Month: May 2020

NBA Remains Optimistic About 2019/20 Season Even With Further Delay

The overwhelming majority of high-level executives remain encouraged and optimistic that the NBA will resume this season, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com.

Commissioner Adam Silver has maintained a strong relationship with the National Basketball Players Association as all parties aim to return to basketball. Still, there are many hurdles to overcome in order to resume the season.

Silver previously said that no decision will be made before May 1. That doesn’t mean the commissioner will be making any announcements on Friday, though there’s a bit of restlessness within the league to come to a decision sooner than later, Woj notes.

The MGM Grand in Las Vegas is one of several suitors pitching a plan to host the league. Vegas could potentially also host the WNBA by providing three adjacent hotels for teams to stay at. Disney World in Orlando, Florida remains an option that is gaining momentum. Another proposal would see games played in “pods” across different regions.

Having fans in the stands is probably out of the question. Having cameramen may not be needed either, as sources tell Wojnarowski that the teams could rely on robotic cameras with new, innovative angles of the contests.

TV analysts could potentially call games from remote locations. The current discussions have included keeping teams at a 30-to-35 person head count, including players.

There is some support for the 2020/21 season to begin in December and run through July or August, as a way of resuming the 2019/20 season without dramatically hindering the league’s ability to complete the full ’20/21 calendar. There’s also the understanding that the further the NBA pushes this season back, the higher the chances of having fans in the stands at some point.

The NBA is still sorting out scenarios, but Silver may have to push forward with a decision without the backing of everyone. One GM told Woj that “it’s hard to lead by consensus in a crisis.” Silver may have to simply act in what he feels are the best interests of all parties, even if there are some that have different preferences.

Testing for the coronavirus is another issue. Silver has insisted that he couldn’t allow for the NBA to utilize all the available tests and – according to Woj – has instituted a mandate stating that if a player wasn’t showing symptoms, he shouldn’t be tested. Woj reports that the league would have to reverse course on that and that it would take approximately 15,000 tests to complete the season. While the NBA can afford to pay a private company to make those tests, it would be problematic for the league if they’re not widely available to the American public.

It’s nearing two months since the league suspended its season and the urgency to come to a solution continues to rise.

Draft Notes: Perry, Hagans, Ball, Wiseman

Mississippi State’s Reggie Perry has signed with CAA Sports and will remain in the draft, Evan Daniels of 247 Sports reports (Twitter link). Perry is No. 46 on ESPN’s Big Board and ranks No. 7 among centers.

Here’s more from the upcoming draft:

  • Ashton Hagans will also sign with CAA Sports and will remain in the draft, Daniels tweets. The Kentucky guard is No. 48 on ESPN’s Big Board.
  • LaMelo Ball would be a nice selection for Detroit if the Pistons climb into the top three in the NBA draft, James L. Edwards of The Athletic writes. The Pistons have not drafted a point guard in the first round since they selected Brandon Knight, who was the No. 8 overall pick in the 2011 draft.
  • One rival scout believes James Wiseman would be in consideration for the Pistons with their No. 1 pick, as Edwards adds in the same piece. “I think they need a little bit of everything, right? He’s an athletic center with the ability to step out a little bit,” the scout said.

Thunder Notes: Donovan, Practice Facility, Dort

Billy Donovan is in the final year of his contract with the Thunder, but GM Sam Presti says that he expects the two sides to have “positive” conversations about the coach’s future with the club, as Maddie Lee of The Oklahoman passes along.

“Obviously this is a unique situation for everybody,” Presti said to Lee and the local media during a conference call. “We’ve always been really proud of the fact that Billy’s been our coach. He’s been our coach now for five years, and I think he’s done an excellent job all five years. And our hope is that once we get some clarity on if this is the end of the season, or if we’re playing more, or what have you, we’ll sit down and have those conversations that we always have.”

“…I’m confident that at the right time we will be able to sit down and have a positive conversation with Billy about his future.”

Here’s more from Oklahoma City:

  • The league has targeted May 8 as the first day that teams can open their facilities, but Presti would not commit to the Thunder starting back up on that date, as Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman relays. “With respect to the May 8 date, what I can say is the league has stated that’s a target date,” Presti said. “And we’re still a week or so away from that before we can even get there. And I think what we’ve all seen that live through this experience is that things are changing literally day by day. So we’re evaluating that. I wouldn’t say we’re committed to doing that.”
  • In the same piece, Presti said that he doesn’t believe teams that return earlier will gain an advantage over those that return later. “And I don’t mean from a basketball standpoint, I just mean in general,” Presti explained. “And a big part of that is because the amount of uncertainty that everyone is working with. You could make the argument that coming back too soon is a disadvantage, you know what I mean? I think it all depends on how you’re defining that.” 
  • In a separate piece, Lee details how Luguentz Dort ended up with the Thunder. The rookie, who is on a two-way contract, appeared in 29 games for Oklahoma City this past year.

Atlantic Notes: Gasol, Ibaka, Wanamaker, Sixers

While the Raptors should have some flexibility in free agency this offseason, they may ultimately have to decide between re-signing Marc Gasol or Serge Ibaka, especially if they re-sign Fred VanVleet, writes Eric Koreen of The Athletic.

As Koreen details, Ibaka – who is several years younger than Gasol – looks like the safer choice, particularly since Gasol has been slowed by health issues this season. However, considering the Raptors may prefer to hand out a big-money, one-year deal rather than make a multiyear commitment, age concerns may not be a major factor in the team’s decision, says Koreen.

After breaking down the Raptors’ numbers with each center on the court and noting Gasol’s abilities as a playmaker and as a positional defender, Koreen concludes that he’d probably prioritize Gasol over Ibaka if he were making the decision, since the Spaniard likely increases the team’s ceiling a little more — even if he comes with some added risk.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Following up on a report by Chema De Lucas (Twitter link), Emiliano Carchia of Sportando (Twitter link) confirms that Celtics guard Brad Wanamaker has no intention of leaving the NBA to return to Europe. Before joining Boston for the 2018/19 season, Wanamaker had built an impressive international résumé, winning multiple championships and several awards in Germany and Turkey.
  • Derek Bodner of The Athletic explores how the Sixers would be affected if the 2020/21 salary cap comes in lower than initially expected. As Bodner observes, a tighter cap would make it harder for Philadelphia to trade Al Horford or Tobias Harris if that’s an option the team wants to explore. It could also substantially increase the 76ers’ potential tax bill.
  • In case you missed it, we passed along a handful of Knicks and Nets notes earlier today.

Southwest Notes: Gordon, Spurs, Mavs, Campazzo, Pelicans

Rockets guard Eric Gordon signed a four-year, $75MM+ extension with the team last August, ensuring that he’ll be on a guaranteed deal through at least 2022/23. However, playing in the final year of his old contract, Gordon has undergone the worst season of his 12-year career, averaging 14.5 PPG with a career-worst .370 FG%. He has also made just 31.9% of his three-point attempts after knocking down 36.4% in his first three years as a Rocket.

As he tells Kelly Iko of The Athletic, Gordon believes his struggles can be attributed in large part to the right knee injury that required surgery in the fall. In addition to sidelining him for 30 of the Rockets’ 64 games, that injury nagged at Gordon before he decided to go under the knife and after he returned. However, he’s confident that it will no longer be an issue if the NBA is able to resume its season, given all the time he has had to rest it.

“I’m good now,” the Rockets’ guard said. “There’s really nothing for me to worry about at this point. Whenever we get this thing back going, I don’t have to worry about rehab or anything. So once we get this thing back started, that’d be stuff that I don’t have to worry about at all.”

