Bucks, Kings collaborate to address social injustice

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
0 Comments

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Nearly a year after police fatally shot an unarmed black man in Sacramento and a series of protests ensued in California’s capital, the Kings and Milwaukee Bucks collaborated on a daylong summit Wednesday to address social injustice and encourage engagement and thoughtful discussions to try to bring about change.

The event held ahead of a Bucks-Kings game came nearly a year after the March 18, 2018, fatal shooting of 22-year-old Stephon Clark. Clark’s death ignited a series of protests that included protesters joining hands and blocking entrances to the Kings’ downtown arena as owner Vivek Ranadive pledged his support and vowed to do his part to address the issue.

“I made a commitment that we would work hard to have an impact and do better and bring people together,” Ranadive said Wednesday.

Ranadive was joined by Milwaukee co-owner Marc Lasry for a panel discussion along with Mark Thomsen, the attorney for Bucks guard Sterling Brown.

The Bucks were rocked last year when Brown, then a rookie, was Tased by police. He later filed a lawsuit saying the officers’ use of a stun gun during his arrest for a parking violation constituted excessive force and that they targeted him because he is black.

Both owners hope further awareness might encourage more teams and communities to get on board to have a dialogue about issues and create positive change.

“I hope this concept goes viral,” Ranadive said.

Brown said he appreciated the efforts by both organizations.

“Whenever the team can do something as big as this for the community, it’s important,” Brown said after the Bucks’ morning shootaround. “It definitely lets some of the community members know that it is a push to make change, especially for myself, I’m pretty big on that where I stand and my situation and the platform I have. I’m looking to make significant changes in the community to help the urban, the black community progress.”

Brown had been talking with officers while waiting for a citation for illegally parking in a disabled spot outside a Walgreens at about 2 a.m. on Jan. 26, 2018, when officers took him down because he didn’t immediately remove his hands from his pockets as ordered. An officer yelled: “Taser! Taser! Taser!”

Brown later received a formal apology from the city’s police chief.

“I knew Sterling and it didn’t sound like him,” Lasry said. “Sterling, in my opinion, was just a great kid. And it didn’t make sense, it didn’t sound like him. … As we got more information we sort of came to a crossroads, which is there’s Sterling’s side and there was the other side. For us an organization we ended up coming down on Sterling’s side simply because we knew him as a person.”

Thomsen credited the Bucks for backing his client from the very start. He said he is pushing for Milwaukee’s police department to use this case as training. “You can’t heal until there is accountability,” Thomsen said.

After Clark’s death in California, Ranadive made an impassioned pledge of support for the protesters and the community at large following the first round of demonstrations on March 22 after first consulting with his players.

Ranadive, the first person of Indian descent to own an NBA franchise, said after a game last year, “We stand here before you, old, young, black, white, brown, and we are all united in our commitment.”

Ranadive said the efforts remain a work in progress and he is striving for every kid in the community “to have a voice.”

“I’ve always felt this is bigger than basketball,” Ranadive reiterated Wednesday. “… At the end of the day we have to take actions, and actions speak louder than words.”

Report: James Harden, Khris Middleton nearing return to court

Indiana Pacers v Philadelphia 76ers
David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images
0 Comments

Two of the East’s top teams are about to get key stars back.

Milwaukee has been without Khris Middleton all season as he recovers from off-season wrist surgery. Philadelphia has been without James Harden for a dozen games with a right foot tendon sprain. Both are nearing a return, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Milwaukee has a 14-5 record and sits as the two seed in the East, but they have done that on the back of the best defense in the league, led by Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez. The Bucks’ offense is 18th in the league overall and bottom 10 in half-court possessions, an area Middleton should help shore up.

Philadelphia has gone 8-4 in the dozen games Harden has missed so far and has the best defense in the NBA over that stretch. The question becomes can the 76ers continue to defend like that when Harden (and, eventually, Tyrese Maxey) returns? Players such as B-Ball Paul Reed, Shake Milton and Tobias Harris have stepped up in recent games, can they continue that with shifting roles?

While there are questions, the Bucks and 76ers are about to get better, which should worry the rest of the league.

Myles Turner says he’s staying focused, tuning out trade rumors

Minnesota Timberwolves v Indiana Pacers
Dylan Buell/Getty Images
0 Comments

Myles Turner heard his name come up all summer in trade rumors, particularly to the Lakers in a massive Russell Westbrook swap. It never happened as the Lakers would not throw in two first-round picks to seal the deal. Since the season started, the trade rumors around Turner have not stopped, with the Clippers mentioned as having interest.

