Joel Embiid

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.

NBA To Prorate Bonus, Incentive Criteria Using March 11 As End Of Season

A number of players with performance incentives and bonus clauses in their contracts didn’t get the opportunity to earn those bonuses in 2019/20 due to the suspension of the NBA season and the league’s subsequent hiatus.

However, according to Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the NBA and NBPA have reached an agreement on how to handle performance incentives in ’19/20. The criteria for those bonuses will be prorated, using March 11 as the end of the regular season, so stats accumulated during the eight “seeding games” this summer won’t count toward those incentives.

[RELATED: Hoops Rumors Glossary: Proration]

For instance, Tyus Jones‘ contract with the Grizzlies includes an $858K bonus in the event that Memphis wins 33 games. Prior to the hiatus, the Grizzlies had 32 victories. Rather than needing the Grizzlies win one more game when play resumes, Jones will already be assured of his bonus, since a 32-33 record prorated over a full 82-game season would work out to 40 wins.

Similarly, Raptors guard Kyle Lowry has a series of bonuses related to his All-Star berth and his team’s postseason success that require him to play at least 65 games. When the season went on hiatus, Lowry had appeared in 52 of Toronto’s 64 games. Prorated over an 82-game season, that would work out to approximately 67 of 82 games, so Lowry will be considered to have met that 65-game threshold. He’ll receive his $200K All-Star bonus and could earn up to another $1.5MM, depending on how far the Raptors advance in the playoffs.

ESPN’s Bobby Marks broke down a number of these bonuses and incentives in an earlier Insider-only story. Another important one, noted by Shelburne and Wojnarowski, affects Sixers center Joel Embiid.

The final three years of Embiid’s maximum-salary contract, through 2022/23, had previously only been conditionally guaranteed, with the 76ers retaining the ability to gain salary relief if the veteran center suffered a career-threatening injury related to his back or feet. In order to fully guarantee those salaries, Embiid had to log 1,650 minutes this season.

When the season was suspended, Embiid was only at 1,329 minutes played. However, Philadelphia had only played 65 of 82 games. Prorated over a full season, Embiid’s average number of minutes per Sixers game (approximately 20.45) would work out to 1,677, surpassing the 1,650-minute threshold and ensuring his upcoming salaries are fully guaranteed.

Players whose bonuses and incentives rely on a percentage are unaffected by proration. For example, Mavericks forward Maxi Kleber would receive a $75K bonus for an 80% free-throw rate and another $150K for a 40% three-point average. His percentages are currently 86.3% and 37.4%, respectively, so he’ll receive the first bonus — but not the second. The same would have been true if he had finished at 80.1% and 39.9%.

And-Ones: Bonuses, Travel, Blazers, TBT

While it’s not at or near the top of the NBA’s list of priorities at this point, one issue the league will have to address is how players bonuses and incentives will be determined for the 2019/20 season. In an Insider-only story, Bobby Marks of ESPN identifies a number of interesting cases that remain up in the air due to the fact that the season has been suspended and may not be completed in full.

For instance, Tyus Jones‘ contract with the Grizzlies calls for him to receive a bonus worth $858K if the team wins 33 or more games. Memphis was at 32 wins when the NBA went on hiatus. Sixers center Joel Embiid, meanwhile, would have his salaries for the next three seasons become fully guaranteed if he logs 1,650 minutes this season — he was 321 minutes short of that mark when the league suspended play.

As Marks explains, the outcome of some of those incentives may have to be negotiated, but in general, the most logical approach would be for the NBA to prorate a player’s stats over a full 82-game season. For instance, if the Sixers finish the season having played just 65 out of 82 games, Embiid’s per-game minutes average for 65 games (20.4 MPG) would be prorated over 82 games. That would work out to 1,677 minutes, so he’d receive his guarantee. The same goes for Jones, since the Grizzlies were on pace to win well over 33 games.

That approach, which the NBA took during the 2011/12 lockout season, wouldn’t help players who have incentives tied to percentages — for instance, a player who needed to make 35.0% of his three-point attempts to earn a bonus and finished at 34.7% wouldn’t receive that extra money.

