DeMarcus Cousins

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Lakers not ruling out DeMarcus Cousins for playoffs

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An NBA-appointed doctor ruled DeMarcus Cousins is “substantially more likely than not” to be out through June 15.

The Lakers will take the disabled-player exception that comes with that prognosis. But they’re also open to Cousins, who tore his ACL in August, returning in the playoffs.

Lakers coach Frank Vogel, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

“We’ve not closed the door on that,” Vogel said Sunday before the Lakers played the Charlotte Hornets. “We’ll just — we’re going to be a wait and see. With these injuries that are long rehabs, you have to see and take it kind of month to month and see where he’s at. But we’ve not closed the door on a possible return for him.”

The league-appointed doctor’s diagnosis is a huge indicator Cousins will miss the entire year. And it’s only one of several reasons to believe Cousins won’t play at all this season.

The Lakers have a full roster and a lot of depth. If they need to open a roster spot (maybe for a bought-out Andre Iguodala?), waiving Cousins would be the simplest route.

Cousins’ $3.5 million salary could also be useful in facilitating a trade. Obviously, no team will trade for Cousins for the sake of acquiring him. But that salary could make the difference in salary matching.

On an expiring contract, Cousins might also hesitate to rush his return. He needs to get healthy to draw guaranteed money next summer. (On the other hand, if Cousins is open to risk-taking, playing this season gives him an opportunity to prove himself and generate bigger offers).

Lastly, Cousins is facing a domestic-violence charge. A suspension would make him ineligible to play.

The disabled-player exception itself won’t stop him. If he beats the NBA’s predicted timeline, he can still play – even if the Lakers already used the exception.

The Lakers gain nothing by “closing the door” on Cousins’ return. He’s still on the roster. They might as well be open to any possibilities, and they can say whatever they want.

It just seems highly unlikely they’ll get him back this season.

NBA implementing zero-tolerance policy for abusive or hateful fan behavior

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About a dozen NBA players gathered for a teleconference with officials in the league office this summer, making their case about what they believe is one of the biggest problems in the game.

Fan behavior, they said, is getting worse.

The numbers show they’re right, and if that isn’t troubling enough race only adds to the complexity of the issue: Most NBA players are black, and it seems like most of those in the closest seats are white. Not every incident is racially motivated, though some clearly are.

After high-profile incidents involving Russell Westbrook, DeMarcus Cousins, Kyle Lowry and others last season – including ones involving racist taunts – zero tolerance for abusive or hateful behavior is now to become the NBA’s policy going forward. The league is changing and toughening its code of conduct for fans, especially putting those in closest proximity to the players and the court on alert that anything over the line will lead to ejections and possibly more.

“We’ve added any sexist language or LGBTQ language, any denigrating language in that way, anything that is non-basketball related,” said Jerome Pickett, the NBA’s executive vice president and chief security officer. “So `your mother’ comments, talking about your family, talking about test scores, anything non-basketball related, we’ve added that in as well as being something that we will go and pull a fan out of the seat and investigate what happened.”

Westbrook and Cousins were subjected to racist taunts in Salt Lake City and Boston and the fans involved in those incidents were banned by the Jazz and Celtics. Lowry was shoved by a minority partner of the Golden State Warriors’ ownership group, seated courtside during the NBA Finals, and that person was banned from team business for a year by the league.

There were more. Those were just the highest-profile ones. The NBA would not release exact numbers – and the totals are believed to be very low – but Pickett said the ejections of fans in the courtside area still more than doubled last season.

Westbrook declined comment for this story, saying through a Rockets official that he was not comfortable discussing the matter. But the players’ union insists that the problem is getting bigger and bigger.

“Last season, I began to sense even at the games I was attending that there was a certain, I’ll call it absence of civility, that permeated the games,” said Michele Roberts, the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association. “I was seeing more bad-mouthing opposing teams that were not simply `you suck,’ which every one of us will tolerate, but really nasty, nasty comments being directed at players.”

