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Pelicans name Danny Ferry interim GM, still considering long-term options

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Much like when a team makes a young coach hire a proven veteran head coach as an assistant — a sign they want someone in place if things go sideways — so eyebrows around the NBA were raised a few years ago when the Pelicans hired former Hawks GM Danny Ferry to be a consultant to the New Orleans front office. It was like they were lining up a potential replacement.

Friday morning, the Pelicans fired Dell Demps as GM.

Now they have named Ferry as the interim GM the team announced.

Ferry will be in the mix long-term, but owner Gayle Benson wants a new structure in place in New Orleans. Demps reported to Micky Loomis, the NFL’s Saints executive, and in comments on the firing of Demps she said she wants to set up a more independent structure for the Pelicans.

“We will immediately begin the process of restructuring our basketball operations department,” Pelicans Owner Gayle Benson said in her statement. “This will include a comprehensive, but confidential, search aided by outside consultants to identify a new leader of our basketball operations, directly reporting to me…

“As difficult as these decisions are, my responsibility is to provide the leadership and resources necessary to deliver a winning team to our fans and community. I take that responsibility seriously and would like to assure our fans that I am prepared to provide any, and all, resources required to compete for championships. My expectations, and the expectations of our fans, are that this team will compete at a high level for the remainder of the season. While we still have many more critical decisions to make when this season comes to an end, I am focused on making sure we are properly positioned to succeed and that we are headed in the right direction.”

Ferry is in the big chair now and will be in the running for the main job. He reshaped the Hawks roster into a 60-win team without bottoming out and tanking, although the team could not sustain that level of play. He was let go in a messy situation where he relayed a racist scouting report comment about Luol Deng (he “had a little African in him”). Ferry may not have authored the remark but he didn’t edit it either and that understandably landed him in hot water. Add to that he was caught in the infighting of the Hawks’ ownership groups at the time (the team has since been sold) and Ferry was destined to lose his job.

Ferry is not the only big name being considered for the permanent gig, reports Marc Stein of the New York Times.

Griffin is the biggest name on the board, and if Benson is looking for someone who wants the control and knows how to organize a basketball operations side top to bottom he would be a great choice. (Part of the reason he did not get the Knicks job was Griffin wanted that control and couldn’t get it.)

Mike Zarren has been one of the assistant GMs most mentioned as getting a promotion for some time. The interesting thing there is Zarren works for the Celtics and would suddenly be the guy in charge of where Anthony Davis gets traded. And the Celtics want Davis. That doesn’t make it a done deal — Zarren is smart and would ask for the world — but NBA front office work is a relationship business and if someone has a preexisting relationship with another GM deals are more likely to come together.

Report: NBA won’t hold draft until after season

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The NBA draft is scheduled for June 25. Most expect that date to change as the coronavirus pandemic causes postponements around the world.

Apparently, the draft will come after the NBA season – whether the season is completed in a modified format or just cancelled.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

I think everybody in the league feels it’s almost impossible to have a draft if you still have a season that’s ongoing.

You can’t have a draft while teams are still playing. You can’t have some teams able to do trades because their season’s done and then some teams unable to do trades because they’re still playing.

It doesn’t strike me as difficult to hold the draft before the season ends. Teams wouldn’t be allowed to trade current players. The restriction would apply across the board, just like the interrupted pre-draft process. That’s not ideal, but compromises must be made amid this chaos.

Importantly, holding the draft sooner could appeal to both sides of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

It’d be an opportunity to hold a revenue-producing TV event. Obviously, drafted players wouldn’t attend a mass gathering. But with sports fans starved for content, people would watch the selections. A handshake with NBA commissioner Adam Silver is only a small part of the festivities.

The National Basketball Players Association should also push for an earlier draft. Prospects want information sooner so they can prepare for their next step – whether that’s the NBA, returning to college or playing overseas. That said, the union has bigger priorities than potential future members.

So, it’s easy to see why postponing the draft has gained momentum, even if that’s not a no-brainer solution.

Kevin Durant, Donovan Mitchell headline televised NBA video-game tournament

Kevin Durant and Donovan Mitchell
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The NBA season isn’t returning any time soon.

