MGM in Las Vegas wants to host NBA ‘bubble’ with courts, lounges, spas, even gambling

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If the NBA returns this season — and that is still a big “if,” even as much as Adam Silver, owners, and players are all pushing for it — it will be in a fan-less bubble. The idea is simple: House all the players, their families, coaches, staff, broadcasters and everyone else needed to execute games in a hotel, one attached or near a place where games can be played. Everyone lives, eats, and works in the bubble for six weeks to three months (depending on the season form and how long teams stay alive in the postseason).

The MGM Grand in Las Vegas wants to be that place.

With sources around the league saying Orlando’s Walt Disney World complex appeared to be the frontrunner for the bubble, the MGM Grand pitch for a quarantine “enclosed campus” was leaked to Kevin Draper of the New York Times.

According to a proposal deck sent to the N.B.A. and the W.N.B.A., which The New York Times reviewed, MGM envisions a fully quarantined campus, essentially one full block of the Las Vegas Strip, where players would live and play out whatever schedule the leagues want. The athletes would be joined by their families, league and broadcast media employees, as well as the staff and vendors needed to serve them, with access to lounges, spas, restaurants and all the other perks the resorts offer (yes, even gambling)…

The centerpiece of the proposal to the N.B.A. is the Mandalay Bay resort, which has 4,700 rooms at three connected hotels at the southern end of the Las Vegas Strip: the Mandalay Bay, the Four Seasons and the Delano. They are also connected by an enclosed walkway to the Luxor hotel, which is where MGM service staff such as housekeepers and caterers would live. As many as 24 basketball courts could be built at the convention center at Mandalay Bay, which hosts the Aces of the W.N.B.A. Five would be used to telecast games, while the others would be for practice.

It sounds promising on paper.

In reality, the logistics of hosting the bubble is anything but simple, especially one that would need to last months (25 days of training camps plus two months for the playoffs alone). That starts with the fact the league will need 15,000 tests to create and maintain the bubble (and right now there are parts of the nation that do not have all the tests they need). Then there are questions about the hotel cleaning staff, chefs, and everyone else with the hotel and how to make sure they don’t bring the virus into the bubble.

Sources around the league have said that Orlando appears to the current a favorite, hosting the event on the Walt Disney World complex and using the ESPN Wide World of Sports facilities (which already hosts numerous basketball events and is broadcast ready). Orlando also has the hotel facilities, but its primary advantage is it is on private property on the Disney complex — it is relatively easy to seal off the area and keep fans out and players in. This MGM offer is clearly aimed to counter that.

One of the concerns in Las Vegas is the draw of the distractions around that city that could lure players and others outside the bubble for a night, risking exposure to the virus.

Right now, the NBA is not ready to go into a bubble, and the bubble is not ready for the NBA. Maybe it will be next month (in June), but the date that Adam Silver has to make a decision is growing closer every day.

Knicks’ Obi Toppin out at least 2-3 weeks with knee fracture

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Obi Toppin is a fan favorite and Knicks faithful were hoping to see more of him as the season progresses.

However, they are not going to see any of him for at least the next 2-3 weeks due to a fractured knee, the team announced.

Toppin suffered the injury in New York’s win Wednesday over Atlanta, the same game that saw Dejounte Murray sprain his ankle leading him to be out for a few weeks.

Toppin — the reigning All-Star Weekend Slam Dunk contest champion — is averaging 7.7 points in 25 games off the bench. With him out, coach Tom Thibodeau suggested he could lean more on RJ Barrett, asking him to play up at the four.

Report: Zach LaVine not available for trade from Bulls

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Front offices of potential contenders from Los Angeles to Philadelphia have their eyes on the Chicago Bulls — will the struggling Bulls pivot to chase Victor Wembanyama and the top of the lottery, making them sellers at the trade deadline? Teams have interest in Chicago’s three stars: Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic.

Except just-extended LaVine isn’t currently available, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said Wednesday on his network’s pregame show discussing the Knicks.

“The Knicks will be watching Chicago. Is Zach LaVine a player who before the deadline possibly can become available? He certainly isn’t now.”

Chicago is not yet ready to pivot to tanking, so none of its stars are truly available. That said, the Bulls don’t look like a playoff team, they miss Lonzo Ball, and even if things do come together where do they stand in the East hierarchy? If the Bulls do become sellers, they aren’t going to tear this team down to the studs, it would likely be trading just one star. Possibly a second if the offer was strong enough.

LaVine — who signed a five-year, $215 million extension this past summer — is the least likely to be available, league sources have told NBC Sports. The expectation is that Vucevic would be the Bull first made available if the Bulls decide to start seriously listening to offers. And that remains an “if.”

That said, front offices around the league have their eyes trained on Chicago.

Dejounte Murray added to growing Hawks injury report, out 2-3 weeks with sprained ankle

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John Collins is out for at least another week with a sprained ankle. DeAndre Hunter has been out with a strained hip flexor.

Now you can add Dejounte Murray to the Hawks’ growing injury report, he is out at least 2-3 weeks with a sprained ankle, Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic report.

The injury happened on a closeout from RJ Barrett of the Knicks.

The Hawks have already had chemistry and fit issues this season, and missing key players for an extended period only exacerbates the problem. Atlanta looked flat getting their doors blown off by the Knicks Wednesday night, 113-89, a game that added to a string where they have lost 5-of-7. Now they will have to find a way to right the ship without their second-best playmaker.

There also is an update on the Hawks’ play-by-play announcer Bob Rathbun.

NBA, WNBA players react to news Brittney Griner coming home

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Brittney Griner is finally coming home.

The WNBA and USA Basketball star has spent 10 months in Russian prisons — including being convicted and sent to a Russian penal colony — for having vape canisters with small amounts of cannabis oil in her luggage as she went through Russian airport security back in February. She became a political pawn in the tensions between the United States and Russia, mostly surrounding Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, and was freed via a prisoner swap announced Thursday.

The basketball world — WNBA players in particular — had worked to keep her name front and not let Griner be forgotten during this ordeal, pushing President Joe Biden and the government to reach a deal. With the news Griner was freed, NBA and WNBA players took to social media to react.

“Brittney has had to endure an unimaginable situation and we’re thrilled that she is on her way home to her family and friends,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “We thank the members of the NBA and WNBA community who never wavered in their efforts to raise awareness of Brittney’s unjust circumstances.”

“We are overwhelmed with relief and gratitude that our sister Brittney Griner is finally coming home,” the NBPA said in a statement. “Her strength and courage throughout this last year have been truly remarkable, as have the efforts of her wife Cherelle, our WNBPA sisters, Terri Jackson and the WNBPA staff, who have been relentless in their call to bring Brittney home. We know this homecoming would not have been possible without their unwavering support and continued work to keep BG always top of mind, and our players are honored to have contributed to those efforts. While this is a celebratory moment for our sisters and us, we must not forget the other political prisoners who remain in dire circumstances all over the world. These individuals must be remembered and fought for every single day as BG was so that they too can have this moment. Welcome home Brittney, we are so happy to have you back! #WeAreBG”