Devin Booker

NBA Plans To Launch Players-Only 2K Tournament

12:07pm: The Boardroom has provided a full list of the 16 participants in the tournament, along with the first-round matchups (Twitter link). Devin Booker (Suns), Trae Young (Hawks), and Zach LaVine (Bulls) are among the other stars set to take part in the event.

11:19am: With no NBA games expected to happen on the court anytime soon, the league is setting up a virtual tournament in an attempt to sate fans’ appetite for basketball, reports Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

According to Haynes, the league intends to launch an NBA 2K tournament that will feature NBA players competing against one another. The goal is to begin the 10-day event this Friday, though the league is still working out and finalizing the details, sources tell Haynes. The tournament would be broadcast on ESPN.

Nets star Kevin Durant, Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, Cavaliers center Andre Drummond, and free agent big man DeMarcus Cousins are among the 16 players expected to participate, per Haynes.

Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel had previously tweeted that Trail Blazers center Hassan Whiteside and Heat swingman Derrick Jones were among the players set to play in an NBA 2K20 Players Tournament in April. That info appears to be based on an announcement from the NBPA, which was quickly deleted. Jeff Garcia of Spurs Zone (via Twitter) shares the full list of participants the NBPA identified in that premature release.

According to Winderman, the tournament is expected to have a $100K prize for charity.

Hiatus Notes: Dudley, Blazers, Ballmer, Booker, Mavs

Veteran forward Jared Dudley is pessimistic that the NBA will resume its season after this indefinite hiatus, he explained on FOX Sports Radio this week.

Dudley joins a growing list of NBA players and officials who are skeptical about whether the league can resume its regular season. The overall concern, he explains, is focused around limiting injuries.

“Once I heard the news of no more practice facilities, if that goes for a month or month-and-a-half to two months, I find it almost impossible to then have a season because now you’re telling a professional athlete, ‘For 60-to-80 days you’ve done no training,'” Dudley said.

League officials know that resuming the regular season after several weeks of limited training would be risky unless each team is awarded ample time of preparation, much like what’s already being offered in the fall with training camps. Dudley estimates that 70% of athletes don’t have a personal gym inside their home to utilize during this break.

“I’m not optimistic right now at all for a season to be honest with you,” Dudley said. “Unless something happens here in the next 30 days where they open back up the facilities. But how do they do that? Once everyone starts getting tested you’re going to hear more and more cases because it’s a very common thing to get.”

The NBA is discussing a plethora of different avenues to take as this unprecedented hiatus continues, with commissioner Adam Silver open to receiving suggestions from the league’s players, coaches, agents, executives and fans for the time being.

Here are some other notes related to the NBA’s hiatus:

  • The Trail Blazers and owner Jody Allen have committed more than $4MM towards COVID-19 relief efforts, the team announced on social media (Twitter link). The money will assist game night employees impacted by the league’s postponement.
  • The Ballmer Group, founded by Clippers owner Steve Ballmer and his wife, Connie, have donated $1MM to community groups in Los Angeles to help during the coronavirus epidemic, Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times writes.
  • Suns guard Devin Booker is pledging $100L through Twitch livestreaming to support non-profits that best serve the needs of the most vulnerable in the community, the team announced in a press release. Phoenix Suns Charities will match Booker’s initial donation, the release adds.
  • Mark Cuban, Luka Doncic and Dwight Powell have teamed up with the Mavericks Foundation to donate $500,000 to the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Parkland Hospital, the team announced (Twitter link). The funds will support childcare for healthcare workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response.

Devin Booker Replacing Lillard In All-Star Game, 3-Point Contest

The NBA has announced that Suns guard Devin Booker will replace injured Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard in this weekend’s All-Star Game and 3-point contest. John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 first reported (via Twitter) that Booker would be Lillard’s replacement for both events.

Booker, 23, was widely considered the most notable Western Conference snub when the 2020 All-Star reserves were revealed last month. He took the exclusion hard, publicly suggesting the picks were about entertainment, drama, and politics rather than rewarding the NBA’s best players. Now, after Lillard suffered a groin injury that will sideline him through the break and specifically endorsed Booker as his replacement, the Suns star will get a chance to play in his first All-Star Game.

In 52 games (35.9 MPG) this season, Booker has averaged 26.4 PPG, 6.3 APG, and 4.2 RPG with a shooting line of .496/.358/.920. Considering his scoring numbers are more impressive than those put up by several All-Stars, Booker presumably didn’t make the initial cut due to Phoenix’s poor record and his limitations on defense. Bradley Beal, the biggest snub in the Eastern Conference, was omitted from the list of All-Star reserves for similar reasons.

