Pacific Notes: Booker, Schröder, Lakers, Harkless, Kings

Suns star Devin Booker confirmed on a Twitch stream on Sunday that he’s currently dealing with a case of COVID-19, as Kellan Olson of 98.7 Arizona Sports relays (via Twitter). The team had announced over the weekend that Booker was in the NBA’s health and safety protocols and will miss at least part of training camp.

According to Olson, Booker said on Sunday’s stream that he tested positive about a week ago. He has experienced some symptoms – including losing his senses of taste and smell – but said he’s feeling good now and expects to be back soon.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Addressing the oft-repeated rumor that he could’ve signed a four-year, $84MM extension with the Lakers during the 2020/21 season, Dennis Schröder said today that he technically never had that contract offer in front of him to sign. That may be just a matter of semantics, since it sounds like there was a time when the Lakers were willing to put that offer on the table. However, Schröder said that he never felt like he fit in 100% in Los Angeles, adding that “money isn’t everything” and he still got a “nice deal” for him and his family (Twitter links via Keith Smith of Spotrac and Jared Weiss of The Athletic). Schröder signed a one-year, $5.9MM contract with the Celtics.
  • Kings forward Maurice Harkless said he didn’t explore other opportunities when he became a free agent, preferring to work out something quickly with Sacramento (Twitter link via James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area). Harkless agreed to a two-year, $9MM deal with the team on the first night of free agency.
  • The Kings have a new jersey advertisement sponsor, announcing today in a press release that they’ve partner with Dialpad and will wear the company’s logo on their uniforms in 2021/22 and beyond.

Southwest Notes: Zion, Vaccinations, Temple, Harrison, Brooks

Addressing reporters at the Pelicans‘ Media Day on Monday, star forward Zion Williamson expressed a desire to remain with the franchise for the foreseeable future.

I love it here. I love the city of New Orleans,” Williamson said, per Andrew Lopez of ESPN (Twitter link). “I don’t wanna be anywhere else.”

An offseason report suggested that some of Williamson’s family members want him out of New Orleans, while a more recent story suggested he and Pelicans head of basketball operations David Griffin aren’t on particularly great terms. However, after dismissing the idea that he wants to leave the Pelicans, Williamson also downplayed the idea that there’s any frostiness between him and Griffin.

It’s all love with me and Griff,” Williamson said. “… We’re both competitors, we both want to win. Do we disagree on some things? Yes. But no one agrees on everything.”

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Griffin said today that there are one or two players left on the Pelicans‘ roster who remain unvaccinated, while Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said his team is 100% vaccinated (Twitter links via William Guillory of The Athletic and Mike Finger of The San Antonio Express-News). Meanwhile, Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd estimated that his players are about 90% vaccinated, adding that the goal is to get that number to 100% by opening night (Twitter links via Callie Caplan and Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News).
  • Veteran Pelicans guard Garrett Temple said he’s interested in getting into coaching or front office work after he retires, tweets Christian Clark of Temple added that his preference would likely be a front office role, since coaching can be “finicky.”
  • Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News shares an in-depth profile of new Mavericks president of basketball operations Nico Harrison, detailing the long path Harrison took to becoming Dallas’ lead basketball decision-maker.
  • Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks will be a full participant in training camp, head of basketball operations Zach Kleiman said today (Twitter link via Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian). Brooks was out for eight weeks this summer after breaking his hand in two spots, tweets Drew Hill of The Daily Memphian.

Pacific Notes: Moody, Booker, Jack, Phillips

Rookie Warriors shooting guard Moses Moody, chosen with the No. 14 pick out of Arkansas in the NBA draft this summer, is optimistic heading into his first NBA season, writes Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle. The 6’6″ wing was highly coveted by Golden State, who even considered drafting him with the seventh pick before ultimately selecting Jonathan Kuminga.

“I want to establish the foundation for my career, and I feel like I will be able to do that with this coaching staff and these players,” the 19-year-old Moody said of how he intends to develop with the Warriors.

Moody is a solid defender with an elite 7’1″ wingspan. He averaged 16.3 PPG, including 37% shooting from long range, during his four games in the 2021 Las Vegas Summer League. Simmons observes that, until Klay Thompson‘s anticipated return from an Achilles tear a couple months into the season, there will be something of a competition for the Warriors’ starting shooting guard position, and Moody will certainly make his case for consideration.

