NBA Deadline June 24
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Deadline day: By June 24 NBA players reportedly must tell teams they will not play in restart

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Players are free to choose not to take part in the NBA’s restart in Orlando, and there will be no repercussions, no punishment for their choice (other than they will not be paid for those games). A coalition of players, led by Kyrie Irving and Avery Bradley, has questioned if the players should take part in the restart and how that will impact the Black Lives Matter movement (among other concerns).

NBA players have a deadline of June 24 to make their decision, a week from Wednesday.

All that and more according to a memo the National Basketball Players’ Association sent out to players Tuesday, which was obtained by Shams Charania of The Athletic. Here is the key paragraph:

“It is critical that every player understand that he has the right to choose not to return to play. Any player who exercises this right will not be disciplined. To respect the decision of those who do return to play, it has been agreed that any player who chooses not to participate will have his compensation reduced by 1/92.6 for each game missed up to a cap of 14 games even his team plays more than 14 games in Orlando. There will be no other reductions of pay assessed (e.g., fines for missed practices) for a player’s decision not to return to play. Any player that wishes to exercise this right should notify his team of this election by June 24.”

The 1/92.6 is the per-game pay calculation used in the CBA for pay lost in case of a catastrophic stoppage of play, such as a pandemic. Players already will lose some salary for canceled games this season and the reduction of league revenue; if a player chooses not to go to Orlando for the restart, he will forfeit another 8/92.6ths of his salary on top of what is already lost.

The memo reportedly said a manual of rules and regulations — essentially a “life inside the bubble” manual — is still being created by the NBA in consultation with scientists at the CDC. It has yet to be released but is expected to be soon.

One thing in there: Players are allowed to leave the campus or bubble, but they are asked to get prior approval. If a player or staff member leaves without prior approval they face a 10-14 day quarantine upon their return and will not get paid for any seeding games in that window.

The report also lays out a six-phase plan for a return of games.

• Phase 1, June 12-22 (the phase the league is currently in): Players report to their home market and they can do individual workouts under social distancing guidelines. The only team not going to a home market is the Toronto Raptors, who are working out a facility in Naples, Florida, because of the quarantine times for players flying into Canada from their home markets outside that country.

• Phase 2, June 23-30: Same as Phase 1 except teams will do mandatory coronavirus testing of players — a simple nasal or oral swab, plus a blood antibody test — and players are asked to self-quarantine at home, leaving only for workouts and essential activities.

• Phase 3, July 1-7 (maybe a couple of days later, depending on the team): Mandatory individual workouts for the players at the team facility, with up to eight players at a time in the building, but no group workouts. The head coach can now attend the workouts.

• Phase 4, July 7-11: Teams fly charters to Orlando and, once they arrive at the Walt Disney World property they must stay quarantined in their rooms until they have two negative coronavirus tests 24 hours apart. Everyone has to wear a facemask at all times in public (except when eating or working out). NBA staff will wear a proximity alarm that lets them know if they have been within six feet of someone with alarm for more than five seconds (players don’t have to wear these alarms, it’s optional).

• Phase 4B, July 11-21: Teams can engage in group workouts, a mini-training camp. There will be daily coronavirus testing of players and staff. Players can play golf, video games, have meals (outside), and generally have social interactions with players from other teams (and hotels, the players are not all in one hotel), however they are asked to maintain social distancing. Disney chefs will provide food, there is room service, and if a player wants he can have a private chef send prepared food into the bubble.

Phase 5: July 22-30: Teams continue to workout but now also have scrimmages against the other teams in their hotel. Individual player workouts aside from the team practices also can take place.

Phase 6: July 30-Oct. 13: The games begin, first the eight seeding games per team followed by full 16-team NBA playoffs, all following a previously announced timeline. Players can bring family or friends into the Disney campus after the end of the first round of the playoffs, but they have to follow the same guidelines as the players do, they cannot leave the bubble.

