Report: NBA not actively investigating source of Luol Deng African comment

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The NBA does not care about racism.

The NBA cares about racism costing the league money.

Donald Sterling’s racism was both public knowledge – Blake Griffin knew – and evil. Sterling illegally put minorities into harm’s way through housing discrimination.

Yet, the NBA did nothing about him until TMZ leaked an audio tape that stirred public outrage, a far lesser crime than others committed by Sterling. It wasn’t the racist act itself, but the threat of players and sponsors boycotting, that finally compelled the league to act.

With the Hawks scandal, the league is again proving its priorities.

Atlanta general manager Danny Ferry is paying a price for his racist comments about Luol Deng, but Ferry has not been fired, and his reputation remains mostly in tact.

Why?

Apparently because he was just reading words that originated with someone else. A leaked copy of Deng’s scouting report has emerged, and it contains a similar African/two-faced comment to what Ferry said.

The source of that section of the scouting report is redacted, but in context, it’s very clearly someone who worked in the Cavaliers’ front office and probably no longer holds his or her position.

Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal:

The NBA has poked around and asked some questions about the Luol Deng scouting report that was leaked recently, a league source with knowledge of the situation said. But it’s an overstatement to categorize the league’s involvement as an active investigation.

The league seems to be approaching this just as the Cavs are: The redacted report clearly seems to indicate it’s a former employee, so there isn’t much that can be done at this point.

Though the source of the comment – “Former [redacted]” – could be “Former general manager of Luol Deng” or something like that, let’s assume this person no longer works for the Cavaliers. I guess that would excuse the franchise from getting too proactive.

But what makes the NBA so sure he or she no longer works for the league?

Front office personnel change teams. The NBA’s responsibility doesn’t end just because this person left Cleveland. If the league truly cared about eradicating racism from its business, it would find the source and punish him or her. Even if the person has left the NBA entirely, many people lose their positions and then get re-hired elsewhere in the league. The NBA could have a punishment waiting if the person returns.

But that would be bad for business.

Right now, the scandal is contained. Bruce Levenson was a target, but he’s leaving. Ferry is a target, and he’s also stepped away.

As long as we don’t know who originally equated Deng’s African heritage with him being two-faced, the uproar will be minimized. Sterling, Levenson and Ferry drew attention. It’s more difficult for players, sponsors and fans to get worked up about someone unknown.

All indications are the NBA isn’t interested in changing that set of circumstances – not with this, not with anything. Again, the league’s goal is not righting wrongs. It’s avoiding bad publicity for wrongs.

Chris Herring of The Wall Street Journal:

Did Donald Sterling act worse than any other NBA owner? Yeah, maybe. He’s pretty despicable.

But I doubt he’s the only one who has sinned. The less you know about the others, the better for the NBA.

Doing what’s right is dictated by how it will affect the league’s brand. That’s why the NBA has suddenly gotten righteous about domestic violence. That’s why Sterling had to go, why Levenson is on his way out and why Ferry will likely follow.

And that’s not really so bad.

The NBA is a business run by 30 owners. They’re interested in protecting their investment, both by remaining in control and maximizing profit. Adam Silver works for them to help them achieve those aims. This is what businesses do.

But, occasionally, the league – and Silver has been its mouthpiece in this regard – tries to claim the moral high ground. This is a marketing technique designed to generate goodwill, and it usually works.

The next time the NBA tries that act, just remember, its the business that allowed someone that may or not be under its purview to state this unchecked:

He is a good guy on the cover but he’s an African. He has a little two-step in him = says what you like to hear, but behind closed doors he could be killing you. Con isn’t bad, but it’[end of page] there. African-like, store front looks great but there’s a black market section in the back.

Tyler Herro carries Heat over Celtics in Game 4, within one game of NBA Finals

Tyler Herro after Heat-Celtics Game 4
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If the Celtics targeted Tyler Herro in the 2019 NBA Draft, they have more reason than ever to lament their near miss.

