USA Basketball

Heat Notes: Butler, Haslem, Iguodala, Facilities

After rumors of discontent and/or tension with teammates followed Jimmy Butler from Chicago to Minnesota to Philadelphia, we’ve heard nothing but rave reviews this season about his fit in Miami. During a weekend appearance on Instagram Live with Sue Bird and Megan Rapinoe, Butler confirmed that he’s “hella happy” with the Heat, as Anthony Chiang and Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald relay.

“Without a doubt. There ain’t a better place to be for me. Miami is it,” Butler said. “We got the right young guys, we got the right vets. (The young guys) get it. They get it and they’re thirsty to get back to hooping. I think I built bonds with a lot of my teammates on all my former teams. But this organization is special.”

According to The Herald duo, Butler also suggested that he likely won’t be part of USA Basketball’s 12-man roster for the Tokyo Olympics, which have been rescheduled for 2021. The star swingman won a gold medal with Team USA in Rio De Janeiro in 2016, but indicated he’s prioritizing the NBA over international competitions at this point in his career.

“I told (Carmelo Anthony) that if he plays (in the Olympics), I play,” Butler joked. “‘Melo said that he’s not playing.”

Here’s more on the Heat:

  • Appearing this week on NBA TV (video link), Heat veteran Udonis Haslem admitted that the unusual circumstances of the NBA’s suspended season may influence his decision on whether to retire this offseason or return for another year. “One thing that I’ve always wanted is to be able to do is leave this game on my own terms,” Haslem said, per Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “Another thing that I’ve always wanted is to be able to have the opportunity to create a pathway for the next generation, as far as passing on the Heat culture. And the third thing that I wanted to do was to be able to leave this game with an opportunity to make a good playoff run. All three of those things have been taken out of my control right now. So we’ll just have to see.”
  • The NBA plans to allow teams to reopen their facilities for workouts as early as Friday, but the Heat don’t intend to start that process until Monday at the earliest, a source tells Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. The team also plans to call back Butler and Andre Iguodala soon, according to Winderman, who notes that the two veterans – both in California – are the only two players currently away from South Florida.
  • As Winderman observes in another Sun-Sentinel article, if the NBA ultimately decides to shift its annual calendar and start the regular season in December on a permanent basis, it could open the door for the Heat to once again host the All-Star Game. The usual February dates have been problematic for the city, since the Miami International Boat Show and Coconut Grove Arts Festival generally take place on the same weekend. The All-Star Game hasn’t taken place in Miami since 1990 and has never been played at AmericanAirlines Arena.

And-Ones: Olympics, Croatia, Rights Fees, Option Decisions

Free agency issues could limit the roster for Team USA at the Olympics next summer, writes Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press. That wouldn’t have been a significant concern this year because of a relatively weak free agent class, but Reynolds notes that LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Chris Paul, Bam Adebayo, Kyle Lowry and others could be on the open market in 2021.

The Olympics are set to open on July 23 of next year, meaning that training camp will begin early in the month, which marks prime time for free agency decisions. Reynolds suggests that could lead to situations similar to what happened in 2012 with Deron Williams, who couldn’t participate in contact drills until his deal with the Nets was signed.

The U.S. won’t be the only nation affected, Reynolds adds. Greece’s Giannis Antetokounmpo and France’s Rudy Gobert can both opt out in the summer of 2021, while another year of wear and tear could affect Marc Gasol‘s desire to play for Spain.

There’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Croatia’s top division has become the latest international league to call off its season, according to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. No champion will be declared, and the teams that played in the top division this season will be able to do so again next year.
  • Alex Sherman of CNBC examines how networks are handling the rights fees they paid for games that have been canceled because of the coronavirus. The NBA doesn’t have a provision in its contracts for networks to receive refunds, sources familiar with the deals tell Sherman. While “force majeure” provisions exist, they may not apply to a pandemic. Sherman speculates that even if they can make the argument that they’re entitled to money back, some networks may not pursue it so they can preserve their relationships with the NBA and other leagues. He notes that payments for broadcast rights haven’t been refunded when seasons have been reduced because of labor disputes. “Let’s say it’s a one-time only event, obviously you’re not going to pay,” said former CBS Sports president Neal Pilson. “But what you’re talking when you have a 10- or 15-year agreement, year after year, you work it out in an accommodation of some kind.”
  • In an article for The Athletic, former NBA executive John Hollinger offers predictions on all 41 player and team options for the upcoming offseason. Among the richest deals, Hollinger expects Mike Conley to stay with the Jazz for $34.5MM, Gordon Hayward to opt in for $34.187MM from the Celtics and Andre Drummond to remain with the Cavaliers for $28.75MM. Hollinger predicts Anthony Davis will turn down $28.55MM from the Lakers and sign a new deal with the team, unless the cap number falls so low that it will benefit him to wait for next year.

