Detroit Pistons 'starting search for general manager'

The Detroit Pistons are beginning a search for a candidate who could become the team’s general manager, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

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The person spoke on condition of anonymity on Tuesday because the team had not announced its plans.

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Opinion: NBA won’t be able to please everyone as it faces tough decisions on resuming season

The words not only captured the brutal honesty from an NBA superstar. They also reflected what other players might feel about resuming the NBA season.

“If we come back and they're just like, 'We're adding a few games to finish the regular season,' and they're throwing us out there for meaningless games and we don't have a true opportunity to get into the playoffs,” Portland’s Damian Lillard told Yahoo! Sports on Tuesday, “I'm going to be with my team because I'm a part of the team. But I'm not going to be participating.”

That sentiment captures the challenge the NBA faces in figuring out the perfect format to resume the season. It must weigh safety concerns after suspending operations over two months ago because of the novel coronavirus pandemic. It must also calculate the best format to give teams the fairest shot to win an NBA championship.

Should the NBA resume the regular season, the league could recoup some of the financial losses it has suffered by broadcasting those games on ABC and ESPN. But that approach could also expose bad basketball, forcing non-contending teams to play through both rustiness and apathy.

"If we can come back and play, that's a positive for our young guys," one NBA executive on a non-contending team told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday. The executive spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the topic. "Our guys want to play. They're trying to make a mark in the league. To some extent, they're also bored and want to get out of the house. But my concern is if they don't have a season, how do we get our guys motivated?"

Should the NBA jump straight to the playoffs, the league could bring immediate excitement and meaning to a restless fanbase that has not seen a live professional basketball game since March 11. But that could also leave playoff-bubble teams feeling left out, including the Trail Blazers (29-37), New Orleans Pelicans (28-36) and Sacramento Kings (28-36).

If the NBA adopts a play-in tournament to settle the bottom of the playoff standings, it could placate teams that are narrowly out of the postseason picture. But that may frustrate others that did not have as much of a chance to recapture rhythm and chemistry as they would during a normal regular season.

“If they come back and say it's something like a tournament, play-in style, between the No. 7 and No. 12 seeds, if we're playing for playoff spots, then I think that's perfect,” Lillard told Yahoo! Sports.

The NBA will soon find out what other players and executives think. The league has yet to see final results of a survey it sent to general managers last Friday, according to one person familiar with the results who spoke with USA TODAY Sports on condition of anonymity, because the person was not authorized to publicly discuss the topic. When the NBA hosts a Board of Governors meeting Friday, the person said the league plans “to present a few options” and “get the format figured out as quickly as we can." 

It is possible the NBA may need more follow-up meetings to iron out various logistics, yet the league is aware it needs to act quickly in order to resume its season in late July.

The NBA is exploring a plan to have all games take place at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando.

But even if that gets settled, plenty of questions remain to ensure a fair and safe return.

Would it be in the league’s interest to allow NBA lottery-bound teams to skip the season to minimize travel and the number of teams in the bubble? Or would that eliminate too many games that would significantly affect the league’s revenue and future salary cap?

Would it be in the league’s interest to introduce a play-in tournament both to entice better competition and to test a new model for future seasons? Or would that only complicate adjustments in resuming the season at a bubble site without fans?

Would it be in the league’s interest to jump into the playoffs following a presumed minicamp to ease scheduling and safety concerns? Or would that leave non-contending teams bitter?

How the NBA and its players union reach a decision might reveal how they are balancing safety, the league’s finances and the quality of product. The complicated thing: those goals are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Each scenario presents its own risk-reward with those variables.  

Perhaps on Friday, the NBA will have a better idea on how to move forward. Then again, numerous voices might only lead to more questions.

Follow USA TODAY NBA writer Mark Medina on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. 

