PBT Extra: Can Memphis, Houston sustain hot starts?

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Earlier this week we talked surprises out East, now it’s time for Jenna Corrado and I to focus on the West in the latest PBT Extra.

Memphis’ grit and grind brought playoff basketball to the regular season — and it works. They are 7-1. So long as Marc Gasol stays healthy and they keep defending they are going to win games at a nice clip, but they need Vince Carter to find his shot because their bench is woeful.

Houston has looked good early behind the best defense in the NBA so far, plus James Harden is putting up 25+ a game. They are good. They also have played just three likely playoff teams in those eight games so far (going 2-1), you can’t feast on the Lakers and Sixers forever. Their tests remain ahead of them.

And what about the Kings? They may be inconsistent but Sacramento fans can savor how much better they are than the Lakers.

Report: NBA teams at restart to scrimmage against unlikely playoff opponents

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We know the NBA schedule for the restart, beginning July 30.

What we don’t know is what the schedule is for the pre-seeding games scrimmages. However, now we have a clue of what will look like courtesy Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This is the logical way to do it. We’re already going to have the Lakers vs. Clippers on opening night with Frank Vogel and Doc Rivers making sure not to tip their hands for the looming showdown, followed by plenty more games like that. We don’t need more of that in the preseason.

Each team will play three scrimmages before the seeding games start. The schedule for the scrimmages is expected to be released soon.

 

Report: NBA approves list of social-justice messages for jerseys

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The plan for NBA players to put message of social justice onto their jerseys?

Despite snags with using the names of victims of police brutality, it’s on.

Marc J. Spears of ESPN:

The National Basketball Players Association and the NBA reached an agreement Friday on social justice messages that can be displayed above the number on the back of jerseys when the league resumes play July 30, a source told ESPN’s The Undefeated.

The list of the approved suggested social messages, per the source, for the back of the NBA jerseys: Black Lives Matter; Say Their Names; Vote; I Can’t Breathe; Justice; Peace; Equality; Freedom; Enough; Power to the People; Justice Now; Say Her Name; Sí Se Puede (Yes We Can); Liberation; See Us; Hear Us; Respect Us; Love Us; Listen; Listen to Us; Stand Up; Ally; Anti-Racist; I Am A Man; Speak Up; How Many More; Group Economics; Education Reform; and Mentor.

Missing from that list: Free Hong Kong.

OF COURSE the NBA has a list of approved messages. The NBA can promote social justice. But there are going to limits to running a protest movement through a multibillion-dollar corporation. This is a league that allowed an owner to remain in place for years after his racism and sexism came to light, brought up its attire rules when players wore “I CAN’T BREATHE” shirts and still requires its players to stand for the national anthem. There was no way the league would allow more-controversial slogans on jerseys.

Now, “I can’t breathe” is an approved message for a jersey, because the middle has shifted. Customers and employees want to see companies support racial justice. Society is changing.

Fundamentally, the NBA is not. Its still a business concerned with making money.

Praise the NBA for doing good. But also don’t lose sight of the bottom line.

Pelicans top assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik will not join team at restart

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It’s still unknown whether Pelicans’ head coach Alvin Gentry, 65, will be able to accompany his players to Orlando for the NBA restart.

What we do know: Pelicans’ associate head coach Jeff Bzdelik, 67, will not join the team due to underlying health concerns. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the story.

Bzdelik is known as a defensive specialist, one who helped turn the Rockets defense around a couple of years back with a switching scheme. While the Pelicans defense was not sharp early in the season as the team battled through injuries, they were a top 10 defense after the All-Star break.

After negotiations by the NBA Coaches Association, coaches cannot be blocked from travel to Orlando based on their age alone. There must be other underlying factors. That appears to be the case with Bzdelik.

Bzdelik was the head coach of the Denver Nuggets for three years and has been an assistant coach for a number of teams.

The loss of Bzdelik hurts, but it becomes exponentially more difficult for the Pelicans if Gentry is not the head coach. Where does that stand? “I have no idea, I really don’t,” Gentry said in a conference call with reporters this week. He added he plans on coaching, but the decision on whether he can attend is not his.

The Pelicans are not alone, the Lakers will not have assistant coach Lionel Hollins on the bench either.

New Orleans enters the restart with the best chance of any team in the West to finish with the nine seed and force a play-in series with Memphis (that series is two games, the Pelicans would have to win both). While New Orleans is in a virtual logjam with Portland, Sacramento, and San Antonio, it is the Pelicans who have the easiest schedule.

And, Zion Williamson looks ripped and ready.

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Lakers assistant coach Lionel Hollins ‘red flagged,’ will not travel to restart

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NBA coaches cannot be blocked from travel to Orlando for the NBA’s restart based on their age alone. There had to be other underlying factors.

Lakers’ assistant coach Lionel Hollins, 66, has such a condition and will not be traveling to the restart with the team. Via Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

Lakers’ head coach Frank Vogel hinted at this speaking to reporters Thursday.

As part of getting approval to be in the bubble in Orlando, everyone — whether it be players, coaches, team staff — had to submit a medical evaluation, helping the league screen the most vulnerable to COVID-19 should they become infected. Hollins, the former Grizzlies and Nets head coach, was held back on that count.

The Lakers still bring an experienced and deep coaching staff to the Orlando restart with Frank Vogel and the head coach, Jason Kidd as his lead assistant, plus Phil Handy, Miles Simon, Mike Penberthy, and Quinton Crawford.

The Lakers will be without starting guard Avery Bradley, who has chosen to stay home with family rather than take the risks playing in the restart.

The Lakers begin the restart as the betting favorite to win the title behind the duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis.