Adam Silver bubble
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Adam Silver updates players on return: No date yet (think June), no fans, but 7-game series

Leave a comment

Unlike the NFL’s “put our head down and plow ahead” strategy, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is going to gather every bit of information he can on the coronavirus and a return to play, try to build a consensus, and in the end not make a decision until he has to.

Which means don’t expect a decision on the return of this season until June, Silver told NBA players in a conference call Friday set up by the union.

The goal of the call was to give players an update on where things stand, and Silver was very transparent according to multiple people on the call who spoke to NBC Sports. Silver also was honest that the situation is still fluid as the nation struggles with the coronavirus (more than 1.2 million cases and 62,000 deaths, with both numbers still climbing).

The plans Silver discussed would be to have fan-less bubbles — likely the West in Las Vegas and the East at the Disney resort in Orlando — where the league could host games (maybe regular season games, but Silver added he hoped for 7-game playoff series) that would be televised.

NBC Sports has spoken to people in on the call, plus Shams Charania of The Athletic and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN had other details. Here are the key points:

• No decision on a return to play — and what form that would take — needs to be made until June.
• If this season resumes, there will be no fans at the games.
• If this season resumes expect games at one or two locations, with Las Vegas and the Disney resort at Orlando the spots Silver mentioned (however, other sites are on the table).
• To return there would need to be extensive testing — enough to have daily tests of players, ideally, Silver said, more than 10,000 total tests — and the ability to have those without taking tests away from cities/states where they are needed.
• If testing is often enough, a player who tests positive could be isolated without having to shut everything down.
• If the league restarts, there will be at least three weeks of a training camp before games begin.
• Silver said all 30 owners are willing to bring teams back for regular season games (there have been concerns from owners of teams well out of the playoffs about the point of the extra expenses). However, he admitted that as the lockdown heads into the summer it may not be possible to play enough games for teams out of the playoffs to catch teams already in, and the league could go straight to the postseason.
• It’s possible there will be no fans at games at the start of — or maybe through much of — next season if there is not a widely-available vaccine. Silver tried to make this very clear to players.
• The league is taking an unprecedented financial hit, with 40 percent of league’s revenue coming from fans in the form of ticket sales and game revenue, not to mention merchandise sales.
• That, and the television games lost this season, mean both the players and owners are going to have to make financial sacrifices, with Silver emphasizing that hard decisions are coming and he wants to work with players on those. But not everyone is going to be happy.

There were plenty of questions from players on the logistics of going back to play, the opening of team workout facilities, and more. The players were curious.

Silver was open but emphasized right now there are no hard-and-fast answers. As of today, there are not enough tests to restart play, and there has been a spike in COVID-19 cases and deaths in parts of the country, all of which makes it smarter to wait before making any decision.

Silver tried to paint an optimistic but realistic picture — games may return this summer, but the league will not be back to “normal” for years. If ever. And the coming changes will not be painless.

 

Must watch: Lonzo Ball halfcourt alley-oop to Zion Williamson

Lonzo Ball Zion Williamson
Sean Gardner/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Damn. This is just a thing of beauty.

Lonzo Ball and Zion Williams have a connection on the court and the Grizzlies got a look at it up close and personal Monday.

NBA TV has another angle

In a must-win game for 0-2 New Orleans, Zion played more in the first half than we have seen recently, but he was still under 10 minutes total. He had 11 points on 5-of-11 shooting, leading an energized Pelicans team that led by seven at the half.

Thunder’s Dennis Schroder leaves bubble for birth of child

Dennis Shroder child
Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Dennis Schroder was not in uniform when Oklahoma City lost to Denver Monday. He wasn’t even in Orlando.

Schroder left the bubble to be with his wife for the birth of his child, something the team knew was coming but came up suddenly Monday morning, coach Billy Donovan said pregame (reporting from ESPN’s Dave McMenamin inside the bubble).

 

“I’m not gonna leave my wife by herself while she’s having a second baby,” Schroder said when he talked about this with reporters previously. “(Dennis) Jr. is still 17 months old, so I’m for sure gonna go there and support her and try as much as I can to be there for my family.”

Congratulations to the Schroder family, we hope everyone is happy and healthy.

The Thunder will miss Schroder while he’s gone. He is a Sixth Man of the Year candidate averaging 19 points per game while shooting 38.1% from three. The Thunder are at their most dangerous when Schroder is paired with Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a rotation that we will not see for a while.

