NBA players families start arriving in bubble, reuniting after months apart

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Fred VanVleet hadn’t seen his family in more than two months.

With his Toronto Raptors coming off a bad playoff loss, their long-awaited reunion was a great way to cheer him up.

Players began reuniting with family members in the bubble Monday, giving them a feeling of home during a marathon road trip.

“I think last time I saw them was Father’s Day, so it’s been a while. But it will be good to see everybody and right on time after getting our butts kicked yesterday. So, that’ll kind of take my mind off it a little bit today and I’ll get prepared and get locked in for the game tomorrow,” VanVleet said after practice, before meeting up with his family.

NBA teams began arriving at Disney on July 7 but the Raptors have been on the road even longer. They came to Florida on June 22 to begin practicing at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, rather than gather back in Toronto and have players who had been in the U.S. forced to quarantine.

The Raptors had one of the low moments of the trip Sunday when the Boston Celtics beat them 112-94 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Families began arriving in the Orlando area last week so they could quarantine before being permitted in the bubble. Once inside, they will be subjected to the same daily coronavirus testing and mandatory wearing of masks as players and staff.

They’re experiencing firsthand what their loved ones have been enduring, so it’s not a typical Disney World vacation for family members. They won’t be permitted to leave campus, so that could make it tough on children, who may get bored inside the bubble.

“I mean, we’ll see how it goes. We’ll see how well they feel in this environment as well,” said Lakers guard Danny Green said. “It’s a different adjustment for them too, so I think it’ll be good for a week or two until we figure out how smoothly it still runs, if guys stay longer than that.”

Monday was the date that had been targeted because it would have been into the second round, with the number of people inside the bubble reduced after eight more of the original 22 teams on campus for the restarted season had departed.

However, because there were no games for three days last week as players focused on social justice concerns after the Milwaukee Bucks didn’t take the court on Wednesday in reaction to the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, there are some first-round series that haven’t been completed.

The Los Angeles Lakers were set to meet with members of their families after their practice. Green said last week that his fiancee had traveled to Florida, adding that he wished his dogs had also come but pets weren’t allowed.

“I think that’ll make things a lot easier for everybody, to have their wives, girlfriends, some of their families, their kids, even though the situation is not exactly kid-friendly,” Green said.

“The kids, they’ll be excited. They haven’t seen their dads in two months. So yeah, that will definitely lighten the mood.”

In most cases, players would be limited to four guests. They would also get one ticket authorizing entry for one adult – who could hold a child 2-foot-8 or shorter – to each of that team’s playoff games.

Not all players planned to bring families, with some having children who are just beginning their school year and didn’t want put them through that situation even if there were virtual classrooms. And not all who did were going to see them Monday.

Family members who quarantined at home and then traveled privately faced only a four-day quarantine, while those who didn’t needed to quarantine seven days upon their arrivals.

But it seems everyone involved believes the wait will be worth it.

Damian Lillard says Trail Blazers shut him down, talks loyalty to Portland


Players feel the wrath of fans for load management in the NBA, but more often than not it’s a team’s medical and training staff — driven by analytics and the use of wearable sensors — that sit a player. Guys don’t get to the NBA not wanting to compete.

Case in point, Damian Lillard. The Trail Blazers have shut him down for the rest of the season, but he told Dan Patrick on the Dan Patrick Show that it was a team call, not his.

“I wouldn’t say it’s my decision at all. I think maybe the team protecting me from myself… Every time that I’ve had some type injury like that kind of get irritated or aggravated or something like that, it’s come from just like a heavy load, and stress, and just, you know, going out there and trying to go above and beyond. So, you know, I would say just; there is something there, and also them just trying to protect me from myself as well.”

Maybe it’s a little about protecting Lillard at age 32 — who played at an All-NBA level this season — but it’s more about lottery odds.

Portland and Orlando are tied for the league’s fifth and sixth-worst records. The team with the fifth worst record has a 10.5% chance at the No.1 pick, the sixth worst is 9%. More than that, the fifth-worst record has a 42% chance of moving up into the top four at the draft lottery, for the sixth seed that is 37.2%. Not a huge bump in the odds, but the chances are still better for the fifth seed than the sixth, so the Trail Blazers as an organization are going for it.

Lillard also talked about his loyalty to Portland, which is partly tied to how he wants to win a ring — the way Dirk Nowitzki and Giannis Antetokounmpo did, with the team and city that drafted them.

