Thabo Sefolosha

Pacers star Victor Oladipo
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Pacers star Victor Oladipo to sit out NBA resumption at Disney World

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Several players have decided to sit out the NBA’s resumption at Disney World:

*Jordan lands in a gray area. He tested positive for coronavirus, but was unclear how quickly he’d recover. It sounded like he decided to sit out before seeing how his health progresses.

Now, the first star – Pacers guard Victor Oladipo – joins the list.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Indiana Pacers star Victor Oladipo has decided to sit out the resumed 2019-20 NBA season, Oladipo told The Athletic.

“I really want to play, and as a competitor and teammate this is tearing me apart,” Oladipo told The Athletic. “I feel like I’m at a great place in my rehab and getting closer and closer to 100 percent. With all the variables, from how I have to build my 5-on-5 workload back up, to the increased risk of a soft tissue injury which could delay my rehab, and the unknown exact set up of the bubble, I just can’t get my mind to being fully comfortable in playing. I have to be smart and this decision hasn’t been easy, but I truly believe continuing on the course I’m on and getting fully healthy for the 2020-21 season is the right decision for me.”

“We totally respect and understand Victor’s decision to not play in the restart of the NBA’s season,” Pacers president Kevin Pritchard said in a statemnt. “The first priority for our players is, and always will be, their health, whether that be physical or mental health.  Victor has looked great in workouts, but the timing of the restart and lack of 5-on-5 activity makes it difficult to for him to commit to playing at the high level he expects with regards to further injury. His future health is the No. 1 priority and we look forward to having him back at full strength for the 2020-21 season.

“This is not a unique situation for our team, playing without key players like Victor and Jeremy Lamb. This team has shown great resolve in responding to adversity and we fully expect this will be no different. We remain excited about what they can accomplish in Orlando “

Oladipo is a competitor. He proved that growing up and in the NBA.

He’s also one of the many people thrown into an impossibly difficult situation by the coronavirus pandemic.

Oladipo missed more than a year due to a torn right quad tendon and was just ramping back up when the league shut down. The long hiatus exacerbates injury concerns. He took his time exploring his decision.

Though it’s past the stated deadline for withdrawing without facing discipline, presumably Oladipo will face similar consequences. His base salary would be docked $1,842,105 plus $230,263 for each playoff game Indiana plays (up to $3,223,684 in total lost base salary).*

*With league-wide revenue way down, no players will receive their full base salary.

This decision raises questions about the long-term future of Oladipo, who’s headed toward 2021 unrestricted free agency. He just signaled that he’s not absolutely committed to heling Indiana win at all costs.

Maybe that’s only a product of these circumstances. But bet that teams interested in signing him – ahem, Heat – at least took notice. And surely so did Indiana, which could always trade him before free agency.

It’s unclear how big of a short-term loss this will be for the Pacers, who are tied for fifth in the Eastern Conference. Oladipo is an excellent two-way player when healthy. But he mostly struggled while playing a big offensive role in his return. Though he played better his last few games, there’s no telling how he would’ve picked back up after this long layoff.

Indiana’s place looks similar, with or without Oladipo. The Pacers can still win a playoff series with the right matchup. They probably won’t go further.

Beyond this season? There was already plenty of intrigue around Oladipo’s situation. This will only add to the speculation.

Report: Rockets signing Luc Mbah a Moute

Rockets forward Luc Mbah a Moute
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Rockets forward Thabo Sefolosha is sitting out the NBA’s resumption at Disney World.

Enter Luc Mbah a Moute.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Like Sefolosha, Mbah a Moute is a versatile defensive forward who can make open 3-pointers and fits well into Houston’s system.

In theory.

Mbah a Moute, who played well for the Rockets in 2017-18, looked like a major loss when he left for the Clippers in 2018. But he has struggled to stay healthy. He hasn’t played in the NBA since October 2018. Houston worked out the 33-year-old in March – and didn’t sign him. That’s telling.

