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ESPN moving up Michael Jordan documentary to April

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ESPN threw cold water on hopes its 10-part Michael Jordan documentary on Jordan and the Bulls, originally scheduled for June, would premiere early with the sports world lacking content due to the coronavirus.

Apparently, that was a misdirect.

ESPN release:

Today it was announced that the premiere of “The Last Dance,” the highly anticipated 10-part documentary series will air on ESPN in the U.S. on Sunday nights over five weeks from April 19 through May 17. The series will also be available outside of the U.S. on Netflix.

The series, directed by Jason Hehir (“The Fab Five,” “The ’85 Bears,” “Andre the Giant”), chronicles one of the greatest icons and most successful teams in sports history, Michael Jordan and the 1990s Chicago Bulls, and features never-before-seen footage from the 1997-98 season as the team pursued its sixth NBA championship in eight years.

ESPN statement: “As society navigates this time without live sports, viewers are still looking to the sports world to escape and enjoy a collective experience. We’ve heard the calls from fans asking us to move up the release date for this series, and we’re happy to announce that we’ve been able to accelerate the production schedule to do just that. This project celebrates one of the greatest players and dynasties ever, and we hope it can serve as a unifying entertainment experience to fill the role that sports often play in our lives, telling a story that will captivate everyone, not just sports fans.”

In the fall of 1997, Michael Jordan, Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf and head coach Phil Jackson agreed to let an NBA Entertainment film crew follow the team all season long. The result would be a remarkable portrait of an iconic player and a celebrated team – a portrait only now being revealed, more than two decades later, in “The Last Dance.”

As the series weaves its way through the tumultuous 1997-98 season, viewers will be transported back to how it all began – from Jordan’s childhood roots, the Bulls’ dire circumstances before his arrival and how the team was built after drafting him in 1984, to the struggles that eventually led to the team’s first NBA championship. As the series takes the audience through the Bulls’ first five championships, viewers will experience the off-court challenges, struggles and triumphs that were a part of the culture-shifting phenomenon created by Jordan and the Bulls.

It’s an unlikely scenario that serves as a fascinating backdrop for the inside tale of the 1998 championship run, with extensive profiles of Jordan’s key teammates including Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and Steve Kerr, head coach Phil Jackson, and featuring dozens of current-day interviews with rivals and luminaries from basketball and beyond. All throughout, the tension and conflict that defined that final championship run are very much on display.

“Michael Jordan and the ‘90s Bulls weren’t just sports superstars, they were a global phenomenon,” said director Jason Hehir. “Making ‘The Last Dance’ was an incredible opportunity to explore the extraordinary impact of one man and one team. For nearly three years, we searched far and wide to present the definitive story of an era-defining dynasty and to present these sports heroes as humans. I hope viewers enjoy watching our series as much as we enjoyed the opportunity to make it.”

ESPN

Sunday, April 19

9 p.m. ET – Premiere of “The Last Dance” Episode 1

10 p.m. ET – Premiere of “The Last Dance” Episode 2

Sunday, April 26

7 p.m. ET – Re-air of “The Last Dance” Episode 1

8 p.m. ET – Re-air of “The Last Dance” Episode 2

9 p.m. ET – Premiere of “The Last Dance” Episode 3

10 p.m. ET – Premiere of “The Last Dance” Episode 4

Sunday, May 3

7 p.m. ET – Re-air of “The Last Dance” Episode 3

8 p.m. ET – Re-air of “The Last Dance” Episode 4

9 p.m. ET – Premiere of “The Last Dance” Episode 5

10 p.m. ET – Premiere of “The Last Dance” Episode 6

Sunday, May 10

7 p.m. ET – Re-air of “The Last Dance” Episode 5

8 p.m. ET – Re-air of “The Last Dance” Episode 6

9 p.m. ET – Premiere of “The Last Dance” Episode 7

10 p.m. ET – Premiere of “The Last Dance” Episode 8

Sunday, May 17

7 p.m. ET – Re-air of “The Last Dance” Episode 7

8 p.m. ET – Re-air of “The Last Dance” Episode 8

9 p.m. ET – Premiere of “The Last Dance” Episode 9

10 p.m. ET – Premiere of “The Last Dance” Episode 10

NETFLIX (outside of the U.S.)

Monday, April 20 – 12:01 a.m. PT – “The Last Dance” Episodes 1 and 2

Monday, April 27 – 12:01 a.m. PT – “The Last Dance” Episodes 3 and 4

Monday, May 4 – 12:01 a.m. PT – “The Last Dance” Episodes 5 and 6

Monday, May 11 – 12:01 a.m. PT – “The Last Dance” Episodes 7 and 8

Monday, May 18 – 12:01 a.m. PT – “The Last Dance” Episodes 9 and 10

This is welcome news, but April 19 for the Michael Jordan documentary is still a ways off. The wait is about as long as the NBA has already been on hiatus.

