Morning Coffee – Sat, May 30

First they came for the socialists...

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Ex-Officer Derek Chauvin Charged With Murder in George Floyd’s Death – WSJ

The protests over the death of a black man after his apprehension by a white police officer spread from Minneapolis across the country, with demonstrations in Los Angeles, New York, Denver and Chicago.

Protests in Minneapolis have turned violent in recent nights; on Thursday protesters set fire to a police precinct, which the mayor said he had ordered officers to abandon.

On Friday night, protests picked back up in Minneapolis and took hold in other cities across the country, including New York, Las Vegas, Atlanta and Sacramento.

In Washington, D.C., on Friday, several hundred demonstrators gathered near the White House to protest Mr. Floyd’s death. Skirmishes broke out between them and police, social media videos showed. Demonstrators cheered when a protester climbed a nearby building and spray painted an expletive about President Trump. One protest sign read, “Am I not human? Black lives matter.”

The White House was briefly on lockdown Friday evening under Secret Service orders due to the protests, a White House official said. The order was lifted before 9 p.m.

On Thursday night, demonstrators swarmed the streets of downtown Louisville to protest the killing of Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old black emergency medical technician killed by police in her home in March.

Both Mr. Floyd and Mr. Chauvin worked security at the El Nuevo Rodeo Club, said Maya Santamaria, the club’s former owner.

How the Minnesota Timberwolves are responding to the death of George Floyd

After George Floyd died in police custody this week in Minneapolis, Saunders listened to one of his African American colleagues describe how he must consider the possibility that fastening a cellphone to his side could give someone justification to believe he’s reaching for a gun.

“Waist or armband?” Saunders told ESPN on Wednesday night. “I never knew that was a thing. I do now.”

Yes, this was the conversation Saunders wanted to start with his Timberwolves. This has long been his town, his team, and Saunders wanted his players and staff to understand that he needed to be more than another white Minnesotan — another white American — on Instagram simply sickened by the killing of a defenseless black man.

“I am a white male in a position of leadership, and I don’t take lightly the fact that I have not experienced some of these things that our individual guys have had to experience,” Saunders told ESPN. “So I wanted to make sure we were listeners, that we could become more educated as people completely inexperienced in never getting the benefit of the doubt. I grew up in Minnesota, and this hasn’t been sitting well with me for the past two days. Sometimes the silence can be deafening, too. When we’re given opportunity to speak on what’s right, I think it’s important to do that.”

Saunders had connected with president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas and assistant GM Joe Branch on Tuesday night, wanting to bring the team together on a Zoom call. The organization has had a speaker’s series every week during the coronavirus pandemic — Bob Iger to Robin Roberts to J.J. Watt — but this was something far different.

“This was us responding to our players’ needs,” Rosas said.

George Floyd death, Ben Simmons: NBA star’s message, riots, protests, updates

The shocking incident, shared across social media has seen several high-profiled stars speak out over the inexcusable act with former NBA player Stephen Jackson delivering a powerful speech at a Minneapolis protest rally.

Following his powerful and moving speech, Simmons had his say with the Aussie superstar calling for everyone to call out racism no matter how uncomfortable it may be. The caption was alongside an image of himself wearing a “I can’t breathe” shirt, one he wore six years ago.

“Witnessing the news the past few weeks & hearing the outcry has given me a lot to think about. It is time for everyone, from all walks of life, to get comfortable with voicing & calling out the uncomfortable subject of Blatant Racism that exists heavily within our society. We are ALL accountable & we shouldn’t have to revisit tragedies like George Floyd or Ahmaud Arbery time & time again. 6 years ago I put on this tee shirt to show solidarity & we’re still fighting. Enough is enough,” Simmons wrote.

George Floyd death, murder, police killing, NBA legend Stephen Jackson speech, riots, Minneapolis | Fox Sports

The retired NBA player, who won a championship with the San Antonio Spurs in 2003, spoke at a rally held at the Minneapolis City Hall Rotunda to honour his friend.

“I’m here because they’re not gonna demean the character of George Floyd, my twin,” Jackson said while wearing a black hoodie with the phrase “RIP George Floyd” written across his chest.

“A lot of times, when police do things they know that’s wrong, the first thing they try to do is cover it up, and bring up their background — to make it seem like the bulls — that they did was worthy. When was murder ever worthy? But if it’s a black man, it’s approved.

“You can’t tell me, when that man has his knee on my brother’s neck — taking his life away, with his hand in his pocket — that that smirk on his face didn’t say, ‘I’m protected.’ You can’t tell me that he didn’t feel that it was his duty to murder my brother, and that he knew he was gonna get away with it. You can’t tell me that wasn’t the look on his face.”

During a speech that lasted for several minutes, a clearly crushed Jackson declared his community is running out of love and is scared people will turn to hate to fight back.

His words were described by The Athletic’s senior reporter Jon Krawczynski, who is based in Minnesota, as “just about the most powerful words I’ve ever heard”.

