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Morning Coffee – Mon, Mar 30

Stephon Marbury to the rescue. WSJ talking doom.

Sports Industry Reels From Coronavirus Fallout – WSJ

Media analyst Michael Nathanson forecast that if the NBA were to shut down the season and cancel the playoffs, it would cost Walt Disney Co. ’s ESPN and ABC $481 million and WarnerMedia’s TNT $211 million in lost ad revenue—and that comes in a season when the NBA itself was already bracing for a $400 million hit from a standoff with China over a tweet from a team executive that supported protesters in Hong Kong.

The financial effects on teams could be felt for far longer than the pandemic. Even with serious challenges to the sports-business model, including the shrinking cable-television market, the industry as a whole had grown over the last decade. Driven by skyrocketing media rights, team valuations had traveled in only one direction: up.

In no league is there a neater trend line than the NBA. The six teams sold between 2011 and May 2014 went for the average price of roughly $400 million. The four teams that have changed hands since then sold for an average of $1.85 billion.

Those astronomical valuations were driven almost completely by huge increases in the price of television rights over the past 15 years. The NFL sold its annual broadcast rights from 2007 to 2013 for an average of $1.9 billion a season. From 2014 to 2022, that number is $3.1 billion. The NBA isn’t far behind, with broadcasters spending about $2.7 billion annually for the rights.

Television executives are scrambling to figure out how to protect that investment if their prized asset stays off the air.

There is widespread agreement among TV programmers that the coronavirus pandemic qualifies as an “act of God” and meets the requirements for a force majeure clause. But it is unlikely that TV programmers will invoke such clauses, for two reasons, according to people familiar with executives’ thinking. Major networks don’t want to damage their relationships with leagues, which are long-running and serve as one of the few remaining linchpins for the cable bundle. And with rights deals expiring soon, including the NFL’s, TV programmers are eager to preserve as much goodwill as possible going into those negotiations.

The majority of owners in the major American leagues are wealthy enough that they will be able to absorb a hit without having to dump assets. “I don’t think we should be having a bake sale for the owners,” said the former chairman of Fox Sports, David Hill.

Experts aren’t expecting a fire sale of franchises valued in the billions. But for anyone who was considering cashing out in the near term, the uncertainty created by the coronavirus could be a powerful argument against it.

“I don’t know if there will be any inventory going forward,” said Steve Horowitz, a partner at a leading sports investment bank, Inner Circle Sports. “But if an NFL or NBA team came on the market tomorrow, the list of interested people would still be long—and none of them would look back with any regret.”

Report: NBA floats bold way to resume season

Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets “similar concepts have been making the NBA rounds for days.” However, in his previous tweet, Stein noted that it may be very difficult to do.

“Today’s news means the country is essentially closed until May 1 … so you can understand — given the potential for social distancing guidelines to be imposed beyond that — why some around the league fear it may be July (at best) before games can resume,” Stein wrote.

He continued:

“We can’t forget NBA players may need up to a month to get back to passable shape — then the league needs a locale or two that makes it safe, presumably with quarantine measures, for players/coaches/staffs and everyone else involved in putting on closed-door games to stay safe.”

NBA commissioner Adam Silver is trying every way he can to get the game back in some form. In an appearance on SportsCenter last week, he floated the possibility of a subset of NBA players getting together to play a game for charity.

“…One of the things we’ve been talking about — are there conditions in which a group of players could compete,” Silver said. “Maybe it’s for a giant fundraiser or for the collective good of the people. You take a subset of players and is there a protocol where they can be tested, quarantined or isolated in some way to compete against each other. Because again, people are stuck at home and I think they need a diversion, and they need to be entertained.”

When the NBA season can resume — if at all — remains unknown, but a hiatus of at least 30 days is currently in place, and ESPN reports that teams are bracing for a mid-to-late June return date in a best-case scenario. Others are more optimistic, with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban stating this week that he is hopeful that NBA games can resume in mid-May.

It remains unclear as to how the NBA would format the rest of its regular season and postseason upon return. Normally, the playoffs would be underway roughly two weeks from now.

Former NBA Star Trying to Broker Deal to Ship Masks to New York – The New York Times

Beijing-based retired basketball star Stephon Marbury is arranging an urgent shipment of surgical masks from China to New York to fight the coronavirus, he said on social media on Sunday.

Marbury, who was born on New York’s Coney Island, said he wanted to help his home city solve its reported shortage of masks.

“I’m helping source mask for the Brooklyn Borough President. He’s not able to be here so he asked me to help,” Marbury said on Twitter.

“I’m from Brooklyn and my family lost loved ones due to the virus. It’s a sad time so I’m trying to help another BROOKLYNITE help people.”

Marbury told the New York Post that he had arranged with a mask supplier in China to sell New York 10 million masks at a cost price of $2.75 each.

Reuters has documented shortages of vital protective equipment in hospitals in hard-hit New York, where healthcare workers are hiding supplies such as facemasks from colleagues in other departments.

Brooklyn Borough president Eric Adams thanked Marbury for the “greatest assist” of his life.

“You are a true friend to this city,” Adams tweeted.

“Every piece of personal protective equipment we provide to our frontline warriors matters immeasurably in our fight against #COVID19.”

Judge says 'NBA 2K' can replicate LeBron James' tattoos

A Manhattan federal judge has ruled that the company behind the popular “NBA 2K” video games can’t be sued for replicating LeBron James’ tattoo designs.

Judge Laura Swain dismissed the four-year-old lawsuit in an opinion filed Thursday, calling the use of the tattoos “de minimis” — meaning too trivial to merit consideration.

