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Adam Silver: NBA’s concern with marijuana not about recreational and offseason use, but abuse and in-season use

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A couple years ago, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said he saw no need to change the league’s marijuana policy:

  • First violation: No penalty
  • Second violation: $25,000 fine.
  • Third violation: Five-game suspension
  • Additional violations: Suspension of five more games than previous suspension

But he now sounds far more open to revising it.

Silver, in an interview with Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

It’s something that we are talking to Michele Roberts and the players association about, about what our policy should be.

You might be surprised about it. But when I’ve talked to players about it, I think they have mixed feelings, some players. I think it’s not as much about what guys do in the summer. If they want to smoke pot in the summer, whatever. It’s legal in a lot of states, to your point. No issue. I do think there’s a little bit of concern about some of the pot smoking in-season. I think it’s a team sport, and I think part of the reason we have the rules in place, there was a time not so long ago when there were a group of players who felt – because, ultimately, the players association has to agree on any testing – that maybe there was too much pot being smoken in-season.

And, look, my personal views, whether it’s pot or alcohol, I think it’s a sedative in certain ways. It’s certainly not a performance-enhancing drug. Let me put it that way.

One of the things I’ve been talking more about in the last year is mental wellness of our players.

And look, some guys are smoking pot just in the same way a guy would take a drink. And it’s like whatever. “Smoking pot, I’m just using it to come down a little bit or I just want to relax.” No big deal. No issue. And I think it’s the reason why it has been legalized in a lot of states. And from that standpoint, if that were the only issue, maybe we’re behind the times in our program.

On the other hand, there’s also guys in the league who are smoking a lot of pot. And then the question is, why are you smoking a lot of pot? And that’s where mental wellness comes in. Because I’ve also talked directly to players who say, “I’m smoking a lot of pot, because I have a lot of anxiety. And I’m struggling.”

And if that’s the reason they’re smoking a lot of pot – and by the way, alcohol is perfectly legal, and obviously we don’t have a ban against alcohol. We don’t test against alcohol, unless we have a reason to believe there’s a problem. But we don’t want guys to drink a lot, either. And I think if we hear that a guy is drinking a lot – whether it’s the players association, the team or the league – we’re approaching that guy and saying, “Can we help you?”

First and foremost, we want guys to be in great shape. By the way, smoking isn’t great for your lungs.

I feel sometimes that, “It’s uncool that the league still tests for marijuana.” And I think that’s not exactly where the state of the science on marijuana is.

I think that, clearly to the extent it has medicinal qualities, those are things that we should be looking at. Where it’s in terms of pain relief, of course. And that’s something that’s being studied, not just by us. The NFL recently announced they’re studying that issue, as well. And we should look at it.

Last part of this, I think when we change our policy, we have to be very careful, because clearly we’re going to be sending a message to a lot of young people. And at the end of the day, I think we all agree that, whether or not marijuana is a legal substance, just like with alcohol, you still have to teach young people how to use a substance like that appropriately and responsibly and so it doesn’t overwhelm your life.

So, it’s a complicated issue.

There are plenty of unhealthy things – drinking, smoking cigarettes, eating unhealthily, spending too much time in front of screens and on and on – the league allows. It seems silly to draw a hard line at marijuana.

Who wants that?

Do fans care? The increased legalization of marijuana suggests no.

Do owners care? It seems they’re already employing a lot of players who use marijuana.

Do players care? Silver echoed former commissioner David Stern, who said the league began testing for marijuana after players complained of other players playing high. But players probably don’t want their teammates playing drunk, either. And nobody is calling for alcohol testing.

It’s the marijuana-alcohol comparison – that Silver makes himself – that really gets me. Both can be used responsibly and recreationally. Both can be abused. But the NBA prohibits only one.

Silver talks about lung health. Though he ignored that there are other ways besides smoking to get high, the NBA should care about its players’ physical health.

The league should – and does – also care about mental health. Players depriving themselves of all vices probably isn’t good for mental wellness. Those who’d prefer to sometimes indulge in marijuana – as opposed to alcohol or some other vice – are stuck either forgoing or breaking the rules. It’s not good to build the entire system around only those who are abusing the drug.

I also push back on Silver’s think-of-the-children argument. At this very moment, it is either better for the league to prohibit or allow marijuana. I don’t think the previous rule should carry much weight on the future rule. Make the determination that’s best for the league going forward. Again – as Silver said himself – young people need to be taught about responsible drinking. They can be taught about responsible marijuana usage, too. As marijuana becomes legalized, it’s a lesson that already takes greater importance, regardless of what the NBA does.

I appreciate Silver’s nuanced view. His openness to new ideas is one of his defining traits as a commissioner. But he’s also very methodical before acting. It’s hard to see any changes until the current Collective Bargaining Agreement ends in 2023 or 2024.

But given his previous statements on marijuana, this sounds like Silver gradually moving toward a relaxed policy then.

Report: Brooklyn near deal with Lance Thomas for restart

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Still rounding out their roster for the NBA restart in Orlando, the Brooklyn Nets have reached out to bring back veteran forward Lance Thomas.

Thomas, who went through training camp with Brooklyn but was cut right before the season, will sign as a substitute player for Brooklyn, reports Alex Smith with SNY.TV.

Thomas is an eight-year NBA veteran who spent the last four of that with the Knicks. He can play the three or a floor-spacing small four, with New York using him more as a power forward in recent years. He’s averaged 5.2 points per game in his career and is known more as a good player to have in the locker room and guy who can soak up 15-20 minutes a night and not hurt a team. Brooklyn had Thomas in at training camp and liked his fit, but they didn’t have a roster spot for him.

They do now. Three Nets players — Spencer Dinwiddie, DeAndre Jordan, and Taurean Prince — tested positive for the coronavirus and will not be at the Orlando restart. Wilson Chandler opted out of playing. All four of them can be replaced by substitute players for the remainder of this season, so the Nets signed Jamal Crawford, Michael Beasley, and Donta Hall. Thomas rounds becomes the fourth member of that group. (Note: The Nets cannot sign players to substitute for Kyrie Irving or Kevin Durant because they are out due to injury; substitute players are only for players missing due to coronavirus issues.)

Thomas will be a free agent this offseason.

Lance Thomas and Brooklyn enter the bubble in Orlando as the seven seed in the East.

Like LeBron, Anthony Davis also to wear own last name on jersey in Orlando

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Anthony Davis will wear his own name on the back of his jersey when the Los Angeles Lakers return to action.

Davis confirmed his decision Sunday in a conference call from Orlando, where the Western Conference-leading Lakers are beginning team workouts.

Davis and LeBron James both declined to choose a social justice message to replace their names on the back of their jerseys during the NBA restart.

Davis, a seven-time NBA All-Star, said he was “torn between” choosing from among the 29 approved messages and sticking with his name.

“For me, I think the name ‘Davis’ is something I try to represent every time I step on the floor,” he said. “I just think my last name is something that’s very important to me, and also social justice as well. But (I’m) just holding my family name and representing the name on the back to go through this process … and people who have been with me through my entire career to help me get to this point, while still kind of bringing up things that we can do for social injustice.”

James said he decided to forgo a social justice message because the available options didn’t “resonate” for him or his particular feelings about the movement. James would have liked to choose his own slogan, but wasn’t angry that it wasn’t allowed.

Both James and Davis have been outspoken about social justice causes in the past, although the younger Davis is less vocal than James.

The Lakers open play in Orlando on July 30 against the Clippers.

 

Lakers’ Rajon Rondo fractures thumb, out 6-8 weeks

Rajon Rondo injury
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The Lakers guard depth is getting hit hard. First, Avery Bradley chose to stay home from the NBA restart in Orlando for family reasons. Now this:

Rajon Rondo fractured his thumb during practice on Saturday and will need surgery that will sideline him 6-8 weeks, the team announced.

On the optimistic side, that timeline should have Rondo back for most or all of the conference finals and NBA Finals. Rondo has a history of hand injuries.

The Lakers cannot sign a substitute player to replace Rondo (that is only for players with COVID-19 related absences, or who opted out, but not injuries).

Rondo came off the bench for the Lakers this season, averaging 7.1 points and five assists a game. More importantly, he was the guy running the offense when LeBron James was off the court, something that will be difficult to replace. He is not the defender and player he once was, but he fit with the Lakers.

Alex Caruso and Quinn Cook will get some extra run, plus it opens up room for veterans Dion Waiters and J.R. Smith.

The Rondo injury is not going to put the Lakers in danger in the first two rounds of the playoffs, but if he is not back and 100% in the conference finals (very possibly against a deep Clippers team) and the Finals, this will be a blow to L.A.

Stephen Curry, Charles Barkley join “Race and Sports in America: Conversations” on NBC family

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In the wake of the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, and the protests that followed, citizens of the United States have started to have a long-overdue and challenging discussion of race and systemic racism in America. Black celebrities — guys such as Stephen Curry and Charles Barkley, plus other NBA stars — have stepped into the middle of that conversation and are using their voices.

That discussion, along with Barkley and Curry, comes to the NBC Sports family of networks Monday in “Race and Sports in America: Conversations.” The roundtable discussion show airs at 8 p.m. ET simultaneously on NBCSN, the Golf Channel, the Olympic Channel, and every member of the NBC Sports regional broadcast network.

The wide-ranging conversation (recorded in Lake Tahoe) included discussion both of the recent protests that swept the nation and the calls for police reform — Barkley said he wants to see that.

“The first thing we need, listen, we need police reform.  We need to, listen, I got in trouble for defending cops.  And I’m always going to defend cops.  I don’t want them out there killing unarmed Black men, but we need cops…” Barkley said. “But we need good cops.  We need to hold cops accountable.  If they do something wrong — the way the system is set up now, if cops do something wrong, other cops judge them.  That’s not fair in any aspect of life.  If you are a cop and you saw what happened to Mr. Floyd and you think that was all right, you shouldn’t be a cop.”

Curry spun the discussion of police reform into the need for people to vote for change — particularly at the local and state level.

“Same concept around reforming police, getting the bad ones out, is in every form of leadership in government in terms of how important voting is.  Not just at the national presidential level, but in our local, city, state elections…” Curry said.

“That’s where the real change happens.  So when it comes to voter suppression which we’ve seen since George Floyd’s passing in Georgia, we’ve seen long lines; people have been standing there for 12, 13 hours trying to vote.

“And that’s where a local election, as we look forward from a year from now and beyond, every single cycle, how do we continue to let our voices be heard, not just what we’re saying and crying for and asking for help, but how can we actually use our given right to go vote, to go put people in positions of power that they’re going to look out for us in a very meaningful way that’s going to make a true difference.”

Beyond the two NBA stars, Kyle Rudolph, Anthony Lynn, Troy Mullins, James Blake, Jimmy Rollins, and Ozzie Smith take part in the discussion.

Tune in Monday night across the NBC Sports family of networks for a can’t miss discussion of race and sports in America.