So, the closest thing you’ll get to live basketball on television is a video-game tournament between NBA players. The bracket has been revealed.

The Boardroom:

1. Kevin Durant (Nets)

2. Trae Young (Hawks)

3. Hassan Whiteside (Trail Blazers)

4. Donovan Mitchell (Jazz)

5. Devin Booker (Suns)

6. Andre Drummond (Cavaliers)

7. Zach LaVine (Bulls)

8. Montrezl Harrell (Clippers)

9. Domantas Sabonis (Pacers)

10. Deandre Ayton (Suns)

11. DeMarcus Cousins (previously Lakers)

12. Michael Porter Jr. (Nuggets)

13. Rui Hachimura (Wizards)

14. Patrick Beverley (Clippers)

15. Harrison Barnes (Kings)

16. Derrick Jones Jr. (Heat)

I have questions:

  • How does Hassan Whiteside have the same rating as Donovan Mitchell and a higher rating Devin Booker?
  • Does being extremely online bode well for Kevin Durant?
  • Is Donovan Mitchell, who spent his coronavirus isolation playing video games, in the best game shape?
  • Will Zach LaVine redeem himself?
  • Will players use their own teams? If so, will Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton both use the Suns, Montrezl Harrell and Patrick Beverley both use the Clippers? If not, the most interesting aspect of this tournament – to non-esports aficionados – could be reading way too much into which teams players pick.

Jeff Van Gundy predicts NBA will cancel rest of season

NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy
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Kirk Herbstreit sent waves through college football when he predicted the upcoming season will be canceled due to coronavirus.

Now, NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy is sharing a similar assessment of the sport he covers.

Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe:

He doesn’t believe the 2019-20 season will resume.

“I understand how you can start again, but what’s the plan if the next person gets sick, like another Rudy Gobert-type of situation, we’re going to play through it? We’re going to cancel it again? That to me is why I don’t see any of these things taking place.

“I have no idea how they can pull off the season, and I have no idea what’s going to happen, and I hope next season isn’t impacted.”

Van Gundy is spot-on with his warning about another sick person. Can the NBA effectively test players, coaches, referees, etc. then keep them isolated? Until a vaccine is available, that’s practically essential. A single case of coronavirus would undermine the entire operation.

Holding games in one location would reduce risk. It wouldn’t eliminate risk.

Remember, the NBA planned to continue games (without fans present) until Gobert’s positive test necessitated a shutdown. Controlling coronavirus is far easier said than done.

I don’t share Van Gundy’s concern about next being impacted, though.

Next season will likely be impacted. Multiple future seasons could be impacted.

That’s worth the tradeoff.

The NBA is approaching its playoffs – the most lucrative and compelling portion of the season. It’d be a mistake to throw away the postseason just to keep future regular seasons on track.

After all, haven’t we spent the last year discussing declining interest in the regular season? A shorter regular season next season would be a perfectly acceptable tradeoff in order to hold this season’s playoffs. Heck, the NBA could shorten multiple upcoming regular seasons as it phases back toward a normal calendar.

Van Gundy is right to express caution about resuming play. The NBA shouldn’t restart anytime soon. But no matter when it’s safe to hold games again, the league should finish the season. Figure out future seasons from there.

China again delays basketball season due to coronavirus

Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) chairman Yao Ming
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As the NBA contemplates how and when to resume its season, China – on an earlier coronavirus timeline – can serve as a model.

The Chinese Basketball Association suspended its season in February and planned to resume in April. Then May. Now, it’ll be even later.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

In a setback to the resumption of professional sports, the Chinese government issued an order Tuesday delaying the restart of the Chinese Basketball Association and other group sporting events, according to documents obtained by ESPN.

CBA teams have been informing players that they still intend to return to play and hope to have more clarity in a few weeks, sources told ESPN’s Jonathan Givony.

There’s probably a bigger lesson here about not blindly trusting messaging from China.

For the NBA, it’s a grim warning about the difficultly of restarting a basketball season amid an ongoing pandemic.