NBA cancels games due to coronavirus
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Six lasting scenes from the night coronavirus overtook the NBA

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The NBA became linked with the coronavirus last night, changing the league in not-yet-knowable ways. Here are six scenes that capture the shock, confusion, chaos and sadness of yesterday.

Rudy Gobert touching recorders

Jazz center Rudy Gobert – who later became the first NBA player known to test positive for coronavirus – went of his way to touch reporters’ recorders Monday.

Yesterday, video of that incident emerged.

Dave Fox of CUTV:

A Utah Department of Health spokesperson called that “low-risk exposure,” according to Ben Anderson of KSL. But – since Donovan Mitchell‘s positive test for coronavirus – Jazz teammates have complained about Gobert’s carelessness. There was clearly a pattern here with Gobert, and knowing what we do now, it’s surreal to watch.

Thunder doctor running onto court

Gobert tested positive for coronavirus shortly before the Jazz were set to play the Thunder in Oklahoma City last night. That led to Thunder lead doctor Donnie Strack running onto the court to alert officials just prior to tip-off, which you can see in the background of this video:

Thunder public-address announcer announcing postponement

Of course, Gobert’s diagnosis led to the Jazz-Thunder game being postponed. But everything was happening so quickly and amid so much uncertainty, Oklahoma City public-address announcer Mario Nanni – who’s so good as a speaker, he has literally made a living from it – was stumbling over his words in the announcement:

Definitely had a Chip Diller “Remain calm” vibe with the multiple declarations that everyone is safe.

Mark Cuban learning the NBA had suspended its season

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was watching his team play the Nuggets when the NBA suspended its season. He was DEMONSTRABLY shocked:

Girl crying in Sacramento

The NBA’s initial plan was to suspended games after yesterday’s contest finished. But Kings-Pelicans in Sacramento – which hadn’t yet tipped off – also got postponed. That left one young fan in tears:

Vince Carter embracing several Knicks, who recently played Gobert and the Jazz

With the Hawks and Knicks finishing their game after the season-suspension announcement, Vince Carter checked in for what might be the end of his NBA career. He made a 3-pointer then embraced several players on both teams:

The Knicks – who recently played Gobert and the Jazz – have since been told to self-quarantine.

I know it’s silly to be overly concerned about a few daps, considering these players just spent a full game exchanging far more contact. This might have been a meaningful moment for Carter as he nears (reached?) retirement. I want to focus on his great career.

But watching those players, I couldn’t stop thinking about the spread of coronavirus.

Which is why yesterday will go down as one of the most notable days in NBA history.

A league ostensibly about basketball has become a league about the coronavirus.

Michigan State’s Xavier Tillman, possible first-rounder, staying in 2020 NBA Draft

Michigan State forward Xavier Tillman
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Michigan State power forward Xavier Tillman went No. 23 in the last mock draft by Kurt Helin and Rob Dauster.

That’s the type of confidence in Tillman that has him staying in the 2020 NBA Draft.

Michigan State release:

Michigan State men’s basketball rising senior Xavier Tillman Sr. (Grand Rapids, Mich./GR Christian) announced today that he would remain eligible for the 2020 NBA Draft and plans to hire an agent.

Tillman doesn’t look like a typical first-round pick. He’s an upperclassman, 6-foot-8 and 245 pounds and not an elite athlete.

But he just knows how to play.

Tillman is a physical interior defender who’s mobile enough on the perimeter. His basketball intelligence typically outshines his physical limitations.

That also goes for offense, where Tillman is also hamstrung by lackluster outside shooting. But Tillman can screen and finish or pass – a useful combination for a roller in the NBA.

I’m not sure whether Tillman will go in the first round. Teams tend to value higher-upside players, as the draft is often the best opportunity to acquire a star.

But Tillman was darned effective in college and has a reasonable chance of being effective in the NBA. In this draft, that should make him a first-round pick.

Must watch: Lonzo Ball halfcourt alley-oop to Zion Williamson

Lonzo Ball Zion Williamson
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Damn. This is just a thing of beauty.

