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Jeremy Roenick: Michael Jordan bet on basketball

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Michael Jordan is a notorious gambler and golfer.

He also played basketball.

Former NHL star Jeremy Roenick told a story that combines all three of Jordan’s main interests. Roenick played for the Blackhawks while Jordan played for the Bulls. They overlapped seven seasons in Chicago (1988/89-1992/93, 1994/95-1995/96)

Roenick on 670 The Score:

Back in the 90s, when the Bulls were on fire, this was like end of the season for us, end of the season for them. I get a call from Michael, “Meet me at Sunset Ridge early. We’re going to go play 18 holes.” We didn’t have a game. We had actually a day off. So, I meet him at Sunset Ridge.

Big ol’ Greg Kunkel, who was one of the best people in golf here in Chicago – I’ve got to mention Greg at Sunset Ridge.

So, we played a round, beat him for a couple thousand, and I’m getting ready to leave. Now, the Bulls are playing that night. They’re playing Cleveland that night. So, I’m thinking he’s leaving. It’s 10 o’clock. He’s like, “No, let’s go play again.” So, he goes and we fill up a bag full of ice and Coors Light, and we walk again. We roll around another 18, and I take him for another couple.

Now, we’ve been drinking all afternoon. Now, he’s going from Sunset Ridge to the stadium to play a game. And I’m messing around. I’m like, “I’m going to call my bookie. All the money that you just lost to me I’m putting on Cleveland tonight.” He goes, “I’ll tell you what.” He goes, “I’ll bet you that we win by 20 points and I have more than 40.” I’m like, “Done.” Son of a gun goes out, scores 52, and they win by 26 or something after… 36 holes of golf and having maybe 10 Bud Lights.

The man, Michael Jordan, to me, is probably the best athlete that I’ve ever seen, that I’ve ever been around and watched play. The way he presented himself and played the game, just amazing.

After the first half, I didn’t even – my money was gone. It was just gone. Done. So much for 36 holes of hard grinding.

This story is told whimsically, but it’s a pretty serious allegation. Roenick said Jordan bet on his own game – a cardinal sin for professional athletes. It takes on even greater significance, because Jordan is still involved in the NBA as owner of the Hornets.

That leads to an important question: Is the story true?

Roenick estimated it occurred in 1992 or 1993. On March 28, 1992, Jordan scored 44 points to lead the Bulls to a 24-point win over Cleveland. However, Roenick played in Hartford that night.

That’s the only game that meets the key parameters – Bulls playing at home in March or April, Jordan scoring at least 40, Chicago winning by at least 20.

So, the story didn’t happen exactly as Roenick told it. But it was decades ago. It’d be reasonable if Roenick misremembered details but still got the crux of the story correct.

The Bulls’ opponent seems like an easy detail to forget. There’s one other March/April home game during Roenick’s and Jordan’s time together in Chicago where Jordan scored at least 40 and the Bulls won by at least 20. On March 7, 1996, Jordan scored 53 in a 21-point win over the Pistons. The Blackhawks were off that day. However, that’s pretty early to be considered the end of  the season. The high temperature in Chicago that day was 17 degrees. Would they have really golfed in that weather? Doubtful.

Maybe Roenick misremembered the opponent and the spread. On March 12, 1993, Jordan scored 52 points (the precise number Roenick retold) in the Bulls’ 15-point win over the Hornets. Roenick was on his first of consecutive off days. Again, though, that was early to be considered the end of the season. The high was just 31 degrees – maybe warm enough for a couple golf fiends, though questionable at best. Jordan also played in Miami the night before, another reason to believe he wasn’t on the course early the next morning – though not an assumption that can be taken for granted.

April 16, 1993 checks a lot of boxes. It’s in a year Roenick thought it happened. The Blackhawks’ regular season ended the day prior, and they had a couple off days before the playoffs. Jordan scored 47 points in a 14-point home win over the Bucks. The high temperature was a reasonable 44 degrees. To an East Coaster like Roenick, what’s difference between Cleveland and Milwaukee, anyway? The spread doesn’t match, but no game fits perfectly. If Roenick’s story is true, my money is on this game.

It’s also possible this story is embellished or even fabricated. Roenick probably gets a captive audience every time he tells it. I was certainly intrigued. Jordan might dispute it.

If anyone is inclined to ask him.

Rumor: Indiana coach Nate McMillan is on hot seat

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Last season, Indiana’s Nate McMillan finished fourth in Coach of the Year voting, taking a team that lost star Victor Oladipo after just 36 games and still got them into the playoffs. McMillan is going to get COY votes again this year for much the same reason — his teams play good defense and overachieve.

Indiana coach Nate McMillan is also on the hot seat.

It’s surprising, and it’s just a rumor, but ESPN’s Jeff Van Gundy and Zach Lowe had this conversation on a recent episode of The Lowe Post podcast (hat tip PacersTalk.net).

Van Gundy: “I had two people come up to me since I’ve been here [in the NBA restart bubble] and say, ‘Nate McMillan’s in trouble.’”

Lowe: “It’s been the hottest rumor all season… What you’ve heard in Orlando’s been going around all season…

“Let me be clear: It’s just a rumor. I don’t know if it’s true. When you talk to people around the Pacers, they say, ‘It’s not true’ or ‘Where you’d hear that from?’”

Maybe management wants a more modern offense, the Pacers are bottom eight in both three pointers attempted and pace. Overall, Indiana’s offense is middle of the pack (18th in the league), which is not bad considering it was without Oladipo for most of the season (and he was playing his way into shape when he returned and was not at an All-NBA level).

