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Adam Silver: Pelicans playing Anthony Davis three quarters, sitting him in fourth ‘not a good solution’

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The Anthony Davis situation is undeniably complicated.

He requested a trade from the Pelicans. But the Celtics – the team with the best assets to offer – can’t realistically trade for him until the offseason, because both Davis and Kyrie Irving are designated rookie scale players until then. So, New Orleans kept Davis through last month’s trade deadline.

So, what happens to Davis the rest of this season?

He’s healthy and says he wants to play.

The Pelicans seemingly wanted to shut him down.

The NBA reportedly threatened to fine them if they did that.

So, the sides struck a compromise – Davis continuing to play, but seeing reduced minutes. He has played nine of the Pelicans 11 games since the deadline. He’s averaging 23 minutes per game, down from 37 before the deadline. Last night was the first time since the deadline he played at all in the fourth quarter, making a cameo to defend the final inbound pass in New Orleans’ win over the Jazz.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver at the Sloan Sports and Analytics Conference:

Some things don’t lend themselves to easy solutions. And playing him for three quarters then resting him in the fourth is not a good solution. And maybe we’ll get to a different place.

I get it. It’s a bad dynamic in New Orleans. And I hear, and people in this room are talking and writing. And it’s a bit of a mess, right?

When I hear people say, “Stay out of a team’s affairs. They should just be able to do whatever they want.” Frankly, that’s not how leagues operate. We have resting rules. We have tanking rules.

Any individual general manager or team, they’re doing everything within the rules to compete to win. And that’s fine. And sometimes, you could argue that they’re gaming the rules, and we’ve changed things, because we’ve realized they’re ahead of us or they figure things out through analytics, and we adjust. But the current set of rules, it’s their right to do whatever within the rules.

But then my job, and I think sometimes people misunderstand this – it’s obviously a zero-sum game in terms of wins and losses for our teams. So, my job is to look at all the other competition outside of the NBA.

This notion that sort of the Pelicans are just competing against the Knicks or the Lakers or the Thunder – they’re competing against every other form of entertainment out there in the world.

I look at the ratings. The interest in the team is still going to be greater with Anthony Davis on the floor than not on the floor. He is a top player in this league. People are paying to see him compete. If we had said, “Fine, somehow just shelve him, rest him going forward,” the people who are paying money to see him may say – or who thought they were paying money to see him – might say, “I want my money back now.” There’s two side of these issues.

I keep reading that it’s that we’re afraid that the union is going to challenge. I mean, honestly, at the end of the day for me, it’s less about – we work with the players association. We work with the players. It’s less to me that there’s a fear of a lawsuit. It’s that you have one of the best players in the league.

He broke our rules by publicly demanding a trade. Or his agent did and then he followed up by saying something at All-Star, which he shouldn’t have.

I’m watching their games. He’s playing, and he’s playing hard.

So, that’s the difficult dynamic we’re in right now.

Silver also brought up a hypothetical: Davis requesting a trade from the Pelicans, but doing so privately. Would New Orleans still want to mysteriously – to the public, at least – sit its best player to protect his health for an offseason trade?

It’s an apt question.

The answer: Maybe. Bad teams frequently sit helpful veterans in order to tank. The trade request adds a layer here, but the situation isn’t entirely unique. Tanking is the elephant in the room that must be addressed.

I also disagree with Silver that Davis shouldn’t have opened up about his trade request at All-Star Weekend. Davis was sharing his thoughts with fans eager to hear from him. He might have been confusing in the process, but he was generally being transparent. That’s good, not a problem. Same with Rich Paul communicating Davis’ trade request.

I agree with Silver on pushing the Pelicans to play Davis. He’s one of the NBA’s best players. Making him a healthy scratch for months would have been a black mark for the league.

I’d prefer clear rules require, or at least actually incentivize, teams to play their good players – even late in losing seasons. Silver enforcing resting rules on a case-by-case basis is problematic and too arbitrary.

But this was a case where the commissioner was right to exercise his broad power. Davis drives interest. It was important to keep him on the court.

Mostly, I appreciate Silver acknowledging the complexity of the situation. Silver even said the current, seemingly league-approved plan is “not a good solution.” It might be the best of all the bad solutions, though. Or maybe there’s a better one. It’s worth continuing to consider, and I’m impressed Silver is willing to do that openly.

I just wish he’d grant Davis and Paul the right to proceed with similar transparency.

Report: Jonathan Kuminga, top prospect for 2021 NBA Draft, to earn $500K in NBA minor league

Jonathan Kuminga
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Jonathan Kuminga didn’t crack our list of the top 50 players in five years last summer, but he drew consideration and rated as the top prospect in the 2021 high school class.

Now, he’s fast-tracking his ascent – turning pro by signing with the NBA’s minor league and positioning himself for the 2021 NBA Draft.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Kuminga will join Jalen Green, Isaiah Todd and Daishen Nix in this professional-pathway program.

We’ll see how well this setup, run by Brian Shaw, prepares young players for the NBA. But the money is nice. Kuminga ($500,000), Green ($500,000), Todd ($250,000) and Nix ($300,000) have approximate salaries that wouldn’t be allowed by the NCAA cartel system.