Beal was ineligible to step in for Lillard since the replacement had to come from the Western Conference, despite the fact that the All-Star Game won’t actually pit the East vs. the West. Booker will join LeBron James‘ team, since LeBron selected Lillard in last week’s All-Star draft.

Lillard had also been scheduled to put on a rap performance during Saturday night’s festivities in Chicago, but it’s safe to say Booker won’t be replacing Dame D.O.L.L.A on stage as well. Lillard still intends to perform, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link).

USA Basketball Announces 44 Finalists For 2020 Olympic Roster

USA Basketball has formally announced a preliminary group of 44 players who are candidates to be part of the program’s roster for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

The final roster will only consist of 12 players, so most of these finalists won’t actually play for Team USA at the Olympics. Some will likely withdraw from consideration, while others simply won’t make the final cut. However, these players have all expressed interest in being involved in the process.

“This is the first step in USA Basketball identifying the 12 players who will represent the United States as members of the 2020 U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team in Tokyo,” said USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo.

“… Over the course of the remainder of the NBA season we’ll continue to monitor all of the athletes. Selecting the 12-man USA roster will obviously be an extremely challenging and difficult process, and we will again attempt to select the very best team possible to represent our country and who we hope will be successful in our difficult mission of repeating as Olympic champions for a fourth consecutive Olympics.”

Although the U.S. men’s team has won three consecutive Olympic gold medals, the program had a disappointing showing at last year’s World Cup, finishing in seventh place. Team USA will be looking for a bounce-back performance in Tokyo this summer, with many players from that World Cup squad among the 44 finalists announced today.

Here’s the full list of players who are candidates to play for Team USA at the 2020 Olympics:

  1. Bam Adebayo (Heat)
  2. LaMarcus Aldridge (Spurs)
  3. Harrison Barnes (Kings)
  4. Bradley Beal (Wizards)
  5. Devin Booker (Suns)
  6. Malcolm Brogdon (Pacers)
  7. Jaylen Brown (Celtics)
  8. Jimmy Butler (Heat)
  9. Mike Conley (Jazz)
  10. Stephen Curry (Warriors)
  11. Anthony Davis (Lakers)
  12. DeMar DeRozan (Spurs)
  13. Andre Drummond (Cavaliers)
  14. Kevin Durant (Nets)
  15. Paul George (Clippers)
  16. Draymond Green (Warriors)
  17. James Harden (Rockets)
  18. Montrezl Harrell (Clippers)
  19. Joe Harris (Nets)
  20. Tobias Harris (76ers)
  21. Gordon Hayward (Celtics)
  22. Dwight Howard (Lakers)
  23. Brandon Ingram (Pelicans)
  24. Kyrie Irving (Nets)
  25. LeBron James (Lakers)
  26. Kyle Kuzma (Lakers)
  27. Kawhi Leonard (Clippers)
  28. Damian Lillard (Blazers)
  29. Brook Lopez (Bucks)
  30. Kevin Love (Cavaliers)
  31. Kyle Lowry (Raptors)
  32. JaVale McGee (Lakers)
  33. Khris Middleton (Bucks)
  34. Donovan Mitchell (Jazz)
  35. Victor Oladipo (Pacers)
  36. Chris Paul (Thunder)
  37. Mason Plumlee (Nuggets)
  38. Marcus Smart (Celtics)
  39. Jayson Tatum (Celtics)
  40. Klay Thompson (Warriors)
  41. Myles Turner (Pacers)
  42. Kemba Walker (Celtics)
  43. Russell Westbrook (Rockets)
  44. Derrick White (Spurs)

Devin Booker On All-Star Snub: “The NBA Is Different”

When the NBA All-Star Game starters and reserves were announced, there were a couple of glaring omissions from the rosters. Among them was Suns guard Devin Booker, in the midst of a season where he is averaging 27.1 PPG on 51% shooting, both career-bests.

“It was always a goal of mine (to make the All-Star Game), but it just reproves the point that the NBA is different from the game I fell in love with at the beginning of all the best players being in the All-Star Game,” Booker said, per Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic.

“Growing up watching that. And now it’s an entertainment, drama, political-filled league, but we’re a part of it now. It pays well so I guess we should be quiet about it.”

Booker obviously was not the lone snub — Wizards’ guard Bradley Beal was also not among those selected to the All-Star festivities in Chicago. Both Beal and Booker are averaging over 27 PPG, yet will not represent their respective teams unless they’re named as injury replacements.

“It’s a shame that when you look at the system, the way these guys are picked he’s probably a casualty of that,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “It’s pretty clear that the Western Conference coaches didn’t value what he brought to the table and that’s disappointing.”

