It’s the time of year when agents try to influence what team drafts their client. Ultimately, the teams have the power here — if they want a player they can draft him and hold onto his rights until he agrees to play for them. (The only way out is for a player to sit out every level of basketball for a season, domestic and overseas, then re-enter the draft with a diminished status.)
That doesn’t stop agents from trying. The withhold medical information. They refuse to let their player workout for the team. Or, they just tell the team their player doesn’t want to be there. A number of players have done that with Sacramento.
Mohamed Bamba is doing that with Memphis. That’s according to ESPN’s Jonathan Givony on Memphis radio.
With a “let’s make the playoffs next season/keep the status quo” mentality in Memphis, Bamba is not really a fit anyway. Bamba may have the highest ceiling of anyone in this draft, but he also has farther to go to reach that ceiling than almost anyone in this draft. He has the potential to be a defensive force, but he has to get his legs and core much stronger. He is incredibly raw on offense. Looking at a guy who was at times casual in his play in college, will he put in the work to get there?
Who would make more sense for the Grizzlies at No. 4? Jaren Jackson Jr. for one, but…
Memphis also may be more likely to trade their pick than anyone in the top five. Considering their options, the Grizzlies may see that as the best option, if they get a decent offer.
The Lakers’ offense has stumbled so far in the bubble.
Joe Vardon of The Athletic:
LeBron gave a weird answer about this. He agreed that he and the Lakers were looking for a rhythm on offense. And then he said: “It’s just some things that you can’t control that’s here, that I really don’t want to talk about, that’s off the floor.”
Mike Trudell of the Lakers:
Was LeBron referring to his groin injury? I wouldn’t call that an off-court issue, but maybe he would.
LeBron knows how to work the media. This subtle comment will draw attention and sets up LeBron to look better if he leads the Lakers through this mysterious issue.
Without more context, it’s easy for imaginations to wander – especially about a team with Dwight Howard, Dion Waiters and J.R. Smith. The Lakers could be facing a major hurdle. Or a minor nuisance. Who knows? But the unknown is scary.
It’ll be difficult to detect the Lakers’ progress during remaining seeding games. The Lakers have already clinched the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, and without a home-court advantage in the NBA Finals, there’s no reason to chase the NBA’s best overall record. That’s why LeBron missing tonight’s game against the Rockets could be mostly precautionary.
Ben Simmons injured his knee during the 76ers’ win over the Wizards yesterday.
The diagnosis is in, and the prognosis sounds worrisome.
Serena Winters of NBC Sports Philadelphia:
How quickly will Simmons recover? Once he recovers, will he face elevated risk of re-injury?
These questions now haunt Simmons and Philadelphia.
Simmons is a young star who’ll begin a max contract extension next season. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons opened Philadelphia’s championship window, and now rain is drizzling through. Philadelphia can’t reach it ceiling without Simmons healthy and providing value.
Even more modest goals in a disjointed season will be more difficult to reach.
The 76ers were just adjusting to playing Simmons at power forward. Now, they must again re-configure their plan – maybe for a significant chunk of the remainder of the season.
Even more burden falls onto Embiid, who has been shouldering so much with this mismatched roster. Simmons plays across the positional spectrum, so any number of 76ers could fill in while he’s out. Many of those lesser players will complement Embiid more smoothly than Simmons did. But the talent deficit without Simmons can’t be offset.
That’s the scary issue for now – and maybe a while.
WNBA players and Kelly Loeffler hit a stalemate.
Players want to oust Loeffler as Atlanta Dream co-owner because Loeffler – a Republican U.S. Senator from Georgia – holds political stances they disagree with and is advocating against the league supporting Black Lives Matter. Loeffler said she won’t sell, and the league won’t force her out.
So, players have turned to Loeffler’s senate race, wearing “VOTE WARNOCK” shirts in support of Democratic challenger Raphael Warnock.
Holly Rowe of ESPN:
ATLANTA—Today, political outsider and conservative businesswoman Kelly Loeffler issued the following statement in response to WNBA players wearing “VOTE WARNOCK” t-shirts. The shirts endorse Kelly’s Democrat opponent, Raphael Warnock, following her criticism of the league’s embrace of the Black Lives Matter political organization.
“This is just more proof that the out of control cancel culture wants to shut out anyone who disagrees with them. It’s clear that the league is more concerned with playing politics than basketball, and I stand by what I wrote in June:
“We come together around sports, but promoting a political agenda divides us rather than unites us. The lives of every African American matter, and there’s no place for racism in our country. But I oppose the BLM political organization due to its radical ideas and Marxist foundations, which include defunding the police and eroding the nuclear family. On the other hand, our flag represents our values of freedom and equality for all. If we can’t unite behind our flag, much less the national anthem during this struggle, then what keeps us together? It’s sad to see that there’s more interest in tearing our country apart than in solutions that bring us together. I’ll continue to defend American values and our flag, because this is not a game – it’s the future of our country. “
“Cancel culture” is a vague term with shifting definitions. But people supporting voting for one political candidate over another? That comes nowhere near any reasonable definition of cancel culture.
WNBA players are not just basketball players. They’re human beings with varied interests – including politics. That should come perfectly naturally to a self-described “political outsider” who’s a sitting senator and running for re-election. If it’s reasonable for Loeffler to be interested in politics (it is), it reasonable for WNBA players to be interested in politics.
As far as Loeffler restating her previous points, she remains errant.
The report from ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan that Larry Bird resigned as Pacers president because the team didn’t spend enough?
Statement from Larry Bird
“A published report indicated that I left my position as President of Basketball Operations in 2017 because ownership was not willing to spend “big money” and that it frustrated me enough to step aside. Nothing could be further from the truth. I want everyone to know I left there because it was time for me to move on from the Pacers.
“I had worked with Kevin Pritchard and at that time I felt Kevin was ready to take over and he has proven that. I can’t thank Herb and Mel Simon, along with Pacers Sports & Entertainment, for the opportunities to, at first, coach, and then later move into the front office.”
Statement from ESPN senior writer Jackie MacMullan:
“About three weeks ago during a discussion on the podcast The Hoop Collective, I misspoke when I expressed my opinion regarding the business practices of the Indiana Pacers, and inferred that Larry Bird had been frustrated during his time as team president. It was a careless remark, based solely on my opinion, and therefore should have never been said. Larry Bird never expressed those feelings to me, and I apologize to both Larry and team owner Herb Simon for poor choice of my words.”
I don’t know why the Pacers bothered quoting Bird, who still works for the organization as Advisor to the President of Basketball Operations. MacMullan’s clear recantation says everything necessary (and speaks to her integrity and humility).
It’s good this story got cleared up.
Some things that remain true: