Associated Press

Paul Millsap leads Hawks to rout of 76ers, 104-72

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Even with Dwight Howard having an off game, Atlanta won easily.

And coach Mike Budenholzer said that’s a good sign for the Hawks.

Paul Millsap scored 17 points to lead five Hawks in double figures and Atlanta toppled the Philadelphia 76ers 104-72 on Saturday.

Kyle Korver added 15 points and Mike Muscala added 14 for Atlanta.

The Hawks barely needed top offseason acquisition Howard. The big man had just two points and seven rebounds in his second game for his hometown team after signing a three-year, $70 million free-agent contract this summer. The 31-year-old center had 19 rebounds and 11 points in Atlanta’s season-opening 114-99 win over Washington on Thursday.

“The great thing about adding Dwight to our group and something that Dwight is embracing and cherishing is that we play as a team,” Budenholzer said.

“Everybody steps up, everybody contributes. Dwight is going to have great, big nights. A day like today was maybe not his day. Muscala, Paul and Kris (Humphries) were great. It’s much more a positive than anything.”

Dennis Schroder displayed the playmaking ability the Hawks are counting on with him taking over for Jeff Teague as the team’s point guard. After getting two assists in the opener, Schroder had 11 to go with 11 points against Philadelphia.

Joel Embiid and Sergio Rodriguez had 14 points apiece for the 76ers.

The Hawks’ reserves (51 points) had nearly as many points (53) as the starters.

“It says a lot,” Millsap said. “Our bench is great. Our bench did a great job of coming in and sparking a nice, little run for us. This game, last game, they did a great job of doing that.”

Millsap scored four points during Atlanta’s 8-2 run to open the fourth quarter, capped by Muscala’s 17-foot jumper for an 82-60 lead.

After sitting out for two years because of a foot injury, Embiid dazzled the home crowd with 20 points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes in Wednesday’s season-opening loss to Oklahoma City. The third overall pick in the 2014 draft, Embiid had trouble staying on the court in the opening half against Orlando.

Moments after chants of “Trust the process! Trust the process!” serenaded Embiid on the free-throw line, the crowd erupted in the second quarter when Embiid blocked Howard’s shot attempt.

Embiid had to go to the bench seconds later after picking up his third foul. The Hawks took advantage, outscoring Philadelphia 17-10 from that point to enter the intermission up 53-39.

Philadelphia could get only within 10 points in the third quarter on Jerami Grant‘s highlight-reel reverse dunk. But the Hawks scored eight of the final 10 points of the period to enter the fourth quarter ahead 74-58.

NATIONAL ANTHEM

A day after apologizing for prohibiting R&B singer Sevyn Streeter from performing the national anthem at Wednesday’s opener because Streeter was wearing a “We Matter” T-shirt, the song went off without any incidents or protests prior to Saturday’s game. Mike Moore, a member of the team’s “Flight Squad,” performed the national anthem with no signs that anything was amiss.

NO CHEESESTEAKS

DeAndre Bembry had two points for Atlanta. The rookie is a product of nearby Saint Joseph’s. He received cheers when he entered with just under six minutes left.

Bembry said he had “a bunch of people” in attendance from St. Joe’s. One thing he didn’t have while back in Philadelphia, though, was a cheesesteak due to the recent removal of a wisdom tooth.

MORE MINUTES

Embiid, on a minutes restriction because of his foot injury, played 15 minutes.

“With the minutes he played, he clearly helped us,” Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said. “We’re looking forward to him playing more minutes.”

TIP-INS

Hawks: Millsap, a three-time All-Star, is averaging a team-best 22.5 points per game through two games. … Atlanta nearly doubled Philadelphia in assists, with 31 to the 76ers’ 16.

76ers: Philadelphia, which started 0-18 on the way to a 10-72 mark last season, looks for its first win with its third straight home game to start the season, Tuesday against the Magic. Five of the 76ers’ first six games are at home. Philadelphia is playing without three starters because of injury: Jerryd Bayless (wrist), Nerlens Noel (knee) and 2016 No. 1 pick Ben Simmons (foot).

 

Sacramento Kings turning former arena into coronavirus surge hospital

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If you’re old enough, you might remember Arco Arena as the home of the Sacramento Kings when they were a playoff team. Chris Webber, Mike Bibby, Peja Stojaković, and company pushed the Shaq/Kobe Lakers to seven games in 2002 and won huge playoff games in the arena. Arco was where Jason Williams was dropping dimes without looking, and arena which later became known as the Sleep Train Arena, Power Balance Pavilion, and eventually the current Natomas Arena.

Now, it’s about to be a coronavirus surge hospital.