How Olympic Postponement May Impact NBA, Team USA

Tokyo and the International Olympic Committee announced on Tuesday that the 2020 Olympics have been postponed until sometime in 2021. As a result, the NBA no longer has to consider the possibility of overlapping with the Games if the league resume its 2019/20 season this summer.

However, the potential dates for the 2020/21 NBA season and the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics remain very much up in the air. As such, there’s no guarantee that we’ll see the ’20/21 campaign end in June and the Olympics begin on July 24, which was the plan for this year before the coronavirus crisis worsened.

Here’s what we know so far about the impact the Olympic postponement might have on the NBA and Team USA specifically:

  • USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo and head coach Gregg Popovich had only been committed to the program through 2020, but that commitment will now extend to 2021, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst confirms. “We’re all-in and we’re committed,” Colangelo said. “It’s important to deal with the unknowns and this virus. This too shall pass, and we’ll be back for everyone’s well-being.”
  • Within that Windhorst story, Colangelo says USA Basketball will adjust if NBA players aren’t available for the rescheduled Olympics, but points out that changing the window for the NBA season or the Olympics would be a significant undertaking. “Changing the window for the NBA is easier said than done. There’s a lot of logistics and contracts to deal with,” Colangelo said. “Same for the Olympics. You have to assume it will be around the same dates (in 2021).”
  • As Windhorst and Tim Bontemps of ESPN note in a Q&A on the rescheduled Olympics, it’s possible Team USA will no longer be able to send its top players as a result of the postponement. However, it’s also possible that players like Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving – who may not have been ready to go for the 2020 Games – will be healthy and available to participate by the time USA Basketball finalizes its roster in 2021.
  • Joe Ingles, who will represent Australia in the Tokyo Olympics, said he’d be disappointed if a schedule conflict prevent him from playing for the Boomers, as Joe Vardon of The Athletic relays. “I do understand that the NBA and the Utah Jazz pay my salary and it’s really good money and I’m obviously obligated to be here (in the NBA),” Ingles said. “I absolutely love playing for Australia and would do anything to keep playing for Australia, representing my country. We obviously don’t really know what that looks like yet. I hope (the NBA season and the Olympics) don’t clash.”

And-Ones: Summer Olympics, Liggins, Pokusevski

It appears inevitable that the Summer Olympics will be delayed, possibly until 2021, writes Paul Newberry of The Associated Press. Even though organizers in Tokyo have been insisting they will be ready on time, Newberry can’t envision how the world will be able to compete when so many regions are currently devoting their resources to the coronavirus pandemic.

The IOC, which admitted this week that the virus situation is “changing day by day,” has considered holding the events at empty venues or canceling the games altogether. Newberry doesn’t see either solution as fair to the athletes who have worked years to prepare or to the Japanese people who bought tickets well in advance.

The U.S. men’s basketball team continues to prepare as if the games are being held this summer, but there’s a strong level of uncertainty, assistant coach Steve Kerr said Tuesday during a conference call with reporters, including Nick Friedell of ESPN.

“(Head coach Gregg Popovich) and I have spoken a couple of times over the last week or so,” Kerr said. “And everything’s just up in the air. There’s no sense of whether things are going to be delayed or anything. We’re all kind of sitting here wondering what’s going to happen, and so is the rest of the world. We’re just going to plan as if this is going to happen, and we’re going to try and put together a roster, and that’s all we can do.”

