USA Basketball

And-Ones: Marijuana, Team USA, K. Alexander, W. Chandler

After not testing players for marijuana during its summer restart, the NBA will continue to forgo those tests for the 2020/21 season, league sources tell NBA reporter Ben Dowsett (Twitter links).

As Dowsett explains, this decision is largely tied to COVID-19 safety protocols, since testing for marijuana only increases the amount of close contact required for players. Still, Dowsett notes that there’s no guarantee the testing program will ever return in its previous form. The expectation from many people in the league is that marijuana testing may be on the way out, per Dowsett.

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

  • Team USA head coach Gregg Popovich acknowledged this week that putting together the roster for the Tokyo Olympics may be a challenge, given how late the NBA season will run. “The timing does make everything difficult,” Popovich said, per Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. “And it will demand some real soul-searching and out-of-the-box type of thinking to put together the best team we possibly can.”
  • Free agent big man Kyle Alexander, who finished the 2019/20 season on a two-way contract with Miami, has reached an agreement to sign with Baloncesto Fuenlabrada in Spain for the 2020/21 season, the team announced (Spanish link). Alexander made his NBA debut in the Orlando bubble, appearing in two of the Heat’s eight seeding games.
  • has provided a primer on how the 2020/21 NBA season will work, including details on the league’s COVID-19 protocols, the new postseason play-in format, and more.
  • Wilson Chandler, who joined the Zhejiang Lions of the Chinese Basketball Association after finishing last season with the Nets, spoke on an episode of The Realm podcast about why he decided to continue his career in China. Kristian Winfield of The New York Daily News shares some of the highlights from the discussion.

And-Ones: Olympics, Playoff Pay, Coronavirus, J. Young

With the start and end dates for the 2020/21 NBA season still very much up in the air, USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo is having a hard time planning for next year’s Olympics in Tokyo, as Chris Sheridan of writes. Colangelo tells Sheridan that Lakers forward LeBron James and other U.S. stars have conveyed interest in participating in those Olympics, but haven’t been able to commit to anything due to the uncertainty of the schedule.

“I was told the NBA season would start in December, and then it was Christmas, and then after January 1, and that keeps pushing the schedule for me,” Colangelo said. “The NBA season typically takes 170 or 171 days to complete, so that creates a conflict on paper.”

The Tokyo Olympics are scheduled to begin on July 23, with qualifying tournaments for the final four spots in the men’s tournament set to tip off on June 29. If the ’20/21 season runs deep into the summer again, it will compromise the availability of NBA players for Team USA and other countries, but Colangelo remains hopeful that many of those players will be able to participate.

“If the (NBA) season conflicts with the Olympics, I might have 14 non-playoff teams to choose from, but then other players will become available as the NBA playoffs progress,” Colangelo told Sheridan. “The problem is that the ICO has a rule mandating an early submission of a 12-man roster. But with a pandemic, the hope would be that you’ve got to set aside outdated rules. I assume people will be reasonable and come up with some kind of a program that works.”

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

  • The winner of the NBA Finals between the Lakers and Heat will earn $5,791,041 of this year’s league-wide playoff pool money, notes Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. The losing team will divvy up a $4,399,686 share.
  • The NBA, which is hoping to play games in teams’ home arenas during the 2020/21 season, sent a 32-page manual to clubs outlining the cleaning and disinfecting protocols to “reset” those arenas, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).
  • Former Pacers guard Joe Young is returning to the Chinese Basketball Association for the 2020/21 season, signing a deal with the Beijing Royal Fighers, as Nicola Lupo of Sportando relays. After spending three seasons in Indiana from 2015-18, Young has played for the Nanjing Monkey King in China for the last two years.

John Wall Talks Restart, Cousins, Olympics, More

Wizards guard John Wall believes Kyrie Irving has raised some reasonable concerns as NBA players weigh the league’s restart plan this summer. Appearing on The Tuff Juice Podcast with Caron Butler, Wall suggested that he’d have reservations about playing in Orlando even if he were healthy enough to do so.

“For me, if I was playing, I wouldn’t want to go to it, to be honest,” Wall said, per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. “I just don’t feel like it’s safe. I just don’t feel like it is. I understand why they want to do it and what they’re trying to get to, but I wouldn’t want to.”

