Adam Silver says NBA hopes to return to ‘normal’ for next season

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The NBA has not been hiding what it wants to do this season: Keep moving ahead, make as much money as they can even without fans filling buildings, crown a champion, and get on to next season when things will look far more traditional.

That has not changed in the wake of 31 games being postponed due to COVID-19 protocols.

“But the plan remains to try to resume our season as close to so-called normal as possible next year,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Saturday in his annual All-Star press conference. “It was one of the reasons why, in setting the schedule this year, we decided to stop in mid-July… Frankly, I’m fairly optimistic at this point that we will be able to start on time [next season], and that we have roughly half of our teams have fans in their arenas right now. If vaccines continue on the pace they are, and they continue to be as effective as they have been against the virus and its variants, we’re hopeful that we’ll have relatively full arenas next season as well.”

Even with all those postponements, the NBA is not planning on returning to a bubble for the playoffs.

“We’re not considering going back to a bubble right now,” Adam Silver said. “I don’t rule anything out just because one thing we’ve all come to understand over the last year is that the virus is firmly in charge. We need to adjust to circumstances as they present themselves.

“But as I said in response to the prior question, I’d say maybe for the first time in the past year I’m fairly optimistic right now that as we see fans returning to our arenas, as we see public health officials across the country begin to open up sporting events, theaters, restaurants, other forms of entertainment, I feel pretty good that we’re going to continue apace.”

Not having fans in the building this season — on top of the halting of last-season for months before finishing in a bubble — has been a big financial hit for the league, Silver said (although he did not get into numbers).

“The long-term health of the league is very solid. Between last year and this year, we’re looking at considerable losses…” Silver said. “Last season and this season has required a significant investment on the part of the team owners. They accept that. Players will end up taking a reduction in salary this season because they are partners with the league and teams on revenue. The executives, team executives, have all taken haircuts on their salary.”

Which is why the NBA and everyone involved wants to get back to “normal.”

Silver covered many other areas in his press conference.

• Silver addressed the current tensions between referees and players, which has led to a rash of quick ejections that have angered fans lately.

“First of all, in terms of the data, which we obviously look very closely at, there’s nothing aberrational happening, whether in terms of accuracy of calls or number of technicals on the floor. But I will say everyone is under enormous pressure this year. The officials aren’t exempt from that…

“So I’m not particularly concerned necessarily with the calls on the floor. I’m always concerned about the members of our larger community and how they’re interacting with each other.

“I think it’s also the case, it’s not a secret, maybe where a little bit of the shorter fuses come in, is that when you have arenas that are packed with 19,000 people and you can hardly hear the person next to you, a player may be used to saying something directed at an official that the official wouldn’t typically hear. Then the issue becomes, in largely empty arenas, when they do hear what the player says, how is it they should react.

“I think it’s something we’re talking about in the league office.”

• When asked about the diversity of head coaches in the league — in the wake of Minnesota hiring Chris Finch (who is white) as its new coach without even interviewing lead assistant David Vanterpool (who is Black) — Silver said the league needs to do more, but there isn’t an easy answer.

“It’s going to take certainly more than we’re doing now,” Silver said of improving diversity. “We’ve made progress over the years. We’re constantly looking at how we can do better. The Coaches Association is working closely with us on this.

“First of all, I don’t think there are any quick fixes. I think we want to appropriately respect everyone who’s involved. There’s no coach that I know who wants to get hired based on his skin color, but they want a fair opportunity. Part of that is ensuring that we’re developing coaches appropriately in the pipeline, that they’re getting the right opportunities to interview, the right opportunities to network as other coaches have historically done…

“I think in certain cases you have a network of relationships that go back many years. To the extent that people aren’t part of those networks, they’re clearly as a disadvantage in the process.”

• “There are no ongoing discussions right now at the league office” about changing the league logo to one with Kobe Bryant. Silver essentially shut down that discussion.

• The NBA will not mandate that players or coaches get the coronavirus vaccine.

“I don’t think that every player certainly needs to be vaccinated for fans to come back,” Silver said. “I mean, that’s not anything that the health authorities have suggested to us. I think we’re now fairly familiar with those kinds of engagements that can lead to people getting the virus from someone else. There may be a herd immunity aspect to this, which means whether in our community or in jurisdictions, a certain percentage of people who have been vaccinated or have antibodies will cover others.”

• Silver said there are discussions but no firm plans right now for an NBA Summer League. The teams want it, he added.

Houston acquires 2025 2nd-round pick in eight-player trade with Thunder

Oklahoma City Thunder v Sacramento Kings
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ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski described this as a “cap-centric deal”, since it helped the Thunder get around $10 million below the luxury tax, while Houston added a 2nd-round pick by taking on $1 million in cap space.

The Rockets acquired Derrick Favors, Ty Jerome, Moe Harkless, Theo Maledon and a protected 2025 2nd-round pick from the Hawks and sent David Nwaba, Sterling Brown, Trey Burke and Marquese Chriss to Oklahoma City.

The 2nd-rounder from Atlanta is protected 31-40, and it will become the second best 2026 2nd-round pick between the Mavericks, Thunder, and 76ers if it doesn’t convey in 2025.

A tweet from Jackson Gatlin of Locked On Rockets indicates that Houston will also receive $6.3 million in cash from the Thunder.

Previous reports indicated that Derrick Favors was unlikely to remain with the Thunder this season, while Ty Jerome wasn’t participating in training camp as his representatives worked with the team to find an exit strategy for him. Kelly Iko of The Athletic reported that Houston plans to waive Jerome. Harkless was traded for the third time this summer. He was dealt from Sacramento to Atlanta in July as part of the Kevin Huerter deal, and then was shipped to OKC for Vit Krejci earlier this week. Hopefully he’ll be able to settle in with Houston this season.

As he enters his seventh season, this will be the sixth team that Nwaba has suited up for. The journeyman has had a few solid seasons, including averaging 9.2 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.0 steals for Houston during the 2020-21 season. Among the players in the deal, he’s the most likely candidate to carve out a role on his new team next season.

Brown, Burke, and Chriss were already traded once this summer as part of the deal that said Christian Wood to Dallas. Now, they’ll be depth pieces in Oklahoma City if the team decides to keep them around.

Daily Thunder’s beat writer Brandon Rahbar pointed out that the trade wouldn’t have been possible without the Disabled Player Exception that the Thunder received because of Chet Holmgren’s injury.

Spurs’ Josh Primo out for preseason with left knee MCL sprain

Golden State Warriors v San Antonio Spurs
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Josh Primo is going to get his chance this season. The Spurs are rebuilding — even Gregg Popovich says not to bet on them to win the title — and Primo, entering his second season (and still 19), is one of the most promising young players on their roster, someone with the chance to be part of whatever will be built in San Antonio the future. He just needs more experience.

Unfortunately, he’s going to start this season half a step behind after missing most of training camp due to a sprained left MCL, the team announced Thursday. He is expected to return in time for the season opener, according to the team.

Promo, the No. 12 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, got into 50 games for the Spurs last season and averaged 5.8 points a game but wasn’t very efficient with his shot yet. He also spent a lot of time in the G-League (but then had to miss this past Summer League due to COVID).

With Dejounte Murray now in Atlanta, there is not only a starting spot open but also opportunities to run the offense — Primo is going to get a chance to show what he can do with that. It’s just not going to be for a little while due to his knee sprain.

Anthony Davis ‘excited’ to be Lakers’ No.1 offensive option, LeBron pushing him to do it

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Is Anthony Davis a No.1 offensive option on a championship team?

The Lakers made a massive bet in trading for Davis — both in good young players and picks — that he could help them win a title now and be the bridge to the future post-LeBron James. Davis was everything the Lakers hoped in the bubble and did win them banner No. 17. However, he has not stayed healthy or consistently played up to that standard.

New Lakers coach Darvin Ham is betting on Davis again and is going to run more of the offense through him this season. LeBron James reportedly backs Ham up. Can Davis stay healthy, find that form again and look like that bridge to the future? If he can’t, the Lakers have to reconsider their post-LeBron plans. That’s why there is pressure on Davis this season.

Davis is excited to prove he is ready for the role, he told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. He added LeBron is pushing him to do it.

“I’m so excited that I’ve got goosebumps just thinking about this year,” Davis told Yahoo Sports this week. “I’m looking forward to a healthy year and doing what I know we can do.”…

Davis said James, 37, has been in his ear about taking over the reins of the team, while the rest of the roster would follow his lead.

The first step in Davis being that No.1 option: Staying healthy. He played 40 games last season and 36 the season before that. While some of that was due to fluke injuries, the history of Davis missing time is long.

When healthy, Davis is an unquestionably elite player — to use the bubble example, Davis was a defensive force in Orlando who knocked down midrange jumpers after facing up, averaging 27.7 points on a 66.5 true shooting percentage, plus grabbed 9.7 rebounds a game. That is the AD the Lakers need this season.

Which can be a lot of pressure, but Davis said he doesn’t feel that.

“But for me, I’m not putting any pressure on myself at all,” Davis said at media day. “I’m gonna go out there and play basketball, work hard, defend and do what the team needs to win basketball games. I’m not going to overthink and, you know, listen to what everybody else is saying and try to be this ‘whatever’ player they want me to be.”

“Whatever” the Lakers want Davis to be is the Top 10 player in the world he has shown for stretches in Los Angeles. If he can be consistent, that Davis helps the Lakers be more of a threat in the West. If Davis can’t be that guy, it could be another long season for Lakers nation.

 

Proud to be an American: 76ers’ Embiid officially becomes U.S. citizen

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Joel Embiid is an American citizen.

A native of Cameroon, Embiid said he was sworn in as a citizen two weeks ago in Philadelphia. The NBA scoring champion and Philadelphia 76ers All-Star center said his family – Embiid and his Brazilian girlfriend Anne de Paula have a young son – played a pivotal role in his decision.

“I’ve been here for a long time,” Embiid told The Associated Press Thursday at training camp at The Citadel. “My son is American. I felt like, I’m living here and it’s a blessing to be an American. So I said, why not?”

Embiid, who played college basketball for one season at Kansas, also has citizenship in France. He said it is way too early to think about which country he could potentially represent in international basketball.

The 28-year-old Embiid averaged a career-best 30.6 points in 68 games last season. The 7-footer also averaged 11.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists in helping Philadelphia reach the Eastern Conference semifinals for the second straight year. Embiid averaged 23.6 points and 10.7 rebounds in the postseason despite playing with hand and facial injuries.

Embiid had been announced as playing out of Kansas during pregame introductions at 76ers’ home games but switched around midseason last year as being introduced from Cameroon. He might try for a mouthful this season.

“We’re going to say Cameroon, American and French,” he said, laughing.