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Warriors’ Stephen Curry expects rookie James Wiseman to ‘help us win basketball games’

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Golden State Warriors star guard Stephen Curry is confident that new center James Wiseman can have an immediate impact for his team this season.

“For sure,” Curry said during a video conference call with reporters. “What that means — obviously he’s a second [overall] pick so the expectations are usually high comparing him to other top two draft picks in years past. Those comparisons, he’s not going to be able to avoid no matter what his average is or how many minutes he’s playing. But he’s definitely going to contribute and we’re gonna hopefully be able to unlock him this year to make us a much better basketball team.”

The Warriors are hopeful that Wiseman, who was selected with the 2nd pick in last month’s NBA Draft, can come in and have early success while veterans Curry and Draymond Green help take some of the inherent pressure that comes for all top prospects and teach him about the league.

“So for him not to get caught up in the hype and the noise — we know those comparisons are going to happen,” Curry said. “But this year’s unique, man. He’s just coming out of three games in college; no real preseason or real training camp type of experience, so he’s going to have to learn a lot really quickly and we’re going to have some grace with that, but hopefully he has the opportunity to go out and just compete and get his feet wet and learn on the fly and help us win basketball games. Success for him will be framed a lot of different ways, I think. And it might not be what the stats look like, it might mean him being apart of big meaningful basketball games for us to help us win.”

Warriors coach Steve Kerr echoed a similar sentiment in a Tuesday call with reporters, noting that while the center position is the only one that isn’t likely already filled with Curry, Green, Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre locked into the starting lineup, Wiseman still has a chance to carve out a niche for himself right away.

“James’ potential athletically is so dramatic that I imagine he’ll have a chance to step in and help us because he’s so athletic and dynamic,” Kerr said. “But there’s a ton to learn, and he doesn’t have the value of a summer league, a whole summer of workouts. A lot to catch up on in every respect.

“We just got to do our best. I’m excited for James, but also want to preach caution for everybody not to expect too much too soon because we’re just throwing him right into the fire. He played three college games. He’s got a lot of things to learn.”

While trying to slow the expectations on Wiseman, Kerr noted that veteran center Kevon Looney will be in a more “advanced” place given he has spent five seasons with the Warriors. Looney, who said he is feeling “great” after dealing with a variety of health issues last season, said he is more than willing to help Wiseman learn the NBA game.

“I’m really excited to get James on the team and to help him out,” Looney said on a Wednesday conference call. “I think he’s going to be a big contributor to this team. He has a lot of talent and a lot of potential I think his athleticism and his size is something that you can’t teach. I think he’s going to be really helpful for us, so whatever I can do to show him the ropes — it’s not easy to come in the NBA and play winning basketball right away. All the bigs, playing with Draymond and [Marquese Chriss], I think we all can show him a few things, but he already has the God-given talent. so all the small things, the technical things that we can teach him, I think it’s our responsibility to show him those things.”

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Dallas Mavericks’ Maxi Kleber tests positive for COVID-19, sources say

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The Dallas Mavericks shut down their practice facility Sunday morning after power forward Maxi Kleber tested positive for COVID-19, the team’s second positive test in three days, sources told ESPN.

Contact tracing is being done to determine whether any other players or staff members will be required to enter the NBA’s health and safety protocols, which means a minimum of a seven-day quarantine with no positive test.

The Athletic first reported Kleber was entering the league’s health and safety protocols.

Three key Mavericks — backup point guard Jalen Brunson, starting small forward Dorian Finney-Smith and starting shooting guard Josh Richardson — entered the health and safety protocols after one of them tested positive on Friday. Those players remained quarantined in Denver, where the Mavs defeated the Nuggets in overtime on Thursday night.

It has not been specified which of that trio tested positive.

Kleber started and played 24 minutes in the Mavs’ home win over the Orlando Magic on Saturday night.

Dallas’ next game is scheduled for Monday night at home against the New Orleans Pelicans.

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The NBA’s COVID-19 preparation for the season is already being tested

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Before the NBA season started last month, commissioner Adam Silver was asked on a conference call with reporters what it would take for the league to shut itself down again, like it did in March due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think we are prepared for isolated cases,” Silver said. “In fact, based on what we’ve seen in the preseason, based on watching other leagues operating outside the bubble, unfortunately it seems somewhat inevitable. But we’re prepared for all contingencies.”

Less than three weeks later, the NBA’s preparation is being tested.

The Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday lost to the visiting Denver Nuggets with only seven healthy players available in the wake of Seth Curry‘s positive test Thursday night, which ultimately resulted in four of his teammates — Tobias Harris, Matisse Thybulle, Shake Milton and Vincent Poirier — being held out for contact tracing as part of the league’s health and safety protocols.

Philadelphia’s available players kept things close for a half. Ultimately, though, relying on rookies for heavy minutes — Tyrese Maxey, Isaiah Joe and Dakota Mathias all played over 40 — proved to be too much to overcome. The issue now for the Sixers, though, is how many times they’ll have to play this way.

“I’m looking at our stat sheet, and we have [three guys] at 40-plus [minutes], and it couldn’t be avoided,” Sixers coach Doc Rivers said. “Now we play again in two days, and then we play again. So that’s my concern with this. We got to be very careful in how we navigate over the next week.”

