Coronavirus

Coronavirus Notes: Training Facilities, NBPA, K. Guy

In a Monday morning appearance on ESPN’s Get Up (video link), Brian Windhorst said that the aggressive pay check reduction that team owners have proposed for players is an indication that the NBA is “preparing for the worst” while “hoping for the best.”

As Windhorst explains, the proposal from owners – a 50% pay check reduction starting on April 15 – is essentially what would be required to help balance the players/owners revenue split in the event of a canceled season.

While Windhorst is one of many people connected to the NBA expressing pessimism about the resumption of the 2019/20 season, he notes that the league, Turner Sports, and ESPN are all working hard to try to come up with events that could realistically be held in the coming months without the need for widespread COVID-19 testing. The proposed H-O-R-S-E competition that was reported over the weekend is one such example.

Here’s more on the NBA’s hiatus and the coronavirus pandemic:

  • In an entertaining Q&A with Michael Lee of The Athletic, Lakers forward Jared Dudley discussed a wide variety of topics, expressing concern about players who have no access to training facilities being able to prepare for a resumed season. “I’m not allowed to shoot a basketball (because of California’s stay-at-home order). For four months!” Dudley said. “And you’re going to give me two to three weeks? To be ready for playoffs and regular season? And be able to have my body play without injuries? That’s the last component where you’re like, ‘Hey, what’s feasible?’ Because the NBA will give you two weeks, that’s not enough. You will 100 percent see injuries you haven’t seen because of that.”
  • The NBPA originally had a conference call with agents scheduled for Monday, but it has been pushed back until Tuesday, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). According to Woj, the NBA’s proposed pay check reduction for players is among the subjects expected to be discussed during that call.
  • After losing his grandfather to COVID-19, Kings rookie Kyle Guy published an Instagram post in which he urged people to take the virus seriously and follow public health orders. Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee has the full story.

Shutdown Notes: Woj, Testing, McCollum, Antetokounmpo

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski is the latest media figure to share pessimism that the NBA season can be saved, writes Adam Zagoria of Forbes. During an appearance on SportsCenter this morning, Wojnarowski said the league is doing everything it can to resume play — gathering ideas from teams, executives, sports science and medical staffs and the players’ union — but the situation doesn’t look promising.

“There’s also a level of realism that is starting to sink in it,” Wojnarowski said, “that it’s going to be difficult to return to play this season, that a runway for how many days it would actually have to be able to have a representative rest of the season, a few regular-season games at minimum and then a playoffs that would crown a legitimate champion, that would have a playoff structure, that would be enough to have someone to wear that crown and do it without an asterisk, that’s the challenge around the league right now. And they know they’re up against it, they’re up against the clock and there’s certainly a lot of concern about whether this league will be able to return to play or not.”

There’s more on the shutdown:

  • The NBA won’t be able to resume play until it can quickly provide coronavirus tests for a large number of people, states Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. Not only does the league have to be able to ensure the safety of everyone involved, he adds, it must do so without the perception that it is receiving preferential treatment. That happened early on when entire teams were being checked while the test wasn’t widely available to the public. “There are certain lines that can’t be crossed, and everyone knows where they are,” a league executive said. “We’re hearing from a lot of different corners, including from doctors, that would love to see the games return, just for the sign it would give. But you have to be able to do it right.”
  • Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum tells David Aldridge of The Athletic that “everything is on the table” regarding talks with the league about the financial gap that will be created if the rest of the season is canceled. There was a report this week that up to 25% of remaining salaries could be placed into an escrow account that would help players and owners deal with potential losses. “Not playing basketball for the rest of the year means we lose 23 and a half percent of games played, regular season and a complete playoff run,” said McCollum, a vice president with the NBPA. “Not to mention the issues we’ve had with (Rockets general manager Daryl Morey) in China. That affected the (Basketball Related Income) as well … a lot of money is at stake.”
  • Bucks stars Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton are among the NBA stars with no way to play basketball during the shutdown, according to Eric Woodyard of ESPN.

