Report: NBA remains best in sports hiring people of color

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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) The NBA remains the best among its professional sports peers when it comes diversity hiring.

According to the report released Thursday by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, the NBA received an A-plus for the second year in a row for racial hiring and dropped to a B in gendering hiring practices. The league’s overall grade of A was its eighth in row as the NBA scored higher than other professional sports league in all three categories.

Reports are also issued on the NFL, MLB, MLS, WNBA and college sports.

The NBA has “been the leaders in pretty much both areas since we’ve been doing the report card and they are still ahead of everybody even in gender,” said Richard Lapchick, who authors the Racial and Gender Report Card released by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport. “The NFL had a C-plus last year and MLB had a C-plus. MLS is the only one close with a B but they only had 80.1 points as opposed to the 83.7 the NBA has got. College sport was the worst of all with 78.8 points with a C-plus.”

Even in maintaining the best stands, the NBA did some dips in diversity hiring practices with the biggest coming in gender hiring. The NBA went from a B-plus grade in gendering hiring in 2015 to a B this year with drops coming at the team levels and senior leadership positions. In 2015, the NBA scored 88 points but this year only received 83.7 points on the report card.

Women comprised 39.6 percent of all professionals in the NBA league offices in this past season, which was slightly down from 40.9 percent in 2015. But women continued to hold just a small percentage of team vice president positions, comprising just 21.5 percent of the team vice president titles. Still, there were five women who served as team presidents/CEO during the 2015-6 season, which is the highest of any men’s professional sport.

“The fact there was sort of slippage with the NBA, not only was the grade low but there was actually a decline in the grade is definitely an area of concern,” Lapchick said of the overall dip in gendering hiring. “I think it’s particularly an area concern at the team level and senior leadership positions.”

The NBA, which is the first sports league to have two minorities as majority owners, also had small loses in the number of head coaches and general managers of color this year. The number of general managers went from six in 2014-15 to just four this past season. The head coaching ranks were comprised of 30 percent of men of color, as opposed to 33.3 percent at the end of the 2014-15 season.

This past season began with nine head coaches of color but while some minority coaches lost their jobs during the season that number remained at nine at the end of the season.

“The NBA has gotten it for a long time, including the general manager position, although this year they were down at the general manager position,” Lapchick said. “They have been far and away the leader of all of the sports in those areas.”

Watch Kawhi Leonard score two clutch buckets, including game-winner, in his return

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Kawhi Leonard looked rusty in his return for the first 47 minutes Monday night: 5-of-13 shooting, 0-3 from beyond the arc.

But that final minute was special.

First, there was a great hustle play from Paul George — also making his return — that got the ball to Leonard to tie it up.

Then, after a stop, the Clippers got the switch they wanted, cleared out the side and let Leonard go to work on the game-winner.

Los Angeles picked up the 119-117 win on the road. Not exactly pretty, but for a team just starting to get healthy and build some chemistry, they showed resilience and got the win. Leonard finished with 16 points on 7-of-15 shooting, and George looked sharp on his way to 19 points on 8-of-15 from the floor. It was a balanced Clippers attack, which is what Tyronn Lue is trying to build.

Kelly Oubre Jr. scored 28 and P.J. Washington added 26 for the shorthanded Hornets.

James Harden returns to 76ers Monday night, is on minutes restriction

Minnesota Timberwolves v Philadelphia 76ers
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The 76ers were able to keep their heads above water. For 14 games, James Harden was out with a right foot tendon sprain — both Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey missed games in that stretch as well (Maxey remains out) — and Philadelphia went 8-6 with a +2.9 net rating and the best defense in the NBA over that stretch.

Monday night in Houston, Harden returns.

This wasn’t a surprise, nor is the fact Doc Rivers confirmed Harden will be on a minutes restriction at first.

Harden averaged 22 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds a game before his injury, and while his 3-point shooting percentage was down (33.3%) he was still efficient and finding his footing as more of a facilitator than scorer.