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Spurs ownership is selling a minority stake in the team, sources tell Scott Sosnick of Sportico. It’s not known whether the Holt family – the Spurs’ controlling owner – or another investor is selling the stake, or how large it will be. Forbes valued the franchise at $1.8 billion in February.
  • The Spurs and Mavericks are among the NBA teams with interest in Real Madrid guard Facundo Campazzo, according to a report from Croatian outlet Crosarka (hat tip to Jeff Garcia of Spurs Zone). Campazzo, who is averaging 9.9 PPG and 7.1 APG in 28 EuroLeague games this season, spoke back in 2016 about wanting to play in the NBA, but said about a year ago that he’s no longer “obsessed” with that idea.
  • Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry said today that the team won’t reopen its practice facility before May 15, per ESPN’s Andrew Lopez (Twitter link). Louisiana formally extended its stay-at-home order through at least May 15 today.

Community Shootaround: Buddy Hield

Just over four months ago, Kings sharpshooter Buddy Hield – upset about hardly seeing any fourth-quarter action in a pair of close losses – told reporters there were “trust issues” in Sacramento. Less than a month later, in January, he was removed from the Kings’ starting lineup in favor of Bogdan Bogdanovic. And a few weeks after that, in mid-February, a report from The Athletic suggested it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if Hield requests a trade in the offseason.

It looked like a troubling series of events for the Kings, particularly since Hield had raved about establishing an “instant connection” with new head coach Luke Walton in September and signed a four-year, $86MM extension with the franchise in October. That long-term contract, which goes into effect beginning in 2020/21, was supposed to make Hield one of Sacramento’s core building blocks. An up-and-down season raised uncertainty about whether that’s still the case.

Still, there have been recent signals that any tension between Hield and the Kings may not be as bad as it looked. As we relayed earlier this week, Sam Amick of The Athletic wrote that Sacramento’s late-season surge significantly reduced the likelihood that Walton or GM Vlade Divac will be replaced before ’20/21. And it seems possible that Hield, who insisted in December that he’s a team-first who only cares about winning, will be increasingly receptive to a sixth man role if it’s helping the Kings win games.

Speaking to Amick, Walton downplayed the idea that the Hield situation was any sort of cause for concern, adding that he and the 27-year-old have a “very good relationship” and get along well.

“Buddy was not happy about not starting, but he didn’t b—h,” Walton said. “He said, ‘You’re the coach. I’m going to do what I need to do.’ … Even with Buddy (coming off the bench), he was still playing starter minutes, he was still finishing certain games, and it’s one of those things where if you’re truly bought into being on the team, you end up accepting it because that’s a huge value. … And I thought Buddy had really, really done a nice job of embracing that and making our team better.”

The Kings played their best basketball of the season with Hield coming off the bench, winning 13 of 20 contests. His per-minute production improved noticeably during that stretch as well. After averaging 20.0 PPG with a .416/.360/.816 shooting line in 44 games (34.4 MPG) as a starter, Hield recorded 19.4 PPG on .465/.476/.970 shooting in 26.6 MPG off the bench.

After clearing some future money from their cap at the trade deadline, the Kings are considered likely to re-sign Bogdanovic, an RFA-to-be who is “very good friends” with Hield, according to Walton. That means that Hield could remain in his reserve role beyond this season.

It will be a fascinating situation to watch. Hield has become one of the NBA’s very best three-point shooters and would be highly coveted on the trade market if he were made available. But his four-year commitment to Sacramento wouldn’t give him much leverage, and he may be happy to stick with the Kings if the team continues building on its second-half success, regardless of whether or not he’s starting.

What do you think? Do you expect Hield to push for a trade this offseason, or is this a non-issue, as Walton suggests? Are you bullish on the Kings’ outlook, or would you be worried about another disappointing season reigniting Hield’s frustrations? Will he be satisfied with a sixth man role, or do you expect him to reenter the starting lineup at some point?

Head to the comment section below to weigh in with your thoughts!

Heat Notes: Herro, Adebayo, Small Forwards, Draft

Two weeks after Heat guard Kendrick Nunn made the case for why he – rather than Ja Morant – should be the Rookie of the Year frontrunner, teammate Tyler Herro said this week that he believes he was seriously in the mix for the award too before an ankle injury sidelined him for over a month.

