Nets coach Lionel Hollins on whether it took too long for his team to figure things out: ‘Did we make the playoffs?’

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NEW YORK — The Nets saw their season come to an end on Friday, in a game where the top-seeded Atlanta Hawks finally looked like the 60-win team we saw earlier in the regular season.

Atlanta broke the game open with a 23-3 run to start the second half, and eliminated Brooklyn from the postseason in blowout fashion.

The Nets finished the regular season six games under .500, and the team’s total of 38 wins continued a decline that’s occurred in consecutive campaigns. But Nets head coach Lionel Hollins was proud of the way his guys were able to come together late, and seemed to use the playoffs as a measuring stick of whether or not he was able to achieve some measure of success.

“I’m proud of our team,” Hollins said. “Where we started back in September, the uncertainty, new coach, trying to blend it all together, the injuries and ups and downs, I’m thankful for the players and what they gave, and proud of how they stuck with it. And we were able to secure a playoff spot.

“Some people would say hey, maybe we didn’t deserve it. But that’s their problem. I think that we battled and fought and overcame, and even in this series we battled and fought. It would have been nice to get another victory and have a chance to go to a seventh game, but it wasn’t to be.”

The Nets did find a way to beat the Hawks twice, and were competitive at times for essentially five-and-a-half of the six games of the series. Hollins hammered this point home when he was asked if his team took longer than expected to figure things out.

“Did we make the playoffs,” Hollins interrupted, somewhat defiantly. “OK, there’s your answer. If we didn’t make the playoffs, then you could ask that question. But right now, my feeling is that we overcame, we got to the playoffs — however long it takes, is however long it takes. I’m not in control of however long (it takes for ) everybody to come together. But we did come together, and we had a beautiful run down the stretch. And we made the playoffs.”

Hollins choice of finding some positivity in his team’s late-season run just to make the postseason — even with a record of just 38-44, and even in the watered-down Eastern Conference — seemed to have trickled down to his players.

“I’m happy we were able to fight and get into postseason play with all the injuries and the changes that were made throughout the course of the season.,” Jarrett Jack said. “I think all of us had bigger expectations for ourselves, but all in all I thought we pushed this team to the limit. We came into a situation where we fought tooth and nail to get into the playoffs, and I thought when we got in, we didn’t disappoint.”

“We wanted to make the playoffs,” Deron Williams said. “We did, and we thought we put up a great effort against this team that’s the best in the East.”

The Nets did give their fans some excitement near the end of a mostly dreary season, and there is certainly something to be said for that. Hollins did a good job of shuffling lineups and getting the most out of what he had against the Hawks, and found a rallying point around Williams, who endured an avalanche of criticism publicly before his breakout 35-point Game 4 performance.

But that doesn’t erase the fact that Brooklyn largely underachieved for the vast majority of the regular season.

“It seemed to take a bit longer than all of us would have liked,” Jack said. “But that’s basketball for you.”

Damian Lillard opposes idea of later NBA season start running into summer

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At the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference a few weeks back (although it feels like a lifetime ago), Atlanta  CEO Steve Koonin suggested the NBA should permanently shift its schedule to a mid-December start with the Finals running into August. The idea was to stop going head-to-head with the NFL and college football at the start of the season. Then the pushed back playoffs forced by the coronavirus have made that discussion more relevant. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has said everything is on the table.

Damian Lillard is not a fan of the idea.

He likes the schedule just the way it is, something he said during a video conference with the media on Tuesday, hat tip to Dwight Jaynes of NBC Sports Portland.

“I just don’t see it. I mean, the season starts when it starts now, then February all-star weekend, getting toward the end of the season in April and then getting into the playoffs. You get that early June Finals and then you get to go off into your summer…

“You get to enjoy real-time summer,” Lillard said. “Our break is into the summer and then you get to come back as summer is leaving. I think that’s been perfect…

“It’s been perfect for us,” Lillard said. “So, for that to change and for things to be pushed back, I’m definitely not a fan of that and I don’t see many guys being a fan of that.”

Lillard is not alone in thinking this way, but Silver is more open to change than most sports commissioners. That said, changes that break with long-standing traditions are hard to make a reality.