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NBA playoff projections: Teams hurt, helped most by a new format

  • Co-author, Pro Basketball Prospectus series
  • Formerly a consultant with the Indiana Pacers
  • Developed WARP rating and SCHOENE system

How might the atypical format for this year’s NBA playoffs affect teams’ championship odds if the season resumes this summer?

While the NBA hasn’t yet made any decisions on how the postseason might unfold, we do know one thing for certain: Traditional home-court advantage won’t apply with the league in negotiations to play all games at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida. That could affect the teams that worked hard throughout the first five-plus months of the season to secure home court.

Which teams might benefit the most? And which teams will be hurt? Let’s run some projections to find out.

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Hall of Fame considering delayed 2020 induction ceremony

Enshrinement ceremonies at the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame are set for August 29, but they could be rescheduled amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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The Boston Globe reported that officials there are considering alternate dates in October or next spring and also are implementing protocols to make the ceremony safe when it does happen.

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NBA in talks to resume play at Disney complex

  • Senior writer for ESPN.com
  • Spent seven years at the Los Angeles Daily News

The NBA has entered into exploratory conversations with the Walt Disney Company about restarting the remainder of its season at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida, in late July, NBA spokesperson Mike Bass said Saturday.

“The NBA, in conjunction with the National Basketball Players Association, is engaged in exploratory conversations with The Walt Disney Company about restarting the 2019-20 NBA season in late July at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Florida as a single site for an NBA campus for games, practices and housing,” Bass said. “Our priority continues to be the health and safety of all involved, and we are working with public health experts and government officials on a comprehensive set of guidelines to ensure that appropriate medical protocols and protections are in place.”

The NBA suspended its season indefinitely on March 11, in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

It remains unclear whether the NBA will play the remainder of its regular season or proceed directly to the playoffs. But the 220-acre ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, with its three arenas and ample hotel accommodations, would allow the league to restart play while limiting outside exposures.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Friday that the NBA has a board of governors call set for next Friday, which is expected to provide additional details for teams on a timetable and plan to proceed with the season. Teams are expecting the league to instruct them to start recalling players to their team’s markets around June 1.

The NBA is discussing a step-by-step plan for a resumption of the 2019-2020 season that includes an initial two-week recall of players into team marketplaces for a period of quarantine, one to two weeks of individual workouts at team facilities and a two-to-three-week formal training camp, Wojnarowski reported. Barring an unforeseen turn of events, many NBA owners, executives and NBPA elders believe commissioner Adam Silver will greenlight the return to play in June — with games expected to resume sometime before the end of July, sources said.

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‘The most competitive guy I ever coached against’: Jerry Sloan, as remembered by fellow greats

  • Award-winning columnist and author
  • Recipient of Basketball Hall of Fame Curt Gowdy Media Award
  • Joined ESPNBoston.com in 2010

Don Nelson, the winningest coach in NBA history, had just finished a stroll on the beach in his beloved Hawai’i on Friday when a reporter informed him that his coaching contemporary Jerry Sloan had died from complications of Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia at age 78.

“Oh, he was a dear friend,” Nelson told ESPN. “Even if he did fight me the first time we ever met.”

Nelson was a player with the Boston Celtics when the team traveled for a game against Sloan’s Chicago Bulls at Chicago Stadium on Nov. 8, 1966. Nelson was bombing back on defense, trying to catch a streaking Sloan, when Sloan stopped suddenly, causing the two players to collide violently.

“He set me up,” Nellie recalled with a laugh. “He knew I had no choice but to run over him. And then, even though he got the call, he got up and tried to hit me.”

Nelson said he and Sloan each took a couple of wild swings at each other that didn’t connect. They were quickly separated by officials and teammates.

“Back then, they didn’t throw you out of the game,” Nellie said, “so we kept on playing. And Jerry was fine. That’s how he was. He was a real tough guy, but he’d have his say and move on.”

Though Sloan logged 11 rugged seasons as an NBA player from 1965 to 1976, he was best known for his 26-year stint as an NBA coach, with 23 of those seasons with the Utah Jazz.

In Salt Lake City, he instituted a no-nonsense, physical brand of basketball that enabled the Jazz to advance to the NBA Finals in back-to-back seasons in 1997 and 1998. Both times, his team — led by Karl Malone and John Stockton, whose personalities mirrored that of their taciturn coach — was thwarted by Michael Jordan and the Bulls.

Even though Sloan never won a championship — and, incredibly, was never named NBA Coach of the Year — George Karl said he was one of the most gifted coaches he has ever seen.

“I’d put Jerry as one of the top three or four all time I’ve ever faced,” said Karl, who sits two spots behind Sloan at No. 6 on the all-time coaching wins list. “His teams were really difficult to play against. They were very tough-minded, very team-oriented.

“Jerry would not tolerate a lot of the NBA bulls— that goes on. He was demanding, but respectful. Every Utah Jazz player I ever spoke to had nothing but great things to say about him.”

Sloan was raised in Gobbler’s Knob, Illinois, the youngest of 10 children. When Sloan was only 4, his father died. He would rise before the sun to complete his chores on the family farm, then walk more than two miles to school. Those who knew him said he attributed the work ethic that served him well throughout his NBA career to his hardscrabble upbringing.

“Jerry was a farmer at heart,” Phil Jackson said in a text message. “We all enjoyed his fire and his sportsmanship … both ends of the coaching spectrum.”

Sloan ran a disciplined franchise and would not tolerate excuses or dissent. He expected his players to exhibit the same grit that was his trademark. In 2006, when asked if he needed to be patient with his youngest player, 19-year-old C.J. Miles, Sloan retorted, “I don’t care if he’s 19 or 30. If he’s going to be on the floor in the NBA, he’s got to be able to step up and get after it. We can’t put diapers on him one night, and a jockstrap the next night. It’s just the way it is.”

Sloan also exhibited ferocious loyalty to his players. So, when Kenyon Martin leveled Malone in the open floor, it wasn’t Malone who threatened to fight him — it was Sloan.

Consider the words of former Jazz president and coach Frank Layden, who once relayed this gem to author Michael Lewis: “Nobody fights with Jerry because you know the price would be too high. You might come out the winner, at his age. You might even lick him. But you’d lose an eye, an arm, your testicles, in the process.”

Sloan’s wrath was not reserved strictly for opponents. If he felt one of his players was whistled via a phantom call, he had no qualms about vociferously challenging the referee who made the decision, with some choice words to illustrate his point. In 2003, he was even suspended seven games for shoving referee Courtney Kirkland in the chest.

Former NBA official Joey Crawford said he warned younger refs that if they decided to slap Sloan with a technical, they should immediately turn and walk away to defuse the situation.

“But here’s the wonderful thing about Jerry,” Crawford said. “He’d get mad, but you could go back at him and say a lot of stuff to him, and he would never ever rat you out. You could even curse him out, but he was never going to call the league office the next morning to complain, like some other coaches would.

“I had a helluva lot of respect for the man. We all did.”

Lenny Wilkens said he was exposed to a much softer side of Sloan when Wilkens chose him to be part of his staff for the 1996 Summer Olympics. At the time, he and Sloan were not particularly close, but Wilkens wanted him because of his respect for the way Sloan approached the game and the attention he commanded from players.

“I liked his competitive spirit,” said Wilkens, No. 2 on the all-time coaching wins list. “His teams were always so prepared, and he wasn’t going to let you do what you wanted to do. We both believed defense could influence a game.

“And, like me, he wasn’t about to let you walk to the basket. That’s not how we were raised.”

During their travels, Wilkens came to appreciate Sloan’s wry sense of humor and passion for the game. His face softened when he spoke of his family. His devotion to his players was also evident.

“He had a great influence on our team,” Wilkens said. “He’s one of those people who had instant credibility on the court.”

