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Sources — NBA discussing changes for 2020-21 season, including Christmas start, fewer than 82 games

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The NBA’s board of governors is meeting Friday and is discussing possible changes to plans for the 2020-21 season, including starting as quickly as possible, playing fewer than 82 games and not waiting for fans to be permitted to all league arenas, sources told ESPN.

There has been some discussion among owners about starting as soon as Christmas Day to take advantage of that historically prime NBA showcase, sources said. Numerous teams contacted by ESPN over the past several days weren’t sure such a timeline was feasible. Others have been pushing for a start around Martin Luther King Day weekend in mid-January, sources said.

Just last month, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said, “The goal for us next season is to play a standard season, 82-game season and playoffs. In home arenas, in front of fans.”

As with so much during the COVID-19 pandemic, such plans are constantly in flux.

That course could ultimately be still followed, but in recent days, some governors have pivoted and begun considering the quicker timeline. Others continue to want to hold out for fans to be permitted into more arenas.

The league also continues to discuss tournament and play-in scenarios. The NBA has long planned to use this upcoming 75th anniversary season to experiment with new revenue-generating formats.

Any agreement between the governors on a course for next season would have to be taken to the National Basketball Players Association for approval. The two sides have met several times since the conclusion of the Finals to discuss the financial and scheduling challenges ahead.

Oct. 30 is setting up to be a key date. The NBA and NBPA agreed that day would be the deadline to complete ongoing discussions on modifications to the collective bargaining agreement for the 2020-21 season, a date that requires the league or union to provide 45 days’ notice if either decides to terminate the CBA — a scenario that sources continue to believe is a remote possibility.

It would also mark roughly eight weeks until Christmas. Silver has told the union that there would be at least eight weeks between an agreement and the formal starting of next season.

Talks between the NBA and union have been productive on making the necessary financial allowances on 2020-21 salary-cap and luxury-tax thresholds to account for the massive losses in revenues from the pandemic, sources said.

Ongoing talks are centering on increased escrow taken from players’ salaries, sources said. The league and union are still awaiting full audits on the basketball-related income that accounts for the league’s 51-49 revenue split with players.

The NBA and NBPA are working on resetting of the 2020-21 salary-cap and luxury-tax numbers based upon those audits and financial projections for the next year. This allows for teams, agents and players to have more time to prepare for the financial realities of the pandemic’s impact on the league. As the NBA draft approaches on Nov. 18 — and free agency expected to start soon after — teams are eager for the league to reach an agreement with the union and deliver more certainty on the cap and tax bills.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Tim MacMahon contributed to this story.

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Sources — Houston Rockets, Washington Wizards agree to Russell Westbrook-John Wall deal

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The Houston Rockets have agreed to trade Russell Westbrook to the Washington Wizards for John Wall and a first-round draft pick, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The pick is a 2023 first-rounder protected 1-14, sources said. If it doesn’t convey to Houston, it converts to a 2024 pick protected 1-12, then 2025 protected 1-10 and 2026 protected 1-8. At that point, if it still hasn’t conveyed, Houston will get a second-round pick in 2026 and 2027.

Westbrook, as well as fellow Rockets star James Harden, had expressed concern about the direction of the Houston franchise in the wake of the departures of coach Mike D’Antoni and general manager Daryl Morey, sources previously told ESPN.

The Rockets and Wizards had previously discussed a Westbrook-for-Wall deal, but Houston wanted assets in addition to Wall, a source said at the time, which it will get with the first-round pick.

Wall, who is coming off a ruptured Achilles tendon, has not played since Dec. 26, 2018, but Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard said last week that the former All-Star had his quickness back and an improved 3-point shot.

The move will reunite Westbrook with Wizards coach Scott Brooks after the two were together in Oklahoma City from 2008-09 to 2014-15.

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LA Clippers’ Paul George says lack of adjustments hurt team in playoffs

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Paul George said the LA Clippers failed to make any adjustments during their stunning playoff meltdown when they blew a 3-1 second-round series lead to the Denver Nuggets.

Appearing on the “All The Smoke” podcast with Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes, a candid George talked about the Clippers’ failure to do anything to stop the bleeding once Denver began its comeback, saying they were “having the same s— happen over and over again.”

As Doc Rivers oversaw a blown 3-1 series lead for the second time during his Clippers tenure, George said the team was not prepared enough. He also said that a lack of practice time due to injuries and circumstances during the season also exacerbated the collapse as players were forced to try to iron out issues on the court during playoff games.

“It was tough because we were confident,” George told Jackson and Barnes when asked about the Clippers’ collapse. “We went up 3-1, we felt like, we’re going to win the next one. We lost. We [were] like cool, we’re up 3-2, we gonna win the next one. We lost. But during that whole process, we never worked on adjustments. We never worked on what to do differently. We just literally having the same s— happen over and over again. It started to play a trick on you like man, what’s going on?

