Kevin Durant

NBA 2K Players Tournament
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Kevin Durant tips off ‘NBA 2K Players Tournament’ Friday night; start time and more

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NBA players can’t get together right now on a real court for some playoff basketball, but they can get together virtually for an NBA 2K Tournament.

The first-ever “NBA 2K Players Tournament” tips off tonight and in the current desert of sports programming, plus the fact we’re all forced to be home, this esports event becomes must-watch NBA content. There are 16 NBA players — including Kevin Durant, Trae Young, Donovan Mitchell, Zach LaVine and Devin Booker — going head-to-head in a tournament that will stretch out for eight days. All of it will be televised on some platform.

Here are the details.

Broadcast Schedule (all times Eastern)

FIRST ROUND:
Friday, April 3 on ESPN:
• 7-7:30 p.m.: NBA 2K Players Tournament Preview Show
• 7:30-8:30 p.m. ET: Derrick Jones Jr. (16) vs. Kevin Durant (1)
On ESPN2:
• 8:30-11:30 p.m.: Other matchups

Sunday, April 5 on ESPN2:
• 12-4 p.m.: Other first-round matchups

QUARTERFINALS

Tuesday, April 7 on ESPN2:
• 7-11 p.m.

SEMIFINALS & FINALS

Saturday, April 11 on ESPN:
• Timing to be announced.

WHERE TO WATCH LIVE STREAM

•ESPN App
• NBA.com
• NBA App
• Twitter (@NBA2K, @NBA),
• Twitch (@NBA2K, @NBA),
• YouTube (@NBA2K, @NBA)
• Facebook (@NBA2K, @NBA).

Competition bracket

Competition Format

The first two rounds are single elimination, then the semifinals and finals are a best-of-three.

Each player had to submit eight teams he can choose to play with during the tournament.

However, and this is a big part of the strategy, each player can only use each team once. Meaning players may not want to burn using the powerhouse teams — the Lakers, Bucks, etc. — in the early rounds of the tournament. If both players try to choose the same team, the away team gets the first choice.

Enjoy this everyone; it is going to be fun.

Kevin Durant, Donovan Mitchell headline televised NBA video-game tournament

Kevin Durant and Donovan Mitchell
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The NBA season isn’t returning any time soon.

So, the closest thing you’ll get to live basketball on television is a video-game tournament between NBA players. The bracket has been revealed.

The Boardroom:

1. Kevin Durant (Nets)

2. Trae Young (Hawks)

3. Hassan Whiteside (Trail Blazers)

4. Donovan Mitchell (Jazz)

5. Devin Booker (Suns)

6. Andre Drummond (Cavaliers)

7. Zach LaVine (Bulls)

8. Montrezl Harrell (Clippers)

9. Domantas Sabonis (Pacers)

10. Deandre Ayton (Suns)

11. DeMarcus Cousins (previously Lakers)

12. Michael Porter Jr. (Nuggets)

13. Rui Hachimura (Wizards)

14. Patrick Beverley (Clippers)

15. Harrison Barnes (Kings)

16. Derrick Jones Jr. (Heat)

I have questions:

  • How does Hassan Whiteside have the same rating as Donovan Mitchell and a higher rating Devin Booker?
  • Does being extremely online bode well for Kevin Durant?
  • Is Donovan Mitchell, who spent his coronavirus isolation playing video games, in the best game shape?
  • Will Zach LaVine redeem himself?
  • Will players use their own teams? If so, will Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton both use the Suns, Montrezl Harrell and Patrick Beverley both use the Clippers? If not, the most interesting aspect of this tournament – to non-esports aficionados – could be reading way too much into which teams players pick.

Olympics postponement should force USA Basketball to change roster strategy

Olympics
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USA Basketball named 44 finalists last month for the Tokyo Olympics.

No Zion Williamson. No Ja Morant. Not even Trae Young, who’s already an All-Star starter and on track to get even better.

USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo explained: Though young players would eventually get their turn, the 2020 Olympics would be for players who previously represented the U.S.

Except there will be no 2020 Olympics.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Games have been postponed to 2021. By then, USA Basketball’s plan to build an older roster – already a suspect strategy – will become even less tenable.

The 2019 FIBA World Cup showed the Americans’ vulnerability. They finished seventh – their worst-ever finish in a major tournament. The United States’ advantage is depth of star talent. That has carried Team USA through deficient cohesion and comfort with international rules/style. The 2019 squad lacked the usual star power.