As we wait to see how the NBA resolves that issue and others, let’s round up a few more basketball odds and ends…

  • NBA players and staff who are outside the country are now permitted to re-enter the United States via a U.S. Department of Homeland Security issue, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. That will benefit not only international players like Luka Doncic and Sekou Doumbouya, who returned to their home countries during the hiatus, but also Raptors players and coaches who are currently in Toronto.
  • In a piece that focuses primarily on the Trail Blazers, Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN looks at what it’s been like for players to return to their teams’ practice facilities this month during an ongoing pandemic.
  • The Basketball Tournament (TBT), an annual summer event that features a number of former college standouts and overseas players, isn’t being postponed or canceled, according to organizers. As Myron Medcalf of ESPN details, participants will be tested repeatedly for COVID-19 and a team will be eliminated if one of its players tests positive. The plan is to move forward with the tournament in July.

Eastern Notes: Celtics, Embiid, Bulls, Bucks

The Celtics haven’t hosted a game in over two months ago due to the coronavirus pandemic, and that hiatus is expected to be extended further as the league sifts through scenarios to return to play.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh outlined the requirements needed for sports teams to host games this summer — albeit with restrictions and protocols — in a recent interview with Michael Silverman of the Boston Globe.

“There will be no fans in Fenway Park in July, there will be no fans in Fenway Park in August — we won’t even be near a situation where there’s herd immunity and there certainly won’t be a vaccine,” Walsh told Silverman, as relayed by Dave Green of NBC Sports Boston.

The chances of a major sporting event commencing with fans this year have continued to dwindle in recent weeks, with just over 1.5 million positive COVID-19 tests being recorded in the United States and nearly five million recorded worldwide as of Sunday.

Walsh understands the importance of pushing sports to return, but only if the proper protocols are followed to ensure that players remain both safe and healthy.

“Certainly on the fan side and the psychological side, I think if baseball could come back like we’re seeing in Taiwan and South Korea, I think that that’s good for people to have a distraction,” he said. “I think sports is one aspect of that. People have different reasons for distraction and sports is one, and I think it would help a lot people’s psyches as far as having baseball and sports back.”

There’s more out of the Eastern Conference tonight:

  • Derek Bodner of The Athletic ponders what could’ve been if Joel Embiid started his NBA career healthy. Embiid, the No. 3 pick in 2014, missed both of his first two seasons in the league due to injuries and made his debut in October of 2016. He’s since transitioned into one of the league’s most dominant big men, averaging 23.4 points and 11.8 rebounds per game in 44 games this season with the Sixers.
  • K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago examined a number of topics in his latest mailbag, including the Bulls’ front office structure, Jim Boylen‘s job security and more. The Bulls recently revamped their front office by hiring Arturas Karnisovas as executive president of basketball operations and Marc Eversley as general manager.
  • Eric Nehm and John Hollinger of The Athletic explore the future of the Bucks, examining the team’s current situation and what’s to come. Milwaukee posted an impressive 53-12 record before the NBA season was suspended, dominating opponents at home and on the road.

Brett Brown Expects Simmons, Embiid To Be Ready

Sixers coach Brett Brown expects Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid to be healthy enough to play whenever the NBA season resumes, write Rich Hofmann and Derek Bodner of The Athletic. Brown offered a medical update on both stars and covered a few other topics during a conference call Friday with Philadelphia media.

Simmons hasn’t played since suffering a lower back impingement in February. His injury has allowed him to work out at the team facility during the hiatus, and general manger Elton Brand said last week that he’s optimistic Simmons can return by the time play starts again. Brown called the injury “as disturbing a memory as it relates to a player that I can think of.”

“He’s lying on his back, he’s vomiting primarily because of pain, and trying to get him back on the plane and build him back up to some level of health where he can play basketball with us again, that timeline was always an interesting one,” Brown said.

Embiid was dealing with a shoulder sprain and had just returned to the lineup on the night the hiatus began. Although he no longer has any pressing injury concerns, Brown said Embiid’s health and fitness levels will be important, saying he has a “desire to be at a playing weight that equals his best since he’s been in the league.”

Brown addressed a few other topics during the conference call:

What will it mean for the Sixers if the season can’t be completed?

