51 Q: Who starts the year on the trade block?

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PBT is previewing the 2015-16 NBA season by tackling 51 big questions that we can’t wait to see answered once play tips off. We will answer one a day right up to the start of the season Oct. 27. Today’s question:

Going into the season, which players are the most likely to be moved?

The obvious answer to this question is Markieff Morris, but the Suns have shown no signs of trading the disgruntled big man anytime soon. They need him, and his very public trade demands have killed his value around the league. For now, it seems unlikely that Morris will get his wish. But there are other players who could help teams around the league that might find themselves available during the season. Here are a few of them.

Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets

Faried has been available for a while. All of the Nuggets’ veterans have, really — despite having just been signed to extensions this summer, don’t think Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari couldn’t be had for the right price as Denver hands the keys to the franchise over to Emmanuel Mudiay. Faried is the most likely to be moved, since his skillset is the most redundant to what they already have. He’s entering the first year of a four-year, $50 million deal that will prove to be a good value, especially once the new salary cap kicks in next summer. But the hiring of defensive-minded coach Mike Malone is a bad match for Faried’s limitations on that end. The Nuggets are in a weird place, roster-wise, between going full-on youth movement and having enough veterans to contend for a playoff spot, so if their season starts off slow, they could finally commit to a rebuild. If they do, Faried will be among the first to go.

Taj Gibson, Chicago Bulls

Once the Celtics traded Rajon Rondo, Gibson took over his title as the player who was involved in the most trade rumors without actually being traded. The Bulls have a crowded frontcourt between Gibson, Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah and Nikola Mirotic, and Gibson is on a great contract. If Noah has a bounceback season, it could make it more likely that Gar Forman and John Paxson finally pull the trigger on a Gibson trade. But they’d have to get a player who can help them right now, and it’s unclear who that might be.

Jeff Green, Memphis Grizzlies

Green never fit with the Grizzlies the way they hoped he would last season when they acquired him from the Celtics. It was a great idea: some added versatility for a team that customarily has played an extremely traditional style. But Green struggled in his half-season in Memphis, and going into the final year of his deal, the Grizzlies would be very open to moving him if the right deal came along. There’s no clear destination that makes sense for him, though.

Jamal Crawford, Los Angeles Clippers

Crawford’s name as been floated in trade talks for a couple of years, and he’s the only player on the Clippers’ roster who could easily be moved. He’s getting up there in age, but he could still provide enough value with his bench scoring to help a contender. The problem is, who are the Clippers going to get back that makes them better? Doc Rivers will listen to offers, but if they haven’t traded Crawford already, it’s hard to see them doing it now unless a clear upgrade presents itself.

George Hill, Indiana Pacers

This is going to be a transition year for the Pacers, going from a David West/Roy Hibbert-dominated identity to a smallball style that will supposedly see Paul George playing a lot of power forward. As they transition to a new era, Indiana will have to decide if Hill is the long-term answer at point guard. They don’t have an in-house replacement lined up, but if there’s any area where they’ll explore upgrades during the season and beyond, that’s it.

Must watch: Lonzo Ball halfcourt alley-oop to Zion Williamson

Lonzo Ball Zion Williamson
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Damn. This is just a thing of beauty.

Lonzo Ball and Zion Williams have a connection on the court and the Grizzlies got a look at it up close and personal Monday.

NBA TV has another angle

In a must-win game for 0-2 New Orleans, Zion played more in the first half than we have seen recently, but he was still under 10 minutes total. He had 11 points on 5-of-11 shooting, leading an energized Pelicans team that led by seven at the half.

Thunder’s Dennis Schroder leaves bubble for birth of child

Dennis Shroder child
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Dennis Schroder was not in uniform when Oklahoma City lost to Denver Monday. He wasn’t even in Orlando.

Schroder left the bubble to be with his wife for the birth of his child, something the team knew was coming but came up suddenly Monday morning, coach Billy Donovan said pregame (reporting from ESPN’s Dave McMenamin inside the bubble).

 

“I’m not gonna leave my wife by herself while she’s having a second baby,” Schroder said when he talked about this with reporters previously. “(Dennis) Jr. is still 17 months old, so I’m for sure gonna go there and support her and try as much as I can to be there for my family.”

Congratulations to the Schroder family, we hope everyone is happy and healthy.

