Could lockout hurt NBA charity efforts when season does start?

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The NBA really stepped up both its charitable efforts and the public relations machine promoting those efforts after the “malice at the Palace” brawl back in 2004. The league had serious image issues with many thinking that all NBA players were thugs ready to punch fans. Things like NBA Cares are designed to counter that image.

The league is taking another PR hit right now for this ridiculous lockout. When it ends, community involvement from players will be part of the image rehabilitation effort.

Except the players may want no part of that, reports David Aldridge at NBA.com.

There is incredible anger among players just under the surface. Anger at having to give up hundreds of millions of dollars, of course, but also anger stemming from their feeling that they aren’t being treated as partners by the owners, but as employees… But that anger, no matter what side of the divide you are on, is real, and it threatens to do great damage to the league well after the lockout is over. I cannot tell you how furious players are that this lockout continues….

Over and over in the last two weeks, I have heard the same refrain from players and agents, from big markets and small ones, max guys and minimum salaried guys. You can forget asking about community service work. You can forget asking for cooperation for NBA Cares. Basketball Without Borders? Don’t even ask…

And one agent intimated that players who would normally try to gut their way through injuries and assorted other hurts now will wait until they’re 100 percent before returning to the court. Why should they jeopardize their careers, the agent asked, when the owners obviously care nothing about them?

Ugh.

Most players have a certain number of team appearances written into their contract (the have to do a preset number of charity events a year with the team). Many players have gone will above and beyond that trying to help the team, league and the community.

But if the players feel like 9-5 employees, they are going to start punching the clock like them. Once they are out the door they will stop caring about the team and league.

Just another ugly spinoff from this lockout.

Watch Pacers fan boo Paul George during introductions (video)

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Paul George – who told the Pacers he’d leave in free agency, prompting them to trade him to the Thunder – expected boos in his return to Indiana.

Pacers fans delivered.

They’ve also booed him every time he has touched the ball, which will certainly persist.

John Wall returns for Wizards-Grizzlies

AP Photo/Nick Wass
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Point guard John Wall was in the Washington Wizards’ lineup Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies after missing nine games with a sore left knee.

Coach Scott Brooks said Wall would play in the mid-20-minute range, perhaps a bit more.

The Wizards (14-13), currently in first place in the Southeast Division, went 4-5 in Wall’s absence.

“He such a force offensively,” Brooks said of Wall. “He’s a two-way player and he’s one of the few guys in the league that can find open 3-point shooters going 100 miles an hour in transition.”

Wall, 27, is averaging 20.3 points and 9.2 assists per game.

Pacers president Kevin Pritchard likes tweets critical of Paul George trade

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Pacers general manager Kevin Pritchard was widely panned – including by me – for trading Paul George for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.

Oops.

Oladipo and Sabonis are killing it while George has underwhelmed.

Upon George’s return to Indiana, Pritchard took the opportunity to gloat. The Pacers general manager recently liked these tweets (hat tip: Matt Ellentuck of SB Nation):

This is petty – and I love it. Pritchard earned the victory lap.

Report: Rival executives still expect Paul George to leave Thunder for Lakers

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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Paul George has been pretty open about his plans.

He told plenty of people – including the Pacers – he planned to leave for the Lakers in the summer of 2018. Even after the Thunder traded for him, George spoke of the lure of playing for his hometown team.

Of course, George also left the door open to re-signing with Oklahoma City. He proclaimed he’d be dumb to leave if the Thunder reached the conference finals or upset the Warriors.

So far, Oklahoma City (12-14) doesn’t even look like a playoff lock, let alone a team capable of knocking off Golden State or reaching the conference finals. So, cue the inevitable speculation.

Sam Amick of USA Today:

Rival execs still expect Paul to head for the Lakers in free agency

Do these executives have inside information into George’s thinking, or are they just speculating based on already-available information? Some executives are incentivized to drum up the Lakers threat, because they want to trade for George themselves now. If these executives insist George will leave for Los Angeles regardless, they might pry him from Oklahoma City for less.

There’s also a theory George is hyping his desire to sign with the Lakers so a team would have to trade less for him. That got him to the Thunder for what looked like a meager return (but hasn’t been). It might get him to a more favorable situation before the trade deadline without hampering his next team long-term. Of course, this theory isn’t mutually exclusive with George actually signing in Los Angeles. It could just get him better options to choose from this summer.

Surely, the Thunder are trying to parse all this noise. If their season doesn’t turn around, they should explore flipping George rather than risk losing him for nothing next summer. But they should also be wary that he’ll bolt for Los Angeles at first opportunity just because rival executives predict it.