The first round of the playoffs starts Aug. 17. Schroder can return to the team, the question is how long he will be in quarantine when he does. If Schroeder has a negative coronavirus test for seven consecutive days before his return, he will be in quarantine for four days. If he does not get tested, or if he exposes himself to the virus unnecessarily while outside the bubble — for example, picking up wings from a strip club for dinner — he will have a 10-day quarantine.

The Thunder could use him for what will be a tight first-round playoff series in a very balanced West. Schroder may or may not be there, he has higher priorities right now.

Oklahoma state Rep. threatens to increase Thunder’s taxes for kneeling during national anthem

Oklahoma City Thunder kneel during national anthem
Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Oklahoma City Thunder – like all NBA teams (minus a few individuals) – kneeled during the national anthem.

That powerful protest calls attention to racism, particularly through police brutality. It is highly patriotic to work toward ending those shameful practices. Though some have distorted the underlying message, the protests have largely worked. In the years since Colin Kaepernick first kneeled, Americans have developed a heightened sensitivity to racism and police brutality.

Of course, there are still many opponents of anthem kneeling. The demonstration causes a visceral reaction (which is also why it has been so effective). At this point, it’s hard to stand out among the critics of anthem kneeling who keep making the same, tired arguments.

Oklahoma state representative Sean Roberts found a way.

Roberts, via Oklahoma’s News 4:

“By kneeling during the playing of the national anthem, the NBA and its players are showing disrespect to the American flag and all it stands for. This anti-patriotic act makes clear the NBA’s support of the Black Lives Matter group and its goal of defunding our nation’s police, its ties to Marxism and its efforts to destroy nuclear families.

If the Oklahoma City Thunder leadership and players follow the current trend of the NBA by kneeling during the national anthem prior to Saturday’s game, perhaps we need to reexamine the significant tax benefits the State of Oklahoma granted the Oklahoma City Thunder organization when they came to Oklahoma. Through the Quality Jobs Act, the Thunder is still under contract to receive these tax breaks from our state until 2024.

Perhaps these funds would be better served in support of our police departments rather than giving tax breaks to an organization that supports defunding police and the dissolution of the American nuclear family.”

This is outrageous.

It’s outrageous that the Thunder get such a targeted tax break. The franchise is a private company that should succeed or fail based on its own merits. While it’s easy for NBA fans (like readers of this site) to get caught up in the league, professional basketball isn’t actually important for the greater good.

It’s outrageous that a company’s tax status could depend on how its employees exercise their freedom of expression. The First Amendment still exists.

Ultimately, Roberts almost certainly doesn’t have the power to do what he’s threatening. This is grandstanding for political gain. It gets Roberts into national headlines and little else. Mission accomplished, I guess.

So, Roberts builds a reputation as another big-government politician – someone who wants to use the heavy hand of government to dissuade free expression.

NBA referee Brent Barnaky explains standing for the national anthem

NBA referee Brent Barnaky
David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Magic forward Jonathan Isaac, Heat big Meyers Leonard and Spurs coaches Gregg Popovich and Becky Hammon drew plenty of attention for standing during the national anthem while nearly all NBA players, coaches and referees kneeled.

Referee Brent Barnaky also stood.

Tim Bontemps of ESPN:

This isn’t much of an explanation. Nor does it need to be. Barnaky explained that he wasn’t countering the message of kneeling players (opposing racism, particularly through police brutality). That’s sufficient for Barnaky to maintain his neutral positioning – important for an official.

For decades, nearly everyone stood for the national anthem. For many people, that was just about following norms. Even NBA players espousing social-justice messaging previously stood for the national anthem.

But Colin Kaepernick’s brave defiance caused some people to thoughtfully consider their national-anthem posture. So, while many people continued to stand for the national anthem because that’s just was done, some made deliberate choices based on their own values. Sometimes, that led to kneeling. Sometimes, that led to standing.

The thoughtful standers blended into the crowd… until kneeling became widespread in the NBA. Now, they’re the noticeable outliers within the league.

It can take courage to go against the grain. I commend Barnaky for that – and for voicing his support for social justice and peaceful protest.

Barnaky made a personal choice that can stand alone. It doesn’t undermine what anyone else is doing.