“I definitely feel like if it wasn’t for that injury, I feel like I would be No. 1 or 2 in the Rookie of the Year race, so I’m ready to get out there and prove myself again,” Herro said, adding that he thought his rookie season went “pretty well” overall.

When Nunn promoted his own candidacy for Rookie of the Year, he pointed out that he has been a full-time starter on a top-four team in the East. Herro’s case would presumably be similar — he wasn’t a starter, but he was an important rotation piece for the 41-24 Heat, averaging 12.9 PPG in 27.2 minutes per contest (47 games).

Still, while Herro and especially Nunn have cases to be included on this season’s All-Rookie First Team, it seems safe to assume that Morant will run away with Rookie of the Year voting.

Here’s more on the Heat:

  • Asked during an Instagram Live interview about the possibility of being a “Heat lifer” like Udonis Haslem, Bam Adebayo expressed interest in following in the footsteps of his veteran teammate. “If I could, I would like to stay here like (Haslem),” Adebayo said, per Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. “But you never know what happens in the future. Everybody just knew D-Wade was a lifer until he left because of situational reasons. You never know. But for me, I feel like I am. I feel like I would want to be a part of (one) organization like UD did just because I look up to UD.”
  • Even in the unlikely event that the Heat lose all of Derrick Jones, Jae Crowder, and Solomon Hill in free agency this offseason, the team should still have enough depth to get by at the small forward position, writes Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel, pointing to Jimmy Butler, Duncan Robinson, and Andre Iguodala as viable options at the three.
  • With the Heat projected to pick 23rd overall based on the NBA’s current standings, Anthony Chiang and Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald identify some intriguing prospects who might be available in that range in the 2020 NBA draft.
  • On Wednesday, we passed along several comments made by Heat president Pat Riley, including his claim that the club is “close” to being a championship contender.

Latest On Potential Plans To Resume NBA Season

Some executives and agents around the NBA believe the remainder of the 2019/20 season should be canceled, according to Jabari Young of CNBC. As Young explains, there are team owners who are concerned about liability issues relating to COVID-19 and executives who would prefer to focus on safely resuming play for the 2020/21 season.

Additionally, according to Young, some franchise owners believe that so many of the league’s usual revenue streams would be nonexistent even if the season can resume that it may not be worth the risk to attempt it this summer.

“What (owners) are saying is, ‘If we return, where is the revenue that is going to justify the additional cost of returning?'” a team executive said to Young. “They are looking at the cost side versus the revenue side. What revenue comes in now?”

Young also cites player agents who view the eventual cancellation of the season as “inevitable,” including one who said he thought commissioner Adam Silver would have done so by now.

While the CNBC report paints a dreary picture for the possible resumption of the ’19/20 season, it has received some push-back from some executives and owners, as well as from the NBA’s biggest star.

Saw some reports about execs and agents wanting to cancel (the) season???” LeBron James tweeted this afternoon. “That’s absolutely not true. Nobody I know (is) saying anything like that. As soon as it’s safe we would like to finish our season. I’m ready and our team is ready. Nobody should be canceling anything.”

Of course, there are hundreds of executives and agents working in the NBA, so it’s unlikely they’re all in lock-step on how the league should move forward. It’s certainly possible that Young and James are talking to different people who have different opinions on potential next steps.

Still, Young notes within his piece that a league spokesperson told him that the NBA continues to work on plans to resume play this summer. Spurs CEO R.C. Buford also said that team presidents met on Thursday and the consensus among that group is that they want to try to finish the season (Twitter link via Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press).

A pair of team owners conveyed similar sentiments in TV appearances today — Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said on CNN that he’s “cautiously optimistic” the NBA will be able to resume and complete its season, while Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry, on CNBC, expressed optimism that the playoffs could be held in July or August (video links).

So far, the NBA has been content to remain patient as it waits to see how the coronavirus situation plays out and how government ordinances and health experts’ recommendations evolve. As Marc Stein of The New York Times (via Twitter), there has been no rush to make concrete decisions, since the league wants to “exhaust every last bit of hope.” With the calendar about to turn to May, the NBA will likely need to start taking more decisive action – one way or the other – within the next month or two.

