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NBA sends memo to teams offering suggestions, reminding of rule to stand for anthem

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The NBA has a rule that players have to stand — “in a dignified manner” — for the national anthem.

With the first NBA exhibition games this weekend, and a lot of players who feel that locking arms as was done a year ago may not be enough of a statement, the league — from ownership through the league office, the players union, and of course the players themselves — are discussing how to deal with the wish to protest.

With that, the NBA sent a memo to teams both offering suggestions on engaging the community, ideas such as addressing fans before games, and noting the NBA’s rule players have to stand for the anthem, reports Zach Lowe of ESPN. (NBC Sports also has obtained that memo.)

The memo, distributed by deputy commissioner Mark Tatum, instructs teams that “the league office will determine how to deal with any possible instance in which a player, coach, or trainer does not stand for the anthem.” The memo states that individual teams “do not have the discretion to waive” the rule that players, coaches and staff must stand for the anthem. The league has the discretion to discipline players who violate the rule…

In the memo, Tatum suggests teams might address the current political climate by having players and coaches give a joint pregame address at their first home games.

“This could include a message of unity and how the team is committed to bringing the community together this season,” the memo states. The memo also suggests teams might prepare a video tribute or public service announcement featuring “team leadership speaking about the issues they care about.”

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said this on Thursday at a press conference.

“On the anthem specifically, we have a rule that requires our players to stand for the anthem. It’s been a rule as long as I’ve been involved with the league, and my expectation is that our players will continue to stand for the anthem.”

It should be noted this is a league issue, not one where teams have discretion.

The league has sent multiple memos to teams about ways to engage their community and make a difference rather than just a statement. The majority of the memo sent Friday is the same — it talks about having conversations within the organization, from ownership through the front office and to the players, and finding ways to be active not just protest.

On media day this week, a number of players (and a few coaches) were direct and very critical of President Donald Trump, who has made kneeling at NFL games an issue. Stephen Curry and LeBron James were front and center both criticizing the president on social media and on Sports Illustrated’s “unity” cover. Some NBA owners have concerns about alienating supporters of the president and the NBA has several teams in very red states.

While the memo, when read in its entirety, is not a top-down, authoritarian document, however the parts released may come off that way to players. In some way the leak of the memo made it more powerful a statement to take a knee (or leave during the anthem, as the LA Sparks of the WNBA have done through the playoffs) and even more defiant an act.

Players taking a knee or leaving the floor during an anthem an NBA game would cause a media firestorm and fuel talking heads — particularly on the political right, who can stir their base with this issue — but it would not have the same impact among NBA fans as it did in NFL stadiums. As we have noted many times before, NBA fans trend younger, more urban, and more multicultural than NFL fans. Most NBA fans would look at guys kneeling during the anthem and nod, not boo. Also, it should be noted that the NBA owns the WNBA and there has been no punishment of the Sparks for their anthem protests.

Will NBA fans see guys protesting on Saturday? It’s going to be interesting.

Giannis Antetokounmpo out a couple of games to manage sore knee

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It’s not discussed much, but Giannis Antetokounmpo has a chronically sore knee that has been an issue since last summer. It’s not debilitating, it doesn’t require surgery, but it’s something Antetokounmpo and the Bucks need to actively manage.

Hence, Antetokounmpo is sitting out the next couple of games. From Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Milwaukee Bucks all-star Giannis Antetokounmpo will sit out Saturday night’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers as well as Monday’s home game against the Phoenix Suns as the team actively manages the health of Antetokounmpo’s sore right knee….

Antetokounmpo’s injury, which is not considered to be tendinitis, is regarded as something that is always going to bother him to some extent, according to a league source. There will be days where the discomfort is higher and some when it’s lower, and the team’s goal is to manage that on a daily basis to keep the injury from becoming severe or significant — something it is not considered to be at this point.

Antetokounmpo is going to get eight days of rest this way, which is the smart long-term move for the Bucks.

The challenge is the Bucks may be sixth in the East as you read this, but they are just one game up on the nine seed Pistons. They need to get wins without Antetokounmpo, which is hard because they have been outscored by 10.6 points per 100 possessions. However, they could be without him a lot longer if Antetokounmpo’s knee isn’t managed now.

