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Increasing buzz teams well out of playoffs will not come to Orlando for games

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The Golden State Warriors have been public about it, they expect their season to be over. Golden State is far from alone, multiple teams well out of the playoff picture have questioned the expense and risk-to-reward ratio of coming back to play a handful of regular season games without fans in Orlando.

More and more, the buzz has been the NBA league office sees things the same way. I am not the only reporter hearing this: Steve Popper of Newsday wrote a column saying there was no reason to invite all 30 teams to the bubble city and the USA Today’s well-connected Jeff Zillgett added this:

This is where we throw in the caveat: There are no hard-and-fast plans from the NBA yet and every option is still being considered. One lesson Adam Silver took from David Stern was not to make a decision until you have to, and Silver is going to absorb more information in the coming weeks — such as from the recent GM survey — before making his call.

That said, the league seems to be coalescing around a general plan, which includes camps starting in mid-June and games in mid-July in Orlando.

For the bottom three to five teams in each conference, there is little motivation to head to Orlando for the bubble. It’s an expense to the owner with no gate revenue coming in, teams want to protect their NBA Draft Lottery status, and the Warriors don’t want to risk injury to Stephen Curry — or the Timberwolves to Karl-Anthony Towns, or the Hawks to Trae Young — for a handful of meaningless games.

The league is considering a play-in tournament for the final seed or seeds in each conference (there are a few format options on the table, it was part of the GM survey). That would bring the top 10 or 12 seeds from each conference to the bubble, depending upon the format, and they would play a handful of games to determine which teams are in the playoffs (and face the top seeds).

Either way, that would leave the three or five teams with the worst records in each conference home. Which is the smart thing to do, there’s no reason to add risk to the bubble for a handful of meaningless games.

The time Dominique Wilkins demanded a ball boy (actually new Clippers teammate) get him socks

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Dominique Wilkins was MAD the Hawks traded him to the Clippers in 1994. Atlanta was one of the NBA’s best teams. The Clippers were among the worst. He called it the “most senseless trade I can imagine.”

Arriving in Los Angeles didn’t help his mood.

Wilkins on the “NBA Inside Stuff ’90s Reunion:”

When I first got traded to the Clippers, I’m pissed off because I got traded. I go in the locker room. I see this kid wearing a pair of Clippers shorts and a long t-shirt. And, again, I’m pissed off. I sit down and say, “Hey, ball boy. Go get me some socks.” He said, “I ain’t no damn ball boy. I play on this team.” I didn’t know.

It was Randy Woods. I never saw the kid play.

This is one of the most disrespectful things I’ve ever heard!

The No. 16 overall pick from La Salle in the 1992 NBA Draft, Woods played sparingly his first season-and-a-half. A single minute was all Wood played against Wilkins’ Hawks before the trade.

Woods didn’t distinguish himself after, either. He lasted just four seasons in the NBA, falling out of the league after a brief stint with the Nuggets.

Somehow, it got even worse for Wilkins with the Clippers that season.

NBA Draft Lottery reportedly to retain same format (whenever it takes place)

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The 2020 NBA Draft Lottery originally was set for this Tuesday (May 19), but like everything else around the NBA (and the nation) it is on indefinite hold. No new date will be set until the NBA determines what it is going to do with the rest of its season.

However, whenever the lottery returns, it will retain the same format as last year, reports Tim MacMahon at ESPN.

Although some will inevitably grumble about the order being determined by an incomplete regular season, the belief among several executives asked about it is that the lottery will remain as it was scheduled to be before the pandemic.

“I wouldn’t expect changes,” said one executive with a lottery team.

This isn’t a surprise, and change would have been discussed with owners long ago.

It’s not ideal to have the lottery without the full 82 games (and it’s highly unlikely we will see a complete season, at best we likely see a handful more regular season games played). But, in this coronavirus shortened season, nothing is going to be as we hoped.

Besides, with the flattened out lottery odds (started last season), getting a little worse or a little better isn’t going to change a team’s chances in the draw dramatically.

When play was suspended, Golden State, Cleveland, and Minnesota had the three worst records and each would have a 14% shot at the No. 1 pick. That would be followed by Atlanta (12.5%) and Detroit (10.5%).

The 2020 NBA Draft Combine also is postponed, but the NBA still hopes to conduct that, possibly virtually. The NCAA has pushed back the date that players need to decide if they are in or out of the draft to maintain their college eligibility, with that date now in flux like everything else.

For now, the 2020 NBA Draft Lottery date remains up in the air. Adam Silver and his team at the league office have a decision tree and countless scenarios mapped out, depending upon the virus and how states where the league hopes to have “bubbles” for games are doing in the fight against COVID-19. When a decision on the season is made, the lottery and everything else will fall into place.

Until then, we wait.

John Collins says he wants to stay with Hawks, earned max contract extension

Hawks big John Collins
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When Atlanta traded for Clint Capela, speculation quickly started around the league that the Hawks would move on from John Collins — they just got a new, better pick-and-roll partner for Trae Young. Reports have surfaced that teams have called Atlanta, testing the waters on a Collins trade.

Collins doesn’t want to go anywhere. Collins is eligible for a contract extension this offseason (whenever that is) and told Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he wants to stay, and thinks he has earned a max extension.

“When we’re talking max numbers and money, I feel like I definitely (am in) the conversation to have earned that money with the Hawks specifically, but obviously I know there’s business and we don’t always get exactly what we want,” Collins said. “But I want to be a Hawk, I want to stay with the Hawks.”

“I feel like we’ve both invested ourselves in each other… I feel like we both want to see our investments in each other pay off. In that sense, I just want to know where I am. I want to know I’m locked in as soon as I can rather than having to wait, which I know happens, but when you do wait, a lot of other stuff mentally creeps in during the season while I’m tired, while I’m playing, ups and downs, injuries, but that’s also a part of just being a pro athlete.”

