Memphis may not blow it up after Conley extension

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As we mentioned Friday night, Chris Broussard of ESPN reported Friday night that the Nuggets are not interested in the deal the Knicks were trying to put together which would land them Carmelo Anthony, with O.J. Mayo going to Denver. It’s a major sigh of relief for Grizzlies fans who would have been doubly-screwed in such a trade. They would have been used as a cash dump for the two teams, while trading Mayo solely so that owner Michael Heisley wouldn’t deal with criticism for not re-signing him when he becomes a restricted free agent in 2012.

It’s a close call because multiple sources in Memphis confirmed that Memphis GM Chris Wallace has long been interested in both J.R. Smith of Denver and Anthony Randolph of the Knicks. Both of those players could be disastrous in Memphis, as an Anthony Randolph-Hasheem Thabeet combination would resort in quite possibly the lowest basketball IQ between two players in the history of the league and bringing J.R. Smith to Memphis, Tennessee alongside Zach Randolph and Tony Allen would be like throwing a fire cracker down a mine shaft covered in nitroglycerin with live ammunition at the bottom, no matter how great a force in the community Randolph has been. (It should also be noted several reports have stated Randolph was the voice of reason in the Tony Allen-O.J. Mayo dispute and he’s had no issues since joining the Grizzlies. None.)

For New York, it’s back to holding the line, unwilling to give up too much of a playoff team to get Melo, knowing full well they may have the opportunity to simply snatch him up in free agency. It’s a hard bargain Donnie Walsh is trying to drive, but he knows he can’t get desperate. After all, that’s Billy King’s job, apparently.

Meanwhile, Alan Hahn of Newsday reports that the Grizzlies fully intend to match any offer for Marc Gasol in free agency. That sound you hear is the biggest sigh of relief ever from the Grizzlies contingent (and yes, they have fans, thanks). Keeping Gasol is far and away more important to the Grizzlies than keeping Mayo, despite Mayo’s upside and scoring punch. Gasol is a rising center in the league, already a borderline All-Star and with a bigger role without Zach Randolph potentially, could be an even bigger star if not asked to simply facilitate the offense, which he already does extremely well.

These two moves together could help Heisley to keep his promise that he would keep the core of the Grizzlies together, including Zach Randolph, should he decide to commit the money to this team. But for that to happen three things have to happen. One, the Grizzlies have to make the playoffs, to get the town to give a crap about them. Second, the fans have to start coming to the actual games. And finally, they have to not receive a better offer for Mayo. Because it’s clear they’re shopping him, despite what they say publicly. It’s a good not great core for the Grizzlies, but it’s got massive potential with Rudy Gay becoming a star and Mike Conley turning into a legit point guard. With some upgrades they could compete. But that’s if the team doesn’t detonate it first. These two reports give the fans hope that won’t happen.

Must watch: Lonzo Ball halfcourt alley-oop to Zion Williamson

Lonzo Ball Zion Williamson
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Damn. This is just a thing of beauty.

Lonzo Ball and Zion Williams have a connection on the court and the Grizzlies got a look at it up close and personal Monday.

NBA TV has another angle

In a must-win game for 0-2 New Orleans, Zion played more in the first half than we have seen recently, but he was still under 10 minutes total. He had 11 points on 5-of-11 shooting, leading an energized Pelicans team that led by seven at the half.

Thunder’s Dennis Schroder leaves bubble for birth of child

Dennis Shroder child
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Dennis Schroder was not in uniform when Oklahoma City lost to Denver Monday. He wasn’t even in Orlando.

Schroder left the bubble to be with his wife for the birth of his child, something the team knew was coming but came up suddenly Monday morning, coach Billy Donovan said pregame (reporting from ESPN’s Dave McMenamin inside the bubble).

 

“I’m not gonna leave my wife by herself while she’s having a second baby,” Schroder said when he talked about this with reporters previously. “(Dennis) Jr. is still 17 months old, so I’m for sure gonna go there and support her and try as much as I can to be there for my family.”

Congratulations to the Schroder family, we hope everyone is happy and healthy.

The Thunder will miss Schroder while he’s gone. He is a Sixth Man of the Year candidate averaging 19 points per game while shooting 38.1% from three. The Thunder are at their most dangerous when Schroder is paired with Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a rotation that we will not see for a while.

