Mark Cuban

Hiatus Notes: Burke, Cuban, Seeding, Disney

ESPN and ABC NBA analyst Doris Burke is among many who have contracted COVID-19 since the season was suspended on March 11, with the veteran TV and radio voice detailing her battle against the illness, discussing the NBA’s return and more in an interview with Steve Serby of the New York Post.

“The thing that I felt the most was fatigue and headache,” Burke said about having coronavirus. “So for a good stretch of the first two weeks of that, I was just thinking I had a bad flu, because my symptoms were not aligning with what was being told were the main symptoms — the shortness of breath, the pressure on the chest — I didn’t have those scary symptoms. So for a good stretch of time, I didn’t think I had it. But then I finally decided to get tested.

“It took eight days to get the results, and by the time I had gotten the results of the test, I was starting to come out of it. Was I scared? I had some measure of anxiety. I was sleeping 16, 17 hours a day, and the other time I was not getting out of bed, so I wasn’t doing a whole lot.”

Burke tested positive for COVID-19 at the end of March, becoming one of the first publicly-known NBA figures to contract the virus. When asked about the challenges the NBA will face as it attempts to mount a comeback next month, she didn’t mince words.

“It’s a monster of a project to try to get right and put in place,” Burke said. “As I hear players talk about pre-existing conditions or talk about their fears, I absolutely understand it. And one of the things I thought most about is that a lot of these guys have young kids. You’re not only going down to the bubble, but at some point you’re going to leave that bubble, and what do you do as a player if you’re the parent of a young child? Do you go to a hotel when you get back to your respective market, and do you quarantine for two weeks and therefore stay away from your children longer to make sure, “OK, I’m not positive”?

“The primary thought I have as it relates to fear doesn’t necessarily have to do with myself, it has to do more with anybody who’s not been infected, had COVID, recovered and doesn’t have immunity, because I do worry. … As much as I know that the NBA is going to do absolutely everything in their power to make this environment as safe as possible, the fact of the matter is the ultimate bad outcome remains a possibility. There’s inherent risk that everybody who goes down to Orlando assumes, and how you work that out in your own mind is a very personal choice. And I don’t think we should criticize, judge or in any way, shape or form have negative feelings for those who express concern, because it’s legitimate and it’s real.”

Burke also offered her thoughts on several notable figures around the league in the interview, including Gregg Popovich, Mark Jackson and Zion Williamson.

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

  • Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is advocating for the NBA to keep a permanent schedule change, as detailed by The Dallas Morning News. The league is settling on a late July restart with much of the typical offseason festivities set to happen in October, though next season’s schedule is largely unknown at this time.
  • The 88 total seeding games in Orlando will count toward the regular season statistics, ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets. However, games as of March 11 will be used for any player that has bonuses in their contract.
  • Mark Medina of USA Today examines how Disney employees will work inside the NBA’s bubble when the league resumes in Orlando. The first games are set to commence during the final week of July, with the NBA under pressure to ensure that protocols are followed and safety is prioritized.

Restart Notes: NBPA Agreement, Facilities, Cuban, Long Shots

The NBA is close to reaching an agreement with the National Basketball Players Association on restarting the season, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said this morning on SportsCenter (video link). Despite concerns over COVID-19 rates in Florida, the bubble environment, injury risks and other issues, Windhorst called the plan “too big to fail” and said the “overwhelming majority” of players want to start playing again.

“They all admit there’s concerns. But they all admit this is the best they can do,” he said. “And they’re steeling themselves for the wave of potential positive tests back that are going to come in the next few days explaining it that we want to find out who’s sick so we can get them healthy so we can establish the bubble. Again, that is a rhetoric that may look silly in a few days or it may be reality, but we are headed towards at least a restart of training camp with agreement from the union very soon.”

Windhorst added that a deal with the NBPA could be announced “in the next 48 hours” and definitely by the end of the week.

There’s more as the restart draws closer:

  • The NBA will allow teams to have 10 coaches in their facilities beginning Tuesday, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Four players at a time will be permitted from June 23-30, then eight from July 1-9. Full training camps will begin once teams arrive in Orlando (Twitter link).
  • Mavericks owner Mark Cuban tells Steve Serby of The New York Post that players will be safer in the bubble environment of Orlando than they would be in their respective cities. It’s part of a wide-ranging interview that also touches on Black Lives Matter, the challenges of playing in an empty arena, Dallas’ chances to make a playoff run, and the danger of injuries after a long layoff. “The four-month break since March 11 till the start of camp isn’t all that different than the end of the regular season to summer league or the midpoint of the playoffs to the start of training camp,” Cuban said. “So I don’t expect any difference on the injury front than a traditional start of season. Plus our training and medical staffs are going to be hyper-vigilant for obvious reasons. So I think we will all err on the side of caution when it comes to player health.”
  • Ethan Strauss of The Athletic picks the Thunder, Nuggets, Raptors and Rockets as the best long-shot bets to win the NBA title.

