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Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett are officially Hall of Famers

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It may be the greatest Hall of Fame class in history.

There may not have been a lot of suspense — the shock would have been if these three did not get in on the first ballot —  but Saturday it became official:

Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, and Kevin Garnett are Hall of Famers.

They were elected on the first ballot in a deep class that also includes Tamika Catchings, Rudy Tomjanovic, Kim Mulkey, Barbara Stevens, Eddie Sutton, and longtime FIBA executive Patrick Baumann.

It is Kobe’s election, months after his tragic death in a helicopter accident, that draws the most emotion.

“Obviously, we wish he was here with us to celebrate, but it’s definitely the peak of his NBA career,” Kobe’s widow Vanessa Bryant said on the broadcast announcing Kobe’s enshrinement. “Every accomplishment he had as an athlete was a stepping stone to be here.”

“No amount of words can fully describe what Kobe Bryant meant to the Los Angeles Lakers,” said Lakers co-owner and governor Jeanie Buss. “Kobe was not only a proven winner and a champion, he gave everything he had to the game of basketball. His fierce competitiveness, work ethic and drive were unmatched. Those qualities helped Kobe lead us to five titles – and have now brought him to the Hall of Fame, where he will be enshrined with the greatest to have ever played the game. No one deserves it more.”

Kobe’s resume was nearly unparalleled: Five-time NBA champion, two-time Finals MVP, 18-time NBA All-Star, 11-time All-NBA First Team, the 2008 NBA MVP, nine-time NBA All-Defensive First Team member, he is fourth on the NBA All-Time scoring list, plus Bryant earned two Olympic gold medals.

One of the few guys who can put up a resume anywhere close to that is Tim Duncan, the face of a two-decade San Antonio Spurs dynasty. He is a five-time NBA champion and three-time Finals MVP, two-time NBA MVP, he was a 15-time NBA All-Star, an eight-time NBA All-Defensive First Team member,  Rookie of the Year, and Duncan is the only player in NBA history with 1,000 or more wins with one team. At Wake Forest, he was a three-time First Team All-American and won the AP College Player of the Year award.

There also was never any doubt about the resume of Garnett: An NBA champion, NBA MVP, 15-time  All-Star, nine-time NBA All-Defensive First Team selection, Defensive Player of the Year, and he has an Olympic gold medal.

“It’s just the culmination, just the culmination,” Garnett said on the broadcast of the announcement. “You put countless hours into this, you dedicate yourself to the craft, you take no days off, you play through injuries, you play through demise, you play through obstacles, give no excuses for anything, you learn, you build, this is the culmination.”

“This is an honor so well deserved. We congratulate Kevin on being selected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame,” Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor said. “From the day we drafted him in 1995, we knew there was something special about him that Minnesota had never experienced before. I’ve watched Kevin grow on and off the court and will forever be grateful for his contributions to the Timberwolves organization. He was beloved by our fans in a way that only few players experience and will always have a place at Target Center.”

Those three alone make this an insanely good and distinguished class, but it goes beyond them into other deserving people. Also elected to the Hall of Fame are:

• Tamika Catchings. A WNBA MVP and champion, she is a 10-time WNBA All-Star and won four gold medals with Team USA.

• Rudy Tomjanovic. A legend of the Houston Rockets, he is the only person in NBA history to score 10,000 points as a player and win 500 career games with two championships as a coach. He coached two Rockets teams to titles and the 2000 Olympic team in Sydney to gold.

“Congratulations to Rudy T on his well-deserved and long overdue selection to the Hall of Fame,” said Rockets owner Tilman J. Fertitta. “As a longtime Rockets fan, I admired Rudy’s tenacity as a player and loved watching his attention to detail in coaching the back-to-back championship teams in the 90’s. Heart of a champion! This is an exciting day not only for Rudy and his family, but for Rockets fans everywhere.”

• Kim Mulkey. She coached the Baylor Bears to three national titles, and she won one herself as a player.

• Barbara Stevens. The coach of Division II powerhouse Bentley University, she is the fifth coach in NCAA women’s basketball history to reach 1,000 career wins.

• Eddie Sutton. He coached four schools to NCAA Tournament and won more than 800 games as a college coach.

Watch Tom Brady tell Charles Barkley to “take a suck of that” after he holes fairway shot

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It was the highlight of an entertaining — if not always pretty — afternoon of live golf, raising money for charity.

Tampa Bay Bay Buccanneers quarterback Tom Brady (it’s so weird to type that) was on his fourth shot on the par-5 7th hole at the Medalist Golf Club. Brady had a rough front nine to that point, and commentator Charles Barkley decided to up the trash talk (as if Barkley should talk about someone else’s golf game).

“How many shots do you want? Come on, I’m going to give you some shots man, I want some of you,” Barkley said.

“Don’t worry, it ain’t over yet,” Brady countered as he walked up to his fourth shot, 130 yards from the pin. “I think you just made him mad, Chuck,” host Brian Anderson said. “No, he can take a joke,” Barkley replied. Then this happened.

Brady earned that trash talk.

It wasn’t the only great exchange between the two; they had some fun on an earlier on a par 3 when Barkley bet Brady couldn’t get it on the green.

