BIG3

And-Ones: BIG3, Germany, Mayo, Turkey

The next significant sporting event in the United States may be the BIG3 tournament, which is being planned for early May, writes Mark Medina of USA Today. The BIG3 is a summertime league made up mostly of former NBA players, but organizers are hoping to launch a tournament linked with a reality show to fill the gap in the sports calendar. Its fourth season won’t start until June 20.

“We can’t control what happens with the virus. Nobody can control it,” league co-founder Jeff Kwatinetz said. “If that has to be pushed back a week or two, that’s possible. But we feel pretty good about being able to be up and running in May.”

The league plans to create a quarantine zone where players and officials can safely participate without risk of contracting COVID-19. All participants will be tested prior to their involvement and will stay at a house that is currently under construction.

“No one is allowed to leave the quarantine area. That’s part of what keeps the safety and health of the players,” Kwatinetz said. “It also dovetails with what makes ‘Big Brother’ so great. You have a group of 16 people locked in a house together and the social dynamics that come out of that. One minute, you’re hanging out with someone in the house. That night you have to play them.”

There’s more from around the basketball world:

  • The season remains suspended in the BBL, the top professional league in Germany, but a prominent figure is calling for it to be canceled, according to Nicola Lupo of Sportando“We do not believe that the situation has improved to the point that the season can resume,” said Arne Dirks, general manager of Brose Bamberg.
  • Former NBA guard O.J. Mayo plans to sign with the Liaoning Flying Leopards and begin playing when action resumes in the Chinese Basketball Association, reports Ennio Terrasi Borghesan of Sportando. His contract still awaits medical and procedural clearances, but the 32-year-old has already begun a 14-day quarantine in Shenyang. Mayo hasn’t played in the NBA since 2015/16.
  • Alec Peters of Anadolu Efes tells Borghesan that the government wanted the Turkish Basketball League to continue playing despite coronavirus risks. “We went a week longer than everyone else in terms of playing, in front of no fans. That was very weird,” Peters said. “We joked that ESPN should come and put us on because we are the only basketball team in the world still playing. The Turkish government has kind of the final say on everything, we knew that the government wanted to keep us playing but the basketball Federation was ready to shut down when everybody else was.”

Coronavirus Notes: Ballmer, Cuban, BIG3

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer, through the Ballmer Group, has pledged more than $25MM in aid to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN tweets. The donation will help Seattle, Southeast Michigan and Los Angeles, areas that have been hard hit by coronavirus. It includes $10MM to University of Washington Medicine’s Emergency Response Fund to speed up testing for a COVID-19 vaccine. In an unrelated revelation, Ballmer said his team will lose at least $10MM this season because of the suspension of play, sports business Scott Soshnick tweets.

We have more coronavirus-related developments:

  • Mavericks owner Mark Cuban suggests that fans could be checked for illness entering arenas once games are played in front of spectators, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News relays. “It’s not hard to use thermal guns to take someone’s temperature and look for fevers,” Cuban said on CNBC. “Is it feasible? Yes, absolutely. We have to be very cautious, particularly as we try to come back. At first, we’ll play a lot of games without fans and figure it out with all the medicines that become available, we’ll go from there.”
  • The BIG3 is moving forward with plans to play a quarantined reality-show tournament in early May, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reports. The league is partnering with the producers of the TV show “Big Brother” to create the tournament. Players and referees will be quarantined in the same Los Angeles-area home provided by the league for the three-week preseason tournament, which will consist of 16 players, Haynes adds.
  • A well-known ESPN analyst is recovering from the coronavirus. Get the details here.

BIG3 Aims To Hold Quarantined Tournament In April

The BIG3 is working on plans to launch a “quarantined, reality show-style” three-on-three tournament in April, league sources tell Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Ice Cube and entertainment executive Jeff Kwatinetz – the league’s founders – have had discussions with TV networks about possibility broadcasting the preseason tournament, which they hope would help fill a void in the sporting world.

As Haynes explains, the idea would be to have approximately 16 to 22 players who test negative for COVID-19 be quarantined together in a large home in Los Angeles. A basketball facility would be built on site, and any player who breaks quarantine at any time during the tournament would be disqualified and removed.

The format would involve seven rounds of games, with teams being reshuffled throughout the tournament and players being eliminated when they accumulate three losses. In addition to the games, the players’ daily lives would also be filmed and broadcast “for added drama and storylines,” per Haynes.

“As long as we can protect the players, which we will do through proper testing and quarantine, Ice Cube and I feel we can give fans some safe, entertaining brand of basketball to get everyone through this pandemic,” Kwatinetz told Haynes.

Even if the BIG3 is able to move forward with its tournament as planned, it’s not yet known which players would participate, but Haynes says that former NBA players like Joe Johnson, Zach Randolph, and Greg Oden are among the possible candidates.

Zach Randolph To Play In BIG3

Longtime NBA big man Zach Randolph has reached in an agreement to play in the BIG3, Ice Cube‘s three-on-three league, for the 2020 season, league sources tell Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link).

According to Haynes (Twitter link), Randolph will be the new captain of the Trilogy, one of the league’s 12 teams. The BIG3 announced on Tuesday that former NBA swingman Stephen Jackson will serve as Trilogy’s head coach for the 2020 season.

Randolph, 38, played in more than 1,100 career regular season NBA games over the course of a 17-year career, appearing in another 70 postseason contests. A two-time All-Star, the former Michigan State standout averaged 16.6 PPG and 9.1 RPG over the course of his career for the Grizzlies, Trail Blazers, Knicks, Clippers, and Kings. He was a key member of Memphis’ “grit and grind” teams of the 2010s.

Randolph last played in an NBA game during the 2017/18 season for Sacramento. He technically spent most of the 2018/19 campaign on the Kings’ roster as well, but never appeared in a game before being traded to the Mavericks at the deadline. He was subsequently waived by Dallas last February and officially announced his retirement from the NBA in December.

And-Ones: Speights, BIG3, Jenkins, Jersey Ads

Veteran NBA big man Marreese Speights will be joining the BIG3, Ice Cube’s professional three-on-three league, for the 2020 season, tweets Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. According to Spears, Speights will be a player and co-captain for Bivouac this year.

Bivouac, one of the teams introduced in the BIG3’s 2019 expansion, was captained last season by former NBA forward Josh Smith, and he’s one of several captains who have re-signed for the coming season, per ESPN’s Eric Woodyard (Twitter link). Speights will fill one of just seven open captain or co-captain slots available around the league.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Former first-round pick John Jenkins, who suited up for the Wizards and Knicks last season, has signed with Hapoel Eliat in Israel, the team announced (hat tip to Sportando). Jenkins had just joined a team in China last month, so it seems he was let out of that contract when the CBA went on hiatus due to the coronavirus outbreak.
  • According to Terry Lefton and John Lombardo of L.A. Biz, the next round of jersey sponsorship deals for NBA teams could be worth at least 30% more than the original deals (hat tip to RealGM).
  • HoopsHype provides an informative breakdown on which NBA players are on track to earn bonuses in their contracts this season and which will fall short of those incentives.
  • In an interesting piece for NBC Sports, Tom Haberstroh and Monte Poole take an in-depth look at marijuana use in the NBA. Despite league rules prohibiting marijuana use, six players surveyed by Haberstroh and Poole estimated that more than half of the NBA’s active players use it in some form.

And-Ones: Buford, Wiseman, Okafor, Bibby

Wisconsin Herd coach Chase Buford has been suspended two games without pay for a direct and extended public attack on the integrity and credibility of the game officials, according to a league press release. Among other comments, Buford called one of the officials a “clown” after his team, the Bucks’ G League affiliate, got outscored 48-20 in the fourth quarter and lost 126-117 to the Grand Rapids Drive on Sunday. Buford subsequently apologized for his tirade.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Projected lottery pick James Wiseman felt he was treated unfairly by the NCAA before he decided to leave Memphis during his freshman season, as he told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. He left the Tigers during a 12-game suspension for rules violations. His family accepted $11,500 in moving expenses in 2017 from Penny Hardaway, who became the team’s coach a year later. “I was really in the middle of a hurricane,” Wiseman said. “That’s like the worst place you could possibly be.” Wiseman is currently rated No. 3 on ESPN’s Best Available list.
  • Pelicans center Jahlil Okafor has agreed to play for Nigeria in this year’s Tokyo Olympics, Marc Spears of The Undefeated tweets. The team will be coached by Warriors assistant Mike BrownOkafor’s grandfather Chicko was born in Nigeria.
  • Mike Bibby will coach the Aliens in the BIG3 this season, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports tweets. The former Kings guard was the Ghost Ballers’ team captain last season.

