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Rich Paul: New NCAA agent rules won’t affect me, will exclude others without viable path to degree

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The NCAA implemented new requirements for agents representing basketball players testing the waters of the NBA draft:

  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Three years of experience
  • NCAA-issued exam
  • $250 application fee

The degree requirement made many think of Rich Paul. Paul didn’t graduate from college, but he has grown into a powerful agent whose clientele includes LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Draymond Green, John Wall and Ben Simmons.

Paul in The Athletic:

The media is calling it “The Rich Paul Rule,” which, while incredibly flattering, is not accurate. It has no impact on me or the business of Klutch Sports Group. However, it does have a significant impact on people like me, and the NCAA should be called out for it.

The harmful consequences of this decision will ricochet onto others who are trying to break in. NCAA executives are once again preventing young people from less prestigious backgrounds, and often people of color, from working in the system they continue to control.  In this case, the people being locked out are kids who aspire to be an agent and work in the NBA and do not have the resources, opportunity or desire to get a four-year degree.

I actually support requiring three years of experience before representing a kid testing the market. I can even get behind passing a test. However, requiring a four-year degree accomplishes only one thing — systematically excluding those who come from a world where college is unrealistic.

These rules are typical of the NCAA’s overbearing paternalism and self-enrichment. The organization deserves every bit of scorn coming its way.

Paul’s message of who gets hurt by these regulations is especially important. It’s the most marginalized people.

Paul no longer fits that description like he once did. He made it. He’s rich and successful. He could find someone in his agency with a bachelor’s degree to get certified. It’s the next Rich Paul who suffers. I respect him speaking out on something that’s not his problem.

These barriers to entry are actually good for established agents. It’s helpful for people already in the game to keep out potential future competition. In that regard, I find Paul’s support of the three-year requirement curious. That’s a bar he has already cleared.

The National Basketball Players Association certifies agents. I have yet to see a good argument why the union’s requirements shouldn’t be sufficient.

Memphis advances to play-in; Phoenix goes perfect 8-0 but needs help to join them

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Memphis entered the bubble with a 3.5 game cushion as the eighth seed in the West. All Ja Morant and company had to do was hold on to that and they would be in the league’s new play-in series.

They didn’t.

Phoenix entered the bubble as a playoff afterthought, so far back of Memphis — and with so many teams between them — that Devin Booker would have to explode and the Suns would need to be perfect in the bubble.

They were. With a win over Dallas Thursday, Phoenix went 8-0 in the seeding games.

That still may not be enough.

Memphis beat Milwaukee 119-106 Thursday, with that the Grizzlies are assured of a spot in the play-in as at least the nine seed.

That means Phoenix needs Brooklyn to beat Portland later Thursday night. If the Nets pull the upset, the Grizzlies become the eight seed and the Suns would jump to the nine seed. If Portland wins, it is in the play-in against Memphis (with the Trail Blazers as the eighth seed), and Phoenix takes off for Cancun and the offseason.

The Grizzlies and Suns winning means the San Antonio Spurs historic playoff streak ends at 22 seasons, they are now mathematically eliminated.

Thursday’s games came with the promise of playoff-chase drama but ended up the kind of duds we see at the end of a typical regular season when one team has something to play for and the other is coasting and disinterested.

The Grizzlies didn’t win because Rookie of the Year to be Morant put up a triple-double (12 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists).

Rather it was a testament to the Memphis front office building out a solid, balanced roster around their young stars. Memphis got 31 from third-year player Dillon Brooks (a second-round pick they developed), plus 26 points and 19 rebounds from Jonas Valanciunas (acquired in a trade).

The Bucks were without Giannis Antetokounmpo who was suspended one game for headbutting Moe Wagner of the Wizards. That certainly helped the Grizzlies, although it’s unlikely the Greek Freak would have played significant minutes.

Phoenix got 27 points from Devin Booker, plus balanced scoring behind him. Dario Saric added 16 points off the bench.

A lot of fans had hoped to see Booker and the electric Suns in the play-in game, but in the NBA winning games matters — and not just the last eight in the bubble. All of them. The Suns didn’t do enough of that before the coronavirus shut down the NBA for four months.