In case you missed them, here are some of this week’s other headlines related to the possible resumption of the ’19/20 campaign:

  • The NBA is considering the idea of finishing its season at Walt Disney World (story)
  • The NBA appears increasingly willing to delay the start of the 2020/21 season (story)
  • Teams will be permitted to reopen practice facilities as early as May 8 (story)

New York Notes: Lin, Knicks, CP3, Nets

Although “Linsanity” represented one of the most memorable runs in recent Knicks history, Jeremy Lin‘s time in New York was ultimately short-lived. The point guard only appeared in 35 games for the franchise, departing in restricted free agency following his breakout 2011/12 season.

Revisiting his departure in a conversation this week with MSG Network broadcaster Mike Breen, Lin said he wanted to remain with the Knicks in 2012. New York encouraged him to find an offer sheet in restricted free agency, and he hoped the team would match it, as Marc Berman of The New York Post details.

“I was only offered one contract,” Lin told Breen. “We couldn’t get anything from any other team. And so, I had to go find a contract from somebody. And I remember when Houston gave the offer, I said to (my agent), ‘Can you tell Houston to lower the offer? This is too much. Can you tell someone to lower the offer?’ Because I wanted to go back to New York and I wanted New York to match.

“The time there, with the fans, everything. It was so special. I was like, ‘I need to go back to New York,'” Lin continued. “That’s where my heart is. So, I call my agent and said, ‘Hey, find a way to get out of Houston. Give me a less good contract so that New York will match it,’ and he said, ‘We can’t, this is Houston’s final offer and we’ve been talking to them for a week, two weeks, three weeks, this is it.'”

As Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic notes (via Twitter), reporting at the time suggested that Lin was initially planning to sign a four-year, $28MM offer sheet from Houston, which the Knicks were expected to match. The Rockets adjusted it to make it a three-year, $25MM deal with a $15MM “poison pill” salary in year three. According to Berman, Knicks owner James Dolan was “bitter” about the reworked offer, believing it was Lin’s idea.

Here’s more on the NBA’s two New York teams:

  • Following up on a series of March reports which suggested the Knicks may have interest in trading for Chris Paul during the offseason, Ian Begley of SNY.tv proposes a pair of hypothetical trade scenarios and explores how they would impact the club’s cap going forward.
  • According to Alex Schiffer of The Athletic, there are some people within the Nets‘ organization rooting for interim head coach Jacque Vaughn to get the full-time job, though that may be a long shot given the names that have already surfaced as potential options. Michael Lee, Joe Vardon, and Sam Amick join Schiffer to debate the pros and cons of the Nets’ rumored coaching candidates and to suggest other targets for the club to consider.
  • Our latest roundup of Knicks notes was published on Wednesday night, with our most recent collection of Notes notes posted on Sunday. Be sure to visit the New York and Brooklyn team pages for all the latest updates on the two clubs.

Draft Notes: 2020 Class, Haliburton, Vassell, More

The 2020 NBA draft class has repeatedly been referred to by analysts and league observers in recent months as subpar. However, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer doesn’t think that’s quite right.

As O’Connor explains, the 2020 NBA draft may not have the star power that some past drafts have — there’s no consensus future superstar like LeBron James, Anthony Davis, or Zion Williamson among this year’s top prospects. However, O’Connor believes it’s a deep class that features “a plethora of potential high-end role players who could develop into the missing ingredient of a championship team’s recipe.”

In O’Connor’s view, teams picking in the lottery this year will have to weigh certain players’ possible star upside with other prospects’ solid, high-floor skill sets. For instance, big man James Wiseman is at or near the top of most draft boards, but O’Connor has players like Tyrese Haliburton and Devin Vassell ranked higher than Wiseman on his own board, viewing them as safe picks capable of improving a team as complementary pieces. Positional value could also be weighed more heavily in 2020 than it typically is, O’Connor adds.

Here’s more on the 2020 draft: