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Miami Heat’s Pat Riley says team needs downtime after exhausting year



MIAMI — Pat Riley has identified an immediate priority for the Miami Heat: Do absolutely nothing.

After a nonstop year, that’s his requirement.

There will be more than enough time for roster decisions, offseason workouts, preparing for the combine and draft even though Miami doesn’t currently have a pick, piecing together a summer league team and free agency.

For now, however, Riley wants just about everyone in the organization to take a break after a whirlwind 12 months that saw an NBA Finals appearance one season, an exit from another season in a first-round sweep and all the while dealing with the coronavirus pandemic that changed just about everything.

“We’ve been at this for a while, so where we’re headed first is rest,” Riley, the Heat president, said Thursday in his annual state-of-the-team address that traditionally comes shortly after the season ends. “Our players, our staff, the people that have been here every day, every single day, they’re mentally worn out more so than physically. And I think they just need to rest for a couple of weeks, a month.”

It was a major storyline in the NBA this season, how the compressed schedule and the additional demands of the protocols that were put into place to deal with the virus — including daily testing often late at night or early in the morning, limits on the amount of time teams could spend together, limits on who they could be with — would grind on players and teams.

It wasn’t an excuse, and Riley refused to make it one. Every team went through it.

“Everybody sort of got a little bit disconnected,” Riley said.

Miami prides itself on its offseason workout program, especially for its younger players, and even a soon-to-be 41-year-old veteran like Udonis Haslem said he won’t be taking much down time this offseason.

But everyone simply needs a break, even the Heat.

“We’re not total lunatics,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after the series against Milwaukee ended. “We’ll give them a little bit of time off. That’s the way this season has been. It’s been so hard for everybody in this association. I didn’t realize what month it was. I didn’t realize it was Memorial Day weekend, and when I brought that up several players and staff members were right there with me. It’s been that kind of year.”

The Heat reopened the doors of their facility in May 2020 when the NBA allowed limited workouts to resume, and the place didn’t slow down until Miami was eliminated from this year’s playoffs by Milwaukee in a first-round sweep that ended last weekend. The workouts last spring led into the run in the NBA’s restart bubble at Walt Disney World, which led to an NBA Finals appearance, followed immediately by free agency and draft prep, followed by pre-camp workouts, followed by camp and then the season.

Much was made of the 71-day gap between the end of the finals and the start of this season and how that was much shorter than usual, but the reality was that very few of those 71 days were idle. Now, Riley said, there is a chance to breathe.

“Anybody who’s involved in the NBA family or industry, this is a challenging year from the standpoint of how you used to do your job versus how you have to do it now,” Riley said. “But, in anything in life, as I’ve said, it doesn’t make any difference what happens to you — it’s how you deal with it and adapt, and everybody had to adapt.”

That said, Riley craves the return to normalcy, one he believes might come next season. He missed being part of some of the off-the-court things that he thinks sets the Heat apart from other franchises, things like a charity gala, a family festival, holiday parties and other events — some just for the team, some for sponsors, some for season-ticket patrons.

He even wrote a letter to Andre Iguodala after this season, telling him how unfortunate it is that he has missed out on all of that during his year-plus with the Heat. Iguodala was acquired in February 2020, less than a month before the pandemic forced the league into suspending that season.

“It’s going to be back — I hope — to normal somewhat next year when the season starts,” Riley said. “Everybody’s got more than enough time off to recharge the batteries. And then when we come back, I’m sure there’s going be some COVID protocols still, but they won’t be as is draconian as they were. We’ll see what they are, but I think we’re on to bigger and better things.”

He’ll take a little downtime, too. When he returns, the summer work begins, and he believes the Heat will find a way to return to contender status.

“Have a good summer,” Riley said. “There’ll be a lot of news coming along the way, but again, just a last shoutout to our fans and to everybody is that we’ll be back.”

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Chicago Bulls’ Coby White out at least 4 months after injuring shoulder, having surgery



The Chicago Bulls announced Thursday that guard Coby White will be out until at least the latter stages of training camp after undergoing surgery to repair a left shoulder injury he suffered over the weekend.

The team said the injury occurred while White was “engaged in basketball activities away from the team.” After the surgery, which was performed Thursday at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center, the team said White would be re-evaluated in four months. That would mean an update would come just before the mid-October start of the 2021-22 regular season. The NBA will reorient itself to its typical calendar after the past two seasons were thrown off because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

White, 21, is coming off an up-and-down sophomore season, having averaged 15.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.8 assists while shooting 41.8% from the field and 35.9% from 3-point range in 69 games, including 54 starts, after almost exclusively coming off the bench as a rookie.

“It was up-and-down for him this year,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan told reporters in Chicago last month. “But I’ve always said this about him, he’s got great resolve. He’s got resiliency, and he’s got great bounce-back ability. After the trade was over with, I think he kind of found his footing and played really good basketball for us.”

After missing the playoffs, the Bulls will wait to see whether they retain their draft pick — which Chicago traded to the Orlando Magic in March as part of the deal for All-Star center Nikola Vucevic. Chicago, which is currently slotted into the eighth spot in the lottery, will keep its pick if it jumps into the top four spots in the lottery, which is set to take place June 22. Chicago had the fourth pick in last year’s draft, which it used to take Patrick Williams, after having the seventh pick the previous two years, when it took White (2019) and center Wendell Carter Jr. (2018).