Hiatus Notes: Cuban, Paul, Season, EuroLeague

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is the latest NBA figure to discuss why the league should consider starting the regular season on Christmas Day, as he explained on ESPN’s The Jump with Rachel Nichols (Twitter link).

The current NBA season begins in mid-October and ends with the NBA Finals concluding in early June. The NBA draft happens shortly after that, with free agency commencing at the end of June and early July.

“I think you work backwards from next season,” Cuban said after being asked when he believes the league should release its official plans for the season. “I’ve always been a proponent of starting on Christmas Day when we go to broadcast. And so if you work backwards from there and say, ‘We want to have two months off for the draft and everything, for players to recover’, so you have all of November and all of October and we don’t have to finish (this season) until the end of September.”

If the league chooses to work backwards from next season and finish this campaign in September, the 2020/21 season likely won’t start until December. This could open a pathway toward a brand new schedule, so long as the league can overcome some of the various obstacles it will likely encounter.

Cuban also gave his opinion on whether we’ll see a traditional 16-team playoff format this year, which includes eight teams from the East and West.

“I don’t think it’ll be regular,” he said of this year’s format. “This is our chance to experiment and learn. Unique circumstances, unique opportunities. So I’m confident we’ll take advantage of it and do something differently. I just think that’s smart from a business perspective and I think the players want that too.”

Here are a few more items related to the NBA’s hiatus:

  • Royce Young of ESPN details the role Thunder guard Chris Paul has played during the coronavirus pandemic, with Paul currently serving as president of the players’ union. The NBA season has been on hiatus for roughly two-and-a-half months to date.
  • Steve Popper of Newsday makes the case for why only 16 teams should play in the event the NBA season is resumed. The league is planning a Thursday vote between the Board of Governors on how and whether to restart the season, with owners expected to approve a plan, according to an ESPN report.
  • Alberto De Roa of HoopsHype discussed the EuroLeague’s decision to cancel the season and more with veteran forward Bostjan Nachbar, who believes the biggest fear from EuroLeague players was related to injuries following the long layoff — not COVID-19. Nachbar plays a key role in the EuroLeague Players Association, which was recently created to represent players across the league.

Mark Cuban Shares Proposal For Return To Play

As ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski detailed earlier today, the format for the NBA’s potential return to play this summer is a topic of much debate within the league right now. Teams at the top of the standings will have different motivations than bottom-feeding clubs or those on the fringes of playoff contention, leading to disagreement over which format would make the most sense for the league as a whole.

On Monday, we discussed the possibility of the NBA re-seeding playoff teams, regardless of conference, for its 2020 playoffs. Earlier today, we explored the idea of what a World Cup-style play-in pool would look like in place of the usual first round. Now, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has shared his own proposal with ESPN’s Tim MacMahon.

Cuban would like to see all 30 teams return to action and play approximately five to seven regular season games, as MacMahon relays. Once those games were completed, these steps would follow:

  • The top 10 teams from each conference would make the playoffs.
  • Those teams would be re-seeded from 1 through 20 based on regular season record.
  • The Nos. 17 and 20 teams and the Nos. 18 and 19 teams would face one another in a pair of single-elimination or best-of-three matchups.
  • The winners of those matchups would advance to face the Nos. 15 and 16 teams for the final two spots in the playoff bracket.
  • The postseason would proceed with its usual best-of-seven format from there, using 1-16 seeding rather than an East/West divide.

Cuban pointed out that such a format would give every team except the Warriors and Timberwolves a chance to qualify for at least the play-in tournament. Assuming safety and scheduling concerns didn’t get in the way, bringing every team back and playing several regular season games would also help out the league financially, allowing a number of clubs to fulfill their local TV deals, tweets MacMahon.

Cuban, who referred to his proposal as “fair” and “entertaining,” expressed concern about the play-in pool format that has been discussed by the NBA, according to MacMahon. The Mavericks owner argued that the group-stage concept “throws away the value of the whole season.”

Of course, it’s worth noting that Cuban’s proposal would benefit the Mavs. They currently hold the NBA’s 13th-best record and – given their current cushion – would have no chance of slipping to 15th and being part of his proposed play-in tournament. If the NBA used another form of play-in tournament, putting the seventh and eighth seeds in each conference up for grabs without playing any regular season games first, Dallas would be at risk of losing the No. 7 spot in the West.

Mark Cuban Talks Mavs, Practice Facility, 2019/20 Season

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said last week that his team will proceed with caution when it comes to reopening its practice facility. Speaking this week to Tim Cato of The Athletic, Cuban provided a few additional details on his stance, reiterating that he doesn’t feel the need to reopen the club’s facility until frequent coronavirus testing is possible.

