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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.

Jaylen Brown heads to restart with Boston, plans to use voice for social justice

Jaylen Brown Boston
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The Celtics’ Jaylen Brown has been one of the most active NBA players in the Black Lives Matters movement — even driving from Boston to Atlanta to lead a protest.

That’s not changing because he’s going to Orlando for the NBA restart.

Brown admitted he considered not playing in Orlando due to the pandemic, but the opportunity the NBA’s platform provided to speak on social issues was too great to pass up, Brown said in a conference call with reporters Monday, via the Associated Press.

“Once I thought about the opportunity that the organization and the NBA presented to play for something bigger than myself, I was signed up,” he said. “I plan on using my voice while I’m down there. I plan on spreading light on things that are getting dimmed and hopefully the NBA and our organization can understand.”

Brown is not alone in thinking that. Portland’s CJ McCollum is on the executive committee of the National Basketball Players Association as well and said a lot of players see the same opportunity.

“But now [the talk is] more around what impact we can make to support what is going on in the real world, to continue to support Black Lives Matter and the things we’re facing as a society,” McCollum told NBC Sports. “Those are the calls we’re having now. How can we impact? How can we spread awareness on certain things in the world that are going on?…

“The biggest thing is to take advantage of the platform [in Orlando], to coincide with the NBA and figure out productive ways we can continue to spread information, to continue to educate, to continue to put light on things that have often been behind closed doors and never been brought out to the public eye, so I think those are the conversations we’ll continue to have.”

One way players can make a statement is by replacing the name on the back of jerseys with a message pre-approved by the league. Brown, like 76ers forward Mike Scott, is not a fan of how the NBA handled it.

“I think that list is an example of a form of limitations,” Brown said. “I think we should be able to express our struggle just a little bit more…

“The bottom line is there are improvements that need to be made,” Brown said. “The NBA has a great voice, a lot of resources and a lot of influence. We’re appreciative that they’re helping and aiding in a lot of those things that we care about. That’s really important.”

Brown understands the NBA’s voice, and he heads to Orlando planning to use his.

76ers’ Mike Scott on social-justice messages on NBA jerseys: ‘That was terrible. It was a bad list’

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The NBA approved a list of social-justice messages players can wear on their jerseys:

  • Black Lives Matter
  • Say Their Names
  • Vote
  • I Can’t Breathe
  • Justice
  • Peace
  • Equality
  • Freedom
  • Enough
  • Power to the People
  • Justice Now
  • Say Her Name
  • Sí Se Puede (Yes We Can)
  • Liberation
  • See Us
  • Hear Us
  • Respect Us
  • Love Us
  • Listen
  • Listen to Us
  • Stand Up
  • Ally
  • Anti-Racist
  • I Am A Man
  • Speak Up
  • How Many More
  • Group Economics
  • Education Reform
  • Mentor

76ers forward Mike Scott, via Paul Hudrick of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

They gave us some names and phrases to put on the back of jerseys,” Scott said. “That was terrible. It was a bad list, bad choice. They didn’t give players a chance to voice their opinion on it. They just gave us a list to pick from. That was bad. That’s terrible. Just voice your opinion, how you feel.

“I don’t know how you can use your platform. I don’t know. Vote. Of course, vote. See what laws we can change. But I’m all about just doing, instead of just saying or posting or putting something on the back of your jersey. I don’t think that’s going to stop anything. I don’t know how you do it. I don’t know.

Celtics wing Jaylen Brown, via Darren Hartwell of NBC Sports Boston:

“I would like to see — because I think it can still happen — more options available to put on the back of our jerseys,” Brown said Monday in a video conference with reporters. “We understand anything vulgar our league doesn’t necessarily represent, but for histories and causes such as now, I think that that list is an example of a form of limitation. I think we should be able to express our struggle just a little bit more.

” … I was very disappointed in the list that was agreed to. I think things were tried and attempts were made to add to that list, but the NBA agreed that that list was satisfactory. Hopefully we can get some more names on that list.”

