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JR Smith beats up man who allegedly damaged his truck

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Former Cleveland Cavaliers guard JR Smith is seen in video published by TMZ Sports on Sunday beating up a man who allegedly damaged his truck during the protests in Los Angeles over the death of George Floyd.

Smith is seen kicking the man when he is on the ground and then punching him when he gets up before he runs away. The man broke Smith’s car window, Smith said in a video posted online.

Smith said he was parked in a residential area and not near any stores where looting took place during the protests.

“I chased him down and whupped his ass,” Smith said.

He said in the video that he wanted to make it clear that his retaliation against the man, who is white, was not racially motivated.

“This ain’t no hate crime. I ain’t got no problem with nobody who ain’t got no problem with me. It’s a problem with the mother—ing system, that’s it,” he said.

The 34-year-old Smith, a 14-year veteran, played in 11 games for the Cavaliers last season. He has not been on a roster this season.

Los Angeles is one of several cities in the United States where protests have taken place over the death of Floyd, a black man who died last week in Minneapolis after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, kneeled on his neck for several minutes.

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Grizzlies’ Ja Morant apologizes for anti-police jersey post, says ‘we need good cops to step up’

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Ja Morant apologized on Twitter for reposting an image on social media with a profanity directed at police officers on the back of his jersey, writing that it “didn’t clearly and accurately convey what I wanted to share.”

On Sunday, the Memphis Grizzlies rookie point guard reposted an image that had the word “F—” and the number 12 displayed on the back of his jersey. Morant’s jersey number is 12 but “F— 12” is an anti-police slang term.

Morant wrote “want dat on my jersey fr” on his tweet and also shared the image on his Instagram story with a similar message. He later deleted the posts and apologized via a statement to his Twitter account.

“I want to first apologize for reposting something that didn’t clearly and accurately convey what I wanted to share. My post was intended to focus on the bad cops who get away with the murder of unarmed Black men and women, and those who continue to harass peaceful BLACK LIVES MATTER protestors,” he wrote.

“I know there are good cops “12” out there. I know some, and a few are family. I am thankful to the cops at Murray State who took care of me and the cops who continue to watch over me with the Grizzlies. We NEED good cops to step up and make sure other cops are not abusing their power. There have been too many Black lives taken by police that could have been prevented.

“You may see me as just a basketball player and I may lose fans for taking a stand, but I won’t stay silent. BLACK LIVES MATTER!! Where’s the justice for Breonna Taylor?? And the other countless innocent Black lives that have been taken at the hands of dirty cops with no convictions?”

Chris Paul, president of the National Basketball Players Association, told ESPN’s The Undefeated on Saturday that the players’ union and the league are collaborating to allow players to wear jerseys with personalized social justice, social cause or charity messages on the backs instead of their last names during the upcoming restart of the NBA season.



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NBA spreads on boards for first time in months

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For the first time in over three months, NBA point spreads are back on the board at Las Vegas sportsbooks, but oddsmakers admit they’re not sure what to expect when the league attempts to resume its season amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The line on the LA ClippersLos Angeles Lakers game — the second half of an opening doubleheader July 30 — opened at pick ’em Saturday at Caesars Sportsbook. The New Orleans Pelicans are 1-point favorites over the Utah Jazz in the first game of the doubleheader.

The 22 teams in playoff contention when the season was halted March 11 will play eight games to determine playoff seeding. Games will be played at venues inside Walt Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports compound in Orlando, Florida, with no fans present.

The neutral sites, lack of fans and players choosing not to participate in the restart or testing positive for the coronavirus are among the issues facing bettors and bookmakers trying to get a grasp on an unprecedented finish to the season.

The Dallas MavericksWillie Cauley-Stein, the Portland Trail BlazersTrevor Ariza and the Lakers’ Avery Bradley are among the players who have informed their teams that they will not take part in the completion of the season. The NBA announced Friday that 16 players had tested positive for coronavirus, but did not reveal those names. Some players, including the Denver Nuggets Nikola Jokic and the Indiana Pacers Malcolm Brogdon, have said they recently tested positive for coronavirus.

