New Target Date For 2021 Summer Olympics

The International Olympic Committee will set July 23, 2021, as the new target date for the opening of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, reports Tariq Panja of The New York Times. An emergency IOC meeting will be held today to consider the decision.

A final ruling could come in weeks, according to the IOC, but a source tells Panja that an announcement is expected much sooner. NHK, the Japanese state broadcaster, also reported July 23 as the new target date Saturday.

The games had been set to begin on July 24 of this year, but were postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. IOC spokesman Mark Adams refused to confirm the new date, calling it “speculation.”

It makes sense to keep a similar schedule, Panja writes, because it’s easier to fit into the sports calendar and it’s the preferred date for NBCUniversal, which is paying more than $1 billion to broadcast the Games. IOC president Thomas Bach told reporters this week that federations representing swimming, table tennis, triathlon and equestrian wanted to move the games to the spring, but that would have interfered with professional soccer seasons and some U.S. sports, including the NBA.

Organizers still face the challenge of securing sites for the rescheduled Games and taking care of facilities that may sit idle for an entire year.

“A Games has never been postponed before,” Bach said. “We have no blueprint, but we are nevertheless confident we can put a beautiful jigsaw puzzle together and will then in the end have a wonderful Olympic Games.”

Keeping the Games in mid-summer will make it easier to attract stars from soccer, tennis and golf, which are among the top television attractions. The availability of basketball players will depend on how this season and next season are restructured in the NBA and other leagues around the world once the pandemic is under control.

James Dolan Tests Positive For Coronavirus

Knicks owner James Dolan has tested positive for COVID-19, according to a tweet from the team. Dolan is “experiencing little to no symptoms” of the virus, the statement adds. He is in self-isolation and continues to oversee business operations of the Madison Square Garden Company.

A source tells Marc Berman of the New York Post that Dolan is with his family in the Hamptons and learned of his test results earlier this week.

Ten NBA players have tested positive for the coronavirus over the past 17 days, but Dolan is the first high-level executive known to have contracted it. The Knicks have avoided public comment on the virus since it began affecting the league, but their players have likely not been tested and have been permitted to return to their homes, according to Steve Popper of Newsday (Twitter link).

Dolan, 64, has been a controversial figure in New York as the Knicks have fallen on hard times under his ownership. His image has also been damaged by public disputes with beloved figures in the Garden such as Charles Oakley and Spike Lee.

The news about Dolan comes a day after Madison Square Garden set up a relief fund that will offer financial assistance to employees and will provide them with a salary through at least May 3. The MSG Relief Fund was announced in a letter sent to employees Friday night, writes Larry Brooks of The New York Post.

The fund was created with a $1MM donation from the Madison Square Garden Company and a matching donation from the Dolan Family Foundation. The MSG management team put in another $300K and contributions are expected from the Knicks and the NHL’s Rangers.

“I knew they’d do the right thing and they did,” said union president James Claffey. “It’s a very generous offer. It wasn’t negotiated. They just gave it, here’s what they wanted to do for our stage crews and other entertainment workers. We didn’t request it. And they’re taking care equally well of the other unions.”

Italian League To Cancel Season

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

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

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

Jamal Crawford Staying In Shape For Possible NBA Return

If and when the NBA season resumes, there will be a lot to figure out in regards to how much of the regular season will be played and how the playoff format will be adjusted. For teams in search of help, one notable veteran remains unsigned and is eager to help.

Jamal Crawford has made it known he wants to resume playing and continues to stay prepared with that goal in mind, as he told ESPN’s Kenny Mayne on SportsCenter on Friday.

“I’ve been training as if I’m playing…Hopefully, I’ll get another chance to get back out there,” Crawford said, repeating his statement from November in which he was “baffled.”

Crawford, 40, spent last season in an uneven role with the Suns, averaging 7.9 PPG in 64 games, his lowest average since his rookie campaign. However, he did score 51 points in the season’s final game. The three-time Sixth Man of the Year had spent five of the prior six campaigns as a reliable bench weapon for the Clippers.

In his career, Crawford has also suited up for the Bulls, Knicks, Warriors, Hawks and Blazers.

Heat Veteran Udonis Haslem Not Thinking About Retirement

Depending on whether or not the NBA resumes the 2019/20 season, it could represent the end of the line for longtime Heat veteran Udonis Haslem. The 39-year-old has served as a team leader in recent years, appearing in just 43 games over the last four seasons.

Since 2003, Haslem has been a mainstay in South Beach, helping Miami win several championships while also working with young Heat players on the rise. It could all be over, but Haslem has not weighed the possibility of retirement just yet.

“Yeah, I mean, everybody, obviously, it comes to mind,” Haslem said during a conference call on Friday, per Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. “For me, I’m still maintaining hope that we can salvage some of the basketball season. So I haven’t gotten to that point yet. And in the midst of all this, there is a lot going on.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has put the entire world in a standstill, including that of professional sports. Haslem recently published a strong Players’ Tribune writeup urging people to take the coronavirus spread seriously by practicing social distancing.

“I’m seeing people starting to make the move, and starting to impact,” he said. “I’m sure it wasn’t just my letter. I’m sure a lot people had ideas in mind about what they wanted to do and how they wanted to do it. I’m just seeing everybody coming together.”

