Marcus Morris injury hampers Day 4 of the NBA D-League Showcase

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The eighth annual NBA Development League Showcase came to an end on Thursday night after 16 teams played a total of 16 games over four days in lovely Reno, Nevada. The final day may have been the least uneventful — at least as far as top prospects were concerned — but an injury to Houston Rockets assignee Marcus Morris had onlookers fearing for the worst.

Morris suffered a left ankle injury early on in the Rio Grande Valley Vipers loss to the Springfield Armor when the fourteenth overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft came down on his defender’s foot less than two minutes into the D-League Showcase’s penultimate game (video here). Morris didn’t return to action after having to be helped off the court, but it sounds as though he shouldn’t miss much more than a week — pending an MRI this weekend.

Morris has shown that he’s above the level of D-League competition he’s facing — the 6-foot-9 forward went into Thursday’s game averaging 29.7 points and 12.3 rebounds over three games  — but Rockets general manager Daryl Morey believes having Morey develop in the D-League while transitioning to the wing is going to hurry up the process. D-League development is something that’s expected to become more frequent, too, Morey told Pro Basketball Talk on Wednesday.

“I think the D-League is going to eventually become like Triple-A baseball where pretty much every rookie spends some time there,” Morey said. “Obviously we’re not there yet, but I think over time that’s going to be how it’s looked at. It guys the ability to work on their game early, it allows them to work on parts of their game the coaching staff is emphasizing and we’re obviously big believers in the whole system.”

Rio Grande Valley ended up losing with Morris out of the lineup, but it came down to the final seconds. The Vipers took a three-point lead with 15.2 seconds left in the game when former New Jersey Nets guard Ben Uzoh sank a pair of free-throws, but a foul before Springfield was able to inbound the ball on the ensuing possession gave JamesOn Curry a free-throw to cut the lead to two before newly-acquired Preston Knowles sank a game-winning three-pointer with 5.6 seconds left on the clock to secure a 100-99 victory.

The three other games didn’t all end in spectacular fashion, but there were a few prospects that certainly stood out.

  • Dakota Wizards swingman Edwin Ubiles looked excellent on offense with 22 points, but his team lost thanks to a group effort from the Austin Toros. All five Toros starters scored in double digits with point guard Justin Dentmon scoring 27 points in a starring role. Both players
  • The Tulsa 66ers picked up a blowout ‘W’ over the Fort Wayne Mad Ants behind excellent play from the D-League’s leading rebounder as power forward Marcus Lewis scored 23 points and grabbed 12 rebounds while making 11 of his 12 shot attempts. Teammate Larry Owens, formerly of the Washington Wizards, scored 19 points while the Mad Ants were led by Walker Russell with 19 points of his own.
  • “Money” Mike Efevberha showed why he earned that nickname at this year’s Drew League by pouring in 20 points in the final game of the Showcase as the Iowa Energy picked up a victory. The Canton Charge had a balanced effort with five players scoring in double figures, but it was former Cleveland Cavaliers guard Manny Harris and his 14 points that made foor the most interesting prospect.

By and large, the Showcase should be considered a success this season. Call-ups in the coming months will largely determine whether it was worth it for scouts from all 30 D-League teams to converge on Reno this week. A full recap of the week will be posted on Pro Basketball Talk on Friday.

Atlanta G League affiliate promotes Tori Miller, first female GM in league

Tori Miller
Photo courtesy College Park Skyhawks
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The Atlanta Hawks aren’t just talking about progress and giving Black women a chance. They are acting.

The College Park Skyhawks, Atlanta’s G-League affiliate, has promoted Tori Miller to general manager. She is the first female GM in the G-League.

Miller, who grew up in Decatur (a city next to Atlanta), had worked for the team in Erie (when they were the Bayhawks) and followed the team with its move closer to its parent franchise. Miller served as an assistant GM last season before being promoted.

G League front office positions can be a stepping stone into an NBA front office.

The Hawks progressive move comes just as the team’s WNBA franchise, the Dream, has players trying to oust co-owner Kelly Loeffler, a Republican Georgia U.S. Senator, because she advocated against the league supporting Black Lives Matter. Loeffler has said she will not sell. It’s a problem not going away anytime soon.

Missouri U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley calls for NBA to put more politics into sports

Missouri U.S. Senator Josh Hawley
IM LO SCALZO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
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Americans are increasingly inviting progressive politics into sports. Football players kneeling the national anthem are no longer an easy target. Even President Donald Trump has softened his tone on Colin Kaepernick.

So, some Republicans are pushing for MORE politics – their politics – in sports (sometimes under the guise of less politics in sports).

Missouri U.S. Senator Josh Hawley, like Tennessee U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn, has criticized the NBA for its relationship with China. It’s grandstanding while the United States itself has a trade deal with China.

Now, Hawley is objecting to the NBA’s pre-approved list of social-justice messages players can wear on their jerseys.

Hawley press release:

Today Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) is sending a letter to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver blasting the league’s apparent decision to strictly limit messages players can wear on their jerseys to a few pre-approved, social justice slogans while censoring support for law enforcement officers or the military and any criticism of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Senator Hawley writes that, as the NBA is now sanctioning political messages, they must stand up for American values and make clear where they stand on China’s human rights abuses.

