Courtesy Providence College

Brandon Austin working out in Philly, but after two reported sexual assaults in college will NBA teams have interest?

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A few years back, Brandon Austin was the kind of player NBA scouts and teams had their eyes on has he worked through high school toward college, he was considered a top 50 recruit in his class. But after being accused of sexual assaults at both his first college, Providence, and his second one, Oregon, he hasn’t played major college ball and he slid some off the NBA radar.

He is currently working out at the Philadelphia 76ers facility — with the team not for them, as reported by Jessica Camerato at CSNPhilly.com — and thanks to an arbitration ruling any NBA team can sign him without fear of fines or suspensions for the player, reports Zach Lowe at ESPN.

Austin’s effort to begin his NBA career has been facilitated by a secret arbitration ruling, meted out in October and pertaining to two players — Austin and one unnamed player — who have faced sex assault or domestic violence allegations, according to sources familiar with the ruling….

Last summer, the league sent a memo to all 30 teams instructing any team interested in signing either player to call the NBA office, sources say. Teams that called were told about the allegations, and that the players could face discipline — including suspensions or fines — in the event any team signed them, sources say. No NBA or D-League team did.

The National Basketball Players Association filed an arbitration claim arguing that the memo had a chilling effect, and that the league had overstepped its bounds by telling teams it could discipline players for past allegations, sources say. The arbitrator agreed with the union that the league could not fine or suspend the players going forward based on prior allegations, sources say. The league sent teams a follow-up memo clarifying that after the ruling.

This is not a simple case for the league.

Austin was banned from playing on two campuses for sexual assault charges, and considering how many colleges sweep athletes committing sexual assault under the rug that is very concerning. However, in neither case was he charged with a crime by police in that city, in both cases officials cited a lack of evidence. I’ll just say, as a former court/crime/police reporter, sexual assault charges can be tough to get a conviction on — because it’s often he said/she said, and the trial can become about victim blaming — so prosecutors are slow to take them on. It’s a crime far too many people get away with because of the challenges in landing a conviction.

The NBA has had its own issues about looking soft on domestic violence, so this is a situation where it tried to be proactive. But again, no conviction, and everything happened prior to Austin being considered for the NBA, so how much can the NBA really do in this case?

As is the case in all pro sports, talent can win out over morality for teams — if Austin shows real potential as an NBA player, some team will take a chance on him. Is he that good? Should he play in Europe/China for a year or two to prove he’s ready? Those are questions only teams can answer.

What the arbitrator did is clear a path for Austin if he has the talent.

 

 

Sixers new “Spirit of 76” court is fire

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First, the Sixers nailed the Nike “statement” jersey.

Now, they have announced a new “Spirit of 76” promotion, with seven tribute nights this season honoring the history of the franchise and of the Philadelphia area (and there is plenty of history to honor).

The best part — the “Spirit of 76” court with the bell logo.

Here is the promo vid

I just hope the Sixers team can live up to all the hype.

Wizards’ Markieff Morris to have sports hernia surgery, miss start of camp

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When the Washington Wizards open training camp next Tuesday, starting forward Markieff Morris will not be on the court.

That’s because he will have surgery to repair a sports hernia, a story broken by Candice Buckner of the Washington Post and since confirmed by Chase Hughes at CSNMidAtlantic.com.

While we don’t have details on the surgery, often recovery time for this is just a few weeks, and Morris could well be ready for the start of the season.

Morris averaged 14 points and 6.5 rebounds a game last season, and the Wizards offense was 5.7 points per 100 possessions better when he was on the court last season. With him out, coach Scott Brooks can lean on Jason Smith or Mike Scott for traditional lineups, but don’t be shocked if he tries a little small ball with Otto Porter and/or Kelly Oubre at the three or four.

Morris also is in the midst of a felony assault trial in Arizona (one where he does not need to attend).

Sixers enter camp with Joel Embiid not cleared for 5-on-5, Jahlil Okafor on trade block

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This is the season the 76ers make the leap from team with potential to playoff team fast on the rise.

Maybe.

That’s the plan in Philly, but there are a lot of questions for this team to answer. While a couple of these issues are answered already — Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz are cleared to play and practice with teammates — a couple big ones still hang around. At the top of the list is “how healthy is Joel Embiid?” Coach Brett Brown doesn’t even have that answer yet, reports Derek Bodner of The Athletic.

It’s this simple: The Sixers outscored opponents by 3.3 points per 100 possessions when Embiid was on the court last season, he was a dominant force defensively who scored 20.2 points a game. When he was off the court the Sixers were 11.5 points per 100 possessions worse. They need him to play and play consistently if the Sixers have playoff dreams. It’s unclear when Embiid will return, but know that the Sixers will be cautious with his minutes again when he does get cleared (he has played just 31 games in three seasons).

Does that mean more Jahlil Okafor? Maybe not, the Sixers are still willing to trade him.

The Sixers have shopped Okafor for most of a year and found no deal they like. Okafor battled knee issues last season and, after a summer working to get healthy, other teams will want to see him play a little before talking trade. If he comes to camp slimmed down and his knee looks right, it could revive trade talks. Using a back-to-the-basket game, he averaged 11.8 points a night shooting 51 percent last season, he’s efficient, and some teams could use what he does (off the bench).

It’s going to be an interesting season in Philly. Are they playoff bound?

Report: Warriors “perplexed” by Kevin Durant’s offseason fighting old battles

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Kevin Durant made his move to Golden State last summer — it was an emotional, wrenching decision for him — and it went as well as he could have dreamed. He felt at home. He’s got a ring (or will have one on opening night), he was Finals MVP, and he not only strengthened his legacy with a title, but also helped it out by taking a paycut that made it easier for the Warriors to keep their core together this summer.

So why is he living in the past? Why release a shoe line taking shots at his detractorsWhy did he blast his former organization on Twitter? Sure, he apologized, but why slide back down that rabbit hole? For that matter, why take a shot at Stephen Curry’s shoe line?

Chris Mannix at The Vertical at Yahoo Sports said some with the Warriors are wondering the same thing.

But make no mistake: Many in Golden State, team officials and players alike, have taken note of Durant’s oddball offseason and are perplexed by it. They see a bright future for Durant in Oakland, league and team sources told The Vertical, and are bewildered as to why he is still addressing his past.

Oklahoma City will always be in Durant’s DNA, but it’s time for him to move on. Slapping around a team that was loyal to him, even in rejection, is a bad look. He’s a Warrior, and the possibilities for this Golden State team are endless. He can win championships, can win awards, can build one of the great dynasties in NBA history. The Thunder are doing their thing. Durant should forget about them, and do his.

This will all blow over. Soon the season will start, Durant and the Warriors will look dominant, and this will all seem like a minor distraction in the deadest part of the offseason. The focus will be on the rings.

But if you want an answer as to why, Durant’s response to a YouTube comment to someone who told him “who cares what other people think, just do you.” (Hat tip For the Win.)

…of my stature, I play basketball, I got acne, I grew up with nothing, in still figuring myself out in my late 20, I slide in DMs, I make fun of my friends, I drink beers and play Xbox. I’m closer to you than u think

Durant still can be a little immature, still wants to be a regular guy, and just like a regular guy he wants to be liked. And like a lot of people, he snaps at people when he knows he should just let it go and rise above. Maybe that will come with the lessons of this offseason.