Morning Coffee – Wed, May 27

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The beginning of the beginning.

Should the NBA crown a champion this season? – Sports Illustrated

What’s the urgency? Why is there a need to crown a 2020 champion? The argument that the NBA had champions in lockout shortened seasons doesn’t really hold up. Those seasons started late, but they didn’t stop in the last month and take the next four off. Shawn Kemp famously gained 35 pounds during the 1999 lockout. When asked how it happened, Kemp told then GM Wayne Embry he didn’t think the NBA was coming back. How many current players—with limited training options anyway—will suffer a similar fate?

There’s an opportunity here for the NBA to get creative, to offer up something different. The league would like to bring all 30 teams back—how about a round-robin, 30-team tournament that allows for a college-like Cinderella to make a run? Or a series of play-in series’, like the NHL is proposing, to give teams like the Blazers, Pelicans and Kings and chance to fight for a playoff spot? Or MLB-like single elimination, to add more drama?

Look, money talks, and if the NBA believes the best way to satisfy its financial commitments to its television partners is to hold a traditional postseason, that’s how it’s going to go. The league, like most businesses, has been hemorrhaging cash during this pandemic, and with gate revenue next season still in doubt, television will become the NBA’s primary—perhaps only—source of revenue. Silver won’t mess with that.

But there should be consideration for calling the next few months what they are: a unique basketball experience that has little connection to the season that stopped mid-March. Ben Simmons, sidelined for what looked like the rest of the year when the pandemic struck, will likely be back in the Sixers lineup. Bojan Bogdanovic, a 20-point per game scorer for Utah, will not. Mike Conley has a home gym in Columbus, Ohio, that rivals most high schools. Jayson Tatum, quarantined in the chilly Boston area, has admitted that it had been months since he fired up a shot.

The NBA will draw huge ratings when it returns. The Last Dance, the NFL draft, even the Match 2 offer overwhelming evidence that the country is starved for sports content. Even without fans, a safe NBA return will be an unequivocal success. Should that success culminate with an NBA champion? That remains up for debate.

2021 NBA Draft: Top 30 prospect rankings, scouting reports – Sports Illustrated

25. Franz Wagner, F, Michigan | Sophomore
Height: 6’9″ | Weight: 205 | Age: 18

It was kind of tough to know what to make of Wagner’s freshman year, but he began living up to the considerable hype in the second half of the season, looking much more confident and showcasing the scoring ability that made him a touted prospect in Germany. He will have to overcome a big athletic adjustment to succeed in the NBA, but Wagner has legit three-level scoring potential and can be dangerous in several facets offensively.

Getting stronger and dealing better with physicality will be imperative, and defensively, there are going to be concerns. But there’s some thought that Wagner might have been a first-rounder this year off raw ability had he stayed in Europe, with college basketball expediting his need to adjust to more athletic competition in the Big Ten. Michigan will have to keep leaning on him, and there’s a decent chance he’ll break out fully in year two.

Why the NBA Could (and Should) Look More Like the World Cup – The Ringer

Silver admitted in Paris this January that he’s “jealous in certain ways of soccer globally,” and advocated for the NBA to adopt a soccer-style midseason tournament and a late-season play-in tournament. The plan stalled, but the group stage could be an opportunity for the NBA to try to capture some World Cup soccer magic. A total of 80 games could be played over two and a half weeks, and every one of them would be a must-win. It’d be a gauntlet during which legacies would be on the line and young stars could vie for greatness. The NBA has never experienced anything like it.

The league could still pick up where it left off, with all 30 teams playing a handful more regular-season games, or go straight to the postseason using the current standings and the current playoff format. But Silver has been pushing innovative changes for years, and front office executives have long believed that the commissioner’s preference is to use this restart as a time to experiment.

