Lakers star LeBron James and Warriors star Stephen Curry
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Report: NBA stars unite on finishing season, most lottery-team players want to be done

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The National Basketball Players Association is reportedly polling players about whether they want to resume the NBA season.

Divides are emerging.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

Some of the NBA’s biggest superstars formed a united front to resume the 2019-20 season during a private conference call Monday, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Chris Paul, the president of the players association, arranged the call that included LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook, sources said.

Toward the end of the call discussing the ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic, all parties were in agreement to take the court with proper safety measures once the league is given the green light to commence, sources said.

The majority of players who are essentially eliminated from postseason contention would rather the league start back up with the top eight teams in each conference competing in some sort of playoff, sources said.

Shams Charania of The Athletic Tweeted out this update along the same lines:

This does not contradict the first report: Players do want to finish the NBA season, but for some players on teams well out of the playoffs that means something different — without them — than it does for players on playoff-bound teams.

This is effectively a return to Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations. Remember, it’s not just owners vs. players. It’s also owners vs. owners and players vs. players. People within each “side” sometimes have competing interests.

The uncertainty caused by the coronavirus only adds complications.

Of course, players want to return once “proper” safety measures are in place. But which safety measures are “proper” are in the eye of the beholder. Remember, the league office and Kings thought it was safe to play March 11. The Pelicans disagreed.

Life is never perfectly safe. Nobody should let that become the standard. Yet, coronavirus adds danger and discomfort for players who’d have to travel to and live in a bubble

The cited stars might have different visions of “proper” safety measures.

The group certainly comes from differing situations.

LeBron’s and Davis’ Lakers, Leonard’s Clippers and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks are prime title contenders. Russell Westbrook’s Rockets are a championship wildcard, and Paul’s Thunder are capable of a playoff run.

But Lillard’s Trail Blazers are outside postseason position (though within striking distance). Though Durant’s Nets are in the top eight, he doesn’t plan to return this season. Curry’s Warriors – the only team already eliminated from the playoff race – have made the most noise about being finished.

Yet, those stars all share a common goal of resuming the season (and will surely be influential with other, less-heralded players).

On the flip side, some players on lottery teams surely want to return. NBA players are highly competitive and generally just want to play basketball.

Money will drive some decisions.

Players’ collective salaries are determined by league-wide revenue. So, players who go on long playoff runs help increase the pot while drawing from a relatively modest playoff pool ($20 million in 2017-18 with changes from there based on season-long revenue).

That works well enough in normal times. But if only playoff teams return to help the league generate revenue, should those teams’ players – facing greater-than-usual danger – get a larger cut? It’s not necessarily fair for some players to stay home and let other players work to protect everyone’s salaries.

Then again, the more people in a bubble, the more risk of coronavirus infiltrating. And how much revenue would lottery teams generate, anyway?

At some point, the NBA will present a specific return-to-play plan to players. They’ll determine whether it’s acceptable.

In the meantime, battle lines are being drawn.

Michael Porter Jr.: Pray for both George Floyd’s family and police officers involved in ‘this evil’

Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. and Knicks forward Maurice Harkless
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Several NBA players posted about George Floyd, a black man who died after being pinned to the ground by a Minneapolis police officer for about eight minutes.

Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. struck a different tone than most.

Porter:

Knicks forward Maurice Harkless:

Harkless, whose dismay was shared by many, is a seasoned veteran. Porter has made made rookie gaffes.

But I’m uncomfortable criticizing someone for calling for prayer for anyone. For some, prayer can be effective way to cope amid tragedy. Many believe prayer can change the world.

Porter didn’t say prayer alone should be the solution. In fact, he called the situation “evil” and “murder,” seemingly suggesting the need for criminal justice, too.

Basketball Hall of Fame delays enshrining Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and Spurs forward Tim Duncan
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The Basketball Hall of Fame originally planned to induct Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett in August.

But coronavirus interfered.

Jackie MacMullan of ESPN:

Jerry Colangelo, the chairman of the board of the governors for the Hall, told ESPN Wednesday that enshrinement ceremonies for the Class of 2020, one of the most star-studded lineups ever which includes Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and the late Kobe Bryant, will be moved to spring of 2021.

