The Clippers have gone to great lengths to recruit Kawhi Leonard.
Just how far would they go?
Marc Stein of The New York Times:
The Los Angeles Clippers are said to have quietly looked into the feasibility of purchasing the portion of the rights to Leonard’s “Klaw” logo that is still owned by Nike. The Clippers did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday, but such an acquisition would theoretically enable them to bestow full control of the logo upon Leonard as part of their anticipated free-agency pitch meeting with the Toronto superstar.
Nike, as emphasized to me recently by a top official from the sportswear giant, is intent on rebuffing all approaches and retaining its rights to that logo for as long as it can — to assure that it would not appear on gear made by Leonard’s new contract partners at New Balance.
This would be clear salary-cap circumvention. The Clippers would never get away with it, even if they offered Nike enough money to change the company’s mind.
But the Clippers also got fined for circumvention in 2015, when they lined up an endorsement deal for DeAndre Jordan. So, this wouldn’t be out of character.
Ultimately, I’m unconvinced the Clippers ever took this latest idea seriously. It strikes me as the type of juicy story people around the league, knowing the desperation the Clippers have shown in pursuing Leonard, want to believe and spread. It’s also possible someone within the large Clippers organization suggested the idea then learned of the infeasibility.
If the Clippers actually intended to execute this plan this summer, I’d be surprised.
Of course, the Clippers could still lure Leonard, anyway. But the Raptors – who open the NBA Finals tomorrow – are making their best case.
Jim Boylen is the coach of the Chicago Bulls. It’s still his job and he has the backing of the owner and old-guard part of the organization.
That is very likely not enough to keep him in the job much longer, especially with the Bulls now officially not among the 22 teams headed to Orlando to restart the NBA season. Most around the league expect it’s just a matter of time until Boylen is let go (he has a .317 winning percentage across two seasons), with the new management team led by Arturas Karnisovas expected to bring in their own guy. When Karnisovas and GM Marc Eversley met with players, a few key ones ripped Boylen to management, a sign of the discord Karnisovas is trying to change within the organization.
Former player and current 76ers assistant coach Ime Udoka may be the frontrunner, reports Jay Cowley at the Chicago Sun-Times.
Sources have told the Sun-Times that 76ers assistant Ime Udoka is the front-runner to become the Bulls’ new coach, with Raptors assistant — and former Bulls assistant — Adrian Griffin also in the picture.
Udoka had a seven-year NBA playing career, plus he played in Spain, then after his playing days became an assistant coach under Gregg Popovich in San Antonio. Last offseason he jumped to the bench of the Philadelphia 76ers under Brett Brown (who came out of the Spurs coaching tree). Boylen is also a member of the Popovich coaching tree.
Teams not invited to Orlando are looking at conducting “mini-camp” style workouts and maybe having scrimmages/exhibitions against each other in August, so their players don’t go from March to December without playing in games. While the Bulls are not on a tight timeline to make a coaching decision, if they are bringing in someone new they would want that person in place before that summer training camp.
The betting odds on the seven seed Brooklyn Nets to win the NBA title dropped to 60-1, even with the Thunder and better than the Trail Blazers and others, all because some fans thought maybe Kevin Durant would return. That despite report after report that it was not happening.
Now Durant himself has shot down the idea, speaking to Mark Spears of The Undefeated at ESPN.
“It’s just best for me to wait,” Durant said. “I don’t think I’m ready to play that type of intensity right now in the next month. It gives me more time to get ready for next season and the rest of my career.
“My season is over. I don’t plan on playing at all. We decided last summer when it first happened that I was just going to wait until the following season. I had no plans of playing at all this season.”
His Nets teammate Kyrie Irving will not play in Orlando, either. Irving had shoulder surgery back in March and is still recovering from that.
Durant added in the interview he has fully recovered from COVID-19 after testing positive for the coronavirus back in March not long after the season was shut down.
Next season the Nets will enter as one of the favorites in the East. For the restart this season, however, they will be the seven seed in the East with a tough first-round matchup against Toronto, or maybe Boston.
The Trail Blazers, owned by Jody Allen, cast the lone dissenting vote on the NBA’s plan to resume with 22 teams.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:
Portland guard CJ McCollum:
Damian Lillard expressed his concern: He wanted the Trail Blazers to have a real chance at making the playoffs. They got that.
Wojnarowski mentioned how lottery odds are calculated – relevant only if Portland misses the postseason and something current players tend not to dwell on.
This feels incongruous.
Was safety a concern? The risk of coronavirus is higher with 22 teams than 20. However, it’s higher with 20 teams than 16.
The Trail Blazers are 17th in the league. And nobody publicly mentioned health. Having just 20 teams – especially with a group stage – would’ve given Portland an easier path into the top 16. (It’s unclear how many teams would’ve made the playoffs with a group stage).
NBA commissioner Adam Silver wanted everyone to unite behind this plan. Even other owners who disagreed with the plan voted for it. But with the Trail Blazers’ no vote, Allen engendered greater support from her players. If nothing else, that has value.
The NBA plans to rush through the 2020 offseason and begin the 2020-21 season Dec. 1… just to rush through the 2020-21 season.
Frank Isola of The Athletic:
The NBA Finals normally begin 226 days after the regular-season opener with an 18-day window to play the best-of-seven series. So, based on a typical timeline, a Dec. 1 opener would mean the Finals would be held July 15 – Aug. 1., 2021.
The Tokyo Olympics are slated to begin July 23, 2021.
So, something must give.
It probably won’t be regular-season games. As much as the NBA would like its players to get exposure in the Olympics, owners will be extremely reluctant to surrender direct revenue. Likewise, the many NBA players not headed to the Olympics should share similar financial concerns.
More likely, the league will reduce the number of rest days during the 2020-21 season. That seems risky given the drastic disruptions already affecting conditioning entering the season.
It’s also possible players whose NBA teams advance deep enough in the playoffs just won’t be able to play in the Olympics (or Olympic Qualifying Tournaments, which are scheduled for June and July 2021).
Like with many things affected by coronavirus, there are no good answers – just hard decisions on what to compromise.