Joe Johnson Returning To BIG3

Seven-time All-Star swingman Joe Johnson will be returning to the BIG3 this summer for a second season with Ice Cube‘s 3-on-3 veteran league, Yahoo’s Chris Haynes reports (Twitter link).

Johnson, 38, is the reigning BIG3 league MVP. His team, the Triplets, won the BIG3 championship last summer, thanks in large part to Johnson’s sharpshooting heroics.

The 6’7″ wing out of Arkansas last saw some NBA heat this fall, where he was signed to the Pistons’ training camp roster after his stellar BIG3 performance. However, power forward Christian Wood beat him out for the team’s 15th and final roster spot heading into the season. Detroit waived Johnson in October.

In his 17 NBA seasons, Iso Joe played for solid playoff squads on the Celtics, Suns, Hawks, Nets, Heat, Jazz and Rockets. He holds a career slash line of 16.0 PPG/4.0 RPG/3.9 APG. He has converted 44.1% of his shots from the field, 37.1% of his 4.2 three-point attempts a night, and 80.2% from the charity stripe.

And-Ones: BIG3, Gortat, Mack, Chalmers

The BIG3 has announced some changes in advance of its 2020 season, as Eric Woodyard of ESPN.com details. Most notably, Ice Cube‘s 3-on-3 league will lower the minimum age from 27 to 22 in order to try to eliminate the perception that the BIG3 is only for retired NBA players.

“I think lowering the age does erase the stigma,” Ice Cube told Woodyard. “It might’ve kept people from playing in the BIG3 because they don’t want to seem like they’re done.”

The BIG3 will also hold open tryouts this spring and will welcome two-sport athletes, as Woodyard details.

The most entertaining change to the league’s on-court rules is the introduction of a team’s once-per-half ability to challenge a foul call. Rather than having a replay official make a ruling, a challenge will result in an in-game, one-on-one possession, with the victor winning the call. The full list of changes can be found here.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Longtime NBA center Marcin Gortat was recently approached by Polish team Anwil Wloclawek, but rebuffed the club’s interest for health reasons, he told Interia.pl (hat tip to Sportando). Gortat suggested in the same interview that he will likely announce his retirement from the NBA at some point this year.
  • Veteran point guard Shelvin Mack, who had been playing for Olimpia Milano, has left the Italian team and is expected to join Hapoel Jerusalem in the Israeli League, according to Alessandro Maggi and Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Mack, who has played more than 450 regular season NBA games, spent last season with Memphis and Charlotte.
  • Another former NBA point guard, Mario Chalmers, has had his contract with AEK Athens extended through the end of the 2019/20 season, according to Ennio Terrasi Borghesan of Sportando. Chalmers signed with the Greek club in November.
  • For a long time, the head of basketball operations for an NBA team was given the title of general manager, or perhaps president of basketball operations. In recent years though, those titles have become more varied, with minor distinctions helping to establish a hierarchy in front offices. Jake Fischer of The Washington Post takes a deep dive into NBA management titles and explores how Silicon Valley’s influence has changed things.

NBA/China Notes: Shanghai Game, Irving, More

Although the Lakers/Nets exhibition game in Shanghai took place as planned this morning, it was hardly a typical preseason affair. Scheduled pregame and postgame press conferences for commissioner Adam Silver and players on both rosters were cancelled at the behest of the Chinese government, sources tell Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

As McMenamin writes, China also had a hand in cancelling two NBA Cares events involving Lakers and Nets players earlier this week as tension between the league and its top international market continues to simmer.

