Michele Roberts

And-Ones: Rose, Roberts, Thunder’s Arena, Free Agents, Silver

NBA VP of basketball operations Malik Rose is a candidate to succeed Michele Roberts as executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, Marc Stein of Substack tweets. Roberts recently told Yahoo Sports’ Vincent Goodwill she planned to stay at her post for “another six or so months.” Rose was an assistant GM with the Pistons for two seasons prior to accepting his current post last June. 

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • A new name for the Thunder‘s arena will be revealed as soon as next week, Steve Lackmeyer of The Oklahoman writes. Signage for the Chesapeake Energy Arena was removed on Thursday. The team has a naming rights deal in place, pending approval of its application from the Downtown Design Review Committee.
  • Kawhi Leonard, Chris Paul and John Collins are the top three potential free agents, according to a ranking system used by The Athletic’s John Hollinger. The top 20 free agents are ranked, with Hollinger projecting potential contracts offers for those players.
  • The challenges over the past two seasons created by the virus have been immense but NBA commissioner Adam Silver hopes it has brought a better understanding between management and players, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. “That sense of unity, I hope we can keep up,” Silver said. “I think the players have a better understanding of what we’re up against in trying to run this business, and we have a better understanding of the players — what it’s like to travel the amount they do, the stresses they’re under, the emotional and physical burdens they’re under by competing at this level.”

And-Ones: NBPA, V. Baker, Hervey, Okobo, NBA Parity

In an interview with Yahoo Sports’ Vincent Goodwill, National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts spoke about why she considers this season a success, what role she plays in the union’s decision-making process, and the criticisms some players, including LeBron James, have vocalized about the shortened offseason heading into this year.

The recommendation to start in December came from the league,” Roberts said. “So the big ask was, could we start the games in December? And the answer was not yes from Michele. The decision to play or not to play comes from the players.”

As far as the criticisms from James, and others who may agree with him, Roberts’ reinforced her support for players voicing dissenting opinions. “I don’t have a problem with players that articulate their opposition to decisions that were made,” she said. “That’s their absolute right. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

We have more news from around the basketball community:

  • Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times writes about Bucks‘ assistant coach Vin Baker‘s rise as an NBA star, his battles with alcoholism – which included him drinking Bacardi Limón from a water bottle during games – and his eventual recovery and progression back to the world of the NBA. “This was an opportunity that was afforded to me not to screw up,” Baker said. “It’s not about me. Like it’s not about ‘I made it. I’m a coach of the Bucks.’ It’s about there’s somebody watching.”
  • Virtus Bologna has signed Kevin Hervey to a two-year deal, tweets Donatas Urbonas, a Lithuania-based reporter. The deal for the former Thunder second-round pick had been reported to be in the works in recent weeks.
  • Elie Okobo, the 31st pick in the 2018 draft, has signed with ASVEL Basket in France, reports Dario Skerletic of Sportando. Okobo will join former NBA players Norris Cole and Guerschon Yabusele, as well as top 2023 prospect Victor Wembanyama.
  • The “Parity Era” in the NBA may be here, writes Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. “I see this as, hopefully, the end of a transition for the league,” Reynolds quotes commissioner Adam Silver as saying. “Not just post-COVID, but just by virtue of the teams that we saw in the conference finals, a real transition in terms of the league of the up-and-coming new stars, up-and-coming franchises, more parity throughout the league.” Whether that’s the case or whether injuries played more of a role in the playoffs shaping up the way they did remains to be seen.

COVID-19 Roundup: Silver, Vaccine, Restrictions, Flights, Postponements

The NBA has held discussions about players receiving COVID-19 vaccines in order to influence the general public, and the African-American community in particular, to do the same, Brian Windhorst of ESPN reports. Commissioner Adam Silver hopes the league can set an example and foster the belief that the vaccines are safe and effective.

“Several public health officials — and this is operating state by state right now — have suggested there would be a real public health benefit to getting some very high-profile African Americans vaccinated to demonstrate to the larger community that it is safe and effective,” Silver said.