His video of the speech had more than 125,000 views on Saturday morning (AEST).

The NBA Playoffs Will Be Weird. They Also Might Be Soccer. – WSJ

The first round would be replaced by something ripped straight from the soccer playbook: the group stage.

“It would be magnificent. The World Cup-NBA crossover is what the world needs right now,” said Roger Bennett, the Liverpool native who is one half of the soccer broadcasting team known as “Men in Blazers.” “The best crossover since Allen Iverson…Like when ‘Murder She Wrote’ appeared on ‘Magnum PI.’ ”

The details of the NBA’s plan are still being worked out, and it might prove too much of a departure from norms in a season already defined by departures from norms. But the general concept of a group stage makes enough intuitive sense that it wouldn’t be as difficult to sell as it sounds. This hypothetical first round would have four pools of five teams that face each other at least twice in a round robin format. The eight teams that advance would then get bracketed into the second round, at which point the playoffs would revert to the traditional seven-game series.

If it sounds foreign, it’s because the group stage was invented a century ago by soccer people—the same folks who thought headers were a good idea. But unlike repeated blows to the head, the group stage was secretly genius.

There is a beauty in its simple efficiency. It suppresses randomness. It prevents top seeds from being eliminated too early. And it generates more guaranteed games and matchups between different teams than the endless playoff series of U.S. sports. It’s no wonder the most powerful Champions League clubs keep pushing to expand group stages.

With the NBA in talks to restart the season at a Disney facility in Orlando, Fla., owners, executives and players are furiously lobbying commissioner Adam Silver as he decides what to do with the playoffs. The group stage would be a sharp break from tradition—not least of all because there could be 20 teams instead of 16—and such a dramatic change might not gain traction in a time of so much uncertainty. But soccer fans suspect it would make for unforgettable basketball.

“It is the exact kind of Euro-sport staple that a lot of American sports fans automatically want to rule out,” Bennett said, “but I do believe it would be epic.”

What the past few years have shown is that no league is more willing to look around for creative solutions than pro basketball—especially if that means looking across the Atlantic. The NBA has deep-seated soccer envy. The league has long seen another sport on another continent as a model for its future.

But implementation can be tricky. Soccer has been fiddling with the group stage for nearly a century. And for about half that time, it was still getting it wrong.

The NBA Is Coming Back—It’s Just Not Sure How Yet – The Ringer

The players and the NBPA have been adamant about not wanting to jump straight into the playoffs and staging not just regular-season games beforehand, but enough training camp time to physically get up to speed and avoid injuries. Until team facilities opened up in mid-May, most players were inside homes or apartments without gym equipment, or in the case of Giannis Antetokounmpo, without access to a basketball hoop. Some players, like Andre Drummond, resorted to lifting everyday items around their house. Others were able to run outside, but some, including John Collins, were limited to doing body-weight or band resistance workouts that teams monitored. Some teams eventually sent their players equipment to help them stay in shape. The NBA has yet to allow group workouts between teammates, even at the team facilities.

As June 1 approaches, the timeline for a return is becoming increasingly precarious. NBPA executive director Michele Roberts recently called for the league to give the players concrete information about a possible return. Time is short for multiple reasons. If the 22-team scenario gets approved by a three-fourths majority of the owners on Thursday and the July 31 date to resume is solidified, the NBA will likely be hoping to fit in a handful of regular-season games, a play-in, and a full postseason to determine a title winner before the NFL presumably kicks off its season on September 10. That’s a 41-day window. In a normal year, the playoffs usually stretch over two months.

Beyond the complicated task of getting 30 owners to agree on one plan, there are the even more serious health circumstances looming over the league’s return. On Thursday, there were more than 22,000 new cases and over 1,200 new deaths due to the virus in the U.S. While soccer leagues around the world have returned to play as cases have declined in Europe, basketball’s return remains a bigger question, especially given it’s played indoors. Just this past week, the EuroLeague canceled its season.

Sources — NBA board of governors expected to approve Adam Silver's restart plan Thursday

The NBA is planning a Thursday vote of the league’s board of governors — with owners expected to approve commissioner Adam Silver’s recommendation on a format to restart the season in Orlando, Florida, sources tell ESPN.

The NBA has been examining several plans for a return to play, but numerous members of the board of governors tell ESPN that there’s growing support for a plan to bring 22 teams to Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in July.

This format likely would include regular-season and play-in games to compete for playoff berths in both the Eastern and Western Conferences, sources said.

The NBA needs a three-fourths majority of owners to approve a return-to-play plan, and an overwhelming majority of owners expressed a desire to do precisely that on both a board of governors call on Friday and later in interviews with ESPN.

“We are lining up behind [Silver] on this,” one owner told ESPN on Friday. “The posturing will end. Nothing is going to be perfect for everyone.”

The NBA has yet to endorse a restart plan, and only one of the four ideas presented on Friday’s board of governors call — bringing back all 30 teams — is no longer believed to be a legitimate consideration, sources said.

