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NBA’s top executives to have salaries reduced by 20%

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In the midst of a shutdown for the coronavirus pandemic, the NBA is reducing base salaries by 20% for about 100 of the league office’s top-earning executives around the world, sources tell ESPN.

Many of the executives and officials who are impacted work in the league’s New York headquarters, including commissioner Adam Silver and deputy commissioner Mark Tatum, sources said.

These reductions will be implemented immediately and are expected to continue through the course of the coronavirus crisis, sources said.

NBA spokesman Mike Bass wouldn’t confirm ESPN’s reporting but said: “These are unprecedented times and, like other companies across all industries, we need to take short-term steps to deal with the harsh economic impact on our business and organization.”

There are no widespread cuts to the rest of the organization, and no support or administrative staff are impacted, sources told ESPN.

The NBA has been on hiatus since March 11 and expects to be shut down for a significant period before it can consider resuming the regular season and operating its playoffs.

The NBA recently extended its credit limit to $1.2 billion, ESPN reported, which gives it the flexibility to infuse more cash into its operating expenses.

The Philadelphia 76ers reversed course on a plan to cut salaries by 20% for employees who made over $50,000. Backlash internally and externally caused the team’s owners to change their minds and continue to pay full salaries.

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Kevin Durant rules himself out for remainder of 2019-20 season — ‘Best for me to wait’

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Kevin Durant told ESPN’s The Undefeated on Friday that he will not debut for the Brooklyn Nets during the 2019-2020 NBA season when it resumes next month.

Durant has not played since tearing his Achilles tendon during Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals while playing for the Golden State Warriors against the Toronto Raptors on June 11. The two-time NBA Finals Most Valuable Player will be a year removed from the injury when the Nets return to action on July 31 in Orlando in a 2019-2020 season pushed back due to pandemic. While Durant feels much improved physically while training in Los Angeles, he says he is not physically ready to return this season.

“It’s just best for me to wait,” Durant said. “I don’t think I’m ready to play that type of intensity right now in the next month. It gives me more time to get ready for next season and the rest of my career…

“My season is over. I don’t plan on playing at all. We decided last summer when it first happened that I was just going to wait until the following season. I had no plans of playing at all this season.”

Durant said he is uncertain about whether he will join the Nets in Orlando. The 10-time All-Star says he has been very comfortable rehabilitating without pressure in Los Angeles. Now 31 years old, Durant appears to be much more patient about not rushing his return like he did with past injuries with the Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder. The 2014 NBA Most Valuable Player signed a four-year, $164 million contract with the Nets last summer after leaving the Warriors as a free agent.

“I had to reset and totally focus on just me and what I wanted out of this thing,” Durant said. “For the first time I felt like I was in my own space rehabbing. I didn’t feel like I had to be a part of the team and travel with the team and do everything like I was playing. I could really take my time and focus on myself each and every day.

“I didn’t feel rushed at all. That was a great space to be in. I was putting pressure on myself in previous injuries wanting to hurry up and come back. I saw my teammates having fun and wanted to be out there. This time I felt like I was more patient throughout the process mentally and not rushing myself mentally. Not get too excited when my team plays well or I have a good (rehab) day. I’m taking things second by second and I’m trying to look out for what is best long-term.”

Durant also is fully recovered from COVID-19 after getting the virus in March. He is confident that the NBA will have a smart and healthy environment for NBA players to resume the season in.

“I was shocked. And then I was curious. I wanted to know what it meant. What is the virus about? I started to get information about it more and more. It calmed me down… I was just more curious to what I was dealing with and how I could fight it myself,” Durant said.

Meanwhile, Durant’s co-star, Kyrie Irving, had season-ending shoulder surgery on March 3 and indications remain that he has no plans to play for the Nets until next season. Irving has been engaged in basketball-related workouts as part of his rehabilitation process, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

On a National Basketball Players Association call on Friday, Irving — a union vice president — inquired about whether inactive players could come support their team and watch playoff games — and whether that person would count as one of the 35 people expected to be allowed as part of each team’s traveling parties, sources said.

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Slimmed-down Nikola Jokic makes Nuggets tough to beat in West, says Jamal Murray

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With a core that has been intact longer than most of their West rivals to go with a fitter and more “athletic” Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray says the Denver Nuggets are ready to show that they can emerge from Orlando with an NBA championship.

“We know we can go win the title,” the Nuggets’ guard said in a Zoom call with Denver reporters. “Me and Joker have been in Denver this whole time, working out.”

