Udonis Haslem

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LeBron James forms organization to help grow, protect black voting rights

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LeBron James wants to grow the number of black voters and protect their rights.

He’s far from alone, which is why Trae Young, Jalen Rose, Draymond Green, and Skylar Diggins-Smith are among those teaming up with LeBron, building on the words and energy of the recent weeks of protests, and turning all that into action.

LeBron and his partners have formed an organization called “More Than A Vote” that will not only register black voters for the November election but also teach them how to counter voter suppression tactics. Plus, LeBron said he will use his social media presence, and the organization, to push back against restrictions on the right to vote (which often target minorities). From The New York Times:

“Yes, we want you to go out and vote, but we’re also going to give you the tutorial,” Mr. James said. “We’re going to give you the background of how to vote and what they’re trying to do, the other side, to stop you from voting.”

LeBron has never been shy about using his celebrity and social media presence to support a cause — or to criticize President Donald Trump. That has been especially true since George Floyd was killed at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.

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What More You Want From US?!?!?! #Equality

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However, forming “More Than A Vote” is taking the next step for LeBron into using his celebrity to build something that can spearhead real change. He is leading a generation of younger athletes willing to take a stand in a way that is reminiscent of legendary black athletes of the 1960s and ’70s but went out of style in the ’80s and until recently.

“I’m inspired by the likes of Muhammad Ali, I’m inspired by the Bill Russells and the Kareem Abdul-Jabbars, the Oscar Robertsons — those guys who stood when the times were even way worse than they are today,” Mr. James said. “Hopefully, someday down the line, people will recognize me not only for the way I approached the game of basketball, but the way I approached life as an African-American man.”

More Than A Vote will work with other voting rights organizations already doing similar work, but it brings some star power to the game. LeBron reached out to comedian Kevin Hart to do some speaking gigs, and included other NBA stars such as  Green and Udonis Haslem in the organization.

Protests spontaneously sprung up nationally in the wake of the Floyd being killed, protests that have evolved but continued for weeks. Out of those has come a national discussion of what’s next to change issues of systemic racism in our country, centered around Black Lives Matter and “defund the police,” among other topics.

LeBron has found his topic, one that can help make a real change in this nation by getting people to vote. It’s a powerful step and symbol — like building a charter school — and it will someday be a huge part of how we remember LeBron. He’s not going to be remembered simply as a basketball player.

Dwyane Wade: Easy for celebrities to say ‘stay home’ in mansions

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It has become a pastime to shame those who leave their houses during the coronavirus pandemic. Celebrities, including NBA players, have urged people to stay home. People have even been encouraged to call the police when spotting others not social distancing.

Dwyane Wade is again showing his thoughtfulness.

Wade, via the NBA’s YouTube:

I haven’t came out and said a lot on it. And I’m just keeping it real, because a lot of people are coming out and saying like, “Stay at home and do this and do that.” And they reach out to a lot of celebrities to do that. And it’s a lot easier for celebrities to say “stay at home” when your home looks the way it looks, and you have everything at your home that you need. And so far and so on.

In a sense for me, I feel like we’re so lucky, we’re so blessed. And everyone isn’t in the same position that the ones that’s out talking on the front line are.

So, it’s been a little hard for me to come out and put those messages out, even though, like I said, we’ve definitely got to play as a team. To beat this, we’ve all got to get on the same page and we’ve definitely got to stay in and make sure we’re taking care of ourselves to help take care of others.

But it’s been hard for me to come out and say, “Hey, stay at home, this and that,” because I’m living in a mansion. You know what I mean? And we have things at our home that a lot of people don’t have.

So, this world that we live in and has never been equal. There’s a lot of communities out there that have never felt what equality really – what people talk about. Right now, we’re trying to make everybody equal. But the world has never been that way.

And so, it’s been hard for me as someone who lives a life of privilege to come out and really say a lot of those things, even though, yes, it needs to be said, it needs to be done, because we definitely need everybody to play together.

Wade’s former Heat teammate, Udonis Haslem, endorsed Wade’s message. Haslem pointed out his letter in The Players Tribune, which criticized spring breakers in Florida, included careful wording (emphasis mine):

If you got a roof over your head and some food in your fridge and you don’t have to go to work to feed your family, just do the easiest thing in the world, man.