 

New Orleans Pelicans fire head coach Alvin Gentry

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No team entered the NBA restart bubble in Orlando with the buzz of the New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson was back, they had an All-Star in Brandon Ingram and solid veterans such as J.J. Redick and Jrue Holiday around them. With all that, no team was as disappointing in the bubble as the Pelicans, who went 2-6. They looked like they were going through the motions, and all season long were less than the sum of their parts.

Saturday New Orleans Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry paid the price for that and was fired, the team announced. The story was broken by Adrian Wojnarowski and Andrew Lopez of ESPN and soon after confirmed by the organization.

It was not a surprise. Gentry was considered on shaky ground before teams flew to Florida and the disappointing play of his team while there led to team VP of basketball operations David Griffin making the change. (A sitting coach is always on shaky ground when the management above him changes, as happened with Gentry.) While Zion was not in the bubble the entire time, this is still a talented roster, one that came out like it was just going through the motions, with Lonzo Ball reportedly having checked out. No one seemed focused on the opportunity to make the postseason. That attitude is why the Pelicans fired their coach.

“I want to thank Alvin for his contributions to the Pelicans and the New Orleans community,” Pelicans Owner Gayle Benson said in a statement. “We believe that making a head coaching change is necessary at this time. I truly appreciate Alvin’s leadership, dedication and perseverance through some challenging circumstances over the past five seasons. He will always be a part of our Pelicans family, and we wish him and his family all the best in the future. Our intention moving forward is to find the right head coach that will guide this Pelicans team to compete for championships. That is what our fans deserve.”

Clippers lead assistant Tyronn Lue and Lakers lead assistant Jason Kidd — two veteran coaches who are considered player-friendly — were mentioned as potential replacements by ESPN and Marc Stein of the New York Times. Lue and Kidd have both been mentioned in connection with the open Brooklyn Nets coaching job. Both also are in the Orlando bubble with their respective teams as the playoffs are about to begin (and both likely will be there for a while). Another name to watch is current Rockets’ coach Mike D’Antoni, who is not expected to be brought back with the Rockets and favors the kind of up-tempo system that would suit Zion. n

The challenge with big-name replacements in New Orleans is money — this is the smallest market in the NBA and ownership has been hit hard by the economic slowdown in the wake of the coronavirus. Lue, Kidd, and D’Antoni will be expensive and demand five-year contracts. The Pelicans could look at seasoned assistant coaches who have not yet held a top spot — Sam Cassell, Ime Udoka, and there are many others — who could do the job and come at a price more within their budget.

The key for whoever gets the head coaching job is to form a strong bond with Zion, the future of the franchise, and figure out how to get the most out of him.

 

 

 

Portland, Memphis where they want to be as play-in series tips-off

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Heroics were needed to get Portland and Memphis on the doorstep of the playoffs.

For the Trail Blazers, Damian Lillard averaged more than 50 points — with a shot from a step inside midcourt in there as one of his many highlights — to lead the way in three consecutive down-to-the-wire, season-on-the-line victories.

For the Grizzlies, Ja Morant and Jonas Valanciunas became the first teammates in Memphis history to post triple-doubles in what turned out to be a must-win game as well.

And now, the mission isn’t done yet for either club. Portland and Memphis meet Saturday at 2:30 p.m. (Eastern) in Game 1 of the Western Conference play-in series. The Trail Blazers have the upper hand by finishing the seeding-game portion of the NBA’s restart ahead of the Grizzlies. Portland needs one win, Memphis needs two to advance to a first-round matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers.

“We’re where we want to be,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “And so, I don’t think anybody’s over the moon right now. We know that we’ve got a tough opponent in Memphis, so there was no time to really celebrate.”

Had the Blazers lost any of their last three games, they could be home already. Lillard has scored 51, 61 and 42 points, respectively, in those three games — and had to sweat out a last-second shot by Brooklyn in a one-point Portland win on Thursday night that determined their play-in fate.