It’s a pivotal week ahead for the league. NBPA executive director Michele Roberts has been conducting Zoom calls with individual teams over the past week to detail potential paths to resume play, and the financial impact of any decision. On Wednesday, the NBA’s advisory/finance committee will hold a conference call to discuss plans moving forward, according to sources. And this Friday, the board of governors will meet and Silver will formally present formats for resuming the season, according to multiple league sources. Possibly as soon as next week, teams and players will vote on which path to take when games resume, all of which will likely be hosted at Disney World. Here’s why the group stage offers the most upside for the NBA and how it could work.

NBA learns from the past as it moves to Wilson for future basketballs – The Athletic

Made with a cheaper material called Cross Traxxion microfiber instead of leather, the Spalding ball also reconfigured the eight-panel design into a single interlocking pattern.

Players hated it. They complained of grip, feel, bounce and other problems with the ball, which became slippery when even slightly moist. Some said it made their fingers bleed, and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban even commissioned a study that showed the ball’s poor performance compared to the traditional leather basketballs.

“I won’t make a spirited defense in respect to the ball,” Stern told the New York Times shortly before the NBA reverted to the original Spalding ball. “In hindsight, we could have done a better job. I take responsibility for that.”

Stern’s successor, Adam Silver, isn’t making that same mistake.

“We’ve had discussions with a lot of players already. We will work with Wilson and players as they develop prototypes and get their feedback over next year and a half,” said Sal LaRocca, the NBA’s president of global partnerships. “We expect Wilson will be able to manufacture a ball the players will be happy with. The players will be directly involved. They will be more involved than they ever have. There are things we certainly learned from 2006.”

Cuban agrees: “I’m sure we learned our lesson from the last time,” he said via email.

The National Basketball Players Association acknowledged the difference in how the ball switch is being handled.

“The details with respect to the players’ engagement in the development process of the new ball are still currently under discussion. Both Wilson and the league appreciate that the players’ involvement and feedback are crucial to assuring that any new ball does not negatively impact performance,” NBPA executive director Michele Roberts said via an emailed statement.

How the Nets became one of the hottest teams in Vegas during the NBA hiatus – The Athletic

In January, another bettor wagered $400 at 300-1 odds for the Nets to, well, cut down the nets. That bet came during a stretch in which the Nets had dropped 12 of their previous 14 games.

When those bets were made, the gamblers were perceived as radicals in Vegas. But since the NBA season went on hiatus in March, the Brooklyn Nets have been one of the hottest teams in the league — in the eyes of sports gamblers.

The belief that Durant and Irving could return this season has made its way to Las Vegas as sports betting organizations have seen a spike in wagers for Brooklyn to win the NBA Finals, if the league resumes this summer. Since the season was suspended, only the Lakers have had more bets placed on them to take home a title.

“It’s kind of a speculative bet, but nothing compares to this situation,” said Dave Mason, the sportsbook brand manager at BetOnline.ag.

Vinny Magliulo, an oddsmaker at Southpoint/VSin, said he’d compare the Nets’ change in odds to when Michael Jordan returned to the Chicago Bulls after an 18-month stint in minor league baseball. At the beginning of the 1994-95 season, the Bulls opened the year at 12-1 to win the NBA Finals without Jordan. But the team struggled mightily without him and saw a significant drop midway through the season. After Jordan returned in March, the team went 13-4 and opened the playoffs at 5-1 odds before falling to the Magic in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

NBA 2K League This Week: How ‘Timelycook’ joined Raptors Uprising – Sportsnet.ca

As mentioned off the top, the Uprising once again enjoyed a perfect week of competition, this time beating Knicks Gaming and Hawks Talon GC, both in 2-0 match sweeps.

For the second time this season, Uprising star Kenneth “Kenny Got Work” Hailey was named player of the week for his stellar performance. He averaged 34.3 points, 6.5 assists and 3.5 steals in the four games the Uprising played.

So far this season, Hailey has performed at an MVP level, and the comfort level he’s found can be largely attributed to the chemistry the Uprising inherently has built into it.