There’s more out of the Pacific Division:

  • Suns All-Star shooting guard Devin Booker has entered the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols and will miss part of the team’s upcoming training camp for the 2021/22 season, per Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic. It is unclear whether or not Booker himself has tested positive for the novel coronavirus or has been determined to have been exposed via contact tracing.
  • New Suns assistant coach Jarrett Jack had intended to continue his career as a player before he was summoned to the Phoenix bench, he indicated in an interview with Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic. The former NBA point guard had most recently served as a veteran leader with the G League Ignite during the 2020/21 season. “I know what they’re about and I know what they want to build and how they want to build it,” Jack said of the Suns. “So now I got to get my head wrapped around this pretty fast.” In the second part of Jack’s conversation with Rankin, he discussed his role with the club. “I believe player development,” Jack said. “I believe I’ll be pretty much with the point guards for the most part.”
  • The Clippers have added former Wizards director of athletic performance and rehabilitation Jesse Phillips to their medical staff, reports Fred Katz of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Andrew Wiggins’ Vaccination Status May Jeopardize Availability

SEPTEMBER 24: The city of San Francisco will not permit Wiggins – or any other Warrior – to play home games this season without being vaccinated, reports Eric Ting of SFGate. The Department of Public Health stated on Friday that it wouldn’t matter if the NBA grants Wiggins a religious or medical exemption. For what it’s worth, Wiggins’ request for a religious exemption was denied by the league.

“At large and mega indoor events, all patrons 12 and older must be vaccinated at this time,” the department said in its statement to SFGate. “Under the current order, if unvaccinated, they cannot enter indoor areas regardless of the reason they are unvaccinated and cannot test out of this requirement even if they have a medical or religious exemption. This same rule applies to performers and players employed by the host at large and mega indoor events who are covered by the vaccination requirements of the Health Order.”

When Wiggins first commented on the vaccine in March, he said he didn’t envision himself getting it anytime soon unless he was “forced” to. He may have reached that point, since he’d risk missing the Warriors’ entire 41-game home schedule if he remains unvaccinated.

SEPTEMBER 23: Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins, who spoke last season about preferring not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, hasn’t changed his stance and remains unvaccinated, sources tell Rusty Simmons of The San Francisco Chronicle.

Although the NBA doesn’t intend to mandate the vaccine for its players, the league will abide by local vaccination policies in municipalities where it’s required for indoor events. San Francisco is one of those cities that requires individuals to be vaccinated in order to enter indoor venues such as basketball arenas.

[RELATED: Nets, Knicks, Warriors Affected By Local Vaccination Policies]

Assuming Wiggins remains unvaccinated and San Francisco’s regulations remain unchanged, the veteran forward would require a medical or religious exemption in order to play in the Warriors’ home games in 2021/22.

According to Simmons, league sources believe the NBA will grant Wiggins a religious exemption, but that would just be one step toward making sure he can play. The city of San Francisco would have the power to override any exemption granted by the league. Asked for a statement on the issue, the city’s Department of Public Health told The Chronicle it would provide more clarity if and when Wiggins receives an exemption from the NBA.

“We are actively addressing the matter of requests for religious exemption from vaccinations across many industries and will work with our business and entertainment community on next steps,” the statement read. “We will provide further clarification on this topic.”

It seems likely that the Warriors and Wiggins will be able to resolve the issue somehow – whether that means his exemption is approved and upheld or he agrees to be vaccinated – since it’s hard to imagine him missing half of the team’s ’21/22 games. Still, his situation is an example of the challenges certain teams may face with vaccine-hesitant players.

The two New York teams – the Nets and Knicks – are among the other clubs affected by local restrictions on unvaccinated individuals. Nets GM Sean Marks said this week that he still has “a couple” players who need to be fully vaccinated, but he’s confident it will happen before the regular season begins.

Nets Notes: Extension Talks, Vaccinations, Two-Way Slot, Aldridge

With a week left until training camp commences for the Nets, general manager Sean Marks expressed optimism during a press conference today that the club will be able to come to terms on contract extensions for All-Star guards James Harden and Kyrie Irving, writes Peter Botte of the New York Post.

“Regarding the extension conversations, we’ve had very positive conversations with both those guys and whether it’s family members, (their) people, and so forth, I think it always helps to do these things in person,” Marks said.  “We’re looking forward to sitting down with them over the course of the next week, two weeks, and furthering those discussions.”