Expect Mbah a Moute to fall behind Robert Covington, P.J. Tucker, Jeff Green, DeMarre Carroll and Danuel House on the Rockets’ depth chart. It’d be a good outcome for Houston if Mbah a Moute helps in spot minutes.

But if Mbah a Moute proves to be effective in a Rockets uniform, that’d at least look quite natural. We’ve seen it before.

Report: Thabo Sefolosha won’t play for Rockets in NBA resumption

Rockets forward Thabo Sefolosha
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These have been heavy times for Rockets forward Thabo Sefolosha, who was a victim of police brutality in 2015. Though he expressed excitement about the opportunity to play in the NBA’s resumption at Disney World, Sefolosha also expressed reservations about distracting from current movement for racial justice and spending so much time away from his family.

It’s a lot to evaluate.

Weighing it all, Sefolosha has decided to sit out the rest of the season.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Assuming he doesn’t qualify for an exemption or face discipline for deciding past the original deadline (which was seemingly soft), Sefolosha will lose $224,978 in base salary plus $28,122 for each playoff game Houston plays (up to $393,712 in total lost base salary).*

*With league-wide revenue way down, no players will receive their full base salary.

The Rockets probably would’ve relied on Robert Covington and P.J. Tucker as much at possible at forward, anyway. Sefolosha probably wouldn’t have cracked Houston’s playoff rotation, but he could have played effective defense while spacing the floor in spurts. Now, the Rockets will turn to Jeff Green, DeMarre Carroll and Danuel House to handle forward minutes behind Covington and Tucker.

Houston previously waived Isaiah Hartenstein to sign David Nwaba. If they knew Sefolosha’s decision sooner, the Rockets could have kept Hartenstein. But Houston can also sign a replacement for Sefolosha, so maybe Hartenstein would’ve been dropped regardless.

The 36-year-old Sefolosha will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. If he wants to continue playing, he can still help in a limited role and should draw minimum-salary offers.

Mock NBA expansion draft: Mavericks, Rockets, Grizzlies, Pelicans, Spurs

Mock NBA expansion draft
(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
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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, Northwest Division and Southeast Division). Players are listed with their 2020-21 salary. Up now, the Southwest:

Dallas Mavericks

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 4

Ineligible – 3

Analysis: Seven of Dallas’ protections were easy calls. They’re all players locked up long-term. That left deciding between Tim Hardaway Jr, who has been a starter for the Mavericks but has a player option, and several other useful players.

Ultimately, the Mavs can’t afford to lose Hardaway, who has rediscovered his solid offensive play from his Hawks years. That leaves Justin Jackson and three big men in Dwight Powell (coming off a torn Achilles’) and Boban Marjanovic and Willie-Cauley-Stein (both backups for Dallas). The most likely to be selected player is probably Jackson, but that’s a risk Dallas has to take.

Houston Rockets

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 2

Ineligible – 5

Analysis: No decision points for the Rockets. Houston is protecting the entirety of their eight-man rotation.

Chris Clemons could make for an interesting expansion pick because his scoring ability at guard. Isaiah Hartenstein has shown some flashes in the G-League as well.

Memphis Grizzlies

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 5

Ineligible – 1

Analysis: Just how hard the Grizzlies’ protection decision were is a testament to how well their rebuild has gone. Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., Dillon Brooks, Brandon Clarke and De’Anthony Melton were all locks. Justise Winslow was just acquired at the trade deadline as the centerpiece of a deal. Tyus Jones is the ideal backup point guard behind Morant, so he stays as well. That left Jonas Valanciunas vs Kyle Anderson for the final protected spot. Valanciunas’ presence allows Jackson to play power forward, so the big man gets the final spot.

Memphis is gambling that Anderson’s slow-mo style of play and $9.5 million salary isn’t what an expansion team is looking for. Jontay Porter is another risk, but he’s got a lengthy injury history of his own. The Grizzlies will hope one of the other three is selected and might be willing to offer a small incentive to make it happen.

