Giannis Antetokounmpo

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.

Hiatus Notes: TV Revenue, Benson, Storylines, Clippers

The NBA hopes to play at least 70 regular-season games this season in order to retain 100% of the revenue the league receives from their regional sports network partners, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst (hat tip to RealGM). Those networks broadcast games in local markets. An abbreviated resumption of the regular season would also serve as a way for teams to ramp back up before the playoffs begin, Windhorst adds.

We have more developments related to the league’s hiatus:

  • Pelicans owner Gayle Benson has pledged to give $1MM to various causes, including financial assistance to arena workers displaced by the coronavirus-related stoppage, according to a team press release. The Gayle Benson Community Assistance Fund will also provide assistance to the general New Orleans community. Numerous players and teams have reached out to help their arena workers.
  • LeBron James‘ pursuit of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time scoring record and Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s potentially historic follow-up to his MVP season are among the storylines that won’t be played out if the season is canceled, Michael Lee of The Athletic notes. The Pelicans’ pursuit of the Grizzlies for the Western Conference’s final playoff berth, with the added intrigue of those teams being led by top rookies Zion Williamson and Ja Morant, would also fall by the wayside.
  • The hiatus could have a silver lining for the Clippers, ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk points out. The prime title contender will have a chance to get fully healthy heading into the postseason, as Kawhi Leonard and Paul George will have an extended time to rest, while Lou Williams (calf) and Patrick Beverley (groin) can recover from their ailments. The article breaks down what the hiatus means for each Western Conference club.

Central Notes: Bucks, Lamb, Pistons, Pacers

The Bucks, who had been hoping to lock up Giannis Antetokounmpo to a super-max contract extension this summer, are one of many NBA teams whose future will be complicated by the current hiatus and the potential loss of revenue associated with it, writes Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report.

As Pincus details, a significant loss of revenue for the NBA would compromise the league’s ability to continue increasing its cap substantially over the next couple years. That would, in turn, create uncertainty about Antetokounmpo’s long-term earning power on a super-max deal that begins in 2021/22, and could have a major impact on Milwaukee’s ability to navigate the cap and the luxury-tax line.

Here’s more from around the NBA’s Central division:

  • It fell through the cracks to some extent last week due to the NBA’s suspension, but Pacers swingman Jeremy Lamb underwent surgery to repair his torn left ACL and torn meniscus. He’ll be out indefinitely, according to the team. Given the serious nature of his injury, it seems safe to assume Lamb won’t return until sometime in 2020/21 no matter when the ’19/20 season resumes.
  • James Edwards III of The Athletic examines how the COVID-19 situation may specifically impact the Pistons, exploring whether Derrick Rose could now return this season (yes), whether Christian Wood‘s free agency value will be impacted at all by his positive test for coronavirus (no), and more.
  • Pacers owner Herb Simon is giving financial add to the part-time workers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse affected by the NBA’s stoppage, tweets Bob Kravitz of The Athletic. Meanwhile, the Bucks announced (via Twitter) that they’ll match the donations their players make to part-time arena workers at the Fiserv Forum.

Antetokounmpo, Griffin, Williamson To Help Arena Workers

Bucks forward and reigning Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo and his family are donating $100K to Fiserv Forum staff members to help them weather the financial storm during the league’s suspension of play, according to his Twitter account.

Antetokounmpo is following the lead of the Cavaliers’ Kevin Love, who pledged a similar amount to arena employees in Cleveland. The Pistons’ Blake Griffin is making the same donation to workers at Detroit’s Little Caesars Arena, according to the Detroit News’ Rod Beard.

Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson is pledging to cover the salaries for all of their arena staff workers for the next 30 days, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.

Numerous teams have come forward to say that they’ll keep their employees on the payroll during the stoppage as well as compensate full-time and part-time staff who work their games. However, many other workers in these arenas, such as security guards and concession workers, are often employed by other companies. The players donations would presumably provide assistance to those workers.

The Pistons added their name to the list of teams that will compensate workers on Thursday, according to the Detroit Free Press. The Wizards did the same, Candace Bucker of the Washington Post tweets. The Kings have also stepped forward, according to James Ham of NBC Sports, The Trail Blazers are formulating a plan to pay their part-time arena employees for the team’s nine remaining home games and will reassess the program in 30 days, Jason Quick of The Athletic tweets.

