Jayson Tatum

Atlantic Notes: Embiid, Tatum, Nets, Thomas, Knicks, Kidd

Sixers center Joel Embiid and guard Shake Milton are among those who have expressed some reservations about the NBA’s restart plan, though both players will participate this summer, writes Derek Bodner of The Athletic. Embiid’s concerns stem from a suspicion that not all of his fellow players will follow the restrictions and protocols put in place by the league.

“There’s some guys that like to go out, there’s some guys that like to do stuff, there’s some guys that like adventure,” Embiid said. “I know myself. I know I’m not gonna put everybody else at risk. But the question is, is everybody else gonna do the same? Just being around this business, I surely don’t think so.”

Milton, meanwhile, was less concerned about the health and safety guidelines in place than about his belief that the resumption of the NBA might draw attention away from the ongoing fight for social justice reforms.

“I don’t really think we should be playing,” Milton said, per Bodner. “I feel like… there’s an issue going on right now in the world that is way bigger than the sport, way bigger than the game of basketball, and I feel like we’re on the cusp of finally having people tune in and really try to listen and try to understand more about the things that are happening in our country. I feel like the moment is too big right now, and I don’t want the game of basketball to overshadow it.”

Despite their apprehensions, both Embiid and Milton stressed they’re committed to helping the 76ers compete for a championship in Orlando this summer.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Celtics forward Jayson Tatum isn’t overly enthusiastic about restarting the season at the Walt Disney World campus and only recently finalized his decision to play, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. “There’s a multitude of reasons why I wasn’t comfortable,” Tatum said. “… (I’m) still not excited about it, not thrilled. Obviously, what we’re fighting for (in society), against racism and social injustice and (for) equality. Obviously the virus is still very well and alive and continues to rise in Florida. For me, just being away from my son for two or three months, that’s what’s really bothering me. … Especially when they’re that young — their growth, they change every week. Just knowing I’m going to miss out on that.”
  • Veteran forward Lance Thomas, who was with the Nets last fall, is among the veteran free agents receiving interest from the team, league sources tell Ian Begley of SNY.tv (Twitter link). Brooklyn is eligible to sign three substitute players to replace DeAndre Jordan, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Taurean Prince, who all contracted COVID-19. The club is also said to be eyeing Amir Johnson.
  • Marc Berman of The New York Post explores Jason Kidd‘s candidacy for the Knicks‘ head coaching vacancy, noting that some insiders believe he’s the best “long-shot threat” to presumed frontrunner Tom Thibodeau. However, opinions on Kidd are mixed. “I wouldn’t hire Jason Kidd if he was the last coach standing,” one NBA source (who has worked with Kidd) told Berman. “It would be a terrible choice. There’s a reason Milwaukee is in the place where they are right now — coaching.”

Atlantic Notes: Tatum, Kanter, Knicks, Embiid

Celtics forward Jayson Tatum is not thinking of sitting out the remainder of season due to concerns over a contract extension, A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston reports. According to another report earlier this week, Tatum had expressed some reluctance about playing this summer because of an elevated risk of injury, which could potentially impact his ability to reach a max rookie scale extension this offseason. Tatum does have some concerns about contracting the novel coronavirus in the Orlando bubble and the league’s plans on addressing the issue, according to Blakely, but it’s not worrisome enough for the 22-year-old to sit out.

We have more from around the Atlantic Division:

  • While some NBA players believe that playing again this season might take the focus away from social justice reforms, Celtics center Enes Kanter believes it would be far more effective to get the point across while playing. He made those comments on The Enes Kanter Show podcast (hat tip to Justin Leger of NBC Sports Boston). “The whole world is going to be focusing on you, right? You can make a huge difference,” he said. “All the microphones will be on your face, so you can get your message out. Whatever you want to talk about, ‘Black Lives Matter,’ freedom, justice, democracy. Whatever you want to talk about, the whole world will be listening to you.”
  • The Knicks’ head coaching search will begin in earnest next week with introductory interviews scheduled with candidates, SNY’s Ian Begley tweets. Those initial conversations will be brief and take place over video conference. They will be followed by longer, more formal interviews, likely also via video conference, Begley adds. Thus far, nine candidates have been identified as probable interviewees.
  • Joel Embiid‘s contract is now fully guaranteed, but there was very little chance it wouldn’t have happened anyway, as Derek Bodner of The Athletic explains. Embiid’s salaries for the next three years were previously conditionally guaranteed, but the NBA’s recent agreement to prorate bonus clauses and performance incentives this season impacted his max contract. Even if the Sixers had wanted in the future to recoup some of the non-guaranteed money in Embiid’s contract, he not only needed to miss time with ailments related to prior injuries, but the team would have had to waive him. In that scenario, the Sixers would have still been on the hook cap-wise for the guaranteed portion of his salary.

