Morning Coffee – Fri, May 29

27 mins read

100k dead. Let’s hand out some awards.

Crying Week: There are Toronto Raptors moments to cry about — and then there’s the Primo Pasta commercial – Raptors HQ

At first glance (if this is your first glance, bless you), this might not seem like a commercial that could lead one to tears. While that’s understandable, here’s some quick-hit context as to why it might be the perfect candidate for retroactive tears.

For starters, this commercial is objectively not very good. Robert Bartley does his best to inst

ruct the viewing public of Andrea’s healthy lifestyle due to eating Primo (sure) and Andrea does his best to look mildly interested in on-camera shooting drills that see him lift no more than two inches on his jumpshot.
The Toronto Raptors were capital B-A-D when this commercial first aired and they continued to be for the subsequent years that this commercial assaulted Raptors fans’ eyes.
You could bet your last dollar that you would see this commercial at a minimum of ten times per game.
Andrea Bargnani’s pronunciation of sauce is an abomination. As an Italian, I do not endorse it in the slightest.
There is nothing wrong with the theme song or his smiling head-nod at the end, but even fine things can be terrible when placed in a terrible context like this.
Finally, everything Italian that Primo touches is not good.
So, is it lock for tears well over ten years later?

Atlantic Notes: Nets, Knicks, Raptors, Sixers | Hoops Rumors

The Knicks don’t plan to formally launch their head coaching search until they find out whether or not their season is over, sources tell Marc Berman of The New York Post. We heard on Wednesday that Tom Thibodeau and Kenny Atkinson are expected to be among the club’s candidates in that search.
Chris Boucher and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who have played key minutes in the Raptors‘ frontcourt this season, will both be free agents at season’s end. Bearing that in mind, Eric Koreen of The Athletic examines each player’s appeal, arguing that it wouldn’t be an easy decision if the team can only retain one. Hollis-Jefferson is the more versatile player, but Boucher is a better rim protector and will be a restricted free agent.
Looking at the Sixers‘ future with Rich Hofmann of The Athletic, John Hollinger suggests the team has painted itself into a bit of a corner with its big-money commitments to some secondary players and will need to get creative to upgrade its roster going forward.

Pascal Siakam Evolution into a dominant force for the Raptors – Sports Illustrated

Kaitlin O’Toole:  Last night, Toronto Raptors star Pascal Siakam was interviewed by TNT’s Ernie Johnson and touched on the jump he made during the 2018 season when he won the league’s most improved player award. Joining me now from All Raptors is Aaron Rose. Aaron, I want to talk about the improvements that he’s made throughout the last couple of seasons. What have you seen looking back at his scorer points?

Aaron Rose:  The biggest difference he’s made over the past couple of years is his Three-Point shootings when he came into the league. He was not a good three-point shooting shooter during that 2017-2018 season. He shot 22% from three-point range. He was basically the NBA’s worst three-point shooter. And you can see it in the corners where he was terrible. Well below league average, as he said last night, he got to work after that summer, working nonstop on his three-point shooting. He said he took thousands of shots all summer long. When he came back, he was a totally different player. He shot 37% from three last season. You can see even the corners where it’s bright orange. He was well below, well above league average. Excuse me. He shot 42% in the corners. That’s 4% above league average. Now, the only question is, what’s next?

Raptors Reasonablists: Which rumoured playoff format intrigues you the most? – The Athletic

This is going to get bogged down in some questions that can’t be answered, so I’ll be brief. My biggest curiosities lie with how Silver, the league, Roberts and the union will balance some pretty marked trade-offs. While this entire process is immensely challenging, the easier part is probably getting everyone to this point of comfort and excitement about the possibility of a return. The specifics could be a lot more challenging.

To wit: how does the league balance the minimum requirements for some teams on their regional television deals with the increased risk with each additional team invited in? Does revenue sharing need to be re-imagined in the short-term if regular season minimums are punted? Are there ways to negotiate with regional sports networks around it? And if they go the inclusive route, do you just accept the eight teams or so who will clearly be punting? Is there a Mychal Mulder 40-piece in our future?