“I just have a way that I want to get things done for myself… I just have my stance on what I want to see happen, but in this business, you just never know.”

Other teams are watching Lillard, but they have seen this movie before. Nothing will happen until Lillard asks for a trade and he has yet to show any inclination to do so.

But he’s got time to think about everything as he is not taking the court again this season.

Seven-time All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge officially retires

Indiana Pacers v Brooklyn Nets
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LaMarcus Aldridge retired once due to a heart condition (Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome), back in 2021. That time it didn’t take, he came back to the then-a-super-team Nets and showed there was something in the tank averaging 12.9 points (on 55% shooting), 5.5 rebounds and a block a game. However, the Nets did not bring him back this season (leaning into Nic Claxton) and no other offers were forthcoming.

Friday, Aldridge made it official and retired.

Aldridge had a career that will earn him Hall of Fame consideration: 19.1 points a game over 16 seasons, five-time All-NBA, seven-time All-Star, and one of the faces of the Portland Trail Blazers during his prime years in the Pacific Northwest. Teammates and former coaches (including Gregg Popovich in San Antonio) called him a consummate professional after his initial retirement.

This time Aldridge got to announce his retirement on his terms, which is about as good an exit as there is.



Report: NBA minimum draft age will not change in new CBA, one-and-done remains


While the NBA — representing the owners — and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) continue last-minute negotiations on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) before an opt-out deadline Friday night at midnight, one point of contention is off the table:

The NBA draft age will not change in the new CBA, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. The NBA one-and-done rule will remain in place.

The NBA one-and-done rule is unpopular with fans and college coaches (and, of course, players coming up). NBA Commissioner Adam Silver had worked to eliminate that restriction saying it was unfair, but he could not get it done.

There wasn’t much motivation from either side to make a move. From the players’ union perspective, lowering the draft eligibility age to 18 would bring more young players in to develop in the league and take away roster spots from veterans (and the union is made up of those veterans, not undrafted players). The union has suggested ways to keep veterans on the roster (possibly a roster expansion) as mentors, but a deal could not be reached. As for the teams, plenty of GMs would prefer an extra year to evaluate players, especially with them going up against better competition in college/G-League/Overtime Elite/overseas.

There are other impediments to a CBA deal, such as the details around a mid-season NBA tournament, the configuration of the luxury tax, veteran contract extension language, a games-played minimum to qualify for the league’s end-of-season awards.

If the sides do not reach a deal by midnight, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the league would likely opt out of the current CBA, meaning it would end on June 30. The two sides would have until then to reach a deal on a new CBA to avoid a lockout (although they could go into September before it starts to mess with the NBA regular season calendar and not just Summer League).


Timberwolves big man Naz Reid out indefinitely with fractured wrist

Minnesota Timberwolves v Phoenix Suns
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UPDATE: Naz Reid had surgery on that fractured wrist and will be out six weeks, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

That means he is not only out for the rest of the regular season but likely the first couple of rounds of the playoffs, if the Timberwolves can make it that far.


This sucks for a Timberwolves team finding its groove.

Part of that groove was the offensive spark of big man Naz Ried off the bench, but now he will be out indefinitely with a fractured wrist, the Timberwolves announced. From the official release:

An MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) taken yesterday at Mayo Clinic Square by Dr. Kelechi Okoroha on Reid revealed a left scaphoid fracture. He will be out indefinitely and further updates on his progress will be provided when available.

A scaphoid fracture involves one of the small bones at the base of the hand that connects the wrist and fingers. Reid injured his hand on this dunk attempt against the Suns, he instinctively used his left hand to help break the fall and it took the weight of the landing.

Impressively, and despite being in pain, Reid played through the injury.

Reid developed into the sixth man, spark plug roll for the Timberwolves behind starters Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns. In his last five games, Reid averaged 18.8 points on 59.1% shooting (including 45% from 3 on four attempts a night) and grabbed 5.2 rebounds in his 22 minutes.

Reid is a free agent this offseason. The Timberwolves want to keep him and have had talks with him, but he will have plenty of suitors.

His loss will be a blow to Minnesota, especially heading into crucial games down the stretch — starting with the Lakers Friday night (a team Reid had some big games against) — and into the postseason. Expect coach Chris Finch to stagger Towns and Gobert a little more, and he can turn to Nate Knight or Luka Garza off the bench, but their role would be limited (especially come the playoffs).