Coronavirus Updates: Tsai, “Bubble,” Vogel, Schedule

The battle against COVID-19 in New York is getting a boost from a few NBA sources, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today that Nets owner Joe Tsai is donating 1,000 ventilators to the effort.

“The Chinese government is going to facilitate a donation of 1,000 ventilators that will come into JFK today. And I want to thank Joe Tsai and Clara Tsai and Jack Ma from Alibaba, and the Nets – but I’m not stating a preference – for their donation,” Cuomo said. “That’s going to be very helpful. And I want to thank (consul General Huang Ping) very much for his help in making all of this happen, because this is a big deal and it’s going to make a significant difference for us.”

Cuomo also tweeted that the NBA is contributing one million surgical masks in collaboration with the Knicks and Nets for essential workers in the state. New York has already reported more than 113,000 coronavirus cases and more than 3,000 deaths.

There’s more NBA-related news about the virus:

  • A contingency plan to finish the season in a quarantined “bubble” may be harder than it sounds, states Tom Haberstroh of NBC Sports Philadelphia. He talked to Dr. Caroline Buckee, an associate professor of Epidemiology at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who believes it would be too difficult to ensure that everyone who has to be involved is virus-free. “It sounds like potentially a bad idea,” she said. “I don’t think it’s realistic to completely isolate and quarantine the players. For a start, there are people who will need to clean their rooms, feed them, wash their clothes, janitorial staff and so forth. And those people will not be protected and they will be interacting with their communities. It is very difficult to truly self-isolate. Purposefully putting people at risk seems foolish.”
  • Jackie MacMullan of ESPN examines how coaches are dealing with an unprecedented situation that leaves them with no set schedule for the first time in months. “I’ve mentally flipped my seasons,” said Lakers coach Frank Vogel. “I’m in the summer now. I really feel it’s necessary for us to mentally decompress. It’s a better mindset than trying to power through this. If we sprint through what could potentially be a two- to three-month break, with workouts and meetings and projects and film throughout, will we be fresh when it matters? We need to realize ‘when it matters’ could be July or August.”
  • Conflicts with Major League Baseball telecasts may be the biggest impediment to moving the NBA schedule back two months, observes Keith Smith of NBC Sports. Twenty-two NBA teams share a regional sports network market with MLB clubs, creating problems if both leagues have a large number of regular season games throughout spring.

President Sees Fans Returning By August Or September

President Donald Trump expressed hope that fans will be able to attend games by August or September during a conference call today with commissioners of several leagues, according to Adam Schefter and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Trump also said the NFL should be able to start its season on time, although the authors add that it’s not clear if medical experts agree with the timeline.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver noted that the sports leagues were the first major U.S. enterprises to shut down and would like to be leaders in restarting the economy once public health officials provide an “all clear” signal. The NBA was the first professional league to suspend play, making the announcement March 11.

A return to normalcy by late summer would come too late for the NBA to have any hope of finishing its season in front of crowds, but the league has discussed holding a few regular season games and possibly an abbreviated playoff format in empty arenas.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said during a press conference today that he’s not optimistic about the NFL starting on time in his state, according to Eric Ting of SFGate.

“We’ve all seen the headlines over the last couple days in Asia where they opening up certain businesses and now they’re starting to roll back those openings because they’re starting (to see) some spread and there’s a boomerang,” Newsom said. “One has to be very cautious here, one has to be careful not to overpromise.”

Also during the call, Trump suggested that the leagues should work together to lobby for the return of tax credits that used to be given for entertainment expenses, sources tell Schefter and Wojnarowski. Those credits, which include some deductions for concessions and tickets, could make it easier for fans to attend games while the economy works its way through the current downturn.

Along with the NBA and NFL, the call included executives from Major League Baseball, the NHL, Major League Soccer, WNBA, WWE, the PGA Tour, UFC, IndyCar, LPGA and Breeders’ Cup.

Atlantic Notes: Embiid, Kanter, Robinson, Musa

Sixers center Joel Embiid is joining forces with team managing partner Josh Harris and co-managing partner David Blitzer on a $1.3MM contribution to fund testing for 1,000 health care workers in the Philadelphia region, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reports. The donation has been confirmed in a team press release.