“Maybe ‘Break the Cycle,’ ‘Results’ — that’s what everybody is really playing for — ‘Inequality by Design,’ ” Brown said, “things like that I think may have a deeper impact than some of the things that were given to us. I think it was a little bit limiting.”

As far as Scott’s complaint about players not having a voice in the list, the plan was presented as developed in conjunction with the National Basketball Players Association. Perhaps, this is another example of union leadership not being on the same page as its members. But to be fair, it’s difficult to satisfy everyone. Scott and Brown don’t necessarily speak for players en masse.

Of course the NBA – a multi-billion-dollar company – was going to allow only sanitized phrases. The middle has shifted, but not enough for mainstream support for a sharp criticism like Brown’s “Inequality by Design.” (He’s right, though.) The NBA doesn’t want too much controversy.

However, simply by operating, the league gives players platforms and resources .

Nobody should have expected these jersey messages to be the primary means of change. They’re fine and can help draw attention.

But players can do more outside the league’s formal structure, including speaking up in interviews – like Scott and Brown did today.

Pelicans sign Sindarius Thornwell as substitute player. For whom?

Sindarius Thornwell vs. Pelicans
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Three Pelicans tested positive for coronavirus. At least.

Is one of them not playing in the NBA’s resumption at Disney World?

Despite having a full roster, New Orleans is signing Sindarius Thornwell.

Pelicans release:

The New Orleans Pelicans today announced that the team has signed free agent guard Sindarius Thornwell as a substitute player for the remainder of the 2019-20 season.

Thornwell will wear #12 for the Pelicans.

Christian Clark of The Times-Picayune:

At this stage, only players who can’t play due to coronavirus or choose to it out can be replaced. That’s not Darius Miller, who’s still recovering from an Achilles injury.

With Zion Williamson looking fit, the Pelicans could be dangerous. They’re in a tight race to force play-in games. But they don’t have much margin for error in the playoff race.

So, keep an eye on whom Thornwell is replacing.

Sean Marks denies rumor of Nets trying to poach Spurs coach Gregg Popovich

Former Nets coach Kenny Atkinson and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich
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The Nets are reportedly seeking a blue-chip coach as they hope to enter championship contention. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is one of the greatest coach’s of all-time, a five-time champion.

Brooklyn’s coach must get along with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Durant and especially Irving have appeared fond of Popovich.

Nets owner Joe Tsai has the deep pockets to give a raise to Popovich, who’s reportedly already the NBA’s highest-paid coach.

Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks played and worked for Popovich in San Antonio.

The Spurs will likely have their lengthy playoff streak end. Of their two biggest stars, LaMarcus Aldridge keeps talking about returning to the Trail Blazers and DeMar DeRozan is reportedly unhappy in San Antonio.

Could all that circumstantial evidence add up to the Nets hiring Popovich?

Gerald Brown on “Let’s Get Technical:”

There’s a story going around that the owner of the Brooklyn Nets is looking to make a Godfather offer to Gregg Popovich. And when I say the Godfather, it’s something he can’t refuse. Hearing this story – and it’s probably going to circulate a little bit more in the days to come – I’m not really buying it at all.

It’s telling that the person who sent the rumor mainstream did so with the caveat that he doesn’t believe it.

Marks threw even more cold water on the rumor.

Marks on “Benigno and Roberts” on WFAN:

Pop has a job. So, I will say that. And, obviously, we all know he’s an amazing, amazing coach, and to be quite frank, an even better leader. So, I will let Pop continue to coach for the Spurs, and he owes it to them and they owe it to him. I’m sure he’s quite happy there.

That’s a strong denial. If he believed Popovich might come to Brooklyn, Marks probably wouldn’t say Popovich “owes it” to the Spurs to keep coaching them. That wouldn’t cover for a possible move while things are worked out privately. That backs Popovich into a corner.

Popovich is 71 and appears quite comfortable in San Antonio. For all the speculation on why Popovich could join the Nets, there are also strong reasons it wouldn’t make sense.