Philadelphia is off Sunday, but then hosts the Atlanta Hawks on Monday, followed by a home-and-home with the Miami Heat. While the NBA has spelled out a specific return-to-play path for players who test positive, the rules as they apply to players who are identified as close contacts are less clear, with players who are deemed to be a close contact missing varying lengths of time.

The Houston Rockets had their season opener postponed due to most of their team being unavailable between a combination of positive tests and contact tracing. However, they played their next game with several players still out while they completed the league’s quarantine process, and no other games have been postponed, even if it meant Philadelphia playing with a skeleton roster. And the Sixers aren’t the only team facing a growing lack of bodies.

The Boston Celtics have seven players in the protocols as of Saturday night ahead of their home game against the Heat Sunday. The Washington Wizards have played three games in the past week – against the Brooklyn Nets, the 76ers and the Celtics — against teams that have multiple players out due to the league’s protocols.

“We do everything the league gives us; all the memos and the protocols. We do our best,” Brooks said prior to Friday night’s game against Boston. “We’re going to continue to do that. Everybody has been negative, and that’s good.”

After going through warmups, star guard Bradley Beal was removed from the lineup because he was deemed a close contact with Tatum Friday night. The two friends who share a trainer guarded each other for significant portions of the game and had a conversation on the court after it.

Beal being pulled minutes before a game isn’t the only close call for the NBA in recent days. Curry sat on Philadelphia’s bench for the first quarter of Thursday’s loss in Brooklyn before he officially tested positive and left the arena. Memphis Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas played in the first half and then was pulled from their game against the Nets Friday night at halftime due to the protocols, though coach Taylor Jenkins said afterward he hadn’t tested positive.

“The numbers are spiking,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Saturday night. “That is the reality. We are committed to proceeding with our industry, and we’re doing it with all the best science and adherence to the protocols.

“But, ultimately, we are not in control.”

In these first three weeks of the season, the league is learning that the hard way. One team official asked before the season, half-jokingly, if they would wind up going on a road trip and leaving players in one city after another as they went. In these first three weeks, two teams — the Chicago Bulls and Dallas Mavericks — have had to leave players behind, and in another instance staff from the LA Clippers had to drive back home from Salt Lake City. The Toronto Raptors, who are playing in Tampa, Fla. this season, reversed course on having fans in attendance at games this week due to spikes in the virus.

These are all the things that, as Silver alluded to, both Major League Baseball and the NFL had to deal with in trying to pull off their seasons during the summer and fall, respectively. The NBA, however, is trying to pull this off with far fewer players — and with COVID-19 raging across the land worse than it ever has before, with over 4,000 people dying from the disease Thursday alone.

“I think this is something we’re going to see throughout the year,” Suns coach Monty Williams said Saturday, when asked about the situation in Philadelphia.

“I’m sure the league is prepared for what could be a stoppage at some point, if it gets too bad.”

During that preseason press conference, Silver was asked specifically about what it would take to stop the season like he did back in March.

“There are not firm numbers on this,” Silver said. “The view is I think if we found a situation where our protocols weren’t working, meaning that not only did we have some cases of COVID but that we were witnessing spread either among teams or even possibly to another team, that would cause us to suspend the season.

“The decision tree that we will look at in terms of suspending the season will be solely a health and safety one. If at any point we no longer believe that it is responsible to play, we will halt the season.”

The NBA saw how successful its experiment with a bubble was last summer, but Silver ruled out doing one for a full season, or even a large swath of one, because of the mental and emotional toll it took on those who were there. Instead the NBA is forging ahead and playing the season in home markets, in order to allow those in the league to be with their families and to live as normally as possible amid the pandemic.

While Silver has been clear that health and safety have been at the forefront of the league’s decision-making process, he acknowledged the economic realities of the situation, saying “tens of thousands” of jobs are dependent on the league continuing to operate.

It hasn’t taken long, however, to see how difficult it will be for the NBA to walk that narrow path.

“I do think the reality is that we know this is rampant right now,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “And we’re doing everything we can, as I’ve said before, to prevent it and it’s still going to find its way into the league, through travel parties, so we’re all assuming some level of risk. And I think we accept that and, at the same time, we trust that the people in charge have health and safety as the No. 1 priority and, if it becomes too much, that’ll be somebody else’s decision who’s an expert at it.”

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Charlotte Hornets’ LaMelo Ball, 19, youngest ever to record triple-double

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — LaMelo Ball became the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double with 22 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists and the Charlotte Hornets beat the Atlanta Hawks 113-105 on Saturday night for their third straight win.

Ball, 19, replaced Markelle Fultz as the youngest NBA player to record a triple-double by 177 days.

Ball, the third overall pick in the NBA draft, was 9-of-13 from the field as the Hornets handed the struggling Hawks their fourth straight loss. He turned it on in the second half Saturday and produced the record when he drove the lane and dished out to Terry Rozier for a 3-pointer.

Ball became only the fifth rookie in NBA history to record a triple-double and the first Hornets player to reach that plateau coming off the bench.

He just missed the first triple-double of his career in the Hornets’ win Friday night over the Pelicans, finishing with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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