Embiid said he learned that “testing for COVID-19 antibodies has the chance to let health care workers know if they are immune to the virus.” The big man notes that the workers who have immunity can work in “risky environments” and donate blood to help patients recover. Embiid’s partnership with team ownership should quell speculation that he has a fractious relationship with the organization which could eventually lead to his departure.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Celtics center Enes Kanter remains hopeful that the remainder of the season, or at least the playoffs, can be played, The Boston Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach writes. “We are competitors man, so we want to go out there and finish the season,’‘ Kanter said on Zoom. “Especially, like, it’s crazy — we actually have a really good chance to go out there and win a championship.”
  • Knicks center Mitchell Robinson might have the league’s most team-friendly contract, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post. The big man has a $1.66MM salary for next season with a $1.8MM team option for 2021/22, Berman notes. The Knicks’ net rating improves by 5.3 points per 100 possessions with Robinson on the court, Berman adds.
  • The Nets’ European players — Dzanan Musa, Rodions Kurucs and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot — have been separated from their families indefinitely during the coronavirus pandemic, Brian Lewis of the New York Post notes. Travel restrictions prevent them from reuniting with their families. “They are coping, and their families are coping with this. But that’s really difficult,” Nets GM Sean Marks said. “Their families are completely separated. They’re not in the same time zone, they’re in completely different countries, and obviously there is a travel ban in place.”

Pessimism Growing About Resumption Of Season

There’s growing pessimism around the league that the 2019/20 season can be resumed, Brian Windhorst of ESPN said on SportsCenter (video link).

While the NBA is willing to go deep into the summer to complete the season, recent developments have led the league to discuss the implications of cancellation.

“It’s been a bad week,” Windhorst said. “I think there was optimism about progress a week ago. Some things that have happened this week have turned it south about what could happened.”

China’s decision to halt the Chinese Basketball Association’s plan to resume play this month has been a major factor.

“They (the CBA) really believed if they just tested the players’ temperature all this time that it would work,” Windhorst said. “The Chinese are finding that asymptomatic carriers are causing maybe a second wave in that country and they’re just slamming the brakes on sports.”

Unless widespread, quick tests for the novel coronavirus become available in the near future, league officials can’t see a way to resume play and ensure safety for all involved.

“It is clear that the NBA is angling to set up a deal that enables them to shut the season down,” Windhorst said. “They don’t have to do that yet. The way they’re negotiating, they’re leaving an option either way. But they’re not having talks about how to restart the league. They’re having financial talks about what would happen if the season shuts down. I think there’s a significant amount of pessimism.”

International Notes: Beaubois, Spain, Nurse, James

Anadolu Efes of Turkey and former NBA guard Rodrigue Beaubois have reached a contract extension agreement until 2022, Sportando’s Dario Skerletic relays via Israeli reporter Roi Cohen. Beaubois played four seasons for Dallas from 2009-13. This season, the French guard averaged 11.1 PPG over 43 games.

We have more news from around the basketball world:

  • Spain’s ACB league has been suspended indefinitely, according to Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia. Play was already suspended until April 24th due to the coronavirus outbreak in the country. The league’s teams will decide how to proceed n the upcoming weeks.
  • Raptors coach Nick Nurse remains fully committed to coaching Team Canada in Tokyo Olympic qualifiers, Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports tweets. Nurse is “really excited” about it and hopes the Olympics, rescheduled for next summer, can go forward as planned.
  • A trio of former NBA players heads the list of the best players in Europe, according to Jeff Greer of The Athletic. A survey of 21 coaches and players overseas choose former Phoenix and New Orleans guard Mike James as the top player in Europe this season in a close votes. Guard Shane Larkin and forward Nikola Mirotic tied for the second-most votes. Maccabi Tel Aviv forward Deni Avdija, a likely top-10 pick in this year’s draft, is considered the top international NBA prospect.

Layoffs, Cutbacks Underway For Jazz

The Larry H. Miller Group has begun laying off some Jazz employees, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

Sources tell ESPN that the cutbacks so far are affecting non-basketball employees. Wojnarowski adds that some employees are accepting reductions in compensation.