Four years later, Sloan was bypassed as Wilkens’ successor for the 2000 Olympics, a slight that still bothers Wilkens.

“I was very disappointed for him,” he said, “and I let the people on the Olympic committee know about it. It wasn’t right. We did a great job [in ’96] and Jerry was a big part of it.”

Karl said while Sloan earned attention for his defensive schemes, he was just as enamored with Sloan’s offensive sets.

“Our first couple of years when I was in Seattle, we doubled Malone and we doubled Stockton, and they figured out how to destroy us,” said Karl, who went head-to-head with Sloan-coached teams 82 times, fourth most behind Rick Adelman, Nelson and Jackson. “He kept it simple, but what he drew up was rock-solid, and his players followed his lead.

“I loved the battles with Jerry. They were physical, but [the Jazz] played as a team and understood that you had to stick together in competition.

“Jerry demanded that. He demanded that his players be good teammates.”

Sloan retired in 2011 third all time in coaching wins and now sits at fourth. The man who since passed him for third place, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, released a statement Friday, lauding Sloan as “genuine and true.”

“And that is rare,” Popovich said. “He was a mentor for me from afar until I got to know him. A man who suffered no fools, he possessed a humor, often disguised, and had a heart as big as the prairie.”

Nelson said behind Sloan’s gruffness was a gentle, fun-loving, even mischievous man. In their later years, he said, the opposing coaches were not above sneaking out for a beer or two when their teams were in the same town.

“I think Jerry may have been the most competitive guy I ever coached against,” Nelson said. “But when the game was over, it was over. I remember talking to him when he was getting ready to retire. He was looking forward to going back to his farm. He loved driving the fields on his tractor.”

Though Sloan never raised the Larry O’Brien Trophy, he appreciated his basketball journey, Wilkens said.

“He wasn’t the kind of guy to sit and cry about what he did and didn’t do,” Wilkens said. “He loved the game. That was enough.

“And there’s no question the game loved him back.”

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Scottie Pippen ‘beyond livid’ with Michael Jordan over portrayal in The Last Dance – reports

Scottie Pippen, who won six NBA championships with Michael Jordan, is reportedly ‘beyond livid’ with his former Chicago Bulls team-mate over his portrayal in The Last Dance, according to a Chicago-based radio host.

Jordan's Last Dance on Sky Q

Watch The Last Dance, a 10-part documentary on the 1997-98 Bulls, on Netflix via your Sky Q box

Hall of Famer Pippen, recognised as Jordan’s most important team-mate during the 1990s Bulls dynasty that reaped six NBA championships in eight years, is “so angry at Michael and how he was portrayed, called selfish, called this, called that, that he is furious that he participated and did not realise what he was getting himself into,” ESPN 1000 Radio’s David Kaplan said on the Kap and Co show.

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Michael Jordan: A great leader – or someone who went too far?

He punched Steve Kerr in training once. Was it all too much?

Michael Jordan’s methods for success with the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s – brought to light in gripping style during documentary series The Last Dance – have caused plenty of debate.

It’s a discussion we hear in different forms across so many sports: What’s an appropriate type of leadership and when does it go too far?

Former NBA player John Amaechi, now a psychologist, and journalist Matthew Syed joined that debate on Nihal Arthanayake’s BBC Radio 5 Live show on Thursday.

Amaechi’s opinion is clear – and damning. “You do not have to be a jerk in accompaniment to your brilliance,” he said.

If you’ve seen The Last Dance, you will know that Jordan didn’t go easy on his Chicago Bulls team-mates.

He once punched Kerr, the smallest guy on the team, during training. In the documentary, we also see Jordan laying into Scott Burrell – outing his team-mate’s drinking and partying to his parents and calling him “garbage”.

As former Bulls team-mate Will Purdue put it: “Let’s not get it wrong, he was a jerk. He crossed the line numerous times, but, as time goes on, you think back about what he was actually trying to accomplish and you’re like: ‘Yeah, he was a hell of a team-mate.'”

