NBA’s global reach to be displayed again in preseason

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MIAMI (AP) — In less than six months, Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens will be on the sideline in six different countries.

He’s perhaps the best current example of the NBA’s international reach.

Stevens’ itinerary: He was an assistant for the NBA’s game in South Africa in August, will take his Celtics to Italy and Spain for preseason matchups in October, and his club will head to Mexico in December for a regular-season contest against Sacramento. So those, combined with the normal locales in the U.S. and Canada, means Stevens will get a real feel for the game’s global following.

“We’re very focused on the health of 30 franchises,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said this summer, “and continuing to build our fan base outside of the United States.”

The league has long placed importance on growing the game in markets outside North America are to them, and this year’s lineup for the Global Games – with NBA teams heading to six different countries, plus welcoming clubs from Turkey, Israel and Brazil to the U.S. for preseason games – probably will only enhance those efforts.

And for the teams going abroad – the Celtics, the Los Angeles Clippers, the Charlotte Hornets and the Orlando Magic will in the preseason – it’s a good chance for some bonding.

“I believe that you can have good moments together,” Stevens said Friday at the Celtics’ media day. “I think the more dinners you eat together, the more flights you take together, the more time you spend together, the more places you travel to are all positives.”

Miami has long valued its international flavor. The city is a Latin American business gateway, the Heat have a star in Dwyane Wade wearing shoes made by Chinese company Li Ning, have a starting point guard from Slovenia in Goran Dragic, and have a Filipino-American coach in Erik Spoelstra.

The Heat aren’t going overseas this preseason. If Spoelstra had his way, they would be.

“I love it,” Spoelstra said. “I’m all for it. If we could do it every year, I’d do it every year. … Stay tuned, we’re going to try to go somewhere next year.”

The league tries to accommodate the teams that will be traveling more in the preseason by allowing them to start camp early; the four heading abroad in this year’s preseason all had media day – the prelude to camp – on Friday, while the rest of the league will get started on Monday.

How much the NBA teams will actually benefit basketball-wise from this year’s trips, if at all, remains to be seen.

“I’m not sure,” said Orlando coach Scott Skiles, whose team faces Brazilian team Flamengo in Rio de Janeiro on Oct. 17. “I guess one thing, if I could wish something it was that we were playing an NBA team. Nothing against Flamengo or anybody. I’m not sure of the area where we’re staying or how much we’ll be able to leave the area. So I don’t know.”

Clippers coach Doc Rivers, whose team plays Charlotte in the Chinese cities of Shenzhen and Shanghai on Oct. 11 and 14, said he would rather have taken his team to Brazil – for the simple reason that he’s already seen China. But both teams figure to be a big draw; Clippers guard Chris Paul has drawn huge crowds in China in the past, and Hornets owner Michael Jordan still has enormous popularity there.

“More people play basketball in China,” Clippers forward Blake Griffin said, “than play basketball here.”

Stevens said the experience of traveling abroad as a team – he’s been part of overseas trips as a player and coach before – can be “a little overrated.” Still, the Celtics will probably see sellout crowds in all the faraway lands that they’ll visit – a testament to both the lure of a 17-time-champion franchise and the NBA brand.

“At the end of the day, we usually pointed to it as a real positive if we had a really good team,” Stevens said. “So I don’t know how much difference it really made. I think that’s probably the case if you go through the annals of the people that have taken their teams over. If you’ve got a really good team, you’ve got a really good team. But I think it does help you get to know each other better.”

NBA Global Games Schedule

Preseason

Oct. 6, Boston vs. Olimpia Milano at Milan, Italy

Oct. 8, Boston vs. Real Madrid at Madrid, Spain

Oct. 11, L.A. Clippers vs. Charlotte at Shenzhen, China

Oct. 14, Charlotte vs. L.A. Clippers at Shanghai, China

Oct. 17, Orlando vs. Flamengo at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Regular Season

Dec. 3, Boston vs. Sacramento at Mexico City

Jan. 14, Toronto vs. Orlando at London

Donovan says Lonzo Ball’s recovery has ‘been really slow’

Milwaukee Bucks v Chicago Bulls
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
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Watching the finger-pointing and heated moments between Bulls’ defenders on Wednesday night as Devin Booker carved them up to the tune of 51 points, one thought was how much they miss Lonzo Ball‘s defense at the point of attack.