Atlantic Notes: Irving, Nets, Tatum, Durant, Knicks

In a recent group chat, Kyrie Irving urged his Nets teammates to skip the restarted season this summer, according to Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News, who says the star guard also put forth the idea of players starting their own league.

Taylor Rooks of Bleacher Report (Twitter link) hears from sources that Irving never said the Nets should start their own league in response to the bubble plan. However, the wording of that denial leaves some room for interpretation — it doesn’t mean Irving never floated the concept, or that it wasn’t part of a separate conversation from the one about participating in the bubble.

Either way, it’s an eyebrow-raising idea. It’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility that the world’s best players could launch and run a successful league, but it would be a long, challenging process to get enough players on board and to attempt to build the sort of infrastructure the NBA already has in place. For now, it’s not really a realistic possibility.

For what it’s worth, Rooks adds that Irving left the group chat following the publication of Bondy’s report.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic division:

  • Within that same Daily News article, Bondy cites a source who says Celtics forward Jayson Tatum has expressed some reluctance about playing this summer, since he’s eligible for a maximum-salary extension this offseason and feels as if there will be an elevated risk of injury when play resumes. While Bondy’s report may be accurate, I’d be shocked if Tatum didn’t ultimately suit up — even a major injury likely wouldn’t prevent the C’s from offering him a lucrative long-term deal.
  • Even at full strength, the Nets wouldn’t be a real threat to win the title this season, according to Marc Stein of The New York Times, who lauds Kevin Durant‘s willingness to remain patient with his Achilles recovery rather than pushing to return to action in Orlando.
  • As first reported by Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic (Twitter link), the Knicks are hiring Pelicans scout Alex Kline to a front office role. Kline will take on a larger role in New York, working under new assistant GM Walt Perrin, league sources tell Vorkunov.

Young Stars Want NBA To Provide Insurance For Career-Threatening Injuries

Some of the league’s best young players talked to the National Basketball Players Association on Friday about creating an insurance system financed by the league that would protect them in case of career-threatening injuries when play resumes in Orlando, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Sources tell Wojnarowski that Bam Adebayo, De’Aaron Fox, Kyle Kuzma, Donovan Mitchell and Jayson Tatum were part of a call with NBPA executive director Michele Roberts and senior counsel Ron Klempner. All five players will be eligible for rookie-scale extensions this offseason, and they want the union to negotiate insurance policies with the NBA that would protect their future earnings.

[RELATED: Players Eligible For Rookie Scale Extensions In 2020 Offseason]

Players in general believe they’re facing a higher-than-normal risk of serious injury after not being able to play for more than three months. Adebayo, Fox, Kuzma, Mitchell and Tatum are hoping their combined voices will help win protections for players on all 22 teams involved in the restart.

The league has been in talks with the union about providing some form of protection for players who are either injured or suffer severe cases of coronavirus during the games in Orlando, according to sources. Negotiations are continuing on possible alterations to the Collective Bargaining Agreement before play resumes.

Sources estimate to Wojnarowski that policies for players on the brink of a maximum extension could cost up to $500K to protect them through the end of the playoffs. He adds that apart from a career-ending incident, it would be difficult to prove that any injury is directly responsible for a reduction in future earnings.

Celtics Notes: Tatum, Brown, Summer, Health

Jayson Tatum will become eligible for a rookie scale extension during the 2020 offseason and – as one report recently indicated – it’s a safe bet that the Celtics will put a long-term, maximum-salary contract offer on the table at that point.

Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype examined the issue, speaking to current and former NBA team executives about Tatum’s contract situation, and got similar feedback. Current ESPN analyst and former Nets executive Bobby Marks told Kennedy that a max deal for Tatum is a “no-brainer,” though he did present one scenario in which the young forward might decide to pass on such an offer later this year.

“The only reason that Tatum wouldn’t sign an extension is because there’s uncertainty as far as what that 2021 salary cap is going to be at, and his salary would be based on a percentage of the cap,” Marks said. “That’d be the only reason why you’d want to play it out. You’d do a one-year deal in 2021 and then, hopefully, the cap goes back up in 2022. That would really be the only reason why.”

Here’s more on the Celtics:

  • Jaylen Brown, who signed a long-term extension in 2019 that will go into effect for the 2020/21 season, received high praise from Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck this week. Speaking to WBZ-TV’s Dan Roche, Grousbeck praised Brown for his character and social awareness. “Since day one when I met Jaylen, back in (2015), it was so obvious that he’s just special – a special person with special character,” Grousbeck said, per Justin Leger of NBC Sports Boston. “He has educated me, to be perfectly honest. … He is a very, very good person with a very good conscience.”
  • Using players’ home/road splits as a guide, Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston speculates about which Celtics will be best suited for playing games at a neutral site in the Orlando “bubble” this summer.
  • After dealing with a series of injuries throughout the 2019/20 season, the Celtics should benefit from being fully healthy when play resumes this summer, though they won’t have a ton of time to reestablish cohesion and chemistry, writes Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald.