The Celtics banned a fan for two years for directing racist chants at Cousins. Westbrook was involved in a pair of incidents in Utah that came to light last season; was offended by a fan during the 2018 playoffs by a fan calling him “boy” before a playoff game, and then last season was involved in a back-and-forth shouting match with another fan.

The Jazz banned both fans for life, and Westbrook was fined $25,000 by the NBA for threatening the fan involved in last season’s incident.

“I try very hard not to have my default answer be, `It’s racism.’ I really do because I don’t think that necessarily advances the argument,” Roberts said. “If it’s undoubtedly that, then I’m happy to say it.”

It’s not always racism, either – Roberts also said she’s received complaints from many white players about being the subject of nastiness from fans.

Amira Davis is an assistant professor at Penn State specializing in 20th Century American History with an emphasis on race, gender, sports and politics. She believes fans feel more emboldened now to say whatever they like, without fear of repercussions.

“There have been plenty of sober fans yelling slurs and attacking players in the worst way,” Davis said. “I think it’s a mix of all of those things and when looking at predominantly white spaces like Utah and a largely black labor force, it ratchets it up a little bit more and makes it a lot more intense. Particularly in this political climate in which it’s very easy to project onto high-profile black athletes and pathologies and misconceptions about the black community.”

Fan behavior is not just a concern in the NBA. It is being noted everywhere.

Racist chants and taunts are a major issue in European soccer, including at a Euro 2020 qualifier between Bulgaria and England last week. Green Bay and Philadelphia fans fought in the stands at Lambeau Field last month. The Atlanta Braves had fans stop doing their “tomahawk chop” during the playoffs earlier this month. During the AL Championship Series between Houston and New York, Astros manager A.J. Hinch told umpires that he felt the behavior of fans at Yankee Stadium had crossed the line and that it “was becoming a dangerous situation.”

“There’s no place for that,” Hinch said, referencing matters like debris being thrown from the stands toward players and taunts directed toward some of the Astros. “Both teams will agree. And it’s really hard to stop fans from doing that. But it’s also very dangerous.”

And the athletes are not always just victims, either.

Golfer Bio Kim was suspended by the Korean PGA for three years for making an obscene gesture at the crowd during the final round of a tournament that he won, angry because of noise from a cellphone camera.

In the NBA, the league is expanding the area in arenas most closely monitored when it comes to player-fan interaction. The top-priority area used to be just those seated with feet on the court itself or maybe the first couple rows of courtside seats; now, that area goes several rows deep in every building, plus the areas where teams and referees enter and exit the court.

The fan code of conduct, a standard announcement at every NBA arena for years, is now being shown and promoted more times in each game. Season-ticket holders have been put on notice by teams that they may lose their seats even if they give their tickets to someone who goes over the line and harasses players or officials too vociferously.

Fans believed to have been involved in incidents will be removed from seats while officials investigate; many times, when a security guard asks those in a certain area what just happened, no one would volunteer information with the suspected heckler present.

“I think players are definitely vulnerable,” Golden State’s Draymond Green said after the Lowry incident. “Any time you’re in a situation where you can do no right, like in defending yourself, you’re vulnerable.”

Report: Pistons, Andre Drummond ‘talking at a business level’ about extension

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In what will be a down free agent market next summer, Andre Drummond could be one of the biggest names available.

Drummond has a $28.8 player option for next season but has all but said he plans to decline it and test the free agent market, where he expects a max contract. Pistons owner Tom Gores has said that keeping Drummond is one of his top priorities.

So what about an extension?

While it’s unlikely, the sides are talking, reports Vince Ellis at the Detroit Free Press.

Gores confirmed the two sides are “talking at a business level,” and two sources told the Free Press that the Pistons have told Drummond’s representatives the franchise would like to retain his services. This comes after multiple sources told the Free Press last month Drummond requested a contract extension at some point during the offseason.

Numbers have been exchanged, but it’s clear what he expects: He would like to sign the second maximum contract of his career.

It’s not going to happen, and it’s all about the money.

An extension would involve Drummond opting into next season at $28.8 million, then the Pistons can add as many as three years onto that, with the first year of the extension starting at $34.5 million. If Drummond opts out he could sign a five-year max extension with the Pistons for $190 million ($38 million a year average) or a four-year deal with another team for $140 million ($35 million a year average). Drummond told Ellis he believes he is a max player, and sounded like a player who wants to sign a max deal.

