Ben Simmons was better than ever in 2019-20. Even though he didn’t take a step forward with his jumper, he upped his efficiency (with a career-high 60.2 True Shooting Percentage), improved his driving and free throw rate as the season progressed, and became a truly elite defender. He made the All-NBA Third Team and All-Defensive First Team as a result, and he’s looking to build on that next season.

Now that the Sixers have added shooters like Danny Green and Seth Curry, led by a quality new coaching staff to implement some stylistic changes, they’re ready to help Simmons embrace a few valuable changes moving forward.

Pushing the pace

There’s no doubt that new head coach Doc Rivers sees Simmons as his point guard. “Ben is clearly our facilitator, and Ben is special, man,” Rivers said after the Sixers’ practice at training camp on Monday. He made it clear that Simmons will be controlling the ball, as you’d expect. Rivers has stressed on multiple occasions that he wants to increase the Sixers’ pace. Getting Simmons going in transition will be a point of emphasis.

When Rivers was asked what kind of offensive role he envisions for Simmons, he had a simple answer. “Just being a terror. Playing, going downhill, making guys guard you, being aggressive, being a facilitator. In transition, we want to open the floor and get the ball to Ben and tell him to go make something happen.”

Rivers described Simmons’ performance in Monday’s practice as “off the charts”.

The Houston Rockets currently find themselves in a shaky situation with the uncertainties that surround James Harden’s commitment to the team. He still hasn’t shown signs of reporting to team practices and it has already casted worries and doubt especially on the newly-instated head coach in Stephen Silas.

The tactician also admitted that he doesn’t hold all the answers to the situation especially with his star player nowhere to be found as of late.

“There is no timetable as far as I know, and it is a setback,” Silas said via Kelly Iko of The Athletic. “You want your best player to be here and there’s a short window.”

His absence from practices most likely stemmed from his frustrations with the team not being able to assemble championship-caliber rosters in recent years. The 2018 NBA MVP might also believe that the best way to achieve that goal is to relocate to the Brooklyn Nets and join forces with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

Apparently, it turned out that it wasn’t Harden’s first trade request sent to the team’s front office. The eight-time All-Star previously demanded for another playmaker after the Rockets were bounced out off the 2017 NBA Playoffs by way of a 4-2 series loss in the Western Conference Semi-Finals against the San Antonio Spurs.

The James Harden-Houston Rockets saga continues and it’s unclear what is going to happen there. The team is trying to convince Harden to stay in Houston, even trading Russell Westbrook for John Wall a couple of days ago. However, that doesn’t seem to be enough for Harden, who reportedly wants out of the team with his preferred destination being the Brooklyn Nets, where his former teammate Kevin Durant currently plays.

Harden is yet to show up for the team’s workouts and that is creating more controversy for him and the organization. They would prefer to keep Harden on the roster but if not, they have identified what they want to part ways with the 2018 NBA MVP. According to Sam Amick of The Athletic, the Rockets would like to receive an All-Star/All-NBA player, a couple of young prospects and future first-rounders to let Harden go.

James Harden indicated to the Houston Rockets before the beginning of training camp that he would be open to a trade to the Philadelphia 76ers or possibly other contenders, sources told ESPN.

Harden, the perennial MVP candidate who is holding out of training camp, previously requested to be traded to the Brooklyn Nets to form a super team with former Oklahoma City Thunder teammate Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

After it was clear there was no traction in talks with the Nets, Harden expressed to the Rockets that he would be agreeable if a trade with the 76ers materialized, sources said. Harden also indicated that there could be other teams that fit his criteria for a preferred destination, a source said.

A new season starts and Kyle Kuzma is once again in trade talks. The Lakers need to set up the best possible team to win another ring as long as LeBron James is the best player in the world, and that makes everyone outside of The King and Anthony Davis expendable. The Lakers made the first big move of the offseason by trading Danny Green and the No. 28 overall pick for Dennis Schroder. They also made a play for 2-way star Jrue Holiday but the Pelicans rejected the offer of Kyle Kuzma, Danny Green, and the No. 28 overall pick before the Schroder deal.

That means Kuzma is still available and the Lakers must move him to get a better piece for their squad. The Milwaukee Bucks snatched Jrue Holiday and Bogdan Bogdanovic, while other contending teams will certainly be more active in the trade market to boost their title chances. Kyle Kuzma had a down year in 2020 by averaging 12.8 PPG on 43.6% FG, but he still has value as a young forward with a very high ceiling. Here are the 3 best possible trades for the Los Angeles Lakers and Kyle Kuzma.

C.J. McCollum

2019-2020 Statistics: 22.2 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 4.4 APG, 0.8 SPG, 37.9% 3-PT FG

Trade Package: Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Sign and Trade), Avery Bradley, Quinn Cook for C.J. McCollum

McCollum doesn’t get enough credit as the scoring sidekick to Damian Lillard on the Portland Trail Blazers. He is a professional scorer and one of the most consistent offensive players in the league who can get 20 points at the minimum every night. The Lakers obviously have Anthony Davis and LeBron James on offense, but McCollum adds a third piece that puts the Lakers ahead of the pack for sure.

The Atlanta Hawks are in play in an attempt to acquire Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward, league sources tell Yahoo Sports.

A sign-and-trade deal is a possible route, but Atlanta is equipped with the most cap space in the league at around $44 million and can simply sign Hayward to a hefty multi-year deal if he decided to decline his option.

Atlanta is seeking an alternative playmaker to incorporate alongside young star Trae Young. The Hawks will also be in contention for veteran point guard Rajon Rondo, who is declining his $2.7 million player option with the Los Angeles Lakers to become an unrestricted free agent, sources said.

John Wall will soon be returning from a nearly two years-long absence due to injury and when he does it may not be in a Wizards uniform.