Eastern Notes: Kennard, Biyombo, Van Gundy, Tatum

Pistons swingman Luke Kennard has fully healed from the knee tendinitis that sidelined him for nearly three months before the season was suspended, Rod Beard of the Detroit News tweets. Kennard will have to wait until December to play again since the lottery-bound Pistons won’t be part of 22-team restart in Orlando. He’ll be eligible for a rookie scale extension when this season ends.

We have more from the Eastern Conference:

  • The Hornets’ season is over and that means three of their players are now free agents, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer notes. Centers Bismack Biyombo and Willy Hernangomez and guard Dwayne Bacon will be on the market in October when free agency begins. Guard Malik Monk remains suspended indefinitely for violation of the NBA anti-drug policy, Bonnell adds. Monk was suspended in late February.
  • Tom Thibodeau is considered the front-runner for the Knicks head coaching job and Jeff Van Gundy says Thibodeau is misunderstood, Marc Berman of the New York Post relays. The longtime TV analyst and former Knicks coach made his comments during a Sirius XM Radio interview. “Unfortunately for him the perception of him on the sidelines as this gruff, nasty dude is not even close to who is he personally,” Van Gundy said. “Like, he is a great guy. He’s fun to be around. He’s enjoyable to be around, and he loves basketball.” 
  • NBC Sports’ A. Sherrod Blakely takes a close look on what Celtics fans should watch for when the season resumes, including whether Jayson Tatum can continue his breakout season.

Celtics Notes: Tatum, Kanter, Facility, Theis

The Celtics will “most likely” offer Jayson Tatum a maximum contract extension whenever the offseason arrives, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst (hat tip to Tom Westerholm of MassLive). Windhorst addressed the situation today on SportsCenter, saying Tatum is the young star the franchise plans to build around.

“If Jayson Tatum is the superstar that they envisioned when they began this whole rebuilding process when they traded Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce for all of those draft picks hoping to land a player like this, we could see ‘Glory Days’ for the Celtics again,” Windhorst said. “But it’s very much up in the air, and I’m gonna tell ya, they’re gonna have to pay him like it because after this season ends, he is going to get most likely a max contract. They’re going to bet that he becomes that player.”

Westerholm notes that the best outcome for Tatum would be if the league agrees to a temporary freeze on the salary cap, which is at risk of declining significantly due to the lockdown. Tatum will be eligible for a new contract starting at 25% of the 2021/22 cap (or up to 30% of the cap if he meets certain benchmarks).

There’s more from Boston:

  • After spending most of the past two months in Chicago, Enes Kanter is on a road trip back to Boston so he can be there when the team facility reopens Monday, writes Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. Kanter explained that he’s traveling by car instead of flying so he won’t have to quarantine for 14 days. “I need some kind of discipline in my life right now,” Kanter said of returning to basketball. “Because, like, right now, I’m waking up late and eating whatever. I work out whenever I want to work out. Once you are in Boston, I think my life is going to be a little bit more disciplined. And I’m going to be more focused because, when you’re not in Boston, your head is all over the world.”
  • In an appearance earlier this week on FS1, Kanter raved about how hard his teammates have worked to stay in shape during the hiatus, relays Chris Cotillo of MassLive“We have these virtual workouts with the Celtics,” Kanter said. “We get on the call with the strength coach and literally just do push-ups and sit-ups. I see some of the players doing workouts with suitcases because they don’t have the tools to work out. I’m like, that is going to bring us a championship, that’s that championship mentality.”
  • Center Daniel Theis is one of few Celtics who has experience playing games in empty arenas, writes Darren Hartwell of NBC Sports Boston. Appearing on the network’s “Celtics at Home” series, Theis recalled his days in Germany when nobody would show up for preseason contests. “You hear every voice, every word, every step,” he said. “It’s annoying.”

Atlantic Notes: Celtics, Micic, Sixers, Knicks

Approximately two-thirds of the NBA’s teams have reopened their practice facilities, but the Celtics aren’t yet among that group. According to Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald, the club is still waiting on the go-ahead from the state government before moving forward with those plans. The C’s, who have been in frequent contact with Massachusetts officials, are hoping they’ll get that green light soon, as Bulpett details.

“I mean, we’re hoping it’s any day. We’re just waiting to hear,” Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said. “… What we’re trying to do is have one-on-zero workouts. Like, it’s probably the cleanest environment that anybody’s working at in the country, with the sanitization that has to go on and the coaches wearing masks and gloves. I mean, heck, it doesn’t seem that complicated. But I understand that people in leadership have very difficult jobs right now.”