The first round of the playoffs starts Aug. 17. Schroder can return to the team, the question is how long he will be in quarantine when he does. If Schroeder has a negative coronavirus test for seven consecutive days before his return, he will be in quarantine for four days. If he does not get tested, or if he exposes himself to the virus unnecessarily while outside the bubble — for example, picking up wings from a strip club for dinner — he will have a 10-day quarantine.

The Thunder could use him for what will be a tight first-round playoff series in a very balanced West. Schroder may or may not be there, he has higher priorities right now.

Oklahoma state Rep. threatens to increase Thunder’s taxes for kneeling during national anthem

Oklahoma City Thunder kneel during national anthem
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The Oklahoma City Thunder – like all NBA teams (minus a few individuals) – kneeled during the national anthem.

That powerful protest calls attention to racism, particularly through police brutality. It is highly patriotic to work toward ending those shameful practices. Though some have distorted the underlying message, the protests have largely worked. In the years since Colin Kaepernick first kneeled, Americans have developed a heightened sensitivity to racism and police brutality.

Of course, there are still many opponents of anthem kneeling. The demonstration causes a visceral reaction (which is also why it has been so effective). At this point, it’s hard to stand out among the critics of anthem kneeling who keep making the same, tired arguments.

Oklahoma state representative Sean Roberts found a way.

Roberts, via Oklahoma’s News 4:

“By kneeling during the playing of the national anthem, the NBA and its players are showing disrespect to the American flag and all it stands for. This anti-patriotic act makes clear the NBA’s support of the Black Lives Matter group and its goal of defunding our nation’s police, its ties to Marxism and its efforts to destroy nuclear families.

If the Oklahoma City Thunder leadership and players follow the current trend of the NBA by kneeling during the national anthem prior to Saturday’s game, perhaps we need to reexamine the significant tax benefits the State of Oklahoma granted the Oklahoma City Thunder organization when they came to Oklahoma. Through the Quality Jobs Act, the Thunder is still under contract to receive these tax breaks from our state until 2024.

Perhaps these funds would be better served in support of our police departments rather than giving tax breaks to an organization that supports defunding police and the dissolution of the American nuclear family.”

This is outrageous.

It’s outrageous that the Thunder get such a targeted tax break. The franchise is a private company that should succeed or fail based on its own merits. While it’s easy for NBA fans (like readers of this site) to get caught up in the league, professional basketball isn’t actually important for the greater good.

It’s outrageous that a company’s tax status could depend on how its employees exercise their freedom of expression. The First Amendment still exists.

Ultimately, Roberts almost certainly doesn’t have the power to do what he’s threatening. This is grandstanding for political gain. It gets Roberts into national headlines and little else. Mission accomplished, I guess.

So, Roberts builds a reputation as another big-government politician – someone who wants to use the heavy hand of government to dissuade free expression.

NBA referee Brent Barnaky explains standing for the national anthem

NBA referee Brent Barnaky
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Magic forward Jonathan Isaac, Heat big Meyers Leonard and Spurs coaches Gregg Popovich and Becky Hammon drew plenty of attention for standing during the national anthem while nearly all NBA players, coaches and referees kneeled.

Referee Brent Barnaky also stood.

Tim Bontemps of ESPN:

This isn’t much of an explanation. Nor does it need to be. Barnaky explained that he wasn’t countering the message of kneeling players (opposing racism, particularly through police brutality). That’s sufficient for Barnaky to maintain his neutral positioning – important for an official.

For decades, nearly everyone stood for the national anthem. For many people, that was just about following norms. Even NBA players espousing social-justice messaging previously stood for the national anthem.

But Colin Kaepernick’s brave defiance caused some people to thoughtfully consider their national-anthem posture. So, while many people continued to stand for the national anthem because that’s just was done, some made deliberate choices based on their own values. Sometimes, that led to kneeling. Sometimes, that led to standing.

The thoughtful standers blended into the crowd… until kneeling became widespread in the NBA. Now, they’re the noticeable outliers within the league.

It can take courage to go against the grain. I commend Barnaky for that – and for voicing his support for social justice and peaceful protest.

Barnaky made a personal choice that can stand alone. It doesn’t undermine what anyone else is doing.