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Teams asking NBA if they can report directly to campus sites

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Among marketplaces where governmental restrictions are keeping practice facilities shuttered, teams are asking the NBA whether players can bypass returns to those cities and report directly to the league’s proposed campus environment for the start of training camps, sources told ESPN.

Most teams in regions still adhering to stay-at-home policies amid the coronavirus pandemic have an abundance of players who left the marketplace during the shutdown and would need to quarantine for an extended period — perhaps as many as 14 days — prior to joining workouts in team facilities. Teams want to avoid having to quarantine significant portions of their rosters twice — once upon returning to more restrictive markets, and again, at the bubble site.

In anticipation of the league’s expectation of restarting the season, the NBA has told those teams that it plans to work with them on solutions that possibly include redirecting some teams directly to campus/bubble sites instead of team facilities to hold training camps, sources said.

The NBA has a board of governors call set for next Friday, which is expected to include further details for teams on a timetable and plan to proceed with the season. Teams are expecting the league to instruct them to start recalling players to their team’s markets around June 1, sources tell ESPN.

Executives from Brooklyn, Boston, New York and Toronto were among those on Thursday’s general manager’s call with the league office who expressed concern about how waiting on the league to release a timetable complicates their ramp-ups to return in ways that are unique to those marketplaces, sources said.

For example, here’s what Raptors All-Star guard Kyle Lowry wants to avoid: He has been working out in Philadelphia and could have to return to Toronto and quarantine for two weeks — without a guarantee that Canadian regulations would let him use the team’s facility during that period of time. Conditioning gains he had made could be dulled — just as Lowry and others are looking to accelerate preparation.

Some teams have considered setting up temporary training camps at interim stops prior to arriving at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, where Eastern Conference teams expect they’ll be stationed to complete the season, sources said. Twenty-one of the league’s practice facilities are open for voluntary workouts, but most players on the Knicks and Nets haven’t returned to the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, New York. In most instances, front office executives said, they’re unable to get players to return to their markets to start preparing for the season’s resumption without the commissioner announcing that the season will be resumed.

The standings represent another complication for teams. The Raptors and Nets are firmly in the Eastern Conference playoffs, but the Knicks are waiting to learn whether the NBA will include all 30 teams in the season’s resumption — or keep some teams at the bottom of Eastern and Western Conference standings home for the summer.

In formal and informal conversations with owners, executives and players, the league is still uncertain about the regular season and playoff structure it’ll use to complete the season.

On Thursday’s call, the league was vague in detailing several resumption scenarios still under consideration, including a modified 30-team regular-season schedule directly to the playoffs, pool-play rounds of a play-in tournament and play-in models with less than 30, but more than 16 teams, sources said. Several members of the league’s board of governors believe that the NBA’s preference isn’t to bring every team to resume the season, but that remains undecided. First, the fewer teams, the fewer people at risk to spread or contract COVID-19. Also, with little chance to play more than five-to-seven regular season games, a month of preparation seems like an excessive investment for teams at the bottom of the standings.

And the idea of rewarding the league’s very worst teams in a play-in tournament has been met with scant enthusiasm. Among the teams at the bottom of the standings, most privately want nothing more than to keep their draft lottery odds strong — not dilute those percentages trying to win a handful of meaningless games. They’re even less enthusiastic about including key, veteran players and risking injuries in those games.

Nevertheless, 30 teams completing a comparable number of regular-season games prior to the playoffs makes for a more equitable weighting of lottery odds for the NBA draft — and gives the league a chance to maximize revenue streams for regional sports network television contracts.

Among the concerns of championship contenders in each conference are sitting idly in Orlando or Las Vegas awaiting the results of a play-in tournament, sources said. Contending teams wondered if the NBA would allow them to delay arrivals to the campus site while the play-in tournament is ongoing, “Just so that we don’t have to be sitting around waiting on that to end there,” one GM told ESPN.

Teams are pressing the league for the timeline, but they’re still resisting an official release of it. Among concerns: the uneven process of bringing back players overseas into North America, and some GMs describing voluntary workout environments that are losing momentum and interest among players.

