For the NFL, the issue of players kneeling during the national anthem remains an issue and distraction, in part because it’s a good wedge issue for President Donald Trump. It’s red meat to Trump’s base, other news sources pick it up, and then a rather ridiculous and distracting discussion (that strays from the actual issues) stays in the spotlight.
The anthem has never been a real issue for the NBA (at least not this time around, it was with Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf years ago). When the anthem issue was discussed on HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher this week, Clippers’ owner Steve Ballmer spoke for the NBA and quickly nailed why it’s not an issue.
That certainly is part of it. From NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on down, the league has encouraged players to speak out on social issues, to use their platforms, to make statements. NBA owners, even ones who politically disagree with the statements, encourage them. The players don’t feel the need to make a statement in the same way.
Part of that is the power dynamic between NBA owners and their star players is different — in the NBA, the elite players have it and own it. In purely practical terms, no NBA owner would push back hard against LeBron James, Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, or any other star player on a social justice issue because those teams would feel the backlash quickly. Due to basic supply and demand, elite NBA players have a lot of power and they are learning how to wield it. A team that held back its stars in that way wouldn’t have any stars on the roster very quickly.
However, the primary reason the NBA doesn’t have an anthem issue is its core demographic is different from the NFL’s — it’s younger, it’s more diverse, and it’s more urban. If you prefer the political term, it’s much bluer than the NFL. If an NBA player protested during the anthem there would not be near the same vitriol and pushback from the fanbase, in fact, most would support the move. It’s a key reason President Donald Trump taking Twitter shots at the NBA or is players doesn’t have the same impact.
It’s the lure of the New York market, that a coach would consider passing on coaching Giannis Antetokounmpo and a team on the rise in Milwaukee to take the job.
In the summer of 2018, Mike Budenholzer was out in Atlanta and the best established name on the coaching market. At the time, it was known Coach Bud was the top choice of the Knicks, but he was reportedly close to taking the job, according to Ian Begley at SNY.TV.
Discussions between the Knicks and Budenholzer in the 2018 offseason advanced to a point where some people who would have come with Budenholzer to New York were talking about places to live in the city because they felt Budenholzer was close to taking the job, per SNY sources…
One official from an opposing team involved in searches at the time confirmed that coaching the Knicks intrigued Budenholzer. “Bud was definitely interested,” the team official said recently.
Budenholzer, however, chose Milwaukee, which had Antetokounmpo and a roster that was talented but needed a more modern offensive style and more focus. Budenholzer brought that and the team won 60 games last season, and is a title contender this season (if and when the NBA season restarts).
The Knicks hired David Fizdale, who lasted less than a season and a half before being let go. New team president Leon Rose now has to hire a new coach, and that will say a lot about the direction he wants to take the team.
He’d be lucky to find someone as good as Budenholzer.
It was the highlight of an entertaining — if not always pretty — afternoon of live golf, raising money for charity.
Tampa Bay Bay Buccanneers quarterback Tom Brady (it’s so weird to type that) was on his fourth shot on the par-5 7th hole at the Medalist Golf Club. Brady had a rough front nine to that point, and commentator Charles Barkley decided to up the trash talk (as if Barkley should talk about someone else’s golf game).
“How many shots do you want? Come on, I’m going to give you some shots man, I want some of you,” Barkley said.
“Don’t worry, it ain’t over yet,” Brady countered as he walked up to his fourth shot, 130 yards from the pin. “I think you just made him mad, Chuck,” host Brian Anderson said. “No, he can take a joke,” Barkley replied. Then this happened.
Brady earned that trash talk.
It wasn’t the only great exchange between the two; they had some fun on an earlier on a par 3 when Barkley bet Brady couldn’t get it on the green.
The Golden State Warriors have been public about it, they expect their season to be over. Golden State is far from alone, multiple teams well out of the playoff picture have questioned the expense and risk-to-reward ratio of coming back to play a handful of regular season games without fans in Orlando.
More and more, the buzz has been the NBA league office sees things the same way. I am not the only reporter hearing this: Steve Popper of Newsday wrote a column saying there was no reason to invite all 30 teams to the bubble city and the USA Today’s well-connected Jeff Zillgett added this:
This is where we throw in the caveat: There are no hard-and-fast plans from the NBA yet and every option is still being considered. One lesson Adam Silver took from David Stern was not to make a decision until you have to, and Silver is going to absorb more information in the coming weeks — such as from the recent GM survey — before making his call.
That said, the league seems to be coalescing around a general plan, which includes camps starting in mid-June and games in mid-July in Orlando.
For the bottom three to five teams in each conference, there is little motivation to head to Orlando for the bubble. It’s an expense to the owner with no gate revenue coming in, teams want to protect their NBA Draft Lottery status, and the Warriors don’t want to risk injury to Stephen Curry — or the Timberwolves to Karl-Anthony Towns, or the Hawks to Trae Young — for a handful of meaningless games.
The league is considering a play-in tournament for the final seed or seeds in each conference (there are a few format options on the table, it was part of the GM survey). That would bring the top 10 or 12 seeds from each conference to the bubble, depending upon the format, and they would play a handful of games to determine which teams are in the playoffs (and face the top seeds).
Either way, that would leave the three or five teams with the worst records in each conference home. Which is the smart thing to do, there’s no reason to add risk to the bubble for a handful of meaningless games.
Jon Leuer is only age 31, but the big man has battled ankle and other injuries in recent seasons, playing in only 49 games over the past three seasons. Last July, the Pistons traded him to the Bucks in a salary dump, and Milwaukee quickly waived him. Leuer struggled to get healthy and did not catch on with another team.
Sunday he took to Instagram to announce his retirement.
Leuer — a second-round pick out of Wisconsin for the Bucks in 2011 — averaged 10.2 points and 5.4 rebounds a game for the Pistons in the 2016-17 season, and for the years at the peak of his career he was a quality rotational big man teams could trust, either off the bench or as a spot starter.
Over the course of his career he played for the Bucks, Cavaliers, Grizzlies, Suns, and Pistons. He earned more than $37 million in salary, most of it from a three-year contract the Pistons gave him in 2016. It was not long after his body started to betray him.
Leuer has been riding out the quarantine in Minnesota is wife Keegan (NFL coach Brian Billick’s daughter) and the couple is donating thousands of meals a week to the needy in that community.