Senator Hawley writes, “The truth is that your decisions about which messages to allow and which to censor – much like the censorship decisions of the CCP – are themselves statements about your association’s values. If I am right – if the NBA is more committed to promoting the CCP’s interests than to celebrating its home nation – your fans deserve to know that is your view. If not, prove me wrong. Let your players stand up for the Uighurs and the people of Hong Kong. Let them stand up for American law enforcement if they so choose. Give them the choice to write ‘Back the Blue’ on their jerseys. Or ‘Support our Troops.’ Maybe ‘God Bless America.’ What could be more American than that?”

OF COURSE the NBA was going to limit jersey messages to a pre-approved list. The league doesn’t want the pressure of censoring players’ individual choices. Nor does the league want to condone messages that would offend offend customers and jeopardize revenue. Support for Hong Kong protesters would definitely qualify as financially perilous.

The NBA – a business trying to make money – wants to support its employees and appeal to its audience. These relatively benign phrases accomplish those goals.

That doesn’t prevent NBA players from criticizing China. I take NBA commissioner Adam Silver at his word (especially after the Daryl Morey controversy) that the NBA endorses its employees right to speak out.

The NBA just isn’t going to allow players to give just any message through their jerseys.

Some players are understandably bothered by that limitation. But the biggest pushes for change aren’t going to come through multi-billion-dollar corporations. That’s just reality.

Likewise, though Hawley raises legitimate concerns about China’s treatment of Uighurs and Hong Kongers, scolding an American company for legally acting in its best financial interest is… um… certainly a choice for a U.S. Senator.

Also, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski sent a profane two-word response in response to Hawley’s press release.

Wojnarowski:

NBA executive predicts every team will lose money next season

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The NBA is launching an unprecedented and ambitious operation – hosting the rest of its season in a centralized location with frequent testing – because that’s what’s necessary to play amid the coronavirus pandemic.

What about next season?

Coronavirus will likely remain a danger on Dec. 1, when the league hopes to begin. That threatens fan attendance. Heck, that could undermine teams playing at all in their home markets. All 30 teams, rather than just 22, adds complications.

Even if the season gets off the ground, there will be financial issues.

Brian Windhorst and Tim Bontemps of ESPN:

“The truth is, things are changing so fast that, when it comes to next season, the best we can do is put a stake in the ground and make a guess,” an Eastern Conference team president said. “The reality is nobody is probably going to operate in the black next season.

“The only question is how much each of us are going to lose.”

NBA owners love to cry poor. The actual math often reveals a different picture. There are complexities that teams can hide.

Some teams have already cut employees salaries. But some teams are also doing extravagant things like shipping their courts to Disney World for practice:

Still, NBA commissioner Adam Silver estimated 40% of league revenue comes from ticket sales and other game-day sources. If teams are ever believable about losing money, it’d be now. Coronavirus has wrecked so many sectors of the economy.

Revenue falling significantly would be felt by players, who – per the Collective Bargaining Agreement – receive about half of Basketball Related Income. (That 50-50 agreement supersedes players’ stated salaries in their contracts.)

It’s undecided how and when players would suffer those losses.

The 2020-21 salary cap could be reduced. But that would put the burden on players – free agents, draft picks – signing new contracts next offseason.

That’s why the salary cap is reportedly expected to remain roughly flat. There are a couple options within that scenario.

Players could have a larger share of their salaries withheld (as they’re doing this season). Then, at the end of the season, owners would return whatever money is necessary to reach the 50-50 split. However, that would reduce players’ spending power during the season.

Or players could collect their usual salaries with an artificially high salary cap. However, that would likely mean they get more than their entitled 50% share and the salary cap would be reduce in future seasons to offset. Current players – some of whom won’t be in the league in future years – would probably love that. Owners likely wouldn’t accept paying players more sooner.

Increased withholding from player salaries is probably the best option. But there’s plenty to decide about the exact withholding amount and how long the money is held. To ensure enough money is withheld, the percentage should initially be fairly high. Then, as the revenue picture becomes clearer, the withholding amount could decrease in future paychecks.

Of course, that assumes the league finds a safe way to play. Which is the biggest challenge.

Report: Wizards’ Thomas Bryant and Gary Payton II test positive for coronavirus

Wizards players Thomas Bryant and Gary Payton II
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Bradley Beal not playing sunk the Wizards’ for the NBA’s resumption, anyway.

If that and Davis Bertans sitting out weren’t enough, Washington is also without Thomas Bryant, Gary Payton II and Garrison Mathews.

Ava Wallace of The Washington Post:

The NBA announced 25 players tested positive from June 23-29. It’s unclear whether Bryant and Payton were among that group or additional positive cases.

It’s also unclear whether Bryant, Payton and Mathews will join the team at Disney World.

Bryant would be a particularly significant loss. His optimism and energy in tough situations are exactly what the Wizards need right now.

With the Nets severely shorthanded and the Magic looking uninspiring, Washington still has a path to the playoffs.