NBA Draft Combine news and notes

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The NBA Draft Combine in Chicago is a big deal, and it isn’t.

For a guy like Kyrie Irving, him basically skipping the event other than to get measured doesn’t matter. He did have 10.2 percent body fat, pretty high for a guard, and that doesn’t matter. He will go No. 1 to Cleveland anyway. Most of the top prospects skipped out on the drills, something that will not impact their draft status if they look good in individual workouts going forward.

But for other guys father down the list, this can move them up in the draft, drop them or get them noticed at all.

After two days of reading Draft Express, watching the ESPN coverage and looking at everything else here are some notes of guys who got noticed at the combine. Follow this link to the full list of measurements from the combine.

• Enes Kanter, center, Turkey: You remember his as the guy who went to Kentucky but couldn’t play because he’d played for a professional team in Turkey at 16. Because he basically hasn’t played anywhere outside of the NIKE Hoop Summit in the last two years, scouts and GMs were watching closely. What they saw was pretty impressive athleticism, good touch, not much on the defensive end. What he did was probably work as hard or harder than any other center out there. That matters.

But there are also a report from Andy Katz of ESPN that Kanter stood up the Utah Jazz, Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee bucks for interviews. The Jazz are the team with the No. 3 pick. Interesting, and there are rumors he doesn’t want to play for them. Remember that Utah tried to chase Chris Paul around for an interview back in the day, and the fact they got sick of it was part of the reason they took Deron Williams ahead of him.

• Jeremy Tyler, center, he’s been everywhere: You may remember this story, Tyler was one of the leading prep prospects as a junior in San Diego and he skipped his senior year of high school and all of college to play overseas. Where he was almost invisible in Israel and Japan, not impressing in not very good leagues. He’s got size — 6’10” with a 7’5” wingspan — and he just looks like an NBA player. There is some real buzz about him as he showed of a respectable midrange game and worked hard at the combine. That said his skill set seems to need a lot of work and after he floundered in mediocre leagues there should be questions. Might be a good second round pick as a project, he could develop into a rotation player (but expect a year in the D-League for him).

Nikola Vucevic, center, USC: He was the tallest player at the combine, 6’11” and 3/4, plus he showed surprising skill around the basket. Big, NBA ready body. Most people think he was a second rounder going in, but big men tend to move up as the draft gets closer, don’t be shocked to see him late in the first round.

• Marshon Brooks, guard, Providence: 6’5” with a massive 7’1” wingspan, he showed some real athleticism with some big dunks and blocks. But he also seemed to have a real feel for the game and be quite smooth. That should move him up. Then again, according to Jonathan Givony at DraftExpress Brooks referred to himself in the third person during interviews, turning some teams off.

• Kenneth Faried, forward, Morehead State: This guy had the Ronny Turiaf camp — he doesn’t have a lot of skill but he does know who he is on the court and wants to out work everyone. Turiaf was a guy diving two rows into the stands for the ball at Summer League, Faried could be that kind of guy. GMs love those kind of guys. Lots of good buzz, expect him to stay in the first round.

• Jordan Williams, forward/center, Maryland: He measured just 6’9” in shoes so thinking of him as a center isn’t going to work. But, he dropped about 15 pounds since the end of the season, showing he is taking the whole thing very seriously. He’s a second rounder but it’s things like the body transformation that keep him from dropping down and out.

• Klay Thompson, guard, Washington State: The son of former No. 1 overall Mychal Thompson came into the combine thought of as one of the better shooters in the draft and he didn’t disappoint. He knocked everything down. In a draft where teams drafting from 10 to 25 are looking for guys who can help a little, being a guy who can shoot gets you noticed. Think mid first round.

Sacramento Kings turning former arena into coronavirus surge hospital

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If you’re old enough, you might remember Arco Arena as the home of the Sacramento Kings when they were a playoff team. Chris Webber, Mike Bibby, Peja Stojaković, and company pushed the Shaq/Kobe Lakers to seven games in 2002 and won huge playoff games in the arena. Arco was where Jason Williams was dropping dimes without looking, and arena which later became known as the Sleep Train Arena, Power Balance Pavilion, and eventually the current Natomas Arena.

Now, it’s about to be a coronavirus surge hospital.

The Kings are making the arena available and it will house about 360 beds, the team announced on Friday. The team also is donating $250,000 to support area community organizations providing services to families in need in the area, plus donating 100,000 medical masks to state and local health agencies.

