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.

Lou Williams admits “I probably could have made a better quality decision”

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Lou Williams is far from the first man to regret a trip to a strip club — or to be put in a kind of “time out” for it.

Williams was out of quarantine and back on the court for the Clippers Tuesday and afterward owned up to the mistake of swinging by the Magic City strip club in Atlanta to pick up some food while he was out.

“Well, in hindsight, I think as far as the public safety issue goes, I probably could have made a better quality decision. I was a little naive in that aspect,” Williams said after Devin Booker ripped L.A.’s heart out. “I went somewhere after a viewing of somebody I considered a mentor, somebody I looked up to, first black man I seen with legal money in my life.

“The funeral home was a couple blocks away from one of my favorite restaurants. It’s been documented how much I talk about this place, how much I eat there. I just did something that was routine for me. I frequent that place at that time of day, 5:30, 6:00 in the afternoon. At the time I thought I was making a responsible decision.

“After looking back on it, with everything going on in the world, the pandemic, maybe it wasn’t the best quality decision. I chalk it up that that, take my L and keep moving.”

Williams had been granted permission to leave the NBA’s restart bubble in Orlando to attend the memorial in Atlanta. But he detoured by the Magic City strip club in Atlanta for some grub — the club does sell “LouWill lemon pepper BBQ wings” although a worker at the club said she gave Williams a dance while he was there. However, the league’s concern was not the food or what goes on in the club, it’s the other people in a confined indoor space who were not following the same safety protocols Williams was supposed to be observing. That’s what got him a 10-day quarantine. Thanks a lot, rapper Jack Harlow.

What did Williams do for 10 days?

“I was able to finish a couple of books. I did some crossword puzzles,” he said. “I had 10 minutes to pack up my room, so I was able to get out my studio stuff. I stayed engaged on Zoom with the practices. Had 30 minutes to work out every day.”

Williams, on a minutes restriction, had 7 points on 3-of-8 shooting on Tuesday. His bench pick-and-roll partner, Montrezl Harrell, is still outside the bubble after the death of his grandmother. The Clippers will need both of them at full strength once the playoffs roll around.

Report: No second bubble, scrimmages or practices for other eight NBA teams

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The on-again, off-again idea of a second bubble? The on-again, off-again idea of the eight NBA teams not continuing at Disney World even scrimmaging or practicing?

It’s all looking unlikely.

Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic:

There is growing belief among the NBA’s eight franchises not in Orlando that a second bubble site being built for minicamps and intrasquad scrimmages will not happen, sources tell The Athletic. There is pessimism about in-market minicamps for group workouts happening as well.

“There’s nothing happening,” one GM told The Athletic after a Tuesday call between the eight GMs and league officials. “It’s a shame. It’s a huge detriment to these eight franchises that were left behind.”

I’m so sick of some of these eight teams whining. They’re not playing because they weren’t good enough to qualify for the resumption. Deal with it. Every year, some teams get eliminated before others. This is different in degree, not kind.

Besides, are these eight teams watching the high level of play in the bubble? After a long layoff, teams look energetic and fresh. Long offseasons could give the eight eliminated teams an advantage next season.

Playing basketball safely amid the coronavirus pandemic is costly – both in terms of operational expenses and lifestyle sacrifices for participants. It’s worthwhile for the continuing 22 teams because the revenue being produced by the resumption.

That wouldn’t necessarily be the case for the other eight teams. Maybe there’s value in fulfilling local TV contracts, but the remaining games are a poor product. Scrimmages and practices would be even less marketable. Impending free agents especially have little reason to care about continuing.

I understand why many of the eight teams want to do something. But it’s probably just not worth it.

Memphis’ Jaren Jackson Jr. out for season with torn left meniscus

Jaren Jackson torn meniscus
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Jaren Jackson Jr. scored 22 points and was the best Grizzlies player against the Pelicans on Monday night, showing off his athleticism and touch from three.

He also tore the meniscus in his left knee during the game, the Grizzlies announced Tuesday.

Even with the short offseason, Jackson should be ready to play at the start of next season.

This is a serious blow to the Grizzlies, who are 0-3 in the bubble and now just lost their best player through those three games. He has been the best source of offense for the Grizzlies in the bubble, feasting on defenders who cannot match his speed.

Jackson, a 6’11” big out of Michigan State, averaged 17.4 points and 4.6 rebounds a game this season, shooting 39.4% from three. He’s still developing, but he looks like a classic modern big — can protect the rim, can post up or make plays from the elbow, and can shoot the three — who is developing a strong chemistry with Ja Morant. They could be the cornerstones of the Grizzlies’ future.

First, Jackson has to get healthy.

Watch Devin Booker drain turnaround game-winner to beat Clippers

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Devin Booker is a serious problem.

The Suns All-Star guard scored his 34th and 35th points of the night on a turnaround game-winner at the buzzer= over Paul George — who defended him well. He called game.

Ivica Zubac opened the door for Booker to win it. The Suns had the ball with 31 seconds to go and the Clippers — Kawhi Leonard in particular — defended it well, forcing Ricky Rubio into a difficult, high-arcing shot he missed. Zubac did a good job grabbing the rebound, but then he hurried the outlet pass and Mikal Bridges tipped it, Deandre Ayton grabbed it, and the Suns got to reset and take one more shot.

Devin Booker took the final shot, a game-winner. That man is a problem.

The bubble Suns are now 3-0.