First ever NBA Finals virtual reality highlight packages will be free to fans

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You are not Drake. You will not be sitting courtside when the NBA Finals tip-off Thursday.

However, you can get the perspective of being courtside for every Finals game through a unique virtual reality highlight package available for free to fans this year.

“This is the first time ever, the NBA has done a full slate of highlights for the Finals like this,” said Danny Keens, Vice President of Content at the NBA’s virtual reality partner NextVR told NBC Sports. “And it’s available globally, for anyone with a VR headset.”

NextVR worked with the NBA to produce one game a week this past NBA season in virtual reality — the NBA was the first professional sports league to do that. They did the same thing with the All-Star Saturday night events. Next VR brings special cameras to the game — there will be six at the NBA Finals — ones that are located courtside or on the stanchion behind the basket. The result is the view usually reserved for the one percent — the world’s greatest athletes pushing the ball up court or seeming to crash right into your lap as they attack the rim or throw down a monster dunk.

It works like all VR does — if LeBron James drives and kicks it to Kevin Love in the corner for a three, you turn your head to follow the ball and the field of vision pans with you.

“The incredible thing about watching sports in VR is fans are stepping into the TV to watch the content, removing the fourth wall as it were and unlocking the screen,” Keens said. “It’s a transformational change in how people can watch the game…

“We saw our audiences continued to surge as we went throughout the year, but it’s also that the broadcasts got better as the year went on. We learned a lot in our first year.”

Now there will be a specially-produced highlight package for each NBA Finals game that fans can download and watch the following morning — complete with its own play-by-play calls (not the national broadcast, the VR package has its own team calling the plays). You may well have watched the games, or at least seen the conventional highlights, but this will change the perspective of what you witnessed — just how deep Stephen Curry took a three or just how fast Kyrie Irving was end-to-end with the ball.

To watch requires a Google Daydream View or Samsung GearVR headset, along with a compatible smartphone. Then just download the free NextVR app from the Google Play Store for Daydream or the Oculus Store on GearVR users. There is a special NBA Finals channel now in the NextVR app where the highlight packages will be.

“What’s great about our technology is it transports the fans to these really great seats,” Keens said.

It’s not quite a courtside seat, but it’s the next best thing, and you get to do it from the privacy of your own home.

Raptors’ DeMar DeRozan fined $15,000 for criticizing referees

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The Raptors lost to the Warriors on Saturday, and DeMar DeRozan – despite his own brilliant performance – was irked.

The Toronto guard seemed particularly upset about a review of an out-of-bounds call in the final seconds. After initially giving the ball to the Raptors, officials said it touched DeRozan while he was out of bounds and granted Golden State possession:

The NBA’s replay guidelines say (emphasis mine): “Referees can only initiate a review on a called out-of-bounds play (for example, not one where an out-of-bounds might have occurred) and only those involving doubt as to which player caused the ball to go out (not those, for example, where a player stepped on the line).”

DeRozan

I mean, it’s frustrating being out there feeling like you playing 5-on-8. It’s just what it feel like, period. Some of them calls was terrible, period.

I thought you couldn’t even do that. I’m not even a referee, and I know that rule. So, somebody correct me if I’m wrong.

The NBA corrected him in the two-minute report, saying “After communicating with the Replay Center, the ruling on the floor of Raptors possession is overturned and the Warriors are awarded possession because the ball touches DeRozan’s (TOR) leg while his body is out of bounds before Curry (GSW) knocks the ball out. Referees were able to review two aspects of this out-of-bounds play since they were part of the same sequence.”

Then, the league fined him.

NBA release:

Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan has been fined $15,000 for public criticism of the officiating, it was announced today by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

The comments were made following the Raptors’ 127-125 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Saturday, Jan. 13

Saying “5-on-8” seems to be a secret code word for getting fined. I’m not sure whether the rest of DeRozan’s comments would have gotten him fined, but that phrase almost certainly did him in.

Kyle Lowry on plan to meet Ben Simmons after ejections: ‘Put it this way, I was back there’

AP Photo/Rich Schultz
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As Kyle Lowry and Ben Simmons were ejected late in the 76ers’ win over the Raptors yesterday, the players appeared to challenge each other to meet in back.

Lowry eagerly left the court and headed through the tunnel. Simmons appeared much more reluctant at that point.

Despite a report of a confrontation in the hallway, Simmons said nothing escalated, as he went to his locker room.

Michael Grange of Sportsnet

TKO.

Warriors complained of no hot water in showers in Cleveland

Michael Hickey/Getty Images
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The Cavaliers are clearly frustrated.

Did someone in Cleveland take out that frustration on the Warriors after they beat the Cavs last night?

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

Players were complaining about there being no hot water in the visiting locker room showers. When they walked in, they could be heard screaming in discomfort. Most of the players emerged shivering from taking a quick wash-off.

“Man, they got to do something in ‘The Q.’ Somebody call Bron!” Kevin Durant yelled, referring to LeBron James.

No one seemed angry; the situation was more humorous.

That’s the right approach. Whenever the hot water is out in a visiting locker room, the finger is pointed at the home team for sabotage. Sometimes, heating systems just fail.

Giannis Antetokounmpo assists fastbreak dunk with football-style long snap (video)

AP Photo/Nick Wass
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Giannis Antetokounmpo is scoring more in the post, the basketball analogue of football’s trenches.

Apparently, he’s taking the comparison to the next level.

In the Bucks’ win over the Wizards yesterday, Antetokounmpo played the part of a long-snapping center to set up Khris Middleton in transition.

NBC Sports Washington: