Adam Silver on the return of the NBA: ‘It’s about the data and not the date’

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NBA Commissioner Adam Silver owned up to stealing the line from Bob Iger, the executive chairman of The Walt Disney Company. Silver also said it’s his pat answer when asked about a return for the NBA.

“It’s about the data and not the date.”

Right now, there is not enough data to make any kind of decision. He added not to expect one on May 1, either. Right now, the situation is fluid.

Everything is on the table when it comes to a return, Silver said, from finishing the regular season and playoffs without fans in the building — the “bubble” option — to canceling the season and playoffs. Silver spoke to the media in a conference call following the video-conference NBA’s Board of Governor’s meeting Friday (a meeting of the team owners).

“The direction that the league office has received from our teams is, again, all rules are off at this point given the situation we find ourselves in, that the country is in,” Silver is said. “If there is an opportunity to resume play, even if it looks different than what we’ve done historically, we should be modeling it.”

However, Silver emphasized multiple times that player health and safety had to come first. So what are the markers the NBA is looking for to make a return?

“I think we’re looking for the number of new infections to come down. We’re looking for the availability of testing on a large scale,” Silver said.” We’re looking at the path that we’re on for potentially a vaccine. We’re looking at antivirals. On top of that, we’re playing close attention to what the CDC is telling us on a federal level and what these various state rules are that are in place.

“There’s a lot of data that all has to be melded together to help make these decisions. But that’s part of the uncertainty. I think we’re not even at the point where we can say, ‘if only A, B, and C were met, then there’s a clear path.’ I think there’s still too much uncertainty at this point to say precisely how we move forward.”

There is a strong desire to move forward, Silver added. Part of that is the owners being competitive, part of it is frustration by the owners that they cannot control the situation and speed things up on a national level, and part of it is financial. The league is taking a big hit.

“Our revenue, in essence, has dropped to zero,” Silver said. “That’s having a huge financial impact on the team business and the arena business…

“There is a strong recognition that there are thousands of jobs impacted by the NBA, not just the players and the basketball staff. When you include the day-of-game arena workers, the NBA is responsible for roughly 55,000 jobs. That goes to my earlier comment about recognizing that while this virus is of course a dire public health issue, so of course is shutting down the economy. I think it’s why the league sees it as our obligation to the extent we can resume play in a safe way to look at every potential way of doing so. That’s what we’re doing now.”

Silver said the league has listened to pitches from places that want to host the bubble of games, but right now there is no decision to make. The league is just listening.

Silver said the NBA owners discussed:

• An agreement with the players’ union to hold back 25 percent of player paychecks starting May 15 as part of a “force majeure” clause in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. That clause allows owners to withhold a portion of player paychecks for games canceled due to things like war or, in this case, a pandemic.

• The owners were addressed by Dr. David Ho, an infectious disease expert from Columbia University who has worked with the NBA before, going back to when Magic Johnson tested positive for HIV.

“One takeaway was, maybe not surprising, but he reaffirmed that there’s still enormous amounts of this virus yet to be learned,” Silver said. “Again, that’s just where we find ourselves.”

• Disney’s Iger also spoke to the owners, talking about re-opening his massive entertainment empire and how that company is going through the process of deciding when and how to re-open things like their amusement parks and resorts.

• The owners also went over the league’s new deal with Microsoft to be its artificial intelligence and cloud provider. They also discussed the recent changes to the G-League that encouraged two top recruits to choose that path instead of college.

Watch Kawhi Leonard score two clutch buckets, including game-winner, in his return

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Kawhi Leonard looked rusty in his return for the first 47 minutes Monday night: 5-of-13 shooting, 0-3 from beyond the arc.

But that final minute was special.

First, there was a great hustle play from Paul George — also making his return — that got the ball to Leonard to tie it up.

Then, after a stop, the Clippers got the switch they wanted, cleared out the side and let Leonard go to work on the game-winner.

Los Angeles picked up the 119-117 win on the road. Not exactly pretty, but for a team just starting to get healthy and build some chemistry, they showed resilience and got the win. Leonard finished with 16 points on 7-of-15 shooting, and George looked sharp on his way to 19 points on 8-of-15 from the floor. It was a balanced Clippers attack, which is what Tyronn Lue is trying to build.

Kelly Oubre Jr. scored 28 and P.J. Washington added 26 for the shorthanded Hornets.

