Avery Bradley

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Lakers assistant coach Lionel Hollins ‘red flagged,’ will not travel to restart

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NBA coaches cannot be blocked from travel to Orlando for the NBA’s restart based on their age alone. There had to be other underlying factors.

Lakers’ assistant coach Lionel Hollins, 66, has such a condition and will not be traveling to the restart with the team. Via Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

Lakers’ head coach Frank Vogel hinted at this speaking to reporters Thursday.

As part of getting approval to be in the bubble in Orlando, everyone — whether it be players, coaches, team staff — had to submit a medical evaluation, helping the league screen the most vulnerable to COVID-19 should they become infected. Hollins, the former Grizzlies and Nets head coach, was held back on that count.

The Lakers still bring an experienced and deep coaching staff to the Orlando restart with Frank Vogel and the head coach, Jason Kidd as his lead assistant, plus Phil Handy, Miles Simon, Mike Penberthy, and Quinton Crawford.

The Lakers will be without starting guard Avery Bradley, who has chosen to stay home with family rather than take the risks playing in the restart.

The Lakers begin the restart as the betting favorite to win the title behind the duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

Pacers star Victor Oladipo to sit out NBA resumption at Disney World

Pacers star Victor Oladipo
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Several players have decided to sit out the NBA’s resumption at Disney World:

*Jordan lands in a gray area. He tested positive for coronavirus, but was unclear how quickly he’d recover. It sounded like he decided to sit out before seeing how his health progresses.

Now, the first star – Pacers guard Victor Oladipo – joins the list.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Indiana Pacers star Victor Oladipo has decided to sit out the resumed 2019-20 NBA season, Oladipo told The Athletic.

“I really want to play, and as a competitor and teammate this is tearing me apart,” Oladipo told The Athletic. “I feel like I’m at a great place in my rehab and getting closer and closer to 100 percent. With all the variables, from how I have to build my 5-on-5 workload back up, to the increased risk of a soft tissue injury which could delay my rehab, and the unknown exact set up of the bubble, I just can’t get my mind to being fully comfortable in playing. I have to be smart and this decision hasn’t been easy, but I truly believe continuing on the course I’m on and getting fully healthy for the 2020-21 season is the right decision for me.”

“We totally respect and understand Victor’s decision to not play in the restart of the NBA’s season,” Pacers president Kevin Pritchard said in a statemnt. “The first priority for our players is, and always will be, their health, whether that be physical or mental health.  Victor has looked great in workouts, but the timing of the restart and lack of 5-on-5 activity makes it difficult to for him to commit to playing at the high level he expects with regards to further injury. His future health is the No. 1 priority and we look forward to having him back at full strength for the 2020-21 season.

“This is not a unique situation for our team, playing without key players like Victor and Jeremy Lamb. This team has shown great resolve in responding to adversity and we fully expect this will be no different. We remain excited about what they can accomplish in Orlando “

Oladipo is a competitor. He proved that growing up and in the NBA.

He’s also one of the many people thrown into an impossibly difficult situation by the coronavirus pandemic.

Oladipo missed more than a year due to a torn right quad tendon and was just ramping back up when the league shut down. The long hiatus exacerbates injury concerns. He took his time exploring his decision.

Though it’s past the stated deadline for withdrawing without facing discipline, presumably Oladipo will face similar consequences. His base salary would be docked $1,842,105 plus $230,263 for each playoff game Indiana plays (up to $3,223,684 in total lost base salary).*

*With league-wide revenue way down, no players will receive their full base salary.

This decision raises questions about the long-term future of Oladipo, who’s headed toward 2021 unrestricted free agency. He just signaled that he’s not absolutely committed to heling Indiana win at all costs.

Maybe that’s only a product of these circumstances. But bet that teams interested in signing him – ahem, Heat – at least took notice. And surely so did Indiana, which could always trade him before free agency.

It’s unclear how big of a short-term loss this will be for the Pacers, who are tied for fifth in the Eastern Conference. Oladipo is an excellent two-way player when healthy. But he mostly struggled while playing a big offensive role in his return. Though he played better his last few games, there’s no telling how he would’ve picked back up after this long layoff.