F*** your spring break.

Just keep your ass at home.

I’d encourage everyone to socially distance as much as reasonably possible. That will make it better for those who can’t, including healthcare workers and people who can’t wait to earn money.

Nets’ Garrett Temple studying for LSAT during coronavirus hiatus

Nets guard Garrett Temple
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Since going undrafted out of LSU in 2009, Garrett Temple has carved out a decade-long NBA career with the Rockets, Kings, Spurs, Bucks, Bobcats, Wizards, Kings again, Grizzlies, Clippers and now Nets. Just five other active undrafted players – Udonis Haslem, J.J. Barea, Anthony Tolliver, Wesley Matthews and Ish Smith – have played so long in the NBA. It’s impressive perseverance.

But Temple is 33. His playing career won’t last forever.

So, he’s spending the NBA’s coronavirus hiatus preparing for his next step.

YES Network:

Temple:

I’ve actually started practicing for the LSAT prep. I’m a person that’s thought about going to law school when I’m finished playing, and what’s a better time than now to be able to put in three, four hours a day of studying for a test that allows me to get into law school? So, that’s what I’m doing right now.

Honestly, I’ve thought about it over the past three years, probably. My dad kind of put a seed in my head. I was thinking more MBA. I have my undergrad degree in business, so I was thinking more MBA. And my dad was telling me law school is something that’s pretty prestigious, having a law degree and just teaches you to think in a different way. And I’ve always been a pretty big-time debater. I’m very literal. So, when I get into arguments, I’m a type of person that you probably just want to stop arguing with me, because I’m going to nitpick every single thing that you said. And then getting into the space of watching that movie “Just Mercy” and talking to Bryan Stevenson and having a conversation with him and a few other lawyers that I admire, just understanding how much of an impact you can with a law degree in a lot of different ways. You don’t even necessarily have to practice law. But just having that knowledge is something that intrigues me.

How persuasive is Temple? He was a finalist for Teammate of the Year in the same season he got into a locker-room fight with a teammate.

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.

Heat retiring Dwyane Wade’s No. 3 during weekend-long celebration

Dwyane Wade
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MIAMI — Dwyane Wade says that whenever he would hear the national anthem play before Miami home games, he would take a moment and look to the rafters.

“I always imagined my jersey being up there,” Wade said.

He will no longer have to imagine the sight. After this weekend, it’ll be there for good.

Wade will become the fifth Heat player to get his number retired by the team, joining Alonzo Mourning, Tim Hardaway, Shaquille O’Neal and Chris Bosh. A three-day celebration of Wade’s time in Miami starts on Friday, a weekend highlighted by his No. 3 formally going to the rafters on Saturday night when the Heat play host to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Wade spent 16 seasons in the NBA, 14+ of those with the Heat. He was one of two players to be part of all three Heat championship teams – Udonis Haslem, whose No. 40 will almost certainly be retired by the team one day, is the other.

It was never a question of whether Wade’s jersey was going to be retired by the Heat, only a question of when. He’s the franchise’s all-time leader in points, games, assists and steals and is probably going to keep most, if not all, of those records for a very long time. Consider: He scored 21,556 regular-season points with the Heat, and Alonzo Mourning is second with 9.459.

Earlier this season, Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers – like Wade, a Chicago native who went on to play at Marquette – said he believes Wade doesn’t get enough credit for what he did as a player, especially in the NBA Finals.

“He’s been underrated his whole life,” Rivers said. “He didn’t get recruited very highly. Took Marquette to a Final Four. He still didn’t go as high as he should have in the draft and then he took the Miami Heat to NBA championships. That’s just who he is.”

Wade was the 2006 NBA Finals MVP, was selected to 13 All-Star Games in his 16 seasons, was an All-Star MVP in 2010 and won an Olympic gold medal.

“Every time I look up to the rafters and see your (hash)3 hanging there, I’ll think of the impact you had not only on this organization, this city and this league, but on my life,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra wrote in an open letter to Wade that will be part of the team’s game-night giveaway program for fans on Saturday.

The weekend also includes a night of tribute speeches on Friday and a showing of a documentary about Wade on Sunday.