Kristaps Porzingis: “Players know” he’s All-Star starter

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When picking the East All-Star starters, two of the three frontcourt choices were obvious: LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

For the third slot there were a few players who could make a case. The fans chose Joel Embiid third, Kristaps Porzingis fourth, and Kevin Love fifth. The media also had Embiid third and Porzingis fourth, but Al Horford fifth. That was enough to earn Embiid the starting nod.

The players voted Porzingis third, Embiid fourth, and Andre Drummond fifth. Needless to say, Porzingis thinks the players got it right, as he told Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.

“Players know,” he said. “That’s all I’m going to say.”

If one were cynical, one would note the players also voted for Tyler Cavanaugh and Tyler Zeller, so how much do we trust their vote? Fortunately, we’re above such crass things.

Porzingis is a lock to make his first All-Star Game this year as a reserve (picked by the coaches).

What separated the two? Embiid has been a little more efficient this season, he’s stronger on the boards and had been a bigger defensive presence. Also, the Sixers have a better record than the Knicks, who have stumbled of late. Or, maybe the fans just like Embiid’s big personality more — he’s blowing off Rihanna.

Both of these guys should have a lot of All-Star starts in their future. This year it goes to Embiid.

 

Lakers make 14% of their free throws, win

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Jordan Clarkson‘s free throw rattled around the rim before falling out late in the first quarter. The Los Angeles crowd groaned. The Lakers missed their first five free throws, and the visiting Pacers led by seven.

It appeared to be one of those nights.

And it was. The Lakers shot just 2-for-14 (14%) on free throws Friday. But they still won, 99-86.

That’s the worst free-throw percentage with at least eight attempts by any team and the worst free-throw percentage regardless of attempts by a winning team in the Basketball-Reference database, which dates back to 1963-64.

Here’s the “leaderboard,” winners in purple and losers in gold:

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The Lakers are shooting an NBA-worst 69% on free throws, but last night took the cake. The offenders:

Knicks’ Jeff Hornacek brushes off concerns about job security

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We saw this pattern earlier this season with the Lakers. Young team gets off to a better-than-expected start, shows real promise, but as things move toward the middle of the season they take a step back. As happens with young, developing teams, they are up and down. However, major market media and an impatient fan base wants to blame someone, so the coach is suddenly discussed as having “lost the locker room” and that his job was in jeopardy (a coach not hired by the current GM). Even though in Luke Walton’s case, it wasn’t (and isn’t).

Now that same pattern has come to New York and the Knicks with Jeff Hornacek. The Knicks started 17-14 and had fans prematurely thinking playoffs thanks to a home-heavy schedule. Reality has hit them the past month.

Hornacek tried to brush off questions about his job security in New York, speaking to Stefan Bondy of the New York Post.

Hornacek also believes he has the backing of GM Scott Perry and president Steve Mills, despite being inherited by them as Phil Jackson’s hire.

“We were talking about rebuilding and we got off to a good start because we had a lot of home games,” Hornacek said. “Scott and Steve, everybody’s still on the same page of trying to get our young guys opportunities. We’re still trying to win games. We still want to establish an identity where defensively we’re going to get after it all the time and we’re building toward that. It’s great to have their support…

“I think the expectations come from the players where all of a sudden you hear them talking about, ‘Oh we can make the playoffs.’ We never said that,” Hornacek said. “We said we want to get better and we want to grow. Part of our talk was you can’t worry about the results. You just got to go out there and if you do your best and try to improve the results will come. When you start thinking about win or lose all of a sudden your mentality becomes different. We got to get back to that.”

Is Hornacek the long-term answer in New York? I don’t know. However, finally unchained from the pseudo-triangle disaster Phil Jackson imposed, he has done a solid job this season, putting Kristaps Porzingis in better spots to lead this roster. The Knicks are projected to win around 38 games at this point (according to Cleaning the Glass), and they have about a 14 percent chance of making the playoffs still (according to fivethiryeight.com). Heading into the season, that would have been about anyone’s best-case scenario for this team.

Not that it matters when you’re coach of the Knicks — job security speculation comes with every paycheck. It just isn’t deserved in this case.