Morning Coffee

Morning Coffee – Tue, Mar 24

If Cuban said so, it must be.

Coronavirus: Mark Cuban sets over-under date for NBA return at June 1, but expects games to resume before then – CBSSports.com

Mark Cuban not only expects the season to pick back up, but has a far more aggressive timeline for that to happen than most others around the NBA. While Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported that mid-to-late June was viewed as the best-case scenario around the league, Cuban beat that figure by a full month in an interview with WFAA in Dallas. 

“Hopefully by the middle of May, we’re starting to get back to normal and the NBA is playing games,” Cuban said. “Maybe not with fans, but we’re playing it because sports plays such an important role. You know, people want something to cheer for, people want something to rally around, people want something to be excited about.”

So what would it take to make that happen? In an ideal world, there would be a vaccine, but most experts say that could possibly be 12-18 months away. If there were a form of palliative treatment, though, Cuban thinks that could help get the NBA started again. 

“Really, one thing we’ve got to get to a point where our scientists have come up with, not a cure, but a therapy that we know minimizes the impact of the virus,” Cuban said, “so that if we get this into a person quickly enough that they are not going to die and be hopefully they won’t be scarred or damaged for life. 

“Once we do that, then we have a path out. And I think we’re not there yet, but we’re getting closer and closer. Once we have a medical light at the end of the tunnel, where we know what the worst case is, then we can start venturing outside and being in groups of 10 and instead of being by ourselves right and then groups of 25 and then 50 and go from there. So I think that that’s the first step. And I think that’s gonna happen a little bit faster than we originally expected.”

If the world has successfully managed the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic well enough to resume basketball games in two months, measures taken by both governments and the private sector will have to be viewed as a major success. There just isn’t any way of knowing how possible that will be at this point. 

Hopefully the social distancing measures being put in place by more and more cities and states will slow the virus down enough for the sort of treatment Cuban is describing to be found. However, there is no set timeline for that sort of research, nor can we say for certain that the steps we are taking now will be enough to stop the spread. Hopefully, Cuban’s prediction comes to pass, but for now, it’s just far too early to tell if it will be possible at all, let alone so early. 

Owners of 76ers, Devils notify salaried staff of pay cuts, 4-day week

“As we navigate this evolving COVID-19 environment, we are mindful of the long-term impact the suspension of live events and games will have on our organization and industry,” said Scott O’Neil, CEO of Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, in a statement sent to the employees. “To ensure we can continue to support and operate our businesses during these uncertain times without reducing our workforce, we are asking our full-time, salaried employees to temporarily reduce their pay by up to 20 percent and move to a four-day week.”

The pay cuts will begin as soon as next month and will affect full-time employees who make $50,000 or more and will go as high as 20% for those making $70,000 or more, sources told ESPN. The teams are expected to ask contracted front-office employees to take similar cuts, sources said.

News of the pay cuts for the Josh Harris-owned group was first reported by The New York Times.

“In addition to supporting our people, we are committed to playing an ongoing role in funding efforts to help the most impacted residents in our home cities,” O’Neil said in the statement. “In the coming days, we will enter into additional partnerships in Philadelphia, Camden and Newark to assist our neighbors with food and resource distribution during this public health crisis.”

In a memo sent to teams Friday, the NBA said it plans to deliver players their full salaries due on April 1. But the league left open the possibility of recouping future salaries for canceled games on April 15, based on the force majeure provision in the collective bargaining agreement.

Force majeure allows for the withholding of 1/92.6 of a player’s seasonal salary per canceled game based upon catastrophic circumstances. The provision encompasses several scenarios, including war, natural disasters and epidemics/pandemics. (For the purposes of force majeure, the league considers each team to have played five preseason games, 82 regular-season games and 5.6 playoff games.)

Coronavirus: American basketball players stuck in limbo overseas – Sports Illustrated

“It’s safer here than in America in terms of cases, and they’ve taken drastic measures, a country wide shutdown,” Hayes said from his Kaunas apartment.

