Andre Iguodala

Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr.
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Report: Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr. tests positive for COVID-19

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Living in a world with coronavirus, NBA players are contracting coronavirus. The league has ramped up testing in advance of resuming at Disney World, with several players testing positive:

Add Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr. to the list.

Barry Jackson and Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald:

Miami Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr. tested positive for COVID-19, a league source told the Miami Herald.

Jones, 23, has been asymptomatic and still expects to participate in the resumption of the 2019-20 NBA season at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. He was tested Tuesday, when mandatory COVID-19 testing for NBA players and staff began to be issued on a regular basis.

Hopefully, Jones recovers as quickly as he desires.

The reigning dunk-contest champion, Jones is a helpful member of Miami’s rotation. He’d be a notable loss for a team with a chance to make a deep playoff run.

At least the Heat loaded up at forward just before the trade deadline, acquiring Andre Iguodala, Jae Crowder and Solomon Hill.

Jones faces far more uncertainty. Approaching unrestricted free agency this offseason, the undrafted player has a chance at his first relatively lucrative contract.

Rockets GM Daryl Morey: ‘A hamstring probably kept us from a title’

Former Rockets guard Chris Paul vs. Warriors
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The Rockets have an excuse for everything.

Check that.

The Rockets have multiple excuses for everything.

James Harden not winning MVP? Media narrative. Or the award existing at all.

Houston losing to the Warriors in the 2018 Western Conference finals? Officiating. Or Chris Paul‘s hamstring injury.

The Herd with Colin Cowherd:

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey:

Really, just one of all the all-time great teams is keeping us from winning. And a hamstring probably kept us from a title.

Morey started off well. As good as Houston has been the last few years, Golden State was just better. There’s no shame in that. The Rockets stood up to the Warriors while other teams cowered – and should be commended for it.

But part of the reason Houston got so close to Golden State in 2018 was placing a heavy burden on a 33-year-old Paul. That made him more susceptible to injury, and the Rockets got burned.

Warriors forward Andre Iguodala also got hurt during that series. If Houston wants to play “what if?” with its injury, it seems only fair to do the same with Golden State.

Or maybe the Rockets should just move on. Though I’m open to an occasional lament – especially with the season halted – Houston seems to have a counterproductive fixation on claiming victimhood. Even Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta admitted his team feared the Warriors.

When Kevin Durant got hurt in last year’s second-round series against Houston, Golden State found a way to win. To be fair, the Warriors’ surplus of talent made it easier for them to overcome adversity than it has been for the Rockets. But Houston would do well to mimic Golden State’s championship approach rather than dwell on misfortune.

And for what it’s worth, the Rockets – though probably favored – wouldn’t have been a lock over LeBron James and the Cavaliers in the 2018 NBA Finals.

Mock NBA expansion draft: Hawks, Hornets, Heat, Magic, Wizards

Mock NBA expansion draft
(AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
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The NBA season is on hiatus. NBC Sports is not – even if we have to venture into fantasy.

We’re holding a mock NBA expansion draft. Keith Smith is setting protected lists for existing teams. Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman will run two new teams as this project culminates in an expansion draft.

Current teams can protect up to eight players. Each team must make at least one player available. If selected, restricted free agents become unrestricted free agents. Pending options can be decided before or after the expansion draft at the discretion of the option-holder. Anyone selected in the expansion draft can’t return to his prior team for one year. Players entering unrestricted free agency and players on two-way contracts are essentially ignored.

We’re unveiling protected/unprotected lists by division (here is the Atlantic Division, Central Division, Pacific Division and Northwest Division). Players are listed with their 2020-21 salary. Up now, the Southeast:

Atlanta Hawks

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 4

Ineligible – 3

Analysis: The Hawks protections are very straightforward. Every player they are protecting is either a rotation player, under team control for a while or both. No hard decisions here.

That means that Atlanta is leaving their restricted free agents and Brandon Goodwin unprotected. No major concerns over losing any of the four.

Charlotte Hornets

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 3

Ineligible – 2

Analysis: Charlotte’s decisions were fairly easy. Terry Rozier, Devonte’ Graham, Miles Bridges and P.J. Washington are all core pieces. Despite his suspension, Malik Monk still has upside. And the three young forwards (Cody Martin, Caleb Martin and Jalen McDaniels) are locked in on low salaries for a while.

Keeping the three minimum salary forwards meant leaving Dwayne Bacon unprotected. Bacon had been out of the rotation and sent to the G-League, so he’s out of the plans for now. As for Nic Batum or Cody Zeller, the Hornets would welcome getting either big salary off the books.

Miami Heat

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 1

Ineligible – 6

Analysis: Miami was really helped by having six players ineligible because they are unrestricted free agents this summer. That left just this decision point: Andre Iguodala vs KZ Okpala vs Kelly Olynyk.

Okpala is a minimum salary player, so that means he stays. Iguodala was just added and given an extension. He stays. That means Olynyk and his $13 million salary are left exposed.

Orlando Magic

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 5

Ineligible – 2

Analysis: Orlando had seven fairly easy protections. Their five starters, sixth man, and their promising young big man in Mo Bamba.

