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Three Things to Know: The strangest day in NBA history

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday during the NBA regular season we are here to help you break it all down. Here are three things you need to know from yesterday in the NBA.

1) The strangest day in NBA history ends with NBA suspending play indefinitely. For much of Wednesday, NBA owners and the league office were debating how to keep the games on track as the spread of the novel coronavirus grew in the United States. There were discussions of playing in mostly empty arenas without fans — that’s the way most owners seemed to lean, except James Dolan and a couple of others who reportedly wanted business as usual — while discussions of moving games to new locations and even hitting the pause button on the season were thrown out there.

Then Utah’s Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19.

A player testing positive was always the league’s worst-case scenario. It changed everything.

At that point the league did the only thing it could: It suspended play.

“The NBA is suspending game play following the conclusion of tonight’s schedule of games until further notice,” the league said in a statement. “The NBA will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic.”

“This isn’t about basketball…” Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said later in a press conference. “This is a pandemic, a global pandemic, where people’s lives are at stake, and I’m a lot more worried about my kids, and my mom who’s 82 years old, and talking to her and telling her to stay in the house, than I am about when we play our next game.”

Now we all wait. There are a lot of questions currently without answers. We now know Donovan Mitchell tested positive, but does any other player in the league have the virus? Will play restart this season? If so, when? Will the season be pushed back into the summer? Will the season be shortened? Could the league just go straight to the playoffs in mid-April? Will fans be allowed to gather in large numbers when the league does return, or will the league play in empty arenas just to get games back up on television? How will this impact team revenues, and by extension the salary cap for next season?

All of those questions are tied to things bigger than the league, they are intertwined with the spread of the virus through the United States, which is expected to get worse before it gets better. The lack of testing from the outset — combined with bury your head in the sand leadership from some in power — has given us all an incomplete picture of how widespread the disease is in our nation. Nobody knows exactly what we are dealing with, which makes it even harder to predict what is next.

What matters most is the health of the players, fans, and everyone around the NBA. Gobert is said to be doing well, and that is to be expected — the young and healthy largely fall in the 80 percent of people who get a mild form of the disease. The goal is to stop community spread, to flatten the curve with the disease. The goal is to keep Gobert or another player from passing the virus on to a kid they took a picture with at a game, and that young boy or girl goes and sees his grandmother two days later, and suddenly the virus finds its way to someone far more vulnerable to it.

It will be, at the least, weeks before the NBA resumes play. Right now, teams that played against Gobert and the Jazz are in self-quarantine for that long.

The NBA got it right in shutting everything down.

Now comes the hard part of waiting while team owners, the league, the players union and everyone else gets involved in figuring out what happens next. This is uncharted territory.

2) Rick Carlisle reacted to the suspension news like a competitor. Dallas headed into the final few weeks of the season looking to improve their playoff positioning. As the standings look at the time of the suspension of play, Dallas would get the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round. Understandably, they would like to move up a spot or two and get Denver or Houston or anyone else instead.

So what was Carlise’s reaction when he heard play would be suspended after Wednesday night?

They did — knocking off Denver behind an improbable career night from Boban Marjanovic, who had 31 points and 17 rebounds. For once, Carlisle didn’t have to worry about keeping him fresh for the next game, so he just unleashed Boban in all his glory.

As a Boban stan, I am saddened more people will not notice his big night.

3) Wednesday night may have been the end of Vince Carter‘s career, and he understands that. Vince Carter played his 22nd NBA season in Atlanta this year, mentoring young stars such as Trae Young and John Collins, and knocking down some shots.

With full knowledge that the season was going to be suspended and this could be the final game of his career, Carter entered Wednesday night’s game against the Knicks in overtime and promptly knocked down a three.

Postgame Carter spoke to the media for nearly 20 minutes, with everyone understanding this could be his farewell to the sport (if the league goes straight to the playoffs when it returns he will not play again).

Thank you, Vince Carter, for 22 seasons of bringing us the joy of the game.

LeBron James: On behalf of basketball community, we won’t miss Donald Trump’s viewership

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NBA players kneeled for the national anthem.

President Donald Trump called the protest – which is meant to call attention to racism, particularly through police brutality – “disgraceful” and said he stopped watching games.

And in yet another predictable turn in this news cycle, Lakers star LeBron James fired back at Trump.

LeBron:

I really don’t think the basketball community are sad about losing his viewership, him viewing the game.

And that’s all I’ve got to say. I don’t want to – I’m not going to get into a – because I already know where this could go, where it could lead to for tomorrow for me. I’m not going to get into it.

But I think our game is in a beautiful position. And we have fans all over the world. And our fans not only love the way we play the game – we try to give it back to them with our commitment to the game – but also respect what else we try to bring to the game and acknowledge what’s right and what’s wrong.

And I hope everyone – no matter the race, no matter the color, no matter their size – will see what leadership that we have at the top in our country and understand that November is right around the corner. And it’s a big moment for us as Americans. If we continue to talk about we want better, want change, we have an opportunity to do that.

But the game will go on without his eyes on it. I can sit here and speak for all of us that love the game of basketball. We could care less.

LeBron has frequently criticized the president. Trump has also criticized LeBron. That’s how it goes.

In this case (and others), LeBron has the moral high ground. Kneeling during the national anthem is a patriotic act designed to make the United States a better place for all its people to live – something far more noble than saluting a piece of cloth during a song.

However, LeBron is wrong to speak for the entire basketball community. A lot of people love basketball. They don’t all hold the same political views. Some care about remaining in the good graces of the president of the United States, whomever that is. Some even care about the approval of Trump specifically.

Is there a limit on how much you love basketball if you’d stop watching because of a peaceful protest before a game? Obviously. But there’s still room to love basketball and also care about other things.

LeBron doesn’t have to personally dignify people who care both about basketball and Trump. But LeBron shouldn’t try to speak on their behalf, either.

LeBron’s rebuke would have been powerful enough (and more fair) on its own.

 

Jazz forward Joe Ingles joins Grizzlies huddle, drapes arms over Memphis players (video)

Jazz forward Joe Ingles vs. Grizzlies
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Jazz forward Joe Ingles has no boundaries with huddles.

Ingles invaded the Grizzlies huddle today, even putting his arms around – and some weight on – Dillon Brooks and Grayson Allen. Gorgui Dieng appeared to notice the intruder just before the video cut away:

Beyond the hijinks, Ingles also scored 25 points – including 12 in the fourth quarter – to lead Utah to a 124-115 win.

NBA owners pledge $300M for empowering Black community

NBA Black Lives Matter
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The NBA put “BLACK LIVES MATTER” on the court and social-justice messages on jerseys. These are visible symbols that can draw attention to the fight for racial justice.

But NBA owners have the power to do more than make symbolic gestures.

NBA owners will do more.

NBA release:

The NBA Board of Governors announced today that it will contribute $300 million in initial funding to establish the first-ever NBA Foundation dedicated to creating greater economic empowerment in the Black community.  The Foundation is being launched in partnership with the National Basketball Players Association.

Over the next 10 years, the 30 NBA team owners will collectively contribute $30 million annually to establish a new, leaguewide charitable foundation.  Through its mission to drive economic empowerment for Black communities through employment and career advancement, the NBA Foundation will seek to increase access and support for high school, college-aged and career-ready Black men and women, and assist national and local organizations that provide skills training, mentorship, coaching and pipeline development in NBA markets and communities across the United States and Canada.  As a public charity, the Foundation will also aim to work strategically with marketing and media partners to develop additional programming and funding sources that deepen the NBA family’s commitment to racial equality and social justice.

