PBT Awards: Executive of the Year

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Though none of us have a ballot for the NBA’s official awards, we’ll be presenting our choices and making our cases this week for each major honor.

Kurt Helin

1. David Griffin, Cleveland Cavaliers

2. Bob Myers, Golden State Warriors

3. Mike Budenholzer (Danny Ferry), Atlanta Hawks

It’s not for getting LeBron James last summer; LeBron decided that. It’s not for the Kevin Love/Andrew Wiggins trade; LeBron pushed to make that happen, too. No, it was for the smart mid-season change of
course to get Timofey Mozgov and J.R. Smith in while sending Dion Waiters out. That and not panicking with David Blatt.

Officially the Hawks submitted Budenholzer — the acting GM — for this award, but Ferry deserves credit here, too. Even Budenholzer recently said it was Ferry, currently suspended, who constructed most of the East’s top team.

Brett Pollakoff

1. David Griffin, Cleveland Cavaliers

2. Mike Budenholzer (Danny Ferry), Atlanta Hawks

3. Danny Ainge, Boston Celtics

While Griffin may not have had much to do with the Cavaliers landing LeBron James or Kevin Love, bringing in Timofey Mozgov, Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith (while jettisoning Dion Waiters at the same time) makes him worthy of the honor. It was tempting to consider the Hawks for the top spot, but Dan Feldman laid out a pretty solid case of why it wouldn’t be appropriate, no matter what moves may have been made by those in Atlanta’s front office.

Sean Highkin

1. David Griffin, Cleveland Cavaliers

2. Danny Ferry, Atlanta Hawks

3. Danny Ainge, Boston Celtics

Yes, your job is a lot easier when you’re gifted LeBron James and Kevin Love in the offseason. But Griffin deserves a lot of credit for the Iman Shumpert/J.R. Smith/Timofey Mozgov trades in January that filled every need the Cavs had and were the catalyst for their transformation into the team to beat in the East.

I realize that Ferry wasn’t officially on the ballot, and that was just about the only thing the Hawks could do given the circumstances around his leave of absence. But Ferry’s done a phenomenal job since taking over the Hawks, and this was the best season in franchise history.

Ainge did a good job collecting assets, picking up a potential long-term piece in Isaiah Thomas, and getting decent value for Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green.

Dan Feldman

1. David Griffin, Cleveland Cavaliers

2. Bob Myers, Golden State Warriors

3. Danny Ainge, Boston Celtics

Of course, LeBron James is primarily responsible for transforming the Cavaliers, and hometown pride guided his decision. But he was not leaving the Heat for Cleveland under just any circumstances. Credit Griffin for making the Cavaliers appealing enough and creating the necessary cap space to lure LeBron. From there, Griffin did right to cash in assets to maximize Cleveland’s chances of winning now. Timofey Mozgov, Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith have rounded out the roster, and getting a first rounder for Dion Waiters was impressive. The verdict is still out on the Kevin Love-Andrew Wiggins trade, but Griffin had the right idea.

On that same front, Myers gets most credit for the trade he didn’t make – Klay Thompson for Kevin Love. Myers did most of his heavy-lifting with the roster in previous years, but keeping the group together was a decision, just like breaking it up would have been a decision. This year, the Warriors hired Steve Kerr and surrounded him with excellent assistant coaches – building a collaborative culture that really works. Myers is the front-office face of it.

Ainge successfully tore down the Celtics, probably getting the best haul of draft picks as possible in the process. Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green and Brandan Wright (who was acquired for Rondo) were the prominent outgoing players this year, but Ainge even got a pick for Austin Rivers. Ainge also wisely reversed course somewhat when Boston stayed in the playoff hunt and Isaiah Thomas became available for good value. Best of all, Ainge has created an environment where Brad Stevens has the resources and support to successfully make the college-to-NBA jump.

Gar Forman (signing Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic), Daryl Morey (plenty of mid-level roster tinkering after striking out on star free agents) and John Hammond (acquiring a first-round pick for taking quality contributor Jared Dudley, getting along well enough with Jason Kidd) also drew consideration.

Report: NBA eying in mid-July 2021 NBA Finals in advance of Olympics

Tokyo Olympics
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The NBA plans to rush through the 2020 offseason and begin the 2020-21 season Dec. 1… just to rush through the 2020-21 season.

Frank Isola of The Athletic:

The NBA Finals normally begin 226 days after the regular-season opener with an 18-day window to play the best-of-seven series. So, based on a typical timeline, a Dec. 1 opener would mean the Finals would be held July 15 – Aug. 1., 2021.

The Tokyo Olympics are slated to begin July 23, 2021.

So, something must give.

It probably won’t be regular-season games. As much as the NBA would like its players to get exposure in the Olympics, owners will be extremely reluctant to surrender direct revenue. Likewise, the many NBA players not headed to the Olympics should share similar financial concerns.

More likely, the league will reduce the number of rest days during the 2020-21 season. That seems risky given the drastic disruptions already affecting conditioning entering the season.

It’s also possible players whose NBA teams advance deep enough in the playoffs just won’t be able to play in the Olympics (or Olympic Qualifying Tournaments, which are scheduled for June and July 2021).

