Players union executive director calls for lifetime ban for Sarver

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Two of the biggest name players in the NBA stepped up early and said the punishment for Suns owner Robert Sarver wasn’t enough. LeBron James said, “our league definitely got this wrong,” and the Suns’ Chris Paul said the one-year ban and $10 million fine “fell short in truly addressing what we can all agree was atrocious behavior.”

Now Tamika Tremaglio, the NBPA executive director, has called for a lifetime ban for Sarver. She appeared on ESPN’s NBA Today and said this:

“We are absolutely calling for that [lifetime ban]. We do not want him to be in a position where he is managing or engaging with individuals who are engaging with our players or the players themselves. We are absolutely clear from the findings that are in the report that we do not want him to be in that position…

“It is our players’ desire that while we understand that there has been a thorough investigation and while we’re very pleased that the NBA was able to follow through on that — because that’s clearly something that we want to see happen — we also want to make it very clear that we do not want him to be back in a position where he will be impacting our players and those who serve our players on a daily basis.”

A 10-month investigation into Sarver and the Suns found numerous instances of his racist and misogynistic behavior over 17 years: using the N-word at least five times (despite being told he can’t do that), telling a pregnant woman she probably couldn’t be at the event she was planning because a child needs a mother not a father at home, commenting on women’s appearances and bodies (multiple times), emailing pornography to male employees, berating women in the office, and the list goes on and on with more than 100 employees telling investigators of times Sarver “violated applicable standards” (to put it kindly).

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver settled on a one-year suspension for Sarver and a $10 million fine, a punishment seen as a slap on the wrist. When asked to explain why Sarver got one year for something that would have gotten an employee at the NBA league office — or with any of the 30 teams — fired, Silver stumbled.

“There are particular rights here of someone who owns an NBA team as opposed to somebody who is an employee…” Silver said. “I don’t have the right to take away his team… There’s no neat answer here, other than owning property, the rights that come with owning an NBA team, how that’s set up within our constitution, what it would take to remove that team from his control is a very involved process, and it’s different than holding a job. It just is, when you actually own a team. It’s just a very different proposition.”

Except what Tremaglio — and others — are calling for is not forcing Sarver to sell his shares of the Suns (he owns about a third of the team, the largest percentage of multiple owners). They are calling for a lifetime ban, an extension of his one-year suspension from having anything to do with the Suns’ business or basketball operations. Sarver would become a silent partner but retain his shares, which he could sell whenever he wished.

That ban is within Silver’s rights and was the first thing he did with Donald Sterling when tapes of the former Clippers owner’s racist statements went public in 2014. (The Clippers were only sold to Steve Ballmer because of a Machiavellian move by Sterling’s wife, Shirley, to have Sterling declared incompetent to run the team, then she sold it out from under him.)

Sarver likely would fight a lifetime (or even extended) ban, taking the league to court. That’s where Silver needs the backing of the other 29 NBA owners — Silver works for them, and many of those billionaires are not comfortable voting out one of their own (people who live in glass houses and all). They will not vote to force a sale, but the other owners might back a lifetime ban if there is enough public and financial pressure on them that they feel they have to choose the league over Sarver for the good of their businesses.

That’s why PayPal saying it will not renew as a jersey sponsor if Sarver returns as governor was a huge step (other sponsors joining that chorus would matter greatly). It’s why Tremaglio and the players’ union speaking up and calling for the ban matters. It’s why Paul and LeBron calling out the punishment matters.

Pressure is building for a harsher punishment for Sarver. Whether it will be enough to get Silver to act remains to be seen.

Celtics lock-up Al Horford with two-year, $20 million extension

Washington Wizards v Boston Celtics
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Brad Stevens has locked up the core of this Celtics team — the one that reached the Finals last season and has the best record in the NBA to start this one — through the summer of 2025.

They did that with a two-year, $20 million extension (that kicks in next season). The story was broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and later confirmed by the Celtics.

Horford, 36, is making $26.5 million this season, the final year of a four-year, $109 million deal he signed in Philadelphia. While he never fit well as a stretch four next to Joel Embiid, he has worked well as a role player in Boston’s front line. The Celtics have locked him up at a deal closer to the league average and about his value now, at an average of $10 million a season (both years are fully guaranteed). It’s a fair deal for both sides, and a low enough number that if Father Time starts to win the race it doesn’t hurt Boston much.