Herro scored 37 points to lead the Heat to a 112-109 win over the Celtics in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals Wednesday. The 21-year-old rookie put Miami up 3-1 and himself in the record book.

The only other player so young to score so much in a playoff game? Magic Johnson, who had 42 points in Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals at age 20.

The Heat will look to reach the NBA Finals in Game 5 Friday. Teams leading a best-of-seven series 3-1 have won 95% of the time.

Miami’s big concern: Bam Adebayo, who hurt his wrist late in the game. Adebayo (20 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and two steals) played through the injury but appeared to be feeling it.

He and the Heat just kept grinding through everything, though.

Miami won despite shooting only 10-for-37 on 3-pointers (27%). Forget about make-or-miss league. The Heat willed themselves to victory with aggravating defense, hustle, rebounding… and, yes, big-time shot-making by Herro, who made 9-of-11 2-pointers and 5-of-10 3-pointers

The Celtics committed 19 turnovers – some forced by Miami, some self-inflicted. The Heat’s zone defense continues to make Boston uncomfortable, though Marcus Smart (10 points and 11 assists) found some success penetrating and kicking against it. Jaylen Brown (21 points and nine rebounds) knocked down some of those created looks.

After a scoreless first half, Jayson Tatum scored 28 points in the second half. Stephen Curry scored 33 second-half points after a scoreless first half in Game 6 against the Rockets last year. That’s the only time someone followed a scoreless first half with so many second-half points in the Basketball-Reference postseason database, which dates back to 1997.

But those successes weren’t sustained. Tatum (six), Smart (four) and Brown (four) all had too many turnovers.

This series is even by points scored. But Boston has been just a little too erratic, which is why Miami has the key 3-1 lead.

Report: 76ers open to trading if they hire Mike D’Antoni

76ers forward Al Horford and Tobias Harris
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The 76ers said they wouldn’t trade Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons.

Which makes it confounding they reportedly want to hire Mike D’Antoni as coach.

D’Antoni has typically succeeded with teams that can play small to spread the floor and pressure opponents through speed… and struggled otherwise. Post-based Embiid and non-shooting Simmons don’t fit D’Antoni’s demonstrated style.

Maybe Philadelphia’s roster could change.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

Keith Smith:

The 76ers could trade Al Horford and Tobias Harris to reduce their glut of bigs. But Horford was already on the block (good luck convincing anyone to take his contract), and Harris is also expensive. For what it’s worth, Harris could thrive as a small-ball power forward in D’Antoni’s system, but Harris is often pigeonholed as a small forward on this roster.

The Embiid-Simmons pairing is a fundamental issue, though. Whatever Philadelphia does with Horford and Harris, Embiid and Simmons just haven’t played like they’d fit well together under D’Antoni.

If the 76ers remain insistent on not trading Embiid or Simmons, there are only so many roster moves that can be done to help D’Antoni.

Adding further complications, Philadelphia might be seeking a new lead executive. That could explain why Tyronn Lue has also gotten so strongly linked to this job. It’s not even clear who’ll oversee the coach and roster, let alone what plan that person will have.

So, yes, it’s meaningful if the 76ers are advancing trade talks with other teams to make their roster fit D’Antoni. But there are still plenty of questions about what will actually happen in Philadelphia.

For NBA players, Breonna Taylor grand jury decision ‘not enough’

Grizzlies forward Anthony Tolliver wears Breonna Taylor shirt
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — LeBron James sent the word to the Los Angeles Lakers in a group text on Wednesday afternoon, and basketball suddenly seemed irrelevant.

A grand jury in Kentucky had finally spoken. And James was letting his team know that NBA players, who have spent months seeking justice for Breonna Taylor, did not get what they wanted.

“Something was done,” Lakers guard Danny Green said, “but it wasn’t enough.”

Wednesday’s decision by the grand jury, which brought no charges against Louisville police for Taylor’s killing and only three counts of wanton endangerment against fired Officer Brett Hankison for shooting into Taylor’s neighbors’ homes, was not unexpected by many NBA players and coaches. They had a sense it wasn’t going to go how they hoped.