“Why not?” Murray later replied when asked about winning it all. “We have proven to be one the best teams year in and year out since we have been building. We have beaten good teams consistently. We shouldn’t have lost to Portland [last year in the conference semifinals]. That was more on us, our inexperience and they are a good team. But we don’t think that there is a team that can beat us in a seven-game series when we are playing at our best.”

The Nuggets (43-22) are currently third in the Western Conference, 1.5 games behind the LA Clippers (44-20). They currently have the sixth best record in the NBA.

And now Murray says the team’s All-Star 7-foot center is ready to unveil a new and improved body out of quarantine, with the season tentatively scheduled to resume on July 31 at the Walt Disney World campus near Orlando, Florida.

“Hey, Joker got a little four pack,” the guard said of Jokic’s abs. “I love it. … Remember, probably [my] second year [2017-18], how skinny Joker was. You could start to see him put on the weight. He put on a lot more and then he took it, just like, it’s just gone. He took it all the way out.

“It is kind of weird to see him like this where he is a lot more athletic, he is moving a lot better.”

After beating San Antonio in seven games in the first round before losing in seven to Portland last postseason, the Nuggets returned with the same young core and opened the season 13-3. But in the eight games before the NBA season was suspended, the Nuggets went 4-4.

“If we can just find that consistency and play at a high level,” Murray said of the Nuggets’ biggest issue. “When me and Joker are on, I don’t think there is anybody that is going to stop us. And if they do, then good game.”

Between working out and studying film, Murray says he has been watching what has been happening in the United States. The Canadian has been reminded of the racism he has experienced during his lifetime.

“I want to send my condolences to the family,” Murray said of George Floyd, whose death has ignited protests for equality around the country. “… I myself have seen the same racism happen to me and my Dad. … I think about all the stories I have growing up with my Dad how obvious it is. The stuff that the cops do and the stuff that happens, what bothers us, the black community, is it’s so blatant. … It’s so out in the open that if you can’t see it, then you are part of the problem because it is very obvious.”

“When something as blatant as this happens, then you can’t shut up and dribble, you can’t ignore it. You can’t just let it happen. It becomes frustrating, like such a life changer for everybody, and it really starts to open your eyes.”

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Michael Jordan, Jordan Brand pledge $100 million to racial equality and education initiatives

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Amid the global outpouring of support for the Black Lives Matter movement, Michael Jordan and Jordan Brand is pledging $100 million over the next 10 years to nationwide organizations “dedicated to ensuring racial equality, social justice and greater access to education.”

“Black lives matter. This isn’t a controversial statement,” read a joint statement from Jordan and his company, which is a subsidiary of Nike. “Until the ingrained racism that allows our country’s institutions to fail is completely eradicated, we will remain committed to protecting and improving the lives of Black people.”

Specifically, Jordan Brand will increase its work in communities across the United States to provide access to education and opportunities for future generations, while also taking a more active role in supporting organizations that work to effect policy change in local government.

“We must join forces with the community, government and civic leaders to create a lasting impact together,” Jordan Brand president Craig Williams said. “There is still more work for us to do to drive real impact for the Black Community. We embrace the responsibility.”

The Jordan Brand pledge came hours after Nike announced its own “Commitment to the Black Community,” an additional $40 million collective pledge to community organizations from the Nike, Jordan and Converse brands over the coming four years.

“Systemic racism and the events that have unfolded across America over the past few weeks serve as an urgent reminder of the continued change needed in our society,” Nike president and CEO John Donahoe said in a statement.

Nike also unveiled a “For Once, Don’t Do It” video four days after the death of George Floyd while in custody of Minneapolis police on Memorial Day, which has fueled protests across the nation. Floyd, who is black, died after a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes. Chauvin faces second-degree murder and manslaughter charges, while three other officers were charged with aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter.

“We know Black Lives Matter. We must educate ourselves more deeply on the issues faced by Black communities and understand the enormous suffering and senseless tragedy racial bigotry creates,” Donahoe’s statement continued. “The Nike Inc. family can always do more but will never stop striving to role model how a diverse company acts. We will continue our focus on being more representative of our consumers while doing our part in the communities we serve.”

Jordan Brand, launched in 1997 during Jordan’s final season with the Chicago Bulls, has a history of philanthropy. Over the past year, the company has featured a “UNITE” campaign, centered around celebrating global backgrounds and connectivity through sport.

Since 2015, its Wings Scholars Program has provided college scholarships to more than 1,800 students from disadvantaged backgrounds in North America and China. Last week, 32 United States students received “Class of 2024” scholarships, which also include mentoring and internship opportunities with the company.

“Through our Jordan Wings Program, we have been focused on providing access to education, mentorship and opportunity for Black youth facing the obstacles of systemic racism,” Williams said. “But we know we can do more.”

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