Right now, NBA athletes are not eligible to receive the vaccines until they become more widely available. It has been suggested that players could volunteer at public distribution centers and receive the vaccine in that setting while encouraging the public to follow suit. Michele Roberts, the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, has said that numerous players are hesitant about getting the vaccine.

We have more COVID-19 related news:

  • There’s been a mixed reaction to the recently-tightened health and safety protocols, according to Sean Highkin of Bleacher Report. Some players and coaches are resistant to the notion of having little to no contact with the outside world. Others say they have little choice. “If we don’t accept that that’s the way it has to be, we lose out on a lot of things. Our season, our health, our contracts, everything goes downhill if we don’t play by these rules,” Suns coach Monty Williams said.
  • In the same article, Highkin noted that 28 of the NBA’s 30 teams have a partnership with Delta Airlines, which has not mandated that its flight crews get tested for COVID-19 despite lobbying from the league’s medical leadership. Delta crew members must wear masks and can’t come within six feet of any NBA personnel, but several teams still refuse to eat on team planes.
  • The league is determined to continue playing despite a rash of postponements due to virus-related issues, Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes. An unnamed Western Conference executive told ESPN’s Baxter Holmes that resistance to playing in another bubble-like environment made these issues inevitable. “Nobody wanting to go back to a long bubble period of play has put us in this position,” he said. “It is doable but sub-optimal.”

NBA Officially Suspends Random Marijuana Testing For 2020/21

The NBA has officially suspended random marijuana testing for the 2020/21 season, tweets Marc Stein of The New York Times.

Ben Dowsett first reported on Thursday that the league would continue to forgo those tests after scrapping them for the summer restart in Orlando. The NBA will only conduct “with cause” tests this season, sources tell Dowsett.

Due to the unusual circumstances in conjunction with the pandemic, we have agreed with the NBPA to suspend random testing for marijuana for the 2020/21 season and focus our random testing program on performance-enhancing products and drugs of abuse,” league spokesperson Mike Bass said in a statement (Twitter link via Stein).

Although the coronavirus pandemic is being cited as the motivating factor for eliminating random marijuana tests in 2020/21, there’s no guarantee that the program will ever return in its previous form. As Dowsett writes in a feature for GQ.com, with the non-medical use of cannabis being decriminalized and legalized in more and more states, NBPA executive director Michele Roberts would like to see the testing program eventually removed from the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.

“I am absolutely confident (that) by next season – at the absolute latest by the time the next CBA is negotiated – this is going to be old news,” Roberts said of the NBA’s random marijuana testing.

And-Ones: Social Justice Board, Boatright, Jazz, Moore

Carmelo Anthony, Avery Bradley, Sterling Brown, Donovan Mitchell and Karl-Anthony Towns are the players chosen to serve on the league’s Social Justice Coalition Board, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania (Twitter links).

The NBA and NBPA agreed to create the group to advance equality and social justice after teams walked out of games in late August to protest a police shooting. Commissioner Adam Silver, deputy commissioner Mark Tatum and NBPA executive director Michele Roberts, as well as owners Micky Arison, Steve Ballmer, Clay Bennett, Marc Lasry and Vivek Randadive and coaches Lloyd Pierce and Doc Rivers.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Ryan Boatright has signed with Lithuanian club team BC Rytas Vilnius, the team tweets. Boatright, 28, played in Europe last season after spending time in the G League during the 2018/19 season. The former University of Connecticut guard also played in Italy, China and Turkey.
  • The sale price of the Jazz bodes well for the league’s franchise valuations, Bill Shea of The Athletic notes. The team, along with an arena and a couple of minor-league teams, were sold to Qualtrics founder Ryan Smith for $1.66 billion, and the league’s owners are expected to approve the sale. The valuation falls in line with expectations and doesn’t reflect any pandemic discount, Shea continues. It also reinforces the notion that team values keep going up.
  • Former Pacers forward Ben Moore has signed with South East Melbourne Phoenix of Australia’s NBL, according to the team. Moore is expected to join the club for preseason training next month. Moore, who also spent time in the Spurs organization, logged two games with Indiana during the 2017/18 season.

