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Players debuting in bubble still eligible for Rookie of the Year in ’21

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The NBA has decided that any players who make their NBA debut in the bubble — a category most notably led by Denver Nuggets forward Bol Bol — will remain eligible for the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award for the 2020-21 season, league sources told ESPN.

After Bol, a 7-foot-2 forward who is on a two-way deal with the Nuggets and didn’t play in an NBA game before the league shutting down in March, impressed in Denver’s scrimmage games inside the league’s Walt Disney World Resort bubble, the question of whether Bol playing in one or more of Denver’s seeding games would eliminate him from Rookie of the Year contention next season came up.

Voters had to submit their final choices for this year’s awards to the league office by 11:59 p.m. Tuesday. According to sources, the NBA’s decision ultimately came down to the fact that, since the seeding games aren’t going to be counted toward this year’s ballot, it didn’t make sense to penalize a player like Bol from being eligible for rookie honors next season.

Bol, the son of the late Manute Bol, had 16 points, 10 rebounds and 6 blocks in 32 minutes in Denver’s 89-82 win over Washington on Wednesday. He followed with 15 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks in a 119-104 loss to New Orleans on Sunday and 10 points, 6 rebounds and a block in 19 minutes in a 114-110 loss to Orlando on Monday.

Bol was the 44th pick in June’s NBA Draft after his lone collegiate season at Oregon was cut short by a foot injury.

Denver, which enters the NBA’s restart in third place in the Western Conference, will begin play in seeding games at 1 p.m. Saturday against the Miami Heat.

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Chicago Bulls to re-evaluate Wendell Carter Jr.’s injury in 4 weeks

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Chicago Bulls center Wendell Carter Jr. will miss at least the next four weeks after an MRI confirmed a severe right quad contusion, the team announced Tuesday.

Carter Jr., who was injured during a Jan. 20 practice session and has missed the past three games, will continue the rehabilitation process before receiving another re-evaluation.

Bulls coach Billy Donovan on Tuesday said Carter is “feeling better” but won’t be able to do much conditioning or anything until he’s fully healed. The injury occurred when Carter took a knee to the lower thigh when colliding with teammate Denzel Valentine during 5-on-5 drills.

“I really feel bad for him. He’s obviously battled some things over this early part of his career in the NBA and he’s had some significant time loss for different situations,” Donovan said. “I think Wendell is a great guy, he’s a good team guy. He’s worked hard to get himself ready. It was just kind of a freak thing that happened in practice and I just feel bad he’s gotta miss the amount of time he’s gonna miss.”

Carter was a key piece to the lineup, averaging a career-best 12.8 points with 8.0 rebounds in 14 starts. Throughout his career, the third-year center has yet to play more than 44 games in a season while battling thumb, abdomen and ankle injuries throughout his career.

“We all know how much he wants to be out there with us,” rookie Patrick Williams said. “He’s just a guy that loves to play the game, so it’s tough for him. Tough to see him go down, but we’ve got pros on this team and we know that the next guy has to step up.”

Donovan said he was able to talk with Carter during Tuesday’s film session.

“It’s a lot. And I think for him, we’ve got to figure out ways to continually keep him engaged with the team,” Donovan said. “I think we’ve got to find ways, although his conditioning is going to be limited in terms of what he can and can’t do while this heals.”

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Lawmakers defend Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell with playful resolution after Shaquille O’Neal comments

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah lawmakers took a stand Tuesday to defend Jazz star Donovan Mitchell against critiques by Shaquille O’Neal by passing a playful resolution that calls out O’Neal for his poor free throw shooting during his playing days and makes fun of the “Kazaam” movie he starred in more than two decades ago.

O’Neal, now a studio analyst on TNT, upset Jazz fans when he said at halftime of a game last week that the 24-year-old Mitchell didn’t have what it takes to be a superstar. That led to an awkward postgame exchange between O’Neal and Mitchell, who had just scored 36 points to lead the Jazz to a win over the Pelicans.

“In Utah, we support our players when they face awkward abuse during post-game interviews disguised as pep talks,” the resolution said.

O’Neal’s take that Mitchell “doesn’t have what it takes to get to the next level is even less accurate than his 50.4% playoff free-throw percentage,” the resolution said.

Utah Republican state Rep. Kera Birkeland introduced the resolution wearing a referee jersey and House Speaker Brad Wilson wore a Mitchell jersey while he read a resolution that suggested making “Spida” Mitchell the official state arachnid.

The resolution notes that O’Neal’s “Kazaam” movie has only a 5% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and made fun of his old video game, “Shaq Fu.”

Mitchell is averaging 24.3 points per game for the Jazz who are 12-4 and were riding an eight-game winning streak ahead of Tuesday night’s game against the Knicks.

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Indiana Pacers’ Caris LeVert has cancer surgery on kidney; full recovery expected

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Indiana Pacers guard Caris LeVert is expected to make a full recovery after undergoing surgery to treat renal cell carcinoma of his left kidney Monday, the team announced.

The surgery was performed by Dr. Jason Sprunger at Community Hospital North in Indianapolis, and the team said no further treatment is needed.

LeVert, who was acquired in the four-team trade that sent James Harden to the Nets and Victor Oladipo to the Rockets, will remain out indefinitely, the Pacers said.

The small mass on his kidney was discovered during a team physical and medical tests prior to that trade being finalized.

The Pacers front office has pledged to support him and stick by him throughout the process with no timeframe set on his return.

“I’ve always known Caris from afar, I’ve never known him as a person,” Pacers center Myles Turner told ESPN. “I’ve always heard great things about him, obviously as a basketball player and an individual so I think that’s what we have in this culture. He’s gonna fit so perfectly whenever that is, but right now we’re not really worried about basketball with him. We want him to continue to fight through this. I think it was a real win for the organization.”

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