Hopefully, the competition forces college basketball to treat its players more fairly.

Washington Mystics: We planned all along to pay Elena Delle Donne

Washington Mystics star Elena Delle Donne
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Washington Mystics star Elena Delle Donne – per a panel of doctors chosen by the WNBA and its union – doesn’t face elevated risk of severe symptoms if she contracts coronavirus. That meant the Mystics wouldn’t have to pay her if she sits out this season. Delle Donne has publicly argued her Lyme disease should have medically excused her from the WNBA season, allowing her to collect her full salary.

Like many people amid the pandemic, Delle Donne faced a hard decision: Work and risk exposure to coronavirus or miss out on money and stay safer.

The Mystics have solved her dilemma – agreeing to pay her while she remains away from the team.

Mystics general manager/coach Mike Thibault, via Tyler Byrum of NBC Sports Washington:

“She is being paid and is continuing to rehab from her offseason back surgery. If at some point later in the season, we are all comfortable – I mean all comfortable – enough with both her physical progress and the safety of joining the team in Florida, then we will make those arrangements. If we don’t feel that she will continue to do the workouts in D.C., and get herself ready for the following season.”

“We can do anything we want,” Thibault said. “We have intended to [pay her] from the start. She’s a major part of our team and she’s making every effort to do the rehab that she needs to do.”

“I have told her that there is not going to be pressure put on her to hurry back, I don’t want — I’m in this and she’s in this for the long haul,” Thibault said.

If the Mystics truly planned all along to pay Delle Donne, her public-relations campaign the last couple days seems excessive.

But it’s also possible the public pressure she raised contributed to this decision.

As reigning WNBA MVP, Delle Donne had leverage that other players don’t. That’s why I’m surprised this was up to the Mystics. Other WNBA teams don’t want to face increasing pressure to pay any players who want to sit out. That’s why the panel of doctors existed in the first place.

Perhaps, Delle Donne’s back injury gave Washington a workaround. That’s a reasonable excuse for Delle Donne not reporting while still getting paid. Is the WNBA really going to investigate the Mystics’ assessment of their own player’s physical health when the player agrees?

This is a good outcome for Delle Donne. She made herself so valuable to her employer that it’ll pay her not to work. That’s a heck of an accomplishment by her.

We’ll see how much, if any, of a precedent it sets.

Sacramento’s De’Aaron Fox out at least 7-10 days with sprained ankle

De'Aaron Fox sprained ankle
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For a Sacramento team with playoff dreams, this is a punch to the gut: De'Aaron Fox is going to be sidelined until around the start of seeding games — 7-10 days at least — with a sprained ankle.

The Kings’ announced that their point guard sprained his left ankle in practice Wednesday. While he will be re-evaluated in 7-10 days, he could be out longer. This is the same ankle Fox sprained in November that caused him to miss 17 games.

The Kings’ first game is 16 days away against San Antonio.

Fox, arguably the fastest player in the league with the ball in his hands, averaged 20.4 points, and 6.8 assists this season, playing at a near All-star level once he came back from the sprained ankle. Fox is the engine of the Sacramento offense, it is 5.2 points per 100 possessions worse when he is off the court.

Sacramento comes into the restart in a virtual tie with Portland and New Orleans for the ninth seed in the West, 3.5 games back of Memphis. However, the Kings have not been able to get their stars on the court together: Harrison Barnes and Alex Len and remain in Sacramento, quarantining after testing positive for the coronavirus. Richaun Holmes is in quarantine on his Walt Disney World hotel room after leaving the confines of the NBA bubble to pick up a food delivery.

All of which combine to make it an even longer shot the Kings end their 14-year playoff drought this season. The sprained ankle for De’Aaron Fox, if it slows him at all, would be a serious blow to those chances.

 

Spurs: Trey Lyles out rest of season (appendectomy)

Spurs forward Trey Lyles
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The Spurs lost their top big in LaMarcus Aldridge.

Now, they’ll lose Trey Lyles, who often started at power forward next to Aldridge and also played behind Aldridge at center.

Spurs release:

Spurs forward Trey Lyles underwent an appendectomy earlier today in Orlando, Fla.

Lyles will miss the remainder of the 2019-20 season.

San Antonio’s last seeding game is scheduled for Aug. 13 – nearly a month away. Theoretically, Lyles could have tried to return by then.

The NBA dodges a complication with the Spurs ruling him out for the rest of the season.

Lyles left the NBA’s campus for his surgery. (Disney World is in Lake Buena Vista. He underwent surgery in Orlando.) That means he faced exposure in Florida, where coronavirus cases are surging. It would have been tricky bringing him back into the bubble safely while not punishing him for requiring medical attention.

The NBA will probably face this conundrum with someone else later. But the league avoids that situation for now.

San Antonio’s problems are more pressing.

Jakob Poeltl is now the Spurs’ top center, but he fits poorly with DeMar DeRozan because they’re both non-shooters from 3-point range. Rudy Gay should see plenty of time at power forward.

Behind them, options – newly signed Tyler Zeller, Drew Eubanks, Chimezie Metu and Luka Samanic – are uninspiring.

Gregg Popovich truly must muster some magic for San Antonio to extend its record playoff streak.