Otto Porter Jr., the un-sexy prospect

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WASHINGTON — If the NBA Draft were dating, Otto Porter Jr. is the one all fathers would approve of. Dad never objects to the guy labeled “safe.” On Thursday, we’ll found out which team covets reliable over risk.

The Georgetown forward can do just about everything on the basketball court. Based on league chatter, that versatility apparently excites no one. That’s not to say the unanimous Big East Player of the Year lacks desirability among pundits and teams picking in slots one through six. It’s just not apparently in a lusty sort of way.

Draft Express:

“Porter appears to be one of the more safe picks in this year’s draft.”

SI.com’s Andy Glocker:

“Otto Porter may be the surest thing in the draft”

NBA scout on Porter:

“I think he’s the safest pick in the draft.”

The 6-foot-8 sophomore’s instinct-rich game with a significant defensive component and nary a trace of jock ego warms the heart, especially by those that catch his act repeatedly.

There just isn’t a high-rising component, though Porter’s 36-inch vertical more than gets the job done.

There just isn’t a textbook shooting stroke, though he improved his 3-point accuracy from 23 percent as a freshman to 42 last season.

There just isn’t any aspect of Porter’s game that is dynamic, at least not in a posterizing sort of way. However, there are no glaring weaknesses, no sense of wasted potential. That’s why his college coach uttered a one-word answer when queried about what kind of questions NBA teams are asking about his guy.

“None,” said a matter-of-fact John Thompson III after a brief pause to realize that oddity of what he was to say considering the million dollar stakes.

Thompson continued: “I’m biased, but I also think I’m right. I think he’s the most complete player in the draft at both ends of the court, the most ready player in the draft. I think people have seen that, he’s displayed that over the last couple of years.”

Indeed, teams know what they get if they draft Porter, as opposed to 7-foot-1 Alex Len, who both wowed and waned last season at Maryland. As opposed to UNLV forward Anthony Bennett, who offers an abundance of offensive weaponry, but often showed little interest in stopping opponents from using theirs. As opposed to Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel, who is a shot-blocking savant but a point-producing novice with already two major knee injuries in his young career.

That’s why with Porter, who led the Hoyas in scoring (16.2), rebounds (7.5), steals (1.8) and 3-point shooting, everyone loves same variation of that “s” word.

ESPN’s Chad Ford on the Wizards’ possible debate at No. 3:

“Do they go with more of a sure thing (Porter) or gamble on the guy with more upside in (UNLV’s Anthony) Bennett?”

Thompson believes a certain “c” word is what makes Porter a potential gem.

“A word that is perhaps used too often, but applies — he’s coachable,” Thompson said. “I’ve told several teams, just figure out what you want him to do if you take him and tell him. Tell him what you want him to be able to do and he’ll be able to do it.”

Geez, where’s the fun, the drama with that?

Perhaps Porter’s closest draft doppelganger is the four inches shorter Victor Oladipo. Like the Indiana guard, Porter entered college under the national radar, is a defensive-minded player who made dramatic offensive strides this past season from long range. Of course, everyone fawns for Oladipo and his 42-inch vertical to the point where even his missed dunks are legendary.

Based purely on positional need, Porter is an obvious fit for the No.1 picking and small forward lacking Cleveland Cavaliers. Some reports have suggested Porter is atop Cleveland’s draft board. According to one source, the Cavs “want to take Porter,” but wanting and doing are not the same. Nary a highly cited mock draft has this scenario unfolding.

Most often projected to the Wizards, Porter recently worked out for the NBA team that plays in the same Verizon Center where Georgetown’s low-key leader starred last season. Washington could use a player capable of defending multiple positions who always seems one step ahead of the play as a passer and when it comes to anticipating tosses from others.

It’s just that on the surface that type of player doesn’t make for part of a desired “Big 3.” The Wizards may have an opportunity to snag a coveted building block center (Len, Noel) or add a potentially dynamic scorer (Bennett) for an offense that tied for last in that category.

Sheridan Sports:

“His ceiling may not be as high as UNLV’s Anthony Bennett, but Porter projects as a much safer pick.”

Oh, if you’re wondering why there are no quotes in here from Otto Porter Jr. himself, let’s just say talking about his own game is not one of the unassuming Missourian’s strengths. Then again, in this kingly era, a player not into self-promotion sounds very appealing. So does his parental-approved game.

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

Tori Miller
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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
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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.