Amaechi made his NBA debut against Jordan, having signed for the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1995. It was a daunting experience.

“I don’t remember Michael Jordan from that game and it was because I was afraid to look at him,” he said. “He was that good.”

For Amaechi, though, Jordan’s approach could do damage too.

“The presence and the awe that you feel off him is very useful when that is directed at the opposition,” he said.

“It is less useful when you feel it every day in practice. It is less useful when you get feedback from him.

“Internally, it fractures a team. Even when there’s components of excellence, it stops them from being as good as they could be.”

By his own admission, Amaechi hasn’t seen the documentary series. Instead, he refers to his own playing experience.

“I played with people who played with Michael,” he said. “Nobody ever has a bad word to say about the fact that he just would put a team on his shoulders and drive.

“But you would always look at his team and be able to pick one, two, three people who, however hard they tried, would never be able to get out of the dog house, who would find themselves traded on a nod from Jordan.”

In the documentary, Jordan defended his approach. “I pulled people along when they didn’t want to be pulled,” he said. “I challenged people when they didn’t want to be challenged. I earned that right.”

Syed, a former Olympic table tennis player turned author and journalist, does not believe Jordan overstepped the mark.

“My sense was that they [his team-mates] spoke about Michael as someone who was tough to play with,” Syed said, “but someone who never asked players to do things that he wasn’t prepared to do himself. In other words, he set a very powerful example of hard work.

“I wouldn’t describe him as a toxic influence, based on what I’ve seen and what I understand.”

So what is the best way to describe Jordan’s approach? Burrell, speaking to ESPN this week, said: “People consider it bullying what Michael did. I think it was just challenging people to be the best person they can be.”

Syed agrees. “Jordan’s team is widely regarded as the greatest sports dynasty in history,” he said, “so how do you explain their success, if Jordan was such a corrosive influence?”

Amaechi takes a different point of view.

“Jordan says that winning has a price and leadership has a price,” Amaechi said, “and I say, yes, there is a fee to be paid for greatness, but that fee does not have to include the trauma of everyone who accompanies you on that journey.”

You can listen back to the full conversation on BBC Sounds.

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Rodman hits out over The Last Dance and Jordan criticism

‘Mentally, I don’t think they were strong enough’: Dennis Rodman fires back at former Chicago Bulls team-mates who said criticism of Michael Jordan was edited out of Netflix show ‘The Last Dance’

  • Netflix’s series ‘The Last Dance’ has been a hit but there has been criticism
  • Former Chicago Bulls star Horace Grant labelled it a ‘so-called documentary’ 
  • It has been claimed that criticism of Michael Jordan was edited out of the show
  • But Dennis Rodman has hit back at his former team-mates over their ire 

Dennis Rodman has fired back at his former Chicago Bulls team-mates and said they were not mentally strong enough to deal with Michael Jordan after criticism of ‘The Last Dance’.

Rodman was part of the ultra-successful Bulls side that won three straight championships in 1996, 1997 and 1998, completing a second ‘three-peat’ in the process and was featured heavily in the recently released Netflix series.

Despite its popularity, the documentary has attracted criticism due to its supposed pro-Jordan slant – with the legendary player having served as a producer.

Dennis Rodman has been discussing his time with the Chicago Bulls on Good Morning Britain

The former basketball player discussed ‘The Last Dance’ with Piers Morgan on the show

Rodman was part of the ultra-successful Bulls side that managed a second ‘three-peat’

Horace Grant, who left the Bulls in 1994, described it as a ‘so-called documentary’ and suggested Jordan was painted in a better light than reality.

‘I would say [the documentary was] entertaining, but we know, who was there as team-mates, that about 90 per cent of it [was] BS in terms of the realness of it,’ Grant said on ESPN 1000’s Kap and Co podcast.

‘It wasn’t real – because a lot of things [Jordan] said to some of his team-mates, that his team-mates went back at him. But all of that was kind of edited out of the documentary, if you want to call it a documentary.’ 