It’s hard to imagine that the Pacers would make a change this offseason, which will be short and give a new coach less time to ramp up a program. Plus, does owner Herb Simon want to pay two coaches? The finances of the league are helping other coaches keep their jobs.

More than all that, McMillan doesn’t deserve to be fired.

Not that “deserved” has had much to do with NBA coaches keeping their jobs in the past.

 

Phoenix Suns, a perfect 4-0 in the bubble, are growing and thinking playoffs

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The last time Devin Booker walked off the court as a winner in four consecutive games, these were the opponents: Hampton, Cincinnati, West Virginia and Notre Dame.

That is, until now.

Booker and the Phoenix Suns – the team that came to the NBA restart at Walt Disney World with the worst record in the Western Conference and the second-worst record of the 22 teams in the field – are perhaps the best story of the bubble.

They’re 4-0 at Disney, breathing real life into playoff hopes that basically were nonexistent when the season was suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic on March 11. It’s the team’s first four-game winning streak since December 2018; Booker missed one of those games, so it’s his first run of four wins in a row since helping Kentucky make its Final Four run in 2015.

“It definitely feels like a tournament, a big AAU tournament, the March Madness tournament,” Phoenix’s Cameron Payne said Friday. “That’s something I never even got a chance to be in, but hey, I’ll take this.”

The Suns started their bubble run with a win over Washington and followed that with victories against three playoff-bound teams – first Dallas, then the Los Angeles Clippers (both of those games being 117-115 finals, the win over the Clippers sealed by a Booker buzzer-beater) and next a 114-99 victory Thursday over Indiana.

A team that had a stretch of four wins in 20 games during November and December, then a run of four wins in 15 games during January and February, got to the bubble and are now 4-for-4.

The Suns are riding a 10-year playoff drought, the second-longest current one in the NBA, but now they’re thinking big and for good reason.

“Well, you know, this is in the fledgling stages, for sure,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “We’ve got a lot more work to do. And there’s a process that we’ve kind of gotten ourselves involved in and we’re going to stick to that. So, fun? I don’t have time to have fun right now. It’s always good to win, but I’m working right now. And I want guys to understand, it’s fun when you win – but then you’ve got to turn the page and get right back to work.”

Williams understands the reality for the Suns right now. They entered Friday 1-1/2 games out of ninth place and the play-in series that will decide the last postseason berth in the West. And while the 4-0 start has been noteworthy, even an 8-0 mark in the seeding games wouldn’t guarantee the Suns a trip to that play-in round.

The Suns play Miami on Saturday, then finish the regular season against Oklahoma City, Philadelphia and Dallas.

“I’ve been in five years now and haven’t had that much success,” Booker said. “But, you know, I’m working hard every day to turn that narrative and change that narrative. We have a good bunch in here to do it. A lot of young players mixed with some veteran presence and it’s a good look for us. So, we’re going to keep our head down, keep working.

“I don’t think anybody here is worried about 4-0. We still have plans and goals for this team to reach and 4-0 wasn’t it.”

Booker is averaging 28 points in the four games. Deandre Ayton, another big piece of the young Suns’ core, is averaging 18.3 points and 9.3 rebounds. There are six players averaging double figures in all, including Payne, who is shooting 53% from 3-point range in his first four games with the Suns.

“We definitely feel good,” Payne said. “We’re not here for no reason.”

Report: NBA players bypassing ‘snitch’ hotline to call Adam Silver directly

NBA commissioner Adam Silver
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No NBA players have been diagnosed with coronavirus in the bubble. And they want to keep it that way. A championship and a lot of money are on the line.

That means preventing players from having close contact with anyone outside the bubble. And, in case someone contracts coronavirus, wearing masks (intact masks) to prevent a wider outbreak.

The NBA set up a hotline – quickly dubbed the “snitch” hotline – for players to report violations.

Chris Haynes of TNT:

Players have been circumventing that process. Sources informed me that multiple players are personally calling commissioner Adam Silver to issue their complaints with things they’re seeing in the bubble.

Adam Silver is accessible to players – particularly the president of the union.

I’m not sure about tattling straight to the top boss when there are other protocols in place. Are hotline calls not resulting in changed behavior?

Either way, it’s important for the NBA to keep players safe – both for their health and the league’s revenue (about half of which goes to players in salary). So, cut Chris Paul anyone calling Silver a break. They’re at least trying to help. And so far, violations inside the bubble have led to reminders, not harsher discipline.

Zion Williamson sitting out Pelicans-Wizards (rest)

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The Pelicans have been one of the NBA’s most disappointing teams in the bubble. New Orleans has gone 1-3 at Disney World and fallen to 13th in the Western Conference.

Still (barely) hanging in the race to make the play-in, the Pelicans must face the Wizards without Zion Williamson.

Pelicans:

The Pelicans are treating Williamson carefully – and they should. He’s their 20-year-old franchise player with major health concerns.

But New Orleans still has its highest ceiling now with Williamson on the floor. He’s an offensive force. His interior scoring and gravity create efficient looks for himself and teammates.

Williamson has been woeful defensively, and the Pelicans have bigs – Derrick Favors and Jaxson Hayes – to take Williamson’s minutes. New Orleans can go small, too.

The Pelicans should still beat Washington, even without Williamson. Ideally, this will have Williamson ready for a closing stretch against the Spurs, Kings and Magic without sacrificing today’s game.

Yet, this is really just proof New Orleans isn’t as ready to launch as it appears during Williamson’s most exciting moments. His availability remains murky. His team has run hot and cold. I wouldn’t assume a win over the Wizards – though it’s a game the Pelicans need to preserve their fading playoff hopes.