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Report: 76ers still hope to re-sign Jimmy Butler

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Brett Brown downplayed the idea Jimmy Butler disrespected him during a recent film session.

But the 76ers coach didn’t address the bigger (though non-headlining) revelation in ESPN’s recent report on Butler – that there’s concern about his long-term fit in Philadelphia. With the NBA cracking down on tampering, teams should be wary of publicly discussing future contracts, even with their own players.

Still, the 76ers are putting out word about Butler’s upcoming free agency.

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

The Sixers went into the Butler experience with eyes wide open, and still hope to re-sign him this summer, sources say.

File this under: What else are they supposed to say? If they no longer plan to re-sign him, they should trade him before next month’s deadline. And if it became known don’t plan to re-sign him, that would cripple their trade leverage.

Besides, planning to keep Butler is the right approach, anyway. Sure, he’s not the most natural fit with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. But keeping Butler maximizes the 76ers’ talent level, and that’s what they need in the long run.

Butler is an excellent, versatile player. Simmons and Embiid are each in just their second mostly healthy seasons. They’ve played only 21 games together. It’s far too soon to write off this trio. Players can adjust, and importantly, Philadelphia can rebuild complementary depth in after slashing it in the deal to acquire Butler from the Timberwolves (surrendering Robert Covington and Dario Saric, two starters for one).

Of course, Butler must want to stay. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent. But the 76ers can offer the largest contract – a projected $190 million over five years (about $38 million annually). Butler’s max with another team projects to be $141 million over four years (about $35 million annually).

So, Butler and Philadelphia will likely stay the course together, even with murmurs to the contrary.

NBA players reportedly to take part in televised NBA 2K tournament Friday

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If we can’t watch NBA players on the court, at least we can watch them control their digital selves and teammates in a live basketball tournament.

ESPN plans to broadcast an NBA 2K tournament with only NBA players at the controllers, a story broken by Chris Haynes at Yahoo Sports. The hope is to have it air Friday, with the players competing from their homes around the country.

The NBA is planning a players-only NBA 2K tournament that will feature the league’s sharpest video gamers and it will be broadcast on ESPN, league sources told Yahoo Sports…

Players competing against their peers in the comfort of their own homes could offer a distraction for fans who are missing the game and a little competition.

The league is still finalizing some details for the tournament, but each team is expected to have a representative, sources said.

Esports are incredibly popular and growing as a spectator sport, both in person and on Twitch and other platforms. With there being a pent-up demand for sports programming, this seems a smart attempt to draw eyeballs. Even people who are non-esports viewers could tune in just to check it out, because it’s that or rewatching Tiger King.

You can bet that if it works, we will see a lot more of it in the future.

(Inside baseball note: I would love to see the emails/texts flying around ESPN about Yahoo breaking a story about what is coming in their network.)

 

Shaquille O’Neal: I had no idea what was happening with Joe Exotic of Tiger King

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On a recent episode of “The Big Podcast with Shaq” former NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal said that “he had no idea” what was happening at the zoo run by Joe Exotic. Joe Exotic was recently made famous through the popular Netflix documentary “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness”.

Footage of O’Neal appeared in the first episode of the show and was shown taking photographs with the animals.

The documentary also showed a cut of O’Neal on TNT saying “Shoutout to Exotic Joe. I got two more tigers.”

On his podcast, O’Neal explained:

“So we go in there, and it’s a beautiful place, and the character that was there was Exotic Joe. We’re there and I dropped some donations for the tigers’ foods and all that. We take pictures with (the) tigers. We went back a couple times. Then we go back another time and we found out that he’s involved with all the stuff, and then, actually, I stopped going.”

Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as Joe Exotic, was sentenced to 22 years in prison after being found guilty of 19 different charges. Those charges included murder-for-hire plot, illegally selling endangered species and other animal-related offenses.

O’Neal clarified that he never bought any animals, but often donates to charities that help animals. He also made it clear that he’s not friends with Joe Exotic, nor anyone involved in the trade of endangered species.

“I don’t harm tigers,” O’Neal said. “I love tigers. I love white tigers. Do I put donations to these zoos to help these tigers out? I do it all the time. Do I own tigers personally at my house? No. But I love tigers. Listen, people are going to make their own opinions, but, again, I was just a visitor. I met this guy — not my friend. Don’t know him. Never had any business dealings with him, and I had no idea any of that stuff was going on.”

Report: Brooklyn Nets looking to hire a blue-chip head coach

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When the Brooklyn Nets and Kenny Atkinson parted ways in early-March, the team installed Jacque Vaughn as the interim head coach.

According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst that’s a short-term appointment. On his podcast “Brian Windhorst and The Hoop Collective”, the reporter said the Nets are looking to hire a coach with a track record of NBA success.

“One of the things that has been expressed sort of the grapevine, that’s the way I’m going to say it to protect myself from the aggregators, is that Durant and Irving would like a blue-chip coach. I don’t know what this says about the way they thought about Atkinson, but they want a big-name coach.”

Names linked to the Brooklyn opening are Tom Thibodeau, Mark Jackson, and both Jeff and Stan Van Gundy.

Atkinson leaving Brooklyn was a surprise, considering he had led the Nets back to the playoffs in 2019. That success came after a three-year rebuild. That process was kicked off when general manager Sean Marks hired Atkinson to lead the on-court development. Under Marks and Atkinson, the Nets developed several players who had been given up on by other teams.

Brooklyn was 28-34 when Atkinson was let go. The Nets had gone 2-0 under Vaughn before the NBA suspended play in mid-March.

Rumor: NBA considering resuming 2020 season in a single site with shortened playoffs

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The NBA is determined to salvage what they can of the 2019-20 season. That includes drastically adjusting the playoff schedule per Marc Berman of the New York Post.

Among proposals being considered are best-of-three playoff series. The NBA has all but rejected a single-game elimination tournament. That would only be considered as a last resort per Berman.

One of the proposals on the table is gathering the entire league in one site to conclude the season. This proposal would involve playing games without fans present, but televising the contests. That would involve a 5-to-7 game regular season, followed by the playoffs.

Sites rumored to be under consideration are Las Vegas, Orlando, Hawaii, Atlantic City, Louisville and the Bahamas. Any site would have to have basketball facilities, as well as well as plenty of room to house the teams in a closed environment.

One league official was quoted by Berman as saying “Nothing is off the table.” Another told Berman “They’re very determined to have a champion.”