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Celtics Brad Stevens says Marcus Smart doing ‘great’ dealing with COVID-19

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Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens said that guard Marcus Smart is doing “great” in the wake of testing positive for COVID-19 last week.

“Great. He’s great. Great spirits. Joking as always,” Stevens said Friday morning on a conference call with local media. “We had a Zoom with the team, told the team we were going to give them their own space to hang out and have fun — and he told us to get off.

“So he’s great.”

Stevens and the Celtics were in Milwaukee on Wednesday, March 11, preparing to play the Bucks the next night — in front of no fans — when the NBA suspended its season after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus prior to that night’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Boston, having played Utah the week before, wound up coming home from Milwaukee the next day and self-isolating, before Smart eventually tested positive for the virus.

Stevens said he and the rest of the Celtics have continued to check in on Smart and that he feels good, with Stevens also adding he was proud of Smart for announcing his positive test himself and spreading the word to people to be smart and self-isolate to try to slow the spread of the disease.

“Obviously this thing spreads very quickly, and doesn’t need as much contact as obviously you get when you’re in the middle of a basketball game,” Stevens said. “I’m just happy that when he tested positive he continued to experience no symptoms and has felt great ever since.

“We landed from Milwaukee 15 days ago now, and he’s been feeling good. I’ve checked in with him as everybody else has, very regularly. I’ve seen him on conference calls a few times and he seems to be doing really well.

“I’m proud of how he kinda took the initiative to tell people that he had it and that he felt good and that he got online and just continued to ask people to practice social distancing and self-isolation right now. It’s a really unique, unsettling time for everyone.”

Stevens admitted that he had begun thinking about the severity of the situation when the league had announced restrictions on media access two days prior to the league officially being suspended indefinitely, and said he thought that the NBA shutting things down was a turning point for how the rest of the country began to see the virus.

“We were all flying to Milwaukee that Wednesday after we played Indiana thinking we would probably play the Milwaukee game with no fans,” he said. “But, obviously, that all changed during the Oklahoma City game. And I think in a unique way that was a starting point for the whole country in recognizing that.

“I know a lot of people that have experienced symptoms or that ultimately — throughout this NBA family — that have gotten this. So I think it hit home well before that. But I do think that Wednesday night [when Gobert tested positive] will be something that we all remember and obviously the days following that as we entered this kind of new world. My heart goes out to all the people [impacted by this].

“We’re calling sitting at home an inconvenience. What a joke. There are so many people that are working so hard every day to try to help our communities and help the sick and putting their own selves at risk. And I think any time you turn on the TV it hits home even more.”

As far as basketball goes, Stevens said he’s gone through the typical review process he does after the season is over in order to try to be as ready as possible when — or if — games resume. But he said that, until there is a timeline for a potential resumption of play, there isn’t much else to be done.

“I’m sure we will dial into details of that when some possible scenarios become more clear,” Stevens said. “You turn on the TV and there’s different viewpoints of how long this thing is going to take. Anybody that is speaking scientifically or from a math point of view says it’s going to take awhile. You see the schools are closed here until May 4th, you see all the stay-at-home adversaries around the country — I think there is a lot to determine.

“And I don’t think you can determine any [possible scenarios in which the NBA could return] until you have a timeline — and it’s just almost impossible to get a timeline right now.”

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

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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.

ESPN’s Tim Bontemps contributed to this report.

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Basketball Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony pushed to 2021, Jerry Colangelo says

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Count the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame as the latest institution to have its best laid plans felled by the coronavirus.

Jerry Colangelo, the chairman of the board of the governors for the Hall, told ESPN Wednesday that enshrinement ceremonies for the class of 2020, one of the most star-studded lineups ever which includes Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and the late Kobe Bryant, will be moved to spring of 2021.

Colangelo said the original dates of enshrinement weekend, Aug. 28-30, and the proposed alternate dates of Oct. 10-12 are “just not feasible” in light of the coronavirus pandemic that has killed over 100,000 in the U.S. and has rendered large gatherings taboo. The board of governors will convene on June 10, he said, to explore spring dates.

“We’re definitely canceling,” Colangelo said. “It’s going to have to be the first quarter of next year. We’ll meet in a couple of weeks and look at the options of how and when and where.”

