The focus on restarting the NBA season has been on the current one: Will there be regular season games? A bubble in Las Vegas? When will it start, and how deep into the summer and fall is the league willing to go? Can the NBA find a way to crown a legitimate champion?
There is another question beyond that: What will the start of the next season look like?
If the 2020-21 season tips off this calendar year, before a vaccine for the coronavirus is widely available, what will games in arenas look like? What will be done to protect both players and the people who sit courtside and come in contact with the players?
“We have to be more informed about the virus, flus, all viruses, so we can better understand how to protect players and fans … I wouldn’t rule plexiglass out,” said Caron Butler, a two-time All-Star who retired from the NBA after the 2015-16 season. “If you told me a year ago the NBA and the world would stop, I would say you are out of your mind.”…
“It is my belief the NBA will return in a three-step process,” said Randy Osei, an entrepreneur and owner of Rozaay Management, which has worked with players such as Danny Green, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Dillon Brooks. “I can see the NBA resuming its condensed season initially with no fans in attendance, then move to no fans courtside or on the floor, and then finally allow fans on the floor but eliminate courtside and row B until the right strenuous screening measures are put into place to protect everyone.”
That progression seems logical (although the NBA and teams are not discussing this, for obvious reasons). Still, it will be strange at first with no fans, then none courtside.
Part of fans’ connection to the NBA is the intimacy of it. Some lucky (and wealthy) fans get to sit courtside and hear what LeBron James is saying to Anthony Davis or listen in on Patrick Beverley‘s trash talk to, well, everyone.
However, for 99 percent of fans that intimacy comes via television cameras, which can zoom in on the exposed faces of the players and allow us to see their expressions and do some lip-reading. That will not change.
But the intimacy of the sport will feel a little different without those fans surrounding the edge of the court.
The NBA is different than football, the fans are closer and there are no helmets. The NBA is different than the NHL, there is no plexiglass separating the players and the fans.
When it returns, the NBA will be and feel a little different, at least at first.
Mock NBA expansion draft: Celtics, Nets, Knicks, 76ers, Raptors
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. Players are listed with their 2020-21 salary. Up now, the Atlantic:
Analysis: Boston’s decisions are fairly cut and dry. Jayson Tatum, Romeo Langford, Grant Williams and Robert Williams are all on their rookie-scale contracts. Jaylen Brown will be starting a four-year contract extension. Kemba Walker was just signed to a max contract. Marcus Smart and Daniel Theis are good values and key rotation players.
The toughest decision was on Gordon Hayward. Carrying a salary over $34 million, the Celtics are betting he’ll go undrafted and will return to the team. Everyone else was a fairly easy decision to leave unprotected.
Analysis: The Nets are keeping their big four in Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert. Jarrett Allen is still on his rookie-scale contract, so that’s an easy decision. With over $101 million on the books for just Durant, Irving, Dinwiddie and LeVert, Nicolas Claxton and Rodions Kurucs help bring some low-cost upside to the back-end of the roster.
DeAndre Jordan will likely go unselected, given his age and $30 million-plus owed through 2022-23. If Jordan is selected, Brooklyn can bank some potential luxury tax savings down the line. Taurean Prince was on the fence, but given his disappointing play this season, and lack of fit in a lineup featuring Durant, the Nets will take their chances he’ll be selected.
Analysis: The Knicks are clearing the decks for a run at free agency this summer. The expansion draft could only help along that way. New York is protecting their young players with upside, as well as Julius Randle, last year’s big free agent addition. The Knicks are also protecting Damyean Dotson and Allonzo Trier. Not out of fear of losing them, but in hopes that either of the expansion teams will select a bigger salary and take it off the New York cap sheet.
Dennis Smith Jr. was the only questionable player to leave unprotected, but $5.7 million is simply too much for a player out of the rotation. The other five players aren’t part of the future in New York, so that decision was easy.
Analysis: Philadelphia’s decisions make themselves. The highly paid players are key rotation players. Furkan Korkmaz and Shake Milton are steals on minimum contracts. Matisse Thybulle is only entering year two of his rookie scale deal. Zhaire Smith was on the bubble, but he’s young enough, and under team control, that he’s worth protecting.
Al Horford is very unprotected. His signing simply hasn’t worked out for the Sixers. He’s a player Philadelphia is open to talking about a trade with either of the expansion teams. With an extra first-round pick, the 76ers hope to dangle it to entice a team to select Horford.
Analysis: The Raptors don’t have to expose any of their core rotation players in the expansion draft. Up front, Pascal Siakam just inked his contract extension, and OG Anunoby is still on his rookie scale deal. Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson are all free agents. In the backcourt, Toronto can protect Kyle Lowry and Norman Powell, along with undrafted find Terence Davis. And Fred VanVleet is a free agent.
The leaves just a handful of players who don’t have a role for the Raptors. Toronto could even entertain offering a second-round pick to entice either expansion team to select Stanley Johnson and take his $3.8 million off the cap/tax.
Pascal Siakam scores 37, Raptors remain red hot with win vs. Suns
After Toronto’s franchise-record 15-game winning streak ended with a loss at Brooklyn in the final game before the All-Star break, the Raptors bounced back by starting the second half with their eighth consecutive home victory.