There would be a lot of questions around a schedule change. Would the ratings still be as high for a Finals series in the heart of the summer? The NBA season no longer would sync with the NCAA or international leagues’ schedules, leading to questions about the draft and timing for players who want to test the waters. There would need to be reworked television contracts, both regionally and nationally. It could make scheduling a challenge at arenas used to having more concerts and other events in the summer.

Plus, all of this would need to be negotiated with the players union — and Lillard speaks for a lot of players on this issue.

If the NBA could somehow convince players that starting later meant more money in their pocket, those union negotiations would take on a different tone. But would the move increase revenue? That’s not an easy sell.

With this NBA season likely running late, the start of next season could be pushed back, and this theory could get a little bit of a test. Or, the next season could be shortened a little to get the league back on its regular schedule.

Which would make Lillard happy.

Report: NBA deprioritizing playing regular-season games for local TV

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The NBA is financially incentivized to play more regular-season games to satisfy local-TV contracts.

How does that square with resuming play – currently suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic – with a play-in tournament and playoffs?

It doesn’t.

Marc Berman of the New York Post:

According to one source, getting some teams to a magical number of 70 regular-season games had been a goal, but in the last week has taken on less of a priority.

This stoppage is going to cost the NBA a lot of money. There’s no way around that. Not every source of revenue can be preserved. It’s about finding the optimal setup.

Importantly, canceling games could allow the NBA to reduce player salaries through force majeure. Of course, the union would consider that action when negotiating how to proceed.

LeBron James advocated for playing some regular-season games before the playoffs so everyone could get back into shape. But Steve Kerr called it very unlikely the Warriors would play another regular-season game. Perhaps, playoff-bound teams like the Lakers will play tune-up regular-season games while Golden State – the only team officially eliminated from the playoff race before the hiatus – doesn’t. It’d be a little odd to have such different formats, though. (Then again, these are odd times).

Considering this report, we ought to give more credence to the idea that Kerr knows something about the NBA’s plan and that the regular season is finished.

Lakers update that all players ‘currently symptom-free of COVID-19’

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Nearly two weeks ago, the Lakers announced that two of their players tested positive for the coronavirus. “Both players are currently asymptomatic, in quarantine and under the care of the team’s physician… All players and members of the Lakers staff are being asked to continue to observe self-quarantine,” the Lakers said at that time.

On Tuesday, the team provided an update saying nobody on the team is showing any symptoms after a couple of weeks of quarantine.

“All Lakers players are currently symptom-free of COVID-19. The team will continue to follow the health and safety guidelines set by government officials, the Lakers and the NBA,” the statement said.

The Lakers’ players who tested positive were never publicly identified (in fitting with HIPAA regulations).

A total of 10 NBA players — plus five members of staff associated with teams — have tested positive for the virus that has upended life in the United States. None reportedly have had to be hospitalized. Players such as Marcus Smart and others have recovered and free from the virus.

The NBA remains suspended, with the league hoping to jump-start the playoffs in June, possibly with all the teams in one location.

Report: NBA won’t hold draft until after season

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The NBA draft is scheduled for June 25. Most expect that date to change as the coronavirus pandemic causes postponements around the world.

Apparently, the draft will come after the NBA season – whether the season is completed in a modified format or just cancelled.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

I think everybody in the league feels it’s almost impossible to have a draft if you still have a season that’s ongoing.

You can’t have a draft while teams are still playing. You can’t have some teams able to do trades because their season’s done and then some teams unable to do trades because they’re still playing.

It doesn’t strike me as difficult to hold the draft before the season ends. Teams wouldn’t be allowed to trade current players. The restriction would apply across the board, just like the interrupted pre-draft process. That’s not ideal, but compromises must be made amid this chaos.

Importantly, holding the draft sooner could appeal to both sides of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

It’d be an opportunity to hold a revenue-producing TV event. Obviously, drafted players wouldn’t attend a mass gathering. But with sports fans starved for content, people would watch the selections. A handshake with NBA commissioner Adam Silver is only a small part of the festivities.

The National Basketball Players Association should also push for an earlier draft. Prospects want information sooner so they can prepare for their next step – whether that’s the NBA, returning to college or playing overseas. That said, the union has bigger priorities than potential future members.

So, it’s easy to see why postponing the draft has gained momentum, even if that’s not a no-brainer solution.