WNBA

NBA Remains Optimistic About 2019/20 Season Even With Further Delay

The overwhelming majority of high-level executives remain encouraged and optimistic that the NBA will resume this season, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com.

Commissioner Adam Silver has maintained a strong relationship with the National Basketball Players Association as all parties aim to return to basketball. Still, there are many hurdles to overcome in order to resume the season.

Silver previously said that no decision will be made before May 1. That doesn’t mean the commissioner will be making any announcements on Friday, though there’s a bit of restlessness within the league to come to a decision sooner than later, Woj notes.

The MGM Grand in Las Vegas is one of several suitors pitching a plan to host the league. Vegas could potentially also host the WNBA by providing three adjacent hotels for teams to stay at. Disney World in Orlando, Florida remains an option that is gaining momentum. Another proposal would see games played in “pods” across different regions.

Having fans in the stands is probably out of the question. Having cameramen may not be needed either, as sources tell Wojnarowski that the teams could rely on robotic cameras with new, innovative angles of the contests.

TV analysts could potentially call games from remote locations. The current discussions have included keeping teams at a 30-to-35 person head count, including players.

There is some support for the 2020/21 season to begin in December and run through July or August, as a way of resuming the 2019/20 season without dramatically hindering the league’s ability to complete the full ’20/21 calendar. There’s also the understanding that the further the NBA pushes this season back, the higher the chances of having fans in the stands at some point.

The NBA is still sorting out scenarios, but Silver may have to push forward with a decision without the backing of everyone. One GM told Woj that “it’s hard to lead by consensus in a crisis.” Silver may have to simply act in what he feels are the best interests of all parties, even if there are some that have different preferences.

Testing for the coronavirus is another issue. Silver has insisted that he couldn’t allow for the NBA to utilize all the available tests and – according to Woj – has instituted a mandate stating that if a player wasn’t showing symptoms, he shouldn’t be tested. Woj reports that the league would have to reverse course on that and that it would take approximately 15,000 tests to complete the season. While the NBA can afford to pay a private company to make those tests, it would be problematic for the league if they’re not widely available to the American public.

It’s nearing two months since the league suspended its season and the urgency to come to a solution continues to rise.

WNBA Postpones Training Camps, 2020 Season

The WNBA announced today in a press release that it has postponed the opening of its training camps and the start of the 2020 season, which had been scheduled to tip off on May 15. Although the league didn’t make it official until today, the move was long expected due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“While the league continues to use this time to conduct scenario-planning regarding new start dates and innovative formats, our guiding principle will continue to be the health and safety of the players, fans, and employees,” commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement.

Considering the NBA isn’t expected to have a chance to resume until June or July at the earliest, it’s safe to say the same is true of the WNBA. Like the NBA, the women’s league figures to explore experimental ideas and pragmatic solutions – including the possibility of playing behind closed doors – as it looks to salvage its season.

Despite the fact that the WNBA season has been delayed indefinitely, the league will move forward with its draft on April 17, two weeks from today. Instead of being an in-person event, the 2020 draft will be virtual, with prospects taking part remotely.

Depending on how the COVID-19 situation evolves in the coming months, it’s possible the NBA will have to take similar steps with its own draft, which is still tentatively scheduled for June 25.

And-Ones: Bogut, 2020 FAs, WNBA Draft, Curly Neal

Andrew Bogut, former Warriors center and current Sydney Kings center in Australia’s NBL, spoke with The Athletic’s Ethan Strauss about the NBL Grand Final series that was canceled mid-series due to the coronavrius, as well as the NBA’s prospects for a resumption of the 2019/20 season.

“We were one of the last leagues left in the world playing,” Bogut said of the NBL. “You know, we had players from other countries in our league, American players, as they were closing the borders? We had guys on the team who had sick relatives. Grandparents they might not see again because of the coronavirus.”

There’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Though the 2020 free agent class may not be as starry as 2019’s (or as 2021’s promises to be), there are plenty of big men who could abet a contender, as Danny Leroux of The Athletic details in an appraisal of the available power forwards and centers. Lakers All-Star center Anthony Davis may be the only maximum-salaried free agent option, but solid players like Davis Bertans, Montrezl Harrell, Derrick Favors, Jerami Grant, Paul Millsap, and Christian Wood all could earn more than the non-taxpayer mid-level exception ($9.8MM) this summer.
  • The WNBA will hold a virtual draft on its originally scheduled date, April 17 (it will air live on ESPN), according to an official league press release. The novel coronavirus outbreak precludes the draft being held with in-person attendance.
  • Longtime Harlem Globetrotter Fred “Curly” Neal has passed away at the age of 77, according to the Globetrotters’ official Twitter account (link). Neal is just one of five Globetrotters to have their jersey numbers retired and aloft in the rafters of Madison Square Garden, as NBC Sports’ Kurt Helin noted.

