Category Archives: NBA

UCLA Chris Smith enter NBA draft

UCLA junior Chris Smith is entering the 2020 NBA draft, he told ESPN on Tuesday.

“I’m 100% committed to the process and am excited to see what the future holds,” Smith stated.

Smith, the No. 72 prospect in the ESPN Top 100, is coming off a breakout season, earning Pac-12 Most Improved Player and All-Pac-12 first-team honors.

The 6-foot-9 forward averaged 13.1 points and 5.4 rebounds per match for the Bruins, helping his team recover from a poor start to finish the campaign 12-6 in the Pac-12. UCLA was the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament prior to it being canceled.

Smith enrolled at UCLA as a 17-year-old and is the youngest junior in the ESPN 100; he is younger than most sophomores and even some freshman projected to be drafted, having only turned 20 in late December.

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He is intriguing to NBA teams not only due to his age, but also his versatility.

He has perimeter skill, making 35% of his 3-pointers this campaign and 85% of his free throws. Defensively, he was regularly tasked with defending opposing guards, doing a better job of buying into using his tools more regularly as the season moved on under Mick Cronin, one of the reasons UCLA won nine of its last 11 games.

The NBA draft is programmed for June 25, but following worldwide suspensions of basketball activities during the coronavirus pandemic, NBA front-office executives and others in the industry told ESPN they are bracing for the potential impact of a delayed 2020 draft with a heavily reduced pre-draft process.

A player like Smith would be highly sought for private workouts and interviews, as teams would surely like to get a better handle on the likelihood of him reaching his untapped potential.

The NBA informed teams on Monday that organizations are prohibited from conducting in-person workouts or interviews with draft-eligible players until further notice.

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Utah Jazz undergo layoffs amid coronavirus pandemic

The first organization in the NBA has formally made layoffs amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A small percentage” of the Utah Jazz workforce — as part of larger overall layoffs within the Larry H. Miller Group — lost their jobs on Friday, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The layoffs, per the report, were limited to non-basketball staff members, though it’s unclear how many lost their jobs. Some employees will also start taking pay reductions.

“Due to the impact on our customer-facing businesses from this unprecedented pandemic, the [Miller Group] …. unfortunately had to make difficult decisions to reduce a small percentage of our workforce,” the organization said in a statement, via Andy Larsen of the Salt Lake Tribune. “Over the past several weeks, we have worked to manage and reduce costs, including executive compensation, and have reached a point where we have had to say farewell to a limited number of our valued employees.

“We have connected with our associates with outplacement services and aligned them with employers who have immediate hiring needs. We remain focused on helping our communities stay healthy.”

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The NBA suspended operations on March 11, just moments after Jazz veteran Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus.

Several others across the league have since tested positive, including Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant, Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart, Knicks owner James Dolan and others. There is still no plan in place for a return this campaign, though plenty of ideas have been floated should the league be able to return at all.

Many teams have created plans and funds to help displaced arena and staff workers amid the league hiatus in recent weeks, led by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who announced he was setting up a plan the same night the league shut down. 

The Philadelphia 76ers briefly announced that it was planning to reduce employee salaries, however quickly shut that down after immense public backlash. 

The Jazz are the first organization to officially introduce layoffs, however several others are looking into that option, according to ESPN.

The NBA reportedly asked players to take a 50 percent pay cut starting on April 15 on Friday, though the NBPA countered with a 25 percent pay cut starting in mid-May.

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Nets now free from coronavirus symptoms after testing positive

Fifteen days after the Brooklyn Nets announced that four players had tested positive for COVID-19, general manager Sean Marks stated that Brooklyn’s roster is free from coronavirus symptoms.

Speaking to reporters during a conference call on Wednesday morning, Marks said that the Nets’ traveling party has completed a two-week quarantine and will continue to adhere to the government issued social distancing guidelines.

“As it pertains to the team,” Marks said, “I sense like all of us, like the rest of New York and really the rest of the globe, we’re trying to deal with this as best we can.”

The symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, cough, chills and extreme exhaustion.

Many people who have coronavirus do not have any symptoms at all. Three of the four Nets players to test positive were asymptomatic. Still, Marks said as of right now there is no plan for players to be retested.