“We are talking amongst each other like the conversation is, we are going to be all right. The conversation should have been like, nah, we need to change this, we need to switch this up. I don’t think we deserved it. We wasn’t prepared enough going into it. … We didn’t put the work into it. It was kind of just like, yo, we got PG, we got Kawhi [Leonard], Lou [Williams], Trezz (Montrezl Harrell). We going to be straight, we are going to figure it out.”

The Clippers lost three straight games to the Nuggets, falling short of the championship expectations they entered the season with. That led to the team parting ways with Rivers, who couldn’t get the Clippers on the same page during a season full of injuries, little practice time and constant disruptions.

George, who missed the first 11 games of the regular season before returning and averaging 21.5 points and 5.7 rebounds, said his first season with the Clippers got off to a difficult start because of his inability to train like he normally does during the summer of 2019 and inability to participate in training camp with his new team after shoulder surgeries.

“I missed that time in the summer of playing pickup ball, hooping, getting into a rhythm, getting into a flow, working on my game, the timing right,” he said. “So when I came back and started playing again, I just felt off, like I didn’t feel like a part of the team.

George also said that head coach Doc Rivers didn’t play to his strengths, saying he was utilized “like a Ray Allen or like a JJ Redick — all pindowns.”

“I can do it. But that ain’t my game,” he said. “I need some flow. I need some mixes of pick and rolls, I need some post-ups. Just different touches. … And so, it was just, that last season was just hard overall.”

The Clippers are banking on Ty Lue, who replaces Rivers and moves up from his lead assistant position last season, to improve the team’s in-game strategy and chemistry among Leonard, George and the Clippers’ role players. Lue said a major difference this season that should help the chemistry is having Leonard and George healthy and participating in training camp.

“Just as far as me talking to Kawhi, he is excited to get back on the court,” Lue said on Wednesday. “When you are dealing with great players, when you lose early on in the playoffs, you are always eager to get back. That is what great players do. We all failed at our goal last season and we all know that.

“Kawhi has done a great job of taking [initiative] to get guys on the phone, talking to guys, seeing guys more,” Lue added. “He has done a great job of that. He is excited to get back on the floor just from talking to him and we are all excited as well.”

Lue is no stranger to dealing with superstars and trying to hold them accountable. He won two championships as a player alongside Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal and another title as a coach while guiding LeBron James in Cleveland.

Lue and George have said the Clippers need a lot more time together on the floor in practices. George said that was a major reason why the Clippers were often not on the same page and could be seen barking at one another at times during the playoffs.

“I relate it to we didn’t practice during the whole year, and that is hard to do when you are putting a fresh new group of guys together,” George said. “The problems you have during games, those s— can be ironed out in practice. You are going to bump heads in practice, but you are going to come out of that practice like, OK I understand this dude, I know where he is coming from. When it happened during games, it is going to rub a little differently.

“It is hard to come back from that, especially in the playoffs. Then you are like, OK, that is what he’s on. So all right, I got you. That is kind of how the team, that is how we was and how we went about it after stuff started unfolding and unraveling.”

The Clippers return to camp this week a different team with Rivers gone to Philadelphia, Harrell signing with the Lakers and JaMychal Green joining the Nuggets. They added Serge Ibaka and Luke Kennard via free agency and trade.

George says this season will get off to a different start just because he and Leonard will be healthier and can work with the entire team.

“I think for this year, everybody is starting off on a healthy page, we are starting off on the same page,” George said. “Me and Kawhi are going to get some time together working out. I think everything is just not rushed going into the season.”

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NBA says 48 positive for COVID-19 in initial reentry testing

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The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association jointly announced Wednesday night that there were 48 positive tests for COVID-19 out of the 546 players tested from Nov. 24 to Nov. 30.

This was the initial round of tests for players as they returned to their teams’ markets ahead of the start of individual workouts Tuesday. The regular season is scheduled to start Dec. 22.

The NBA will be testing all of its players daily throughout the season.

While the league’s positive test rate of 8.8% in its initial testing is lower than the national average of 10.2% over the same time frame, it also is significantly higher than the 5.3% rate (16 out of 302) during the same return-to-market period in late June before play at the bubble in Orlando, Florida.

In total, 46 players tested positive for the coronavirus in the weeks leading up to and upon initially arriving at the bubble. After the bubble was formed, the league had no positive tests through the end of the season in mid-October.

As for this season, one team, the Golden State Warriors, delayed the beginning of its individual workouts by a day this week because of positive tests.

As the league detailed in its 139-page health and safety protocols released to teams over the weekend, a player will have to refrain from workouts for 10 days if he tests positive and remains asymptomatic — or 10 days from the end of his symptoms, if he has any. After that, a player will then have to spend two days working out individually, as well as have to pass a cardiac screening, before being allowed to resume full team activities.

That would make it a minimum 12 days from the time a player tested positive until he was able to resume full participation with teammates.

The NBA’s first preseason games are Dec. 11 — or fewer than 12 days from the end of the first testing window.

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