As Botte writes, Irving is eligible to sign a contract that tacks on an additional four years and $181.6MM to his current agreement. Harden, the better player, can agree to terms on an extension that would pay him $161.1MM over three additional years. All-Star forward Kevin Durant signed a four-year, $197.7MM extension that will keep him on the Nets through the 2025/26 season.

There’s more out of Brooklyn:

  • The Nets still need to get a few of their players fully vaccinated for COVID-19 so that they are permitted to practice and play in New York City under the terms of the city’s new vaccine mandate, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN. “I won’t get into who it is, but we feel confident in the following several days before camp everybody would be allowed to participate and so forth,” Marks said about the situation. The Nets’ GM expects everyone to be vaccinated before the 2021/22 regular season begins. Per the new vaccine executive order, individuals over the age of 12 without at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine will not be permitted inside certain indoor locations, including the Nets’ and Knicks’ home arenas.
  • Marks said today that the Nets will have a “healthy competition” for the team’s current available two-way contract during training camp, per Adam Zagoria of Forbes (Twitter link). Big man Devontae Cacok and guard David Duke seem destined to be in the mix for the opening. Brooklyn still has an open spot on its 20-man roster, so the club may yet invite another candidate to compete for the second two-way slot before camp begins.
  • During a press conference today, Marks admitted he was initially wary about bringing back center LaMarcus Aldridge, per Michael Scotto of HoopsHype (Twitter link). Aldridge was compelled to retire just five games after joining the Nets during the 2020/21 due to an irregular heart beat issue. “I tried to talk him out of it,” Marks said. “I said, ‘You don’t need this. Why would you come back?’ I think it was important to see his conviction, and it’s not a conviction made without really doing due diligence.” According to Brian Lewis of the New York Post (via Twitter), Marks revealed that Aldridge reached out to the Nets as soon as he was medically cleared to return to the hardwood.

NBA Won’t Mandate COVID-19 Vaccines For Players

NBA players won’t be mandated to receive COVID-19 vaccinations, league sources tell Baxter Holmes and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The news doesn’t come as a major surprise. While other NBA personnel – including referees – are required to be fully vaccinated for the start of the season, imposing such a mandate on players would’ve meant negotiating the issue with the NBPA. That aspect of negotiations between the league and the players’ union has been considered a “non-starter,” per Holmes and Wojnarowski.

Although there won’t be a mandate in place, a league spokesperson recently said that about 85% of the NBA’s players are fully vaccinated, according to ESPN’s duo, and the league will continue to implement strict testing protocols for unvaccinated players.

Besides potentially having to eat and travel in different sections than their vaccinated teammates, unvaccinated players will be required to register one negative COVID-19 test on each practice or travel day and two negatives tests on each game day, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). Fully vaccinated players won’t undergo regular coronavirus testing, Charania notes.

While most NBA players will still be able to play in games without being fully vaccinated, that won’t be the case for those based in cities like New York and San Francisco, where there are new laws about vaccinations for indoor gatherings. We outlined earlier this month how Knicks, Nets, and Warriors players would be affected by those regulations, and ESPN’s report today reiterates that the NBA will abide by those local vaccination requirements unless a player has an approved medical or religious exemption.

Raptors Cleared To Return To Toronto For 2021/22

After spending the 2020/21 season playing their home games at Amalie Arena in Tampa due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Raptors will be returning home for the 2021/22 campaign.

The franchise’s preseason schedule, which was formally announced today, includes a pair of home games at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. A team spokesperson confirmed to The Canadian Press (link via that the Raptors have received government clearance to play at home this season.

The move had been expected due to the widespread availability of COVID-19 vaccines in both the United States and Canada, as well as the loosening of restrictions at the border. Other Toronto-based sports franchises, including the Toronto Blue Jays (MLB) and Toronto FC (MLS), had resumed hosting U.S. teams at their respective home fields in recent months.

It remains unclear how many fans will be permitted to attend NBA games in Toronto to start the season, according to The Canadian Press. The Raptors’ spokesperson said the club is optimistic about holding full-capacity events at Scotiabank Arena, but those discussions are presumably ongoing.

The team spokesperson also stated that anyone entering Scotiabank Arena as a spectator or media member will be required to show proof of their COVID-19 vaccination or proof of a medical exemption.

The Raptors’ first regular season home game will be on October 20 vs. Washington. It will be the first time the club has played a regular season game at Scotiabank Arena in nearly 20 months.

NBA Proposes New Guidelines For Vaccinated & Unvaccinated Players

The NBA’s proposed health and safety protocols for the upcoming season will have much different requirements for vaccinated and unvaccinated players, according to Brian Windhorst and Tim Bontemps of ESPN.