The Kings are making the arena available and it will house about 360 beds, the team announced on Friday. The team also is donating $250,000 to support area community organizations providing services to families in need in the area, plus donating 100,000 medical masks to state and local health agencies.

“On behalf of the entire Kings family, our hearts are with all who have been affected by this pandemic,” said Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé in a statement. “California always leads the nation and the world, and we applaud Governor [Gavin] Newsom’s strong and decisive leadership to keep Californians healthy and safe during this crisis…

“Our community has always come first, and that is more important now than ever,” Ranadivé continued. “The Kings are proud to help by providing additional space to accommodate a predicted surge in patients. We are also donating masks to help keep people healthy, and critical resources to area organizations that are addressing food insecurity and other issues as a result of the coronavirus. I have always been in awe of the resilience and ingenuity of the American people and firmly believe that together, we will defeat this invisible enemy.”

The Kings moved to the Golden 1 Center in downtown Sacramento in 2015 and since then their former home and practice arena has mostly sat vacant. The Kings’ G-League team practices there at times, but like the rest of basketball they find their season suspended.

Hopefully, this arena helps save some lives in the California capital. That would be the most important thing ever to happen in the building.

WNBA postpones season

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Mavericks owner Mark Cuban backed off his belief that the NBA could resume in May.

It’s just already clear, amid the coronavirus pandemic, it’ll be unsafe to hold professional basketball games that soon.

WNBA release:

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert released the following statement:

“As developments continue to emerge around the COVID-19 pandemic, including the extension of the social distancing guidelines in the United States through April 30, the WNBA will postpone the start of its training camps and tip of the regular season originally scheduled for May 15.  While the league continues to use this time to conduct scenario-planning regarding new start dates and innovative formats, our guiding principle will continue to be the health and safety of the players, fans and employees.

Many top female players – including Los Angeles Sparks guard Sydney Wiese, who tested positive for coronavirus – play overseas during the WNBA offseason. That frequency of travel makes it even riskier for WNBA teams to gather any time soon.

The WNBA will still hold its draft April 17, conducting proceedings virtually. That could provide lessons to the NBA as it determines how to handle its draft.

Joel Embiid, 76ers owners pledging $1.3M for fighting coronavirus

76ers owner Josh Harris and Joel Embiid
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Joel Embiid just showed up 76ers owners Josh Harris and David Blitzer by pledging to pay team employees who were set to have their pay cut. Amid widespread backlash, the 76ers backtracked on their salary-reduction plan.

Now – with a portion of Embiid’s coronavirus-related donation unallocated and Harris and Blitzer looking to change the narrative around them – those three are working together.

Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

Joel Embiid, Sixers managing partner Josh Harris and co-managing partner David Blitzer are contributing a combined $1.3 million to Penn Medicine, establishing a funding campaign for COVID-19 antibody testing of frontline healthcare workers.

According to a Penn Medicine press release, “The pledge from Embiid, Harris and Blitzer will provide a much-needed boost for efforts to quickly identify health care workers who may have immunity to the new virus.”

This is great.

Some Utah Jazz employees laid off as part of cutback across owner’s businesses

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The Philadephia 76ers came in early, trying to force 20 percent cutbacks in salaries across the franchise’s staff. That lasted less than 24 hours before the backlash hit, the net worth of the team’s primary owner, Joshua Harris, was trending on Twitter, and the decision was reversed.

That stopped other owners from making a similar move or laying employees off for a while, but not long after the top 100 earners at the NBA League office — including Commissioner Adam Silver — were given a 20 percent pay reduction. The worsening economic crisis caused by the coronavirus shutdown of the United States is pushing NBA owners to act.

On Friday, the Utah Jazz — owned by the Larry H. Miller Group, which in total has more 80 different companies under its umbrella — sent this message to Adrian Wojnarowski ESPN:

“Due to the impact on our customer-facing businesses from this unprecedented pandemic, the (Miller Group) …. unfortunately had to make difficult decisions to reduce a small percentage of our workforce. Over the past several weeks, we have worked to manage and reduce costs, including executive compensation, and have reached a point where we have had to say farewell to a limited number of our valued employees.

“We have connected with our associates with outplacement services and aligned them with employers who have immediate hiring needs. We remain focused on helping our communities stay healthy.”

Reports out of Utah say these are layoffs that hit a lot of people and could be permanent.

It’s not fair, but little is fair right now. As noted, this is not just a layoff of some Jazz employees but also people at other businesses across the Larry H. Miller company.

Expect other NBA owners to follow suit soon, too. Not all, but some. Like owners of businesses of all sizes, they have been both hit hard in the short term and see a looming recession beyond the coronavirus. They will be looking to save money.