Rockets CEO Tad Brown vowed to make sure their employees would “take care of our part-time employees as well as all of our employees,” Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle relays.

The Mavericks, Hawks, Cavaliers, and Nets have already stated their intentions to provide financial support to employees and arena workers.

Heat Notes: Adebayo, Olynyk, Crowder, Herro

One Heat All-Star was impressed with the other following Sunday’s win over Washington, as Jimmy Butler heaped praise on teammate Bam Adebayo, who racked up 27 points, 14 rebounds, and six assists against the Wizards.

“That’s what future max players do,” Butler said of Adebayo, according to Michael Lee of The Athletic. “He’s definitely all of that and more. We’re glad to have him. Glad he’s the leader of this team.”

After acquiring Butler and developing Adebayo, the Heat have more star power on their roster than they did a year ago, but the team will always be on the lookout for more. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Bradley Beal are two players who have frequently been cited as potential Miami targets if they become available, but Adebayo said this week that he doesn’t expect to be too involved in trying to recruit either player.

“I don’t want to pressure a man to make his own decision,” Adebayo said when asked specifically about the possibility of recruiting Antetokounmpo. “At the end of the day, when that situation does happen, if he wants to have a conversation with me, then I will have that talk with him. But I’m not going to try to put pressure on a man to make a decision. This is his life. He just had a child. You don’t want to move your child from city to city. It’s bigger than basketball for him at this point and time in his life, because he’s got kids, he’s got family, he’s got brothers. You want everybody to be together and be happy. It’s up to him.”

Here’s more on the Heat:

  • Kelly Olynyk has $1.4MM in bonuses available this season as part of his contract with the Heat — $1MM for playing at least 1,700 minutes and $400K for a Miami playoff berth. The Heat are on the verge of clinching a spot in the postseason, which will earn Olynyk $400K, but at just 1,084 minutes played, he’s unlikely to get the other $1MM, writes Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sentinel.
  • For his part, Olynyk sounds content to earn the lesser bonus. “Financially, the bigger issue would be missing out on the minutes,” he said, per Winderman. “But for way of life and just as a person, I would say definitely make the playoffs and be part of a team that’s winning and having a vision of where it could go and be something special.”
  • After missing the Heat’s game on Sunday, Jae Crowder was cleared from the NBA’s concussion protocol on Tuesday, as Andre Fernandez of The Athletic tweets. Crowder is listed as probable for Wednesday’s game against Charlotte, so he should be back in action tonight after a brief absence.
  • In that same tweet, Fernandez notes that Tyler Herro participated fully in practice on Tuesday, which is a sign he’s nearing a return. Herro, who has been on the shelf for more than a month due to a right ankle injury, is listed as questionable for Wednesday’s contest.

Giannis Antetokounmpo Has Minor Knee Sprain

The leading 2019/20 MVP candidate, Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, suffered a minor left knee joint capsule sprain in Friday’s 113-103 loss to the Lakers, per a team press release (hat tip to Malika Andrews of ESPN).

Andrews relays that the Greek Freak will not be available for at least the final two contests of the Bucks’ current road trip, bouts against the bottom-feeding Suns and the Western Conference’s No. 3 seed, the Nuggets.

Antetokounmpo may miss more time than just the next two games. The Bucks’ next home game is Thursday, when they host the East’s No. 3 seeded Celtics. The Bucks will have an update on Giannis’ availability for what could be a pivotal intra-conference contest within the week.

The Bucks are the No. 1 seed in the East with an impressive 53-10 record. They are 8.5 games clear of the No. 2 seed, the 44-18 Raptors. A terrific two-way player, Antetokounmpo’s stellar individual season has been a huge part of that equation: in 57 games, he is averaging 29.6 PPG, 13.7 RPG, and 5.8 APG during just 30.9 MPG.

Community Shootaround: 2020 NBA MVP Race

After winning the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award in 2019, Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo looks like the overwhelming favorite to do so again in 2020.