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Marks said that he only foresees players being retested if it is something the government or NBA requires in order to return to playing.

The NBA campaign has been on pause since March 11 and since then, more than a dozen players and at least one team owner, the Knicks’ James Dolan, have tested positive for coronavirus. During the three week hiatus, many teams have distributed workout equipment to their players’ homes in order to keep them in shape. For the Nets, that has also meant that their injured players have had more time to heal.

Nets star Kyrie Irving had shoulder surgery in February and was expected to be out for the remainder of the 2019-20 season. Kevin Durant, who sustained an Achilles injury in the 2019 NBA Finals, had been ruled out for the entire campaign.

Marks did not definitively say how the extended postponement of the season could affect whether Durant — who tested positive for coronavirus — or Irving returns to the court this season. Marks stated that while both players are continuing their rehabilitation, the process could be slowed due to the practice facility being closed.

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Stephon Marbury trying to get masks from China for New York

Former NBA star Stephon Marbury is using his connections in China to seek to supply New York hospitals with 10 million N95 masks at a discount, according to Rich Calder of the New York Post.

Thanks to Marbury, the mask supplier in China will sell the state masks “at cost” for $2.75 each to help supply medical workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo had said suppliers were trying to sell masks for $7.50 each amid the current crisis, according to Bob Ivry and Brandon Kochkodin of Bloomberg.

After learning of the shortage within New York City, Marbury reached out to Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams while helping broker the deal with the new supplier.

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“At the end of the day, I am from Brooklyn,” he stated. “This is something that is close and dear to my heart as far as being able to help New York. I have family there in Coney Island, a lot of family … who are affected by this, so I know how important it is for people to have masks during this time.”

Julia Arredondo, spokeswoman for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, confirmed that Adams reached out to City Hall about the masks supplier, per the Post. 

But they have yet to iron out details, which means no purchases have been made. 

New York has been hit notably hard by COVID-19, with over 52,000 cases as of Sunday, per CNN.com. There are more than 120,000 cases nationwide.

Marbury was able to see the damage from the global pandemic even earlier from his home in Beijing, where he has been a coach in the China Basketball Association. He was a player in the CBA from 2010 to ’18 after a 13-year career in the NBA.

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NBA to pay players full salaries due April 1

The NBA and its players are in a very difficult financial situation. With matches suspended amid the coronavirus outbreak, teams have no revenue incoming.

Players have guaranteed contracts, though, so the two sides have to sort out how to approach this crisis in a manner satisfactory to all involved. While no long-term plan has been made, the NBA took a short-term step to appease the players on Friday.

Teams will pay players their next scheduled check on April 1, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. 

Typical NBA contracts spell out payments on the first and 15th of every month during the season, though different pay schedules can be spelled out within individual contracts.

That means that, for the most part, the league’s next payday after April 1 would have come on April 15.

The league will give teams “additional guidance” on that payday in the near future.

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While short-term solutions are necessary, the league has a bigger long-term problem to solve if it hopes to settle its finances. As it presently sits, the owners stand to take the brunt of the fall for lost games.

While salaries are guaranteed in advance through contracts, the cap is based on projected revenue. The league didn’t build coronavirus into its plans, so players had been set to be paid as if this was a normal season. 

The league has tools it can use to force a compromise. All player contracts have force majeure clauses that allow teams to withhold 1/92.6th of their salary for every canceled game, and 10 percent of player salaries are held in escrow in case players wind up earning more in a given season than the CBA allows. That means that, in all likelihood, the players and the league will work together to find a compromise that splits the burden of these lost matches evenly among both sides.

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Two Lakers’ players test positive on Coronavirus

Two Los Angeles Lakers players tested positive for the coronavirus, the team has affirmed. 

The names of the players were not made public and they are in midst of a 14-day self-quarantine. 

The tests were taken by the Lakers on Wednesday and were administered entirely within the players’ cars, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN. The Lakers took the tests after superstar Kevin Durant and three other members of the Brooklyn Nets tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday. 