And-Ones: Mannion, Beilein, WNBA, Pitino

Arizona point guard Nico Mannion, one of the top college players in the country, has not made a decision on whether or not his first season as a Wildcat will be his last, despite reports to the contrary, per Sam Vecenie of The Athletic (Twitter link).

“He will make that decision after the season,” the 19-year-old’s father Pace Mannion told Vecenie on March 8. With the NCAA season officially canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that determination may be coming up sooner than the Mannion family was anticipating.

There’s more from around the basketball world:

  • After resigning as Cavaliers head coach last month, John Beilein was hired as an analyst for the Big Ten Network studio team ahead of the anticipated start of the Big Ten Conference Tournament and March Madness, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. With the NCAA season canceled, Beilein may not have much to analyze for a while. Though Beilein is the winningest coach in Michigan basketball history, he struggled in the NBA, coaching the Cavaliers to a 14-40 record during 2019/20.
  • Rick Pitino will return to college coaching at Iona College, per Forbes’ Adam Zagoria.“My passion in basketball started in New York and will end there at Iona College,” Pitino said. Pitino has been coaching Greek EuroLeague club Panathinaikos since 2018. He last coached in the NCAA for the University of Louisville from 2001-2017.
  • WNBA executive director Terri Jackson spoke with Mark Medina of USA Today about the coronavirus and president Donald Trump’s travel ban precluding foreign nationals from traveling to the US from most European countries. Several WNBA players spend their offseasons overseas to supplement their earnings with more lucrative paydays from the international leagues. “Understanding [President Trump’s European] travel ban and understanding what came out of the White House is tough to grapple with,” Jackson told Medina.

Basketball Hall Of Fame Selects Eight Finalists

The Basketball Hall of Fame has selected eight finalists for the 2020 class. This year’s Hall-of-Famers will be officially announced in April. Let’s take a look at the candidates:

Kobe Bryant

Bryant, who tragically passed away late last month, helped the Lakers bring home five NBA championships. He took home the Finals MVP on two of those occasions. He was selected to 18 NBA All-Star games during his career in Los Angeles.

Tim Duncan

Duncan, who is currently an assistant coach with the Spurs, brought San Antonio five NBA championships during his time in the league. He won Finals MVP three times and was named to 15 All-Star games.

Kevin Garnett

Garnett won a championship upon arriving in Boston. Over the course of his career, the big man was named to 15 NBA All-Star games and nine All-Defensive First Teams. He played for the Wolves, Celtics, and Nets in his career.

Tamika Catchings

Catchings won a WNBA championship during her time with the Indiana Fever. She was selected to 10 WNBA All-Star games and won four Olympic Gold Medals for Team USA during her playing days.

Rudy Tomjanovich

Tomjanovich is just one of three coaches to win an NBA championship and an Olympic gold medal. He coached the Rockets to two championships in the early 90’s and had a nice career as a player prior to that, as he was selected to five NBA All-Star games.

Kim Mulkey

Mulkey is the first person to win a National Championship as a player, assistant coach, and head coach. She played point guard for Louisiana Tech in the early 80’s and has coached at both Louisiana Tech and Baylor.

Eddie Sutton

Sutton coached in the college ranks for 36 years. He was the coach of the year four times in his career and he took two different teams—Arkansas, Oklahoma State (2x)—to the Final Four.

Barbara Stevens

Stevens is only the fifth coach in NCAA women’s basketball history to achieve over 1,000 career wins. She has led Clark University, UMass, and Bentley throughout her coaching career.

And-Ones: WNBA, Wade, Two-Way Candidates

The WNBA and its players union have reached a landmark labor deal, announcing the tentative eight-year agreement today, as Doug Feinberg of The Associated Press outlines.

The new Collective Bargaining Agreement will increase the average and maximum salaries for players while enhancing standards and benefits related to travel and maternity leave. The deal, which has been approved by players and still must be ratified by owners, includes a 50-50 revenue sharing split beginning in 2021.