The Thunder will miss Schroder while he’s gone. He is a Sixth Man of the Year candidate averaging 19 points per game while shooting 38.1% from three. The Thunder are at their most dangerous when Schroder is paired with Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a rotation that we will not see for a while.

The first round of the playoffs starts Aug. 17. Schroder can return to the team, the question is how long he will be in quarantine when he does. If Schroeder has a negative coronavirus test for seven consecutive days before his return, he will be in quarantine for four days. If he does not get tested, or if he exposes himself to the virus unnecessarily while outside the bubble — for example, picking up wings from a strip club for dinner — he will have a 10-day quarantine.

The Thunder could use him for what will be a tight first-round playoff series in a very balanced West. Schroder may or may not be there, he has higher priorities right now.

Oklahoma state Rep. threatens to increase Thunder’s taxes for kneeling during national anthem

Oklahoma City Thunder kneel during national anthem
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The Oklahoma City Thunder – like all NBA teams (minus a few individuals) – kneeled during the national anthem.

That powerful protest calls attention to racism, particularly through police brutality. It is highly patriotic to work toward ending those shameful practices. Though some have distorted the underlying message, the protests have largely worked. In the years since Colin Kaepernick first kneeled, Americans have developed a heightened sensitivity to racism and police brutality.

Of course, there are still many opponents of anthem kneeling. The demonstration causes a visceral reaction (which is also why it has been so effective). At this point, it’s hard to stand out among the critics of anthem kneeling who keep making the same, tired arguments.

Oklahoma state representative Sean Roberts found a way.

Roberts, via Oklahoma’s News 4:

“By kneeling during the playing of the national anthem, the NBA and its players are showing disrespect to the American flag and all it stands for. This anti-patriotic act makes clear the NBA’s support of the Black Lives Matter group and its goal of defunding our nation’s police, its ties to Marxism and its efforts to destroy nuclear families.

If the Oklahoma City Thunder leadership and players follow the current trend of the NBA by kneeling during the national anthem prior to Saturday’s game, perhaps we need to reexamine the significant tax benefits the State of Oklahoma granted the Oklahoma City Thunder organization when they came to Oklahoma. Through the Quality Jobs Act, the Thunder is still under contract to receive these tax breaks from our state until 2024.

Perhaps these funds would be better served in support of our police departments rather than giving tax breaks to an organization that supports defunding police and the dissolution of the American nuclear family.”

This is outrageous.

It’s outrageous that the Thunder get such a targeted tax break. The franchise is a private company that should succeed or fail based on its own merits. While it’s easy for NBA fans (like readers of this site) to get caught up in the league, professional basketball isn’t actually important for the greater good.

It’s outrageous that a company’s tax status could depend on how its employees exercise their freedom of expression. The First Amendment still exists.

Ultimately, Roberts almost certainly doesn’t have the power to do what he’s threatening. This is grandstanding for political gain. It gets Roberts into national headlines and little else. Mission accomplished, I guess.

So, Roberts builds a reputation as another big-government politician – someone who wants to use the heavy hand of government to dissuade free expression.

NBA referee Brent Barnaky explains standing for the national anthem

NBA referee Brent Barnaky
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Magic forward Jonathan Isaac, Heat big Meyers Leonard and Spurs coaches Gregg Popovich and Becky Hammon drew plenty of attention for standing during the national anthem while nearly all NBA players, coaches and referees kneeled.

Referee Brent Barnaky also stood.

Tim Bontemps of ESPN:

This isn’t much of an explanation. Nor does it need to be. Barnaky explained that he wasn’t countering the message of kneeling players (opposing racism, particularly through police brutality). That’s sufficient for Barnaky to maintain his neutral positioning – important for an official.

For decades, nearly everyone stood for the national anthem. For many people, that was just about following norms. Even NBA players espousing social-justice messaging previously stood for the national anthem.

But Colin Kaepernick’s brave defiance caused some people to thoughtfully consider their national-anthem posture. So, while many people continued to stand for the national anthem because that’s just was done, some made deliberate choices based on their own values. Sometimes, that led to kneeling. Sometimes, that led to standing.

The thoughtful standers blended into the crowd… until kneeling became widespread in the NBA. Now, they’re the noticeable outliers within the league.

It can take courage to go against the grain. I commend Barnaky for that – and for voicing his support for social justice and peaceful protest.

Barnaky made a personal choice that can stand alone. It doesn’t undermine what anyone else is doing.