The 22-team plan would include teams that are currently within six games of the final playoff spots in each conference, sources said. New Orleans, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento and San Antonio would land in Orlando under those guidelines, with Washington joining as the only team within six games of the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.

NBA has a return date in their crosshairs | Toronto Sun

A July 31 target date for a re-start gives teams plenty of time to get back into game shape — two full months plus. But right now that is really all we know.

We don’t know how many teams will be returning yet. The push seems to be to bring back only the number necessary to make it fair.

The arbiter of what is fair will be commissioner Adam Silver. He conducted a two-hour board of governors meeting Friday hearing from his 30 member owners what they would like to see done.

But rest assured, what he’s hearing from the Milwaukee Bucks, who go into this thing with the best record in the NBA and a vested interest in Silver’s final decision, is much different from the bottom-feeding Golden State Warriors — who won just 15 games and are far more interested in maintaining their odds at a first overall pick in the lottery than they are in getting back on the court.

Silver has the super delicate task of trying to appease 30 teams with close to 30 different agendas. Sure the Bucks, Lakers, Clippers and Raptors will have similar wants given their top four seeding but what of the outliers like the Atlanta Hawks who have no shot at a title at all but would just like to see their young developing team get as much playing experience as possible.

Reading the tea leaves from what has come out of the various league meetings the past week, there are either going to be teams unhappy that they have to play with little to no shot of meaningful advancement, while at the same time there is the very real possibility that some teams may be told to stay home and call it a year despite their wish to play.

Silver has some very tough decisions to make but as he has shown in the past, he’s more than capable.

Remembering George Floyd means striving for justice after this storm passes –

I’m well beyond hero worship, but I know a good person when I meet one. Standing in the middle of the Toronto Raptors‘ circular dressing room — back when you could — I could turn in any direction and see a person worthy of admiration. The adaptability of Serge Ibaka, making his way from the streets of Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo to the peak of his sport; the sageness of Fred VanVleet, wise beyond his 26 years; Pascal Siakam’s deep well of self-belief and Norman Powell’s tireless commitment to the long arc of improvement; Kyle Lowry‘s all-knowingness and almost unrivalled IQ — both on the floor and off.

The league, in turn, is covered by some of the most passionate and gifted journalists in any field, many of whom are African American or African Canadian or generally from backgrounds and genders other than mine: first-generation Canadian, Irish and pasty.

I watch them work, read what they write, listen to what they say and feel intimidated at times — the standard is that high. But I always feel honoured to count myself among their peers, a colleague and in many cases, a friend.

The entire experience has been and continues to be a privilege.

But watching how various players and journalists I’ve dealt with have responded to the recent developments in Minneapolis and other examples where unarmed black men — and in some cases women — have been killed for the crime of bad luck, for being the object of the wrong kind of attention from police or others who seem to see skin colour as a threat?

That’s been an education.

Not to sell myself short. It would be difficult — if not impossible — to work where I work and try to tell the stories I try to tell without having at least a passing understanding of the historical dynamics of race in the United States and North America as a whole. I’m a citizen. I read and I care.

But I’ve always liked to believe things will get better, that actions speak louder than words, and maybe I have comforted myself by believing the bubble I’ve been so lucky to live and work in — where merit matters most and where people from all backgrounds function and thrive working together — is more than simply an oasis in a sea of sludge that is resistant to being cleaned up.

Maybe I’m wrong though. Or — at the very least — I should make clear where I stand and who I stand with.

Draft profiles: 6 guards the Raptors could select with the No. 28 pick – The Athletic

Malachi Flynn, San Diego State (redshirt junior), 6-foot-1, 22 years old
Vecenie board: 37, Vecenie mock: 50, Composite board: 32

Strengths: Very productive across most statistical categories, creative as scorer and pick-and-roll operator, low-mistake approach, “just a baller.”
Concerns: Upside could be limited with age/tools, not great size or athleticism.
Raptors fit: Big jump in third season suggests development runway, sum-more-than-parts track record.

Your feelings on Flynn in general might be a good litmus test for your feeling about The Athletic’s draft coverage. Both Vecenie and John Hollinger like him more than the (reported) league consensus. Not dramatically so, mind you — there is general agreement on the higher-floor, lower-ceiling nature here.

From a Raptors perspective, it’s easy to see where the draw would be, even if this would be less of an upside swing than we may anticipate them taking here. (It’s also possible with so many guards in this draft and the most recent mocks that Flynn becomes a No. 58 consideration, but we can’t bet on that here given his wide range.) Flynn is as smart and hard-nosed as they come, which helped make up for his lack of NBA tools, at least at the college level. He produced well across the board statistically, and he kept the turnovers down despite carrying a sizable workload. If a team thinks his 3-point shot (36.3 percent on 582 attempts over three seasons, with a good release and range) can carry over, he looks like a useful role player.

I’m not sure if the Raptors have any track record of success with San Diego State products.