“The way the White House protects the president and vice president is the way that I want to protect our players and employees, you know?” Cuban said. “We’ll just try to just copy what they do as a means of knowing when the time is right. As of now, for all we know, for all we’ve been informed, anyways, they’re testing everybody. And they test their top people on a daily basis. And so they have access to the best science, the best information, and so it just makes sense to me that we just copy them.”

Noting that the NBA is limiting players to one-hour workouts at practice facilities, with limited resources available in those sessions, Cuban suggested that opening up the Mavericks’ facility wouldn’t hugely benefit his own players, who all have access to hoops. For that reason, Cuban also doesn’t believe that teams opening their facilities now will have a major leg up over the Mavs.

“I don’t think it matters because the competitive advantage of one guy on one basket for one hour at a time isn’t all that significant,” Cuban told Cato.

Here’s more from the Mavs owner:

  • Cuban isn’t worried about the possibility of lottery-bound teams resisting participation in regular-season games this summer, if and when the season resumes, as he tells Cato. “Guys realize there’s something bigger at stake,” he said. “And that’s the best way to put it. NBA players are smart. They recognize there’s something bigger at stake than, you know, the aggravation of playing five, six, seven, whatever-it-may-be more regular-season games even if they’re completely out of the playoffs.”
  • Cuban pointed to the most recent episodes of The Last Dance when he explained one reason why the NBA wants to play regular season games rather than jumping right into the playoffs if the season resumes. “If you watched Sunday, when Michael Jordan came back?” Cuban said, referring to Jordan’s 1995 return to basketball. “And we’re talking Michael Jordan, right, in his prime. And he talked about how he didn’t have his legs for the playoffs.”
  • The Mavericks won’t necessarily have to make major changes to their roster in order to become a championship contender, in Cuban’s view. Asked if he could picture eight or 10 players from the current roster being part of a title-contending Mavs squad a few years from now, he replied, “Yeah, absolutely. I expect our team to grow.”
  • As for what he’ll remember about the pre-pandemic 2019/20 season, Cuban singled out Luka Doncic‘s growth, Kristaps Porzingis‘ return, and the “great progress” that the Mavs made. “We went from being a team that, you know, was out of contention for everything to being a team that, if we’re healthy, can potentially compete,” Cuban said.

Southwest Notes: Grizzlies, Brunson, Mavs, Pelicans

Before transitioning back into a media role with The Athletic, John Hollinger held a high-level position in the Grizzlies‘ basketball operations department for seven years, providing input on many key roster decisions during that stretch. Although Hollinger says he doesn’t spend much time contemplating “what-if” scenarios, he admits that he still thinks about the possibility of Memphis drafting Nikola Jokic back in 2014.

Looking back on the 2014 draft today at The Athletic, Hollinger concedes the Grizzlies weren’t eyeing Jokic with their No. 22 pick in the first round, but points to the No. 35 selection – which Memphis acquired from Utah – as a spot where Jokic would have made sense.

According to Hollinger, Jokic was ranked atop the Grizzlies’ list of draft-and-stash possibilities when the No. 35 pick arrived, but the team had Jarnell Stokes – who could potentially contribute right away – rated higher on its overall board.

Revisiting the pick now, Hollinger notes that the decision to select Stokes rather than Jokic – who was taken by the Nuggets at No. 41 – created something of a ripple effect of missed opportunities for the Grizzlies. Because Stokes occupied a spot on the 15-man roster, the team ended up waiving Hassan Whiteside that fall, despite an impressive training camp. If Memphis had stashed Jokic instead of drafting Stokes, the club may have kept Whiteside out of camp with that final roster spot.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Appearing recently on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas, Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson said his rehab from a shoulder injury is “definitely going well,” but that he’s still a ways off from being able to suit up and play. “As much as I would want to, as much as I would try my hardest to force them to let me play (if the season resumes in June), I don’t think it would be a possibility,” Brunson said, per The Dallas Morning News.
  • Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is holding off reopening the team’s practice facility for the time being, suggesting to Brian Dameris and Mark Followill on their 77 Minutes in Heaven podcast that an inability to test players and staffers for COVID-19 is a roadblock (Twitter link via Tim MacMahon of ESPN). I just don’t think the risk is worth the reward,” Cuban said, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who tweets that other teams share the Mavs’ concerns about not being able to test asymptomatic players entering their gyms.
  • The Pelicans aren’t reopening their facility this week and may not do so next week either, tweets Andrew Lopez of ESPN. A source tells Lopez that May 18 may be a target date for the club. We heard on Wednesday that the Rockets are also circling May 18 as their reopening date.

