Buddy Hield

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Without games, NBA players use social media to spread message of coronavirus safety

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Cleveland’s Kevin Love did his best to reassure a skittish and scared public.

Denver’s Jamal Murray sat at his piano and played theme songs.

Atlanta’s Trae Young shot balled-up socks into a trash can.

Miami’s Goran Dragic, in his native Slovenian, told people to stay inside.

This is the new NBA normal in a coronavirus-dominated world.

Even without games, the league is trying to engage and even encourage fans in these tough times.

So far, almost 20 current and former players have partnered with the NBA and WNBA for a new sort of public-service announcement as the world continues dealing with the coronavirus pandemic that is known to have struck about a quarter-million people worldwide, killed nearly 10,000 and has essentially shut down sports around the globe.

“We’re able to reach a number probably in the hundreds of millions, but as far as kids go, tens of millions of kids just by pressing send on an NBA PSA,” Love said. “So for me, it was considering that community aspect as well as, you know, thinking of young kids now being at home being homeschooled, at-risk youth being homeschooled … we have to reach them.”

Love’s PSA, released earlier this week, went for nearly three minutes and was a continuation of sorts of the conversation he’s been having publicly for some time about mental health. “Now more than ever, we have to practice compassion. … We need more of that,” Love said in his video.

Love went public two years ago about his struggles with depression and was one of the first NBA players to announce a donation to help arena employees who aren’t at work right now because of the shutdown. He gave $100,000 and has been raising money through his Kevin Love Fund to directly donate to mental health organizations working with high-risk children and teens who need help with their mental well-being.

Love didn’t hesitate before deciding whether to talk directly to fans.

“This is just incredibly anxiety-ridden, stressful, and I think the unknown is what really scares us,” Love said. “So, it’s completely normal to feel this way and what people are feeling is normal. And I think that just being isolated at your home, it’s tough to stay away from this 24-hour news cycle where all people are getting are things that will send them down a slippery slope and in a spiral because it just seems to be so negative.”

The league started these PSAs on March 13, two days after the NBA’s shutdown because of the virus went into effect. In less than a week across all platforms – NBA.com, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Tik Tok – the videos collected more than 36 million views, or reaching, on average, 70 people every second.

“Just a reminder to make sure you guys wash your hands, avoid large crowds and if you might be sick, quarantine yourself,” Portland guard Damian Lillard said in his PSA. “This is only a virus that we can beat together.”

Toronto coach Nick Nurse was one of many who spoke about the need to listen to medical professionals and wash hands frequently; the official guideline is 20 seconds, Nurse suggested raising the bar to 24 seconds in a nod to the NBA shot clock.

“This is one time we don’t mind a shot clock violation,” Nurse said.

Other NBA players are making sure to keep their social-media contact with fans up in different ways. Phoenix’s Frank Kaminsky and New Orleans’ JJ Redick are among the players who have dropped podcasts this week, and the Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James took his enormous following inside his home for a 45-minute live video Thursday night while he played cards with his family.

James talked about such things as the Game 6 of the 2012 Eastern Conference finals when he led Miami to a season-saving road win at Boston – “if we lose, Pat Riley may break us all up,” he said, recalling what his mindset was that night – to his favorite wines and sneakers, to how he hopes to remain with the Lakers for the rest of his career.

“I might do this more often, man,” James said shortly before he ended the live broadcast. “Going to be quarantined for the next 12, 13 days.”

More PSAs are coming from the NBA and some will be geared toward the league’s international fan base. Slovenian star Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks is part of a PSA, as is Spanish legend Pau Gasol. Ricky Rubio of Spain, Danilo Gallinari of Italy, Rui Hachimura of Japan and Buddy Hield of the Bahamas have ones scheduled to be released soon.

Plus, Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell – Utah Jazz All-Star teammates and the first two players in the NBA to have positive tests for COVID-19 – taped PSAs in the opening days of the initiative.

All the messages are different, but to Love, the theme is the same: The virus is affecting virtually everyone on the planet. And if NBA players talk about their angst, maybe fans won’t find their own angst to be so troubling.

Mock NBA expansion draft: Warriors, Clippers, Lakers, Suns, Kings

Mock NBA expansion draft
(Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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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 and the Central Division). Players are listed with their 2020-21 salary. Up now, the Pacific:

Golden State Warriors

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 5

Ineligible – 0

Analysis: The Warriors have their core together with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins. Ky Bowman, Marquese Chriss, Damion Lee and Eric Paschall provide value on minimum contracts. That’s all the Warriors need to protect.

Golden State wouldn’t mind seeing Kevon Looney or Jordan Poole selected to get the salaries off the cap sheet. The rest of the players are ones the Warriors won’t lose any sleep over if they’re drafted.

L.A. Clippers

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 2

Ineligible – 4

Analysis: L.A. has its main guys with four starters under contract. They aren’t being exposed here. The other three players are key bench contributors on good contracts. And Kabengele and Mann were just drafted. Easy decisions across the board for the Clippers.

L.A. could lose Green as a free agent. The Clippers also bet he does undrafted and could return. Rodney McGruder makes too much money for his role.

Los Angeles Lakers

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 2

Ineligible – 5

Analysis: The Lakers and Anthony Davis will work out that he’ll opt out before the expansion draft, which makes him ineligible. The rest of the players are role players that Los Angeles would rather keep around LeBron James than risk losing.

Los Angeles won’t be upset to see Quinn Cook or Rajon Rondo selected. They’re both replacement-level players for the Lakers at this point.

Phoenix Suns

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 5

Ineligible – 1

Analysis: Phoenix keeps it simple and protects all the guys who are part of its core. The Suns could have left Dario Saric unprotected, but by protecting Saric, they keep the flexibility to re-sign him as a restricted free agent. The rest are all easy decisions.

Of the unprotected players, none of have established themselves as NBA rotation players. If any are selected, Phoenix won’t lose any sleep over it.

Sacramento Kings

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 2

Ineligible – 4

Analysis: The Kings will protect their five starters and three key reserves. Cory Joseph is a decision-point, but considering De’Aaron Fox’s injury issues, Joseph is too valuable to let walk away.

Sacramento won’t mind if Jabari Parker is selected, but they aren’t going to pay anyone to do it. Justin James has been an interesting prospect, but the Kings won’t stress if he gets selected.

Down three in final seconds, Kings leave Buddy Hield on bench (video)

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Kings guard Buddy Hield has barely veiled his frustration this year.

Last night became another glaring, though overblown, symbol of Hield’s reduced stature in Sacramento.

The Kings – trying to hang in the playoff race – trailed the Raptors by three points with 13.7 seconds left. Sacramento’s lineup:

Bjelica forced a difficult 3-point attempt and air-balled. Toronto went on to win, 118-113.

As Sacramento was intentionally fouling, a fan was clearly heard on the NBA Sports California telecast criticizing Kings coach Luke Walton.

Afterward, Walton defend his personnel choice:

Walton, via James Ham of NBC Sports California:

“We were scoring, we really were scoring on every play, we scored 39 points in the [fourth] quarter,” Walton said Sunday. “You score 39 in a close game, and you’re doing enough to win offensively. Buddy, I thought was playing a good game and we were going to get him back in there, and then Bogi (Bogdan Bogdanovic), he started really turning it on and then that group that was out there was really in a good rhythm. So, we stuck with them.”

“Multiple guys made good plays,” Walton added. “Fox stepped up, hit free throws, hit threes. Bogi hit some. Bjeli’s (Nemanja Bjelica) hit game winners for us before. So, we have faith in all our guys and I’ve said before that when a group is rolling, we’re going to stay with them. And you score 39 points in a quarter, then we’re most likely going to stay with that group.”

Walton is right: Sacramento’s offense was clicking without Hield. Bjelica has hit a game-winner before.

But this situation didn’t call for generally efficient offense. The Kings needed a 3-pointer, and Hield is their best 3-point shooter. That he won the 3-point contest at All-Star Weekend only drew more attention to his unused long-range ability.

Fox and Holmes were curious lineup inclusions over Hield. Fox struggles beyond the arc, though his passing could make something happen for a teammate. Holmes flat out doesn’t shoot 3-pointers, though his screening could free a teammate. Still, including two minus shooters over Hield made Sacramento far easier to defend.

That said, teams down three points late in the fourth quarter usually lose. It’s extremely hard to make a 3-pointer when the defense knows what’s coming. The Kings probably would have lost even if they played Hield.

Still, in part due a loud fan, this also turned into a memorable moment representative of larger concerns about the Sacramento-Hield dynamic.

Buddy Hield wins 3-point contest on final shot (video)

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CHICAGO – Buddy Hield certainly has a flair for the dramatic.

The Kings guard won the 3-point contest Saturday, hitting the last shot to edge Devin Booker in the final round, 27-26.

The night after Valentine’s Day, Hield came into his post-event press conference, set his trophy on the table and gave it a big smooch.

“As a shooter, this on your bucket list,” Hield said.

Hield has hit a game-winning 3-pointer. But this wasn’t a typical gameday.

“I had no routine this morning,” Hield said. “I went out last night.

“It was All-Star Weekend. You got to have fun too.”

Round 1

Devin Booker 27

Buddy Hield 27

Davis Bertans 26

Zach LaVine 23

Joe Harris 22

Duncan Robinson 19

Devonte' Graham 18

Trae Young 15

Round 2

Buddy Hield 27

Devin Booker 26

Davis Bertans 22

Report: Kings not trading Bogdan Bogdanovic, likely to match any offers in restricted free agency

Kings guard Bogdan Bogdanovic
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Bogdan Bogdanovic is reportedly not content remaining a Kings backup long-term.

Sacramento made him a starter. The next move: Keeping the impending restricted free agent long-term.

James Ham of NBC Sports California:

NBC Sports California has learned through a league source that Bogdan Bogdanovic will remain a King through the deadline and enter the summer as a restricted free agent, where the team is likely to match any offer.

Bogdanovic is a good player. Sacramento should want to keep him.

In their Dewayne Dedmon trade, the Kings cleared $6,833,333 of guaranteed salary next season and $1 million the following season. That’ll make it easier to retain Bogdanovic without facing luxury-tax issues.

But Sacramento also has another good shooting guard in Buddy Hield. He’s locked into a big contract and too established to passively accept a reduced role.

It’s already difficult to play both Bogdanovic and Hield enough minutes without one being forced to defend bigger wings as a nominal small forward. Paying Bogdanovic would introduce another complication – having enough money left to build a complete roster after committing so much to shooting guards.

Something likely must give.

That could still happen during Bogdanovic’s free agency. Whatever they say now, the Kings aren’t committed to anything.

Which leads to another issue.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement says:

No Team or any of its employees or agents will make a public statement that the Team would match any future Offer Sheet for one of the Team’s players

Is Ham’s source a Kings employee? I doubt the NBA would investigate.

Is “likely to match any offer” the same as “would match any future Offer Sheet”? Not quite.

So, Sacramento almost certainly won’t face any repercussions but still achieves its goal of cooling the market. Teams will be less likely to pursue Bogdanovic if they believe their offer sheet would just get matched, anyway.

That’s why this rule was always too toothless to matter unless a team wantonly violated it. Even the Kings aren’t that dumb.