In particular, the acquisition of Trent “Timelycook” Donald in the first round of this year’s draft has really helped unlock Hailey’s full potential.

“Me and Kenny’s experience with each other has been wonderful and I’ve been playing with him for five, six years,” Donald said over the phone. “So it’s like chemistry as in Shaq-Kobe, LeBron-Wade, Jordan-Scottie Pippen. We just know each other on and off the court.”

Donald and Hailey have played together since NBA 2K15 and even won a $250,000 tournament together as part of NBA 2K17’s Road to the All-Star Game tournament, a year before the 2K League formally launched.

Given the success they’ve had with one another, it isn’t much of a surprise to hear that Donald has been on the Uprising’s radar for a while.

The Uprising has wanted to pair Hailey with Donald since the very first season, but due to rules at the time (and the fact both Hailey and Donald reached the 2K League as point guards), when the Uprising took Hailey they were unable to scoop up Donald, too, who ended up going to Kings Guard Gaming in the third round.

How The Toronto Raptors Nearly Went Extinct Before Existing

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by ClutchPointsMay 26, 2020
The Golden State Warriors dynasty faced the Toronto Huskies in the 2019 NBA Fi… wait what?? We mean the Toronto Raptors, but that was almost the real deal.

Sound weird? How about the Toronto Towers? Toronto Hogs? Toronto Scorpions? Toronto Bobcats? Toronto Dragons? What the heck is even going on out here? Well, they nearly happened in 1993.

Back when Toronto was awarded an NBA franchise in 1993, a “Name Game” was held so fans could have a chance to name the team. Over 2,000 ideas were submitted for the contest, but only 10 were truly considered.

Could you imagine? Vince Carter flying through the air wearing a Toronto Hogs jersey? Yeah, me neither, without photoshop that is.

The nickname for Toronto is hogtown, but come on man! We need something that’ll sweep us off our feet!

The Raptors name clawed its way to victory due to the debut of Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, which sparked dino-mania throughout the planet. In fact, the Raptors were not the only Jurassic-themed name considered. Like, I mean, even the Toronto T-Rex was in the mix.

Kids loved Jurassic Park. What’s not to love? Crazy scientists wanted to re-engineer dinosaurs for amusement parks. Kids were hooked and tickets were sold.

And with that, we have our humbling inception of the Toronto Raptors.

It wasn’t just the start of a franchise name; it was the launch of a movement. By 2014, the area outside the arena was coined Jurassic Park, and now it’s more populated than the building itself. Fans come there for an experience unlike any other NBA venue. Somewhat to what happens outside of stadiums on Saturdays outside of college football games, Jurassic Park is a meeting ground for fans. A place where they can greet each other, talk about the team, or even make some new friends.

But, stand out there on your own risk. Toronto isn’t the warmest place for dinosaurs lovers, especially in the winter.

Raptors
Circling back a bit, ironically, the Huskies were actually the city’s first pro basketball team in 1946.

They finished the season with an abysmal record of 22-38, failed to attract fans, and Toronto lost the team after just 60 games. That’s not fun or ideal. Give a city a chance to get going a little bit, eh? While you’re at it, throw a team in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Oh. Wait. What is this entire post about again? Oh. That’s correct. The time the Toronto Raptors nearly never existed in its current form.

Anyway, after the Huskies didn’t connect all those decades ago, Canada didn’t see another professional basketball game for nearly 50 years. For those awful at math, that’s a long time in human years. In galaxy years, it’s not that long, but who cares about the galaxy other than that pesky Elon Musk?

The Huskies were nearly reborn in ‘93, but due to the then four-year old Minnesota Timberwolves, making a logo was challenging. So, Toronto ultimately decided to trade Paws for Claws.

Trends that stuck in the 90’s were hard to get rid of, and dinosaurs were no exception. Baggy clothes, sagging pants and Friends were cool for a couple decades before we got bored. So, ugh, I guess we don’t have the Toronto Ross Gellers or something.