In the meantime, NBC Sports Chicago has a fantastic feature on Michael Jordan’s 1995 comeback.

Thirty years ago today: Michael Jordan scores career-high 69 vs. Cavaliers (VIDEO)

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In his legendary career filled with big games, Michael Jordan never had a night where he scored like this.

Thirty years ago today — March 28, 1990 — Jordan dropped a career-high 69 points on the Cleveland Cavaliers in a Bulls road win.

Jordan’s stat line is insane: 69 points on 23-of-37 shooting, 21-of-23 from free throw line, 18 rebounds, six assists, and four steals. Jordan took over when it mattered most, scoring eight points in overtime.

“I didn’t think about being tired because I wanted to win the game,” Jordan said after playing 50 minutes, via NBA.com, “I’ve been in that situation where I’ve scored a lot of points and we lost, and I didn’t want that to happen.

“So I kept pushing myself, kept talking to myself, saying, ‘Don’t stop, don’t stop. Keep going.’ You feel better about the effort when you win.”

The 1990 Bulls, the first year Phil Jackson was coach, went on to win 55 games and Jordan led the NBA in scoring at 33.6 points per game, but as they had for years the Bulls fell short in the playoffs when they ran into the Bad Boy Pistons. It was a year later when Chicago would start its historic run of titles.

Five years later, on March 28, 1995, Jordan would have his legendary double-nickle 55 point game against the Knicks.

March 28 was a good day for MJ.

 

Ten NBA Games to stream — classic and from this season — during hiatus

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Even binge-watching can get old.

While sheltering in place you started to rewatch Breaking Bad, which led into Better Call Saul. Next, you rewatched the best episodes of The Office. You sat with your loved one and worked through the highlights of the Marvel Comics Universe films again so your significant other would finally fully understand Endgame. You even tried Peaky Blinders.

Now it’s time to bring basketball back into your life.

The NBA may be on hiatus but it has opened up League Pass to everyone for streaming during the break. Our own Dan Feldman has found the best way to access all the content is to go to this schedule, click the box score of your desired game, then “NBA LEAGUE PASS” to the right of the quarterly scores. Then click “Watch” in the upper middle of the next page. The league also has posted sixty-five classic games that you can watch here.

What games should you watch? Here are my 10 suggestions:

CLASSIC GAMES

Chicago at Cleveland
May 7, 1989, a 101-100 Bulls win

Michael Jordan, at his peak, hits “the shot” over Craig Elho in one of the iconic MJ moments. Jordan had 44 points and dominated the game, although Elho had 24 off the bench and the Cavs would not have been in the game without his play. (The Bulls would go on to lose in the Eastern Conference Finals to the Bad Boy Pistons, that happened for a few years in a row.)

Toronto at LA Lakers
Jan. 22, 2006, a 122-104 Lakers win

Kobe Bryant’s 81-point game. What people tend to forget about this game is Kobe had to go off to give these Lakers — who started Smush Parker, Kwame Brown, and Chris Mihm — a chance some nights. The Lakers were sluggish and down 14 at the half, but Kobe took over and won the Lakers the game with one of his iconic performances.

Cleveland at Golden State
June 19, 2016, a 93-89 Cavaliers win

This was the culmination of the 3-1 Cleveland comeback in these NBA Finals, the game where Kyrie Irving hit the game-winning three, Kevin Love played good defense when it mattered, and LeBron James secured his legacy. A lot of the great Warriors Finals games are available to stream, too, but the emotion and epic plays in this game make it an all-time classic.

Oklahoma City at Portland
April 23, 2019, a 118-115 Trail Blazers win

Damian Lillard sparks a 15-point Trail Blazer comeback in the final eight minutes (CJ McCollum had a lot to do with that, too) then ends the Russell Westbrook era in OKC with a shot from the logo as time expires. Then he waves goodbye. It was Lillard’s iconic moment and an intense game worth watching again.

GAMES FROM THIS SEASON

LA Lakers vs. LA Clippers:
Christmas Day, a 111-106 Clippers win
March 8, a 112-103 Lakers win

These are two of the three best teams in the NBA (Milwaukee has its hat in the ring, too), and their meetings have been some of the best games this season. On Christmas Day Kawhi Leonard looked every bit the Finals MVP, getting to his spots and dropping 35, then the Clippers held on late with a defensive stand where Patrick Beverley knocked the ball out of LeBron James’ hands. Then on March 8, LeBron made his MVP case with a masterful game and Anthony Davis stepped up with a huge night. Whatever format the NBA playoffs ultimately take this season, we need these to teams facing off.