Lonzo Ball and Zion Williams have a connection on the court and the Grizzlies got a look at it up close and personal Monday.

NBA TV has another angle

In a must-win game for 0-2 New Orleans, Zion played more in the first half than we have seen recently, but he was still under 10 minutes total. He had 11 points on 5-of-11 shooting, leading an energized Pelicans team that led by seven at the half.

Thunder’s Dennis Schroder leaves bubble for birth of child

Dennis Shroder child
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Dennis Schroder was not in uniform when Oklahoma City lost to Denver Monday. He wasn’t even in Orlando.

Schroder left the bubble to be with his wife for the birth of his child, something the team knew was coming but came up suddenly Monday morning, coach Billy Donovan said pregame (reporting from ESPN’s Dave McMenamin inside the bubble).

 

“I’m not gonna leave my wife by herself while she’s having a second baby,” Schroder said when he talked about this with reporters previously. “(Dennis) Jr. is still 17 months old, so I’m for sure gonna go there and support her and try as much as I can to be there for my family.”

Congratulations to the Schroder family, we hope everyone is happy and healthy.

The Thunder will miss Schroder while he’s gone. He is a Sixth Man of the Year candidate averaging 19 points per game while shooting 38.1% from three. The Thunder are at their most dangerous when Schroder is paired with Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a rotation that we will not see for a while.

The first round of the playoffs starts Aug. 17. Schroder can return to the team, the question is how long he will be in quarantine when he does. If Schroeder has a negative coronavirus test for seven consecutive days before his return, he will be in quarantine for four days. If he does not get tested, or if he exposes himself to the virus unnecessarily while outside the bubble — for example, picking up wings from a strip club for dinner — he will have a 10-day quarantine.

The Thunder could use him for what will be a tight first-round playoff series in a very balanced West. Schroder may or may not be there, he has higher priorities right now.

Oklahoma state Rep. threatens to increase Thunder’s taxes for kneeling during national anthem

Oklahoma City Thunder kneel during national anthem
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The Oklahoma City Thunder – like all NBA teams (minus a few individuals) – kneeled during the national anthem.

That powerful protest calls attention to racism, particularly through police brutality. It is highly patriotic to work toward ending those shameful practices. Though some have distorted the underlying message, the protests have largely worked. In the years since Colin Kaepernick first kneeled, Americans have developed a heightened sensitivity to racism and police brutality.

Of course, there are still many opponents of anthem kneeling. The demonstration causes a visceral reaction (which is also why it has been so effective). At this point, it’s hard to stand out among the critics of anthem kneeling who keep making the same, tired arguments.

Oklahoma state representative Sean Roberts found a way.

Roberts, via Oklahoma’s News 4:

“By kneeling during the playing of the national anthem, the NBA and its players are showing disrespect to the American flag and all it stands for. This anti-patriotic act makes clear the NBA’s support of the Black Lives Matter group and its goal of defunding our nation’s police, its ties to Marxism and its efforts to destroy nuclear families.

If the Oklahoma City Thunder leadership and players follow the current trend of the NBA by kneeling during the national anthem prior to Saturday’s game, perhaps we need to reexamine the significant tax benefits the State of Oklahoma granted the Oklahoma City Thunder organization when they came to Oklahoma. Through the Quality Jobs Act, the Thunder is still under contract to receive these tax breaks from our state until 2024.

Perhaps these funds would be better served in support of our police departments rather than giving tax breaks to an organization that supports defunding police and the dissolution of the American nuclear family.”

This is outrageous.

It’s outrageous that the Thunder get such a targeted tax break. The franchise is a private company that should succeed or fail based on its own merits. While it’s easy for NBA fans (like readers of this site) to get caught up in the league, professional basketball isn’t actually important for the greater good.

It’s outrageous that a company’s tax status could depend on how its employees exercise their freedom of expression. The First Amendment still exists.

Ultimately, Roberts almost certainly doesn’t have the power to do what he’s threatening. This is grandstanding for political gain. It gets Roberts into national headlines and little else. Mission accomplished, I guess.

So, Roberts builds a reputation as another big-government politician – someone who wants to use the heavy hand of government to dissuade free expression.