NBPA To Vote On December Start Thursday Or Friday

The National Basketball Players Association is planning to hold a vote on Thursday night or Friday morning on the league’s proposal to start next season on December 22, Shams Charania of The Athletic reports.

The NBPA, led by executive director Michele Roberts, started holding conference calls with players from each team on Monday and that process will go through Thursday morning. The tone of those calls gave the impression the season is likely to start before Christmas, Charania adds. In that instance, a 72-game season would be held.

The alternative start date is Martin Luther King Day on January 18 with a 60-game regular season. Previous reports suggested the league might limit the season to 50 games if it started in mid-January.

Sources communicated to Charania that NBA players feel the December 22 league start will happen. The NBA has projected that teams and players could suffer significant financial losses with a January start. The week of Christmas traditionally produces ample revenue, numbering in the hundreds of millions of dollars, for the league.

The league predicted that its television network partners may want to renegotiate their lucrative NBA contracts should Christmas games be skipped this season. Under either restart date, the NBA would reduce travel between arenas by 25% to minimize COVID-19 risk, and there would be a six-day All-Star Break. Also, a play-in tournament for the seventh through tenth seeds in both conferences would transpire.

Both the league and the NBPA are targeting a $109MM salary cap and a $132MM luxury tax. The two sides differ when it comes to how they feel the cap and tax should evolve beyond the 2020/21 season, however. The NBA would like to keep a flat tax and cap over the next few years, while the NBPA would prefer an annual increase, sources tell Charania.

If the two sides agree to a 72-game season tipping off on December 22, there would be 14 back-to-back games per team. The regular season would conclude around May 16, and the NBA Finals would finish at the end of July.

Were the NBA to embark upon a 60-game regular season on January 18, each team would have to deal with 12 back-to-back games. The regular season would resolve in June, and the NBA Finals would wrap up around the end of August.

Alex Kirschenbaum contributed to this report.

NBPA “Closer” To Agreement On Cap, Free Agency

Progress has been made in determining the league’s salary cap and free agency date, NBPA executive director Michele Roberts told USA Today’s Mark Medina.

Roberts indicated the she’s “closer” to reaching an agreement with the league on those pressing matters.

We’re probably closer toward resolving that issue,” Roberts said. “Frankly, that is something we can’t hold off for deciding too much longer.”

A report earlier on Tuesday revealed that some team executives are preparing for free agency to begin 48-72 hours after the November 18 draft. Roberts admits that players headed to free agency are eager to determine their futures. However, teams won’t know how much they can spend until the salary cap is determined.

“We have free agents that are losing their minds, as are teams that want to engage and negotiate. So that’s something we don’t have the luxury of delaying a decision on,” Roberts said. “As tough as this is, it’s not life or death. We want to do it right and not do it quickly if it sacrifices doing it right.”

With the loss of revenue due to the pandemic, Roberts acknowledges the players and league have no choice but to find common ground.

“It would be silly to say we’re not possibly going to make a deal,” Roberts said. “Then we would just say hello to the end of professional basketball. I’m not anywhere near there.”

Roberts also addressed a few other topics:

  • She’s unsure how the latest proposal to start next season on December 22 will be received by the players, or how it could affect teams that made deep playoff runs in Orlando. She anticipates that players on teams who didn’t participate in the restart would be in favor of getting the season started sooner than later. “There are guys that haven’t played since the suspension of play in March and they may have a different attitude or not,” she said.  “Frankly, I’ve spoken to players that did stop playing at or about that time, and they’re banging down the doors to get back to the practice facility.”
  • She’s skeptical that teams can allow fans into arenas until a vaccine is widely available. “That’s such a big difference to indoor activity,” she said. “Much of the surge we’re hearing about right now has a lot to do with people returning indoors because of the weather. That concerns me.”
  • Another “bubble-like” setting on a limited basis is a possibility but she hopes it isn’t necessary. “I don’t think anyone wants to do that,” she said. “And if we do it, we don’t want to do it for any length of time.”