As for the Raptors, I’m curious as to what the thinking behind the Champions League-style tournament is. We’re working with imperfect information right now, so I’ll allow that there’s something I’m missing. At first blush, it seems gimmicky for the sake of gimmicky. This is an opportunity to try new things, but I would like to see the league try things that either a) mitigate important risk factors and/or b) are potential long-term options. This seems like an injection of chaos and unpredictability that is unnecessary. People will be so happy to have basketball back, I’m not sure gimmicks are required. (There are other reasons to try new formats, particularly to get a few high-leverage teams like New Orleans in the mix.)

I really don’t mean to be curmudgeonly, because that would infringe on your gimmick. Maybe I’m just so excited at the prospect of a return that the status quo (in 30 teams or 16) works for me. Mostly, I feel complexity needs to add value or minimize risk, and I’m not sure that option succeeds there as currently reported.

English Premier League Plans to Return on June 17 – WSJ

The most popular sports league on Earth, the English Premier League, is planning a return to action on June 17 after a three-month pandemic hiatus.

The 20 Premier League clubs voted on Thursday to approve a plan, known as Project Restart, that would see the final 92 games of the season played behind closed doors in the hopes of finishing some time in late July or early August. Should the scheme work, Premier League clubs would save themselves from reimbursing at least $600 million to broadcasters.

“Today we have provisionally agreed to resume the Premier League on Wednesday 17 June,” chief executive Richard Masters said. “But this date cannot be confirmed until we have met all the safety requirements needed, as the health and welfare of all participants and supporters is our priority.”

The Premier League would be the third of Europe’s top leagues to return at that point, following the German Bundesliga, which resumed on May 16, and La Liga in Spain, which is due to pick up play on June 11. And, just as it does for its European neighbors, English soccer’s plan hinges on an intensive testing regime for players and club staff. The league has so far conducted three rounds, with this week’s battery turning up four positives at three clubs from 1,008 tests.

Unlike in Germany and Spain, however, the process in England had been highly divisive. At various points, certain clubs favored taking the rest of the 2020 calendar year to complete the season, while others argued for abandoning the campaign altogether.

But the stakes of a comeback were high. The delay is already projected to cost Premier League clubs around $367 million in fees that will have to be repaid to broadcasters. While that will be open to negotiation now, the number would have risen to nearly $1 billion if the league failed to finish its season.

Once the 20 clubs agreed to finish the remaining games, they struggled to decide where to play them. The bottom six teams, who are all fighting to avoid demotion to the second tier, at one point threatened to tank the whole project if the league went ahead with a plan for neutral venues, like those being discussed by the National Basketball Association and National Hockey League.

NBA GM Survey Results Show Momentum Behind Adding a Play-in Tournament – The Ringer

One executive I spoke with earlier in the week offered his own suggestion: If the NBA allows only 20 teams to compete for the rest of the reason, it should simply lock the current order of those teams at picks 11-30 (aside from the current tiebreakers that must be decided by coin flip). Then, the lottery odds could be recalculated to include just 10 teams rather than the usual 14. That seems like a logical and fair solution to me considering the odds are so low that a team slotted 11th through 14th would move up in the lottery anyway.

General managers unanimously favored expanding rosters in the postseason, sources said. However, there is no set date for when games will actually be played again. No definitive schedule was discussed on Thursday’s call with general managers. But rumblings across the league suggest the NBA will require teams to arrive at Disney World around July 16, at which point they’ll quarantine for a to-be-determined amount of time before group workouts resume and scrimmages begin. And then, games could begin on Friday, July 31. But all of that will be determined in the coming days and weeks, and anything as of now is simply tentative or speculation.