The Grizzlies did, so they advance.

Adam Silver: Players not in bubble have heard such positive reports, they’ve asked to join

NBA commission Adam Silver and Warriors star Stephen Curry
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NBA commission Adam Silver warned that everyone involved must be comfortable with some positive coronavirus tests in the bubble.

So far, there have been none.

Silver, in a Q&A with Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated:

SI: The bubble—sorry, the campus—is operational. Is it what you hoped it would be?

AS: It’s better than what we had envisioned. Players have taken to it in a more spirited way than we thought they would. We knew that this would require enormous sacrifice on everyone’s part, but I think that what is hard to calibrate—and this maybe goes to my experience when I first came into the arena—is the human emotion that comes with being around other people. And I think everyone realized they missed it more than they even understood. There are players either whose teams are not participating, who were unable to engage this summer because of injuries or other issues, who, once they spoke to fellow NBA players, have asked to join the experience down in Orlando.

People generally enjoy being around other people. Basketball players like to play basketball.

The NBA bubble has made those activities – otherwise dangerous due to coronavirus – sufficiently safe.

That surely must be fulfilling for participating players (even if the reason for the whole operation is money, not fulfillment).

Warriors star Stephen Curry admitted his FOMO, and the Trail Blazers – presumably with Trevor Ariza on board – reportedly tried to get Ariza late admission into the bubble.

But I wonder whether there’s a level of “grass is greener on the other side” from the players who asked to join. The bubble participants are away from their families and friends for at least a month, longer if their team advances. That’s easier to accept in theory without actually experiencing it.

2020 NBA Finals schedule sent to teams (but it’s tentative)

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In a typical NBA season, the start date of the NBA Finals is set before training camps ever open.

Nothing about 2020 is typical, including the NBA’s bubble restart in Orlando. While we had known the league had a Finals start date of Sept. 30, and we knew games would be roughly every other day, there were not a lot of details.

At least not until the league sent a memo to teams on Thursday detailing the 2020 NBA Finals schedule, a memo obtained by Shams Charania of The Athletic.

 

While times have not been announced, expect tip-off at 8 or 9 Eastern.

The 2020 NBA Finals schedule has games every other day, except for the two-day gap between Game 4 (Tuesday, Oct. 6) and Game 5 (Friday, Oct. 9).

There is a theory some subscribe to around the league that playoff series will be shorter this year because the weaker team will not have the home crowd to pump them up to steal games. When a team gets down, they will be more likely to stay down. If that proves true — and good luck to you predicting how these Finals will actually go — then the league might move up the Finals date. But don’t be on it, moving the Finals would take coordination with television partner ABC and more, and more than likely the games stay where they are.

The road to the finals, the NBA playoffs, start next Monday  Seven of the eight series are set, with the final spot in the West still up for grabs and headed to a play-in series (the teams in that series will be determined Thursday, with the games Saturday (Aug. 15) and, if necessary, Sunday.

Rumor: Lonzo Ball looked ‘checked out’ with Pelicans in bubble

Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball
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The Pelicans have struggled in the bubble.

Lonzo Ball has REALLY struggled in the bubble.

The starting guard has shot just 33% on 2-pointers, 28% on 2-pointers and 56% on free throws.

David Aldridge of The Athletic:

people down in Orlando tell me Lonzo Ball looked like he’d checked out the whole time the Pels were there, and that they expect some significant roster adjustments in New Orleans before next season.

Did Ball actually show signs of being indifferent behind the scenes? That’d be concerning.

Or are people just assigning an explanation to Ball’s on-court woes without actually knowing the story? That’s also possible.

This was a small seven-game sample, and Ball isn’t a reliable shooter. An ill-timed cold stretch doesn’t necessarily indicate a bigger meaning.

Ball will be eligible for a contract extension this offseason. This will be an opportunity for the Pelicans to determine how much they value him. But if they don’t sign him to an extension before next season, they’d still hold control in 2021 restricted free agency.

If he wants to remain in New Orleans, Ball could complement Zion Williamson long-term. But if Ball isn’t content there, he could be involved in the many changes the Pelicans are expected to make.