Antetokounmpo is averaging 29.6 PPG and 13.8 RPG, both improvements on last season’s numbers, while playing just 30.8 minutes per contest, his lowest mark since he was a rookie in 2013/14. In addition to his outstanding per-36 numbers, the reigning MVP is a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year, and his team holds the NBA’s best record by a comfortable margin, at 53-9. Milwaukee also has an eye-popping +16.7 net rating when Antetokounmpo is on the floor, tops in the league.

Antetokounmpo’s case for a second consecutive MVP award is obvious, and makes him the clear frontrunner. However, not everyone is prepared to hand him the trophy quite yet.

With the Lakers poised to take on Milwaukee on Friday night in a battle of the NBA’s No. 1 seeds, head coach Frank Vogel argued that LeBron James should be considered a frontrunner for the 2020 MVP award, as Dave McMenamin of ESPN writes. Vogel pointed to the intangibles James brings, including his leadership ability, as a factor for why the four-time MVP should receive serious consideration this spring.

“The body of work he’s put forth for our team I don’t really think it compares to anybody else,” Vogel said. “A lot of great performances throughout the year with other players, so I don’t want to take anything away from anyone else, but it’s pretty unbelievable what he does. What he means to us on both sides of the ball, defensive IQ and the way he impacts the game with his strength, athleticism, scoring the way he does, but also leading the league in assists. And the most important stat is how much we’re winning. So, to me, it’s his.”

In laying out James’ case for MVP, Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report highlights the extent to which LeBron drives the team’s entire offense with his scoring and play-making. As Pincus points out, the Lakers’ offense falls off a cliff when James sits and the defense gets a little worse too — the club has a +10.4 rating with the 35-year-old on the court, compared to -1.0 when he’s on the bench.

One advance scout who spoke to Mark Medina of USA Today said his vote would go to Giannis, but admitted that the race is close enough for him to be convinced either way. One NBA executive speculated to Medina that voters may not be inclined to choose a back-to-back winner: “My gut would be since Giannis won it last year, people would give it to LeBron.”

We want to know what you think. Does LeBron have a legit NBA shot, or is Giannis running away with the award? If you think the race is still up in the air, what would have to happen in the season’s final five or six weeks to seal the deal one way or the other? Are there any other candidates you think could emerge as realistic alternatives?

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

Giannis Played Role In Recruiting Matthews, Korver

Entering the 2019 offseason, Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo hadn’t gotten involved much in free agent recruitment, preferring to leave roster moves up to the front office. However, when he found out that Milwaukee was signing-and-trading Malcolm Brogdon to Indiana last summer, he felt as if it was time for him to get involved, writes Eric Nehm of The Athletic.

“I don’t like doing that stuff,” Antetokounmpo said. “I don’t get an extra paycheck for doing (GM) Jon (Horst)’s job or Coach (Mike Budenholzer)’s job or whoever’s job it is. … If you asked me one year ago, two years ago, I’d say, ‘Coach, just take care of it.’ … (But) it comes to a point that I’m like, ‘OK. Malcolm’s about to leave.’ And at the time, Wesley Matthews and Kyle Korver were the guys I felt like could help us win.”

Antetokounmpo, who is represented by the same agency as Matthews (Octagon), reached out to the veteran swingman first, pitching him on the idea of competing for a championship in Milwaukee. Matthews had received interest from other teams, but the call from the reigning MVP helped convince him to join the Bucks, as Nehm details.

“It meant a lot,” Matthews said. “Not even just as an athlete, but just as anyone who is working, the admiration of your peers is what holds the most weight. Not writers, not blogs, not media and all that kind of stuff. It’s the guys you’re going to compete with and against to have the respect for you that means the world.”

Meanwhile, Antetokounmpo touched base with Korver at a training facility in Santa Barbara. The 38-year-old sharpshooter invited Giannis to work out with him at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where the Bucks’ star made another recruitment pitch.

“We start the workout and I’m like, ‘OK. Kyle, look, this is how I can get you open shots,'” Antetokounmpo said. “‘We can run this. We can do this. I know Al Horford is your best friend. I know you’d love playing with Al Horford in Philly, but look, I can (get you shots). I can find you easier.’ He loved it.”