With Robert Williams still out following knee surgery, Horford has seen his minutes increase to start this season but he has handled it well, averaging  10.9 points and 6.3 rebounds a game, shooting 55.5% overall and 48.8% from 3-point range. Joe Mazzulla will likely try to get Horford some rest down the line when he can, but for now he’s leaning on the veteran.

And the team has rewarded him.

Donovan says Lonzo Ball’s recovery has ‘been really slow’

Milwaukee Bucks v Chicago Bulls
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Watching the finger-pointing and heated moments between Bulls’ defenders on Wednesday night as Devin Booker carved them up to the tune of 51 points, one thought was how much they miss Lonzo Ball‘s defense at the point of attack.

Ball had a second surgery on his knee back in September and the team said he would be out at “least a few months.” It’s coming up on a few months, so Donovan gave an update on Ball and his recovery, and the news was not good for Bulls’ fans. Via Rob Schaefer at NBC Sports Chicago:

“It’s been really slow,” Donovan said when asked about Ball’s rehab. “I’m just being honest.”

Donovan added Ball has not necessarily suffered a setback. The Bulls knew this would be an arduous process. But he also noted that Ball is “not even close” to being cleared for contact or on-court work.

Ball had his first knee surgery in January and the expectation was he would be back and 100% by the playoffs. However, Ball’s knee didn’t respond well, and he was eventually ruled out for the season. Things didn’t improve over the summer, which led to the second surgery. How much do they miss him? The Bulls were 22-13 with him last season, and he averaged 13.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 5.1 assists, a game. However, it was his defense that was most crucial.

There is no timeline for his return. Which is not good news for Chicago.

PBT Podcast: Timberwolves without KAT, get Luka some help

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Minnesota has stumbled out of the gate this season, and now they will be without Karl-Anthony Towns for around a month with a calf strain. Just how much trouble are the Timberwolves in?

Corey Robinson from NBC Sports and myself discuss that and then get into Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s Team USA vs. Team World matchup — does Evan Fournier get the world team in trouble? Who guards whom?

From there, it’s time for Corey’s Jukebox and some New Orleans jazz for Zion Williamson. Some Mavericks’ talk follows that — Dallas has put a big load on the shoulders of Luka Doncic, and while he’s playing like an MVP it’s a long-term concern for the Mavericks and their fans.

You can always watch the video of some of the podcast above, or listen to the entire podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google Play, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please feel free to email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

LeBron calls out reporters for asking him about Kyrie Irving but not Jerry Jones

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Within days of Kyrie Irving being suspended by the Nets in the wake of a Tweet promoting an antisemitic film (and his initial refusal to apologize for it), Irving’s former teammate LeBron James was asked about it. He had to deal with the controversy, saying, “I don’t condone any hate to any kind. To any race.”

At the end of his press conference Wednesday night after the Lakers beat the Trail Blazers, LeBron scolded the assembled press for not asking him about the 1957 photo that surfaced of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones outside North Little Rock High School while white students protested the integration of the school when they had been quick to ask about Irving.

“When I watched Kyrie talk, and he says, `I know who I am, but I want to keep the same energy when we’re talking about my people and the things they’ve been through,’ and that Jerry Jones photo is one of those moments that our people, Black people, have been through in America. And I feel like as a Black man, as a Black athlete, someone with power and with a platform, when we do something wrong or something that people don’t agree with, it’s on every single tabloid, every single news coverage. It’s on the bottom ticker. It’s asked about every single day.

“But it seems like to me that the whole Jerry Jones situation, the photo, and I know it was years and years ago, and we all make mistakes, I get it. It seems like it’s just been buried under, like, `Oh, it happened. OK. We just move on.’ And I was just kind of disappointed that I haven’t received that question from you guys.”

Irving and LeBron were teammates in Cleveland and won a ring together, there was a direct connection (plus Irving had been linked to the Lakers in trade rumors over the summer).

However, there was a connection between LeBron and the Cowboys as well. LeBron was for many years a very public Cowboys fan (despite growing up in Browns territory). It came up as recently as October, when LeBron was on Instagram Live promoting his HBO show with Maverick Carter “The Shop” and he said he had stopped rooting for the Cowboys in the wake of Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protests, “There’s just a lot of things that were going on when guys were kneeling. Guys were having freedom of speech and wanting to do it in a very peaceful manner…. The organization was like, ‘If you do that around here, then you will never play for this franchise again.’ I just didn’t think that was appropriate.”

When asked about the photo, Jones said he was a curious 14-year-old who was watching and didn’t understand the magnitude of the moment or situation.