Ball had a second surgery on his knee back in September and the team said he would be out at “least a few months.” It’s coming up on a few months, so Donovan gave an update on Ball and his recovery, and the news was not good for Bulls’ fans. Via Rob Schaefer at NBC Sports Chicago:

“It’s been really slow,” Donovan said when asked about Ball’s rehab. “I’m just being honest.”

Donovan added Ball has not necessarily suffered a setback. The Bulls knew this would be an arduous process. But he also noted that Ball is “not even close” to being cleared for contact or on-court work.

Ball had his first knee surgery in January and the expectation was he would be back and 100% by the playoffs. However, Ball’s knee didn’t respond well, and he was eventually ruled out for the season. Things didn’t improve over the summer, which led to the second surgery. How much do they miss him? The Bulls were 22-13 with him last season, and he averaged 13.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 5.1 assists, a game. However, it was his defense that was most crucial.

There is no timeline for his return. Which is not good news for Chicago.

PBT Podcast: Timberwolves without KAT, get Luka some help

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Minnesota has stumbled out of the gate this season, and now they will be without Karl-Anthony Towns for around a month with a calf strain. Just how much trouble are the Timberwolves in?

Corey Robinson from NBC Sports and myself discuss that and then get into Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s Team USA vs. Team World matchup — does Evan Fournier get the world team in trouble? Who guards whom?

From there, it’s time for Corey’s Jukebox and some New Orleans jazz for Zion Williamson. Some Mavericks’ talk follows that — Dallas has put a big load on the shoulders of Luka Doncic, and while he’s playing like an MVP it’s a long-term concern for the Mavericks and their fans.

You can always watch the video of some of the podcast above, or listen to the entire podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google Play, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please feel free to email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

LeBron calls out reporters for asking him about Kyrie Irving but not Jerry Jones

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Within days of Kyrie Irving being suspended by the Nets in the wake of a Tweet promoting an antisemitic film (and his initial refusal to apologize for it), Irving’s former teammate LeBron James was asked about it. He had to deal with the controversy, saying, “I don’t condone any hate to any kind. To any race.”

At the end of his press conference Wednesday night after the Lakers beat the Trail Blazers, LeBron scolded the assembled press for not asking him about the 1957 photo that surfaced of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones outside North Little Rock High School while white students protested the integration of the school when they had been quick to ask about Irving.

“When I watched Kyrie talk, and he says, `I know who I am, but I want to keep the same energy when we’re talking about my people and the things they’ve been through,’ and that Jerry Jones photo is one of those moments that our people, Black people, have been through in America. And I feel like as a Black man, as a Black athlete, someone with power and with a platform, when we do something wrong or something that people don’t agree with, it’s on every single tabloid, every single news coverage. It’s on the bottom ticker. It’s asked about every single day.

“But it seems like to me that the whole Jerry Jones situation, the photo, and I know it was years and years ago, and we all make mistakes, I get it. It seems like it’s just been buried under, like, `Oh, it happened. OK. We just move on.’ And I was just kind of disappointed that I haven’t received that question from you guys.”

Irving and LeBron were teammates in Cleveland and won a ring together, there was a direct connection (plus Irving had been linked to the Lakers in trade rumors over the summer).

However, there was a connection between LeBron and the Cowboys as well. LeBron was for many years a very public Cowboys fan (despite growing up in Browns territory). It came up as recently as October, when LeBron was on Instagram Live promoting his HBO show with Maverick Carter “The Shop” and he said he had stopped rooting for the Cowboys in the wake of Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protests, “There’s just a lot of things that were going on when guys were kneeling. Guys were having freedom of speech and wanting to do it in a very peaceful manner…. The organization was like, ‘If you do that around here, then you will never play for this franchise again.’ I just didn’t think that was appropriate.”

When asked about the photo, Jones said he was a curious 14-year-old who was watching and didn’t understand the magnitude of the moment or situation.

Watch Russell Westbrook drain two buzzer-beaters against Blazers

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The Portland Trail Blazers had to know it was not their night when Russell Westbrook knocked down a buzzer-beating step-back 3-pointer just before the half.

Westbrook wasn’t done, he had one more buzzer-beater in him at the end of the third.

Westbrook wasn’t the only guy in the building draining half-courters — for the second-straight game a Laker fan knocked down a half-court shot, this time to win $25,000.

It was a good night all around for the Lakers and their fans at home against the shorthanded Trail Blazers. They got 31 points from LeBron James, plus 27 points and 12 boards from Anthony Davis. Austin Reaves added in 22, and the Lakers took control in the third and cruised in for a needed win.