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Doc Rivers: Donald Sterling almost nixed J.J. Redick signing because he didn’t ‘like white players’

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J.J. Redick has told this story before.

Former Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling’s racism was a thing of infamy around the league. There were public parts to it, such as the $2.75 million payment to settle a federal housing discrimination lawsuit in 2009, a suit that said he discriminated against black tenants trying to rent in his buildings. Sterling was bringing his privileged friends into the Clippers’ locker room after games while players were changing, at times telling his guests, “look at their beautiful black bodies.” Baron Davis told stories of Sterling disrespectfully cussing out players after a loss. Blake Griffin had his own stories about just being shown off.

As an owner, Sterling was cheap and arbitrary. In the final years of his ownership, some around him pushed and prodded Sterling to allow the organization to grow up — Mike Dunleavy Sr. deserves credit for this — and a big step in that direction was hiring Doc Rivers as coach and GM (even if Doc was not cut out to be the head of player personnel and on the bench). Rivers has said before people would be blown away by the trades Sterling nixed.

Monday, on #NBATOGETHER with TNT’s Ernie Johnson, Rivers told the story of Sterling almost killing the signing of J.J. Redick, but from Doc’s point of view.

“I think he was going to sign with Minnesota, I literally talk J.J. out of it, ‘Come play with me. Come play with the Clippers with Chris Paul and DJ and Blake [Griffin], you’d be a great fit.’… The free agent signing is done, J.J. agrees, I jump on a plane, I fly back to Orlando, and I get a call from Andy Roeser, and he says, ‘the deal’s off.’ I say, ‘what do you mean the deal’s off?’

“‘Donald doesn’t like white players.'”

“I said, ‘excuse me?’ ‘Donald Sterling said no.’ I said, ‘well, we’ve already agreed.’ I’m in the garage at the Orlando Airport, Ernie, I get a call from Coach K, who is upset because of J.J. I get a call from J.J.’s agent, I think it was Arn Tellem [Ed. note: It was] who screaming at me.

“So I call Donald Sterling, and I think this was three weeks to a month into the job, I’m not sure but right in that area, me and Donald are having a ‘conversation.’ It made [a screaming, cussing argument with Doc’s then coach Pat Riley years before] look meek. So, by the very end of the conversation, I quit. I said, “Well, I quit’ [Immitating a screaming Sterling] ‘You’re not gonna quit.’ ‘I quit.’ ‘You’re not gonna quit.’…

“I said, ‘I’m not gonna let you ruin my reputation. Not gonna happen. It will never happen.’ And Donald goes in, ‘Oh, just trust me, I have this great reputation around the league.’ And I was screaming, ‘No, I have the reputation around the league, you don’t. I will not coach another day if this deal doesn’t go through.’ I hang up, and I remember going home and telling Chris [Paul], ‘I think I don’t have a job.’…

“Three hours later I get a call from Andy Roeser who says, ‘Hey man, deal’s done, Donald’s all in.’ Didn’t say why, didn’t say anything, just he changed his mind.

“I knew that minute we were in trouble.”

That trouble would land later that season, when the V. Stiviano tapes of Sterling saying more racist stuff went public, and at that point there was no way the league was putting it in the bottle. Soon Adam Silver was banning Sterling for life and orchestrating a sale of the Clippers to Steve Ballmer.

Rivers told Johnson he thought his Clippers’ team that season had a legitimate shot at a title, but the disruption around the released tape blew that up, and also became about something bigger. It’s all detailed in a new 12-part documentary called “Blackballed” now available on Quibi. That release has brought up some old Sterling stories again.

They all leave you shaking your head in disgust.

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.