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Kendrick Nunn’s surprise arrival on the NBA scene is no surprise to Kendrick Nunn


LOS ANGELES — Kendrick Nunn’s sudden arrival on the NBA scene seemed to catch everyone off guard.

It did the front offices of 30 NBA teams, who passed on him in the 2018 draft. It did — but not as much as you’d think — the Golden State Warriors, who had him in training camp a year ago but sent him to the G-League then did not sign him. It did the Grizzlies, Bucks, Timberwolves, and Hawks, who watched him rack up the most points through five games (112) of any rookie since Kevin Durant back in 2007.

Nunn surprised everyone.

Except himself.

“It’s not no surprise at all,” Nunn told NBC Sports. “I’ve known who I was since years before this happened. I envisioned it and wanted to make it come to life working hard every day. The results have shown.”

Nunn’s start, including 44 points in a preseason game, impressed coach Eric Spoelstra enough to move Nunn into the starting lineup, allowing Spoelstra to bring Goran Dragic off the bench as a weapon (ala Lou Williams with the Clippers). It’s worked for a Heat team off to a 6-3 start, a team defending well and outscoring opponents by 5.4 points per 100 possessions.

Nunn’s fast start has stalled out some the last four games — 9.3 points per game on 34.1 percent shooting overall and 19 percent from three — as defenses have stopped wondering who he is and started blitzing him more. He’s drawing a lot more defensive attention and having to learn how to adapt his fearless playing style to that reality.

That was evident against the Lakers last Friday, a team where Spoelstra (and Doc Rivers, and every coach that has faced them) has talked about their length. It bothered Nunn early. On the Heat’s first possessions of the game Nunn got Anthony Davis switched onto him out on the wing, Nunn fearlessly put the ball on the floor and drove and blew right past him. However, when Avery Bradley slid over to help and forced Nunn to make another move, Davis caught up and swatted Nunn’s shot. Meanwhile, Nunn didn’t see the open pass to Bam Adebayo along the baseline. It’s all a learning experience.

“Just watching film, see the mistakes that I made and try to learn from it,” Nunn said of how he grows after games like the last few. “Little mistakes, but I’ve got to correct them. Just watch the film.”

It’s that grinding, hard-working attitude that endears Nunn to Miami — he fits perfectly with the Heat culture. Overlooked but talented and willing to put in the work, it’s a mold that applies to the team’s marquee name in Jimmy Butler, and it applies to Nunn. It’s why Butler and Nunn have developed some quick chemistry.

“It’s easy because [Butler and the veterans] love my work ethic and the kind of player that I am, that I can do it on both ends of the floor,” Nunn said. “So you’d love to play with someone who plays defense and can score the ball.”

Nunn grew up where grit mattered, on Chicago’s South Side. He was high school teammates with Jabari Parker at Simeon High and won several state titles, and he impressed enough as a young player to get a scholarship to Illinois. However, Nunn was booted from that program after pleading guilty to a domestic violence misdemeanor battery charge, one where he was accused of hitting a woman in the head, pushing her, then pouring water on her. When you talk about why Nunn went undrafted, this was part of the reason — teams were concerned about his character.

Nunn bounced to Oakland University in Michigan, where he put up numbers — 25.9 points per game and shooting 39.4 percent from three — but teams are leery of guards who put up big numbers at smaller schools. Often, they and their games don’t translate. It was all enough for Nunn to get passed over in the draft.

The Golden State Warriors, a team known for finding diamonds in the rough, gave Nunn a chance at Summer League in 2018, and he impressed enough to get an invite to their training camp. That was a stacked, deep roster for Golden State looking to contend, so it’s no surprise he was waived then assigned to their G-League team in Santa Cruz, where he scored 19.3 points per game.

The character questions from college didn’t follow him to the G-League, where sources say he was mature, and a good leader in the locker room. On the court, he was draining threes but also was aggressive on straight-line drives to the basket.

Nunn impressed the scouts in Miami enough that in the final days of last season, they signed him to a non-guaranteed contract.

There now are a lot of questions from Golden State fans about how they let Nunn go — the Warriors could undoubtedly use another solid, scoring guard right now — but when you think about their roster in the final days of last season, still with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, a player like Nunn was just not a need. Not even on a 10-day contract. Plus, they were a luxury tax team, keeping him would have gotten very expensive fast. If Miami hadn’t snapped up Nunn, maybe the Warriors do sign him after Thompson went down with a torn ACL. We’ll never know because the Heat were the aggressors.

The rest is history in Miami, and Nunn said he feels like he found his home.

“Just being in this organization where I fit in and I love everything about it is an honor,” Nunn said. “Everything is good — Miami, the organization, the culture, where I live…

“It’s a lot warmer (than Chicago), I don’t like the cold.”

Nunn, however, likely will be back in Chicago in February — All-Star weekend, for the Rising Stars Game on Friday night with teams of rookies and second-year guys. Those rosters are not yet chosen, but Nunn seems a very likely inclusion.

The rookie is pumped about the idea, and he can handle the cold weather.

“I’m looking forward to that for sure, just for a couple days, though,” Nunn said.

