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Three Things to Know: Kobe tributes continue from Paul George/Clippers to All-Star Game

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Paul George narrates moving Clippers’ video tribute to Kobe Bryant; Lakers GM Rob Pelinka releases a statement. One of the first things Doc Rivers did when he took over the Clippers — a clever and smart move, one that irritates Lakers fans — is he had Staples Center cover up the Laker championship banners and retired numbers for Clipper games. To make it feel like the Clippers building (it’s really the L.A.King’s building, but that’s another discussion).

Thursday night, the first basketball game was played inside Staples Center since the tragic death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others in a helicopter crash. The Clippers did a classy thing, uncovering Kobe’s retired numbers. Then Southern California native Paul George narrated the Clippers tribute video.

Well done, Clippers.

Also on Thursday, Lakers GM and Kobe’s long-time agent Rob Pelinka released a statement. What follows is just a highlight, it’s worth checking out the entire thing.

“On Sunday, I lost my best friend and my sweet goddaughter. With that, there has been an amputation of part of my soul.

“Kobe was a force of nature, deep and obsessed with excellence. He was wise, determined, passionate. A visionary beyond measure. A dedicated and loving husband, and a “girl-dad” like no other. When he walked into a room, the energy ignited. He was high voltage, with a motor that had no limits. His mind had an infinite capacity to learn. He was, simply put, the most inspirational athlete of our time. What the world may not know, is that he was also the best friend anyone could ever imagine.

“Gigi was pure joy. Her smile brought comfort to any and every occasion. She was brilliant, kind and warm. And, like her dad, when she stepped onto the basketball court, she took on an entirely different nature, and boy could she play. Her basketball destiny was apparent, and the world knew it. She was also an extraordinary, loyal and supportive sister, and a wonderful friend to my children. My son and daughter always left time with Gigi feeling better about life itself. Everything Gigi stood for, I am so proud of.

2) All-Star Game format changed in part to honor Kobe Bryant; All-Star reserves named. The All-Star Game is a hype machine like no other, a showcase game of the biggest names in the sport putting on a display of athleticism and skill not seen on any other basketball court around the globe.

Except here’s the reality — the game itself sucks.

The actual All-Star Game is a boring exhibition. The skill and athleticism are undeniable, but everyone plays defense with the energy of traffic cones as they try not to get injured, leading to a boring scorefest.

The league office has been looking for a way to change that, and they have come up with this new format — and thrown in a Kobe Bryant tribute to boot. Here it is:

Each of the first three quarters will start with a 0-0 score. The two teams — Team LeBron and Team Giannis, chosen by their captains — will be playing for specific charities, and the team that wins each quarter gets more money for their cause. After three quarters, the teams’ scores will be added together to get a traditional score, then 24 points will be added to that to create a “target score,” and the first team to that number wins. No game clock, just play until one team gets to the target score. (The league chose 24 points to honor Kobe, as he wore that number.)

Confused? Can’t blame you, and just wait until you try to watch it all live. To help here’s an example: If after three quarters Team LeBron leads 150-145, then the “target score” becomes 174 and the first team to that number wins the All-Star Game. Team LeBron would have to score 24 points, but if Team Giannis can score 29 points first and get to 174 it wins. Get it?

Last week the All-Star Game starters were announced, yesterday it was the reserves as selected by a vote of the coaches. Here’s who they picked (in alphabetical order, but there are seven players per conference):

Bam Adebayo (Miami Heat)
Jimmy Butler (Miami Heat)
Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz)
Brandon Ingram (New Orleans Pelicans)
Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets)
Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers)
Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors)
Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks)
Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz)
Chris Paul (Oklahoma City Thunder)
• Domantis Sabonis (Indiana Pacers)
Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers)
Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics)
Russell Westbrook (Houston Rockets)

There are six first-time All-Stars in that group: Gobert, Ingram, Mitchell, Adebayo, Sabonis, and Tatum (plus three among the starters with Trae Young, Luka Doncic, and Pascal Siakam).

Who got snubbed? The big names are Paul George (L.A. Clippers), Devin Booker (Phoenix), Bradley Beal (Washington), Kyrie Irving (Brooklyn), Malcolm Brogdon (Indiana), Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota), and Jaylen Brown (Boston). Just remember, if you want to say one of those guys belongs in the big show it means removing one of the players from the same conference. It’s not as easy once you have to remove a deserving person.

3) Nuggets beat Jazz 106-101, which of these teams is better poised to challenge the Los Angeles teams in the playoffs? Both the Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz have been up and down this season, and both ultimately will be judged on how they perform in April and May, not a random game in January, but…

It Utah really a threat to make a deep playoff run and push — or beat — either Los Angeles team?

Is Denver?

The Nuggets looked more like it on Thursday night. Despite being down three starters due to injury, Denver went on a 27-1 third-quarter run, got 28 points and 10 assists from Nikola Jokic — who took over down the stretch scoring 11 straight, and he outplayed Rudy Gobert on the night — and went on to win 106-101. This was a quality win for the Nuggets.

For Utah… Donovan Mitchell shot 1-of-12 in what is their third-straight loss. This team still doesn’t have the offensive punch to overcome a sloppy defensive quarter like the third. Jordan Clarkson, brought in to add scoring to the bench, dropped 37 or this game would have gotten ugly.