It’s been clear that Haslem is valued as a veteran leader for a young Heat team that – before the season’s suspension – was among the best in the Eastern Conference. As the league remains hopeful to resume the campaign, Haslem admitted that thinking about the game is challenging.

“Right now, there are bigger things going on than basketball,” Haslem said. “So it’s really kind of hard to focus on basketball.”

Jazz Stars Gobert, Mitchell Cleared Of Coronavirus

The Jazz issued a statement today announcing that all their players and staff have been cleared by the Utah Department of Health after completing their two-week self-isolation periods, as Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune relays.

“The Utah Department of Health has determined that all Jazz players and staff, regardless of prior testing status, no longer pose a risk of infection to others,” the team said in the statement.

That means that All-Stars Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, who each tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this month, have now been cleared, as Shams Charania of The Athletic confirms (via Twitter).

Gobert, Mitchell, and Pistons big man Christian Wood – the first three NBA players known to have been affected by COVID-19 – have now all been medically cleared and are no longer carrying the virus.

While we’re likely to see more coronavirus cases affecting NBA players and personnel in the coming weeks, it’s good news that several of those who were first diagnosed have come out the other side and made full recoveries.

Killian Hayes Entering 2020 NBA Draft

French point guard Killian Hayes has officially made the decision to declare for the 2020 NBA draft, he tells Jonathan Givony of ESPN.

“I am officially declaring for the NBA draft,” Hayes wrote in an email to ESPN. “I have sent in paperwork to the league office and I’m very excited.”

Hayes, who had been playing in Germany this season before the coronavirus situation caused a stoppage, was averaging 12.0 PPG and 5.6 APG for Ratiopharm Ulm. He projects as a potential lottery pick in this year’s draft, currently ranking 10th overall on ESPN’s big board.

As ESPN’s Mike Schmitz notes in his scouting report, Hayes isn’t the most athletic player in this year’s draft pool and needs to get more comfortable with his right hand, but he’s an effective pick-and-roll player with a strong 6’5″ frame and could have an instant impact in the NBA, given his professional experience.

Las Vegas A Candidate To Host NBA Games?

As the NBA considers its options for how and when to resume the 2019/20 season, multiple team executives tell Jabari Young of CNBC that they favor the idea of playing games in Las Vegas.

In a perfect world, each club would be able to host games at its own home arena with fans in attendance. However, playing games at a neutral site – and behind closed doors – may end up being a more realistic solution for containment and health reasons as the NBA navigates the coronavirus pandemic.

As Young explains, Vegas makes sense as a neutral site because the NBA has an existing relationship with the city, which hosts Summer League games at the Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion each July.

Sources tell Young that the NBA has previously “floated the idea” of using Las Vegas as the location for an in-season tournament, which is something commissioner Adam Silver hopes to add to the league’s annual schedule in the coming years. Young points out that a resumed 2019/20 season may be an ideal time to test out that sort of event at a neutral site — the NBA could use a play-in tournament to fill the lower postseason seeds rather than playing out the remainder of its regular season.

The NBA remains in the early stages of the planning process and will, of course, have to adjust and react based on how the coronavirus situation evolves across North America. However, as we’ve heard before, the league is considering a wide range of experimental ideas as it looks to salvage the 2020 postseason.

According to Young, one concept the league has discussed is playing best-of-five first round series followed by a one-and-done tournament which would determine the two teams that square off in the NBA Finals. The Finals would then be a best-of-five series as well, Young notes.

NBA Reducing Salaries For League’s Top Executives

The NBA is temporarily implementing a 20% base salary reduction for approximately 100 of its highest-earning executives around the world, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The move may sound similar to one the Sixers considered earlier this week before they reversed course when met with a PR backlash. However, the key difference here is that the NBA’s cutbacks will only impact top league executives and senior leaders, as Wojnarowski explains. Support and administrative staffers will not see their salaries reduced.

Commissioner Adam Silver and deputy commissioner Mark Tatum are among those affected by the measures, which are expected to continue for as long as the coronavirus crisis lasts, sources tell ESPN. Most of the execs who will have their salaries reduced work in the league’s New York office, Woj adds.

NBA spokesperson Mike Bass didn’t explicitly confirm ESPN’s report, but offered the following statement:

“These are unprecedented times and, like other companies across all industries, we need to take short-term steps to deal with the harsh economic impact on our business and organization.”

Christian Wood Reportedly “Fully Recovered” From Coronavirus

MARCH 26: Wood has been cleared, having registered negative test results on Wednesday evening, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

MARCH 25: Christian Wood, who was the only Pistons player known to have contracted the coronavirus, has “fully recovered,” according to his agent, as our own Dana Gauruder writes for The Detroit Free Press.

Wood is one of at least 10 NBA players known to have test positive for COVID-19. Gauruder hears from a source that Wood still has to pass a few medical tests and is expected to be cleared by Thursday.

The Pistons played the Jazz on March 7, just days before the news of Rudy Gobert‘s diagnosis and the NBA’s suspension of the season. Detroit, like other squads in the league, was asked to self-isolate. That period of isolation ended today.

Gauruder adds that 17 members of the Pistons were tested for the virus, including five players.

According to the World Health Organization, the median recovery time for mild cases of coronavirus is about two weeks. For critical or severe cases, it’s about three-to-six weeks.