NBA, NBPA Extend CBA Termination Deadline For Third Time

The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association have once again agreed to extend the deadline that would allow one side to terminate the Collective Bargaining Agreement due to COVID-19, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com.

The decision marks the third of its kind since May, with the new deadline now being October 30. Both sides are in active discussions on what the Collective Bargaining Agreement should include for next season, according to Wojnarowski, who says the possibility of the CBA being terminated remains unlikely.

“Extending is an easy call,” NBPA executive director Michele Roberts told ESPN in August when the sides agreed to extend the deadline for a second time (Twitter link). “If everyone continues to be well-intentioned on how we deal with the economic effects of this virus, we’ll just make the appropriate adjustments and there won’t be a need to terminate the CBA at all.”

Though exact numbers aren’t known, the pandemic has caused significant financial losses for the league this year and beyond. The two sides are discussing a new salary cap for the upcoming campaign based on future financial projections and implications.

It’s unclear when the 2020/21 season could begin, as the league is currently investigating ways to safely bring fans back into arenas for the first time since the pandemic began. NBA commissioner Adam Silver has previously estimated that 40% of the league’s revenue comes from game-night counts.

While the NBA season will occur in some form, a decision also must be reached about the NBA G League. Discussions have been ongoing about how and when the G League could proceed, with several agents telling Hoops Rumors they’ve prioritized placing clients overseas in recent weeks due to the widespread uncertainty.

[RELATED: Uncertainty Surrounds NBA G League’s 2020/21 Season]

The NBA’s current CBA contains a mutual opt-out after the 2022/23 season and extends into the 2023/24 season. The league and union had previously projected a 2020/21 salary cap of $115MM and luxury-tax threshold of $139MM. Some teams fear those numbers could fall by as much as $25-30MM, according to Wojnarowski, though the two sides are expected to reach a compromise to avoid a significant drop.

For fans and officials across the league alike, the importance of the NBA and NBPA configuring a new salary cap mechanism and continuing productive negotiations in the coming weeks is clear.

And-Ones: Adebayo, Olympics, NBA Foundation, Tsai

Although he didn’t make the final 12-man squad that took part in the 2019 World Cup, Heat center Bam Adebayo participated in Team USA’s training camp leading up to that event and received consideration to represent the U.S. in the international competition.

With the Tokyo Olympics on tap for the summer of 2021, however, another national program is hoping to recruit Adebayo away from USA Basketball, according to Colin Udoh of ESPN, who says Nigeria wants to add the big man to its Olympic roster. Adebayo’s father is Nigerian, Udoh notes.

“Having Bam in our national team is a possibility that we are considering as a federation ahead of the 2020 Olympics and beyond,” Nigeria Basketball Federation president Musa Kida said in a statement to ESPN. “We are excited about how far he has gone and what he can achieve in his career with D’Tigers if he chooses to play for Nigeria.”

Nigeria has already earned an Olympic berth and – assuming next season’s schedule allows for it – is expected to feature NBA players such as Josh Okogie, Al-Farouq Aminu, Chimezie Metu, and potentially Spencer Dinwiddie. It remains to be seen if the team will be able to land Adebayo, but he has said in the past that he’d consider Nigeria if asked. He also may be more open to the idea after being cut from last year’s Team USA roster.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • The NBA and NBPA issued a joint press release today announcing the board of directors for the NBA Foundation, a new organization dedicated to driving “economic empowerment for Black communities through employment and career advancement.” In addition to Harrison Barnes and Tobias Harris, whose involvement was previously reported, the NBA Foundation’s board of directors will be made up of Adam Silver, Michele Roberts, and four team owners (Gayle Benson, Tony Ressler, Larry Tanenbaum, and Michael Jordan).
  • As we relayed earlier today, China’s CCTV has lifted its year-long ban on NBA broadcasts, citing the league’s role in fighting COVID-19 in China as a primary reason for that decision. NetsDaily suggests Nets owner Joe Tsai may have played a key part in that effort, having sent a $3.7MM donation to China in February to help fight the pandemic.
  • In an Insider-only article for ESPN.com, Bobby Marks lists the trade assets held by all 30 teams, including moveable players, surplus draft picks, and trade exceptions.

