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Giannis Antetokounmpo doesn’t have home court, players forced to workout with what they have

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MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo is spending much of his time during the coronavirus-imposed hiatus working out, helping care for his newborn son and playing occasional video games.

What the reigning MVP isn’t doing very often is shooting baskets since the NBA has closed team practice facilities.

“I don’t have access to a hoop,” the Milwaukee Bucks forward said Friday during a conference call. “A lot of NBA players might have a court in their house or something, I don’t know, but now I just get my home workouts, (go) on the bike, treadmill, lift weights, stay sharp that way.”

The hiatus is forcing thousands of athletes, pro and otherwise, to work out from home as they try to keep in shape. Equipment varies from player to player, too.

“It all comes down to what they have and what they’re capable of doing,” Atlanta Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said. “We can do a lot of body weight stuff. That’s how they stay ready. That’s the most I can offer as a coach for them to stay ready. I can’t say ‘Hey, can you find access to a gym?’ That would be bad management on my part.”

For instance, Pierce said Hawks guard Kevin Huerter has access to a gym in New York and guard Jeff Teague owns a gym in Indiana.

Other players face different situations.

“I’ve seen LeBron’s Instagram,” Pierce said of Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James. “LeBron has a house with a full weight room and he has an outdoor court. He’s got a different reality right now that gives him a little more access to continue the normal. (Hawks rookie) Cam Reddish lives in an apartment and it’s probably a two-bedroom apartment. He can’t go in the apartment weight room because it’s a public facility. So he’s limited in all things.”

Bucks coach Mike Budenhlolzer said he wanted his players to focus on keeping their bodies in shape and conceded that logistics surrounding the pandemic would make it tougher for them to do any basketball-specific activities.

The Bucks are still finding ways to stay sharp.

Bucks players said team officials have made sure they all have the necessary exercise equipment. Antetokounmpo noted the Bucks also had a catering company bring food to make sure they maintain a proper diet. Center Brook Lopez said workout plans have been sent to them via a phone app.

“They’ve done a really good job of getting everything taken care of and still having tailored workouts for each individual player despite the situation,” Lopez said.

But it’s difficult for them to work on their shooting without access to a court.

“Since the practice facility is closed down, I don’t have any access to a basketball goal unless I go to one of my neighbors’ houses and shoot outside,” Bucks forward Khris Middleton said. “There’s really no basketball for me. It’s basically like Giannis said. Treadmill, jump rope, some weights and that’s it. I have a couple of basketballs I can dribble in my house or outside, but no actual goal to shoot on.”

Pierce noted that Huerter recently asked him when players would be able to get back into the Hawks’ practice facility.

“I told him, ‘I’ll tell you when we won’t,” Pierce said. “We won’t in April.”

Rumor: If there aren’t big changes to Chicago’s plan, Lauri Markkanen ready to move on

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NBC Sports Chicago recently reached out to members of the media — myself included — as well as doing a fan poll asking a simple question: Which young Bull has the highest upside?

My answer fell in with the majority (of both media and fans) in picking Coby White, but it was difficult not to select Lauri Markkanen. Seven-footers who move well and can shoot the three like Markkanen are incredibly valuable and hard to find, but this past season he often seemed a combination of lost and passive in Jim Boylen’s offense. Markkanen has regressed under Boylen.

Markkanen apparently felt the same way. If there are not significant changes and a better use of his skills, Markkanen would be happier somewhere else, reports Joe Cowley at the Chicago Sun-Times.

Make no mistake about it, third-year big man Lauri Markkanen was one unhappy camper before the coronavirus put the NBA on hiatus. Unhappy enough that if the direction of the organization was going to stay unchanged, he’d rather be elsewhere.

Change is coming to the windy city, the question is will that be enough change, or at least enough to find a better way to use Markkanen? Chicago just started its search for a new person to head up their basketball operations, with several deserving executives expected to be interviewed. The questions become: Will the person hired have the power to make real changes to the Bulls culture? Is Boylen safe or will there be a new coach? Change is coming to Chicago, but how much change?

