NBA playoffs
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Report: No chance of traditional NBA playoffs this season

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The NBA playoffs have a familiar format – four rounds, best-of-seven series, games in front of fans at home arenas.

But the coronavirus, which has forced the NBA into an indefinite stoppage and disrupted life around the world, makes that untenable. Don’t expect the league to wait until that’s workable, either.

Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated:

At this point, several team and league officials told SI.com, any chance of a traditional postseason is out.

A shortened playoffs in Las Vegas is gaining momentum. It’d allow the NBA, hemorrhaging money, to draw revenue sooner. A reduced postseason would also minimize disruption to future seasons.

But even that comes with major complications, especially containing coronavirus from undermining the entire operation. It could be a long time until its safe to hold games, even in a centralized location without fans.

It could be so long… a traditional playoffs could be back on the table. Though I find that unlikely, I’m still not convince people have a proper understanding of how lengthy this hiatus could be.

Everyone wants to finish the season. The playoffs are the NBA’s most lucrative time, and it feels right to crown a champion.

So, it’s good the focus is on alternative formats. It’d be naïve to expect business as usual when the NBA resumes.

Report: Memphis Grizzlies owner Robert Pera inquired last summer about moving franchise

Memphis Grizzlies owner Robert Pera
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Grizzlies owner Robert Pera has been, at different times, both overbearing and distant in Memphis.

What’s clear: Pera owns the Memphis Grizzlies.

But for how much longer?

Ronald Tillery, who previously covered the Grizzlies for The Commercial Appeal:

It’s not totally clear whether this means moving as in selling or relocating – or both.

A league source quickly reached out to NBC Sports to deny there was any truth to the rumor. Tillery has outspokenly criticized Pera. That doesn’t mean Tillery can’t report accurately on Pera. It’s just worth considering there has been both friction and distance between the sides. This report will reflect poorly on Pera in Memphis.

Previous exploration of selling the team becomes particularly relevant now, as the NBA loses significant revenue due to its coronavirus-forced stoppage. Some owners could see this crisis as a time to get out while they’re so far ahead – especially those who need cash. (That’s less likely to apply to Pera, whose business is wireless communications.)

Memphis is one of the NBA’s smallest markets. So, there has been plenty of speculation about the Grizzlies moving to Seattle or elsewhere. But their arena lease creates complications (it runs through 2027). That said, leases can be broken – especially with nearly a year of negotiation.

Olympics postponement should force USA Basketball to change roster strategy

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USA Basketball named 44 finalists last month for the Tokyo Olympics.

No Zion Williamson. No Ja Morant. Not even Trae Young, who’s already an All-Star starter and on track to get even better.

USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo explained: Though young players would eventually get their turn, the 2020 Olympics would be for players who previously represented the U.S.

Except there will be no 2020 Olympics.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Games have been postponed to 2021. By then, USA Basketball’s plan to build an older roster – already a suspect strategy – will become even less tenable.

The 2019 FIBA World Cup showed the Americans’ vulnerability. They finished seventh – their worst-ever finish in a major tournament. The United States’ advantage is depth of star talent. That has carried Team USA through deficient cohesion and comfort with international rules/style. The 2019 squad lacked the usual star power.

Anything USA Basketball does to lower its talent level – including giving preferential treatment to past-their-peak players based on prior contributions – increases risk of another letdown.

Chris Paul sounded ready for Tokyo. But he’ll turn 35 this spring and would have been one of the oldest players ever on Team USA if competing in an on-time Olympics. LeBron James – who is at least open to another Olympics – is even older than Paul. Several other aging veterans are in the mix.

Already, half the finalists will be in their 30s by the time the Games were originally scheduled to begin.

Though that doesn’t necessarily mean the final roster would have been old, it’s a telling starting point. The average age of the finalists is 28.1.* In 2016, it was 26.4 In 2012, it was 26.8.

*On Feb. 1 of that year

Again, the final roster could have shaken out differently. But imagine this team:

A little backcourt-heavy? Yes. But so is the United States’ top-end talent.  Will Stephen Curry play? His father said yes, though that was before Curry was sidelined even longer than he expected. So, there’s plenty of room to quibble with the selections. But it’s at least a reasonable facsimile of the final roster.

The average age* of that group: 29.5.

That’d be the second-oldest Team USA in the Olympics, shy of only the 1996 squad. It’s even older than the original Dream Team, which – as the first Olympic team to include NBA players – definitely prioritized rewarding career accomplishments.

Here’s the average age* of each Team USA since NBA players began competing in the Olympics:

*Age for Team USA’s first game or, in 2020, first originally scheduled game of the tournament

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see taking that same group to Tokyo in 2021 would make it Team USA’s oldest-ever squad, advancing the average age a full year to 30.5.

Plenty will change in the next year. It’s easy to project growth from players like Trae Young, Zion Williamson and Ja Morant. But whether or not those three in particular meet expectations, other young players will rise. Some of these older players will decline further.

Of course, there will still be room for some veterans in 2021. Chris Paul is flourishing with the Thunder and could continue to play at a high level. LeBron James is so dominant, he has plenty of room to decline while remaining elite.

But USA Basketball should be open-minded about emerging young players. That’s the only way to ensure a maximumly talented roster.

In 2020, it was foolish to pretend it’s 2016 or even 2012.

It’d be even more misguided to do so in 2021.

Former NBA player Jason Collins tests positive for coronavirus

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Jason Collins, a 13-year NBA veteran who has been out of the league for five years, announced he has tested positive for the coronavirus.

He made the announcement himself on Twitter.

Collins is not counted among the 14 cases of COVID-19 tied to the NBA. So far, 10 players have tested positive — four from Brooklyn including Kevin Durant, both Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell from Utah, Marcus Smart from the Celtics, Christian Wood from the Pistons, plus two members of the Los Angeles Lakers — in addition to one member of the basketball operations staff in Denver and three staffers from Philadelphia.

Collins, back in 2014 while he was with the Brooklyn Nets, became the first active NBA player to come out as gay during his career. He currently works extensively with NBA Cares, the league’s charitable arm.

Jason’s twin brother Jaron is an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors but has not shown symptoms nor tested positive for the virus at this point.

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.”