“On behalf of the entire Kings family, our hearts are with all who have been affected by this pandemic,” said Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé in a statement. “California always leads the nation and the world, and we applaud Governor [Gavin] Newsom’s strong and decisive leadership to keep Californians healthy and safe during this crisis…

“Our community has always come first, and that is more important now than ever,” Ranadivé continued. “The Kings are proud to help by providing additional space to accommodate a predicted surge in patients. We are also donating masks to help keep people healthy, and critical resources to area organizations that are addressing food insecurity and other issues as a result of the coronavirus. I have always been in awe of the resilience and ingenuity of the American people and firmly believe that together, we will defeat this invisible enemy.”

The Kings moved to the Golden 1 Center in downtown Sacramento in 2015 and since then their former home and practice arena has mostly sat vacant. The Kings’ G-League team practices there at times, but like the rest of basketball they find their season suspended.

Hopefully, this arena helps save some lives in the California capital. That would be the most important thing ever to happen in the building.

WNBA postpones season

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Mavericks owner Mark Cuban backed off his belief that the NBA could resume in May.

It’s just already clear, amid the coronavirus pandemic, it’ll be unsafe to hold professional basketball games that soon.

WNBA release:

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert released the following statement:

“As developments continue to emerge around the COVID-19 pandemic, including the extension of the social distancing guidelines in the United States through April 30, the WNBA will postpone the start of its training camps and tip of the regular season originally scheduled for May 15.  While the league continues to use this time to conduct scenario-planning regarding new start dates and innovative formats, our guiding principle will continue to be the health and safety of the players, fans and employees.

Many top female players – including Los Angeles Sparks guard Sydney Wiese, who tested positive for coronavirus – play overseas during the WNBA offseason. That frequency of travel makes it even riskier for WNBA teams to gather any time soon.

The WNBA will still hold its draft April 17, conducting proceedings virtually. That could provide lessons to the NBA as it determines how to handle its draft.

Joel Embiid, 76ers owners pledging $1.3M for fighting coronavirus

76ers owner Josh Harris and Joel Embiid
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Joel Embiid just showed up 76ers owners Josh Harris and David Blitzer by pledging to pay team employees who were set to have their pay cut. Amid widespread backlash, the 76ers backtracked on their salary-reduction plan.

Now – with a portion of Embiid’s coronavirus-related donation unallocated and Harris and Blitzer looking to change the narrative around them – those three are working together.

Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

Joel Embiid, Sixers managing partner Josh Harris and co-managing partner David Blitzer are contributing a combined $1.3 million to Penn Medicine, establishing a funding campaign for COVID-19 antibody testing of frontline healthcare workers.

According to a Penn Medicine press release, “The pledge from Embiid, Harris and Blitzer will provide a much-needed boost for efforts to quickly identify health care workers who may have immunity to the new virus.”

This is great.

Some Utah Jazz employees laid off as part of cutback across owner’s businesses

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The Philadephia 76ers came in early, trying to force 20 percent cutbacks in salaries across the franchise’s staff. That lasted less than 24 hours before the backlash hit, the net worth of the team’s primary owner, Joshua Harris, was trending on Twitter, and the decision was reversed.

That stopped other owners from making a similar move or laying employees off for a while, but not long after the top 100 earners at the NBA League office — including Commissioner Adam Silver — were given a 20 percent pay reduction. The worsening economic crisis caused by the coronavirus shutdown of the United States is pushing NBA owners to act.

On Friday, the Utah Jazz — owned by the Larry H. Miller Group, which in total has more 80 different companies under its umbrella — sent this message to Adrian Wojnarowski ESPN:

“Due to the impact on our customer-facing businesses from this unprecedented pandemic, the (Miller Group) …. unfortunately had to make difficult decisions to reduce a small percentage of our workforce. Over the past several weeks, we have worked to manage and reduce costs, including executive compensation, and have reached a point where we have had to say farewell to a limited number of our valued employees.

“We have connected with our associates with outplacement services and aligned them with employers who have immediate hiring needs. We remain focused on helping our communities stay healthy.”

Reports out of Utah say these are layoffs that hit a lot of people and could be permanent.

It’s not fair, but little is fair right now. As noted, this is not just a layoff of some Jazz employees but also people at other businesses across the Larry H. Miller company.

Expect other NBA owners to follow suit soon, too. Not all, but some. Like owners of businesses of all sizes, they have been both hit hard in the short term and see a looming recession beyond the coronavirus. They will be looking to save money.