The Lakers were the last team to play the Nets before the campaign was indefinitely suspended, as Brooklyn bested Los Angeles 104-102 last Tuesday night.

The list of NBA members to test positive for the virus continues to grow. As of Thursday, there have been 14 confirmed or reported cases spanning seven different teams.

According to NBA commissioner Adam Silver, eight of the league’s 30 teams have undergone team-wide testing. The teams that are openly known are the Jazz, Thunder, Raptors, Nets, Lakers and Sixers. The Raptors came back with negative test results.

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While some have been frustrated with the ease with which NBA teams seem to be acquiring the tests considering its lack of widespread availability, NBA spokesman Mike Bass made the argument to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne that testing players across the league’s landscape is essential. 

NBA team facilities will reportedly be closed to players and team staff beginning on Friday in order to try to curb the outbreak of the virus.

During this time, players are able to travel outside of the city where they play, but they must stay in the country. Despite this, Silver stays optimistic that the season can still be salvaged, to an extent. 

While a return to basketball this season would be great, it’s obviously secondary to the health and safety of the teams, players and fans.

The NBA will certainly explore all feasible avenues when it comes to getting back on the floor, but the situation is fluid, and something that the league can’t control. Like everyone else, they just have to hope that the virus can be curbed in a timely manner.

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Kevin Durant among four Nets players to test positive for covid-19

Kevin Durant, the DMV’s contemporary basketball legend, tested positive for the COVID-19 virus after coming back from a trip to San Francisco with his new team the Brooklyn Nets.  Durant, who remains sidelined after rupturing his achilles tendon in the 2019 NBA Finals while playing for the Golden State Warriors, was one of four Nets players who reportedly have contracted the virus.

“Everyone be careful, take care of yourself and quarantine,” the Prince George’s County native said to the sports website The Athletic. He said that he is feeling fine and not showing any symptoms. “We’re going to get through this.”

According to various reports, Brooklyn hired an outside firm to handle its testing, but the organization hasn’t released the names of the players. However, the Nets said in a statement on Tuesday that only one of the four players showed symptoms of the virus. but they are being kept isolated while receiving medical attention from team physicians. 

Four players represent one third of the team’s roster who have been infected.

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“All players and members of the Nets travel party are being asked to remain isolated, closely monitor their health and maintain constant communication with team medical staff,” the Nets said in a statement.

“The health of our players and staff is of the highest priority to the organization and the team is doing everything within its power to ensure that those affected receive the best care possible.”

Durant, 31, signed a four-year deal that could pay him $164 million in Brooklyn after spending the last three years with the Warriors. While playing in the Bay Area he led Golden State to straight championships and they seemed poised for a third until he was lost for good in game six of the 2019 championship series.

The 10-time NBA all star led them on two title runs and was named NBA Finals MVP twice. He hasn’t played this campaign while rehabilitating an Achilles tendon injury suffered during their loss to the Toronto Raptors.

The final team the Nets faced before the season was forced into its hiatus were the Los Angeles Lakers ,who have been tested Wednesday. Lakers officials announced via Twitter after testing the team will be imposing a 14-day self quarantine.

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Bikerstaff get multi year deal to coach Cavaliers

An encouraging 10-game start to his tenure with the Cleveland Cavaliers has formally landed head coach J.B. Bickerstaff a contract extension. 

The Athletic’s Kelsey Russo was the first to report that Bickerstaff and the Cavs had agreed to a multiyear deal. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported the deal is for four years and will run through the 2023-24 campaign. 

The 41-year-old started this season with the Cavaliers as an associate head coach on John Beilein’s staff. He spent the previous two years as head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies but was fired after a 33-49 record in 2018-19. 

When Beilein resigned as Cleveland’s head coach on Feb. 19, the team promoted Bickerstaff to take over on a full-time basis. 

“We are very fortunate to have someone of J.B.’s caliber and basketball pedigree lead our franchise as head coach,” Altman said in a statement released by the team. “His wealth of experience, coupled with the respect he has garnered around the NBA and with this team, has made for a seamless transition from associate head coach to head coach.

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The Athletic’s Shams Charania, Jason Lloyd and Joe Vardon reported after Beilein’s resignation that Cavs players “began tuning Beilein out” during training camp and he had “shown no consistency in relating to players or in building lasting relationships with them.”

