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.

Report: Suns send Eric Bledsoe home, expect to trade him

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In a shocking twist, the Suns firing Earl Watson did not end the dysfunction in Phoenix.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7:

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Bledsoe:

That is a first-rate tweet by Bledsoe. It’s great that he’s having fun with the wild situation, because the rest of us sure are amused peering in.

This was always going to be a long season in Phoenix, but things got out of hand in a hurry. The 0-3 Suns have been outscored by 92 – the worst three-game start in NBA history by 16 points. Now, comes the fallout.

At 27, Bledsoe was getting to be a little too old for a rebuild centered on Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender and T.J. Warren. The Suns could have dealt Bledsoe in the offseason. Now, they’re negotiating from a position of weakness.

Bledsoe is a good starting point guard when healthy. He’s earning a reasonable $14.5 million this season and due $15 million in the final year of his contract next season. There should be suitors, and Phoenix can gain long-term assets while stepping up its tank.

But this sure seems like a crisis-control move more than anything else.

Willy Hernangomez ‘mad’ about falling from Knicks rotation

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Knicks president Steve Mills started his second tenure talking about rebuilding and listed Willy Hernangomez as a core piece.

But Hernangomez, coming off an All-Rookie first-team season, barely played in New York’s season-opening loss to the Thunder– drawing scrutiny.

Then, he didn’t play at all in a loss to the Pistons – eliciting a strong reaction from Hernangomez himself.

Hernangomez, via Fred Kerber of the New York Post:

“The same. I’m still mad,” Hernangomez said. “I cannot help the team win if I’m sitting on the bench. Two games in a row. It’s tough. I have to wait my moment. I cannot say nothing more.”

The Knicks are moving in different directions. Management is talking about building for the future. Coach Jeff Hornacek, who was hired by previous president Phil Jackson, is trying to win now.

There’s a fine line between developing Hernangomez through playing time and making him earn his minutes. Enes Kanter and Kyle O'Quinn might be better right now.

But being marginally better this season won’t get the Knicks anywhere meaningful except lower in the lottery. On the other hand, even on rebuilding teams, winning is most important to a coach’s job security. Earl Watson implemented the Suns’ tanking scheme, and look where that got him.

Hornacek is backed into a corner, and now one of the team’s most important young players is publicly expressing his displeasure. It’s the latest troubling sign in a locker room already suspicious of Hornacek.

Report: Eric Bledsoe requested trade from Suns before season

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Suns guard Eric Bledsoe tweeted yesterday:

In light of Phoenix’s 0-3 start and Earl Watson getting fired yesterday, that sure looks like a trade request. Still, there’s risk in making assumptions about vague tweets.

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7:

Why wouldn’t Bledsoe want out? The 27-year-old is in his prime and stuck on a young team that would rather tank than play him.

It’ll be interesting to see how Bledsoe explains the tweet. He previously paid lip service to his situation in Phoenix, but it appears he’s ready to open up. On the other hand, public trade requests typically draw fines from the NBA.

Another Hornets backup PG injured

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Hornets backup point guard Michael Carter-Williamsout.

Nicolas Batum, who handled a lot of playmaking with Charlotte’s second units – out.

Julyan Stone, another Hornets backup point guard – out.

Hornets release:

The Charlotte Hornets announced today that guard Julyan Stone has suffered a Grade 2 strain of his left hamstring. The injury occurred in practice on Sunday, Oct. 22 and he did not travel with the team to Milwaukee.  Stone is listed as out for tonight’s game against the Bucks and his expected recovery time is estimated at four to six weeks.

The Hornets have been outscored by an astounding 35.8 points per 100 possessions without starter Kemba Walker, producing an offensive rating of just 61.4. That’s in just 23 minutes, but the problem dates back to last season, when Charlotte was outscored by 7.0 points per 100 possessions with a 100.7 offensive rating sans Walker.

Now, the Hornets have little choice but to turn to rookie Malik Monk. Monk is a scoring guard, but his 6-foot-3 size means he has at least worked on playing point guard. Is he ready to play the position full-time for a team eying the playoffs. Probably not, but he’ll just have to do his best to keep Charlotte afloat in the few minutes Walker rests.