Thomas spoke about his initial blueprint for the Raptors franchise. “The first guy I scouted was Kevin Garnett,” he told me.
“I wanted to make him the first pick for the Toronto Raptors franchise.”
Thomas thought Garnett would still be available with the seventh pick in the 1995 NBA draft because he felt that other teams would be hesitant to draft a skinny kid straight out of high school.
Shortly before the draft, his old friend Kevin McHale (who was then VP of the Minnesota Timberwolves) called to ask what he thought about the young Garnett.
Thomas told McHale: “If you don’t draft him, I will.”
Kevin Garnett has career averages of 17.8 points, 10 rebounds and 3.7 assists per contest. The Big Ticket will join hoop contemporaries like San Antonio Spurs legend, Tim Duncan and late great Los Angeles Lakers icon, Kobe Bryant in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
The NBA is working with ESPN to produce a televised HORSE competition featuring several high-profile players, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Players would presumably compete in their respective home gyms in order to abide by the league’s isolation protocols, Wojnarowski adds.
Details of the event haven’t been finalized yet.
HORSE involves players attempting different kinds of shots. If the first player’s shot is made, the next player has to replicate it or they receive a letter. The first player to spell out the word “horse” loses.
The NBA has featured a HORSE competition before, introducing it as an All-Star Weekend event during the 2008-09 campaign. Kevin Durant won the competition in back-to-back years before the event was disbanded in 2011.
Other ideas, including a potential exhibition game, have been floated by the NBA since the league was forced to suspend its regular season indefinitely last month due to the coronavirus pandemic.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver told those on Trump conference call that the leagues were the first to shut down and that they would love to lead the way in starting the economy once there was an “all clear” from public health officials, sources familiar with call told ESPN. https://t.co/SXmvzhLtAP
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) April 4, 2020
In a conference call with major league sports commissioners on Saturday, President Donald Trump said he believes the NFL season should start on time in September, sources familiar with the call told ESPN.
Trump also said he hopes to have fans back in stadiums and arenas by August and September, sources said, although it is currently unclear if medical experts find that to be a realistic timeline amid the current coronavirus pandemic.
“I want fans back in the arenas,” Trump said later in a briefing at the White House. “I think it’s … whenever we’re ready. As soon as we can, obviously. And the fans want to be back, too. They want to see basketball and baseball and football and hockey. They want to see their sports. They want to go out onto the golf courses and breathe nice, clean, beautiful fresh air.”
Trump declined to give an exact date when reporters asked when he anticipates fans returning to arenas, saying, “No, I can’t tell you a date, but I think it’s going to be sooner rather than later.”
He also said he told the commissioners that he recognizes “the good work being done by many teams and players” to care for their communities and fan bases dealing with the outbreak.
California Governor Gavin Newsom addressed whether he believed that the NFL season would open in August or September with 80,000 fans, telling reporters Saturday, “I’m not anticipating that happening in this state.”
“It’s interesting, I have a lot of friends that work in Major League Baseball and in the NFL, they’ve been asking me — in fact, a well-known athlete just asked me, a football player, if he expects to come back. I said, ‘I would move very cautiously in that expectation,'” Newsom said.
“So look, I’m not here to second-guess anybody, but I am here to say this, our decision on that basis, at least here in the state of California, will be determined by the facts, will be determined by the health experts, will be determined by our capacity to meet this moment, bend the curve and have the appropriate community surveillance and testing to confidently determine whether that’s appropriate. And right now I’m just focused on the immediate, but that’s not something I anticipate happening in the next few months.”
Obama obviously knew some of these guys, especially the Chicago guys from when he was a senator. When NBA teams would come to town, a lot of them would come to the White House and if Obama was around, he’d come say hi to them. Some of them would get involved through their foundations or their charitable work with stuff Obama would do, like mentoring programs and getting people to sign up for health care and that sort of stuff. And Obama would get to know them and a lot of them would get in contact with Obama through Reggie Love.
The most famous example of people playing with Obama was on his 50th birthday. Reggie and Obama’s friends put together a game with just every NBA player you could imagine to come play. In that game was LeBron James, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Shane Battier, Alonzo Mourning and Magic Johnson came out of retirement for it. Maya Moore played in the game. Kobe Bryant came but he was injured at the time. He and Bill Russell watched the game and it was like a mix of NBA players and Obama and his regular sort of his friends from high school. He plays with his high school team mostly and they went back and forth for a couple hours on Obama’s birthday. Then there was a big birthday barbecue afterwards and all the players came to that.
