International

NBL: Sale Of Illawara Hawks To LaMelo Ball, Manager Not Yet Final

10:06pm: Australia’s National Basketball League issued a statement confirming discussions with Ball and Jackson, but claiming that a sale of the Illawarra Hawks hasn’t been finalized.

“At this point we are continuing to work with current licence holder Simon Stratford on a number of options for what we hope will be a fruitful outcome for Illawarra and the NBL,” the league’s statement reads. “The NBL has final approval on any transfer of licence and no application has been made to date. The NBL has no further comment at this stage.”

12:13pm: After playing for Australia’s Illawarra Hawks for most of the 2019/20 season, draft prospect LaMelo Ball – along with manager Jermaine Jackson – has purchased the National Basketball League franchise, per an ESPN report.

“We own the team,” Jackson told ESPN. “It’s a done deal.”

The youngest Ball brother ended up playing in just 12 games for Illawarra, with a foot injury bringing his season to an early end. However, as Jackson explained to ESPN, Ball enjoyed his time in Australia with the Hawks so much that he wanted to get involved when the team faced financial issues.

“Melo loves the Illawarra fans,” Jackson said. “He loves that community. They opened their arms to him. They made us feel like we are at home. When we started hearing about the issues they were going through, we talked about it and decided, ‘Let’s own the team.'”

Jackson went on to talk about hiring “the right people” to oversee the franchise with the goal of creating an elite basketball program that may appeal to other top high school prospects who are considering following in Ball’s footsteps by playing overseas rather than in the NCAA.

“When high school kids hear LaMelo owns the team, they will want to come,” Jackson said. “They’ll know they will be taken care of. We’re going to put the organization on steroids, building it into a program that guys want to play for. I’m in touch with several former NBA GMs that want to go there to help out and high-level coaches that won every championship you can imagine.”

While Ball won’t be the first NBA player to own a basketball franchise in an international league, the fact that he’s in position to make such an investment before even entering the league is fascinating. At this point, we don’t have specific details on how bad the Hawks’ financial situation was or what the purchase price was for Ball and Jackson.

Ball, who averaged 17.0 PPG, 7.5 RPG, and 7.0 APG in the NBL, with multiple triple-doubles, is viewed as a near-lock to be a top-five pick in the 2020 NBA draft. He’s currently the No. 2 overall prospect on ESPN’s big board.

And-Ones: Olympics, Croatia, Rights Fees, Option Decisions

Free agency issues could limit the roster for Team USA at the Olympics next summer, writes Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press. That wouldn’t have been a significant concern this year because of a relatively weak free agent class, but Reynolds notes that LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Chris Paul, Bam Adebayo, Kyle Lowry and others could be on the open market in 2021.

The Olympics are set to open on July 23 of next year, meaning that training camp will begin early in the month, which marks prime time for free agency decisions. Reynolds suggests that could lead to situations similar to what happened in 2012 with Deron Williams, who couldn’t participate in contact drills until his deal with the Nets was signed.

The U.S. won’t be the only nation affected, Reynolds adds. Greece’s Giannis Antetokounmpo and France’s Rudy Gobert can both opt out in the summer of 2021, while another year of wear and tear could affect Marc Gasol‘s desire to play for Spain.

There’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Croatia’s top division has become the latest international league to call off its season, according to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. No champion will be declared, and the teams that played in the top division this season will be able to do so again next year.
  • Alex Sherman of CNBC examines how networks are handling the rights fees they paid for games that have been canceled because of the coronavirus. The NBA doesn’t have a provision in its contracts for networks to receive refunds, sources familiar with the deals tell Sherman. While “force majeure” provisions exist, they may not apply to a pandemic. Sherman speculates that even if they can make the argument that they’re entitled to money back, some networks may not pursue it so they can preserve their relationships with the NBA and other leagues. He notes that payments for broadcast rights haven’t been refunded when seasons have been reduced because of labor disputes. “Let’s say it’s a one-time only event, obviously you’re not going to pay,” said former CBS Sports president Neal Pilson. “But what you’re talking when you have a 10- or 15-year agreement, year after year, you work it out in an accommodation of some kind.”
  • In an article for The Athletic, former NBA executive John Hollinger offers predictions on all 41 player and team options for the upcoming offseason. Among the richest deals, Hollinger expects Mike Conley to stay with the Jazz for $34.5MM, Gordon Hayward to opt in for $34.187MM from the Celtics and Andre Drummond to remain with the Cavaliers for $28.75MM. Hollinger predicts Anthony Davis will turn down $28.55MM from the Lakers and sign a new deal with the team, unless the cap number falls so low that it will benefit him to wait for next year.

Chinese Basketball Association Faces Another Setback

The Chinese government issued an order on Tuesday that will delay the restart of the Chinese Basketball Association’s 2019/20 season and other group sporting events in the country, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.

The order represents the latest setback for the CBA, which has been suspended since late January and had hoped to resume in early May. Windhorst writes that China’s General Administration of Sport didn’t provide a timeline for how long the restriction will be in place, resulting in uncertainty about if or when the basketball league might be able to resume its season.

Despite the setback, CBA teams have been telling players that they still expect to resume play and that they should have more clarity within the next few weeks, sources tell ESPN’s Jonathan Givony. Emiliano Carchia of Sportando confirms that the CBA doesn’t intend to cancel its season and will have a meeting later in April to discuss the situation.

The Chinese Basketball Association had been planning to split its 20 teams into a pair of groups and send them to two separate cities to play in empty arenas, per Windhorst. The league, which had to deal with a coronavirus shutdown well before the NBA did, is viewed as a “test case” for American sports leagues, as Windhorst explains, so the fact that its resumption keeps getting delayed isn’t a positive sign.

According to Windhorst, even though the spread of COVID-19 has slowed significantly in China, sports officials are concerned about asymptomatic carriers. This figures to be an issue for the NBA and other North American sports leagues when they attempt to resume their own seasons in the coming months.

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.”

Italian League To Cancel Season

After chatter just a few days ago of possibly resuming practice in May, the top basketball league in Italy, LBA Serie A, now intends to cancel the rest of its 2019/20 season and concentrate on a resumption of league play in 2020/21, per Sportando’s Ennio Terrasi Borghesan.

A champion will not be selected. Italian Basketball Federation honorary president Dino Meneghin made a statement confirming as much, as Emiliano Carchia of Sportando reported.

“We must follow the rules dictated by the Government to preserve out health,” Meneghin said. “We will cancel the season, it is needed. Life is more important than sports. Now it is essential to give everyone the opportunity to save his own life.”

International Notes: Dekker, Japan, China

Former NBA forward Sam Dekker is headed home after the Russia VTB United League cancelled its season, he tweets. Dekker, who left Moscow on Thursday with a connecting flight in Turkey, was playing for Lokomotiv Kuban. Dekker played for Washington and Cleveland last season.

We have more international news:

  • The Japanese B League has decided to cancel the remainder of its season, Jonathan Givony of ESPN reports. The league went on hiatus after the COVID-19 outbreak in mid-February and briefly resumed play for one weekend this month. “We’ve prioritized the mental and physical health of our players, coaches and club officials,” league chairman Masaaki Okawa said in a video statement. “The spread of this coronavirus has been beyond our imagination and we’ve emphasized that we cannot afford to expose our players and others who are associated with our league to the danger.”
  • China is closing its borders to foreigners starting on Saturday, according to NPR.org post, and that could impact players returning to the Chinese Basketball Association. The CBA is planning to resume its season next month and foreign players that have already returned were required to quarantine for two weeks. However, not all foreign players have made it back to China.
  • The NBA is closely monitoring China’s efforts to resume play with an eye toward replicating those measures if the CBA is successful, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN. While the CBA hasn’t formally announced a plan, it’s expected to cluster teams in one or two cities and play a round-robin format in empty arenas over several weeks. The CBA’s goal is to play out the remaining schedule in full before moving on to the playoffs. The NBA could look at venues in a centralized location, including Las Vegas.

International Notes: German, Italian, VTB Leagues; Nigerian Team

New Nigerian national basketball team head coach Mike Brown, currently an associate head coach for the Warriors, notes that there is a silver lining to the coronavirus pandemic delaying the Tokyo Olympics for a year, according to The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears: more time to develop the talent on his club.

“To have another year to grasp, not only the talent level of the team, but the direction the team needs to go and making sure we are able to put the best Nigerian team out there, it’s a welcomed advantage to have a little bit more time for a new guy like myself,” Brown told Spears.

Current NBA players Al-Farouq Aminu, Chimezie Metu and Josh Okogie all suited up for the 2019 Nigerian World Cup roster.

There’s more from the international basketball world:

  • Germany’s EasyCredit BBL basketball league has been suspended until at least April 30 as a result of the rampant coronavirus spread throughout that country, per Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia.
  • The top basketball league in Italy, LBA Serie A, hopes to resume team practices by May 16 if its 2019/20 season is to be completed, according to Sportando’s Dario Skerletic. The coronavirus pandemic has hit Italy particularly hard.
  • Following a league-wide conference call, the VTB League (comprising teams from Kazakhstan, Estonia, Belarus, Poland, and Russia) has canceled its season, according to Jonathan Givony of Draft Express (Twitter link).

