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Bam Adebayo sees injury risk leading to financial risk for him in restart

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Bam Adebayo thinks injuries could be more prevalent than usual when the NBA gets back on the floor next month, given the demands that will be on players’ bodies after a long layoff.

Miami’s All-Star center is also thinking about the financial risks.

Adebayo confirmed Tuesday that he is among five players – a group who could soon graduate from rookie contracts to extensions worth in excess of $100 million – seeking assurances from the NBA about if they’ll be protected in the case of catastrophic injury when the season resumes at the Disney campus near Orlando, Florida.

“Our whole thing was, ‘Look, we’re all due for extensions and we want to make sure that going into this bubble we are safe and we don’t get hurt,’” Adebayo said. “If we get hurt, we still have some backups … something in the back pocket that ensures that we still get paid.”

Adebayo said he, Utah’s Donovan Mitchell, Boston’s Jayson Tatum, Sacramento’s De’Aaron Fox and the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma met with the union last week with hopes that the league will pick up at least the majority of the tab for what would be a very costly policy against their future earnings.

National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts said Tuesday she is optimistic that there will be some sort of decision that satisfies the players.

“Those are still ongoing discussions with the league, but there’s no question Bam and others in that situation are concerned about this,” Roberts told The Associated Press. “These are issues that are part of the world that we live in and … these circumstances are unique; he hasn’t played in a while and we have this virus. So, because of the unique circumstances, we are working with the league to get Bam and other players assurances that they are going to be protected.”

The cost of such a policy for three months – which would cover the period in which those players get to the Disney-ESPN complex through the end of the NBA Finals – is expected to be at least $400,000, a person with direct knowledge of the talks told AP. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because those details have not been revealed publicly.

Adebayo intends to play when the season resumes either way, adding that he and Mitchell, Tatum, Fox and Kuzma will likely discuss the matter further.

“Our ultimate goal is to play,” Adebayo said. “So, I don’t want anybody thinking, ‘If they don’t get their insurance, they’re not playing.’ No, we want to play. That’s the whole point. We want to play and give our teams the best chance of winning a championship. But at the end of the day we’re also thinking about our families and our lives and how they could change if we get hurt.”

By the time games resume on July 30, it will have been more than 4-1/2 months since the league has seen a real contest. The NBA suspended its season March 11 because of the pandemic, and players couldn’t resume even voluntary on-court workouts for about two months. No team can resume full-scale practices until the arrivals at Disney.

Adebayo does not think three weeks of training camp at Disney will be enough to get ready for the resumption of the season, which is why he predicts injury rates will climb.

“I hope nobody gets injured, but I think a lot of people will get injured,” Adebayo said.

Russell Westbrook suffers strained quadriceps, out Friday, could miss playoff games

Russell Westbrook injury
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The Houston Rockets are going to be a trendy pick to make a deep in the West playoffs, but that will be hard to envision if Russell Westbrook misses time.

Rockets GM Daryl Morey announced that an MRI revealed Westbrook has a strained quadriceps muscle in his right leg. He is not playing today (Wednesday) against the Pacers and will be out Friday against the 76ers as well. He will be re-evaluated before the playoff tip-off next week, but his status for those games is unclear.

Westbrook has been just a little off at the restart. He averaged 27.2 points per game during the regular season, but that has been down to 24.3 in the Orlando restart. His 53.6 true shooting percentage for the season (near the league average) fell to 50% in the bubble.

The Rockets have been a strong 4-2 in the bubble with their small-ball system and have held on to the four seed, but they haven’t completely found a rhythm yet (as we saw pre-shutdown. In a likely first-round matchup with Oklahoma City, Houston would need Westbrook and his explosive athleticism.

Without Westbrook expect more of Eric Gordon, who just returned to the rotation Wednesday from injury, plus Austin Rivers, Ben McLemore, even maybe Jeff Green — with a switchable roster Mike D’Antoni has a lot of options to soak up those minutes.