Collective bargaining agreements will provide some clarity but won’t necessarily answer every question. For instance, testing of players for COVID-19 will require detailed procedures that haven’t yet been negotiated by management and labor. These procedures will also necessitate the advice of medical experts. The same can be said of measures needed to reduce the risk of players, coaches, staff and referees inadvertently infecting one another. Should fans attend games, that would only add another layer of complexity, both in terms of health and the law. Insurance companies that have sold policies to leagues and venues will want to weigh in, too. These aren’t straightforward issues. They’ll demand a balance of public health, personal health, privacy and legal considerations. And leagues’ commissioners aren’t the only relevant voices.
A return would also require leagues and players’ associations to resolve thorny financial considerations. As detailed on The Crossover, the NBA has the capacity to invoke a force majeure clause in Article XXXIX of its CBA. If the league elects that option, teams would essentially be relieved of the obligation to pay players while games are missed. However, the move would also terminate the CBA and endanger a relative period of labor peace for the league and its players. The NBA and National Basketball Players’ Association are attempting to avoid that outcome, but it highlights the complexity of the situation. Also, even if leagues and players can sort out the details, sponsors and networks have contracts related to the games and they’ll demand maximum payments.
Adding to the uncertainty is whether games are played with or without spectators. If fans are barred for many months or years, formulas to assess impact on players’ salaries might need reconfiguring. In the NBA, players and owners have a nearly even split of basketball related income (BRI), a term that includes gate receipts and other forms of revenue and the amount for which impacts the salary cap. BRI will drop, perhaps dramatically, as a result of the pandemic. This means the NBA’s salary cap for the 2020-21 season likely will be much lower than the 2019-20 cap of $109 million. It would make sense that NBA owners and players agree to smooth the impact of the loss over a period of several years so that it doesn’t disproportionately hurt players who are up for contracts over the next year or two. But such smoothing could take on many different forms and will require careful negotiations. MLB and MLBPA recently agreed to a plan to address some of the economics of a 2020 season, but even that agreement won’t answer every question for MLB and its players.
The Bulls waited a respectable amount of time – it’s been over three weeks since the league suspended the season – before launching into what was almost certainly their original April strategy. It’s hard to imagine they’ll be the only ones.
For starters, any move Chicago makes will likely end in a game of front office dominoes. All four candidates mentioned in Friday’s report by NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson are employed by other teams. (Those four candidates are Denver’s Arturas Karnisovas, Indiana’s Chad Buchanan, Miami’s Adam Simon, and Toronto’s Bobby Webster. My spies say chatter about Buchanan and Simon has been the loudest). Whatever team the Bulls pluck from would presumably need to fill its own vacancy … possibly by poaching another exec from another franchise.
Moreover, this signals to everyone else that it is now a decent hour to start addressing moves that were likely to happen after the season anyway. As I noted above, the league’s extended hiatus also presents an opportunity to change captains while the ship is completely anchored and still … a virtually unprecedented event in the front office world.
While only a few front office seats were hot heading into March – New York had just replaced Steve Mills with Leon Rose, and five spots changed last offseason – there are a couple of situations that bear watching. Philadelphia, where GM Elton Brand could be a target for the Knicks to help Rose, is an obvious one, but I’ve heard whispers about a few others.
Additionally, the fact that an exec search is going on right now begets the obvious question of whether some teams will also seek to change coaches during this extended timeout. This presents the theoretically bizarre challenge of ramping up with the same team and a different coach if the league resumes its season in June or July. However, it does offer the advantage of allowing a new hire to get up to speed now instead of during a potentially brief offseason.
NBA Players Aren’t Good at 2K
Look, I get it. These are professional athletes. An impossibly small number of people are athletically and cerebrally gifted enough to play in the NBA. It’s not something to brush past. Unfortunately for most of the contestants on Friday, that same talent did not translate to the sticks.
Durant, a surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer, played Jones Jr. in front of what can only be described as a green-screen-like New York backdrop. He then proceeded to clank more open jumpers than I could count and let Jones waltz to the rim the entire game.
Jones, evidently playing from his shoe closet, took advantage of KD’s lapses to cruise to a 78-62 win. Elsewhere in the bracket, Ayton bullied his way past LaVine, using the Rockets to down the Heat in a low-scoring 57-41 affair. And Beverley, the third competitor to play as Milwaukee, eviscerated Whiteside in an 84-54 rout. The real star of the night, however, was Trae Young.
The Hawks All-Star was matched up against the Kings’ Harrison Barnes and didn’t hold back. While a Bucks-Raptors showdown in real life would likely produce compelling basketball, the same cannot be said for what transpired Friday night. It’s unclear whether Young is an exceptional 2K player, Barnes is abysmal, or some combination of the two, but when the dust settled, Young had toppled his foe 101-59. Eight more players will fight for 2K supremacy on Sunday, so there’s still plenty of time for another contender to emerge, but for now, Young is the favorite to take the crown.