How Olympic Postponement May Impact NBA, Team USA

Tokyo and the International Olympic Committee announced on Tuesday that the 2020 Olympics have been postponed until sometime in 2021. As a result, the NBA no longer has to consider the possibility of overlapping with the Games if the league resume its 2019/20 season this summer.

However, the potential dates for the 2020/21 NBA season and the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics remain very much up in the air. As such, there’s no guarantee that we’ll see the ’20/21 campaign end in June and the Olympics begin on July 24, which was the plan for this year before the coronavirus crisis worsened.

Here’s what we know so far about the impact the Olympic postponement might have on the NBA and Team USA specifically:

  • USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo and head coach Gregg Popovich had only been committed to the program through 2020, but that commitment will now extend to 2021, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst confirms. “We’re all-in and we’re committed,” Colangelo said. “It’s important to deal with the unknowns and this virus. This too shall pass, and we’ll be back for everyone’s well-being.”
  • Within that Windhorst story, Colangelo says USA Basketball will adjust if NBA players aren’t available for the rescheduled Olympics, but points out that changing the window for the NBA season or the Olympics would be a significant undertaking. “Changing the window for the NBA is easier said than done. There’s a lot of logistics and contracts to deal with,” Colangelo said. “Same for the Olympics. You have to assume it will be around the same dates (in 2021).”
  • As Windhorst and Tim Bontemps of ESPN note in a Q&A on the rescheduled Olympics, it’s possible Team USA will no longer be able to send its top players as a result of the postponement. However, it’s also possible that players like Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving – who may not have been ready to go for the 2020 Games – will be healthy and available to participate by the time USA Basketball finalizes its roster in 2021.
  • Joe Ingles, who will represent Australia in the Tokyo Olympics, said he’d be disappointed if a schedule conflict prevent him from playing for the Boomers, as Joe Vardon of The Athletic relays. “I do understand that the NBA and the Utah Jazz pay my salary and it’s really good money and I’m obviously obligated to be here (in the NBA),” Ingles said. “I absolutely love playing for Australia and would do anything to keep playing for Australia, representing my country. We obviously don’t really know what that looks like yet. I hope (the NBA season and the Olympics) don’t clash.”

KBL Cancels Season, CBA Delays Resumption

The Korean Basketball League, which has been suspended since February 29 as a result of the coronavirus crisis, has decided to cancel the rest of its 2019/20 season, writes Jonathan Givony of ESPN.

As Givony details, the KBL had initially hoped to resume play on March 29, but there are still safety concerns related to COVID-19, despite South Korea’s relative success in containing the virus.

Elsewhere in Asia, the Chinese Basketball Association – which had been aiming to resume play on April 15 – has pushed back its projected start date to May, having failed to secure government approval, says ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.

Failed restarts in Japan and South Korea played a role in the CBA’s decision, as did the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, sources tell Windhorst.

It’s a discouraging development for the league, which initially shut down in late January. However, the CBA is still encouraging foreign players to return to China as soon as possible so they can do a 14-day self-quarantine before the season restarts, per Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Marcus Georges-Hunt is among the latest American players to report back to China, Carchia notes (via Twitter).

Several American players are angry and frustrated by the idea of having to remain in China until July or August to finish the CBA season and not being paid for their extra time, sources tell ESPN’s Jonathan Givony.

The cancellations and postponements for Asian leagues aren’t exactly promising signs for the NBA, which hopes to resume its 2019/20 season in the spring or early summer. It’s not clear whether that will be possible, with the league prioritizing the safety of its players, coaches, and the rest of its members.

International Notes: FIBA, Italy, Greece, Belgian-Dutch League

FIBA remains hopeful of resuming some competitions but only if the conditions allow for it, according to a statement on its website. Decisions will be made regarding the Basketball Champions League, the Basketball Champions League Americas and the Basketball Africa League in the coming weeks after consultation with the respective leagues and clubs. The same applies to our international competitions suspended at sub-Zone level, the statement from FIBA president Hamane Niang and Secretary General Andreas Zagklis adds.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Italy’s LNP has entered a request to resume play in the Serie A2 league in May and June but only if government allows all the teams to travel, practice and play in front of spectators, Emiliano Carchia of Sportando writes. The Serie A2 Italian Cup has already been canceled. LNP asked the Italian Basketball Federation to cancel Serie B, a lower-tier league.
  • The 14 teams of the Greek Basket League have agreed to end their season, Carchia relays in another post. No decision has been made regarding final standings or if there will be a champion crowned.
  • The Belgian Pro Basketball League and Dutch Basketball League clubs are taking steps to create a BeNeLeague for the 2021/2022 season, Nicola Lupo of Sportando writes. The final decision by clubs of both countries will be made in the fourth quarter of 2020. If the league is a go, it would begin in mid-September 2021.