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Jennifer Hudson to perform Kobe Bryant tribute at All-Star Game Sunday

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CHICAGO (AP) — Jennifer Hudson is coming to the All-Star Game to pay tribute to Kobe Bryant with her voice.

The NBA has released a list of entertainers headed to All-Star weekend, the group headlined by Hudson — the two-time Grammy winner and Oscar winner — who, just before Sunday night’s player introductions, will perform a special tribute to Bryant, his daughter Gianna and the seven other victims of the helicopter crash that took their lives in Southern California on Jan. 26.

Other additions the NBA revealed Thursday: DJ Khaled, Quavo and Lil Wayne will join the previously announced Grammy winner and Chicago native Chance the Rapper during Sunday night’s halftime show; Queen Latifah will be joined by Chicago youth to perform Stevie Wonder’s “Love’s in Need of Love Today” during Saturday’s events; and the Chicago Children’s Choir will sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” before the Rising Stars game on Friday night.

And Damian Lillard still may perform — even though injury will keep him from playing this weekend.

The Portland guard was to play in Sunday’s All-Star Game and participate in All-Star Saturday Night events as a competitor in the 3-point contest. But he injured his groin in the Trail Blazers’ final game before the break on Wednesday night, and that will keep him off the court.

Lillard, however, is going to be in Chicago and hasn’t ruled out taking the stage on Saturday night. The five-time All-Star is a popular rapper — he raps under the name Dame D.O.L.L.A. — and the NBA is hoping he performs.

His plan, if he can take the stage, is to be joined by Jeremih and Lil Wayne.

“We just kind of started going over what we could do to make it count, tried to figure out Chicago artists who could be part of it,” Lillard said. “Jeremih is going to be on stage with me and he’s from Chicago, he’s on one of my biggest songs on my current album. And then also, I’m going to be doing a song on my previous album and that’s one of my biggest songs with Lil Wayne, too, so it’s going to be a pretty good deal.”

Lillard’s rise in music did not come easily. Even though he had fame through being an All-Star player, he still had to pay his dues as a performer. He worked his way up through Instagram and Soundcloud, building a fan base and building respect within the rap community. And now he has three albums to his credit, plus enough credibility that big names want to work with him.

“I think the No. 1 thing that people see is the route that I’ve taken in my music,” Lillard said. “I didn’t just jump in and say ‘listen to my music because I’m an NBA player.’ I took the route that any other aspiring artist would take, and I think that shows that I took it seriously, that I have real passion for the music and for hip-hop.”

Several other All-Star weekend performers were previously announced: three-time Grammy winner and Chicago native Common, Chance’s brother Taylor Bennett, Chaka Khan (who will sing the U.S. national anthem Sunday before the All-Star Game) and country star Tenille Arts (who will sing the Canadian national anthem).

Common’s role will be to welcome fans to Chicago with a narrative about what basketball means to the city, that part to come before the teams are introduced Sunday.

Kings forward Harrison Barnes tests positive for coronavirus

Kings forward Harrison Barnes
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The Kings have been hit especially hard by coronavirus.

Buddy Hield, Jabari Parker and Alex Len all tested positive. Richaun Holmes is quarantined after violating the NBA’s bubble protocols at Disney World.

And now Harrison Barnes reveals he was diagnosed with coronavirus.

Harrison Barnes:

Presumably, Barnes was among the 19 players the NBA announced tested positive for coronavirus in July in home markets.

“Primarily asymptomatic” is a strange assessment. Does Barnes mean he’s mildly symptomatic?

The Kings already faced an uphill climb for making the playoffs. At best, several of their players are falling behind in training. At worst, Sacramento will have its rotation depleted when games begin.

Hopefully, Barnes recovers and joins the team as he hopes. He has a personal stake in it. Even during the lengthy hiatus, Barnes stuck with his pledge not to shave or cut his hair until the Kings reach .500 (or, as he amended it, make the playoffs) or the season ends.

Report: Pacers star Victor Oladipo’s remaining salary in dispute

Pacers star Victor Oladipo
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Among the continuing 22 NBA teams, players not playing in the resumption at Disney World essentially fall into two categories:

Pacers star Victor Oladipo lands in the gray area.

Oladipo, who returned from a year-long absence shortly before the season got suspended in March, said he was sitting out due to elevated risk of injury during a quick buildup. But he also traveled with the team to Orlando and is even practicing so well, Indiana is reportedly becoming increasingly optimistic he’ll play.

Is Oladipo healthy enough to play?