“The novelty of being back in the facility, and how limited it is, has worn off on guys,” one GM said. “Our guys are telling the others: Stay away. Keep playing in the high school gym you’re using.”

The NBA is discussing a step-by-step plan for a resumption of the 2019-2020 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, sources told ESPN. Barring an unforeseen turn of events, many NBA owners, executives and NBPA elders believe Silver will green light the return to play in June — with games expected to resume sometime before the end of July, sources said.

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Knicks explain lack of public comment in email to MSG employees

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NEW YORK — An internal email was sent out to Madison Square Garden employees on Monday addressing the lack of a public statement regarding the outrage following the death of George Floyd.

“We know that some of you have asked about whether our company is going to make a public statement about the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer,” the email, which was obtained by ESPN, began. “I want you to know, I realize the importance of this issue. Therefore, I want you to understand our internal position.

“This is a turbulent time in our country. The coronavirus and civil unrest have taken their toll on our way of life. We at Madison Square Garden stand by our values of respect and peaceful workplace. We always will.

“As companies in the business of sports and entertainment, however, we are not any more qualified than anyone else to offer our opinion on social matters.”

The Knicks and the San Antonio Spurs were the only NBA teams to have not made public statements following Floyd’s death, as of 8:30 p.m. ET on Monday. Several NBA players — including Knicks guard Dennis Smith Jr. — have participated in protests that have erupted around the country. And Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has been a steady voice in recent years for social change.

Floyd, who was black, died on May 25 after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes.

“What we say to each other matters,” the email said. “How we treat each other matters. And that’s what will get us through this difficult time.”

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Atlanta Hawks’ Trae Young speaks at peaceful protest in Oklahoma

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NORMAN, Okla. — NBA All-Star Trae Young spoke at a peaceful protest of racial injustice and police brutality in his hometown on Monday.

Young, the former University of Oklahoma star who now plays for the Atlanta Hawks, briefly addressed several hundred people at Andrews Park about the deaths of George Floyd and others.

“I know this country’s in a messed up place right now,” he said. “And for me, I just think it’s important that we all stick together and we stand up for what’s right. It’s not just going to take just me. It’s not just going to take just you. It’s all of us coming together and doing this as a collective unit.”

Floyd, a black man, died May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck while Floyd was handcuffed and saying that he couldn’t breathe. His death sparked protests in Minneapolis and around the country, some of which became violent.

Norman mayor Breea Clark and police chief Kevin Foster were among the other speakers at the Norman rally.

Young acknowledged that he doesn’t often speak out on social issues and credited his sister, Caitlyn, for helping him come out of his shell. At one point, Young held up a “Black Lives Matter” sign.

“I’m not used to doing this,” he said. “I’m not very open about what I see or the things that go on in this world very often, but for me, even though I’m just 21 years old, I feel that it was necessary. This is bigger than me, and I feel like this is a big step in the right direction.”

Young’s NBA city of Atlanta has been rocked by protests, fires and looting. He said after he left the stage that he has mixed feelings about those protests.

“I play in Atlanta, a black cultured city where people are looting there and it’s messing up the city,” he said. “So I see both sides. You can protest the right way and peacefully, which I believe it should be, but I also see where it hasn’t worked.”

He believes better days are ahead.

“I feel like justice will be served and changes will be made if we all come together,” he said. “This is us doing it. This is the first step.”

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Stephen Jackson ’embracing’ new role as vocal leader after friend George Floyd’s death

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When NBA journeyman Stephen Jackson met George Floyd — a 6-foot-6 former basketball player himself — for the first time, the resemblance between the two was so striking that both figured they might be related.

“The first thing we both say: ‘Man, who’s your dad?'” Jackson told Marc Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated on Monday, one week to the day since Floyd died after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck. “And just from that, from looking alike and from that day forward, we just had a bond; we became tight.”

The chance encounter through a mutual friend years ago in Houston led to a new nickname for Floyd — “twin” — and later to a new calling for Jackson as a vocal leader for the black community after speaking at a rally for Floyd in the Twin Cities last week.

