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Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo lead first NBA All-Star fan vote returns

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It’s not a complete changing of the guard — LeBron James, James Harden, and other veterans are still drawing a lot of votes — but fans want to see the game’s young stars headline the NBA All-Star Game.

The first returns from the fan voting for the NBA All-Star Game are in and Dallas’ Luka Doncic leads all Western Conference players, while Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo tops the East. Other young players such as Trae Young and Pascal Siakam will be starting if the fans get their way.

The fans don’t get their way, completely. Fans get to help select the starters and their votes account for 50 percent of the total (and are the tiebreaker), with select media member votes accounting for 25 percent, and player votes making up the final 25 percent.

Fans want to see who they want to see. They also voted the Lakers’ Alex Caruso eighth among West backcourt players — ahead of the Suns’ Devin Booker (which is a crime people, Booker has been fantastic this season) — and the Celtics’ Tacko Fall seventh among East frontcourt players (ahead of Miami’s Bam Adebayo, among others).

Here are the starting lineups if this were this fan vote were all that counted:
Eastern Conference: Trae Young (Atlanta), Kyrie Irving (Brooklyn), Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee), Joel Embiid (Philadelphia), Pascal Siakam (Toronto).
Western Conference: Luka Doncic (Dallas), James Harden (Houston), LeBron James (LA Lakers), Anthony Davis (LA Lakers), Kawhi Leonard (LA Clippers).

The rest of the All-Star rosters are voted on by a vote of the league’s coaches.

As of now, Doncic and Antetokounmpo would be the team captains, and they would get to chose their teams “playground style” — they pick their teams from the pool of players voted as starters and reserves, making their selections regardless of conference affiliation

Voting is open through Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 20), and fans can vote at vote.NBA.com, through the NBA app, or through their Google Assistant.

The 2020 NBA All-Star Game will take place at the United Center in Chicago on Feb. 16 at 8 p.m. ET (on TNT).

Here are the top 10 vote getters in each category so far.

Western Conference backcourt
(Rank Player Votes)
1. Luka Doncic, Mavericks 1,073,957
2. James Harden, Rockets 749,080
3. Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers 202,498
4. Stephen Curry, Warriors 191,149
5. Russell Westbrook, Rockets 189,005
6. D'Angelo Russell, Warriors 122,499
7. Donovan Mitchell, Jazz 108,349
8. Alex Caruso, Lakers 92,233
9. Devin Booker, Suns 91,817
10. Ja Morant, Grizzlies 77,081

Western Conference frontcourt
(Rank Player Votes)
1. LeBron James, Lakers 1,020,851
2. Anthony Davis, Lakers 955,246
3. Kawhi Leonard, Clippers 740,657
4. Paul George, Clippers 280,894
5. Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves 173,129
6. Kristaps Porzingis, Mavericks 171,749
7. Nikola Jokic, Nuggets 160,934
8. Carmelo Anthony, Trail Blazers 142,292
9. Brandon Ingram, Pelicans 118,188
10. Dwight Howard, Lakers 69,785

Eastern Conference backcourt
(Rank Player Votes)
1. Trae Young, Hawks 443,412
2. Kyrie Irving, Nets 432,481
3. Kemba Walker, Celtics 432,031
4. Derrick Rose, Pistons 233,669
5. Zach LaVine, Bulls 174,991
6. Ben Simmons, 76ers 159,065
7. Jaylen Brown, Celtics 156,537
8. Kyle Lowry, Raptors 154,139
9. Bradley Beal, Wizards 149,640
10. Spencer Dinwiddie, Nets 94,618

Eastern Conference frontcourt
(Rank Player Votes)
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks 1,073,358
2. Joel Embiid, 76ers 606,534
3. Pascal Siakam, Raptors 544,302
4. Jimmy Butler, Heat 431,483
5. Jayson Tatum, Celtics 364,137
6. Tacko Fall, Celtics 110,269
7. Bam Adebayo, Heat 104,086
8. Gordon Hayward, Celtics 75,240
9. Andre Drummond, Pistons 68,076
10. Domantas Sabonis, Pacers 67,482

Atlanta G League affiliate promotes Tori Miller, first female GM in league

Tori Miller
Photo courtesy College Park Skyhawks
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The Atlanta Hawks aren’t just talking about progress and giving Black women a chance. They are acting.

The College Park Skyhawks, Atlanta’s G-League affiliate, has promoted Tori Miller to general manager. She is the first female GM in the G-League.

Miller, who grew up in Decatur (a city next to Atlanta), had worked for the team in Erie (when they were the Bayhawks) and followed the team with its move closer to its parent franchise. Miller served as an assistant GM last season before being promoted.

G League front office positions can be a stepping stone into an NBA front office.

The Hawks progressive move comes just as the team’s WNBA franchise, the Dream, has players trying to oust co-owner Kelly Loeffler, a Republican Georgia U.S. Senator, because she advocated against the league supporting Black Lives Matter. Loeffler has said she will not sell. It’s a problem not going away anytime soon.

Missouri U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley calls for NBA to put more politics into sports

Missouri U.S. Senator Josh Hawley
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Americans are increasingly inviting progressive politics into sports. Football players kneeling the national anthem are no longer an easy target. Even President Donald Trump has softened his tone on Colin Kaepernick.

So, some Republicans are pushing for MORE politics – their politics – in sports (sometimes under the guise of less politics in sports).

Missouri U.S. Senator Josh Hawley, like Tennessee U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn, has criticized the NBA for its relationship with China. It’s grandstanding while the United States itself has a trade deal with China.

Now, Hawley is objecting to the NBA’s pre-approved list of social-justice messages players can wear on their jerseys.

Hawley press release:

Today Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) is sending a letter to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver blasting the league’s apparent decision to strictly limit messages players can wear on their jerseys to a few pre-approved, social justice slogans while censoring support for law enforcement officers or the military and any criticism of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Senator Hawley writes that, as the NBA is now sanctioning political messages, they must stand up for American values and make clear where they stand on China’s human rights abuses.

Senator Hawley writes, “The truth is that your decisions about which messages to allow and which to censor – much like the censorship decisions of the CCP – are themselves statements about your association’s values. If I am right – if the NBA is more committed to promoting the CCP’s interests than to celebrating its home nation – your fans deserve to know that is your view. If not, prove me wrong. Let your players stand up for the Uighurs and the people of Hong Kong. Let them stand up for American law enforcement if they so choose. Give them the choice to write ‘Back the Blue’ on their jerseys. Or ‘Support our Troops.’ Maybe ‘God Bless America.’ What could be more American than that?”

OF COURSE the NBA was going to limit jersey messages to a pre-approved list. The league doesn’t want the pressure of censoring players’ individual choices. Nor does the league want to condone messages that would offend offend customers and jeopardize revenue. Support for Hong Kong protesters would definitely qualify as financially perilous.

The NBA – a business trying to make money – wants to support its employees and appeal to its audience. These relatively benign phrases accomplish those goals.

That doesn’t prevent NBA players from criticizing China. I take NBA commissioner Adam Silver at his word (especially after the Daryl Morey controversy) that the NBA endorses its employees right to speak out.

The NBA just isn’t going to allow players to give just any message through their jerseys.

Some players are understandably bothered by that limitation. But the biggest pushes for change aren’t going to come through multi-billion-dollar corporations. That’s just reality.

Likewise, though Hawley raises legitimate concerns about China’s treatment of Uighurs and Hong Kongers, scolding an American company for legally acting in its best financial interest is… um… certainly a choice for a U.S. Senator.

Also, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski sent a profane two-word response in response to Hawley’s press release.

Wojnarowski:

NBA executive predicts every team will lose money next season

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The NBA is launching an unprecedented and ambitious operation – hosting the rest of its season in a centralized location with frequent testing – because that’s what’s necessary to play amid the coronavirus pandemic.

What about next season?

Coronavirus will likely remain a danger on Dec. 1, when the league hopes to begin. That threatens fan attendance. Heck, that could undermine teams playing at all in their home markets. All 30 teams, rather than just 22, adds complications.

Even if the season gets off the ground, there will be financial issues.

Brian Windhorst and Tim Bontemps of ESPN:

“The truth is, things are changing so fast that, when it comes to next season, the best we can do is put a stake in the ground and make a guess,” an Eastern Conference team president said. “The reality is nobody is probably going to operate in the black next season.

“The only question is how much each of us are going to lose.”

NBA owners love to cry poor. The actual math often reveals a different picture. There are complexities that teams can hide.

Some teams have already cut employees salaries. But some teams are also doing extravagant things like shipping their courts to Disney World for practice:

Still, NBA commissioner Adam Silver estimated 40% of league revenue comes from ticket sales and other game-day sources. If teams are ever believable about losing money, it’d be now. Coronavirus has wrecked so many sectors of the economy.

Revenue falling significantly would be felt by players, who – per the Collective Bargaining Agreement – receive about half of Basketball Related Income. (That 50-50 agreement supersedes players’ stated salaries in their contracts.)

It’s undecided how and when players would suffer those losses.

The 2020-21 salary cap could be reduced. But that would put the burden on players – free agents, draft picks – signing new contracts next offseason.

That’s why the salary cap is reportedly expected to remain roughly flat. There are a couple options within that scenario.

Players could have a larger share of their salaries withheld (as they’re doing this season). Then, at the end of the season, owners would return whatever money is necessary to reach the 50-50 split. However, that would reduce players’ spending power during the season.

Or players could collect their usual salaries with an artificially high salary cap. However, that would likely mean they get more than their entitled 50% share and the salary cap would be reduce in future seasons to offset. Current players – some of whom won’t be in the league in future years – would probably love that. Owners likely wouldn’t accept paying players more sooner.

Increased withholding from player salaries is probably the best option. But there’s plenty to decide about the exact withholding amount and how long the money is held. To ensure enough money is withheld, the percentage should initially be fairly high. Then, as the revenue picture becomes clearer, the withholding amount could decrease in future paychecks.

Of course, that assumes the league finds a safe way to play. Which is the biggest challenge.

Report: Wizards’ Thomas Bryant and Gary Payton II test positive for coronavirus

Wizards players Thomas Bryant and Gary Payton II
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Bradley Beal not playing sunk the Wizards’ for the NBA’s resumption, anyway.

If that and Davis Bertans sitting out weren’t enough, Washington is also without Thomas Bryant, Gary Payton II and Garrison Mathews.

Ava Wallace of The Washington Post:

The NBA announced 25 players tested positive from June 23-29. It’s unclear whether Bryant and Payton were among that group or additional positive cases.

It’s also unclear whether Bryant, Payton and Mathews will join the team at Disney World.

Bryant would be a particularly significant loss. His optimism and energy in tough situations are exactly what the Wizards need right now.

With the Nets severely shorthanded and the Magic looking uninspiring, Washington still has a path to the playoffs.