With a condensed offseason and a shrinking salary cap in the wake of the coronavirus shutdown, this may not be the offseason to push for an extension. Right now, the Hawks aren’t likely to be handing out an extension, certainly not a max anyway, not with questions about the fit of Collins and Capela next to each other.

Collins — who missed 25 games this season with a PED suspension — averaged 21.6 points and 10.1 rebounds a game, he shot 40.1% from three (on 3.6 attempts a game) and had impressive advanced stat numbers. He’s springy, and while he can block shots he’s not a plus defender or rim protector. He’s not as good as Capela on that end. Collins also is not as experience a roll man as Capela (who set picks for James Harden in Houston for several seasons).

Collins thinks he can play the four next to Capela at the five. A lot of others around the league believe their skills overlap too much, that the Hawks are going to move on from Collins before they have to pay him. The ball is in Atlanta’s hands.

But Collins wants to stay in Atlanta.

Kevin Durant and beyond, Prince George’s County’s basketball shines

Prince George's County
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The DeMatha Catholic High School basketball program has been renowned for decades. Longtime coach Morgan Wootten won so much, he made the Basketball Hall of Fame. His most famous victory came in 1965, when DeMatha snapped the 71-game winning streak of Lew Alcindor and Power Memorial (N.Y). DeMatha has produced several NBA players, including Adrian Dantley and Danny Ferry.

Victor Oladipo grew up near DeMatha, attending elementary school just down the street.

Yet, he never even heard of DeMatha until eighth grade.

“Growing up, I was a little anti-social,” Oladipo said. “My parents didn’t really let me go anywhere, go out, hang out with friends. That’s not really our forte. That wasn’t really our speed.”

After attending a DeMatha game with someone, Oladipo was intrigued. He researched the school, became impressed with its pedigree and wanted to enroll. He went to the office to get a registration form and bumped into current DeMatha coach Mike Jones. Jones asked whether Oladipo was signing up for summer league.

“What’s summer league?” Oladipo replied.

Oladipo learned quickly about the basketball scene in Prince George’s County, Md. – the elite talent, year-round infrastructure and deep passion. For anyone else unfamiliar with PG, a new documentary (“Basketball County: In The Water,” 9 p.m. Eastern on Friday, Showtime) showcases the county’s rich basketball legacy.

PG boasts eight current NBA players:

With a population of about 900,000, Prince George’s County sits just east of Washington D.C. PG is one of America’s wealthiest majority-black areas. Though the wealth tends to be concentrated outside the Beltway (a highway that encircles D.C. and cuts through Prince’s George’s), there’s plenty of socioeconomic diversity throughout the county.

A common link: Basketball.

The documentary explores several key reasons basketball thrives in PG – including a population shift from D.C. (which took to basketball from the early days of the sport), a robust parks-and-rec system and a strong network of support.

Writing for ESPN in 2008, Chris Palmer described PG as a place where “a new status symbol has gained traction: a son who is a big-time prospect.” Beyond parents, there are legions of coaches willing to help (and share in the glory).

Curtis Malone stood out.

Curtis Malone
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Co-founder of D.C. Assault, Malone built one of the nation’s strongest AAU programs. He helped numerous players, guiding some through rough childhoods, many to college and even some to the NBA. He was also a drug kingpin. His complicated tale is the most fascinating section of the documentary.

“Y’all can say whatever the f— y’all want about him. Y’all can talk dirt,” former Assault and NBA player Michael Beasley said in the documentary. “He always had the kids first, man. He always put the kids first. He always fed the kids before he ate.”

Not mentioned in the documentary: Beasley’s since-dropped 2011 lawsuit against Malone, alleging an agent bribed Malone to persuade Beasley to hire that agent.

The documentary has an issue similar to that of “The Last Dance,” ESPN’s 10-part series on Michael Jordan and the Bulls. The subjects hold creative control. Durant, Oladipo and Cook are executive producers.

The documentary also curiously includes Steve Francis, who sometimes trained in Prince George’s but can more accurately claimed by bordering Montgomery County. There’s no need to exaggerate PG’s legitimately extraordinary basketball output. The county’s NBA ranks were even stronger just a few years ago, before Beasley, Ty Lawson, Thomas Robinson, Dante Cunningham, Roy Hibbert and Chinanu Onuaku fell out of the league.

But, overall, the documentary presents a highly enjoyable look into a hoops hotbed that rivals any in the country.

In many ways, that’s thanks to Durant.

Kevin Durant
Showtime

Durant’s Thirty Five Ventures is behind the film directed by John Beckham and Jimmy Jenkins. More importantly, Durant carries the superstar draw that boosts a project like this.

Durant fulfilled his promise unlike else from PG. Many thought that’d be Len Bias, who tragically died of a cocaine overdose two days after the Celtics drafted him No. 2 in 1986. Other highly talented players like DerMarr Johnson and Beasley never optimized their potential for varying reasons.

But Durant became an NBA MVP behind a uniquely PG upbringing.

According to his business partner, Rich Kleiman (another “Basketball County” executive producer), Durant likes to tell a story. Durant would play all day in his local rec center. When the court was cleared to host bingo for senior citizens at night, Durant hid behind a curtain. After bingo, Durant emerged to shoot even more.

Durant wasn’t alone in his dedication. Many PG County kids grow up dreaming of playing at DeMatha or another area private-school power. That instills focus and determination from a young age. Well-organized teams and leagues offer opportunities for passionate players to advance.

“Basketball is, in our area, a way for us to separate ourselves,” Oladipo said. “People from our area, we’re very confident. We believe in ourselves.

“We believe in the game of basketball.”