Denver is 13-8 this season against teams over .500, Utah is just 9-12. There’s a lot of noise in those numbers, but on Thursday night the Nuggets looked like the team better poised for the postseason.

Michael Porter Jr.: Pray for both George Floyd’s family and police officers involved in ‘this evil’

Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. and Knicks forward Maurice Harkless
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Several NBA players posted about George Floyd, a black man who died after being pinned to the ground by a Minneapolis police officer for about eight minutes.

Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. struck a different tone than most.

Porter:

Knicks forward Maurice Harkless:

Harkless, whose dismay was shared by many, is a seasoned veteran. Porter has made made rookie gaffes.

But I’m uncomfortable criticizing someone for calling for prayer for anyone. For some, prayer can be effective way to cope amid tragedy. Many believe prayer can change the world.

Porter didn’t say prayer alone should be the solution. In fact, he called the situation “evil” and “murder,” seemingly suggesting the need for criminal justice, too.

Basketball Hall of Fame delays enshrining Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and Spurs forward Tim Duncan
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The Basketball Hall of Fame originally planned to induct Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett in August.

But coronavirus interfered.

Jackie MacMullan of ESPN:

Jerry Colangelo, the chairman of the board of the governors for the Hall, told ESPN Wednesday that enshrinement ceremonies for the Class of 2020, one of the most star-studded lineups ever which includes Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and the late Kobe Bryant, will be moved to spring of 2021.

Colangelo stressed there will be separate ceremonies for the Class of 2020 and the Class of 2021, even though both events will now be held in the calendar year 2021. “We won’t be combining them,” he said. “The Class of 2020 is a very special class and deserves its own celebration.”

I’m so glad each class will be honored separately. Bryant, Duncan, Garnett and the rest of this class – Tamika Catchings, Rudy Tomjanovich, Kim Mulkey, Barbara Stevens, Eddie Sutton and Patrick Baumann – deserve their own night.

So does Paul Pierce and whoever gets selected in the next class.

Life can end at any moment. Bryant’s death was a tragic reminder of that. But there’s no specific urgency here. The Hall of Fame should wait until it’s safe to hold a proper celebration of this class… then the next one.

NBA being sued for missed rent payments amid coronavirus shutdown

NBA Store
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The NBA has been sued by the owners of the building that houses the NBA Store, who say the league owes more than $1.2 million after not paying rent in April or May.

The league responded by saying it doesn’t believe the suit has merit, because it was forced to close the New York store due to the coronavirus pandemic.

NBA Media Ventures, LLC is required to pay $625,000 of its $7.5 million annual fee on the first day of each month under teams of its lease with 535-545 FEE LLC, according to the suit filed Tuesday in New York.

The NBA entered into the lease agreement for the property at 545 Fifth Ave. in November 2014.

Counting other fees such as water, the owners of the building are seeking more than $1.25 million.

“Like other retail stores on Fifth Avenue in New York City, the NBA Store was required to close as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Under those circumstances, we don’t believe these claims have any merit,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said. “We have attempted, and will continue to attempt, to work directly with our landlord to resolve this matter in a manner that is fair to all parties.”

The NBA suspended play on March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic and faces hundreds of millions of dollars in losses this season, even as it works toward trying to resume play in July.

NBA latest timeline has games starting in late July, early August in Orlando

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Anyone hoping for a rapid return of the NBA is going to be disappointed (and hasn’t been paying attention to how Adam Silver operates).

The NBA continues to carefully move toward a return to games, likely with 16 or more likely 20 teams in Orlando at the Walt Disney World resort complex. Expect players to report in mid-July with games now looking like they start late July to early August, allowing more time for the league to get medical and testing protocols and equipment in place. This according to multiple reports, including Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reiterated that timeline. While Adam Silver and the NBA owners will be on a conference call Friday, no hard-and-fast timeline decisions are expected at that point.

The format for the NBA’s return also is not yet set, but momentum has shifted in the past couple of weeks away from bringing all 30 teams into the Orlando bubble/campus to finish some portion of the regular season. That would be too many people and too much risk for too little reward.

Instead, the restart likely will have either 16 teams — going straight into the playoffs — or 20 teams, with a play-in tournament of some kind (maybe a World Cup soccer-style group phase). And, as Marc Stein of the New York Times notes (and he is not alone), there is a push to have the clumped 9-12 seeds in the West — Portland, New Orleans, San Antonio, and Sacramento — be the four additional teams brought in (along with the 16 playoff teams).

Teams who last in the playoffs past the first round could be in Orlando for months, which is why the NBA will allow family members to come to Orlando for the later rounds, report Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne at ESPN.

Conversations have centered on the timing of family arrivals at the Walt Disney Resort, which are likely to start once an initial wave of teams are eliminated and the number of people within the league’s bubble decreases, sources said.

Family members would be subjected to the same safety and testing protocols as everyone else living in the NBA’s biosphere, sources said.

Considering how long players on contending teams could be in Orlando — from mid-July until mid-to-late September, and maybe longer — allowing family to join them is the right thing to do.

NBA Commissioner Silver is trying to make a return as safe as he can and build as much consensus as he can, although he will not get anything absolute in either case. It’s in his nature to move cautiously, especially through uncharted waters like these. The NBA will have games again this summer, but earlier timelines have proved to be a bit optimistic.