Solid Oak Sketches first sued the games’ maker, Take-Two Interactive, in 2016, claiming its copyright was infringed because players were shown with their distinctive tattoos for which the company holds licenses.

Its New York federal court filing centered on three inkings shown on the video-version of Los Angeles Lakers legend James, named “Child Portrait,” “330 and Flames” and “Script with a Scroll, Clouds and Doves.”

It also fought over a “Wizard” tattoo on former Nets and Knicks star Kenyon Martin — showing a grim reaper holding a basketball — as well as a “Basketball with Stars and Script” on Milwaukee Buck Eric Bledsoe.

Swain noted expert analysis found “only 0.000286% to 0.000431% of the NBA 2K game data is devoted to the Tattoos” which were mostly blurred and blocked by other players.

Her ruling sided with Take-Two, which always argued that the tattoos were fair use because they were no longer the artists’ designs but part of the hoops stars’ likenesses.

The tattoo artists always knew that the stars’ ink would “appear in public, on television, in commercials, or in other forms of media, like video games,” her ruling noted.

The players were then free to use their likeness however they wanted, the ruling stressed, with the trio having given the NBA and Take-Two permission to accurately portray them in the video games.

Report: NBA Asks for Plasma Donations for Possible Coronavirus Treatment | Bleacher Report | Latest News, Videos and Highlights

The NBA is reportedly asking some “team individuals” to consider donating plasma to help in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

On Sunday, Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium reported that “The NBA’s ‘NBA Together’ program is supporting National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project of top specialists on plasma as potential treatment for coronavirus—and has asked for team individuals who have recovered to consider donating plasma.”

The sports world has been profoundly impacted by the pandemic, and a league that has been at the forefront of many of the headlines is looking to do its part here.

The NBA, along with the NHL, MLB and MLS, have all suspended their seasons, while the NCAA canceled winter and spring championships such as the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments that define the month of March for sports fans.

What’s more, some of the biggest events on the calendar such as the Kentucky Derby and the Masters were postponed. Even the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo were postponed as a result of the coronavirus.

As far as individuals testing positive, the NBA has had multiple reported and confirmed cases.

Utah Jazz big man Rudy Gobert tested positive, which led to the cancellation of the game between his team and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

After that, teammate Donovan Mitchell, Detroit Pistons forward Christian Wood, four members of the Brooklyn Nets (including Kevin Durant), Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart, three members of the Philadelphia 76ers, and two members of the Los Angeles Lakers were among those who tested positive.

The New York Knicks announced owner James Dolan tested positive as well.

Both Mitchell and Gobert were recently cleared by Utah’s state health department, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN, along with all other players and personnel within the organization.

Dr. Fauci Was a Basketball Captain. Now He’s America’s Point Guard – The Wall Street Journal

The basketball team at Regis High School had a 1-16 record as the players entered a rival’s gym in the winter of 1958 fully expecting to leave with yet another loss. The other team’s star was a future NBA coach who would one day run the New York Knicks. Regis was led by a diminutive future doctor who would one day run the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“Nobody gave us a chance,” said John Zeman, a Regis alumnus. “Everyone figured it was going to be a blowout.”

But there was one teenager who looked at this demoralizing collection of data and came to a wildly optimistic conclusion.

“Tony said no,” he said. “We’re going to win this game. And we did.”

Tony, the team captain better known as Fauch, a short kid with a thick Brooklyn accent who led his overmatched team to a highly improbable victory in the biggest game of his life, now answers to a name that most Americans have come to recognize: Dr. Anthony Fauci.

NBA storylines that would be lost if season is canceled to coronavirus – Sports Illustrated

ince Carter was by no means hosting a farewell tour for his 22nd and final NBA season, but nostalgia was felt in each game nonetheless.

By playing in 2019–20, Carter was making his final mark on the NBA by setting the record for most active seasons by a player in league history. He was not putting up large numbers or helping a contender, but fans treasured one last season from the NBA stalwart.

The abrupt halt to the season caused by the coronavirus pandemic was felt heavily by Carter. What started as a game between the Hawks and Knicks on March 11 quickly turned into potentially the last game of Carter’s career.

As word started to spread of the season’s suspension, the reality of the NBA’s uncertain future started to set in. In response, the Knicks allowed Carter to shoot what may become the final shot of his career—a three-pointer in overtime.

Toronto Raptors: 8 players to eye in the 2020 NBA Draft

Jalen Smith (Maryland)

Best-case comparison: Myles Turner; Realistic comparison: Serge Ibaka
Jalen Smith is a 6’10″ athletic, defense-first center out of Maryland. He would fit well for the Raptors coming off the bench in the Chris Boucher role until Gasol and Ibaka are gone and then he could slide in perfectly alongside Siakam.

Smith runs the floor well for a big man and can shoot the ball at a high level. This past season at Maryland, Smith shot 36.8 percent from three on 2.8 attempts per game. This will help him immensely in the NBA. He is also a super athletic defender that has a knack for blocking shots, having averaged 2.4 blocks per game this season.

While he is super long and athletic, his ability to get defensive rebounds is based purely on his size at the college level. He will need to work on properly boxing out, rather than just jumping higher and being bigger than his opponent when he gets to the NBA.

Jalen Smith will be successful in the NBA by being a great defense-first center that can step outside and hit 3-pointers at a decent clip. However, I see Smith as somewhat of a low-ceiling player with a high-floor. Essentially, he will be a very good NBA player for many years, but he isn’t likely to become a ten-time All-Star, which could work for the Raptors.

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