“I feel this strongly … this thing is so, for me, incomplete. We need to be able to come back to the table, take the team that we have, the work that we’ve been putting in, and let that be Judgment Day. Let that environment be, you know, ‘you did’ or ‘you didn’t’ type stuff. And that’s how I approach it. I feel very confident, and respectfully cocky, that we’ve done good work (during this stoppage). I’m proud of my coaching staff.”

How would playing in an empty arena change the atmosphere?

“Obviously, playing in front of no fans, especially our fans, isn’t ideal. How will it play out? I don’t know. None of us have ever done this. But the alternative of simply not playing is obviously far less desired. Do I think it’ll water down the competitive side? I don’t. Of course, it’s going to have some level of an impact. I do feel just the mere fact that we’ll be playing again might be able to sort of minimize whatever awkwardness playing in front of zero fans (would have).”

How he’s using “The Last Dance” documentary as a teaching tool:

“We’re all, ‘You need shooters, you need defensive people, you need somebody to pick ’em, Jo, Ben, whatever. Like, it’s hard for me to go past that human quality: ‘Are you a sick competitor? Does it really bother you when you lose?’ Obviously, that part of that documentary as we’re watching it, how can that not be at the forefront?”

Sixers Notes: Simmons, Embiid, Front Office

After an April report suggested that Sixers star Ben Simmons is expected to return from his back injury if the 2019/20 season resumes, general manager Elton Brand was asked today during a call with reporters about Simmons’ status.

According to Derek Bodner of The Athletic (Twitter link), Brand confirmed that the former No. 1 overall pick is doing “really, really well” in his recovery and that the club is optimistic about his outlook.

“It’s tough (to speculate about a timeline) because of him not playing three-on-three (or) five-on-five,” Brand said, per Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer (all Twitter links). “… But when I FaceTime him during his workouts, during his treatment and I see him, I’d be highly encouraged that his ramp-up would be different. We took our time. We’ve been methodical and thoughtful about his recovery and rehab just to make sure, because we weren’t in a rush. It’s hard to speculate, but he’s been working hard, and I know he’d be closer or ready.”

Here’s more on Simmons and the Sixers:

  • Simmons and center Joel Embiid were permitted to use the team’s practice facility during the hiatus for rehab purposes, tweets Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. Brand confirmed as much today, as Pompey details in a tweet of his own.
  • The Sixers lost their senior vice president of player personnel to Chicago last week when Marc Eversley was hired as the Bulls’ new general manager. Asked today about Eversley’s departure, Brand said no decision has been made yet about whether the club will directly replace the veteran executive. According to Bodner (Twitter link), Brand suggested that the 76ers are always looking for ways to improve the organization, but are happy with who they have in the front office.
  • In an article for The Athletic, Bodner poses the most pressing question facing each of the Sixers’ five original starters this season. Bodner looks at Embiid’s conditioning, Simmons’ jump shot, and also raises questions for Josh Richardson, Tobias Harris, and Al Horford.

How 2020 All-NBA Picks Could Impact Contract Situations

All-NBA selections have become more important than ever in recent years, since teams can agree to increase the overall value of certain maximum-salary contracts based on whether or not a player has earned All-NBA honors in a given season.

Those higher max salaries are also available to players who win MVP or Defensive Player of the Year, but there’s only one of each of those awards per year. There are 15 All-NBA players annually, creating more opportunities for players to become eligible for those more lucrative contracts, informally known as “super-max” deals.

As we explain in our glossary entry on the “Designated Veteran Extension,” a player with between seven and nine years of NBA experience who meets certain contract criteria and hasn’t changed teams since the end of his rookie contract become eligible for a maximum salary worth 35% of the cap – instead of 30% – if he was named to an All-NBA team in the most recent season, or in two of the last three seasons.

Similar incentives are available for players coming off their rookie scale contracts, as noted in our glossary entry on the “Derrick Rose Rule.” Those players can earn max deals worth up to 30% of the cap instead of 25% if they were named to an All-NBA team in the most recent season, or in two of the last three seasons.