The Hall was hoping its glittering 2020 class, which also includes former Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich, 10-time WNBA All-Star and four-time Olympic gold medalist Tamika Catchings, Baylor women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey, Bentley College women’s basketball coach Barbara Stevens, former FIBA and IOC executive Patrick Baumann, and former college coach Eddie Sutton, who died on May 23, would serve as a springboard to trumpet its $23 million renovation. The Hall closed in early February to complete the renovations and planned to re-open on March 25, but because of the pandemic, its doors have remained shuttered.

The original plan called for a Friday celebration at Mohegan Sun, a casino in Uncasville, Connecticut, where rings and Hall of Fame jackets would have been presented to the inductees. The actual enshrinement ceremony was scheduled to be held back in Springfield on Saturday, Aug. 29, at Symphony Hall, which has a seating capacity of 2,611.

Colangelo said Hall of Fame officials considered moving the enshrinement ceremony from Symphony Hall to the MassMutual Center in Springfield, which can hold 8,319 people, for social distancing purposes, but ultimately decided to simply move the date forward several months.

Colangelo stressed there will be separate ceremonies for the class of 2020 and the class of 2021, even though both events will now be held in the calendar year 2021. “We won’t be combining them,” he said. “The class of 2020 is a very special class and deserves its own celebration.”

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Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard says play-in tourney plan ‘would be perfect’

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Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard believes a play-in tournament for teams on the outside of the playoff picture “would be perfect” as the NBA considers its options in regard to which way it wants to potentially restart its season.

“I feel like a play-in tournament would be perfect, just because we actually were in striking distance and also had enough games to get in the playoffs,” Lillard told ESPN’s Jalen & Jacoby on Wednesday. “But to that point, if they did decide that we’re just gonna go straight to the playoffs, obviously we would all be disappointed.

“… We haven’t performed to be in that top eight. So if that’s the case, then fine. But if we’re gonna just come back to play games, I feel like that’d be harder on everybody else.”

The Blazers were 3.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference when the NBA season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic on March 11.

As ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe have outlined, one of several ideas the league has discussed revolves around a possible play-in tournament for teams like the Blazers that are close to a playoff berth.

Lillard’s comments came a day after the All-Star told Yahoo Sports that he would not play in “meaningless” games if the Blazers don’t have a chance to make the playoffs. He tried to soften those comments Wednesday.

“I mean, I felt like the way the story was written, it was taken out of context, because it was a casual conversation,” Lillard said Wednesday. ” And it was like ‘expletive this, expletive that,’ but it wasn’t a demonstrative statement.

“I was just saying we’ve been off for two months, and if we come back, we want to play for something. So after this type of break, usually when you come back — especially with how fast we’re gonna be jumping into playing — I think guys are at risk for injury, also at risk of being exposed to whatever, because none of us have been around each other, if so many teams are gonna be in one spot.

“… Obviously as players, we want to play, but we want to play for something — especially if we’re in position to play for that in the first place.”

NBA commissioner Adam Silver will continue discussing plans with the NBA’s Board of Governors during a virtual meeting Friday, sources told Wojnarowski. The plans revolve around a return to action in a possible bubble scenario at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

Lillard said he feels like other players — especially those on teams with no chance to secure a playoff berth — may share a similar perspective to his.

“One of the reasons I haven’t [heard] from any other players, possibly other guys that feel the same way,” Lillard said. “They want to play for something, and some people might be looking at it like, ‘it’s almost summer.’

“This is usually when it’s our break. And if we’re gonna come back and not actually be able to play for an opportunity to continue to play, then I feel like some guys would prefer to just go on about their summer. But I want to play. I’ve said that many times: I want to play. I just want to play for an opportunity to be in the postseason. I didn’t feel like that was a bad statement.”

When asked what he would need to feel secure inside a bubble environment, Lillard made it clear that he would support any idea where the league deemed it safe enough to play.

“If they say we’re gonna go do it, I’m prepared to go do it,” Lillard said. “I think if they’re saying that, they’re putting us in an environment that’s as safe as possible. I think that’s all you can ask. I don’t think we would be any more at risk than we are in our everyday lives, going to the grocery store.”

No matter which team were to come out on top in a possible bubble scenario, Lillard does not believe the eventual champion would have an asterisk in the record books as some have suggested.

“I don’t think so,” Lillard said. “[If] something took place or whatever happened and we end up winning, I’m not gonna lose no sleep if we win. They’re gonna be like, ‘We won it.’ We were all playing under the same [conditions].”

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