Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: NBA players should jump coronavirus-vaccine line

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar received his coronavirus vaccine and is urging others to do the same. That’s great. It’s great Abdul-Jabbar – who’s 73 years old with underlying conditions – was inoculated from this deadly virus. It’s great he’s promoting the life-saving medical treatment.

But Abdul-Jabbar is also advocating for young, generally healthy and disproportionately naturally immune NBA players to jump the vaccine line.

Abdul-Jabbar in The New York Times:

Among the groups that are reluctant to be vaccinated: African-Americans and adults under age 35. Other groups have increasingly embraced the idea of being vaccinated. Those 65 or older willing to get the shots increased to 87 percent in January from 60 percent in October, those 50 to 64 are up to 69 percent from 48 percent, and those 35 to 49 rose to 58 percent from 48 percent. However, those under 35 have stayed level at 55 percent, and only 62 percent of African-American adults said they are willing to get a vaccination.

That is why we can waste no time promoting legitimate role models. This is where N.B.A. players come in.

In 1956, Elvis Presley received his polio vaccine on television, launching a highly effective vaccination campaign that by 1960 had reduced annual occurrences of polio by 90 percent. Health policy professionals suggest that public health campaigns using celebrities should focus on celebrities who are influential in particular communities in order to build trust. N.B.A. players, 81.1 percent of whom are Black, appeal to the under-35 and African-American demographics.

N.B.A. players don’t deserve to move to the front of the line because they are rich or because the country needs basketball during these isolating times. It’s not a matter of deserving as much as a way to get to herd immunity faster.

This remains a bad idea.

Abdul-Jabbar correctly asserts the only way to return to normal life is herd immunity. Vaccination will be the major driver of herd immunity.

But the fundamental problem with the United States’ vaccination program isn’t willingness. It’s availability.

There are MANY people eager to take the vaccine who can’t yet get it. We shouldn’t waste precious resources deciding which celebrities should be prioritized and getting them doses. Public-health officials should concentrate on increasing vaccine supply and getting it to the masses.

The polling Abdul-Jabbar cites actually shows how the reluctance issue has been overblown. Some people say they’re opposed to vaccination. But that’s when vaccination is a far-off idea. As vaccine availability nears, many change their tune.

Adults under the age of 35 (Black or otherwise) mostly can’t get the vaccine. At our current rate of vaccination, they aren’t close. As the vaccine goes from nebulous possibility to realistic opportunity, many who previously said they were unwilling will come around. They’ll also have the benefit of having seen more people before them take the vaccine with favorable outcomes.

The Elvis comparison is also misguided.

In a PSA recorded around the same time as his televised vaccination, Elvis said, “Hey kids can I talk to you? This is Elvis Presley. If you believe polio is beaten, I ask you to listen. The fight against polio is as tough as it ever was.” Nobody believes coronavirus is beaten. (The conspiracy-theorist lunatics who believe coronavirus doesn’t exist never thought it was something to beat in the first place.)

The polio-vaccination effort needed more buy-in. The coronavirus-vaccination effort needs more vaccines.

Polio was also most damaging to young people, so targeting them was logical. The exact opposite is true of coronavirus. Older people suffer the most severe outcomes and should be prioritized.

At some point, we should address the vaccine holdouts. But, unfortunately, we’re nowhere near that point – especially with young vaccine holdouts.

It’s also unclear whether NBA players – some of whom distrust vaccines themselves – would be effective messengers. Though Elvis received outsized attention for his polio shot, many more measures were taken to get teenagers on board.

The sharpest line of Abdul-Jabbar’s op-ed: “We can waste no time promoting legitimate role models. This is where N.B.A. players come in.” But, in this case, we can take the time to listen someone more authoritative than a former NBA player – an actual doctor.

Durant tired of talking Nets dramatic offseason: ‘I didn’t miss any games’

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No team had an offseason quite like the Brooklyn Nets. First, they would not give a long-term extension to Kyrie Irving, which sent the star guard looking for a new team (but there were no offers that worked for everyone, so he opted in with Brooklyn). Then Kevin Durant asked for a trade, and to gain a little leverage reportedly threw down an ultimatum of him or the coach and GM. No trade could be found — how much the Nets wanted one is up for debate — so he is back in Brooklyn. And all that is not even getting into the return of Ben Simmons, a trade for Royce O’Neal, or anything else.

The Nets drama and how they move past it has been the talk of training camp. The only talk at training camp, it feels like.

When asked Friday if there were any inaccuracies in the reporting of the Nets summer he would like to clear up, Durant sounded weary of rehashing the summer.

The only thing that will start to move the conversation in a new direction is the Nets playing and winning games (they open the preseason Monday against the 76ers). And even those wins will have the shadow of the offseason cast over them. Durant and Irving made this bed.

Part of the fascination is the Nets remain the team hardest to predict in the league. They arguably have the most talented roster in the league and, if everything comes together just right, they can contend for a title. It’s also possible the wheels fall off early and by Christmas the Nets are looking to trade Durant again. Both things feel possible (even if reality most likely lands somewhere in the middle).