He just doesn’t have anyone as good.

Celtics sign coach Brad Stevens to contract extension

Celtics coach Brad Stevens
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The Celtics shocked by hiring Brad Stevens from Butler in 2013. He was a mid-major college coach, and even big-time college coaches rarely translated to the NBA. In fact, Stevens was viewed as such a college coach, rumors of him returning to that level persisted for years.

But Stevens has turned into a quintessential NBA coach. Despite taking over amid a rebuild, Stevens has won 56% of his games with Boston. It’s difficult to see him anywhere else.

Especially now.

Celtics release:

The Boston Celtics have signed head coach Brad Stevens to a contract extension, the team announced today.

Stevens, who previously signed a contract extension in 2016, is one of the NBA’s top coaches. He implements crisp schemes on both ends of the floor and communicates roles clearly to his players. At just 43, he could rival some of the longest coaching tenures in NBA history.

There are still questions about Stevens’ ability to coach stars. They might become more pronounced as Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown ascend.

But that’s a first-world NBA problem – having a coach who raises his team’s level and premier talent young players who could lift it even higher.

Another week, still zero players test positive at NBA restart

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It’s starting to sound routine, but it shouldn’t — that the NBA is pulling off an impressive feat keeping COVID-19 outside the bubble (just watch other sports try to come back).

The league announced that 342 players were tested for COVID-19 on the NBA campus in the past week and there were zero confirmed positive tests. The league has had no positive tests inside the NBA bubble since it started.

It’s a testament to the tone Commissioner Adam Silver set (working with Chris Paul and the players’ union) setting a tone of patience and — to use a coaching cliche — not skipping steps.

The NBA began testing players in their home markets before they arrived in Orlando (that’s where a number of players tested positive, and were quarantined/treated in those markets). Once teams arrived in Orlando, players were quarantined and tested again.

The idea was simple — to keep the virus outside of the bubble — but the execution was not. Nor was making sure there was buy-in from the players (and, for the most part, there has been).

At least so far. There are about two months of games remaining through the end of the finals, and when family members arrive next month there will be new ways the virus could penetrate the bubble.

It isn’t time for an NBA victory lap yet, but so far so good.

Nate McMillan agrees to contract extension as Pacers coach

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The rumor that Nate McMillan was on the hot seat in Indiana? Turns out, about as accurate as the rumor Nicholas Cage is a time traveler.

McMillan and the Pacers have agreed to a contract extension, the team announced Wednesday (it was first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN). McMillan had one year remaining on his current contract. There are no details about the length or compensation. But McMillan isn’t going anywhere.

“What Nate has done in four seasons with our franchise merits this extension,” said President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard. “Between injuries and changes in personnel, he and his coaching staff have adapted and produced positive results. He also represents the franchise, the city and our state in a first-class manner.”

This is the right move by the Pacers, McMillan has been one of the better coaches in the NBA the past couple of seasons (he was fourth in Coach of the Year voting a season ago and will get votes again this season). He has gotten the Pacers to exceed their on-paper talent level a few seasons in a row. Talks to extend McMillan were likely in the works already, but the push to get a longer contract announced now — while the Pacers are still playing at the NBA restart in Orlando — likely was tied to that rumor going public.

The Pacers are the fifth seed in the East and will face the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs. That Indiana got there without a healthy Victor Oladipo — thanks to strong play from Malcolm Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis for most of the season, then from T.J. Warren at the NBA restart — is a testament to McMillan’s coaching.

McMillan’s style isn’t flashy or modern — the Pacers are bottom eight in both three-pointers attempted and pace this season — but it works. The Pacers offense has been pretty average this season overall (18th in the league), which is not bad considering the team was without Oladipo for most of the season (and he was playing his way into shape when he returned and was not at an All-NBA level). The Pacers also have found and developed good young players.

All of that ties back to coaching, which is why McMillan earned this extension.