The new rules, which are still being negotiated with the players union, are outlined in a memo the league sent to its teams. They would require players who have not gotten the vaccine to have their lockers as far away as possible from vaccinated teammates. They will also be placed in separate sections during meals, flights and bus rides.

Vaccinated players would no longer be required to have daily tests for the virus and will only be subject to testing if they exhibit symptoms or are exposed to someone who has tested positive. Their unvaccinated counterparts must be tested on any days with games or practices and may have to be tested twice on some days.

Those who haven’t been vaccinated will still be subject to a mandatory seven-day quarantine if they have close contact with a person who tests positive. Vaccinated players likely won’t have to deal with a quarantine as long as they don’t return a positive test.

Unvaccinated players won’t be permitted to sit with their unvaccinated teammates and must be at least six feet away during meals and team meetings. During team flights, the unvaccinated may have to sit in a section of the plane with staff members, and on bus trips, they will have to be separated from other players and may be required to take a separate bus.

Some of the restrictions may be relaxed for unvaccinated players who have recovered from the virus within the past six months, Windhorst and Bontemps add. The NBA also hopes to have all players tested for COVID-19 antibodies during their preseason physicals.

Nets, Knicks, Warriors Affected By Local Vaccination Policies

Unvaccinated NBA players in markets where local governmental policies prohibit unvaccinated individuals from entering indoor venues won’t be permitted to enter their home arenas or practice facilities without an approved medical or religious exemption, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter links).

As Charania explains, this means that players in New York and San Francisco – members of the Nets, Knicks, and Warriors – won’t be able to play in home games unless they’re vaccinated or have an approved exemption. Visiting players would be exempt from the vaccination requirements in New York and San Francisco, Charania adds.

After dealing with the coronavirus pandemic in both the 2019/20 and 2020/21 seasons, the NBA is still determining how to handle the virus in ’21/22 now that vaccines are widely available. The league won’t make vaccinations mandatory for players, but is requiring personnel who interact with players – including referees – to be vaccinated. Charania reports (via Twitter) that fans within 15 feet of the court must also be fully vaccinated or register a negative COVID-19 test prior to the game.

While New York and San Francisco are the two major NBA markets with local restrictions in place on unvaccinated individuals, it’s possible more cities could join that list before or during the regular season. It’s also possible New York’s or San Francisco’s policies could be adjusted at some point. In each case, the NBA would have to abide by the market’s local regulations.

NBPA executive director Michele Roberts told Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports in early July that 90% of players had been vaccinated, and it’s possible that number is even higher by now. Still, there are likely a handful of holdouts, so it will be interesting to see whether any players are impacted by these rules once the season begins.

And-Ones: Hinton, Vaccinations, Wallace, Selby

Free agent guard Amir Hinton is signing in Finland with Kouvot Kouvola, agent Jerry Dianis of Team Entertainment Sports confirmed to Hoops Rumors.

Hinton has also been selected to play for the Syrian National Team, Dianis said. The 24-year-old signed an Exhibit 10 deal with the Knicks as an undrafted free agent in 2019, attending training camp with the team later that fall. He spent all of the 2019/20 season with the club’s G League affiliate.

Throughout his 36 games in the G League, Hinton averaged 7.6 points, 1.9 rebounds and 15.7 minutes per contest. The 6-foot-6 swingman played collegiately at Lock Haven and Shaw University.

Here are some other odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • The NBA is requiring that all team, arena and league personnel who interact with players and referees be vaccinated for the 2021/22 season, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). As Charania notes in a separate tweet, this includes staff in coaching, performance/medical, equipment, player development, security, public relations, social media, scorer’s table and attendants. More specifically, this applies for staff that come within 15 feet of a player or referee, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst and Tim Bontemps. The league has set an October 1 deadline for personnel to be vaccinated, the duo adds.
  • Sixteen-year NBA veteran Rasheed Wallace has joined the University of Memphis as an assistant coach for the men’s basketball team, the school announced in a press release. Wallace joins a coaching staff that includes Larry Brown and Cody Toppert as assistants, along with Penny Hardaway as head coach.
  • Former Grizzlies guard Josh Selby has signed in Lithuania with Pieno Zvaigzdes, the team announced today (via Instagram). Selby holds 38 games of NBA experience and was the No. 49 pick in the 2011 draft. He has spent most of his professional career overseas.