“Due to the impact on our customer-facing businesses from his unprecedented pandemic, the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies, of which the Utah Jazz are a part, unfortunately had to make difficult decisions to reduce a small percentage of our workforce,” the company said in a statement to ESPN. “Over the past several weeks, we have worked to manage and reduce costs, including executive compensation, and have reached a point where we have had to say farewell to a limited number of our valued employees.”

In addition to the Jazz, the Larry H. Miller Group owns the Megaplex Theatres chain, ad agency Saxton Horne, dozens of auto dealerships, and a number of other companies, many of which have been hit as hard as – or worse than – the Jazz by the coronavirus pandemic.

While we haven’t yet heard much about other NBA teams being hit by layoffs and cutbacks, the Jazz are unlikely to be the last team to take such measures, since the league is expected to be on hiatus for months.

Pacific Notes: Lakers, Warriors, Wiggins, Johnson

Two Lakers tested positive for the coronavirus last month, but head coach Frank Vogel said on a conference call on Thursday that he wasn’t tested at that time and he doesn’t think his assistants were either. As Dave McMenamin of ESPN outlines, Lakers players underwent tests even if they weren’t experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms, but the coaching staff wasn’t given the same directions.

“It’s just, we were not told to be tested,” Vogel said. “And obviously everybody recognized the shortage of tests and we were only going to do what the local health department told us to do. So, we weren’t asked to be tested at that point.”

Interestingly, according to Vogel, it’s not just the general public that doesn’t know the identities of the Lakers players who were affected by the coronavirus. The veteran coach told ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan that he’s also in the dark about which two players who tested positive.

“I don’t even know who are they,” Vogel said, “and I’m totally fine with that.”

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • On Thursday’s call with reporters, Vogel also said it would be a “huge disappointment” if the Lakers don’t get a chance to compete for a title this summer, but said he and his team understand the situation. “We get it, and this is bigger than basketball,” he said, per Bill Oram of The Athletic. “And us getting back on the court is not the most important thing for the world right now. Hopefully we have that chance, and if we’re not able to, it would be a big disappointment.”
  • The Warriors‘ ability to spend on free agents during the 2020 offseason will be limited, but Anthony Slater of The Athletic suggests there are dozens of players who could be fits, ranging from long-shots like Paul Millsap to lower-cost options like D.J. Augustin or Meyers Leonard. In Slater’s view, veteran wing Jae Crowder would be the best fit for Golden State among the realistic mid-level-type targets.
  • Can Andrew Wiggins, who has a .372 winning percentage in 454 career NBA games, be a reliable contributor on a contender? That will be one of the key questions facing the Warriors during the 2020 offseason as they decide whether to stick with Wiggins or flip him in a trade, according to Mark Schanowski of NBC Sports Chicago.
  • With the help of Gina Mizell of The Athletic, Suns rookie Cameron Johnson details his recovery from mononucleosis and how that experience gave him something of a “head start on the whole quarantine thing.”

WNBA Postpones Training Camps, 2020 Season

The WNBA announced today in a press release that it has postponed the opening of its training camps and the start of the 2020 season, which had been scheduled to tip off on May 15. Although the league didn’t make it official until today, the move was long expected due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“While the league continues to use this time to conduct scenario-planning regarding new start dates and innovative formats, our guiding principle will continue to be the health and safety of the players, fans, and employees,” commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement.

Considering the NBA isn’t expected to have a chance to resume until June or July at the earliest, it’s safe to say the same is true of the WNBA. Like the NBA, the women’s league figures to explore experimental ideas and pragmatic solutions – including the possibility of playing behind closed doors – as it looks to salvage its season.

Despite the fact that the WNBA season has been delayed indefinitely, the league will move forward with its draft on April 17, two weeks from today. Instead of being an in-person event, the 2020 draft will be virtual, with prospects taking part remotely.

Depending on how the COVID-19 situation evolves in the coming months, it’s possible the NBA will have to take similar steps with its own draft, which is still tentatively scheduled for June 25.