The Raptors have not lost back-to-back games since an overtime loss at Indiana on Dec. 23 and a home loss to Boston on Christmas Day. Toronto has gone 19-1 since.
Siakam connected on 12 of 19 attempts, going 5 of 9 from 3-point range.
That was just one fewer than the six 3-pointers the Suns managed on 34 attempts. Phoenix shot 17.6%t from long range, its lowest mark of the season. No Suns player made more than one shot from distance.
Devin Booker scored 21 points and Deandre Ayton had 17 points and 10 rebounds for Phoenix. The Suns lost for the seventh time in nine games.
Ayton returned to the starting lineup after missing the final two games before the All-Star break because of a sore left ankle.
Phoenix trailed 93-78 through three quarters, but the Suns cut the gap to six points, 96-90 on a basket by Ayton with 8:08 left to play. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson made a pair from the line, and VanVleet and Siakam both scored to put the Raptors up 102-90 with 6:58 remaining.
Booker missed a 3 with 4:45 left that would have made it a four-point game. Anunoby scored on a dunk and, after another missed 3 by the Suns, Ibaka banked home a 3-pointer to restore Toronto’s 12-point cushion.
Pascal Siakam scores 34, Raptors roll past Timberwolves for 15th straight win
TORONTO —OG Anunoby scored a career-high 25 points and matched his career high with 12 rebounds, Kyle Lowry had 27 points and 11 assists, and the Toronto Raptors extended their franchise-record winning streak to 15 by beating the Minnesota Timberwolves 137-126 on Monday night.
Lowry returned after missing Saturday’s win over Brooklyn because of whiplash, but center Serge Ibaka sat because of flu-like symptoms. Hollis-Jefferson started for Ibaka.
D'Angelo Russell scored 22 points in his Minnesota debut and Karl-Anthony Towns had 23 points and 10 rebound,s but the Timberwolves couldn’t build on Saturday’s surprise victory over the Clippers that snapped a 13-game losing streak.
Russell sat out Saturday because of a right quad contusion.
Minnesota had a season-worst 23 turnovers, leading to 34 points for Toronto. The Raptors committed 20 turnovers, four shy of their season-worst total. The Timberwolves scored 26 points off Toronto miscues.
Minnesota trailed 106-94 through three quarters but former Raptor James Johnson made two 3-pointers as the Timberwolves opened the fourth with a 12-2 run, cutting it to 108-106 with 9:07 left.
That was as close as Minnesota would get. Chris Boucher and Siakam scored to push Toronto’s lead back to six points, and VanVleet and Patrick McCaw hit 3-pointers on either side of Towns’ free throw to make it 120-109 with 5:28 remaining.
Toronto connected on eight straight field goals to begin the game before Hollis-Jefferson missed a hook shot with 8:03 left in the opening quarter. Lowry scored 14 points in the first and Siakam shot 4 for 4 and scored 10 points as the Raptors led 40-36.
Minnesota took its first lead of the game on a layup by Hernangomez with 6:24 left in the second quarter. The Timberwolves led 75-74 at halftime.
Anunoby scored 16 points in the third on 6-of-7 shooting, but the basket of the quarter came in the final seconds when VanVleet threw a no-look, overhead pass to Hollis-Jefferson for a fast-break dunk. Toronto outscored Minnesota 32-19 in the third to take a 106-94 lead to the fourth.
Three Things to Know: Clint Capela, Derrick Rose, trade rumors heading into deadline
Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.
1) The Trade Deadline is Thursday, here are the rumors flying around the league. Often it takes the pressure of a deadline to strip away the “we want a lottery pick” pretense, for the offers to get real and trades to get done. This season things are even more backed up because potential sellers — New Orleans, Sacramento, others — were still in the playoff mix despite their records. Those teams were waiting to decide on whether to make trades or go for the playoffs.
Now things get serious. The trade deadline is Thursday, just a few days away. Teams traditionally take Super Bowl Sunday off, but Monday the phone lines will light up around the league. Here are the hottest rumors and things to watch.
As trade deadline looms on Thursday, Houston is engaged with several Eastern Conference teams — including Atlanta — on C Clint Capela, league sources tell ESPN. There are a few multi-team trade scenarios in play.
Capela is the best trade piece the Rockets have — an athletic big man with a reasonable contract going out three seasons after this one — but if they trade him then they have to get another center back from somewhere. It’s a fun gimmick to play a 6’6” and under lineup in a regular season game (the Rockets may do it again) but in a West with the size of the Lakers and Clippers, plus guys like Nikola Jokic in Denver and Rudy Gobert in Utah, the Rockets can’t roll out P.J. Tucker at center in the playoffs and win.
Houston has been linked to Robert Covington talks, and Minnesota is reportedly asking for two first-round picks.
