Three Things to Know: The NBA is back! Now with more Bol Bol!

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Our daily recap helping you unpack the previous day from the NBA is back… just for today. It will return to its regular weekday slot when the seeding games return, but today, with the first games in four months taking place, we’re bringing “Three Things to Know” out of mothballs. Here are three things you need to know from yesterday in the NBA.

1) Welcome back NBA! And not a bad job with the broadcasts, all things considered. For those of us who love the game, it was like the first sunny spring day after a long, snowy winter.

Seeing the world’s best athletes back on the court playing basketball — even in a meaningless scrimmage — brought us joy. We can have a debate about whether sports should return right now, there’s a good case to be made we shouldn’t be playing games. However, the reality is money won that argument so the NBA is back. Why it returned, and some sloppy games, didn’t make it any less joyful to see.

The broadcasts were about as good as could be done, considering the no-fan reality. It was better than expected, although there absolutely was a casual Summer League game feel to the entire thing, especially with games rolling out through the afternoon.

The NBA piped in pre-recorded music, public address announcements, and fan chants from the home team’s arena for the Orlando games. That’s why you heard “Dos! Minutos!” during the Heat game, and may have realized the Brooklyn DJ is their team MVP. The league made good use of the video boards next to the court to provide a home arena feel.

What all that noise did was largely down out the ability — at least on the broadcasts — to hear some uncensored trash talk and comments from players during the games. (Reporters in the bubble at the games seemed to hear more.) I still hope the NBA will offer at least a stream during games where we can hear what happens on the court without as much music and fan noise (as NBC has done with the Premier League streams), but that seems unlikely.

Still, it was great just to have basketball back — and now we can’t wait for the games that matter.

2) Bol Bol announces his presence with authority with 16 points, 10 rebounds in his debut. Coach Mike Malone and his Denver Nuggets were the anti-Rockets Wednesday — they went big. Ginormous really. Seven-foot Nikola Jokic at center and 7’2” Bol Bol at small forward. John Hollinger had the appropriate reaction.

However, Tweet of the Day went to Rockets GM Daryl Morey in response to the Nuggets going big.

With just eight players available, the Nuggets oversized leap into positionless basketball was as much necessity as a gimmick, but Bol took full advantage of the opportunity with a “you better convert my two-way contract to a standard one” kind of game of 16 points, 10 rebounds and 6 blocks.

“He’s played very well. Let’s not forget, he’s still, in essence, a rookie. Let’s not put the expectations way up there. Let’s let him grow and develop,” the Nuggets Malone said postgame (hat tip Mike Singer at the Denver Post). “But he’s shown me that he has a tremendous amount of talent. He has things, as I’ve mentioned quite a bit, that I can’t teach as a coach. I can’t teach 7-foot-2, I can’t teach a 7-foot-9 wingspan, and I sure as hell can’t teach a really soft touch all the way out to the NBA 3-point line.”

The broadcast of the Wizards/Nuggets game felt quieter than others during the day, you could hear more from the court. With that, it really did feel more line Summer League, just with names you know and taller players.

For Denver, Jokic had 16 points but eight turnovers and looked rusty. Troy Daniels led the way with 22 points and showed well as the only guard in their rotation. Still, the day belonged to Bol Bol.

3) Paul George, players work to keep the focus on Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and social change. A lot of players came to the NBA restart in Orlando despite misgivings about being a distraction from the important discussions taking place nationally around social justice issues, and particularly Black Lives Matter.

Paul George wasn’t going to let those topics fade into the background after he and the Clippers had a relatively impressive opening scrimmage win over Orlando. At his postgame press conference, every question was answered with a discussion of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and social justice issues.

“[Taylor’s] murderers are still free, so nothing was done yet,” George said. “We’re going to continue to keep this fight going to use our platform to stand up for those that can’t stand anymore…

“There are so many others that have been brutally murdered by the hands of police. That’s all I got. That’s my message for everyone. That will continue to be my answer.”

George wasn’t the first player to do this in Orlando, Boston‘s Jaylen Brown, Portland ‘s C.J. McCollum, Philadelphia’s Tobias Harris, Denver’s Jerami Grant, the Lakers’ Alex Caruso and Dwight Howard, all have redirected post-practice discussions to only social justice matters. Other players, such as LeBron James, have mixed basketball and social change discussion.

During every game Wednesday, the “Black Lives Matter” written on the court couldn’t be missed. That will continue throughout the restart and into the NBA Finals.

Expect the players to keep using their platform to get their message out as well.

Jazz forward Joe Ingles joins Grizzlies huddle, drapes arms over Memphis players (video)

Jazz forward Joe Ingles vs. Grizzlies
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Jazz forward Joe Ingles has no boundaries with huddles.

Ingles invaded the Grizzlies huddle today, even putting his arms around – and some weight on – Dillon Brooks and Grayson Allen. Gorgui Dieng appeared to notice the intruder just before the video cut away:

Beyond the hijinks, Ingles also scored 25 points – including 12 in the fourth quarter – to lead Utah to a 124-115 win.

NBA owners pledge $300M for empowering Black community

NBA Black Lives Matter
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The NBA put “BLACK LIVES MATTER” on the court and social-justice messages on jerseys. These are visible symbols that can draw attention to the fight for racial justice.

But NBA owners have the power to do more than make symbolic gestures.

NBA owners will do more.

NBA release:

The NBA Board of Governors announced today that it will contribute $300 million in initial funding to establish the first-ever NBA Foundation dedicated to creating greater economic empowerment in the Black community.  The Foundation is being launched in partnership with the National Basketball Players Association.

