NBA refs watch Goodfellas & A Few Good Men scenes, hopefully learn lesson

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ELIZABETH, N.J. (AP) — Imagine if Jack Nicholson’s character kept his cool on the witness stand in “A Few Good Men.”

It wasn’t until he lost it that he admitted ordering the code red, as former NBA referee and current executive Bob Delaney told officials this week.

“I’ve been that guy on the floor,” Delaney said Thursday. “I’ve been the guy that was yelling and screaming, and what does that accomplish? More often than not, you’re out of control.”

From how they act to the ways they officiate, referees were given a number of tips this week during their preseason training camp.

Delaney, who officiated more than 1,500 regular-season games before retiring in 2011, now gives instructions in his second season as the league’s vice president of referee operations. A former New Jersey State Trooper who was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after infiltrating the mob during undercover operations in the 1970s, he understands the pressure officials face.

“The maturing of a referee comes when we understand how to interact with the will to win that’s on that floor,” he said. “The will to win on an NBA floor is a tidal wave and it’s not personal affronts. It’s just in the teams’, the fans’, the coaches’, the players’ view, we get in the way of the win. So we’re the ones that make the call, so we get in the way.”

He showed officials three clips this week to make his point: a profane Joe Pesci from “Goodfellas,” Nicholson’s courtroom scene in “A Few Good Men,” and pilot Chesley Sullenberger’s 2009 emergency landing of a US Airways flight on the Hudson River, complete with audio demonstrating how he never lost his poise.

“I mean it was calm, it was collective,” Delaney said. “The point we made to them was, `Who do you want to be when you’re flying this game? You want to be like Joe Pesci, you want to be like Jack Nicholson, or you want to be like Capt. Sullenberger? You want to land these games the same way that Capt. Sullenberger did, in a professional manner.”‘

The session Thursday went beyond a video and included an emotional visit from Cory Remsburg, a soldier who was critically wounded by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan but still undergoes daily therapy in hopes of returning to service.

“The inspiration that he brings into the room and the never-quit attitude and all the things that we talk about in sports, he just lives. It’s right in front of you,” Delaney said. “So that was the whole concept of today.”

But beyond the life skills that Delaney teaches, there are also performance ones referees need for what is a changing NBA.

Gone are the days when the 3-point shot was used sometimes only in a desperate attempt to catch up. Now teams run plays to get 3-pointers as their first option, so officials have to look further out on the floor than before.

So referees talked about shifting their positioning, allowing for better angles to see plays develop in places they rarely had to look in Delaney’s early years.

“We feel that we needed to make some changes for how we position ourselves and who’s responsible for what as we move and rotate,” executive vice president of operations Mike Bantom said. “But even better, I think, was we’ve taken it from what was traditionally written in a manual and put it on a video so that all these guys now have the video mechanics.”

The staff, featuring recently retired refs Bennett Salvatore, Eddie F. Rush and Joe Forte in development and advisory roles, will help officials prepare to make those tough calls. So will arriving early at the arena to get focused, trusting their teammates, and other things Delaney urges.

“When you go into your office, you’re comfortable,” Delaney said. “When they walk into that office – some people call it an arena, it’s our office – we’re comfortable. That’s our normal environment.”

Knicks’ Obi Toppin out at least 2-3 weeks with knee fracture

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Obi Toppin is a fan favorite and Knicks faithful were hoping to see more of him as the season progresses.

However, they are not going to see any of him for at least the next 2-3 weeks due to a fractured knee, the team announced.

Toppin suffered the injury in New York’s win Wednesday over Atlanta, the same game that saw Dejounte Murray sprain his ankle leading him to be out for a few weeks.

Toppin — the reigning All-Star Weekend Slam Dunk contest champion — is averaging 7.7 points in 25 games off the bench. With him out, coach Tom Thibodeau suggested he could lean more on RJ Barrett, asking him to play up at the four.

Report: Zach LaVine not available for trade from Bulls

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Front offices of potential contenders from Los Angeles to Philadelphia have their eyes on the Chicago Bulls — will the struggling Bulls pivot to chase Victor Wembanyama and the top of the lottery, making them sellers at the trade deadline? Teams have interest in Chicago’s three stars: Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic.

Except just-extended LaVine isn’t currently available, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said Wednesday on his network’s pregame show discussing the Knicks.

“The Knicks will be watching Chicago. Is Zach LaVine a player who before the deadline possibly can become available? He certainly isn’t now.”

Chicago is not yet ready to pivot to tanking, so none of its stars are truly available. That said, the Bulls don’t look like a playoff team, they miss Lonzo Ball, and even if things do come together where do they stand in the East hierarchy? If the Bulls do become sellers, they aren’t going to tear this team down to the studs, it would likely be trading just one star. Possibly a second if the offer was strong enough.

LaVine — who signed a five-year, $215 million extension this past summer — is the least likely to be available, league sources have told NBC Sports. The expectation is that Vucevic would be the Bull first made available if the Bulls decide to start seriously listening to offers. And that remains an “if.”

That said, front offices around the league have their eyes trained on Chicago.

Dejounte Murray added to growing Hawks injury report, out 2-3 weeks with sprained ankle

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John Collins is out for at least another week with a sprained ankle. DeAndre Hunter has been out with a strained hip flexor.

Now you can add Dejounte Murray to the Hawks’ growing injury report, he is out at least 2-3 weeks with a sprained ankle, Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic report.

The injury happened on a closeout from RJ Barrett of the Knicks.

The Hawks have already had chemistry and fit issues this season, and missing key players for an extended period only exacerbates the problem. Atlanta looked flat getting their doors blown off by the Knicks Wednesday night, 113-89, a game that added to a string where they have lost 5-of-7. Now they will have to find a way to right the ship without their second-best playmaker.

There also is an update on the Hawks’ play-by-play announcer Bob Rathbun.

NBA, WNBA players react to news Brittney Griner coming home

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Brittney Griner is finally coming home.

The WNBA and USA Basketball star has spent 10 months in Russian prisons — including being convicted and sent to a Russian penal colony — for having vape canisters with small amounts of cannabis oil in her luggage as she went through Russian airport security back in February. She became a political pawn in the tensions between the United States and Russia, mostly surrounding Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, and was freed via a prisoner swap announced Thursday.

The basketball world — WNBA players in particular — had worked to keep her name front and not let Griner be forgotten during this ordeal, pushing President Joe Biden and the government to reach a deal. With the news Griner was freed, NBA and WNBA players took to social media to react.

“Brittney has had to endure an unimaginable situation and we’re thrilled that she is on her way home to her family and friends,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “We thank the members of the NBA and WNBA community who never wavered in their efforts to raise awareness of Brittney’s unjust circumstances.”

“We are overwhelmed with relief and gratitude that our sister Brittney Griner is finally coming home,” the NBPA said in a statement. “Her strength and courage throughout this last year have been truly remarkable, as have the efforts of her wife Cherelle, our WNBPA sisters, Terri Jackson and the WNBPA staff, who have been relentless in their call to bring Brittney home. We know this homecoming would not have been possible without their unwavering support and continued work to keep BG always top of mind, and our players are honored to have contributed to those efforts. While this is a celebratory moment for our sisters and us, we must not forget the other political prisoners who remain in dire circumstances all over the world. These individuals must be remembered and fought for every single day as BG was so that they too can have this moment. Welcome home Brittney, we are so happy to have you back! #WeAreBG”