With a population of just under three million people, Lithuania currently has 105 reported cases of COVID-19 and one death. The country shut its borders on March 16th to nearly all foreigners. Lithuanian citizens were also banned from leaving the country, except for business trips.

“With the limited number of cases they’ve had and them being very proactive, you know, it’s kind of safer to stay put.”

Just 12 hours after Hayes made that decision the US State Department issued a Level 4 travel advisory, the most severe warning issued by the department.

“Might have to leave now,” Hayes texted. When asked why he was leaving despite feeling safer abroad Hayes replied, “more or less, there was a warning to return before the border closed.” Four flights and almost 24 hours later and Hayes was back in Ohio. He received enhanced screening at the airport which just consisted of being asked by customs if he had any symptoms. He currently does not, but plans to voluntarily self isolate for two weeks.

On March 19th, The State Department urged Americans “in countries where commercial departure options remain available” to “arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period.”

Giannis vs. LeBron: Who Deserves MVP If the NBA Season Is Over? – The Ringer

Chris Paul served as the cool-as-a-cucumber pulse of a Thunder team that was one of the best stories in the league, turning in a “clutch” campaign for the ages while leading Oklahoma City to fifth place in the crowded West. Jimmy Butler proved to be exactly the two-way star the Heat needed, helping usher in a new era of positionless basketball in Miami and vault Erik Spoelstra’s team back into the thick of contention in the Eastern Conference. Amid all the ups and downs in Utah, Rudy Gobert was the constant, keeping the Jazz in position to open the playoffs at home. Damian Lillard had the season we expected from Stephen Curry: shouldering an outsized offensive load and carrying his injury-ravaged Trail Blazers within striking distance of the playoffs. Khris Middleton had a superstar-level run, understandably obscured by the all-encompassing Antetokounmpo. Kyle Lowry remained the heartbeat of the defending-champion Raptors, who weathered the loss of Leonard and injuries to nearly every key rotation piece to cement themselves as the East’s no. 2 seed. Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum each played like superstars for about 30 games, leading the Celtics back into the championship conversation.

I’d expect all of those players to get votes on at least some media members’ ballots. (Provided, y’know, media members get ballots.) Ultimately, though, I landed on five contenders for the final three spots: Harden, Davis, Leonard, Luka Doncic, and Nikola Jokic.

Harden’s a lock. His individual production dipped a bit from last season, when he authored the seventh-highest-scoring campaign in NBA history on an unprecedented combination of usage and efficiency. Only a bit, though: Harden still averaged 34.4 points, 7.4 assists, and 6.4 rebounds per game, and led the league in VORP for the second straight season, points per game for the third straight, and win shares for the fourth in a row.

Reliving biggest takeaways from the Toronto Raptors' commanding Game 4 win over the Orlando Magic | NBA.com Canada | The official site of the NBA

After struggling through the first three games of the playoffs, Toronto’s bench came alive in Game 4. Not only did the second unit combine for 38 points, they made over half of their shot attempts for the first time this series.

All of those points came from Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell and Serge Ibaka, too. They were the only three bench players to get real minutes during the competitive part of the game, with Nick Nurse putting Jeremy Lin, Eric Moreland and Patrick McCaw in when the outcome had already been decided.

Powell in particular gave the Raptors a nice boost off the bench. He was responsible for 16 of the team’s 38 bench points, doing so on an efficient 7-for-9 shooting from the field.

Introducing the Toronto Raptors All-Fan Ire Team – The Athletic

Backup: Milt Palacio
Murphy: Everyone always seemed to really like Palacio as a teammate and a person. Which is great. Teams and franchises need those figures, and he’s a helpful interview. He just wasn’t particularly good, a bigger point guard who struggled to get into the teeth of the defence and was next to no scoring threat himself. Palacio was a solid enough defender but that couldn’t make up for the massive negative he presented on the other end (his 2003-04 was one of the worst offensive seasons in team history by PIPM).