That left Khem Birch vs Al-Farouq Aminu vs Wesley Iwundu. Aminu was left unprotected due to salary and coming off a knee injury. It’s unlikely he’ll be selected and the Magic will be happy to have him back. That means it came down to Birch vs Iwundu. It’s more likely Birch will be selected, given his low salary and skill as a big man, so Iwundu was left unprotected.

Washington Wizards

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 3

  • John Wall – $41,254,920
  • Isaac Bonga – $1,663,861 (Non-Guaranteed)
  • Anzejs Pasecnicks – $1,517,981 ($250,000 Guaranteed)

Ineligible – 4

Analysis: The Wizards are taking a gamble. Most of the protections were pretty easy. Bradley Beal and Thomas Bryant are key players. Rui Hachimura, Troy Brown, Mo Wagner and Jerome Robinson are all on their rookie scale deals.

Then things get interesting. Leaving John Wall unprotected may seem crazy, given he’s a former All-Star. But Wall is coming off two lost seasons due to injury and will be 30 years old at the start of next season. He’s also owed $133 million over the next three seasons. Ish Smith and Admiral Schofield stay and the Wizards throw caution to the wind. It’s unlikely Wall will be selected, but just the chance of clearing that salary off the books is a gamble worth taking for Washington.

NBA players’ union starts search for director Michele Roberts’ replacement

Michele Roberts
David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images
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Michele Roberts came in as the executive director of the National Basketball Players’ Association (the players’ union) at a tough time. There had been a long and divisive lockout that the players felt they lost, former director Billy Hunter was removed from office under a cloud of controversy (with nepotism as a crucial part of it), he sued the organization, and all the while a new labor negotiation was looming in the future.

Six years later, Roberts heads stable organization — part of a more financially stable league — and now she is thinking about what’s next. Or, really who is next.

Roberts plans to step down when her contract is up in 2022, and the NBPA announced Friday it is beginning the search for her successor now.

“For the past six years, I have greatly enjoyed and continue to enjoy leading the NBPA and am proud of all we have been able to accomplish,” Roberts said in a statement. “When I agreed to a second contract as Executive Director, I made clear that I would not be seeking a third. The Executive Committee and I are committed to making certain my successor is thoroughly prepared to assume the position upon my departure from the NBPA and continue its sustained path for growth.”

“As with any organization, a strong succession plan is critical to continuing our success,” said Chris Paul, President of the NBPA, in the same statement. “Building on lessons from previous transitions, we are grateful for Michele’s leadership in facilitating the Union’s next chapter, at a time when the Union is strong and unified before the next round of CBA negotiations.”

Whoever gets the job will take over just as the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires. The union’s leaders want whoever is next to be well versed in that deal and league dynamics before that time comes. Hence the early move to make a hire.

Roberts, who had worked as an attorney for four decades before taking this job, was able to negotiate a new Collective Bargaining Agreement with Commissioner Adam Silver and the owners without the public (and private) animosity that had built up between Hunter and David Stern. With Roberts, the NBPA has been run like a business.

Now the union will not be rushed in finding who is next to lead the organization.

“Our goal is to continue the vision of creating business opportunities for, and the protection of the rights of, NBA players,” said Andre Iguodala, the NBPA’s First Vice President, “and we know it will take some time to find a leader with the same integrity and commitment to our players as Michele has shown over these past few years.”

 

Lakers reportedly sign Dion Waiters for remainder of season

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It was easy to see why Dion Waiters got a workout with the Lakers. First, Waiters’ former agent is Rob Pelinka, now the Lakers’ GM. Second, Waiters’ current agent is Rich Paul, who reps LeBron James and Anthony Davis. That gets you in the door.

Once there, Waiters must have impressed.

At least enough to land a spot on the roster for the rest of the season, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

This is a minimum veteran contract.

It also is Waiters’ last chance in the NBA, blow this and no other team will touch him after everything in Miami this season. While this isn’t a 10-day contract (which expires), with just 20 games left in the season there would be little to no pain for the Lakers to waive him if something does not work out.

There will be a minimal role for Waiters down the stretch, the Lakers are already running a rotation 11 players deep (once Markieff Morris was added). Waiters is not going to get a lot of run, other than to get guys rest down the stretch.

In that limited role, Waiters is as good a fit as was available (after the Lakers couldn’t land a point guard on the buyout market). Waiters can create shots for himself, either in isolation or in the pick-and-roll, and while not great at creating for others he does try. Waiters is a good spot-up shooter — 37.7 percent from three last season and 38.6 percent on catch-and-shoot threes — and he can hit from all over the court.

There is a legitimate concern about fit after Waiters clashed with coaches and management in Miami. However, with a strong, LeBron-led locker room culture the Lakers aren’t worried about that impact.

Waiters has bounced around this season. He started the season in Miami, but the Heat used his salary to balance out the money in the Justise Winslow to Memphis/Andre Iguodala trade. Memphis was not interested (they have Dillon Brooks, De’Anthony Melton, and Grayson Allen at the two), so the Grizzlies waived Waiters, as was expected.

Now he gets a chance — and a shot at a ring — with the Lakers.