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Jordan Clarkson, after aiding vandalized food truck — ‘Just no room’ for racist attacks



SALT LAKE CITY — Jordan Clarkson saw the hateful racial slur spray-painted all over a well-known Filipino food truck in Utah on social media and was overcome with raw emotion.

“F— C—-s” and an offensive image of a face with slanted eyes was sprayed on the side of the World Famous Yum Yum Food Truck last weekend, and it didn’t take long for the images to reach Clarkson’s phone. The Utah Jazz Sixth Man of the Year knew he had to do something after seeing the graffiti of the derogatory ethnic slur and hurtful image often used against Asians.

“If you want me to be real honest, my first reaction was, ‘This is bulls—!'” Clarkson told ESPN on Thursday. “I was just like, we can’t be f—ing doing this. Those were the exact words that came out of my mouth to my boys, my family and everybody that was around me. So they were like, let’s do something [about it].”

“There’s just no room for that,” Clarkson added, “especially right now. It’s been tough, tough years on this Earth, this country, this world. There’s a lot of stuff going on. I feel like us together, and everybody finding a peace, will make things a lot more comforting in this world. We ain’t got no room for the hate no more. That’s got to go out of the window real quick.”

For Clarkson, who is Filipino American, the vandalism of the Filipino food truck hit home on many levels. It is just the latest example of the hate and violence that many Asians have experienced, especially over the past year during the coronavirus pandemic.

The 29-year-old Clarkson was one of many, including local politicians and businesses, who wanted to help restore the food truck. Clarkson paid for interior cleaning and detailing and joined with vehicle wrap company Identity Graphx, which designed a new exterior for the truck that will be unveiled Saturday at the Philippine Independence Day celebration in Salt Lake City. Clarkson also offered the owners, Ben and Erin Pierce, with significant financial support to get the truck up and running again.

Clarkson said the Jazz invited the truck’s owners and employees to Game 2 against the LA Clippers on Thursday (10 p.m. ET, ESPN).

“I didn’t even want this to really get out,” Clarkson said. “My team was like, do you want to go public with this or not? And I was kind of like no in the sense of I want to do this out of straight love and support. But for them, they came to me and said you got to show the people that you are there for them and let them know that you are supporting them, and that is what I am doing. I am here to support, show love and just try to make a change. That’s it.”

Clarkson said his father detailed cars for a living and had a trailer in their front yard where he worked. Seeing the food truck vandalized reminded Clarkson of how hard his father worked to provide for his family and how such an act of hate and racism would have done serious damage to his father’s business.

“There’s just no room for that, especially right now. It’s been tough, tough years on this Earth, this country, this world. There’s a lot of stuff going on. I feel like us together, and everybody finding a peace, will make things a lot more comforting in this world. We ain’t got no room for the hate no more. That’s got to go out of the window real quick.”

Jordan Clarkson

And the hateful slurs hurt the Jazz point guard deeply. Many Asians are living in fear in the United States amid a surge in hate crimes. From March 2020 to March 2021, there were more than 6,600 anti-Asian hate incidents documented by Stop AAPI Hate. Asian-targeted hate crimes in the biggest U.S. cities spiked 145% in 2020 compared to 2019, according to The Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. There have been verbal and physical attacks, with some ending fatally, such as the March 16 shootings that killed six Asian women in the Atlanta area.

“It is a big thing that we are trying to really change and really be a part of, especially here in Utah,” Clarkson said of trying to create awareness and combat racism and racial inequality. “It is kind of a worldwide thing that is going on that you see is a movement with everything. Black Lives Matter, Stop Asian Hate, all of these things are being put into really the eye of everybody now because everybody has social media, everybody has phones. I feel like a lot of this has been going on for a long time.”

Clarkson said he is finding his voice and becoming more active and involved.

“It has been powerful, and for me, it’s been a lot,” Clarkson said. “But you know, I am learning and doing a lot of things as well to try to catch up on a lot of this stuff. Being young in the league, you are kind of not really paying attention to a lot of this stuff. As you get older, you really kind of embrace this role of who you are. It really hits home in those times.”

Clarkson said that new Jazz ownership, led by Ryan Smith and including Dwyane Wade, has tried to use its influence to promote diversity and inclusivity and speak out against hate.

“They have really done a good job already of really trying to change this culture in Utah and really trying to just make a change period,” Clarkson said. “Like all the hate and stuff, if you come to our arena, you’ll see the message that’s put on the board before games [asking fans to curb hateful behavior].

“You saw what our organization did with Ja Morant‘s family. What we are trying to do is commit to change. Since we are the leaders around here in this community, this state and this city, I feel like it is our duty to do that. I feel like if people see us doing that, they’ll follow.”

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Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley to miss Game 2 vs. LA Clippers



Utah Jazz point guard Mike Conley has been ruled out of Thursday’s Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals against the LA Clippers due to a mild strain of his right hamstring.

Conley, who also missed Game 1, suffered the injury during the first half of Utah’s series-ending win over the Memphis Grizzlies last Wednesday.

Conley, 33, an All-Star for the first time this season, has missed significant time because of injuries to both hamstrings during his two seasons in Utah. He missed six games in February and nine games in late April and May due to tightness in his right hamstring.

Conley averaged 17.4 points and 8.6 assists for the top-seeded Jazz in the first round.

ESPN’s Tim MacMahon contributed to this report.

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