Pacific Notes: Booker, Ayton, Doncic, Bagley, Joseph

With the Suns playing above expectations to start the season, the development of Devin Booker has been a focal point of the team’s season. A recent three-game skid has put Phoenix two games under .500 but Booker’s play has been generally solid this season.

The 23-year-old is averaging 24.5 PPG and 6.3 APG while shooting from the field (51%) and from three (41.9%) at career-best rates. As the season has progressed, new head coach Monty Williams has taken a proactive approach in trying to get his young star to the next level, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic writes.

Whether it’s late-night text sessions, extra work after practice or going over film and studying, Williams has been impressed with the work Booker has dedicated to improvement. While Williams feels he drives Booker nuts, the guard says he’s thankful for his new head coach.

“I understand most of it, I mean, all of it,” Booker said. “It’s just the way I am. I’ve said since the beginning, I trust him.”

Check out more Pacific Division notes:

  • Deandre Ayton is nearing a return from his 25-game suspension and the young center’s role is still unclear, Rankin writes in a separate story. The Suns’ big man has appeared in just one game this season but given Phoenix’s recent struggles, some scoring punch from the 21-year-old could help the team.
  • Mavericks‘ guard Luka Doncic has started off his sophomore season with a bang, becoming a daily triple-double threat and an early MVP candidate. Rankin writes once again how Doncic’s development makes Suns fans think about how different things would have been if Phoenix took Doncic in lieu of Ayton in last year’s draft.
  • Kings‘ forward Marvin Bagley III has only played in one game this season after breaking his thumb. Five weeks after the injury, Bagley is still not cleared to return but is getting closer, Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee writes. “Marvin is much closer than De’Aaron [Fox] is, but it’s one of those things that he hasn’t been cleared to go contact yet without (a brace) on,” head coach Luke Walton said. “So will he play tomorrow or Monday? No, but is he getting closer? Yes.”
  • While the personal stats may not be outstanding, the play of Cory Joseph, given the absence of Bagley and De’Aaron Fox has helped the Kings maintain pace in the Western Conference, James Patrick of the Sacramento Bee writes.
  • Jovan Buha of The Athletic answered several Clippers questions in the latest mailbag. Buha covered the possibility of the team pursuing Andre Iguodala, Landry Shamet‘s return, and more.

And-Ones: Wade, China, Stoudemire, Contracts

Six months after retiring as a player, Dwyane Wade is employed in a new capacity. According to an official press release (via NBA.com), Wade has reached a multiyear, multi-platform agreement with WarnerMedia, and will become a basketball commentator for TNT this season.

In addition to appearing on the network’s NBA broadcasts, Wade will make studio appearances during Turner Sports’ and CBS Sports’ NCAA tournament coverage later in the season.

“I’m thrilled and grateful to be joining the WarnerMedia family with many exciting opportunities ahead,” Wade said in a statement. “I have great respect for TNT’s team of analysts and their longstanding commitment to quality sports coverage. After sixteen seasons in the NBA, I look forward to connecting with my fans in this new role and bringing my own perspective to the game I love.”

Here’s more from around the NBA and the rest of the basketball world:

  • Chinese state television didn’t air the NBA’s opening-night games on Tuesday, while Chinese streaming partner Tencent only showed the Lakers/Clippers game, per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin and Brian Windhorst. CCTV typically shows the league’s opening-night doubleheader, but Tuesday’s decision is a signal that the ongoing NBA/China controversy is far from settled. NBA commissioner Adam Silver said earlier this week that the league has “no choice but to engage” China, as Ben Cohen of The Wall Street Journal details.
  • Speaking of China, former NBA All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire has signed the Fujian Sturgeons of the Chinese Basketball Assocation, according to reports from Roi Cohen of Sport5 and Emiliano Carchia of Sportando (Twitter links).
  • ESPN’s Bobby Marks provides some financial details on the rookie scale extensions signed on Monday, outlining (via Twitter) exactly how much bonus money is included in five of those deals. Marks also identifies four players who will receive increased partial guarantees as a result of remaining under contract with their respective teams through Wednesday (Twitter link). Those players are Christian Wood (Pistons), Jordan McRae (Wizards), Kendrick Nunn (Heat), and Trey Burke (Sixers).
  • In a conversation with Max Resetar of SLAM, good friends Karl-Anthony Towns, Devin Booker, and D’Angelo Russell joked about eventually teaming up. “When we’re all on the same team—I ain’t gonna tell you which team because I don’t know—we’re gonna do this again,” Russell said of the joint interview. While we probably shouldn’t assume the trio is destined to form a Big Three down the road, it’s worth noting that both Towns and Booker tried to recruit Russell to their respective teams when he was a free agent this summer.