Ambitious as it sounds, Minnesota has sought two first-round picks in exchange for Robert Covington in advance of Thursday's trade deadline, league sources say. Let's see where the Wolves land if/when they actually deal him, with Philly and Houston at the front of the RoCo line
Covington is a 3&D wing who would fit with the Rockets, but if you trade Capela to get the picks to land him, then who is your center? Throw Noah Vonleh or Jordan Bell (both on the Timberwolves bench) in a deal? It’s just hard to see how Houston puts together a trade that makes them better than either of the Los Angeles teams, and if they are not contenders will owner Tilman Fertitta be willing to pay the tax for the Rockets this season?
• The buzz from sources around the league is Covington will get traded… somewhere. The price has been too steep so far, but when that comes down a little this week some team — maybe the 76ers — gets a deal done.
• Everyone expects the Clippers to make a move, something Ric Bucher got into at Bleacher Report. This is a win-now team looking for more size up front — is Ivica Zubac really the starting center on a title team? Montrezl Harrell destroys second-unit centers but can he close playoff games? — and a little more point guard depth. The Clippers can trade their first-round pick in the June draft, plus they have Moe Harkless and his $11.5 million to put into a trade. The Clippers can be players.
Would the Clippers go after Andre Iguodala, both to add wing depth and to keep him away from the Lakers?
One other interesting Clippers question: Would they trade Harrell? He’s part of the heart of this team, but he’s also about to be a free agent who will make at least $18 million a season going forward, do the Clippers want to pay that? Harrell would have real trade value if the Clippers wanted to swing for the fences. Just remember the Clippers are good at keeping big moves quiet — both trading for Paul George and trading away Blake Griffin were massive deals that seemed to come out of nowhere because L.A. kept a lid on it until the last second.
• Down the hall, the Lakers are actively looking at trades, they just don’t have good options. They have madeKyle Kuzma available, but he makes just $2 million, and the Lakers don’t have a lot of other players they can aggregate with him in a deal to get to a good number (remember that Rajon Rondo, JaVale MaGee, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope can all veto a trade because it would cost them their Bird rights). DeMarcus Cousins makes $3.5 million, but would $5.5 million really get them a big upgrade over Kuzma? Just hard to see the Lakers getting a big deal done. However, if Darren Collison comes out of retirement to them the Lakers get an upgrade without pulling the trigger on a trade.
• Boston is actively looking for a center, it’s just hard for them to construct a trade. Yes, they have potentially three first-rounders in this coming draft, but in terms of money it’s hard for them to put together matching salary for a decent player without throwing in Marcus Smart or Gordon Hayward. And that’s not happening.
• Derrick Rose does not want to be traded, he likes Detroit, but he is available.
Derrick Rose on trade rumors: It’s up to the front office. Arn (Tellem) gave me his word that if something were to happen, he will text or call, but I told him that I want to stay here, but it’s not up to me. You already know how that goes.” #Pistons
The Lakers have been linked, but if the Lakers have to send out Kuzma and Avery Bradley for Rose is that enough of an upgrade for L.A. to pull that trigger? And, would the Pistons do that, they reportedly have been asking for a lottery-level pick to trade Rose. Expect a lot of Rose rumors this week, but come Friday he could still be a Piston.
Reporting with @rick_bonnell, Mavericks are mulling whether to add a 3/4 defender. I'm told they have "kicked tires" on Charlotte's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Toronto's Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, but purely exploratory at this point. Trade deadline is one week from today.
• Expect the Knicks to trade Marcus Morris. He would help a lot of playoff teams, and the Knicks need more pieces for the rebuild. (Or, they should be stockpiling assets for their rebuild, but James Dolan still owns the Knicks so all bets on them following a logical path are off.)
• Oklahoma City likely will not trade the massive salaries of Chris Paul or Steven Adams, and the Thunder will remain a tough-out playoff team. Danilo Gallinari still is a name bouncing around who could get moved.
• These rumors are just the tip of the iceberg. Ultimately, there may be fewer trades than fans want — and most of the trades that go down may well be more about salary dumps than player upgrades — but there will be a lot of rumors flying around and some deals done this week. Keep checking NBC Sports for all the latest trade news.
2) Zion Williamson is playing very well, but James Harden’s 40 points proved too much in Rockets’ win. The combination of the tragic Kobe Bryant news and the trade deadline have stolen the thunder from this story, but it’s can’t be ignored for long:
Zion Williamson is tearing up the NBA so far.
In six games, he’s averaging 19.5 points on 66.7 percent shooting, plus getting 8.2 rebounds a game. He’s a beast on the offensive glass and, while he still looks lost at points on defense (as rookies do) he shows real potential on that end. Williamson had 21 points and 10 rebounds against the Rockets on Super Bowl Sunday.
That wasn’t enough however because James Harden’s 40 points, 10 rebounds and nine asissts was too much and snapped the Pelicans three-game win streak.
3) Toronto wins 11th in a row beating Bulls. The Raptors remain the hottest team in the NBA, thanks to a combination of getting healthy, a soft part of the schedule, and… Terence Davis?
Yes, Terence Davis. He dropped a career-high 31 on Chicago Sunday to lead the Raptors to an 11th consecutive win.
Kawhi who? The Raptors are 36-14, second in the East (two games up on third seed Boston), Pascal Siakam is starting the All-Star Game and Nick Nurse is a frontrunner for Coach of the Year (in a crowded field). The big name may have gone home but this is still a very good team.