Anything USA Basketball does to lower its talent level – including giving preferential treatment to past-their-peak players based on prior contributions – increases risk of another letdown.

Chris Paul sounded ready for Tokyo. But he’ll turn 35 this spring and would have been one of the oldest players ever on Team USA if competing in an on-time Olympics. LeBron James – who is at least open to another Olympics – is even older than Paul. Several other aging veterans are in the mix.

Already, half the finalists will be in their 30s by the time the Games were originally scheduled to begin.

Though that doesn’t necessarily mean the final roster would have been old, it’s a telling starting point. The average age of the finalists is 28.1.* In 2016, it was 26.4 In 2012, it was 26.8.

*On Feb. 1 of that year

Again, the final roster could have shaken out differently. But imagine this team:

A little backcourt-heavy? Yes. But so is the United States’ top-end talent.  Will Stephen Curry play? His father said yes, though that was before Curry was sidelined even longer than he expected. So, there’s plenty of room to quibble with the selections. But it’s at least a reasonable facsimile of the final roster.

The average age* of that group: 29.5.

That’d be the second-oldest Team USA in the Olympics, shy of only the 1996 squad. It’s even older than the original Dream Team, which – as the first Olympic team to include NBA players – definitely prioritized rewarding career accomplishments.

Here’s the average age* of each Team USA since NBA players began competing in the Olympics:

*Age for Team USA’s first game or, in 2020, first originally scheduled game of the tournament

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see taking that same group to Tokyo in 2021 would make it Team USA’s oldest-ever squad, advancing the average age a full year to 30.5.

Plenty will change in the next year. It’s easy to project growth from players like Trae Young, Zion Williamson and Ja Morant. But whether or not those three in particular meet expectations, other young players will rise. Some of these older players will decline further.

Of course, there will still be room for some veterans in 2021. Chris Paul is flourishing with the Thunder and could continue to play at a high level. LeBron James is so dominant, he has plenty of room to decline while remaining elite.

But USA Basketball should be open-minded about emerging young players. That’s the only way to ensure a maximumly talented roster.

In 2020, it was foolish to pretend it’s 2016 or even 2012.

It’d be even more misguided to do so in 2021.

Report: Knicks likely to guarantee Reggie Bullock’s salary for next season

Knicks wing Reggie Bullock
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After striking out on stars Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Kawhi Leonard, the Knicks found a type last summer – marginal veterans who’d take big two-year contracts with the second season barely or completely unguaranteed.

The hope was giving New York a competitive team (failed), trade bait (failed so far) and flexibility. At least the flexibility will still come, with decisions on salaries for next season:

Marc Berman of the New York Post:

Bullock’s modest option year is likely to be picked up, according to an NBA source.

Does Berman’s source have direct knowledge of the Knicks’ plan? The possibility is what makes this interesting.

Otherwise, anyone with a general understanding of the league could guess. This would be my guess, too.

Bullock is a good 3-point shooter with the size to defend wings (though he doesn’t consistently actualize that defensive potential). Those types of players are in high demand.

Since signing Bullock, New York has changed presidents from Steve Mills to Leon Rose. The Knicks might also seek to maximize their cap space. So, there was reason to suspect they might waive Bullock.

But it’s a weak free-agent class. Bullock should have positive value on a $4.2 million salary. With only one more season left on his contract, New York won’t be stuck long-term with the 29-year-old if something goes wrong. He’s worth keeping (and I nearly selected him in our mock expansion draft).

A parting reminder: The Knicks got Bullock at such a bargain only because he failed his physical. They initially planned to pay him twice as much.

Former NBA player Jason Collins tests positive for coronavirus

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Jason Collins, a 13-year NBA veteran who has been out of the league for five years, announced he has tested positive for the coronavirus.

He made the announcement himself on Twitter.

Collins is not counted among the 14 cases of COVID-19 tied to the NBA. So far, 10 players have tested positive — four from Brooklyn including Kevin Durant, both Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell from Utah, Marcus Smart from the Celtics, Christian Wood from the Pistons, plus two members of the Los Angeles Lakers — in addition to one member of the basketball operations staff in Denver and three staffers from Philadelphia.

Collins, back in 2014 while he was with the Brooklyn Nets, became the first active NBA player to come out as gay during his career. He currently works extensively with NBA Cares, the league’s charitable arm.

Jason’s twin brother Jaron is an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors but has not shown symptoms nor tested positive for the virus at this point.