Suns Notes: Rubio, Oubre, Booker, Williams

Ricky Rubio swiftly asserted himself as the Suns’ team leader on the opening day of camp, Cody Cunningham of the team’s website reports. The Suns signed Rubio to a three-year, $51MM contract in July to solve their point guard woes.

“I usually lead by example, but I think I need to be a little bit more vocal here,” Rubio said. “There’s a lot of young guys and experience gives you something that you know when to talk, when not to talk. I’m trying to do that and be more vocal out on the court, but at the same time lead by example, too.”

We have more info on the Suns:

  • Forward Kelly Oubre Jr. missed the first day of practice due to hand discomfort, Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic relays. It’s uncertain whether the injury was to Oubre’s left shooting hand, which was injured last season and required season-ending surgery.
  • Devin Booker took some heat for not playing for Team USA in the FIBA World Cup this summer but injury concerns had a lot to do with it, Rankin writes in a separate story. “I think it’s obvious I’ve dealt with injuries, especially last year, dealing with three hamstring injuries and not wanting to go through that. Just focusing on this Suns team and getting where I want to go with this team is my main priority,” Booker said.
  • A positive interview with owner Robert Sarver sealed the deal for new coach Monty Williams, Gina Mizell of The Athletic reports. Multiple teams were interested in Williams, including the Lakers. Williams, a top assistant with Philadelphia last season, signed a five-year deal with rebuilding Phoenix and views it as his last opportunity to be an NBA head coach. “The conversation I had with Mr. Sarver kind of sealed it,” Williams said. “He was forthright, and I really respected that. He just didn’t lie. He didn’t, not one time, waver. And I was like, ‘You know what? I can work with that.’”

Suns Notes: Highsmith, Baynes, Booker

The Suns are working out Haywood Highsmith this week, Ben Stinar of Amico Hoops reports (Twitter link). The small forward, who split time between the Sixers and the G League last season, recently worked out for the Bucks as well.

Here’s more from Phoenix:

  • The Suns traded for Aron Baynes early in the summer and Gina Mizell of The Athletic hears that Phoenix is hopeful that he’ll serve as a mentor for Deandre Ayton. Mizell discussed Baynes with The Athletic’s Jared Weiss, who believes the big man’s skill set meshes well with Ayton’s and that the veteran center will be a positive influence in the locker room.
  • In the same piece, Weiss argues that new addition Dario Saric is the best frontcourt partner for Baynes. The scribe compares the Baynes-Saric fit to the Marcus Morris-Baynes combo in Boston last season.
  • Devin Booker decided not to play for Team USA so he could get healthy for the upcoming NBA season, though the decision didn’t sit well with everyone. ESPN’s Nick Friedell believes Booker’s move was “awful,” as he explained on The Jump.

Western Notes: Cancar, Guduric, Rubio, Bol Bol

Vlatko Cancar will have plenty of competition at the forward spots but the 22-year-old could help the Nuggets in a variety of ways, as Eric Spyropoulos of the team’s website details. While playing on Denver’s summer league team for two years, Cancar has shown that he can handle the ball, knock down outside shots and battle in the lane. He doesn’t bring elite mobility at the defensive end but he uses his basketball IQ and awareness to position himself well, Spyropoulos adds.

Cancar, a 2017 second-round pick who spent the last two seasons overseas, signed a three-year contract. The first two years are guaranteed and the Nuggets used part of their mid-level exception to secure him, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. They are now $979K below the luxury tax line, Marks adds.

We have more from around the Western Conference:

  • The addition of Marko Guduric further muddles the Grizzlies’ wing rotation, David Cobb of the Memphis Commercial Appeal writes. He’ll join a group that includes shooting guards Grayson Allen, Dillon Brooks and Josh Jackson as well as forwards Jae Crowder, Solomon Hill, Kyle Anderson and Bruno Caboclo. Guduric’s two-year, $5.3MM contract put the Grizzlies close to $128MM in salary commitments and gives them a full camp roster, Cobb adds. Guduric, who shot 47.7% from long range in Turkey last season, signed the contract on July 31.
  • New Suns point guard Ricky Rubio believes he can make Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton even more productive, as he told Cody Cunningham of the team’s website“I can help them reach the level they deserve,” Rubio said. “Deandre, Devin Booker, I’ve been talking to them the last couple days and they’re really excited. Can’t wait to jump on the court and start working with them.” Rubio was signed to a three-year, $51MM contract to fix Phoenix’s issues at the point guard position.
  • Nuggets rookie big man Bol Bol has moved around quite a bit for a 19-year-old but he feels at home in Denver, as he told Kendra Andrews of The Athletic“I’m happy to be here,” Bol said. “I really like the city. I’m happy to be in a bigger city again.”