Group workouts are still disallowed. The NBA is still restricting teams with open practice facilities to allow only voluntary workouts by individual players. Multiple general managers and executives say that the league’s preference is for no group workouts to occur until teams arrive at Disney World, where the league believes its own testing and safety procedures can better control and minimize the odds of a coronavirus outbreak. In other words, the league prefers no training camps occur until teams get to Disney World.

Teams have also pushed back on no group workouts before arriving to the campus, citing that their players need more time to physically ramp up for competitive games, or else quality of play will decrease and the risk of injury will dramatically increase. At this current moment, the league is prioritizing COVID-19 health, not physical health, but league executives fully anticipate that group workouts will be allowed at some point before they arrive at Disney World. “I expect the league to revise that plan once a schedule is actually set,” a general manager told me. “Silver isn’t stupid.”

When will the NBA return? Latest updates and big questions

The NBA has entered into exploratory conversations with The Walt Disney Company about resuming its season at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida, in late July, per NBA spokesperson Mike Bass.

The NBA is discussing a step-by-step plan for a resumption of the 2019-20 season that includes an initial two-week recall of players into team marketplaces for a period of quarantine, one to two weeks of individual workouts at team facilities and a two-to-three-week formal training camp.

Barring an unforeseen turn of events, many NBA owners, executives and NBPA elders believe Silver will greenlight the return to play in June — with games expected to resume sometime before the end of July, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Discussions were continuing this week within the league on how the NBA plans to structure a return-to-play scenario. On a Thursday call with the NBA GM’s, Silver confirmed that Friday’s meeting of the board of governors will not include a formal vote on a return-to-play plan, sources told Wojnarowski. Talks will continue into the weekend.

Officials are continuing to discuss variations of plans that include a play-in tournament, pool-play bracket and regular-season games moving into the playoffs. The NBA has yet to formally rule out the idea, but teams have become increasingly skeptical of the league bringing back all 30 teams to complete the season.

What are the disagreements on the return-to-play scenarios?

Some teams have advocated for a wide-open playoffs, a knockout round to give those teams who are among the worst a way to punch up into the play-in for the eighth seed, per a report by Wojnarowski. Some want every market — New York and Chicago included — invited into the fans’ consciousness. And some are fearful of delivering the competitive disadvantage of a nine-month hiatus prior to the 2020-21 season to young, rebuilding franchises.

When the NBA and NBPA canvass teams at the bottom of the standings, they also hear ambivalence. Not one owner or GM is explicitly telling anyone they don’t want to play this season. Even so, there are enough players on enough bad teams who’ve shared the idea that they don’t see the value in several weeks of camp and quarantines to play five to eight regular-season games with no playoff potential.

NBA Media Ventures sued for $1.25M in missed rent on Fifth Avenue store

NBA Media Ventures is being sued by a landlord who alleges the league has failed to pay $1.25 million in rent on its store on New York’s Fifth Avenue during the coronavirus pandemic.

The suit was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in New York by a plaintiff identified as 535-545 Fee LLC, which has leased the retail space to NBA Media Ventures LLC for its NBA Store since November 2014.

The rent at the store is $7.5 million per year, or $625,000 per month, the suit says, and NBA Media Ventures did not pay rent for April and May, when the store was closed.

“Like other retail stores on Fifth Avenue in New York City, the NBA Store was required to close as a result of the coronavirus pandemic,” NBA chief communications officer Mike Bass said in a statement Wednesday. “Under those circumstances, we don’t believe these claims have any merit. We have attempted, and will continue to attempt, to work directly with our landlord to resolve this matter in a manner that is fair to all parties.”

The suit seeks $1,257,412.96, as well as $20,000 in legal fees.