The Foundation will focus on three critical employment transition points: obtaining a first job, securing employment following high school or college, and career advancement once employed.  Through contributions, the NBA Foundation will enhance and grow the work of national and local organizations dedicated to education and employment, including through investment in youth employment and internship programs, STEM fields, job shadows and apprenticeships, development pathways outside of traditional higher education, career placement, professional mentorship, networking and specific partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

“On behalf of the NBA Board of Governors, I am thrilled to announce the creation of the NBA Foundation,” said NBA Board of Governors Chairman and Toronto Raptors Governor Larry Tanenbaum.  “All NBA team governors recognize our unique position to effect change and we are committed to supporting and empowering young Black men and women in each of our team markets as well as communities across the U.S. and Canada.”

“The creation of this foundation is an important step in developing more opportunities for the Black community,” said NBPA President Chris Paul.  “I am proud of our league and our players for their commitment to this long-term fight for equality and justice, and I know we will continue to find ways to keep pushing for meaningful institutional change.”

The Foundation will work directly with all 30 teams, their affiliated charitable organizations and the NBPA to support national organizations and their local affiliates as well as local grassroots organizations to facilitate sustainable programming and create change in team markets.

“Given the resources and incredible platform of the NBA, we have the power to ideate, implement and support substantive policies that reflect the core principles of equality and justice we embrace,” said NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts.  “This Foundation will provide a framework for us to stay committed and accountable to these principles.”

“We are dedicated to using the collective resources of the 30 teams, the players and the league to drive meaningful economic opportunities for Black Americans,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.  “We believe that through focused programs in our team markets and nationally, together with clear and specific performance measures, we can advance our shared goals of creating substantial economic mobility within the Black community.”

The 30 NBA teams will be members of the NBA Foundation with its eight Board of Directors comprised of representatives from the NBA Board of Governors (four board seats), players and executives from the NBPA (three board seats) and the league office (one board seat).  The Foundation’s board will oversee all business affairs and provide strategic direction with respect to programming and grantmaking.

This is great.

Trail Blazers reportedly tried recently to get Trevor Ariza to join them in bubble

Trail Blazers forward Trevor Ariza
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Trevor Ariza opted-out of playing for Portland in the NBA’s restart so he could spend time with his son. Due to a custody case, he had a limited window to visit and he chose family over basketball.

However, as his custody window shifted and Portland started to look at a deeper playoff run — and maybe a matchup with the Lakers in the first round — some Trail Blazers players tried to get Ariza to come to the bubble after all. If Zion Williamson and others could leave the bubble for family emergencies, why couldn’t Ariza be let in, the players asked?

That plan didn’t work out, reports Chris Hayes of Yahoo Sports.

But because his visitation period had been amended with a conclusion date now near the start of August, there was some optimism among the players that Ariza might be allowed into the bubble to further strengthen their chances of a deep playoff run. If the Trail Blazers were to snag the final playoff spot, they would face LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round and a pesky Ariza would have been useful guarding James.

The possibility was explored, but sources said the Trail Blazers had to have previously applied for a hardship waiver or a late-arrival form for Ariza to be considered for entry into the bubble. Even if those steps were taken, the league would have likely denied the request because Ariza chose to opt out, wasn’t included on the restart roster, and didn’t arrive with his team on July 9.

The league put together strict rules about who could and couldn’t be inside the bubble — rules agreed to by the players’ union. Those rules are working at keeping the virus out. The league was not going to bend the rules for Portland now.

Ariza chose time with his son and wanted it bad enough to give up between $1.1 million and $1.8 million in salary (depending on how far the Trail Blazers got). Nobody should knock that choice; it was his to make, and picking family is never the wrong option.

Ariza is under contract for $12.8 million with Portland next season, but only $1.8 million of that salary guaranteed next season. If Portland wants to reduce payroll, they can buy Ariza out and make him a free agent at age 35. There would be suitors, Ariza has proven to be a helpful glue guy on good teams.

That glue just can’t help Portland this season.