New Orleans Pelicans

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 4

Ineligible – 3

Analysis: New Orleans’ protections are cut and dry. Every player protected, minus Brandon Ingram, is signed for at least one more season. This includes several players on rookie scale contracts. Ingram will most assuredly be re-signed this summer, so that decision was easy as well.

The only gamble among the unprotected players is Nicolo Melli. He’s become a rotation player for the Pelicans, but he’s not as valuable as the younger players. The other three players are mostly out of the New Orleans’ rotation and not anyone the team will worry about if they are selected.

San Antonio Spurs

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 4

Ineligible – 2

Analysis: The Spurs are banking on keeping DeMar DeRozan this summer. He either opts in or re-signs in San Antonio. LaMarcus Aldridge is an easy decision as well. Dejounte Murray will start his extension this coming season. Everyone else is on their rookie scale contract, minus Jakob Poeltl. Poeltl is a restricted free agent that the Spurs hope to retain this offseason.

San Antonio is gambling that the big salaries of Rudy Gay and Patty Mills will keep them from being selected. That exposes Trey Lyles, who has a relatively small guarantee, and young big man Chimezie Metu. The Spurs would like to keep both, but not at the expense of losing a rookie scale player.

Kevin Durant wants to see marijuana taken off the NBA’s banned substances list

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Like some other outdated ideas that had become the law of the land, attitudes and the legality of marijuana use are changing around the nation as younger generations come to power. Currently, 11 states have legalized recreational use, and all but three other states have done some combination of decriminalization and allowing it for medical use.

Sports, always a mirror to society (for both good and bad) is changing as well. Marijuana is no longer a banned substance in Major League Baseball. In the NHL it is technically banned but there are no punishments for use.

However, in the NBA a third positive test can lead to a suspension for five games — Michael Beasley, Nerlens Noel, Thabo Sefolosha, and J.R. Smith have been hit with that in recent years. Current players have estimated that between half and 85 percent of the players in the league use (I’d guess on the higher end of that range).

Kevin Durant thinks its time for the NBA to take pot off the banned substance list, as he said in the — not coincidentally named — “All The Smoke” podcast recently (hat tip to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News for listening to the pod and writing it up).

“We start getting people out of jail for marijuana. That’s the next step,” Durant said. “And just keep going. But it’s a plant that’s put here for a reason, and that’s to bring us together. Hopefully it happens (removing marijuana from the banned substance list), especially in the NBA.”

Durant went on to compare weed to caffeine.

“Everybody on my team drinks coffee every day. Taking caffeine every day. Or guys go out to have wine after games or have a little drink here and there. Marijuana should be in that tone,” Durant said. “Why are we even talking about? It shouldn’t even be a conversation now. So hopefully we can get past that and the stigma around it and know that it does nothing but make people have a good time, make people hungry, bring people together — that plant brings us all together.”

Just for transparency, we should note Durant is an investor in two marijuana businesses.

That doesn’t make him wrong. The NBA legal team would want to note that marijuana is currently a schedule 1 controlled substance in the United States, meaning federal law equates it to heroin or cocaine or LSD. That’s not something likely to change under the current administration. The NBA can just sit back and wait for the federal government and a few states to catch up with everyone else, make pot legal, and make it easy on them going forward.

Which is not what an actually progressive league would do.

A progressive league would follow Durant’s suggestion and take it off the banned substance list.

While today’s NBA players take fewer anti-inflammatories, pain killers, and other prescribed drugs than the players a generation ago, they are still prevalent. Marijuana use is not going to eliminate the need for those drugs, but it could reduce the need. That would need to be studied, but there’s logic to it. And anything that moves players off of those more addictive, more damaging prescribed medications is a good thing.

Durant is on the right track. It just likely will take the league a little while to catch up.