Imagine if Game of Thrones happened in the 90s. The Toronto Dragons would’ve been game-changing. In fact, that’s the nickname the actually NBA wanted.

Can’t lie, the marketing possibilities are endless with that one. It very well could have been something that stuck, but “How to Train A Dragon” came out in the next generation.

Sorry Toothless.

Crying Week: When the Toronto Raptors won the title, and the emotions finally came – Raptors HQ

I can remember the night of June 13, and the morning of June 14, very vividly. As Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals wound down, I could feel the emotion rising in me, as the realization dawned: The Toronto Raptors were going to win the title. Steph Curry missed that three, Draymond Green called that timeout that the Warriors didn’t have, and we were actually gonna do it.

And then… the officials huddled, and went to the video monitor, and we sat through a long delay. Kawhi Leonard finally shot the technical free throw from the Warriors’ excessive timeout. Then the Raptors inbounded the basketball — and the officials inexplicably called a foul. And then needed to review it! Finally Kawhi sealed the deal at the three throw line and the deed was done: The Toronto Raptors were NBA Champions. It happened.

During that interminable delay, my emotion dissipated. Well, except for one: I was frustrated by the officials robbing us of our moment. The joy was taken out of it. No tears came. And from there it was a whirlwind: The trophy presentation, the MVP award, Masai, the champagne, the interviews, all of it. I got a little choked up when Fred VanVleet was on the podium and Kyle Lowry asked him a question, and then when Kyle was on the podium, but no tears came. I just stayed up and took it all in, finally going to sleep about 3:00 a.m. — and then getting up at 6:00 a.m. to write my five thoughts column.

After that, I had some work to do for my day job, and then finally, around noon, I sat down with some lunch and had an hour to catch up on what the world was saying about the new NBA Champions.

And that’s when I saw Bruce Arthur’s video essay for TSN, called “Remember This, Canada”. And that, finally, is what brought me to tears.

NBA union boss: Players want return but need certainty

NBA players overwhelmingly want to resume the 2019-2020 season but “need some level of certainty” in a comeback plan, players’ union executive director Michele Roberts says.

The National Basketball Players Association boss told ESPN in a report Tuesday, May 26, that most players support the idea of resuming a campaign shut down in March by the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s time,” Roberts told ESPN. “It has been 2 1/2 months of ‘What if?’ My players need some level of certainty. I think everybody does.”

The NBA, whose players are conducting individual workouts at team facilities where allowed, is exploring a plan to resume the season in late July at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, although final details of a plan have yet to be determined.

The league and union have been in talks about a resumption of the NBA season and Roberts says she plans to speak with players on all 30 teams over the next week to inform players about the plans’ safety measures to prevent players from becoming infected and what would happen if a player does catch the deadly virus.

“Our guys need to know,” Roberts said. “Certainty will be good. But the players really want to play.”

NBA team owners plan a conference call Friday that could reveal more details about COVID-19 safeguards and a full return plan.

Roberts said the union would not necessarily need to vote upon any comeback strategy.

“If we thought we needed a vote, we would,” Roberts said. “But our preferred method is talking to people or just having them talk to us. Then if we get a sense of what the sentiment is, then we can move forward. We talk to our players and figure it out.”

Real Sports reveals 27 MLB and NHL teams declined to answer a PPP question

David Scott: All of which raises a question: how many other sports teams have helped drain the small business rescue plan? Turns out… that’s a closely guarded secret…

Kyle Herrig: There’s no duty to report here. And there’s no transparency in the program.

Scott: So wouldn’t that then give cover to any major sports franchise to attempt to get the money without being publicly identified?

Herrig: There’s no way that we would know if a sports team took the money unless they disclose it.

Scott: So we asked every team in America’s four major sports. The NFL told us none of their teams applied. All of the NBA teams said the same…besides of course, the Lakers. But among the 53 US-based teams in Major League Baseball and the NHL…27 of them declined to answer our question.