At stake for Oladipo:

  • $2,763,158 if the Pacers get swept in the first round
  • $2,993,421 if they play exactly five playoff games
  • $3,223,684 if they play six or more playoff games

Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

The union believes Oladipo, who went to Orlando with the Pacers and then cleared quarantine so he could practice, should be paid his remaining salary, sources said.

The league, largely in an effort to set a precedent in case other players who are deemed healthy want to leave Orlando and no longer play, believes Oladipo has opted out and should not be paid, sources said. His public comments about feeling healthy has only solidified the league’s position on the matter, sources said.

The Pacers support Oladipo’s decision and are willing to pay him the salary whether he plays or not, sources said.

Presumably, if Oladipo plays, he’ll get paid like anyone else playing in the resumption. This controversy lingers only if Oladipo doesn’t play.

It’s unsurprising the Pacers don’t want to pick this fight with their star player, especially as he approaches 2021 free agency. Trying to avoid alienating their own players but not necessarily eager to pay for services not rendered, teams collectively want the league to handle these issues.

If teams had ample discretion, the Wizards might have said Davis Bertans – who chose to sit out – had some lingering injury. NBA players are rarely perfectly healthy. There’s always some physical issue to point to. Bertans will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and they want to re-sign him. What an easy way to build goodwill – and maybe even get a discount on Bertans’ next contract.

Obviously, the league doesn’t want those type of shenanigans. That’s why on outside rulings on players’ health can be important.

Oladipo might not be the only borderline case:

Oladipo’s situation might take care of itself if he decides to play. But the league might inquire more deeply into other situations.

Report: Rockets star James Harden ‘feeling fine,’ might travel with Russell Westbrook

Rockets stars James Harden and Russell Westbrook
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When Russell Westbrook revealed he had coronavirus, speculation immediately turned to the Rockets’ other star who also didn’t travel with the team to Disney World.

James Harden is “feeling fine,” working out and might travel with Westbrook to Orlando, according to Shams Charania of Stadium:

Was Harden also diagnosed with coronavirus? Is he just waiting for his friend before entering the restrictive bubble? Is there another issue?

These questions beget even more questions.

If both players have coronavirus, they won’t necessarily recover on the same day. Would the first to get cleared wait for the other? Or is traveling together just an idea in case it works out?

If Harden is fully healthy and just waiting for Westbrook, how do their teammates inside the bubble feel about that? Those already at Disney World are spending more time away from friends and family in less-than-ideal conditions.

If there’s another issue… who knows?

The lack of transparency around the situation only invites rumors and guesses.

At least it’s good news that Harden feels fine.

Bucks GM not worried about other players recruiting Giannis Antetokounmpo inside bubble

Giannis Antetokounmpo
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Already reports are leaking out of the NBA restart bubble of players from different teams mingling, talking, hanging out together some. There will inevitably be some tampering (which goes on between players whether they are in the quarantine bubble or not).

All eyes are on Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is eligible for a supermax extension this summer, one the Bucks are going to offer him the minute they can (how much that is worth will depend on where the salary cap lands). Most people around the league expect he signs the deal, but if not rumors will fly. In the bubble, some players may try to plant the “come play with us” seed in his head.

Buck GM Jon Horst said he can’t worry about that. Via Eric Woodyard of ESPN:

“Zero [worries]. We can only control what we can control. If it’s considered tampering or recruiting or whatever it is, in our league people talk, people are connected, people have relationships,” said Bucks GM Jon Horst. “At the end of the day, I have full confidence in my personal relationship, our league’s relationship, our coach’s relationship, his teammate’s relationship with Giannis in what we’re doing and what we’re about.

“I think that separated us and we’re going to continue to be above that and not worry about that. We can only worry about what we can control, to be the best that we can, to have the best organization of support and success as possible, and that’s really where our energy and our focus is. Also, just as a funny kind of side note, I think that technically violates the social distancing rules and I think everyone is getting tracked for that, so I think we’ll be OK that way as well.”

I’m not sure how much players are sticking to the social distancing rules — they don’t have to wear the proximity alarms that team staff, media, and others do — but it doesn’t matter.

What happens in the playoffs could impact Antetokounmpo’s decision, but in the end he is expected to stay with the Bucks — they can offer the most money, they are a contending team, and Milwaukee is the only home he has known in the United States. It’s where his family is, where his child lives. That said, Antetokounmpo has played this close to the vest, not talking about his intentions.

That said, he knows what he wants. Nobody is going to say anything in the bubble to sway Antetokounmpo’s mind.