“We don’t know who’s in shape. We don’t know what players are going to bail out,” Alan Berg, senior oddsmaker at Caesars Sportsbook, told ESPN. “You just kind of have to throw things up there.”

Jeff Sherman, who oversees NBA odds at the SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas, estimated the lack of any home-court advantage impacted his numbers in the range of 2.5 points on average. The biggest adjustment he made, however, was to totals, the over/under on points scored in games.

“There’s a chance for a different energy in the building,” Sherman, vice president of risk for the SuperBook, said. “When you see those scoring runs, players feed off the energy [from crowds]. What we tried to do, considering that, was make the totals lower than what they would’ve been if it had been normal regular season games. We did between five and eight points lower on the totals.”

Caesars Sportsbook reported taking a series of bets on the unders in several games from a regular customer, causing the numbers to drop a few points. The Sacramento KingsSan Antonio Spurs total, for example, moved from 220 to 215.5.

With a month remaining prior to the season, Sherman said the early betting had been light, “a few $50 bets,” but the SuperBook did take a large wager — $8,000 at 25-1 — on the Nuggets to win the NBA title.

Oddsmakers said their approach to monitoring injuries and inactives will not change, despite increased potential for players being ruled out late. The bookmakers will continue to monitor social media and watch for line movement that may signal that key players are inactive.

“We’re going to know when [the line] is moving that something happened, usually before any media,” Berg of Caesars said. “We just have to do our best to react to it and try to dig to see if we can find out why a particular game is moving. This is an unprecedented situation. All it takes is a LeBron James to be out or a Giannis [Antetokounmpo] to not play and the line’s going to move tremendously.”

Still, after months without the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball, sportsbooks, like most businesses, are anxious to get back to some since of normalcy.

“It’s good to see [NBA lines] on the screen,” Sherman said. “There’s something on the horizon, hopefully.”

NBA lines for opening games [via Caesars Sportsbook as of Monday morning; odds subject to change]:

July 30 Jazz vs. Pelicans (PK, 220.5) Clippers (-1, 219) vs. Lakers

July 31 Magic (-1, 213) vs. Nets Grizzlies vs. Trail Blazers (PK, 223) Suns (-3, 228.5) vs. Wizards Celtics vs. Bucks (-5, 217.5) Kings (-2.5, 216.5) vs. Spurs Rockets (-1, 225.5) vs. Mavericks

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How the Toronto Raptors are turning Fort Myers into a test for the NBA’s Walt Disney World bubble

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Next week, 21 of the 22 teams participating in the NBA’s restart will begin trickling to Orlando to start isolating. But one team from beyond the state’s borders has already traveled to central Florida and kicked off what could amount to nearly four months away from home.

While the Toronto Raptors are not yet at the NBA’s campus at Walt Disney World, their experience leaving their families behind and beginning basketball activities in Florida is essentially a test run for the environment the NBA will attempt to execute in Orlando.

“I feel really safe here,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse told ESPN. “We’ve got a great setup, and I feel good, man.”

As the NBA’s lone team based outside the United States, the Raptors faced additional complications in trying to gather ahead of the resumption of the season. The city of Toronto still remains in Phase 1 of its reopening plan, and anyone entering the country must immediately quarantine for two weeks. The majority of Raptors players left Canada when the season was suspended, so returning to Toronto for the NBA’s two-week training camp period only to leave again to head to Walt Disney World was not a feasible option.

So on June 22, the Raptors instead traveled to Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, Florida, where they’ll hold training camp until relocating again on July 9, 151 miles north.

And, now that they’ve arrived, Toronto is getting a taste of the life all 22 teams headed to Florida will soon be living, settling into their individual rooms in an expansive hotel that is otherwise unoccupied. Nurse — an avid music fan — practices his guitar and electric piano in his room.