LA Clippers at Boston
Feb. 13, 2020, a 141-133 2OT Celtics win

A double-overtime thriller that was maybe the most entertaining game of this season, this was Jayson Tatum‘s breakout game. Tatum went mano a mano with Kawhi Leonard and was the better player that day, scoring 39 points on 14-for-23 shooting.

Philadelphia at Miami
Dec. 28, 2019, a 117-116 OT Heat win

Jimmy Butler — wearing those awesome Miami Vice throwbacks — taking on his former team in the 76ers was one of the season’s classics. Joel Embiid was the best player on the court, scoring 35 and pulling down 11 boards, but a balanced Miami attack with seven players in double figures played too much. Butler himself hit the dagger free throws in OT.

Brooklyn at Memphis
Oct. 27, 2019, a 134-133 Grizzlies win

Ja Morant is going to win Rookie of the Year (Zion didn’t play in enough games, sorry, availability is still the best ability), and this was his breakout game. He scored 17 points in the fourth quarter and then blocked Kyrie Irving’s attempt at a game winner. Morant has been special this season and deserves the ROY trophy.

Portland at New Orleans
Feb. 11, 2020, a 138-117 Pelicans win

Zion Williamson came into the NBA with unreasonable expectations — then exceeded them. He instantly became must-watch television. Check out arguably his best game, a 31 point, nine rebound, five assist performance (in fewer than 28 minutes), as he sparks a dominant third quarter and comeback win for the Pelicans.

Pau Gasol: Retirement is definitely on my mind

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Pau Gasol gave El País, a daily newspaper based in Madrid, Spain, a wide-ranging interview. Gasol touched on his rehab and on how he’s coping with the coronavirus pandemic. In that interview, Gasol said he’s considering retirement from basketball.

Gasol has missed the entirety of the 2019-20 season while recovering from a navicular stress fracture in his left foot. He suffered the injury during the 2018-19 season, which he split with the San Antonio Spurs and Milwaukee Bucks.

After signing with the Portland Trail Blazers in the offseason, Gasol attempted to rehab to get back on the court this season. In November, Portland waived Gasol so that he could focus solely on rehabbing from the injury.

Gasol told El País “With this recovery process and the injury that I have been dealing with for more than a year, it’s undoubtedly inevitable to think about retirement. Also, taking into account that I will be 40 years old in a few months. So, it’s definitely on my mind.”

Gasol’s recovery time was expected to last anywhere from six to 12 months. He passed the 12-month mark in mid-March.

The future Hall of Famer and Spanish legend said for now his focus is on things beyond retirement: “It’s something that will come one time, sooner or later. We hope that time hasn’t come yet. But I also take the opportunity to focus on the Gasol Foundation and other off-court projects. And also think of what my next professional stage may be, my next challenges. All this while I’m still recovering, trying to give myself a chance to keep playing. Now, the priority is to overcome this pandemic among all. Everything else is completely secondary.”

Auburn’s Isaac Okoro, Duke’s Tre Jones declare for NBA draft

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Nobody knows when the NBA Draft will take place, or what the process leading up to it will look like. The NBA is going to make decisions on the things that make it money — the rest of the regular season and the playoffs — before it focuses on the draft.

However, for college players whose season is now over and with no other guidance, the process continues. Players are declaring for the draft, such as potential No. 1 pick Anthony Edwards of Georgia.

Add Auburn’s Isaac Okoro and Duke’s Tre Jones to the list.

Okoro, who has been a fast riser at Auburn, will head to the draft according to coach Bruce Pearl, reports Tom Green of AL.com. He is projected as a top 10 — possibly top-five — pick. He’s a 6’6″ wing with the potential to be an elite defender, plus he improved on the offense where he’s versatile and scored 12.9 points a game while shooting 29 from three. He’s a bit of a project on that end of the court, but everyone in this draft has flaws. In a down year, Okoro could develop into a quality role player and elite defender, and that has genuine value.

Jones is a bubble first-round pick but he is going to go, Coach Mike Krzyzewski told the media this week. Jones is an impressive leader, he’s a pesky defender who has good handles on the offensive end. However, at a position stacked in the NBA he has average size and athleticism.

There will be a lot more players declaring they plan to be in during the next couple of weeks. However, nobody can give them advice on what comes next — not agents, their college coaches, NBA teams or anyone else — because nobody else knows what will happen.