Honourable Mention: The Forderon Debate
Murphy: The answer was always pretty clear in my eyes, but the Forderon debate — whether the Raptors should start T.J. Ford or Jose Calderon once Ford returned from injury during the 2007-08 season — splintered the fanbase in the early blog-boom years. Like almost every other point guard brought in to compete with Calderon over the years, Ford lost and was moved out.

Vote for which classic Toronto Raptors games you want to see on NBA TV Canada | NBA.com Canada | The official site of the NBA

From March 23 through April 17, you can decide what Toronto Raptors game airs nightly on NBA TV Canada.

In addition to TSN and Sportsnet re-airing last season’s championship run, you can get your nightly Raptors fix by choosing the game that will air via a poll on the team’s official Twitter account.

Raptors' Serge Ibaka scolds teammate for eating doughnuts – Sportsnet.ca

Ibaka was pleased to learn that Davis has been working out in his home gym, but was horrified when the 22-year-old admitted he had been indulging in some sweet treats.

“Doughnuts?!” a distressed Ibaka yelled. “Come on, you know better than that.”

And it wasn’t just one or two Davis chowed down on. The undrafted rookie confessed to scarfing down four of the delicious pastries.

“When the season comes back you’re going to be big,” Ibaka scolded.

It sounds like Davis needs some cooking tips from Mafuzzy Chef to help him stay healthy during his time off from basketball.

Let’s Remember Some Toronto Raptors: There goes the comet that was Mike James – Raptors HQ

Mike James came to the Raptors prior to the start of the 2005-06 season in a straight up trade for Rafer Alston. The baller known as Skip to My Lou had butted heads with coach Mitchell and was destined to be moved; meanwhile, Mike James was a 30-year-old journeyman point guard who had joined the league in 2001 as a 26-year-old undrafted free agent (in Miami). On paper, there wasn’t a ton of upside to be found in such a transaction (which is something that can be said of a lot of Raptors deals at the time — hi Bryan Colangelo!). Toronto just really needed a starting point guard.

So what did Mike James do when he got to Toronto? Simple: he looked around, saw that there were a lot of shots to be had, and decided to take as many of them as he could. Over 79 games as a Raptor, the man some still call the Amityville Scorer cracked the top 20 in the league for points per game (at 20.3, doubling his career average), while shooting 42 percent from the field, dishing 5.8 assists, and grabbing 3.3 rebounds per game. A full quarter (25 percent!) of Toronto’s possessions that season went through the hands of Mike James. The team didn’t win much, but don’t blame him. Mike James was doing what he could — and then some.

And when it was over, when the Raptors had been thoroughly defeated by the vagaries of the regular season, Mike James did the only sensible thing he could. He immediately signed the biggest contract he could find (with the Minnesota Timberwolves), which jumped his pay by two million bucks. Or, if you prefer a longer view: Mike James went from earning six figures in 2001 all the way to seven figures, in five years. That’s quite the raise.

Sadly, Mike James’ on-court production never reached those extreme levels again. But all in Toronto got to see that strange comet, that wild confluence of events, that brought us Mike James, league-leader.

No Murray, no LeBron, no Green ring ceremony for Raptors this week | Basketball | Sports | The Telegram

NBA HOPING TO PLAY

Things change fast, but New Orleans Pelicans boss David Griffin said this weekend that he’s anticipating a return of NBA basketball sometime this season.

Griffin told Fox Sports New Orleans: “With everything changing so quickly, everything is in a state of flux that I think it would be premature for the NBA to say what it ultimately looks like. I do know unequivocally that the league is very mindful of the idea of getting back to playing,” Griffin said, per pelicans.com.

“The idea of canceling a season is not all on their minds, and we’re modelling every possible thing we can for how we can deliver a product to the fans. Quite frankly, we’re all going to need a diversion in the future. (But) until we can get to a point where we think we’ve got containment of (the coronavirus), we’re going to continue to stay locked down. Hopefully we’ll get to a point where we can come back sooner rather than later.”

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