“I think mentally I’ll be fine,” Lillard said. “I think physically, it’ll obviously be some fatigue here. But I think it won’t be as hard as you might think because there’s a lot riding on these games. Every game that we’ve been playing, our last three or four games, has been like our season is on the line.”

The Grizzlies came into the restart at Walt Disney World in control of the play-in race, then sputtered before winning the game they needed to on Thursday against Milwaukee to clinch a spot.

Morant said he remembers when the Grizzlies were ranked 27th coming into the season in a 30-team league. He’s used that slight as fuel ever since.

“Now look at us,” Morant said. “Being that underdog doesn’t matter to us at all. We love being the underdog. It’s just extra motivation, fuel to the fire. It just makes our success even better, coming in and being the underdog.”

Game 2, if necessary, will be Sunday. The series for the play-in winner against the Lakers begins Tuesday.

Clippers’ Montrezl Harrell expected to play Monday against Dallas

Montrezl Harrell play
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When the Clippers take the court Monday for their first playoff game in the bubble, going against Luka Doncic and a dangerous Mavericks’ team, Montrezl Harrell will be suited up and ready to play.

The Clippers’ Sixth Man of the Year candidate, who excused from the bubble due to the death of his grandmother and missed all eight seeding games, will be out of quarantine and cleared to play, report Adrian Wojnarowski and Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

Doc Rivers said he plans to play Harrell against an active Dallas front line.

“I’m just going to throw him in there, he’s earned that right,” Rivers said. “The challenge will be just how ready he is. I don’t know if I have ever had a guy that hasn’t played in eight games or whatever and hasn’t had any practice and we’re just going to throw him out on the floor in a playoff game. We’re hoping that at this point.”

Harrell came off the bench to average 18.6 points and 7.1 rebounds a game for the Clippers this season. Harrell was often part of the Clippers closing lineup this season because of his improved defense, but he always brought relentless energy off the bench that lifted the Clippers nightly. The Harrell/Lou Williams pick-and-roll remains one of the smoothest and most dangerous in the league.

Harrell also gives Doc Rivers a lot of versatility and options on how to close games — the Clippers can go big, go small, and do either well. They will need that against a Dallas team that rolls out a front line of Kristaps Porzingis, Maxi Kleber, and former Clipper Boban Marjanovic.

Not having Harrell for eight games in the bubble added to that versatility, Rivers said.

“We got to play JaMychal [Green] at the five far more than we ever thought we would. We needed to work on that because he’s such a floor spacer,” Rivers said. “We got way more work on that than we thought, but we actually liked it.”

Expect to see more of that — and some Harrell — against Dallas starting Monday.

Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin denies ex-wife’s abuse accusations

Raptors assistant coach Adrian Griffin
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Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin – filling in for Nick Nurse – served as Toronto’s acting head coach for a win over the 76ers on Wednesday. “For one night, I felt like Cinderella,” Griffin said afterward.

Griffin’s moment in the spotlight drew attention to abuse claims his ex-wife, Audrey Griffin, had been making online for months.

Audrey Griffin:

Raptors release:

The Toronto Raptors and lead assistant coach Adrian Griffin have issued a joint statement addressing accusations of domestic abuse shared in social media posts by Griffin’s ex-wife on Thursday, Aug. 14.

Statement from Adrian Griffin:

“This morning, accusations were made against me on social media by my former wife that I vehemently deny. We are involved in a longstanding legal dispute over alimony and child support arrangements. I am disappointed to have to address false accusations in this way, and I apologize for any distraction this has potentially caused for our team at this important time.”

Statement from the Toronto Raptors:

“When we saw these allegations this morning, we were dismayed – Adrian is a valuable member of our team. Our leadership immediately spoke with him, and he flatly denied the allegations in the posts. We will support the process as he and his former partner settle these matters.”

Griffin was also reportedly a candidate for the Bulls head-coaching job, which opened today.

Hopefully, the truth will emerge and justice will be served.