Michele Roberts Talks Free Agency, 2020/21 Season, Cap, More

Having rescheduled this year’s draft for November 18, the NBA has yet to officially set a start date for 2020’s free agent period. Speaking to Shams Charania of The Athletic, NBPA executive director Michele Roberts suggested that she thinks free agency will probably start no later than December 1 and that the salary cap and tax figures won’t drop too drastically from what was originally projected.

“We can’t go much beyond (December 1) for (free agency),” Roberts said. “We had a projected BRI (basketball-related income), which I think teams appropriately planned for. I don’t think we can deviate much from where we projected the cap to be.

“It may not reflect what people think is the likely BRI, but since I’m of the view this game is not dead and it will rebound, we can do some things with the cap to allow for a free market and not completely destroy what the teams were expecting the cap to be as they were planning ahead. Frankly, I think that’s going to be one of the easier negotiations, figuring out a cap.”

As Charania writes, Roberts met with NBA commissioner Adam Silver on Sunday, and the two sides left that meeting confident that they’ll be able to negotiate agreements on the many cap- and CBA-related issues that must be resolved before the new league year and the 2020/21 season begin.

“It’s amazing what needs to be accomplished in the next six weeks, but it has to be done. I feel sooner rather than later,” Roberts said, adding that she doesn’t believe there’s any real chance of a lockout. “… We’re going to resolve this.”

Charania’s Q&A with Roberts is jam-packed with interesting info and quotes, and is worth checking out in full if you’re an Athletic subscriber. Here are a few more of the most notable takeaways from the conversation:

  • Roberts still views January as the “absolute earliest” possible start date for the 2020/21 season. “The latter part of January, February makes sense,” she told Charania. “If it’s later than that, if we have a terrible winter because the virus decides to reassert herself, that’s fine.”
  • Although Roberts and the NBPA share the NBA’s hope that teams can play a full 82-game season in their respective home arenas in 2020/21, she told Charania that the two sides must be “flexible” and “nimble” as it makes plans for next season. “I’m not of the view that we should wait until we think the arenas can open, because this virus, she’s not cooperative at all,” Roberts said.
  • Silver has expressed some reluctance to change the NBA’s permanent calendar as a result of the COVID-related delays, but Roberts sounds more open to that possibility. “Even before COVID happened, there was a conversation about starting our season later. Why compete with football in the fall? Why don’t we start our season around Christmas?” Roberts said to Charania. “It may very well be that our regular schedule is going to change, not so much because of COVID, but because of the ability to experiment. I wouldn’t bet on returning to the old normal.”
  • Faced with the possibility of the NBA’s basketball-related income for next season dipping from $8 billion to something like $6 billion, Roberts acknowledged that maintaining the 51/49 split between players and owners will be tricky. “It comes down to if it’s a $6 billion pie and our owners are entitled to 49%, and they’re already committed to $5 billion in player salaries and fixed costs for example, where’s the rest of their money?” she said. “There’s ways to take that $6 billion and get to their 49%. One of the ways to do it is to slash player salaries. I got to deal with a constituency that, you slash their salaries, this may be for many of my guys on the last two or three years of their careers. Is there a way to deal with that?”
  • Here’s more from Roberts to Charania on the issue of the BRI split: “We’ll never say to the owners: ‘Y’all just going to have to eat the loss.’ Who’s going to do that? They’re not stupid. They’re not just going to say, ‘OK, yeah you’re right, we’re just going to have to lose a couple billion dollars on our own.’  That’s not going to happen. Instead what you say is, ‘Can we figure out a way to manage that so there is no loss, but there isn’t an immediate pay day. Can you withstand some delay in getting your money?’ I have some real life examples of people I know in my life that say that they live paycheck-to-paycheck. And there are other people that can say that they can deal with deferred compensation. You figure it out.”