There’s more from around the basketball world:

  • FIBA is examining alternatives if the qualifying tournaments to fill the four open Olympic spots can’t be played, according to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. The World Cup final standings or the FIBA rankings may be used to select the four teams.
  • Former NBA swingman DeAndre Liggins is involved in a controversy with his Panionios team in Greece, relays Dario Skerletic of Sportando. Flex Basketball Management, which represents Liggins, tweeted a statement today claiming that he has not been registered with the Greek Basketball Federation and isn’t eligible to play, even though he has been with the team since February 12 and is under contract for the rest of the season. “The club was very misleading and did not pay him or agents, and did not cover flight expenses as agreed upon,” the agency claims. “They didn’t help him in his return flight due to the virus pandemic and league suspension, and didn’t help other players as well while ignoring all communication.” (Twitter links)
  • Olympiacos coach Giorgos Bartzokas tells Aris Barkas of EuroHoops that 7-footer Aleksej Pokusevski will likely enter the NBA draft. He’s projected as the 25th pick in the latest ESPN mock draft.

USA Basketball Cancels Nike Hoop Summit

Amidst a slew of cancellations and postponements around the sports world, USA Basketball announced today that it is suspending all events until further notice.

The 2020 Nike Hoop Summit, which had been scheduled to take place in Portland, Oregon on April 10, – with practices during the days leading up to the event – has been cancelled, according to USA Basketball’s press release.

The event is a showcase for both domestic and international players, pitting the USA Basketball Men’s Junior Select Team against a team made up of international prospects. Ben Simmons, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Deandre Ayton are among the players who have participated in the event as part of the World Select Team in recent years, while top picks like Jayson Tatum, Markelle Fultz, De’Aaron Fox, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Wendell Carter have played for the U.S. team.

The next major scouting event on the NBA’s pre-draft calendar for 2020 is the Portsmouth Invitational, which is scheduled to take place from April 15-18. So far, no announcement has been made, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if it’s also canceled in the near future.

Stephen Curry Talks About Returning To Action

Stephen Curry plans to resume a regular playing schedule now that his fractured left hand is fully healed, tweets Anthony Slater of The Athletic. The Warriors guard met with reporters this afternoon ahead of his return to the court tonight after missing 58 games.

Curry hopes to play in all 20 of Golden State’s remaining games, saying he doesn’t want it to be a “now you see me, now you don’t” situation. He has had “talks” with the team about playing on back-to-back nights, but no decision has been reached, relays Nick Friedell of ESPN (Twitter link). The Warriors have four back-to-backs remaining.

He also spoke about adjusting to playing again without being concerned about his hand (video link). “Hopefully there aren’t any thoughts and I get to play my game the way I see it, react and make plays without hesitation,” Curry said. “If I need to make a left-handed pass or finish with my left or defend and get a deflection or take a hit with it.”

Curry also hasn’t given up hopes of playing for Team USA in the Olympics this summer (video link). “Right now the focus obviously is just trying to stay healthy these last 20 games,” he said, “get my rhythm back, get to the level of basketball I know I’m capable of playing.”

Southwest Notes: Bertans, Green, Popovich

Davis Bertans, who was traded to Washington during the offseason, says he still has love for the Spurs, as Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News relays.

“I am definitely grateful for the opportunity they gave me,” said Bertans. “Coming off two (knee) injuries, a lot of teams might have given up on me after the first one. Just having a chance to go there and learn from one of the best coaches in history, if not the best one (was great). Even though they traded me, I still love them for what they did for me.”

The Spurs initially intended to keep Bertans on their roster. Over the summer, they had the mid-level exception available and had agreed to sign DeMarre Carroll with that tool. Then, Marcus Morris wanted to come to town and the team pivoted to using the MLE on the forward and crafted a sign-and-trade for Carroll that sent Bertans to Washington.

Morris eventually backed out of the agreement, but the deal to send Bertans elsewhere was already in motion.