“I call it historic,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said. “The CBA guarantees substantial (financial) increases. The way we are paying these players is different than the past. … The top couple players are tripling (in pay) where they were. Other players are making $200-300K. The average will be over $130K. Everyone gets an increase here.”

The WNBA is also introducing a mid-season competition called the Commissioner’s Cup, per Mechelle Voepel of ESPNW. The event could be a mini-preview of what’s to come in the NBA, where commissioner Adam Silver has pushed the idea of an in-season tournament.

“We will designate Cup games the first half of the season leading into the Olympic break this year,” Engelbert said. “And then [for] the two teams with the best records, we will have a final in August as our first game back to re-launch the season. In 2020, the cash prizes will be more moderate, but in 2021, we’re going to step them up as we seek sponsors.”

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

WNBA Players Could Sit Out Next Season

The WNBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement will expire in October at the end of the league’s season and the players are concerned about the future of the league, as Kimberly Cataudella of Newsday relays.

Liberty’s Tina Charles said that “sitting out the season is always an option.” Other players have echoed that sentiment.

Both sides are optimistic that a deal will be done in time for next season. The WNBA negotiations will focus on the league’s vision for the future as well as pay structure and benefit concerns.

“The reality is that we have to make a living,” WNBA legend Sue Bird said. “We have categories that we have highlighted as a union, areas that we really want to see the change in, and salary is No. 1.”

According to Cataudella, the WNBA’s base salary is about $75,000 and average compensation is $116,000. Players also receive benefits such as insurance and housing.

Average attendance in the WNBA is down and the league lost $12MM in 2018. Last year, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said that “on average, (the WNBA) has lost over $10MM every year” of existence.

Northwest Notes: Nuggets, Bird, Westbrook, Presti

Keeping his young core group together is enough to make the Nuggets a prime Western Conference contender, general manager Arturas Karnisovas told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on “The Woj Pod” (hat tip to the Denver Post’s Mike Singer).

“Definitely we’re banking on our continuity,” the Nuggets GM said. “A lot of teams that made changes and added huge pieces and stars, they’re still dealing in hypotheticals. We’ve watched this group show us last year, take us to a 54-28 season, having the best home record, 34-7, so this group is (established) and they’re still the third youngest group in the league.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Longtime WNBA star Sue Bird has a wide variety of duties as a basketball operations associate with the Nuggets during her league’s offseason, as Alex Coffey of The Athletic details. She observes games and practices, sits in on front office meetings, watches film and helps scouting college and international players. She also provided advice to point guard Monte Morris, which he found insightful. “She helped me stay encouraged when things were getting tough,” Morris said. “She would tell me things she noticed in how I played. It wasn’t always positive. There were times when she was like, ‘This guy’s guarding you this way. Try to counter him this way.’ Just little things like that.”
  • The Thunder have lost superstars before but the trade of Russell Westbrook to the Rockets has left a void, as Brett Dawson of The Athletic details. The bond between Westbrook and the city was stronger than any other star player.
  • Thunder GM Sam Presti remains hopeful the team can be fairly competitive next season despite trading away Westbrook and Paul George, Nick Gallo of the team’s website writes. “It’s going to be a different iteration of Thunder team than we’ve seen over the last several years,” Presti said. “The way we were able to pivot has given us the opportunity to have a much brighter future going forward and still have a team coming back this season that we feel good about.”

WNBA Lands Major TV Deal

The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) announced that it has a multi-year contract with CBS Sports for the network to televise live WNBA games starting in the 2019 season, according to the league’s website.

“Through our partnership with CBS Sports Network, the WNBA is joining an elite lineup of premium sports programming,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “We thank CBS Sports for making such a meaningful commitment to women’s basketball and for providing another platform to showcase the world-class athletes of the WNBA.”

There will be 40 live, nationally-televised WNBA games in prime time and on weekends on the network, with the first game on May 25 when the Minnesota Lynx take on the Chicago Sky. The league is entering its 23rd season.

“We are truly excited to partner with the WNBA, bringing the country’s premier women’s sports league to CBS Sports Network. This partnership is one of the biggest and most impactful women’s sports programming arrangements ever at CBS Sports, offering national exposure of 40 games per year,” said Sean McManus, Chairman, CBS Sports.

“This agreement provides great live content throughout the summer in primetime and on weekends, and aligns two great brands in the WNBA and CBS Sports. We look forward to working with the WNBA for many years to come.”