One unnamed Cavaliers player told Cleveland.com’s Chris Fedor the change has been “night and day” going from Beilein to Bickerstaff: “[Beilein] didn’t know how to talk to people. He couldn’t communicate.”

After going 14-40 under Beilein, the Cavaliers have been a respectable 5-5 in 10 matches with Bickerstaff at the helm.

Bickerstaff previously coached in Houston and Memphis before coming to Cleveland. He led the Rockets to the playoffs in 2015-16.

Second-year guard Collin Sexton, a core piece of the rebuild, has been one of the driving forces behind the surge, averaging 25.4 points over the last 10 matches, which ranks 14th in the NBA. Only LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid are averaging more points per match with a higher field goal percentage. Sexton is also averaging 4.1 assists and 10.1 potential assists under Bickerstaff.

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Kings send Warriors to 7th straight home loss

The Sacramento Kings came out of the All-Star break knowing they had little margin for error if they wanted to make a playoff push.

Three straight victories to begin the stretch run has them creeping back into contention.

Harrison Barnes and De’Aaron Fox each scored 21 points and the Kings defeated the Golden State Warriors 112-94 on Tuesday night for their ninth victory in the past 13 games.

”It’s a big goal,” coach Luke Walton said about making the playoffs. ”But the way you achieve a big goal is by focusing on the present and what we’re working on, and showing up and playing a certain style every night. If we do that, we’ll give ourselves a better chance to achieve the big goal at the end of the day.”

The Kings still have plenty of work to do to reach that level, as they still trail Memphis by four games in the race for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

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But after losing 15 of 18 games during a stretch in December and January, even having a shot at it is an achievement.

”I think we’re playing well on both sides of the ball,” Fox said. ”Things have been going good for us. We’ve been able to get stops when we needed them. … We’re playing our best basketball of the season.”

Buddy Hield made five 3-pointers in the fourth quarter on the way to a 19-point night and Bogdan Bogdanovic had 17 to give the Kings their third straight win.

Marquese Chriss scored 21 points and Andrew Wiggins added 16 for Golden State.

The Warriors have lost seven consecutive overall and seven in a row at home for the first time since dropping the final seven home games in the 2000-01 season.

The Kings raced out to an early lead behind 14 points in the first quarter from Barnes and never trailed on the way to their third win in as many meetings this season with the Warriors.

This is the longest winning streak in the Northern California series for Sacramento since winning 15 in a row from 2000-03.

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Kyrie Irving to have season-ending shoulder surgery

Kyrie Irving tried to keep playing through pain, a cortisone shot no longer providing enough relief.

Eventually, he and the Brooklyn Nets decided it’s best to get his right shoulder taken care of now and get healthy for next season — when Irving and Kevin Durant can lastly play together.

Irving will have arthroscopic surgery and miss the rest of the campaign, Nets general manager Sean Marks said Thursday.

“Kyrie mentioned he was playing through pain and you have to give him a lot of credit for that.

He wants to be out there and playing with his guys,” Marks said. “But there comes a point where you say enough is enough and again, it goes to long-term health. And the best thing that (we) could do is to shut it down and get this taken care of once and for all.”

Coach Kenny Atkinson said the point guard was still having trouble with the shoulder that started troubling him in October and sidelined him for 26 matches earlier this season.

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“Some days it was OK and other days it bothered him,” Atkinson said before the Nets faced the Philadelphia 76ers. “Obviously, it is difficult to perform under those circumstances.”

Irving said pain in the shoulder initially worsened after a game on Nov. 4. The Nets then went on a five-game road trip, where Irving continued to play until the pain got so bad he was having trouble lifting his shoulder.

He got a cortisone shot on Dec. 24 and was able to return on Jan. 12, but he acknowledged that surgery might still be necessary. Irving met with a specialist this week and by deciding to have a procedure now, his first season in Brooklyn ends after just 20 games.

Irving averaged 27.4 points, with a 50-point game on opening night and a 54-point performance versus Chicago on Jan. 31. He played only one more game after that.

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