Breakfast and lunch are served in a large ballroom, with tables liberally spaced throughout the room and with only two chairs — on opposite sides of the table — at each of them. Dinner is delivered directly to their rooms.

Players and coaches are shuttled directly from the hotel to FGCU for workouts, albeit with limitations.

“It feels like we’re going to basketball camp every day,” Nurse said with a laugh.

Nurse and his staff are at FGCU’s gym from roughly 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day, as players individually come through and work out, per the NBA’s guidelines, with a cleaning crew staying busy by keeping equipment disinfected in between workouts.

“The players filter in a few at a time,” Nurse said. “We clean the floor, and a few more come, and we clean the floor, and a few more come.

“But it’s OK. … How much more time do you need to spend in your hotel room?”

As the NBA began to formulate its return-to-play plan, the Raptors knew that hosting the initial phase of their training camp outside the Toronto market was a possibility. That gave them an opportunity to come to grips with having to be the first team to be separated from their families for more than two months. The earliest that family members could join Toronto players in Florida would be at the end of August, after the first round of the playoffs, if they advance. Because the NBA’s current plans don’t include guest arrivals for coaches and team staff, the Raptors’ staffers who are already in Florida could go nearly four months without seeing their families.

“I haven’t sensed any discontent or whatever about having to be here, or asking why,” Nurse said. “In general, the guys are good, and I think most of them are concerned about their careers and getting back to wherever they were or getting them better. I think there’s a real level that I see … the care factor is high.”

Nurse also believes his roster is well-equipped to handle the pressure of interacting with pretty much only one another for multiple months.

“There’s some genuine chemistry with these guys,” he said. “They like to play in general, they like to play with each other, the love of the game. … I would give a lot of our guys a lot of high marks in those areas.”

And they’re not thinking about the length of their commitment.

“Right now, we’re not,” Nurse said on Saturday. “Maybe at some point on the back end of it, or midway through it, we might. But I just don’t know.

“We’re, what, five days in? They’ve been a snap of a finger. They’ve blown by. So it doesn’t feel like a burden or overwhelming. It just feels like we’re all starting and getting ready to go.”

It certainly doesn’t hurt that the defending champion Raptors are one of the teams with the most to gain from the resumption of the NBA season. Toronto, which will begin play in second place in the Eastern Conference standings, has the fourth-best odds of making the NBA Finals among all 22 teams and has third-best odds to repeat as champions, according to simulations run by ESPN’s Kevin Pelton using ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus.

After virtually every member of Toronto’s core rotation missed a month or more with injuries during the season, the Raptors are now as close to 100% as any team in the league.

“The vibe around the players is good,” Nurse said. “They look physically great.”

Outside Toronto’s Fort Myers bubble, though, there are larger concerns.

The Raptors arrived in Florida as the state was experiencing a record surge in positive coronavirus tests: 8,816 on Thursday and 9,564 on Friday, according to Florida’s COVID-19 statewide tracking dashboard. By comparison, there were 4,008 positive tests on June 19 and 2,318 on June 12.

During a Friday conference call to announce an official ratification of a deal with the National Basketball Players Association about restarting the season next month, NBA commissioner Adam Silver admitted that the rising case numbers in Florida are a concern. With minimal exposure to the general public, the NBA hopes to avoid a coronavirus outbreak that would force the league to shut down the season again, though Silver acknowledged that’s a possibility.

But the rising number of positive cases is something Nurse is paying attention to, especially as he and his team try to keep their mini-bubble intact.

“I think for sure we think about [the virus],” he said. “But for me, in general, I’m not doing anything. I’m staying in my hotel. Every second I leave, I’m wearing my mask, I’m staying away from people. I’m going to the gym and doing that, and then coming back. I don’t even want to stop anywhere.”

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