Turner is trying to ignore all of it.

That was especially difficult on a recent swing through Los Angeles, and Turner spoke to Law Murray from The Athletic about it.

“Nothing changes,” Turner told The Athletic.”Just go out there and focus on getting wins for this team. That’s just where my focus lies. You can’t pay attention to outside noise … doesn’t change anything, bro. All I can do is go out there and play my game.”

Every player says some version of that, but Turner has lived up to it. Able to play his natural spot at the five without Domantas Sabonis sharing the paint (Sabonis was sent to the Kings in a trade that brought back Tyrese Haliburton to Indiana), Turner is averaging a career-high 18 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, while shooting 39.7% from 3. Plus, Turner remains an elite rim-protector, averaging 2.6 blocks per game (second in the league).

Turner is playing the best basketball of his career, coincidentally as he heads into summer as a free agent.

Whatever team trades for him will have to pay him next summer impacts Turner’s trade market, as does the fact that the Pacers are a surprising 12-8 start — Indiana is reportedly not as eager to trade Turner. If a team wants to trade for him, they are going to have to overwhelm the Pacers.

Turner has hinted he likes the idea of a brighter spotlight than he has seen in recent years, but in the end money will talk. Turner has kept his head down and his play this season has earned him more of it.

Damian Lillard reportedly targeting Sunday for return from calf strain

Portland Trail Blazers v Cleveland Cavaliers
Lauren Leigh Bacho/NBAE via Getty Images
0 Comments

How much the Portland Trail Blazers miss Damian Lillard was on clear display Tuesday night in maybe their ugliest loss of the season. The Trail Blazers led by 18 in the second half, Anfernee Simons was on his way to putting up 37, and they were facing a Clippers team without Kawhi Leonard or Paul George. Yet Portland came from ahead to lose. Their defense was bested by the unstoppable offensive weapon that is Nicholas Batum (32 points). Portland just let go of the rope in this one.

The Trail Blazers are now 1-4 with Lillard out with a strained calf (the second time this year). The good news for the Blazers is Lillard is targeting Sunday against the Pacers for a return, reports Chris Haynes of TNT.

Haynes is well connected with the Lillard camp, this is a report that can be trusted.

Portland is trying to keep its head above water and is now 11-10 on the season but has struggled this past week, with games at the Lakers and at the Jazz before Lillard’s targeted return.

Lillard is averaging 26.3 points and seven assists a game this season, showing the explosion we were used to seeing before he was slowed by an abdominal injury that required surgery.

Bulls extended coach Billy Donovan before season started

Denver Nuggets v Chicago Bulls
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
0 Comments

Bulls’ fans are not thrilled with a 9-11 team sitting 11th in the East, outside the play-in.

Bulls’ management is not either, but they aren’t laying the blame at the feet of coach Billy Donovan — in fact, they extended him just before the season began, a story broken by Shams Charania of The Athletic and since confirmed by Bulls’ media relations staff to K.C. Johnson NBC Sports Chicago.

Why the extension? Because Donovan and head of basketball operations Artūras Karnišovas have a tight relationship, Johnson writes.

Karnišovas’ continued belief in Donovan centers on Donovan’s leadership and communication skills. The two men talk virtually daily and there’s never any misunderstanding in their shared, direct conversation — even when the subject matter becomes difficult.

And not everything has been or continues to be smooth sailing for the Bulls, who have played without Lonzo Ball since January and are off to a 9-11 start in a season with modest outside expectations.

No details about the length of the extension were made public.

This is a decision about stability. Donovan is a solid coach and the front office trusts him. That’s enough to get some extra years on your deal in Chicago.

The Bulls’ issues are not because of Donovan, it’s more a roster that has a “playoff team but not much more” ceiling — a ceiling that is lower this season due to injuries forcing constantly shifting rotations. The Bulls are especially hamstrung without the defense and transition play of Lonzo Ball (still out after another knee surgery). Chicago has defended well this season without Ball (10th in the league), but the offense is bottom 10 and misses the easy buckets Ball helps get with his passing and transition (plus he can knock down some 3s). Donovan has done a respectable job with the players he has.

That is good enough in Chicago to get a few more years.