But Rodman has defended Jordan from the likes of Grant and hinted that they believed the star had thrown them under the bus.

Michael Jordan and the documentary have attracted criticism from other Bulls team-mates

Speaking on Good Morning Britain this morning, Rodman said: ‘It was amazing to see the documentary. 

‘You saw Michael Jordan and (coach) Phil Jackson… one time I said, “You know what I need to take a break I need to go to Vegas for a weekend – I have to get my mind right”.

‘I didn’t need that. I just wanted to get that. Phil Jackson said, “Let him go”. Michael said, “If anyone needs a vacation, I do”. They said, “Go ahead” and gave me 48 hours.’

‘Of course I didn’t take 48 hours – I took like four days.

Rodman defended Jordan and suggested other team-mates were not mentally strong enough

‘He didn’t really pull me on that because I had already that will to win because I came from winners in Detroit and San Antonio. 

‘The players were a little upset because they felt Michael was throwing them under the bus. “You guys wasn’t doing what I want you to do, I’m the greatest, I’m determined to win no matter what”. 

‘The next thing you know Michael starts to talking about the whole team… the team-mates I played with. 

‘Mentally I don’t think they were strong enough to handle that, because Phil Jackson is a laid back coach. Michael is more like, “I’m going to do it watch me be famous”. I didn’t care because I was already famous.’

Rodman also hailed Jordan’s determination and competitiveness, no matter the sport

Asked what made Jordan such a good player, Rodman continued: ‘I think his determination… he just wanted to win so bad, no matter what it is. 

‘It can be tossing pennies against the wall, it can be who can sweep the fastest, spin the bottle…

‘I think he was beyond his years, transcending. I trusted him in a different way off the court. 

‘Everybody wants to be like him, I hate to say the cliche but everyone wants to be like Mike.’ 

Former team-mate Horace Grant claimed that ’90 per cent’ of the documentary was ‘BS’

Rodman then clarified that he was still close with Jordan and Scottie Pippen, seeing the former regularly in Florida, New York and California.

Grant isn’t the only Chicago Bulls man left dismayed by ‘The Last Dance’.

According to ESPN Radio host David Kaplan, Jordan’s most integral team-mate, Scottie Pippen, is ‘beyond livid’ and ‘angry’ at his portrayal in the series.

The second episode details how Pippen is embroiled in a fierce contract dispute with the Bulls and he delayed surgery on his ankle until the beginning of the 1997-98 season, which kept him sidelined for two months. 

Jordan labelled Pippen’s decision ‘selfish’ and it is that, according to Kaplan, that has sparked Pippen’s ire.

‘Pippen felt like up until the last few minutes of Game 6 against the Jazz (in the 1998 NBA Finals), it was just ‘bash Scottie, bash Scottie, bash Scottie”‘ Kaplan said.

Scottie Pippen (second left) is reported to be unhappy with his portrayal in the documentary

Kaplan also claimed on his ESPN 100 radio show that Pippen ‘didn’t know what he was getting himself into’ regarding the series overall.

The Last Dance director Jason Hehir responded to recent criticism earlier this week and made it clear that Jordan himself was not directly involved in producing the 10-part series.

‘There is never one moment where Michael Jordan or his representatives said you cannot talk about this subject, or this is off-limits,’ he told the Athletic.

‘Don’t ask this question. There wasn’t one moment that they said take this out because it doesn’t reflect well on Michael.’




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Orlando's Disney World favourite to host NBA season amid coronavirus pandemic

Disney World has emerged as the front-runner to host NBA teams and games if the 2020 season resumes, according to a media report.

The Athletic understands that Orlando has moved ahead of Las Vegas as the top neutral-site candidate to become the NBA’s playing venue for the remainder of the season, but ESPN have reported the league is still considering a two-site format in both Orlando and Las Vegas.

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