Will the NBA season and playoffs end with a World Cup format? – Sports Illustrated

Nothing will be normal about the 2020 NBA postseason (if as increasingly expected, it does take place.) That doesn’t mean a potential champion is undeserving or should be discredited, but just that, similar to in a lockout season, the 2019-20 playoffs will forever carry a COVID-19 caveat. While possible format changes could lead to an enjoyable experience, I’m more intrigued about potential broadcast and additional entertainment avenues that playing games in a campus environment could provide. The league will likely be forced into experimenting with different camera angles, but what if, as an example, we could more accessibly also watch games on TV or online using a virtual reality experience, much like its NextVR games that the league had aired weekly during the regular season. That NextVR experience is unique and employing it this postseason could be a way for fans to experience games in a more personal and intimate way.

One other thing I’d personally want to see is what broader reality TV or off-court entertainment content comes out of hosting at least half the NBA in one place for weeks on end. As an example, will we see off-night poker games between players on various teams streamed on Instagram Live? Or will there be other kinds of indoor entertainment that spontaneously pops up and is streamed via social media? With players presumably living together (even in a series of hotels), I’m excited to both see and hear what player down-time looks like and also inevitably hear conversations of how a major free-agency decision was born during the bubble environment postseason.

Utah Jazz Training Staff Honored For Handling Of COVID-19 – KSL Sports

The Utah Jazz athletic training staff is being honored for the way it handled the team’s COVID-19 outbreak. The Jazz and the Oklahoma City Thunder are the recipients of the 2019-20 Joe O’Toole/David Craig Athletic Training Staff of the Year Award.

“Both are being honored for their diligence and expertise in handling the first NBA case of COVID-19,” The release read. “Which included managing the testing of players and staff and coordinating their safe return home.”

The March 11 game between the Jazz and Thunder was postponed after Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. Then, within hours the NBA announced it was suspending all games across the league.

The Jazz training staff was responsible for finding the team a hotel in Oklahoma City that night. Then, the staff had to arrange how to get the team back to Utah. That included finding flights for Gobert and Donovan Mitchell who had tested positive for the virus.

The award is nominated and voted on by all NBATA members. The Jazz staff includes Mike Elliot, Eric Waters, Erik Phillips, Barnett Frank, and Jordan Harding.

Daryl Morey: Rockets’ NBA title chances boosted by uncertainty

“We do feel like our odds have gone up with the restart,” Morey said Thursday. “Because we probably can’t call ourselves the favorite — we just haven’t played well enough to say that — anything that adds uncertainty to the system is generally good for us.”

Griffin asked about the second training camp, and Morey explained how it could be an advantage for the Rockets.

“I think that’s an edge for us. It’s one of the reasons why a stop and restart slightly favors us,” Morey said. “We have a very deep team. We have veterans who have not been with us all year who have contributed to very good playoff teams in the past. They probably didn’t get much of a chance to show what they could do. But with a new training camp and maybe some games before the playoffs … it gives those guys a chance to show coach D’Antoni what they can do.

“Coach likes a tight rotation in the playoffs, which I do think the evidence does support his choice there in the playoffs. But in terms of who our eight, nine or 10 guys are going to be in the playoffs, I do think it gives those guys a chance and it gives us some potential upside.”

To Morey’s point, Green and Carroll have contributed to playoff teams in recent seasons.

NBA 2020: coronavirus, news, update, schedule, fixtures, return, New Orleans Pelicans, Zion Williamson | Fox Sports

According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst on The Hoop Collective, the league may dismiss the idea of playing as many as 90 regular season games and go right to group-stage type opening round because it will give Zion Williamson and the Pelicans a better chance of making the 16-team playoffs.

“I’ll tell you one thing: that scenario gets Zion Williamson in,” Windhorst said. “Look, I’ve just heard … I’m not saying the NBA is going this route, I’m just saying I’ve already heard this scenario that no matter what happens, the cut-off line will be the Pelicans.

“They’ll be in. It will be the first time in the history of the NBA that the league kicked the ball into the fairway for New Orleans.”

The Pelicans, or any team for that matter, would be unable to overtake the Grizzlies for the No. 8 seed if a limited number of regular season games resume as they hold a 3½ lead on the Blazers, Pelicans and Kings.

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