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.”
Lakers assistant Lionel Hollins deemed higher-risk, won’t go to Orlando
LOS ANGELES — Lakers assistant coach Lionel Hollins will not join the team when it flies to Orlando, Florida next week for the restart to the NBA season, a league source confirmed to ESPN on Friday.
Hollins was deemed a higher-risk individual due to underlying medical conditions, the source told ESPN. He will not be present in Orlando but will continue to be an essential member of the team and participate on coach Frank Vogel’s staff remotely.
Without specifically mentioning Hollins by name, Vogel said it was a “fairly miserable experience” putting together the Lakers’ 36-person traveling party list that had to be submitted to the league this week.
“There are several members of our staff that we’re not going to be able to bring into the bubble that, quite frankly, we need in the bubble,” Vogel told reporters Thursday. “But the environment just doesn’t allow us to do that and that’s just part of the pandemic life and the situation we’re in.” Hollins exclusion from Orlando was earlier reported by Yahoo Sports.
This is not the first instance of bubble trouble for the Lakers, the No. 1 team in the Western Conference. They are already bracing for starting guard Avery Bradley’s absence in Orlando — he cited potential COVID-19 concerns for his 6-year-old son and a continued focus on community efforts — and are awaiting Dwight Howard’s finalized plans to join the team, as they work with Howard, his agent, the NBA and the NBA Players Association to find a workable path for him to report separately to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
Hollins, 66, joined the Lakers last summer after being hired, along with Jason Kidd, by Vogel as veteran NBA minds with previous head coaching experience.
Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager, Rob Pelinka, was asked earlier this week about what considerations the team was making in figuring out their travel participants.
“I think our level of care for every individual, for every player, for every member of our staff, needs to be at the highest possible level,” Pelinka said Tuesday. “And I think that’s our goal is that everyone deserves the highest standard of medical care and safety. That’s the way we’re looking at it as an organization is every person, regardless of their circumstance, deserves 10 out of 10 attention to detail, care and measures around safety as we venture into what we are with the Orlando restart.”
According to a league memo distributed to all 30 teams last month and acquired by ESPN, a higher-risk staff member who is not deemed “protected” by their team — meaning, the team makes the decision to exclude the individual from their traveling party for the good of that individual’s health — will be seen by a league-appointed physician and will be required to sign a release and a “covenant not to sue agreement” in order to be allowed in the bubble, if the league physician signs off.
The league physician can block the staff member’s inclusion, however, after gathering information and the physician’s decision will be “final, binding and unappealable,” according to the memo.
Hollins, a one-time All-Star who won a championship as a player with the Portland Trail Blazers in 1977, entered the league as an assistant coach for the Phoenix Suns in 1988-89 and later became the head coach for the Grizzlies (as the interim in Vancouver and later the full-fledged head coach in Memphis) and also served as head coach for the Brooklyn Nets.
New Orleans Pelicans assistant Jeff Bzdelik won’t join team; no word on Alvin Gentry
New Orleans Pelicans assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik will not accompany the team to Orlando for the restart of the NBA season, Bzdelik’s agent Warren LeGarie told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Friday afternoon.
According to team sources, the decision was made after Bzdelik, 67, consulted with team physicians and around CDC guidelines. The e team is fully supporting his decision to stay back, team sources said. Bzdelik is in his first year as an assistant coach with the Pelicans.
Meanwhile, multiple sources tell ESPN no decision has been made yet on Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry’s status heading into Orlando. Sources say the Pelicans are supportive of Gentry, 65, being able to join the team for the remainder of the season and have been working with the league in order to ensure he can make it to Orlando.
On Monday, Gentry was asked what he thought the NBA would say about his ability to coach.
“I have no idea,” he said. “My plan right now is to be in Orlando, and I’m looking forward to it, really. I think as the season was put on hiatus we were playing really good basketball, and hopefully we can get back to that. That’s why I’m not treating it like a training camp, I’m treating it like picking up where we left off when the season went on hiatus.”
On Wednesday, Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, the president of the National Basketball Coaches Association told reporters “we’ve been assured by the league that no one will be red-flagged from going to Orlando based on age alone.”
Bzdelik retired from coaching just before the start of the 2018-19 season but ultimately joined the Houston Rockets again in November of that year. He joined the Pelicans in July of last year.
According to sources, Bzdelik will be able to stay back in New Orleans and continue to help the team with defensive strategy from afar.
Jazz’s Rudy Gobert says challenge of coronavirus backlash ‘not easy’
Despite making the NBA All-Star team for the first time of his career this season, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert has had to overcome his fair share of public shaming after becoming the first NBA player to test positive for coronavirus.
The two-time Defensive Player of the Year’s positive test ultimately triggered the league’s suspension on March 11 then damaged his relationship with teammate Donovan Mitchell after he also tested positive the next day.
After having time to reflect on the situation, the French native says their relationship is better and he’s ready to put this behind him to help the Jazz push for a title during the Orlando restart.
“Obviously, when you have the whole world judging you or threatening you or sending you a lot of negative energy and stuff like that, it’s something that I would say is not easy as a human being,” Gobert said. “But, at the same time, people are just judging you on the perception they have and the perception you get from sometimes it can be one picture, one video or one interview, one action. So, people don’t really know you.
“People around me, they really know me, they know who I am and that’s what matters to me,” he added. “At the end of the day, I won’t be able to control everyone’s perception of me, but I can control my actions, I can control the things I do for the people around me, the community. The things I do for my teammates on the court, off the court, all that stuff I can control it and that’s what really matters to me.”
As far as his relationship with Mitchell, the two stars say they’re “good” and can co-exist moving forward in Utah. Mitchell called it no secret that he was upset with Gobert’s initial careless behavior, such as touching the microphones of reporters following a press conference, before becoming aware of his infection, but they’ll be ready when it’s time to clock in.
“You look at all duos and for us it’s like, there’s going to be tension. There’s going to be back and forth,” Mitchell said. “Obviously, I feel like I should be right here. He feels like he should be right there, but it’s always going to happen. It happens on every team, doesn’t matter if they win championships or they’re a last place team, it’s always gonna happen. So, I feel like even in a work environment, you’re not gonna always get along or go out to eat or hang out with your teammates.”
With the NBA’s July 30 restart quickly approaching, the Jazz are set to leave for Orlando on July 7. Gobert says he’s more comfortable with the bubble concept after extensive talks with members of the NBA and NBPA. He recently regained his smell after having trouble for three months after the diagnosis.
With all he’s been through lately, he sees basketball as a way to clear his mind.
“A lot of stuff is going on and it’s been a process but I’m happy now that I’m in a good place and I’m happy that I get the joy back from playing basketball with my team and the competitiveness is back,” Gobert said. “I’m ready to try to go out there and try to win the championship. That’s the goal. To be honest, after everything we’ve been through, as a team and as human beings, it would be a great comeback.”
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