The question for the Pistons: Do they want to offer Drummond the max? Do they want to be locked into Drummond for years after Blake Griffin‘s contract ends?

Drummond is an All-Star level player who averaged 17.3 points per game last season at 53.3 percent shooting, plus is (arguably) the best rebounder in the NBA, averaging 15.6 per game (he was second in the NBA last season in overall percentage of available rebounds grabbed at 25.4 percent). He averaged a ridiculous 5.4 offensive rebounds a night. Plus, Drummond is a solid paint protector on defense.

However, Drummond does not space the floor and is a throwback — an effective one, but a throwback — as the NBA evolves to space and pace. Teams are hesitant to pay big money for centers right now, a position teams more and more believe they can fill nearly as well for far less money.

Is there a max market for Drummond next summer? This past summer Al Horford signed for four years, $109 million in Philly (Horford is older at 33). Nikola Vucevic re-signed in Orlando for four-years, $100 million, after a career season. Brook Lopez got four-years, $52 million to stay in Milwaukee. If those guys aren’t getting the max, and DeMarcus Cousins is settling a one-year deal for $3.5 million (granted, coming off multiple injuries), would Drummond? That might be a reason for him to consider an extension.

One way or another, Drummond is going to be playing a big role in next summer’s free agent market.

Kyle Kuzma signs five-year endorsement deal with PUMA

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Puma has splashed around money to get back in the basketball shoe game, signing DeMarcus Cousins, Deandre Ayton, Marvin Bagley III, Rudy Gay, Kevin Knox, Terry Rozier, Danny Green, and recently Knicks rookie R.J. Barrett. It’s not a bad list, but the most popular players on there are bigs, yet it’s attacking wings (and point guards) who sell shoes.

Enter Kyle Kuzma, Puma’s newest signing. The popular Laker forward signed a five-year contract with Puma, something the shoemaker announced on Wednesday. Kuzma is getting paid to be the face of the brand.

Kuzma is a confident, attacking player (when at his best) that the Lakers are counting on to be their No. 3 after LeBron James and Anthony Davis. For Puma, this is a player that matters in the nation’s biggest spotlight, and he’s a good spokesman for the brand.

Kuzma was already rocking Pumas at Lakers’ media day last Friday, even though the deal had yet to be formally announced.

Right now Kuzma is sidelined with a stress reaction in his leg that will have him out through at least training camp with the Lakers. It came up during his time with Team USA — he said he woke up one morning after an off day and his leg hurt, so he knew something was wrong — but is not expected to be chronic (hopefully). The Lakers are wisely being cautious with the one young star who played well with LeBron last season, a guy they are banking on for big things.

So is Puma.

Report: NBA teams told they must provide ‘precise’ height, age for each player

Associated Press
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Ever since he entered the league, Kevin Durant has been listed as 6’9″. He’s listed that way in every media guide and on basketball-reference.com. And that was Durant’s height — at age 17 at the Nike camp. At the NBA predraft camp in 2007 he measured 6’10.75″ and since then Durant has admitted that is his height, adding that with shoes on he is a 7-footer. Or, just look at a picture of him next to DeMarcus Cousins and DeAndre Jordan and try to tell me KD is 6’9″.

Durant is not an isolated case, a lot of players have their height “adjusted” up or down a little.

The league is trying to do away with this — as well as some age questions — and sent a memo to teams saying they need to provide “precise” measurements and ages for all players. From Marc Stein of the New York Times.

Shoes off measurements are going to be interesting, a few guards are not going to be happy suddenly being listed as shorter than they have been for years.

It’s all part of the league’s push toward transparency and accuracy, just like now requiring coaches to turn in their starting lineups 30 minutes before game time, not just 10 (and that was often fudged). If the NBA is going to ask for a slice of sports gambling revenue, they are going to have to be very transparent with a lot of things — injury reports are at the top of that list —  and this new requirement dovetails with that.