James Harden returns to 76ers Monday night, is on minutes restriction

Minnesota Timberwolves v Philadelphia 76ers
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The 76ers were able to keep their heads above water. For 14 games, James Harden was out with a right foot tendon sprain — both Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey missed games in that stretch as well (Maxey remains out) — and Philadelphia went 8-6 with a +2.9 net rating and the best defense in the NBA over that stretch.

Monday night in Houston, Harden returns.

This wasn’t a surprise, nor is the fact Doc Rivers confirmed Harden will be on a minutes restriction at first.

Harden averaged 22 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds a game before his injury, and while his 3-point shooting percentage was down (33.3%) he was still efficient and finding his footing as more of a facilitator than scorer.

The 76ers are 12-11 on the season and sit in a three-way tie for fifth in the East (with the Pacers and Raptors). If Harden can spark the Philadephia offense there is plenty of time for them to climb into the top four, host a first-round playoff game and position themselves for a deep playoff run. But it starts with getting their starting guards healthy again.

Harden is ready to take that on.

Trae Young frustrated ‘private conversations get out to the public’ about missed game

Atlanta Hawks v Philadelphia 76ers
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Rumors and chatter of tension in Atlanta — about how Trae Young was adapting to playing with Dejonte Murray, and his pushback on coach Nate McMillan and his efforts to get the ball moving more — have been all over the league since the start of the season. Over the weekend, a little of that leaked out, with reports Young chose not to come to the arena Friday after McMillan gave him a choice of participating in shootaround or missing the game.

Young addressed the report and seemed more concerned that it got out than the report’s content.

“I mean, it was just a situation. I mean, we’re all grown men here and there’s sometimes we don’t always agree. And it’s unfortunate that private situations and private conversations get out to the public, but I guess that’s the world we live in now. Yeah, I’m just gonna just focus on basketball and focus on helping my team win. And that’s what I got to be focusing on…

“Like I said, it’s a private matter, again, made public, which is unfortunate. And if it was to stay private, it probably wouldn’t have been as big of a deal. But like I said, it’s unfortunate in my job, and my goal is to win championships. And that’s what I focus on.”

Young went through shootaround  Monday and is set to play against the Thunder.

Murray has been professional throughout this situation, saying he didn’t see anything at the shootaround Friday and backing Young and McMillan when asked.

Bringing in Murray was supposed to take some pressure off Young and spread the wealth more on offense, ideally allowing Young to be more efficient. Instead, Young’s usage rate is nearly identical to last season, he is shooting just 30.3% from 3 and his true shooting percentage has fallen below league average. The Hawks as a team make the fewest passes per game of any team in the league (stat via NBA.com). The Hawks’ offense is still a lot of Young, but it’s not as efficient as it has been in years past.

Atlanta is still 13-10 on the season, has a top-10 defense and sits fourth in the East — they are not struggling. But neither have they made the leap to become a team that could threaten Boston or Milwaukee atop the conference, and that’s what the Hawks expected.

There could be personnel moves coming in Atlanta — John Collins is available via trade, again — but if the Hawks can’t smooth out their internal, existing concerns (and get Collins and DeAndre Hunter healthy) other roster moves will be just cosmetic.

Nike, Kyrie Irving part ways, making him a sneaker free agent

Toronto Raptors v Brooklyn Nets
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Here’s the positive spin for Kyrie Irving: He will have the chance to remake his situation into something he’s more comfortable with during 2023. As a player, he will be an unrestricted free agent and can choose where he wants to play in coming seasons (how many teams are interested and for how many years will be interesting to see).

Irving also is a sneaker free agent — Nike has cut ties with him, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Irving is happy with this.

The separation is not a surprise. Nike suspended its relationship with Irving after he Tweeted out support for an antisemitic film, did not apologize (at first), and was suspended by the Nets. Here was the company’s statement at that time:

“At Nike, we believe there is no place for hate speech and we condemn any form of antisemitism. To that end, we’ve made the decision to suspend our relationship with Kyrie Irving effective immediately and will no longer launch the Kyrie 8. We are deeply saddened and disappointed by the situation and its impact on everyone.”

Nike founder Phil Knight said it was likely the end of the company’s relationship with Irving.

That’s not a small thing by Nike, Irving has had a signature shoe line since 2014 and is reported to have a deal with Nike worth more than $10 million a season because his shoes are popular. However, his contract with the shoe giant was set to end in October 2023, and there had been reports Nike did not plan to extend that deal before this current controversy started.

Nike is already looking in a new direction, at Ja Morant.

Irving now has the chance to choose his new direction.