“How did I get this role?” Jackson said in an interview with Spears on Instagram Live. “Like, I’m honest with you, I did not expect to have the role and to have so many people waiting to see what I have to say and what’s the next move. Like, I didn’t ask to be in this position, but I’m embracing it. I’m embracing it.”

Jackson, who retired in 2014 after playing 14 seasons in the league and winning a ring with the San Antonio Spurs in 2003, has used his voice to transition to being a co-host of the popular podcast “All the Smoke” with Matt Barnes on Showtime. But now he finds himself using that voice for social change.

“Right now, I’m 10 toes down and my only purpose is getting justice and being with these people and trying to be a good leader,” Jackson said, noting his unexpected visit to Minnesota to support Floyd’s family has stretched to five days.

In taking up the mantle as he’s had, Jackson has advice for those listening who want direction on how to act from here.

First, Jackson said, protesting peacefully is paramount — and that means being cognizant while demonstrating that there may people out there trying to manipulate those protests to devolve into riots and looting.

“We got to be smarter and don’t fall for the trick bag,” Jackson said. “Right now — a perfect example: In Atlanta, there’s no construction in downtown Atlanta. I live in Atlanta. But at midnight, you see a pallet of bricks — just loose bricks, sitting in the middle of downtown, for people to throw. Why is that there?”

The peaceful protests are meant to highlight the public policy changes that are necessary to cure the systematic society ills that served as the backdrop to a man like Floyd ending up dead after being suspected of passing a counterfeit $20 bill, Jackson said.

Secondly, Jackson said, there needs to be changes to those who serve as elected officials.

“We got to vote,” Jackson said. “I’m not just talking about the President. I’m talking about the local city council; I’m talking about your police chief, your fire chief. We need to vote for all that type of stuff, because all that stuff’s going matter at the end. And what we’re doing now as far as protesting everywhere around the world — we got to use that same energy when it’s time to vote.”

Jackson said he’s heard from NBA figures from Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, to commissioner Adam Silver, to Golden State Warriors coaches Steve Kerr and Mike Brown supporting his efforts.

He is urging his followers to reach out to those they know who are being marginalized with similar support.

“I’ve been holding other races accountable,” he said. “Like, you can’t say you love me and not be standing here on the side of me. Them days is over with. You can’t say you love the way I play basketball and make jump shots and win championships, and not stand on the side of me and support me when I need you the most.”

Jackson spoke to The Undefeated shortly after an independent autopsy, performed by medical examiner Michael Baden at the request of Floyd’s family, determined his cause of death was asphyxia compression of the neck and back. Baden’s findings refute a state medical examiner’s opinion included in Chauvin’s criminal complaint that stated Floyd died because of the combined effects of being restrained, potential intoxicants in his system and underlying health issues — not strangulation.

Chauvin was arrested last week and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The three other police officers involved in the arrest — Tou Thao, J. Alexander Keung and Thomas K. Lane — were fired but have yet to have any criminal charges levied against them.

“What I already knew — he was murdered,” Jackson said. “Pressure on his neck. We all knew he was murdered. See, the only people that’s protecting (Chauvin) act like they don’t have common sense. … The (independent) autopsy is telling the truth of what we already knew: he was murdered.”

Jackson said he “expected” the other officers to remain free but is hopeful that’s not the case.

“Coming into this, I’ve seen so many situations not pan out right,” Jackson said. “I’ve seen the impossible happen also. And I think this is that situation. I think this (is) going to be the change. My brother’s death is going to be change. I think we’re going to get convictions for all of them. I think they’re drawing it out right now because this is the typical system. That’s why we got to change the rules — they look out for each other. They try their best to look out for each other. So, this is expected by me.

“But we’re going to fight. This is a marathon. And we’re going to continue this fight and we’re going to outfight them. We’re not going to stop. We’re going to keep this thing going they’re going to get tired of hearing about George Floyd. They’re going to get tired of hearing his name.”

Jackson said the events of the last week have changed him for good.

“I’m telling you — I came (to Minneapolis) as a different person,” Jackson stated. “I’m going to be here. I’m in for the long haul. … I didn’t ask for this role. I embraced it and people are looking to be to led. So I got to do it.”

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