The differences between the various levels of maximum salaries can be substantial over the course of a long-term contract. For instance, in 2019/20, a five-year max contract that starts at 25% of the cap and includes 8% annual raises is worth just over $158MM. By comparison, a five-year deal that starts at 35% of the cap with 8% annual raises is worth over $221MM. A five-year contract at the 30% max falls in between, at about $190MM.

We don’t know yet what this year’s All-NBA teams will look like – or even when voting will take place – but as our informal polls last week showed, there are a number of candidates whose future earnings could be affected by whether or not they earn one of those 15 spots.

Let’s take a closer look at some of those players…

Players who have already qualified for super-max contracts:

Antetokounmpo and Gobert didn’t even need to rely on All-NBA spots to qualify for super-max contracts — Giannis’ MVP award last year and Gobert’s back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year awards in 2018 and 2019 secured their eligibility.

Because both players only had six years of experience entering the 2019/20 season, they had to wait one more year to be eligible to actually receive super-max extension offers, which would be worth 35% of the cap instead of 30%.

Antetokounmpo is a lock to receive such an offer from the Bucks, who have publicly said they’ll put it on the table as soon as they can. That was supposed to happen this July, but the NBA’s hiatus has thrown that timeline into flux. Whenever Milwaukee makes its offer, it would be for a five-year extension that would start in 2021/22 and be worth 35% of that season’s cap.

Gobert’s outlook is cloudier. He could also sign a five-year, 35% max-salary extension that would start in 2021/22, but he’s not at the same level of superstardom that Giannis is, so it remains to be seen how aggressive the Jazz will actually be in attempting to lock him up beyond next season.

Players whose already-signed rookie extensions would be impacted by an All-NBA selection:

Siakam and Simmons signed maximum-salary rookie scale extensions with their respective teams last fall. Both contracts will go into effect in 2020/21 and both include Rose Rule language, meaning they’ll be among the players closely monitoring this year’s All-NBA results.

In our series of polls, Siakam earned a spot on the All-NBA Second Team. However, I think there’s a real possibility he could end up on the Third Team. Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, and Kawhi Leonard will likely receive more votes than Siakam. Anthony Davis will place higher than Siakam too if voters consider him a forward. And even if Davis is listed as a center, Jayson Tatum is among those who should give Siakam a strong push for that Second Team forward spot.

While Siakam might be satisfied to end up on any All-NBA team, a spot on the Second Team would be far more satisfying from a financial perspective. His deal calls for a starting salary worth 28% of the cap if he earns All-NBA Second Team honors, but just 25% if he makes the Third Team.

As we outlined in the fall, that difference would have been worth nearly $16MM over four years based on a $116MM cap. The cap is no longer expected to get that high, but even so, missing out on a Second Team spot would cost Siakam millions.

As for Simmons, he wasn’t one of the 15 players voted to an All-NBA team by Hoops Rumors readers, but he looks to me like a viable candidate for the Third Team. If he makes the Third Team, his starting salary would be 28% of next year’s cap, rather than the 25% he’d get if he doesn’t make an All-NBA squad. Those three percentage points would impact Simmons even more than they would Siakam over the life of their contracts, since Simmons’ five-year deal runs for an extra season and the amount of the annual raises are based on the starting salary.

Nuggets guard Jamal Murray also signed a rookie scale extension with Rose Rule language, but isn’t a realistic candidate for an All-NBA nod.

Players whose next contract could be impacted by an All-NBA selection this season:

If Embiid – who was voted onto Hoops Rumors’ All-NBA Third Team – earns an All-NBA spot this season after doing so last year, he’d be in the same position heading into 2020/21 that Antetokounmpo and Gobert were entering 2019 — he’d have qualified for a super-max extension, but wouldn’t yet be eligible to sign one.

Once the 2021/22 league year begins, Embiid would have seven years of NBA experience, with All-NBA nods in at least two of the last three years, making him eligible to sign a four-year super-max extension that would begin in 2023/24, with a starting salary worth 35% of the cap. Even if Embiid doesn’t make an All-NBA team this season, doing so next year would still make him eligible for that same deal.