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Serbian point guard Vasilije Micic is coming off an impressive season with EuroLeague team Anadolu Efes and is one of the NBA’s most intriguing draft-and-stash players. The Sixers hold Micic’s NBA rights, prompting Derek Bodner, Mike O’Connor, and Rich Hofmann of The Athletic to explore whether this offseason is the right time for Philadelphia to try to convince the 26-year-old to come stateside.
  • In Jayson Tatum (Celtics), Pascal Siakam (Raptors), and Ben Simmons (Sixers), the Atlantic Division features a trio of rising young wings who appear poised to play important roles for their teams for years to come. In a two-part series, Jared Weiss, Blake Murphy, and Mike O’Connor of The Athletic debate which of the three players has the brightest future.
  • It has been a bit of an awkward transition period for the Knicks and new president of basketball operations Leon Rose, who was officially hired just nine days before the NBA’s season was suspended. However, Rose has received positive reviews for the changes he has made to the club’s front office so far, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post.

NBA Players Committee Begins Parsing Comeback Plans

The National Basketball Players Association has sent a memo to agents stating that there’s a sense that both the players and the league want to finish the 2019/20 season, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.

NBPA president Chris Paul is joined by Russell Westbrook, Jayson Tatum, Kyle Lowry, and Dwight Powell on a committee that is working with the league on potential plans.

Paul reportedly held a call with many of the NBA’s superstars on Monday — including LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and Kawhi Leonard — discussing the coronavirus ramifications and the potential to resume the season. Those star players were unified in their desire to play out the 2019/20 campaign.

The NBPA polled players via text, asking them how they felt about completing the season. One player told Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times that he believes that the percentage is “70-30” of players who want to finish out the campaign.

“But 30% is a big number,” the player said. “And what do you say to somebody who says, ‘You know what, I just don’t feel safe?’ It’s hard to argue that. But there are reasons to argue that because I know the NBA would be one of the safest places to be at. That thing would be tight, clean, protocol, all that.”

Las Vegas and Orlando continue to be tossed around as options to hold clusters of games in order to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading through travel. However, the league hasn’t made any firm decisions yet.

“We have been approached by multiple properties regarding potential options for hosting NBA games, including MGM,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said. “We have not engaged in any substantive discussions.”

Pacific Notes: Suns, Tatum, Warriors, Kings

Celtics forward Jayson Tatum spoke this week about being enamored by the Suns leading up to the 2017 draft and hoping to fall to Phoenix at No. 4. According to Tatum, a meeting with the Suns’ then-coach Earl Watson a few days before the draft helped sell him on the organization. Speaking on Monday to Jay King of The Athletic, Watson confirmed that he was high on Tatum during the pre-draft process.

As Watson tells it, he wanted Tatum badly enough that he had some “uncomfortable” conversations with team owner Robert Sarver, who preferred Josh Jackson. Watson tells King that he tried to get the Suns to do whatever it took to get in position to land Tatum.

“I was pushing Tatum,” Watson said. “Like, we had to move up for Tatum, we had to get Tatum. And ownership chose Josh Jackson. … I knew the two players were dynamically different, but my vision was what’s the best fit for Devin Booker. Booker and Tatum, I think a combination like that right now would have been completely different than anything in the NBA at that age.”

Although Watson’s story is compelling, John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 pushes back against the former head coach’s recollections of the 2017 draft. According to Gambadoro (via Twitter), the Suns had Tatum ranked ahead of Jackson on their board and would have drafted Tatum if they’d had the opportunity to do so.

As Gambadoro explains (via Twitter), since the Celtics initially controlled the No. 1 pick and had Tatum atop their board, the Suns had no avenue to move up to select the young forward. Presumably, when Boston swung a deal to move down to No. 3, the C’s had assurances that the Sixers and Lakers wouldn’t be trading out of the top two spots, which would have been Phoenix’s only path to Tatum.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Teams around the NBA are reopening their practice facilities for individual voluntary workouts, but that won’t happen anytime soon for the Warriors, who are tentatively aiming for June 1, per Anthony Slater of The Athletic. As Slater observes, the last-place Dubs won’t have the same urgency to return to their building as some other California teams might, so they’re “waiting for the (government) order, not influencing it.”
  • After Klay Thompson recently cautioned against assuming the Warriors‘ dynasty is over, fellow Splash Brother Stephen Curry conveyed a similar sentiment in an interview with Jermaine O’Neal (video link via Chris Montano). “It’s going to look different. It’s going to have a new cast of characters that are going to contribute at a high level,” Curry said. “But the DNA and the chemistry that us three (Curry, Thompson, and Draymond Green) have, we’re going to be in good shape coming out of this.”
  • Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee takes a look at the financial toll that COVID-19 is taking on the Kings, who are preparing for the possibility of “tens of millions of dollars in uninsured losses.”