Still, while the Chinese government has been on the attack over the last several days as it seeks an apology from the NBA over Daryl Morey‘s tweet supporting Hong Kong protestors, Keith Bradsher and Javier C. Hernandez of The New York Times report that the government attempted on Thursday to tamp down on public anger toward the league.

According to the Times duo, the Chinese government seems to be reevaluating its all-out campaign against the NBA due to concerns in Beijing that the situation is hurting China’s image and interests globally. Editors at state-run news outlets have now been told to avoid fanning the flames on the NBA controversy “for fear that it might become overheated,” per Bradsher and Hernandez, who cited three journalists.

As we wait to see how the situation plays out going forward with a second Lakers/Nets exhibition schedule for Saturday in Shenzhen, here are a few more items of interest:

  • During a press conference following the Rockets/Raptors exhibition game in Tokyo today, a Rockets official stopped Russell Westbrook and James Harden from answering a question related to the China controversy, insisting that reporters only ask questions about basketball. Per an ESPN report, the NBA issued a statement indicating it doesn’t condone that approach. “A team representative inappropriately interjected to prevent CNN’s Christina Macfarlane from receiving an answer to her question,” the league said. “We’ve apologized to Ms. Macfarlane as this was inconsistent with how the NBA conducts media events.”
  • NBA player agents are advising their clients to avoid addressing the China situation if they can, writes Jabari Young of CNBC. “What I told my guys is, ‘Don’t even talk about it,'” one agent told Young. “I think it’s a fine line, and when you’re walking that fine line, it’s best to not even play around with it.”
  • The NBA’s chilly relationship with China is apparently impacting another basketball league — according to an announcement on their website, the BIG3 is postponing a visit to China that was scheduled for the month of November. Rashard Lewis, Mike Bibby, Glen Davis, and Cuttino Mobley were among the former NBA players expected to participate.
  • While the game itself between the Lakers and Nets today was practically an afterthought, it’s worth noting that Kyrie Irving was knocked out of the game just one minute into the first quarter after he took a shot to the face. According to Brian Lewis of The New York Post (Twitter link), Irving – who was already recovering from a facial fracture – was diagnosed with a facial contusion. The team doesn’t seem worried that it’s serious, Lewis adds.

And-Ones: India, Johnson, Robinson, Ball

Commissioner Adam Silver would like to start a professional basketball league in India, perhaps in the next five years, Marc Spears of ESPN reports. India would have to build state-of-the-art arenas to make that happen. The NBA had to make numerous additions — including seats, big video screens and lights — to stage a preseason game there between the Kings and Pacers on Friday.

“I think it’s inevitable that there will be state-of-the-art arenas in major cities in India, in part because these are multi-use facilities and live entertainment is increasingly important here as well. … We do need to see those arenas over time in order to play more games,” Silver said.

There’s growing interest in the league in India and its youngsters are harboring NBA dreams, Reid Forgrave of the New York Times reports.

We have more from the basketball world:

  • Joe Johnson is fighting for a roster spot with the Pistons and the veteran forward hopes other players can use the BIG3 as a springboard to relaunch their careers, Eric Woodyard of ESPN writes. “That was another reason why I thought it was very important for me to take this opportunity, because those guys in the BIG3, a lot of them anyway, have hopes to at some point to be able to get back in the league,” said Johnson, who signed a partially guaranteed contract with Detroit. “So I just wanted to let everyone know that it’s possible just to get to this point.” Johnson was the BIG3 MVP this year.
  • Former NBA forward Thomas Robinson has drawn major interest from two Chinese teams, Zhejiang Guangsha and Liaoning, according to a report from Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia. The 2012 lottery pick last played in the NBA during the 2016/17 season, when he saw action in 48 games with the Lakers.
  • Big Baller Brand co-founder Alan Foster has countersued Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball and his father, LaVar Ball, for alleged fraudulent concealment and breach of contract, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. Foster alleges that LaVar Ball embezzled more than $2.6MM from Big Baller Brand and other companies associated with the family to fund an extravagant lifestyle. The Balls sued Foster in April for more than $2MM for alleged embezzlement.