The Wizards are currently 5.5 games back of a playoff spot and would only force a play-in tournament if they can pull to within four games of either the Magic or the Nets. Even then, Washington would have to win two consecutive games in a play-in tournament in order to claim the No. 8 seed, which Wall seemed to acknowledge will be an uphill battle.

“If I was healthy enough to play, I wouldn’t want to go play,” he said, according to Hughes. “What am I going, just to play eight games? I’m not going for just eight games and then coming back home.”

While it may be somewhat cynical to point out, it’s worth noting that players like Irving and Wall might be more comfortable taking a stand on the issue when injuries will rule them out anyway. If they were fully healthy, it’s possible they’d feel extra pressure not to let down teammates by sitting out.

Here’s more from Wall:

  • In an Instagram Live interview with Marc Spears of The Undefeated on Wednesday, Wall said he’s still encouraging the Wizards to sign his good friend and former Kentucky teammate DeMarcus Cousins. “Oh man, you know I’m trying to push for that,” Wall said (hat tip to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington). “I’ve been on that for like five years. I want to sign him right now.”
  • Wall said that he and GM Tommy Sheppard have discussed the possibility of signing Cousins “here and there,” admitting that it might make sense for the big man to wait until next year to return — like Wall is doing. Cousins is recovering from a torn ACL.
  • During that same interview with Spears, Wall said that he’d like to play for Team USA in the Tokyo Olympics next summer, and has conveyed his interest to USA Basketball (Twitter link via Hughes). The Wizards’ point guard wasn’t one of 44 preliminary Team USA finalists announced in February, but could become a more viable candidate now that the event has been pushed back a year.
  • Wall also discussed the Black Lives Matter movement and other social-justice issues in an interesting conversation with Fred Katz of The Athletic.

Kerr, Nurse, Others Unsure About 2021 Olympic Plans

As the NBA works toward finalizing its rest-of-season schedule for 2019/20 and establishing a new calendar for the 2020/21 league year, one key issue to consider will be whether next season’s schedule overlaps with the Tokyo Olympics. The Tokyo games have been postponed to 2021 and are now set to begin on July 23, which could coincide with the late stages of the NBA’s ’21 postseason.

Avoiding that overlap will likely be a priority for the NBA. Besides the fact that the league won’t want its Finals competing with the Olympics for viewers, there are many NBA players and coaches who expect to participate in the Tokyo Olympics — or in the qualifying tournaments tentatively scheduled to begin on June 29, 2021.

One of those coaches is Steve Kerr of the Warriors, who is still on track to be an assistant on Gregg Popovich‘s Team USA staff. However, as Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press writes, Kerr remains in the dark on how next summer’s schedule will work and whether or not certain NBA personnel will still be involved in the Tokyo games.

“Believe it or not, I haven’t had a single conversation with Pop about that,” Kerr said. “And the reason is because we don’t know. We’ve been talking almost daily now for the last couple of weeks and before that we were speaking once every few weeks. So, we haven’t even had a single conversation because there’s nothing to report.”

Raptors head coach Nick Nurse, who is set to coach a Canadian team vying for an Olympic spot in a qualifying tournament next June, was equally uncertain about how things will play out, Reynolds notes.

“It’s complicated, is my best thought,” Nurse said. “I just don’t know enough to tell you what next season is going to look like. I don’t know. When’s it going to start? I think they’re talking about pushing it back, but I don’t know if they’re going to play games closer together. I don’t think so, that’s kind of a thing that everybody’s been happy that they continue to spread them out and lessen the back-to-backs and all those things.

“But if they do that, then it’s probably going to run into the Olympics, or really close to it, right? Lots of things that I don’t have a crystal ball on.”

[RELATED: Condensed Schedule Possible For 2020/21 Season]

If the NBA can finish its 2020/21 regular season sometime in May, that would give teams and coaches on non-playoff teams time to convene for camps, qualifying tournaments, and the Olympics themselves. But there’s no guarantee that those options will be available to NBA playoff teams, even if the Finals are scheduled to end before July 23.

For instance, if the Raptors and Nuggets make deep playoff runs, Team Canada may not have Nurse or Jamal Murray available for that qualifying tournament in late June. Nikola Jokic also might not get a chance to play for Serbia if Denver is still alive when those qualifying tournaments begin.

For now, the NBA is focused on how to safely complete its 2019/20 season, but the Olympics represent just one of many obstacles that the league will have to sort out once it shifts its attention to future plans.

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.”