As for Ingram, he’s a long shot to be named to an All-NBA team, but in the unlikely event that he is, he’d be eligible to sign for a starting salary of up to 30% of the cap on a new free agent contract with the Pelicans. No other team looking to sign him to an offer sheet could exceed 25% of the cap in that scenario.

Other players to start monitoring if they earn All-NBA honors this season:

These players fall into a few separate sub-categories. Jokic and Booker, for instance, are in their fifth seasons and on their second NBA contracts. An All-NBA spot – which is far likelier for Jokic – would be a good start toward earning super-max eligibility, but they’d still have to make another All-NBA team in either 2021 or 2022 to become eligible to sign a Designated Veteran Extension in 2022.

Doncic, an All-NBA lock, and Young, a lesser candidate, are only in their second NBA seasons. If they were to make All-NBA teams this year and next, they’d be eligible to sign rookie scale extensions with starting salaries worth up to 30% of the cap during the 2021 offseason. Those deals would go into effect in 2022/23.

Adebayo, Mitchell, and Tatum are all in their third seasons and will be extension-eligible during the 2020 offseason. Earning an All-NBA spot this year actually wouldn’t do much for their Rose Rule eligibility — they’d still have to do it again in 2021 to qualify, since the criteria calls for an All-NBA berth in either the season before the new contract begins or in two of the three prior seasons.

Still, earning All-NBA honors this year would give those three players additional leverage to negotiate Rose Rule language into their potential rookie scale extensions, which would go into effect in 2021/22.

Strong All-NBA candidates who are notably ineligible for super-max contracts:

Beal was in position to qualify for a super-max extension if he had earned All-NBA honors this season, but the short-term contract extension he signed last October eliminated that possibility. By the time that extension expires, he’ll have 10 years of NBA experience and will be eligible for the 35% max anyway.

Davis has the right amount of NBA experience to gain eligibility and should be an All-NBA lock, but the fact that he changed teams last summer ensures he’ll no longer qualify for a Designated Veteran Contract this offseason — he missed out on the possibility of the super-max as soon as he left the Pelicans.

Various other All-NBA candidates won’t meet the super-max criteria for various reasons. Some, like James Harden, are already on a super-max contract. Others, such as LeBron James, already have 10+ years of experience and can’t qualify for a higher max than the 35% they already get. Recently changing teams (ie. Jimmy Butler) or signing new long-term deals (ie. Khris Middleton) also remove certain players from super-max contention.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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.”

Atlantic Notes: Walker, Smart, Embiid, Raptors

Kemba Walker‘s left knee is feeling better, but the Celtics guard won’t know how it’s going to respond to competition until he gets to test it against someone, writes A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston. Walker has gotten plenty of time to rest since the league shut down three weeks ago.

“The knee is doing well,” he said. “It’s difficult because I don’t have anyone around to give me treatments or anything like that. I have to do my own stuff, which I’m trying to do as much as possible; try to stay on top of things.”

Walker developed swelling in the knee during the All-Star break. He had it drained, then received a shot of Synvisc to ease the soreness and minimize swelling. He’s waiting out the hiatus like everyone else and hoping for a chance to try out the knee under game conditions.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Now that Celtics guard Marcus Smart has recovered from the coronavirus, he will donate blood in hopes that it will help to find a treatment for COVID-19, according to ESPN. Three other players who tested positive for the virus also plan to make blood donations, but they haven’t been identified. The league office reached out to team doctors over the weekend to encourage players who tested positive to give blood samples to the National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project.
  • Joel Embiid‘s response to a plan by Sixers majority owner Josh Harris to reduce some employees’ salaries while the league is shut down raises questions about his long-term future with the team, suggests Bob Ford of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Harris changed his mind about the pay cuts, but not before Embiid made a public offer to help everyone who would have been affected. Ford claims Embiid’s relationship with the organization has always been “fractious” and states that embarrassing the owner may lead to an eventual parting.
  • In a conference call with reporters, Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri said potential extensions for himself and coach Nick Nurse won’t be discussed while the league is on hiatus (Twitter link from Eric Koreen of The Athletic). The team is currently paused with no talk of extensions or contracts for anyone, adds Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports (Twitter link). “It’s not where our minds are at right now,” Ujiri said. “This is a crucial time for the world. Those things will come.”