The 76ers are 12-11 on the season and sit in a three-way tie for fifth in the East (with the Pacers and Raptors). If Harden can spark the Philadephia offense there is plenty of time for them to climb into the top four, host a first-round playoff game and position themselves for a deep playoff run. But it starts with getting their starting guards healthy again.

Harden is ready to take that on.

Trae Young frustrated ‘private conversations get out to the public’ about missed game

Atlanta Hawks v Philadelphia 76ers
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Rumors and chatter of tension in Atlanta — about how Trae Young was adapting to playing with Dejonte Murray, and his pushback on coach Nate McMillan and his efforts to get the ball moving more — have been all over the league since the start of the season. Over the weekend, a little of that leaked out, with reports Young chose not to come to the arena Friday after McMillan gave him a choice of participating in shootaround or missing the game.

Young addressed the report and seemed more concerned that it got out than the report’s content.

“I mean, it was just a situation. I mean, we’re all grown men here and there’s sometimes we don’t always agree. And it’s unfortunate that private situations and private conversations get out to the public, but I guess that’s the world we live in now. Yeah, I’m just gonna just focus on basketball and focus on helping my team win. And that’s what I got to be focusing on…

“Like I said, it’s a private matter, again, made public, which is unfortunate. And if it was to stay private, it probably wouldn’t have been as big of a deal. But like I said, it’s unfortunate in my job, and my goal is to win championships. And that’s what I focus on.”

Young went through shootaround  Monday and is set to play against the Thunder.

Murray has been professional throughout this situation, saying he didn’t see anything at the shootaround Friday and backing Young and McMillan when asked.

Bringing in Murray was supposed to take some pressure off Young and spread the wealth more on offense, ideally allowing Young to be more efficient. Instead, Young’s usage rate is nearly identical to last season, he is shooting just 30.3% from 3 and his true shooting percentage has fallen below league average. The Hawks as a team make the fewest passes per game of any team in the league (stat via NBA.com). The Hawks’ offense is still a lot of Young, but it’s not as efficient as it has been in years past.

Atlanta is still 13-10 on the season, has a top-10 defense and sits fourth in the East — they are not struggling. But neither have they made the leap to become a team that could threaten Boston or Milwaukee atop the conference, and that’s what the Hawks expected.

There could be personnel moves coming in Atlanta — John Collins is available via trade, again — but if the Hawks can’t smooth out their internal, existing concerns (and get Collins and DeAndre Hunter healthy) other roster moves will be just cosmetic.

Nike, Kyrie Irving part ways, making him a sneaker free agent

Toronto Raptors v Brooklyn Nets
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Here’s the positive spin for Kyrie Irving: He will have the chance to remake his situation into something he’s more comfortable with during 2023. As a player, he will be an unrestricted free agent and can choose where he wants to play in coming seasons (how many teams are interested and for how many years will be interesting to see).

Irving also is a sneaker free agent — Nike has cut ties with him, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Irving is happy with this.

The separation is not a surprise. Nike suspended its relationship with Irving after he Tweeted out support for an antisemitic film, did not apologize (at first), and was suspended by the Nets. Here was the company’s statement at that time:

“At Nike, we believe there is no place for hate speech and we condemn any form of antisemitism. To that end, we’ve made the decision to suspend our relationship with Kyrie Irving effective immediately and will no longer launch the Kyrie 8. We are deeply saddened and disappointed by the situation and its impact on everyone.”

Nike founder Phil Knight said it was likely the end of the company’s relationship with Irving.

That’s not a small thing by Nike, Irving has had a signature shoe line since 2014 and is reported to have a deal with Nike worth more than $10 million a season because his shoes are popular. However, his contract with the shoe giant was set to end in October 2023, and there had been reports Nike did not plan to extend that deal before this current controversy started.

Nike is already looking in a new direction, at Ja Morant.

Irving now has the chance to choose his new direction.