The Bulls still control Markkanen’s rights. This was Markkanen’s third season with the Bulls, he is technically eligible for a contract extension this summer but that seems unlikely. More likely is he plays one more year with the Bulls before going to restricted free agency. Or, the new head of basketball operations thinks he can trade Markkanen and get back players that fit whatever style the team is going to play.

There are more questions than answers about what is next in Chicago, including if Markkanen will be part of that future.

ESPN plans televised H-O-R-S-E competition between isolated NBA players

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Friday night started ESPN’s broadcast of an NBA 2K tournament between NBA players. The network also has bumped up the release date of its much-anticipated Michael Jordan documentary.

Next up on its quest to find content in a locked-down sports world:

A televised H-O-R-S-E competition, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Discussions have been ongoing among the NBA, NBPA and ESPN about a competition among several players in isolation — presumably using home gyms — that would include them competing shot for shot in the traditional playground game, sources said.

Details — including a schedule and specific player involvement — are still being finalized.

What else have we got to do, re-watch Tiger King? Let’s make this happen, people.

There have been some rumblings about trying to spice up All-Star Saturday night with a H-O-R-S-E competition to go with the Dunk Contest and the rest, but it has not become a reality. With no other sports programming to put on its multiple channels, this seems like a good gamble by ESPN.


Adam Silver reportedly tells President Trump he hopes NBA can lead way back

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While pessimism may be growing that it will ever happen, there is still a strong desire in the NBA league office to find a way to play and finish off the season, crowning a champion.

Which is essentially what NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told President Donald Trump in a conference call Saturday, according to a report from Adrian Wojnarowski. The call included the heads of nearly every major sport in the United States, with the big takeaway being Trump wanting the NFL to start on time this fall, reports ESPN.

Silver said he’d love for the NBA to be the first back once it’s safe to do so.

When the NBA comes back and whether it is is to finish off this season or just start the next one remains up in the air, with the biggest factors in that decision beyond the league’s control. It’s the same with if it will be safe to have stadiums full of people to watch football games come August and September. As Dr. Anthony Fauci puts it, the virus sets the timeline, not us.

The NBA is not making a decision now on what comes next and when, nor does it have to. Where the nation will be come June and July in terms of containing the virus, treatments,  and more remain unknown. Silver doesn’t have to make a decision yet, but he also doesn’t have one to make — until we as a nation get the upper hand on the coronavirus, the shutdown of professional sports will continue.

No matter how much anyone wants it to return.

Frustrated Kevin Durant bounced in first round of NBA 2K players tournament

Nets star Kevin Durant
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It was one of the strategy questions coming into the NBA 2K players tournament broadcast on ESPN Friday night: When would players use the big-gun teams? The rules of the competition had players designate eight teams they might play as, but they could only use each team once. Teams such as the Bucks and Lakers are high value, but use them early to advance and it becomes hard to win it all.

Derrick Jones Jr. went to the big guns and played the Bucks in the first round against Kevin Durant, who picked the Clippers. Durant has complained in the past on Twitter that the transition defense in NBA 2K20 is terrible, and Jones showed exactly why on his way to an upset win.

Durant’s Clippers could not stop Giannis Antetokounmpo in transition. Although to be fair, the actual NBA has that same problem.

Durant’s other problem may simply have been he’s old at age 31, born in 1988.

What may have been most interesting through the night was the side banter between the players. For example, when Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton said he’s been lifting during the NBA’s coronavirus-forced suspension, the Bull’s Zach LaVine said he didn’t need to get any bigger. Durant said it had been a while since he touched a ball and Jones said he was shooting onto his roof to keep his shooting touch as best he can.

On the virtual court, Trae Young used the Bucks to thrash Kings forward Harrison Barnes 101-59, Ayton, using the Rockets, topped LaVine (Heat) 57-41, and Patrick Beverley (Bucks) beat Hassan Whiteside (Lakers) 84-54.

The first round of the tournament continues Sunday on ESPN2.