Colangelo stressed there will be separate ceremonies for the Class of 2020 and the Class of 2021, even though both events will now be held in the calendar year 2021. “We won’t be combining them,” he said. “The Class of 2020 is a very special class and deserves its own celebration.”

I’m so glad each class will be honored separately. Bryant, Duncan, Garnett and the rest of this class – Tamika Catchings, Rudy Tomjanovich, Kim Mulkey, Barbara Stevens, Eddie Sutton and Patrick Baumann – deserve their own night.

So does Paul Pierce and whoever gets selected in the next class.

Life can end at any moment. Bryant’s death was a tragic reminder of that. But there’s no specific urgency here. The Hall of Fame should wait until it’s safe to hold a proper celebration of this class… then the next one.

NBA being sued for missed rent payments amid coronavirus shutdown

NBA Store
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The NBA has been sued by the owners of the building that houses the NBA Store, who say the league owes more than $1.2 million after not paying rent in April or May.

The league responded by saying it doesn’t believe the suit has merit, because it was forced to close the New York store due to the coronavirus pandemic.

NBA Media Ventures, LLC is required to pay $625,000 of its $7.5 million annual fee on the first day of each month under teams of its lease with 535-545 FEE LLC, according to the suit filed Tuesday in New York.

The NBA entered into the lease agreement for the property at 545 Fifth Ave. in November 2014.

Counting other fees such as water, the owners of the building are seeking more than $1.25 million.

“Like other retail stores on Fifth Avenue in New York City, the NBA Store was required to close as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Under those circumstances, we don’t believe these claims have any merit,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said. “We have attempted, and will continue to attempt, to work directly with our landlord to resolve this matter in a manner that is fair to all parties.”

The NBA suspended play on March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic and faces hundreds of millions of dollars in losses this season, even as it works toward trying to resume play in July.

NBA latest timeline has games starting in late July, early August in Orlando

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Anyone hoping for a rapid return of the NBA is going to be disappointed (and hasn’t been paying attention to how Adam Silver operates).

The NBA continues to carefully move toward a return to games, likely with 16 or more likely 20 teams in Orlando at the Walt Disney World resort complex. Expect players to report in mid-July with games now looking like they start late July to early August, allowing more time for the league to get medical and testing protocols and equipment in place. This according to multiple reports, including Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reiterated that timeline. While Adam Silver and the NBA owners will be on a conference call Friday, no hard-and-fast timeline decisions are expected at that point.

The format for the NBA’s return also is not yet set, but momentum has shifted in the past couple of weeks away from bringing all 30 teams into the Orlando bubble/campus to finish some portion of the regular season. That would be too many people and too much risk for too little reward.

Instead, the restart likely will have either 16 teams — going straight into the playoffs — or 20 teams, with a play-in tournament of some kind (maybe a World Cup soccer-style group phase). And, as Marc Stein of the New York Times notes (and he is not alone), there is a push to have the clumped 9-12 seeds in the West — Portland, New Orleans, San Antonio, and Sacramento — be the four additional teams brought in (along with the 16 playoff teams).

Teams who last in the playoffs past the first round could be in Orlando for months, which is why the NBA will allow family members to come to Orlando for the later rounds, report Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne at ESPN.

Conversations have centered on the timing of family arrivals at the Walt Disney Resort, which are likely to start once an initial wave of teams are eliminated and the number of people within the league’s bubble decreases, sources said.

Family members would be subjected to the same safety and testing protocols as everyone else living in the NBA’s biosphere, sources said.

Considering how long players on contending teams could be in Orlando — from mid-July until mid-to-late September, and maybe longer — allowing family to join them is the right thing to do.

NBA Commissioner Silver is trying to make a return as safe as he can and build as much consensus as he can, although he will not get anything absolute in either case. It’s in his nature to move cautiously, especially through uncharted waters like these. The NBA will have games again this summer, but earlier timelines have proved to be a bit optimistic.