Horford, Millsap lead Hawks past Bulls 120-105

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ATLANTA (AP) Al Horford thinks the Atlanta Hawks are finally showing how good they can be.

“Moving the ball, hustling on defense and trying to do it consistently – as a team I feel like we have some lapses in those areas,” Horford said. “When we’re able to be more consistent on the defensive end, we’re just a totally different team.”

Horford scored a season-high 33 points and had 10 rebounds, Paul Millsap added 18 points and the Atlanta Hawks beat the Chicago Bulls 120-105 on Saturday night.

Jimmy Butler scored 14 of his 27 points in the third quarter and Nikola Mirotic had 24 points for Chicago, but the Bulls ended a six-game win streak.

Mike Scott had 14 points and Dennis Schroder and Kyle Korver each scored 13 to help the Hawks lead throughout. Atlanta has won two straight after dropping three of four.

“We kind of get it going and then we lose a couple, that type of thing,” Horford said. “I think we need to just focus on the next game. We can’t look too far ahead. I feel like when we start having success then maybe we do that a little bit and then we get in trouble and lose a couple in a row.”

For the first time since beating Oklahoma City on Nov. 30, Atlanta finally got a signature win entering a three-day break.

The Hawks improved to 23-15 and are tied for the second-most victories in the Eastern Conference, but they haven’t been able to play consistently at the high level that pushed them to a No. 1 seed last season.

At least for one night, they did.

Atlanta led by 19 points in the second quarter on Scott’s 3-pointer and stayed up by 13 early in the third on Kent Bazemore‘s free throws.

“We got up and down, guys were running the floor, we rolled to the basket, got easy lobs and things like that,” Jeff Teague said after finishing with 12 points and six assists. “That’s how we have to play for us to be a good team.”

Thanks in part to Butler’s prolific third quarter, the Bulls went on a 22-11 run to pull within two on a pair of free throws by Derrick Rose at the 3:38 mark of the period, but the Hawks went back up by 17 on Schroder’s jumper with 9:20 left and the game essentially decided.

“For whatever reason, right now we’re coming out with more energy in the third quarter than we are in the first,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “That’s got to change. We’re giving up 30 regularly now in the first quarter. We have to find a way to stop that.”

Chicago dropped to 22-13.

TIP-INS

Bulls: F Joakim Noah didn’t make the trip, missing his ninth straight game with a left shoulder sprain, but the team hopes to get him back by Monday. “We’ll get him doing some live stuff tomorrow,” Hoiberg said. “Hopefully he’ll get through a full practice.” … The Bulls dropped to 6-8 on the road.

Hawks: Horford added six assists and four blocked shots. … F Thabo Sefolosha couldn’t play after falling during a win Thursday at Philadelphia and hurting his right wrist. Coach Mike Budenholzer described the injury as “a little bit of a problem” and hopes he won’t miss much time. … The Hawks improved to 13-7 at home.

DISCREPANCY AT THE LINE

Atlanta was called for 22 fouls. The Bulls were whistled just 10 times before Mirotic fouled Millsap on a three-point play to make 111-96 with 4:35 to go. Chicago outscored the Hawks 26-12 at the free-throw line.

 

Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum commends Jody Allen for no vote

Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum
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The Trail Blazers, owned by Jody Allen, cast the lone dissenting vote on the NBA’s plan to resume with 22 teams.

Why?

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

Portland guard CJ McCollum:

Damian Lillard expressed his concern: He wanted the Trail Blazers to have a real chance at making the playoffs. They got that.

Wojnarowski mentioned how lottery odds are calculated – relevant only if Portland misses the postseason and something current players tend not to dwell on.

This feels incongruous.

Was safety a concern? The risk of coronavirus is higher with 22 teams than 20. However, it’s higher with 20 teams than 16.

The Trail Blazers are 17th in the league. And nobody publicly mentioned health. Having just 20 teams – especially with a group stage – would’ve given Portland an easier path into the top 16. (It’s unclear how many teams would’ve made the playoffs with a group stage).

NBA commissioner Adam Silver wanted everyone to unite behind this plan. Even other owners who disagreed with the plan voted for it. But with the Trail Blazers’ no vote, Allen engendered greater support from her players. If nothing else, that has value.

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?