Increasing buzz teams well out of playoffs will not come to Orlando for games

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The Golden State Warriors have been public about it, they expect their season to be over. Golden State is far from alone, multiple teams well out of the playoff picture have questioned the expense and risk-to-reward ratio of coming back to play a handful of regular season games without fans in Orlando.

More and more, the buzz has been the NBA league office sees things the same way. I am not the only reporter hearing this: Steve Popper of Newsday wrote a column saying there was no reason to invite all 30 teams to the bubble city and the USA Today’s well-connected Jeff Zillgett added this:

This is where we throw in the caveat: There are no hard-and-fast plans from the NBA yet and every option is still being considered. One lesson Adam Silver took from David Stern was not to make a decision until you have to, and Silver is going to absorb more information in the coming weeks — such as from the recent GM survey — before making his call.

That said, the league seems to be coalescing around a general plan, which includes camps starting in mid-June and games in mid-July in Orlando.

For the bottom three to five teams in each conference, there is little motivation to head to Orlando for the bubble. It’s an expense to the owner with no gate revenue coming in, teams want to protect their NBA Draft Lottery status, and the Warriors don’t want to risk injury to Stephen Curry — or the Timberwolves to Karl-Anthony Towns, or the Hawks to Trae Young — for a handful of meaningless games.

The league is considering a play-in tournament for the final seed or seeds in each conference (there are a few format options on the table, it was part of the GM survey). That would bring the top 10 or 12 seeds from each conference to the bubble, depending upon the format, and they would play a handful of games to determine which teams are in the playoffs (and face the top seeds).

Either way, that would leave the three or five teams with the worst records in each conference home. Which is the smart thing to do, there’s no reason to add risk to the bubble for a handful of meaningless games.

Eight-year NBA veteran Jon Leuer announces retirement

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Jon Leuer is only age 31, but the big man has battled ankle and other injuries in recent seasons, playing in only 49 games over the past three seasons. Last July, the Pistons traded him to the Bucks in a salary dump, and Milwaukee quickly waived him. Leuer struggled to get healthy and did not catch on with another team.

Sunday he took to Instagram to announce his retirement.

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I love the game of basketball. I still want to play, but I know deep down it’s not the right decision for my health anymore. The past 3 years I’ve dealt with a number of injuries, including 2 that kept me out this whole season. It’s taken me a while to come to grips with this, but I’m truly at peace with my decision to officially retire. As disappointing as these injuries have been, I’m still thankful for every moment I spent playing the game. Basketball has been the most amazing journey of my life. It’s taken me places I only could’ve dreamed about as a kid. The relationships it brought me mean more than anything. I’ve been able to connect with people from all walks of life and forged lifelong bonds with many of them. What this game has brought me stretches way beyond basketball. I’m grateful for this incredible ride and everyone who helped me along the way. 🙏🏼🙌🏼✌🏼

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Leuer — a second-round pick out of Wisconsin for the Bucks in 2011 — averaged 10.2 points and 5.4 rebounds a game for the Pistons in the 2016-17 season, and for the years at the peak of his career he was a quality rotational big man teams could trust, either off the bench or as a spot starter.

Over the course of his career he played for the Bucks, Cavaliers, Grizzlies, Suns, and Pistons. He earned more than $37 million in salary, most of it from a three-year contract the Pistons gave him in 2016. It was not long after his body started to betray him.

Leuer has been riding out the quarantine in Minnesota is wife Keegan (NFL coach Brian Billick’s daughter) and the couple is donating thousands of meals a week to the needy in that community.

 

New York Governor clears path for Knicks, Nets to open facilities for workouts

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As of today, 19 NBA teams have their practice facilities open for players to come in for individual workouts, but 11 have yet to open the doors. Some it’s the decision of the team, some it’s that the municipality or state had not allowed it.

The Knicks and Nets — in the heart of New York, the part of the nation hardest hit by COVID-19 — are two of those teams whose facilities are closed. However, on Sunday New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said they could open the door for practice.

“I believe that sports that can come back without having people in the stadium, without having people in the arena — do it! Do it!” Cuomo said at his press conference. “Work out the economics, if you can. We want you up. We want people to be able to watch sports. To the extent people are still staying home, it gives people something to do. It’s a return to normalcy. So we are working and encouraging all sports teams to start their training camps as soon as possible. And we’ll work with them to make sure that can happen.”

While the teams have not formally announced anything yet, it is likely at least the Nets will open soon for the players still in market to workout (the majority of players from the New York teams went home to other parts of the country). The Knicks, well out of the playoff picture, may be much slower to open their facilities back up.

When they happen, the workouts come with considerable restrictions: one player and one coach at each basket, the coach is wearing gloves and masks, the balls and gym equipment are sanitized, and much more.

One part of a potential plan for the NBA to return to play called for a couple of weeks of a training camp at the team facilities, followed by 14 days of a quarantined training camp in Orlando at the bubble site. Multiple teams reached out to the league about doing their entire training camp in Orlando to avoid having players quarantine twice (once when the player reports back to market, once when the team goes to the bubble city).