“I know we’ve been using our platform down here to try to bring about education and a voice in a lot of players on our team, especially also spoken out on justice for Breonna Taylor,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “We have not gotten that justice.”

Teams came to Walt Disney World to finish the season and crown a champion, and hoping that the platform of the NBA’s restart bubble could help amplify calls for change. Players and coaches have used the NBA spotlight to make statements at a time when the demand for racial equality and an end to police brutality is resonating as loudly as it has in generations.

And Taylor’s story – the tale of a 26-year-old Black woman who was killed March 13 by police in Louisville when they burst into her apartment on a no-knock warrant during a narcotics investigation centered around a suspect who did not live there – has captivated NBA players. Many have met, virtually, with members of her family to offer support. They say her name in news conferences, wear it on shirts, scrawl it onto their sneakers.

“We have moms. We have sisters, nieces, aunties. And just like men of color have experienced traumatic instances, so have women,” Boston forward Jaylen Brown said. “That is an example of some things that happen to women in our country. So, we wanted to stand alongside them, but also make it that it’s not just us. I think the future is female, so it’s important to show our sisters that we care. That’s why it’s been important.”

Even for teams not in the bubble, it mattered. Atlanta coach Lloyd Pierce leads a committee of NBA coaches tasked with finding new ways to use their own platform to create change, and he’s encouraged his own players – Black and white alike – to speak out and take action, whether in Atlanta or their own community.

Pierce took Wednesday’s news hard.

“Yeah, there was a grand jury and yeah, they went through the information and yeah, they have facts to support whatever the claims may be,” Pierce said. “But that doesn’t provide any justice for those that are on the outside, those that feel like the police and law enforcement are there to protect them. … What currently is happening isn’t good enough.”

Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell:

Clippers big Montrezl Harrell:

National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts went a step further. “Sadly, there was no justice today for Breonna Taylor,” Roberts said. “Her killing was the result of a string of callous and careless decisions made with a lack of regard for humanity, ultimately resulting in the death of an innocent and beautiful woman with her entire life ahead of her.”

The league shut down for three days last month when a boycott that was started by the Milwaukee Bucks – in response to the shooting by police of a Black man, Jacob Blake, in Kenosha, Wisconsin – nearly caused players to end the season because they felt their pleas for change were not being taken seriously enough.

And Wednesday’s news was another disappointment for them.

“We feel like we’ve taken a step back, that we haven’t made the progress we were seeking,” Green said. “Our voices aren’t being heard loud enough. But we’re not going to stop. We’re going to continue. We’re going to continue fighting, we’re going to continue to push, we’re going to continue to use our voices.”

Report: Celtics were ‘very much enamored’ with Tyler Herro, whom Heat took one pick before Boston

Heat guard Tyler Herro vs. Celtics
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The Celtics – holding the Kings’ first-round pick – lost a tiebreaker with the Hornets and Heat in last year’s draft. Charlotte picked No. 12, Miami No. 13 and Boston No. 14.

The Heat took Tyler Herro No. 13.

A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston:

On NBA draft night last year there was a collective moan among the Boston Celtics brass right about the time the Miami Heat used the No. 13 pick to select Tyler Herro.

The Celtics were very much enamored with the 20-year-old leading up to last June’s draft

The draft is full of smokescreens and disinformation, especially from Boston. So, this can’t be taken as gospel.

But it’s still another fun chapter in the Pat Riley-Danny Ainge rivalry, which includes a previous example of the Heat drafting a player the Celtics coveted.

Herro made the All-Rookie second team and is now helping Miami against Boston in the Eastern Conference finals – no small feat for a rookie.

The Celtics settled for Romeo Langford, who had a far less productive first season and is now out for the year.

Of course, it’s far too early to declare either player will absolutely have a better career than the other. Besides, Boston never chose between Herro and Langford. The Heat got the choice and took the player both teams seemingly agreed was better.