JJ Redick

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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.

Pelicans guard JJ Redick out at least two weeks with hamstring strain

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The New Orleans Pelicans announced that guard JJ Redick is out at least two weeks with a strained left hamstring. Redick was injured during Friday night’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, when he played just four minutes before exiting. New Orleans says Redick will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

In his first season with the Pelicans, Redick is averaging 14.9 points per game on 45.2% three-point shooting. He’s started 35 of the 54 games he’s played, but has transitioned to a bench role as New Orleans has gotten healthy and gotten Zion Williamson back in the lineup.

With Redick out, the Pelicans will lean on E’Twaun Moore for shooting off the bench. Moore has shot 38.2% from behind the arc this season. Jrue Holiday and Josh Hart will likely see their minutes increase as well.

Redick’s absence comes at a key point in the season for New Orleans. They’ve closed the gap to just 2.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the final spot in the Western Conference playoffs. The Pelicans have a far easier strength-of-schedule the rest of the way compared to the Grizzlies, but can’t afford to be without their best shooter long-term.

Zion Williamson scores 32, but Danilo Gallinari’s hot shooting late gets Thunder win

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NEW ORLEANS — Danilo Gallinari scored 29 points, Chris Paul had 14 points and 12 assists, and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the New Orleans Pelicans 123-118 on Thursday night.

Zion Williamson scored 32 points for New Orleans, his second straight game scoring more than 30. It is Williamson’s sixth straight game scoring at least 20 points.

However, Gallinari’s clutch shooting — he had 11 points in the fourth quarter — kept the Pelicans at bay.

New Orleans, which trailed by as many as 13 points in the third quarter, rallied behind Williamson’s dominant inside play to take several slim leads inside the final six minutes.

But after Lonzo Ball’s corner 3 gave the Pelicans a 111-110 lead, Gallinari hit a fall-away in the paint and followed up by rattling in a 3. He added free throws and a left-wing pull-up in the final minutes, the last making it 121-115 with a half-minute left.

Dennis Schroder scored 22 points for the Thunder and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander added 17 points. Thunder center Steven Adams capped his 11-point, 11-rebound, three-block night with a clutch jumper in the paint that made it 119-114.

JJ Redick scored 24 points for the Pelicans, who saw their three-game winning streak snapped in a compelling, highlight-filled contest that saw 22 lead changes and 12 ties.

Both teams shot better than 48%, but New Orleans was done in by 17 turnovers that the Thunder converted into 24 points. Oklahoma City committed just nine turnovers.

Williamson delighted the crowd on both ends of the floor. He rejected Abdel Nader’s floater in the paint with a volleyball-style spike out of play. His dunks included one on a putback and another on an alley-oop feed from Frank Jackson.

Paul had nine of his assists in the opening two quarters, the last of those coming in a rather unusual way. Paul unloaded the ball to Adams in the back court in the final seconds of the half, and Adams hurled the ball right into the hoop from beyond half-court.

The shot, which gave the Thunder a 66-58 lead, was the first 3-pointer of Adams’ career. He celebrated it with a brief, smiling shimmy before jogging with teammates toward the tunnel to the locker room.

Watch Zion Williamson score season high 31, lead Pelicans past Trail Blazers

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NEW ORLEANS — Zion Williamson scored a season-high 31 points, and the New Orleans Pelicans used a dominant second half to defeat the Portland Trail Blazers 138-117 on Tuesday night.

Playing 28 minutes in just his ninth NBA game, Williamson used his 6-foot-6, 285-pound frame, quick feet and explosive vertical to have his way with every defender Portland tried against him. Williamson was either too strong, too fast, or both. He mixed spinning dribbles and sudden baseline drives into his usual arsenal of soaring transition dunks and tenacious putbacks.

JJ Redick scored 20 and Josh Hart had 17 points for New Orleans, which trailed by as many as 16 in the first quarter before taking command en route to a third straight victory. Jrue Holiday contributed 16 points and 10 assists, while Lonzo Ball added 10 points and 10 assists.

Portland star Damian Lillard scored 20 points – less than half of his 42-point average over his previous 10 games. But his playing time was limited in the fourth quarter when the Pelicans, who led by as many as 26, had put the game out of reach.

CJ McCollum had 18 points for the Trail Blazers, and Carmelo Anthony also finished with 18, but just four after halftime. Hassan Whiteside had 17 points and 14 rebounds.

After Williamson’s early dunk and free throws helped New Orleans surge to a 12-7 lead, Portland suddenly turned the tide with a 24-3 run that began with a pair of turnaround jumpers by Anthony, who later added a cutting dunk. McCollum hit a pair of 3s, Whiteside scored on a floater and a hook shot, and Lillard added a driving layup while being fouled.

That stretch put the Pelicans in a 31-15 hole, out of which they gradually climbed for the duration of the half.

Williamson, who scored 17 in the first half, helped fuel the comeback, throwing down Holiday’s alley-oop lob with two hands to cut Portland’s lead to 60-54. Hart and Jackson each hit 3s late in the period, Holiday added a slashing transition layup through a crowd of converging defenders and Williamson’s free throw cut Portland’s lead to 65-63 at halftime.

New Orleans then pushed in front in the third, when Hart scored 12 points on shots ranging from a pull-up in the lane, to a breakaway dunk after his steal, to a left-wing 3.

New Orleans scored 41 points in the period alone, leading by as many as 21 when Redick hit his second 3 of the quarter to make it 104-83.

J.J. Redick: Players more concerned with Instagram than winning

J.J. Redick
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J.J. Redick transformed himself from bust to NBA success.

He changed his habits and outlook. He worked hard and learned how to optimize his fit. That partially explains why the Pelicans signed the veteran last summer.

Why aren’t more players so diligent in their work?

Redick on “The JJ Redick Podcast With Tommy Alter“:

There’s just too much stuff going on. There’s too many people in your ear. There’s not enough time in the day, probably, for some guys. They’ve got Fortnite to go to. They’ve got to worry about getting a fit off for pregame. This is an issue. I really believe this. I think there’s more guys concerned with getting a pregame fit on Instagram than they are worrying about the win and loss of a basketball game. I stand by that statement.

Maybe some players are more concerned with Instagram than winning. That’s tough to evaluate from afar. I’m not sure Redick – who’s obviously not in anyone’s mind but his own – is close enough to make that evaluation, though he obviously has more access to see how NBA players act.

But players have always held interests outside basketball. They always will. Redick doesn’t need to look far to consider that. This quote comes from his podcast.

That Redick gripes about this modern technology – Fortnite, Instagram – makes him sound like an old grump. Why not rail against players who party too much? There are surely players who indulge in that classic distraction.

Not every player is obsessed primarily with winning. Yet, I’m unconvinced that’s any more or less true now than with a prior generation.