energy going at T.J. Warren, that’s not going to work. Because when you’re the best player, you can’t get in foul trouble and you cannot get sidetracked. So, to me, that’s a pick ’em.”
Former Heat center Shaquille O’Neal, the show’s third analyst, also has the Heat. “I like Miami because Miami’s just known for defense,” he said. “You can’t let this T.J. Warren guy average 30 or 40. They’ll bring him back down to earth where he was; I don’t even know where he was. I’m saying 15 to 20 points a game, then they should be able to win this. “Indiana does have a chance to win a couple of games, because they do have some talented players. But you can’t let a guy like T.J. Warren average 40.”
In February of ’92, just three months after announcing his retirement, Johnson cleared a bigger physical and psychological hurdle, playing for the Western Conference in the 1992 NBA All-Star Game in Orlando. That appearance was one of the first major counters to the concerns – and, frankly, the prejudices – that many people living with HIV had faced from others. There was Magic Johnson, HIV-positive, still doing what he’d done as well as anyone who’d ever played the game. But it had been a long and difficult road to get there. “There was a question if, after his announcement, forget about the All-Star Game,” Johnson’s longtime agent, Lon Rosen, said last week. “If he was going to be able to play in the Olympics, number one, was he going to be alive? Number two, was he going to be healthy? And number three, if he was healthy, would other teams play against him? If you recall, in 1991, some people didn’t want to be in the same room as him. It was COVID to another degree.”
“I’m on vacation with Earvin, we’re in Hawaii, the results come in and he’s leading,” Rosen said. “So I speak with Russ Granik. Russ says, ‘Well, David’s going to let him play, but he’s not going to let him start.’ I say, ‘Hey, Russ, I’m telling you this – if David doesn’t let him start, he ain’t playing.’ Earvin was like, ‘Hell no, I want to start.’ To be true, David had a lot to deal with. There (were) players who were uncomfortable playing against him. … And I can say this, you know, what is it, 30 years since then – they weren’t wrong. It’s unfair. Because, you know what? You didn’t know much about it. It’s a much different disease now. But it was still hurtful. And Stern called me, he called with the old, ‘you m———–.’ He m———– me. It was fine.” But, eventually, Stern relented. Not only would the NBA honor the final fan vote – Johnson’s 658,211 votes were second only to Drexler’s 759,550 among Western Conference guards – it enthusiastically backed Johnson’s appearance in the All-Star Game.
August 15, 2020 | 9:09 am EDT Update
Several candidates have emerged, including former Nets coach Kenny Atkinson, Nuggets assistant Wes Unseld Jr., Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin, Bucks assistant Darvin Ham, 76ers assistant Ime Udoka, Timberwolves assistant David Vanterpool, and Mavericks assistant Stephen Silas, according to multiple reports. While the list of candidates may grow, several coaches and executives around the league believe there is one candidate who stands out amongst the current group – Atkinson. “I think the list will change, but out of the group mentioned, I think Kenny would be the favorite,” one general manager told HoopsHype. “Some of it depends on Arturas’ timeline, but Kenny can coach, and he can oversee player development. He will be able to compete on the court while also continuing to develop the young guys.”
Storyline: Bulls Coaching Job