Indiana’s place looks similar, with or without Oladipo. The Pacers can still win a playoff series with the right matchup. They probably won’t go further.

Beyond this season? There was already plenty of intrigue around Oladipo’s situation. This will only add to the speculation.

Report: NBA will write ‘Black Lives Matter’ on courts at restart

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The NBA wants to keep the Black Lives Matter message in front of people as it returns to the play.

It will do that literally — “Black Lives Matter” will be written on all three courts used for televised games during the NBA’s restart at the Walt Disney World property in Orlando. Zach Lowe and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN broke the story.

It will be written inside both sidelines, according to the report.

ESPN also reports the WNBA is considering the same thing at its games at the IMG Academy in Florida this summer.

For weeks, the league and National Basketball Players Association have talked about ways to use the spotlight that the NBA’s restart will create to help players get their social justice message out. One idea was to allow players to replace the last name on their jersey with a message. The NBA painting Black Lives Matter on the court is another way that will be hard to miss. The league and its players also are looking for more tangible ways to make a difference in communities.

“I think this is incumbent on us to not lose this moment and this opportunity. I know Michele [Roberts, executive director of the players’ union] and Chris [Paul, president of the players’ union] can speak for themselves, but I certainly believe that the world’s attention will be on us in Orlando,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said last Friday.

NBA and WNBA players have been vocal and active in protests nationwide that sprung up in reaction to the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. Those protests grew in intensity because of the killings of Breonna Taylor in Louisville and Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia. Some players (led by Kyrie Irving and Avery Bradley) expressed concern that the NBA restarting play could be a distraction from the BLM movement and rob it of momentum. The league and players’ union have tried to find a way not to let that happen — such as having Black Lives Matter written on the court — but not all players think that will be enough. Still, the majority of players are heading to Orlando with the intent to use that platform.

Report: Lakers to sign J.R. Smith

J.R. Smith at Lakers game
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The lasting memory of J.R. Smith in the NBA: Forgetting the score in the NBA Finals.

He’ll have a chance to change the narrative.

The shooting guard is set to reunite with former Cavaliers teammate LeBron James on the Lakers, who won’t have Avery Bradley for the NBA’s resumption at Disney World.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

Smith will turn 35 during the scheduled playoffs. He hasn’t played well in four years.

I wouldn’t expect much.

But Smith has chemistry with LeBron, who excels at attracting attention and dishing to 3-point shooters like Smith. On a good team, Smith won’t face the issues that doomed his finish in Cleveland.

Smith will likely fall behind Danny Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Alex Caruso and Rajon Rondo in Los Angeles’ perimeter rotation. Though Smith might get spot minutes, the Lakers will definitely miss Bradley’s feisty defense. Smith isn’t duplicating that.

Also: Smith, Dion Waiters, Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee now all play for the same team. Nay, the same championship contender.

Seven must-watch games from NBA Orlando restart

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The NBA is back… almost.

The plans are agreed to, the schedule is out, there’s a decision to focus on social justice, and now tip-off of the restarted season is a little more than a month away. Concerns are rising along with the coronavirus cases in Florida, but Friday Adam Silver said it would take a “significant spread” of the virus inside the NBA’s Orlando bubble to shut down the league again.

Which means we can start to focus on the must-watch games on the NBA schedule.

And that new schedule is stacked. Remove the eight worst teams from the mix, throw in the race for the eighth and some important seeding games, and every night there is a matchup worth watching. There are a lot of games with weight and meaning.

Here are our seven must-watch NBA games of the restart.

1) July 30: Los Angeles Clippers vs. Los Angeles Lakers 9 p.m. (TNT)

Opening night we get the Hallway Series — just played 2,500 miles from the Staples Center hallways. It’s a matchup of (arguably) the two best playoff performers in the NBA right now — LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard — it’s the top teams in the West, two teams sharing a city, and a budding rivalry. That said, this could look a lot like two NFL teams meeting in week 16 knowing a playoff matchup looms — nobody wants to tip their hand. If there’s a matchup Doc Rivers loves, he’s not going to wear it out in this first game of the restart. Same with Frank Vogel. Expect some lineup experimentation and not too many minutes for the stars.