He wants to get back to Miami. It’s warmer. And he knows where he fits, where his home is now.

Report: NBA eying in mid-July 2021 NBA Finals in advance of Olympics

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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.

Details leak on life inside Orlando bubble: Daily testing, 1,600 people, 2K crowd noise at games

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Players do not report to the Walt Dinsey World campus in Orlando for another month to restart the NBA season — and it will be weeks after that before games start on July 31 — but we’re beginning to learn more about life inside that bubble.

A bubble the players from a couple of teams could be in for more than three months.

On a Friday conference call, representatives of the National Basketball Players Association backed the 22-team return-to-play format.  Out of that call, we learned some more details about what life will be like in the bubble, courtesy Shams Charania of The Athletic. Among his notes:

– 1,600 maximum people on campus
– Coronavirus testing every day; minimum seven days of quarantine for a player who tests positive
– There could be crowd noise via NBA 2K video game sounds, but the NBA and NBPA is still discussing creative opportunities

That 1,600 people in the bubble/campus includes players and staffs from teams (about 770 people) plus referees, league personnel, broadcasters, and more. It fills up quickly, which is why family members — likely just three per player — will not be allowed until after at least the second round of the playoffs when a number of teams have cleared out (an issue for players).

Players were asked once in the bubble not to leave, and the same applied to their families when they arrive. This is not a summer vacation at Disney World. While there are no armed guards or security to keep players and staff on the campus, the goal was to create a safe environment and people heading out into greater Orlando, for whatever reason, sets that goal back.

The daily testing will be done by the NBPA and will involve mouth or light nasal swabs, not the invasive ones. Also, there will be no antibody testing, and no blood tests.

Teams will get a three-hour practice window during training camp and on off-days, which will include time in the provided wight room. After that, the equipment will be sanitized before the next team uses the courts.

Crowd noise — as seen on the Bundesliga soccer broadcasts from Germany seen here in the USA — is controversial. While the league is talking to the makers of the NBA 2K video game about piped-in crowd noise, that is definitely a topic still up for discussion.

As Keith Smith discussed on the ProBasketballTalk Podcast this week, games in Orlando are expected to be played sort of like at Summer League, with some starting at noon (or early afternoon) and alternating on courts all day. East Coast teams will likely have the earlier slots while there could be some 10 p.m. Eastern start times for a couple of West Coast teams (where it would still be just 7 p.m.).

We previously knew players would be allowed to golf and eat at outdoor restaurants at the Disney resort, so long as they followed social distancing guidelines.

For everything we know about life in the bubble, there are far more questions left unanswered. In the next month we will learn a lot more.


NBA players’ union approves 22-team format restart of season

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It’s not perfect and there are still details to be worked out — including exactly when next season will start — but the NBA players are on board with 22-team restart plan for the NBA season in Orlando.

Friday the National Basketball Players Association, with 28 team representatives on the conference call, voted to approve the 22-team plan. Here is the official statement from the union:

“The Board of Player Representatives of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) has approved further negotiations with the NBA on a 22-team return to play scenario to restart the 2019-20 NBA season. Various details remain to be negotiated and the acceptance of the scenario would still require that all parties reach agreement on all issues relevant to resuming play.”

This was expected. NBA Commissioner has worked closely with players union president Chris Paul of the Thunder and executive director Michelle Roberts throughout the process. There were no big surprises in the plan by the time it came up for a vote. Nobody got everything they wanted but everyone got a plan they could live with.

The issues still to be negotiated include some of the health and safety procedures — although players were informed on Friday’s call there will be daily testing and were asked not to leave the Orlando bubble — as well as the timing of the off-season and the start date of next season.

The biggest issue to be figured out still, of course, will be money.

It’s money that ultimately got owners and players to come together behind the 22-team format. It plays regular-season games — called “seeding games” — that can be broadcast on regional sports networks (helping those teams) plus a full playoffs with seven-game series broadcast on ESPN/ABC and TNT. Exactly what the financial picture for the league will be next season is still murky, but the sides are talking.

In terms of pure player safety, the league could have done better going straight to the 16-game postseason, but this was the balance of risk and financial reward the league settled upon.

The details of the format continue to leak out, and some of that is still to be negotiated, but with the player vote all sides have come together behind a plan.

The question becomes, can they pull it off?

Michael Jordan, Jordan Brand pledge $100 million to racial equality

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Black lives matter. This isn’t a controversial statement.

It isn’t. But for the legendarily apolitical Michael Jordan, it is a departure.

Jordan and the Jordan Brand jumped into the ongoing and intense national discussion of race and systemic racism Friday by announcing a $100 million donation over the next 10 years to racial equality and social justice causes. And Jordan linked himself to the black lives matter movement.

Jordan, during his playing career and after, has been cautious politically, rarely commenting on social issues. The “Republicans buy shoes, too” comment stuck to him, but as Roland Lazenby points out in his biography “Michael Jordan: The Life,” Jordan’s “keep your head down and don’t draw attention” political outlook was passed down as a family demeanor used to survive in rural North Carolina. It was how his parents, grandparents, and great grandparents viewed the world.

Jordan had already made a personal statement in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota.

Now Jordan has put his money where his mouth is.