That uncertainty about the Nets’ future is the drama that will keep eyeballs on them — which also means more questions about this past offseason. Durant can choose not to answer them, but the questions aren’t going away.

Highlights from Clippers preseason win fueled by Luke Kennard

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No Kawhi Leonard. Or Paul George. Or John Wall, Norman Powell, Reggie Jackson and Nic Batum. The Clippers decided to rest six key rotation players in their preseason opener in Seattle against Maccabi Ra’anana, a game played in Seattle.

All those guys are expected to suit up Monday when the Clippers play the Portland Trail Blazers in a preseason game also in Seattle, the first NBA exhibition game played in the city since 2018.

Against Maccabi, it was the Luke Kennard show as he had 16 points.

The Clippers also got 14 points and 13 boards from Moses Brown. As a team, the Clippers cruised and put up a few highlights.

The Clippers have great depth, which should allow them to survive a season where both Leonard and George are expected to get their share of load management nights off. Leonard missed all of last season coming off a torn ACL, and George played in just 31 games due to a few injuries, including a shoulder issue. Still, the Clippers finished eighth in the West with a 42-40 record and had a top 10 defense in the league.

Adding Leonard and George to that mix is why the Clippers are considered title contenders out West. Monday night against the Blazers we should get our first look at the real Clippers team for this season. But Los Angeles is 1-0 this preseason.

Report: Udoka used ‘crude language’ with female subordinate prior to improper relationship

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The Boston Celtics handled the Ime Udoka investigation and suspension by the corporate handbook: They kept the woman’s name out of the news, kept details confidential (not even telling the players much for legal reasons), and acted swiftly and decisively.

But as the team on the court starts defending its Eastern Conference title, there has been a concern that details leaking out about the investigations — and responses to those leaks — could turn this into a season-long drama and distraction for the team. That first started on Friday when Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported this:

The independent law firm probe into Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka found that he used crude language in his dialogue with a female subordinate prior to the start of an improper workplace relationship with the woman, an element that significantly factored into the severity of his one-year suspension, sources told ESPN.

Those investigative findings — which described verbiage on Udoka’s part that was deemed especially concerning coming from a workplace superior — contribute to what is likely a difficult pathway back to his reinstatement as Celtics coach in 2023, sources told ESPN.

A few thoughts here.

• “Crude language” is just part of a more detailed and damning report, league sources have told NBC Sports. There is much more uncovered by the independent investigation, including about the power dynamic in play. It was enough that the Celtics thought the best move was to suspend for an entire season a coach loved by players who led the team to the NBA Finals (it’s not something the Celtics organization did lightly).

• As Wojnarowski and others have noted, it’s increasingly unlikely Udoka returns to coach the Celtics next season, even if that is not yet official.

• While some pundits and people around the league have said Udoka is “done,” the NBA has seen unexpected turnarounds before. Never say never in this league.

• About the only sure thing is that this story is not over.

Lillard poised to pass Drexler as Trail Blazers all-time leading scorer

2022-23 Portland Trail Blazers Media Day
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Damian Lillard could have done what a lot of NBA stars have done — what a lot of them told him to do while recruiting him — and has chosen to stay in Portland. He wants to be remembered as the greatest Trail Blazer ever.

One good way to do that: Become the franchise’s all-time leading scorer. Sometime around Thanksgiving or a little after, Lillard will do just that, passing Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler and his 18,040 points (Lillard is 531 back).

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports spoke to Lillard about when he knew the record was within reach, during Trail Blazers training camp in Santa Barbara, California (go Gauchos!). It was when Lillard got to 10,000 points.

“I was like, ‘Damn, I got 10,000 already?’ ” Lillard told Yahoo Sports he recalled at the time. “It was my sixth season in the league. That’s when I started thinking, if I could be consistent, I could score into the high 20,000-point range. As a scorer, 20,000 points is always looked at as a special mark. From that moment, I knew it was possible, but it’s also when I first researched Clyde Drexler’s [scoring] record with the team.”

Drexler is good with being passed by Lillard.

“You and I know records are made to be broken, but I can’t think of a better player or person to break the record than Dame,” Drexler told Yahoo Sports. “He exemplifies being a team player and going about his business in a professional way. I have nothing but admiration and respect for him. When he comes close to getting the record, and if our schedules align, I would love to be there to help out in any way I can. That’s a nice milestone to achieve. I am looking forward to him accomplishing that.”

Lillard is on a lot of front office people’s watch list this season, as in “how long before he is unhappy and asks for a trade?” The thing is, Lillard has been on that list for years and he keeps choosing Portland — he isn’t looking to leave. Of course, the $120 million extension and a retooling of the roster around him helped with that decision, but Lillard always had other options if he wanted them (and at times it felt like he would take them).

The Trail Blazers brought in Jerami Grant, re-signed Anfrenee Simons, and will put them with a solid core of others such as (a finally healthy) Jusuf Nurkic, Josh Hart, Gary Payton II and others. It’s a good roster, the question is how good in a deep West?

There are a lot of questions about how this season shakes out in Portland, but the one seeming sure thing is Lillard becoming the Trail Blazers’ all-time leading scorer. And that seems fitting.