That said, it’s still opening night and both teams want to get off on the right foot. The Lakers need to find rotations that work without Avery Bradley and have some work to do. These are the best teams in the West, and fans or no fans the competitive juices will be flowing.

2) July 31: Boston Celtics vs. Milwaukee Bucks 6:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Milwaukee with Giannis Antetokounmpo has been clear-and-away the best team in the East this season, led by the best defense in the NBA. Boston has been the team on the rise this season, another top-five defense and with an emerging star in Jayson Tatum the Celtics look like the biggest threat to the Bucks Finals run. Milwaukee doesn’t have to worry about losing its seed, but it would love to make a statement — as would the Celtics.

3) Aug. 2: Milwaukee Bucks vs. Houston Rockets, 8 p.m. (ABC)

This will be pure fun. Giannis Antetokounmpo vs. a skinny James Harden. The small-ball, bomb-from-three Rockets against the best defense in the NBA — a Bucks defense predicated on taking away the paint and forcing teams to beat them from three. Every game will matter for a Rockets team in the middle of a seeding fight in the West, but mostly this game just should be as entertaining as basketball gets.

4) Aug. 3: Memphis Grizzlies vs. New Orleans Pelicans, 6:30 p.m. (ESPN)

An easy addition to the NBA’s must-watch games list. It’s more than just Zion Williamson vs. Ja Morant… although it is that too. Zion was making a push in the Rookie of the Year race despite playing just 19 games — 40 fewer than Morant — and his only hope of catching the Grizzlies point guard is to completely outplay him in the restart and get the Pelicans into the playoffs. (Even that may not be enough.)

New Orleans had the easiest schedule remaining in the NBA when the league was forced to shut down. The league replicated that as best it could heading to Orlando — New Orleans is the only team where the cumulative records of their opponents are below .500. Throw in a healthy Zion ready to shock the world and the Pelicans are the biggest threat to get into a play-in tournament with the Grizzlies. Picking up a head-to-head win would be a huge plus for the Pelicans in that chase.

5) Aug. 7: Boston Celtics vs. Toronto Raptors, 9 p.m. (TNT)

These two teams are the second and third best teams in the East — but in what order? Toronto has been an elite defensive team this season, Pascal Siakam has taken a step forward, Kyle Lowry and Marc Gasol are still making veteran plays, coach Nick Nurse has been nothing short of brilliant, and the Raptors look every bit the dangerous defending champions. But do they have an answer for the emerging Tatum and an interesting, switchable Boston team on the rise? Bet the under in this game, both defenses are far better than the offenses.

6) Aug. 10: Denver Nuggets vs. Los Angeles Lakers, 9 p.m. (TNT)

Skinny Nikola Jokic is for real — but are the Nuggets for real? Denver will likely finish as the third seed in the West, but in NBA circles there is a sense this team is headed for another early playoff exit in a tight West. Denver’s defense looked good on paper early in the season, but a lot of that was just teams missing shots they usually hit (looking at the NBA’s Second Spectrum tracking data). The Nuggets have to find that defense and answer other questions, such as can Jamal Murray step up and be a No. 2 option on a dangerous playoff team? There would be no better time for Denver to make a statement before the playoffs than beating LeBron James and the top team in the West.

7) Aug. 12: Toronto Raptors vs. Philadelphia 76ers, 6:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Philadelphia is the dangerous darkhorse in the East. They are long, they can defend (sixth-best in the NBA this season), they have an elite big man in Joel Embiid who can carry the team for a stretch, they get a healthy Ben Simmons back, and they got one of the softer schedules in Orlando. If the Sixers can just find enough shooting to both score and space the floor, watch out. This will be a good test for them, going against the defending champs and a team with both talent and a real identity.

Toronto knows who it is, does Philadelphia.