Here’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Jeff Green, who inked a contract with the Rockets, has previously played with both James Harden and Russell Westbrook and he’s happy to team up with them again. “It’s going to be special to see those two guys, the way they’ve grown. It’s been wonderful. As a fan of the game it’s been great to see. I’m excited to be w/ them again,” Green said (via Fox 26 Houston’s Mark Berman on Twitter).
  • The Spurs‘ 22-year playoff streak could come to an end this season and not everyone is surprised about the potential outcome, as Orsborn relays in a separate piece. “It happens to the best of them,” said Robert Horry, who won two titles with San Antonio. “It happened to the Celtics, it happened to the Lakers. People don’t understand how dominant the Spurs have been over the years, but it was bound to come to an end.”
  • There has been plenty of speculation about Gregg Popovich retiring from coaching Team USA after the Olympics this summer, but Jerry Colangelo, who is the managing director of USA Basketball, said he hasn’t had any conversations with Pop about it yet. “It’s really going to be how he feels, [with] age, health [factors],” Colangelo said (via Orsborn in the same piece). “This doesn’t pertain to him, but I would say this about most people, most coaches: If you lose your fire, it’s probably time to step away. But as long as you have that desire and fire in your belly, why not [continue]?”

And-Ones: Tax Bills, T. Young, Buyouts, Avdija

The Trail Blazers, Heat, and Thunder all reduced their projected end-of-season tax bills with their moves leading up to the trade deadline, while the Rockets and Warriors got out of tax territory altogether. The Timberwolves ended up sneaking slightly over the tax line as a result of the D’Angelo Russell trade, but the league-wide tax penalties for 2019/20 will be very modest overall, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks notes (via Twitter).

According to Marks’ calculations, the Trail Blazers will have the highest bill, at around $5.94MM, followed by the Heat ($2.96MM), Thunder ($2MM), and Timberwolves ($1.34MM). If those numbers don’t change between now and the end of the regular season, it would mean the league’s other 26 teams receive approximately $236K apiece in tax distribution, which would be the lowest mark in league history, according to Marks.

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

  • Hawks point guard Trae Young was one of the notable omissions from the 44-player list of finalists released on Monday for Team USA’s 2020 Olympic roster. Young admitted that he would have liked to receive consideration, as Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution details. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hurt by seeing it,” Young said. “Obviously I would have wanted to play on the team.”
  • The Hawks, Knicks, and Pistons project to have more than enough cap room for a maximum-salary player this summer, with the Heat and Hornets potentially joining them, says John Hollinger of The Athletic. As Hollinger observes in his preview of the NBA’s 2020 cap outlook, there are several other teams that could create some cap room if free agents walk or players turn down options, but there won’t be much league-wide space this offseason.
  • In an Insider-only article for ESPN.com, Marks and Kevin Pelton break down the buyout market, suggesting that Knicks forward Maurice Harkless would be among the most intriguing options if he reaches the open market.
  • Mike Schmitz of ESPN (Insider link) makes the case that 19-year-old forward Deni Avdija, who is currently playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv in the EuroLeague, deserves to receive consideration as a possible top-three pick in the 2020 NBA draft.

L.A. Notes: LeBron, Johnson, Clippers, Morris

LeBron James‘ name was one of 44 included on USA Basketball’s preliminary list of finalists for the program’s 2020 Olympic roster on Monday. Many of the players on that list won’t get the opportunity to suit up for Team USA in Tokyo, but it’s safe to say that one of the final 12 roster spots will be reserved for James — if he wants it. For now, he’s not ready to fully commit, as Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times relays.

“It’s always predicated on: one, my body, how my body is feeling at the end of the season — I hope to make a long playoff run,” James said. “And then where my mind is and then where my family’s head is. So it’s a lot of factors, but my name is in the hat.”

It was no surprise that James and Anthony Davis were among the 44 names on Team USA’s list on Monday. Kyle Kuzma‘s inclusion wasn’t a shock either, since he participated in the program’s World Cup camp last fall. Two more Lakers were also on the list — JaVale McGee and former Team USA center Dwight Howard.

“Spectacular,” James said of the Lakers having five players on the list. “It’s amazing. We’re very well represented with the Lake Show representing the red, white and blue. So it’s a pretty cool thing.”

Here’s more on the Lakers and their L.A. rivals, the Clippers:

  • After being waived by Phoenix on Monday, Tyler Johnson is on track to clear waivers on Wednesday. Chris Mannix of SI.com writes that both the Lakers and Clippers are “expected to check in” on the veteran guard.
  • Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register examines the Lakers‘ options on the buyout market, suggesting that injured big man DeMarcus Cousins may not be the player released if the team needs a roster spot, since he’s close to Anthony Davis and others on the roster.
  • Speaking of Davis, he told reporters on Monday that he’s confident the Lakers have a championship-caliber roster even after standing pat at the trade deadline (video link via ESPN).
  • The Clippers were active at the deadline, acquiring Marcus Morris from New York in a three-team trade. Jovan Buha of The Athletic spoke to the new Clippers forward about joining a title contender, the team’s 2019 free agent pitch to him, and his fit. “You can put me anywhere,” Morris said. “I can space out really well, give guys space, score it any way. I’m just ready to do what it takes for the team to win. I’m excited to get started, but you’re going to see how well I fit. … I think it’s going to be very beneficial for both sides.”

USA Basketball Announces 44 Finalists For 2020 Olympic Roster

USA Basketball has formally announced a preliminary group of 44 players who are candidates to be part of the program’s roster for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

The final roster will only consist of 12 players, so most of these finalists won’t actually play for Team USA at the Olympics. Some will likely withdraw from consideration, while others simply won’t make the final cut. However, these players have all expressed interest in being involved in the process.

“This is the first step in USA Basketball identifying the 12 players who will represent the United States as members of the 2020 U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team in Tokyo,” said USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo.

“… Over the course of the remainder of the NBA season we’ll continue to monitor all of the athletes. Selecting the 12-man USA roster will obviously be an extremely challenging and difficult process, and we will again attempt to select the very best team possible to represent our country and who we hope will be successful in our difficult mission of repeating as Olympic champions for a fourth consecutive Olympics.”

Although the U.S. men’s team has won three consecutive Olympic gold medals, the program had a disappointing showing at last year’s World Cup, finishing in seventh place. Team USA will be looking for a bounce-back performance in Tokyo this summer, with many players from that World Cup squad among the 44 finalists announced today.

Here’s the full list of players who are candidates to play for Team USA at the 2020 Olympics:

  1. Bam Adebayo (Heat)
  2. LaMarcus Aldridge (Spurs)
  3. Harrison Barnes (Kings)
  4. Bradley Beal (Wizards)
  5. Devin Booker (Suns)
  6. Malcolm Brogdon (Pacers)
  7. Jaylen Brown (Celtics)
  8. Jimmy Butler (Heat)
  9. Mike Conley (Jazz)
  10. Stephen Curry (Warriors)
  11. Anthony Davis (Lakers)
  12. DeMar DeRozan (Spurs)
  13. Andre Drummond (Cavaliers)
  14. Kevin Durant (Nets)
  15. Paul George (Clippers)
  16. Draymond Green (Warriors)
  17. James Harden (Rockets)
  18. Montrezl Harrell (Clippers)
  19. Joe Harris (Nets)
  20. Tobias Harris (76ers)
  21. Gordon Hayward (Celtics)
  22. Dwight Howard (Lakers)
  23. Brandon Ingram (Pelicans)
  24. Kyrie Irving (Nets)
  25. LeBron James (Lakers)
  26. Kyle Kuzma (Lakers)
  27. Kawhi Leonard (Clippers)
  28. Damian Lillard (Blazers)
  29. Brook Lopez (Bucks)
  30. Kevin Love (Cavaliers)
  31. Kyle Lowry (Raptors)
  32. JaVale McGee (Lakers)
  33. Khris Middleton (Bucks)
  34. Donovan Mitchell (Jazz)
  35. Victor Oladipo (Pacers)
  36. Chris Paul (Thunder)
  37. Mason Plumlee (Nuggets)
  38. Marcus Smart (Celtics)
  39. Jayson Tatum (Celtics)
  40. Klay Thompson (Warriors)
  41. Myles Turner (Pacers)
  42. Kemba Walker (Celtics)
  43. Russell Westbrook (Rockets)
  44. Derrick White (Spurs)