Like with many things affected by coronavirus, there are no good answers – just hard decisions on what to compromise.

Details leak on life inside Orlando bubble: Daily testing, 1,600 people, 2K crowd noise at games

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Players do not report to the Walt Dinsey World campus in Orlando for another month to restart the NBA season — and it will be weeks after that before games start on July 31 — but we’re beginning to learn more about life inside that bubble.

A bubble the players from a couple of teams could be in for more than three months.

On a Friday conference call, representatives of the National Basketball Players Association backed the 22-team return-to-play format.  Out of that call, we learned some more details about what life will be like in the bubble, courtesy Shams Charania of The Athletic. Among his notes:

– 1,600 maximum people on campus
– Coronavirus testing every day; minimum seven days of quarantine for a player who tests positive
– There could be crowd noise via NBA 2K video game sounds, but the NBA and NBPA is still discussing creative opportunities

That 1,600 people in the bubble/campus includes players and staffs from teams (about 770 people) plus referees, league personnel, broadcasters, and more. It fills up quickly, which is why family members — likely just three per player — will not be allowed until after at least the second round of the playoffs when a number of teams have cleared out (an issue for players).

Players were asked once in the bubble not to leave, and the same applied to their families when they arrive. This is not a summer vacation at Disney World. While there are no armed guards or security to keep players and staff on the campus, the goal was to create a safe environment and people heading out into greater Orlando, for whatever reason, sets that goal back.

The daily testing will be done by the NBPA and will involve mouth or light nasal swabs, not the invasive ones. Also, there will be no antibody testing, and no blood tests.

Teams will get a three-hour practice window during training camp and on off-days, which will include time in the provided wight room. After that, the equipment will be sanitized before the next team uses the courts.

Crowd noise — as seen on the Bundesliga soccer broadcasts from Germany seen here in the USA — is controversial. While the league is talking to the makers of the NBA 2K video game about piped-in crowd noise, that is definitely a topic still up for discussion.

As Keith Smith discussed on the ProBasketballTalk Podcast this week, games in Orlando are expected to be played sort of like at Summer League, with some starting at noon (or early afternoon) and alternating on courts all day. East Coast teams will likely have the earlier slots while there could be some 10 p.m. Eastern start times for a couple of West Coast teams (where it would still be just 7 p.m.).

We previously knew players would be allowed to golf and eat at outdoor restaurants at the Disney resort, so long as they followed social distancing guidelines.

For everything we know about life in the bubble, there are far more questions left unanswered. In the next month we will learn a lot more.

 

NBA players’ union approves 22-team format restart of season

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It’s not perfect and there are still details to be worked out — including exactly when next season will start — but the NBA players are on board with 22-team restart plan for the NBA season in Orlando.

Friday the National Basketball Players Association, with 28 team representatives on the conference call, voted to approve the 22-team plan. Here is the official statement from the union:

“The Board of Player Representatives of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) has approved further negotiations with the NBA on a 22-team return to play scenario to restart the 2019-20 NBA season. Various details remain to be negotiated and the acceptance of the scenario would still require that all parties reach agreement on all issues relevant to resuming play.”

This was expected. NBA Commissioner has worked closely with players union president Chris Paul of the Thunder and executive director Michelle Roberts throughout the process. There were no big surprises in the plan by the time it came up for a vote. Nobody got everything they wanted but everyone got a plan they could live with.

The issues still to be negotiated include some of the health and safety procedures — although players were informed on Friday’s call there will be daily testing and were asked not to leave the Orlando bubble — as well as the timing of the off-season and the start date of next season.

The biggest issue to be figured out still, of course, will be money.

It’s money that ultimately got owners and players to come together behind the 22-team format. It plays regular-season games — called “seeding games” — that can be broadcast on regional sports networks (helping those teams) plus a full playoffs with seven-game series broadcast on ESPN/ABC and TNT. Exactly what the financial picture for the league will be next season is still murky, but the sides are talking.

In terms of pure player safety, the league could have done better going straight to the 16-game postseason, but this was the balance of risk and financial reward the league settled upon.

The details of the format continue to leak out, and some of that is still to be negotiated, but with the player vote all sides have come together behind a plan.

The question becomes, can they pull it off?

Michael Jordan, Jordan Brand pledge $100 million to racial equality

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Black lives matter. This isn’t a controversial statement.

It isn’t. But for the legendarily apolitical Michael Jordan, it is a departure.

Jordan and the Jordan Brand jumped into the ongoing and intense national discussion of race and systemic racism Friday by announcing a $100 million donation over the next 10 years to racial equality and social justice causes. And Jordan linked himself to the black lives matter movement.

Jordan, during his playing career and after, has been cautious politically, rarely commenting on social issues. The “Republicans buy shoes, too” comment stuck to him, but as Roland Lazenby points out in his biography “Michael Jordan: The Life,” Jordan’s “keep your head down and don’t draw attention” political outlook was passed down as a family demeanor used to survive in rural North Carolina. It was how his parents, grandparents, and great grandparents viewed the world.

Jordan had already made a personal statement in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota.

Now Jordan has put his money where his mouth is.