Jae Crowder

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.

James Harden says he wants to return to play, but ‘I want it to be safe’

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Jae Crowder said something similar a few days back, he’s ready to return to the court but wants things to be safe.

Thursday, Houston’s James Harden echoed the same sentiment talking to Jabari Young of CNBC.

Harden said he would play games again without fans, but would feel comfortable returning when the pandemic has “calmed down all the way to a minimum…

“I want it to be safe,” said Harden when asked about returning. “I want it to be entertaining for the fans and players to get out there and compete. As soon as we can get this ramped up, I’m ready to go. I feel like the majority of the players feel the same way.”

In general, players want to get back on the court and play. That is both because they are competitive by nature and because getting the playoffs in will help the NBA’s bottom line when it comes to next season’s salary cap and the finances of the league (the players and NBA split the league’s basketball related income). The players also generally trust Adam Silver to make the best call among bad options.

However, players want it to be “safe” — and what’s safe for one player may not feel safe to another. For example, Utah’s Joe Ingles — who has a family, a pregnant wife, and a son with a weakened immune system — has said, “I am in no way willing to risk my children, and [his wife], and everything else, to go play basketball.” He is understandably far more risk-averse than a 20-year-old rookie might be.

As we near a decision on if and when the NBA might return, and as a timeline for that return takes form, the NBA still has a lot to work out. There’s a lot of safety measures yet to be put in place. Even then, it may not be enough for some players.

But the majority, such as Harden, are eager to get back to work.

Heat’s Jae Crowder sums up feelings of a lot of players: He wants to play, but safety comes first

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There is lockdown fatigue setting in across the nation. People eagerly want to takes steps toward a return to normal, even if they understand that “normal” itself is a long way off. However, people also insist those steps be safe.

That’s where Miami’s Jae Crowder is on an NBA return, and his attitude reflects a lot of players around the league.

Here is what Crowder told Richard Jefferson on a SportsCenter Instagram Live session (hat tip Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel).

“I don’t want to feel like we have to rush because people are at home, not doing nothing, they just want to watch us play basketball and watch us work…

“I just want to be safe. Obviously, I miss the game. We all miss the game. We love the work. But I want to be safe, I don’t want to feel like it’s rushed…. Even though we’re missing out on a lot of money, from the league standpoint, from everybody taking pay cuts and things like that, I want everybody to be safe…

“We have families we have to come back to, you have to realize that. A lot of guys have kids. You have to worry about that. You have to put that into perspective. I’m in for coming back with the season, as long as we have a few bulletin points from our players’ standpoint to get down with the league.”

The debate the NBA and its players are having right now — the one Crowder talks about — is the same one society is having as a whole: How much risk is acceptable?

There is no way to make a 100% safe place for the NBA to resume play, and the draconian steps it would take to make things anywhere near that percentage would not sit well with players. It’s about what is an acceptable level of risk for the reward, and that is a personal decision. It’s not the same for every person, every player, every team. Yet the league and its players need to come to a consensus.

Crowder reminds people that for players, this decision is about more than just pay and returning to work. It’s bigger than that, it’s also about their health and safety. It’s not a simple equation.

It’s just one the league has to figure out in the coming weeks.

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

Mock NBA expansion draft
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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.

Jae Crowder on Miami: ‘I really want to make this my home’

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Jae Crowder‘s world hit pause this week, just like every NBA player (and a lot of fans).

However, at some point — maybe not July 1 as he expected, but eventually — the veteran forward will become an unrestricted free agent. A lot of teams could use a playoff-tested veteran like him, who has averaged 11.9 points a game and shot 39.3 percent since being traded from Memphis to Miami this season. Crowder is going to have options.

Crowder knows what he wants to do: Stay in Miami. That’s what he told Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.

“I really want to make this my home,” said Crowder…

“I feel comfortable here, feel comfortable with the whole organization top to bottom. If everything goes as we plan, I’m sure everybody would like to stay together and build off what we’re doing this year and go into next year with the same mind-set.”

Miami will have a lot of cap space this summer when big contracts such as Goran Dragic and Solomon Hill come off the books. The question is what will they do with that cash — they are one of the franchises holding that cap space in case Giannis Antetokounmpo decides to become a free agent in 2021 (or becomes available on the trade market before that). It’s a smart plan, Antetokounmpo is an MVP about to enter his prime, if you can get him you do it.

However, if as expected Antetokounmpo takes the supermax money and re-signs in Milwaukee this summer, then Miami has money to spend. Re-signing Crowder would be a smart use of some of it (so would re-signing Dragic, just at far less than the $19.2 million he is making this year). Crowder has fit well with the Heat both on the court and in terms of culture.

With Jimmy Butler in the fold, the Heat feel just one player away from being a threat to the Bucks and Celtics at the top of the East in the coming years. Around the stars the Heat will need quality role players. Crowder could — and should — be one of those guys. It all just comes down to money.

It will be good to focus on free agency and player moves soon, and not tracking a virus.