Over the next 10 years, the 30 NBA team owners will collectively contribute $30 million annually to establish a new, leaguewide charitable foundation.  Through its mission to drive economic empowerment for Black communities through employment and career advancement, the NBA Foundation will seek to increase access and support for high school, college-aged and career-ready Black men and women, and assist national and local organizations that provide skills training, mentorship, coaching and pipeline development in NBA markets and communities across the United States and Canada.  As a public charity, the Foundation will also aim to work strategically with marketing and media partners to develop additional programming and funding sources that deepen the NBA family’s commitment to racial equality and social justice.

The Foundation will focus on three critical employment transition points: obtaining a first job, securing employment following high school or college, and career advancement once employed.  Through contributions, the NBA Foundation will enhance and grow the work of national and local organizations dedicated to education and employment, including through investment in youth employment and internship programs, STEM fields, job shadows and apprenticeships, development pathways outside of traditional higher education, career placement, professional mentorship, networking and specific partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

“On behalf of the NBA Board of Governors, I am thrilled to announce the creation of the NBA Foundation,” said NBA Board of Governors Chairman and Toronto Raptors Governor Larry Tanenbaum.  “All NBA team governors recognize our unique position to effect change and we are committed to supporting and empowering young Black men and women in each of our team markets as well as communities across the U.S. and Canada.”

“The creation of this foundation is an important step in developing more opportunities for the Black community,” said NBPA President Chris Paul.  “I am proud of our league and our players for their commitment to this long-term fight for equality and justice, and I know we will continue to find ways to keep pushing for meaningful institutional change.”

The Foundation will work directly with all 30 teams, their affiliated charitable organizations and the NBPA to support national organizations and their local affiliates as well as local grassroots organizations to facilitate sustainable programming and create change in team markets.

“Given the resources and incredible platform of the NBA, we have the power to ideate, implement and support substantive policies that reflect the core principles of equality and justice we embrace,” said NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts.  “This Foundation will provide a framework for us to stay committed and accountable to these principles.”

“We are dedicated to using the collective resources of the 30 teams, the players and the league to drive meaningful economic opportunities for Black Americans,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.  “We believe that through focused programs in our team markets and nationally, together with clear and specific performance measures, we can advance our shared goals of creating substantial economic mobility within the Black community.”

The 30 NBA teams will be members of the NBA Foundation with its eight Board of Directors comprised of representatives from the NBA Board of Governors (four board seats), players and executives from the NBPA (three board seats) and the league office (one board seat).  The Foundation’s board will oversee all business affairs and provide strategic direction with respect to programming and grantmaking.

This is great.

Trail Blazers reportedly tried recently to get Trevor Ariza to join them in bubble

Trail Blazers forward Trevor Ariza
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Trevor Ariza opted-out of playing for Portland in the NBA’s restart so he could spend time with his son. Due to a custody case, he had a limited window to visit and he chose family over basketball.

However, as his custody window shifted and Portland started to look at a deeper playoff run — and maybe a matchup with the Lakers in the first round — some Trail Blazers players tried to get Ariza to come to the bubble after all. If Zion Williamson and others could leave the bubble for family emergencies, why couldn’t Ariza be let in, the players asked?

That plan didn’t work out, reports Chris Hayes of Yahoo Sports.

But because his visitation period had been amended with a conclusion date now near the start of August, there was some optimism among the players that Ariza might be allowed into the bubble to further strengthen their chances of a deep playoff run. If the Trail Blazers were to snag the final playoff spot, they would face LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round and a pesky Ariza would have been useful guarding James.

The possibility was explored, but sources said the Trail Blazers had to have previously applied for a hardship waiver or a late-arrival form for Ariza to be considered for entry into the bubble. Even if those steps were taken, the league would have likely denied the request because Ariza chose to opt out, wasn’t included on the restart roster, and didn’t arrive with his team on July 9.

The league put together strict rules about who could and couldn’t be inside the bubble — rules agreed to by the players’ union. Those rules are working at keeping the virus out. The league was not going to bend the rules for Portland now.

Ariza chose time with his son and wanted it bad enough to give up between $1.1 million and $1.8 million in salary (depending on how far the Trail Blazers got). Nobody should knock that choice; it was his to make, and picking family is never the wrong option.

Ariza is under contract for $12.8 million with Portland next season, but only $1.8 million of that salary guaranteed next season. If Portland wants to reduce payroll, they can buy Ariza out and make him a free agent at age 35. There would be suitors, Ariza has proven to be a helpful glue guy on good teams.

That glue just can’t help Portland this season.

No positive COVID-19 tests from 343 players in NBA bubble last week

NBA COVID-19 tests
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As has happened the past few weeks, Wednesday the NBA and NBPA announced that there were no positive tests among the 343 players tested for COVID-19 in the past week at the league’s restart campus in Orlando.

The NBA has had no positive tests from players inside the bubble.

The NBA’s plan for a restart began with testing players in their home markets before they arrived in Orlando (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 goal was to keep the virus outside of the bubble.

That has worked through one week of games.

The league did send a memo to teams reminding them players and staff need to wear a mask while on the NBA campus (when they were not practicing or playing games). The goal is to contain any outbreak, should the virus get into the bubble. That outbreak has yet to happen.

At least so far. There are about two months of games remaining on the NBA campus, family members will arrive next month, and there are still other ways the virus could penetrate the bubble. The league isn’t celebrating victory yet.

But so far, so good.