Adam Silver, Mark Cuban Among Potential White House Consultants

United States President Donald Trump addressed the nation earlier today, speaking about how he plans to re-open the economy and detailing some steps he will take that would hopefully result in the NBA and other leagues booting back up later this year.

“We have to get our sports back,” Trump said (h/t Kurt Helin of NBC Sports).

He added that he plans on talking to upwards of 120 people – including NBA commissioner Adam Silver and Mavericks owner Mark Cuban – about the best way to re-open the economy and restart sports. The advisory panel, which includes executives and leaders from many industries, also includes a number of other sports commissioners and team owners, including the NFL’s Roger Goodell and MLB’s Rob Manfred.

“We’re not going to rip out every other seat in (stadiums),” Trump said in discussing how to get fans back to sporting events.

All the commissioners of the North American sports leagues recently conducted a call with Trump. All parties want the leagues to start back up, but Trump said he needs to get the “all clear” from officials first.

In addition to the league’s conversations with the White House, the NBA is consulting with health experts on the best way to get back up and running.

Hiatus Notes: Cuban, Temple, Board Of Governors

After recently predicting that the NBA will resume its season prior to June 1, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is backing off that aggressive forecast. Appearing on Wednesday morning on ESPN’s First Take, Cuban deferred to the experts on a potential timeline for a return to the court, as Eddie Sefko of Mavs.com details.

“I don’t know the date,” Cuban said when asked for his new prediction. “And it won’t happen until we can be absolutely certain that everybody will be safe. It’s safety first, no ifs, ands or buts about it. And so, I’ve been optimistic that it might happen before the start of June, but who knows now? We’ll listen to the scientists and take our cues from them.”

While Cuban acknowledged that he doesn’t know “how, where, or when” it will happen, he expressed optimism that the NBA will still be able to resume and complete its 2019/20 season at some point. However, he cautioned that the league “won’t do it until it’s safe.”

Here’s more on the NBA’s coronavirus-related hiatus:

  • In a column for USA Today, Dan Wolken argues against the practicality of eventually finishing the 2019/20 season in what would essentially be a quarantined “bubble.” The NBA has reportedly been weighing the idea of resuming the season in a single location, such as Las Vegas, but Woiken points to a number of logistical issues that would be hard to overcome to make that scenario a reality.
  • Nets swingman and NBPA vice president Garrett Temple spoke to Sam Amick and Joe Vardon of The Athletic about the measures the league would need to take to resume its season, suggesting that being able to test players for the coronavirus before entering the game facility would be of paramount importance.
  • The NBA is holding conference calls this week with front office committees as the league discusses the logistics of the postponed season, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter links). As Wojnarowski notes, the league’s original calendar called for in-person Board of Governors meetings on April 16 and 17, but those meetings are likely to be replaced by an April 17 conference call.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Multiple NBA Teams Commit To Paying Arena Workers During Hiatus

Some of the first comments Mavericks owner Mark Cuban made on Wednesday night after the NBA announced that it had suspended the 2019/20 season were focused on the team’s part-time, seasonal, and hourly employees, such as security guards and concession workers at the American Airlines Center. Cuban made it clear that the Mavs plan to take care of those employees.

“I reached out to the folks at the arena and our folks at the Mavs to find out what it would cost to support, financially support, people who aren’t going to be able to come to work,” Cuban told reporters, per Mark Medina of USA Today. “They get paid by the hour, and this was their source of income. So, we’ll do some things there. We may ask them to go do some volunteer work in exchange, but we’ve already started the process of having a program in place. I don’t have any details to give, but it’s certainly something that’s important to me.”

Since then, a handful of other teams have followed Cuban’s lead. Hawks owner Tony Ressler had been preparing for this possibility and had planned all along to compensate the team’s full-time and part-time employees who will have their jobs disrupted by the NBA’s hiatus, writes Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“We have a pretty clear set of priorities in this kind of remarkable time that we’re living through,” Ressler said. “Protecting our fans, protecting our employees, and protecting the reputation of our league, all of which is important, but let there be no confusion, that means taking care of all of our employees, our full-time, our part-time.”

After Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie tweeted about taking care of non-salaried arena staff, team owner Joe Tsai responded that the Nets are working on a plan for those workers.

Cavaliers forward Kevin Love pledged $100K of his own money to aid arena employees displaced by the NBA’s stoppage, telling ESPN’s Dave McMenamin that he hopes “others will step up” as well. The Cavs announced (via Twitter) shortly thereafter that they’d be compensating all of their arena and event staff members as if every game and event at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse is still taking place.

While only a handful of teams have addressed the issue so far, I’d be surprised if that list doesn’t continue to grow in the coming days. Team owners and players will be affected financially by the suspension, but their losses likely won’t be as damaging in the short term as they would be for the lower-level employees who had been relying on the hourly wages earned at NBA events.