Both Matthews and Korver ultimately signed with the Bucks and they’ve been great fits so far. Matthews has been a regular starter in Milwaukee, averaging 7.5 PPG with a .370 3PT% in 58 games (24.6 MPG), while Korver has recorded 6.4 PPG with a .407 3PT% off the bench in 47 contests (16.6 MPG). They’ve helped push the Bucks to an NBA-best 52-9 record this season and Giannis is thrilled to have them both aboard, as Nehm writes.

“I love my teammates. … I’d die for them,” Antetokounmpo said. “That’s who I am and I hope they know that and I think they know that. This is the group that I want to (win a championship) with, and hopefully, we can get it done.”

Southeast Notes: Hornets, Bacon, Adebayo, Robinson

The Hornets might be in the market for an experienced point guard, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer reports. Devonte’ Graham, who is dealing with left ankle soreness, is doubtful to play Tuesday against the Spurs. Terry Rozier can slide over as the starter but fill-in point guard Malik Monk is suspended indefinitely under the league’s anti-drug policy and the team didn’t renew Joe Chealey’s 10-day contract. Charlotte has two open roster spots and will need to fill one soon, Bonnell adds.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Dwayne Bacon‘s status with the Hornets is a fluid situation, Bonnell tweets. Bacon has been toiling with the G League’s Greensboro Swarm and it’s uncertain whether he’ll return to the NBA level, according to Borrego. Bacon has played in 39 games with Charlotte this season, including 11 starts, but hasn’t seen action since the All-Star break.
  • Bam Adebayo and Giannis Antetokounmpo share the same agent but Adebayo insists that won’t mean anything if the Bucks superstar hits the free agent market in 2021, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel relays. Both players are represented by Alex Saratsis. “At the end of the day, I can’t force a man to make that decision,” the Heat center said of potentially recruiting the reigning MVP. “That’s going to be his decision, his family’s decision. I can’t persuade him to do that.”
  • The Heat’s offense has been most efficient this season with Duncan Robinson on the court, Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald points out. Robinson owns the team’s best plus/minus rating. Additionally, the team’s offensive rating is 114.3 when he’s on the floor, compared to 105.9 when he’s on the bench. That bodes well for his future with the club, although his $1,663,861 salary for next season doesn’t guarantee until after training camp.

Rockets Notes: Harden, Tucker, Van Gundy, Bench

James Harden believes he’s taken for granted around the basketball world, as he told Rachel Nichols of ESPN (Twitter link). “I feel like I’m the best player,” said the former Most Valuable Player, who once again leads the league in scoring. “Throughout the course of the year, I don’t see double teams for anybody else. Usually, you’ll see a double team after a 50-point night or a 60-point night. I have an 18-point night, the next game I’m seeing a double-team.”

Harden also took a dig at Giannis Antetokounmpo, who joked while choosing his All-Star squad that he didn’t want Harden because he preferred someone who passed the ball. “I wish I could just go to the rim at 7-feet and just dunk,” Harden said. “That takes no skill at all.”

We have more on the Rockets:

  • P.J. Tucker has accepted his new role as the team’s middle man in its Microball lineup, Sam Amick of The Athletic reports. Tucker says it’s just part of the job description of a team player. “It’s not a choice,” he said. “It’s like when people ask me why I play so hard. Like, it’s not a choice to play hard. I don’t have a choice. That’s what you’ve got to do. Period.”
  • Broadcaster Jeff Van Gundy doled out praise to coach Mike D’Antoni and GM Daryl Morey for their willingness to take criticism by embracing unconventional lineups, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle relays. “I admire their basketball courage,” Van Gundy said. “They have true conviction. They don’t waffle. They believe in what they believe. And they are unafraid of the consequences or the criticism. That’s when you can coach freely and manage freely.”
  • The recent additions of Jeff Green and DeMarre Carroll have made the team’s bench much more formidable, Kelly Iko of The Athletic writes. Forward Danuel House is noticing the difference. “It makes your team a very dangerous team,” House said. “Especially with your starting five. If your starting five is capable of putting up points and your bench is capable of putting up points, the team can stay consistent. There are no highs or lows, so that’s really good for our team.”