According to Shams Charania of the Athletic, the Wizards are discussing a trade with the Rockets that would include sending Wall to Houston for former MVP Russell Westbrook. That would reunite Westbrook with his former head coach in Oklahoma City, Scott Brooks.

The Rockets and Wizards have discussed a deal centered on Russell Westbrook for John Wall, sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium. No traction yet, Rockets are seeking more assets.

Lakers fans are passionate, to put it in the simplest and kindest way possible. That passion can came out in really positive ways this season, like how the fans rooted for Dwight Howard after he left the team on bad terms seven years ago, and they supported Alex Caruso in his first full season in the NBA.

However, it can also come out in the worst ways, and we saw of that throughout the season too — particularly in the postseason. For example, when Danny Green and Kyle Kuzma were underperforming in the postseason, a pair of angry fans started petitions to try and prevent them from getting championship rings. Combined, the petitions got over 30 thousand signatures.

More often than not, the players on the team are able to block out the noise, and sometimes, they’re even able to laugh at themselves and their teammates along with the fans. But there are obviously times when it stops being funny, and Jared Dudley brought up one high-profile example on the “Load Management” podcast with JJ Redick:

“I’ve got to be honest with you. I’d be honest with you, I’d tell you if it bothered him. It didn’t bother him. You heard him, it’s for jokes. Kuzma, let me be honest with you: You don’t think we make fun of his outfits coming in sometimes, like we bashed on everybody ... We see everything, ‘oh, man, Dudley doesn’t deserve a ring. Man, I put 20-some years in this game and I don’t deserve it? Man, you can’t listen to it, man. You know this. With success, you’re gonna have your loved ones who think you’re the best, your mom who thinks you’re better than what you really are, and you’re gonna have some haters, that’s just how it is.

Now, the petition is low-key kinda funny. Like, really? Those aren’t true Laker fans, like Snoop Dogg calling out Danny Green and then when we win feeling good. Like this man Danny Green has won three championships on three different teams, being a starting shooting guard. Are we kidding? Like come on, man, like I agree, he missed a shot. He struggled at certain times, but the man is a career 40 (percent shooter).”

Of course, the shot Dudley is referring to is the wide-open 3-point shot that Green missed in the finals seconds of Game 5 of the NBA Finals.

While NBA free agency isn’t here yet, the Indiana Pacers have finally made it clear to Justin Holiday they want the free agent back, league sources told IndyStar.

That they’d want him to return after a career season isn’t a surprise, but the sides have communicated in recent days about the future.

The Pacers know there will be a strong market for the 6-6 wing who was their most consistent wing defender and 40.5% 3-point shooter on the No. 4 seed in the East.

The NBA spent $180 million to operate 100 days of basketball in its Disney bubble, but the steep investment allowed the league to stop the loss of $1.5 billion in projected revenue.

According to sources familiar with the league’s finances, the Disney restart allowed the NBA to stem the loss of about $1.5 billion in expected revenue, the bulk of the money tied to national and local television revenue followed by league sponsorships.

The bubble’s economics are critical in stemming significant losses brought on by the three-month pandemic shutdown and the league’s China controversy that kept the NBA off CCTV for months.

“Our No. 1 priority was health and safety and from a business standpoint, it was important that we would finish the 2019-2020 season, crown a champion and be able to include our business and media partners and develop a plan to bring our fans courtside,” said Kelly Flatow, NBA executive vice president, event management, who played a key role in planning and operating the restart at Disney.

Much of the teams’ and league sponsorship contractual obligations were also fulfilled at Disney by the addition of virtual ads and other activations, notably the Michelob Ultra Courtside Club that drew 60,000 virtual fans who logged into the fan wall during the 172 games played at Disney.

Tim Donaghy is set to make his return to officiating.

Though he remains persona non grata anywhere near the National Basketball Association, Donaghy has agreed to appear as a referee for the Major League Wrestling promotion.

“Pro wrestling is entertainment, and I always joked the NBA was a form of entertainment and I compared it a little bit to pro wrestling behind the scenes,” says Donaghy, who will be donning the striped official’s jersey for the first time since 2007. “When I was growing up, I always enjoyed pro wrestling, guys like Hulk Hogan and Ivan Putski. I thought it would be fun to get involved and see where it goes.”

Donaghy will forever be infamous as a sports official. In July 2008, he was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison due to his involvement in a gambling scandal while serving as an NBA official. Donaghy pleaded guilty to two federal charges related to gambling in August 2007 and was sentenced a year later to 15 months in prison.

On Monday we learned that Indiana Pacers star Victor Oladipo is looking to move on this offseason via The Athletic. Oladipo became an All-Star during the 2017-18 season as the former No. 2 overall pick realized his potential in Indiana. But back-to-back injury riddled seasons have lessened the 28-year-old's value as he's been trying to lock down a contract extension with the Pacers. The two sides are far apart and it feels like they are headed for a breakup.

During his last fully healthy season (2017-18), Oladipo was a lockdown perimeter defender who averaged 23.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game while shooting 47.7 percent from the field and 37.1 percent from 3-point range. He also showed a penchant for hitting clutch shots.

During his last fully healthy season (2017-18), Oladipo was a lockdown perimeter defender who averaged 23.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game while shooting 47.7 percent from the field and 37.1 percent from 3-point range. He also showed a penchant for hitting clutch shots.

Los Angeles Lakers

A few weeks ago I was told by two Lakers sources that the team intended to pursue Oladipo this offseason. At the time I dismissed it because I had no reason to believe he'd be on the move. Monday's news obviously changes things. The Lakers would love an athletic perimeter defender who can make plays and hit shots. He'd balance the floor for Anthony Davis and LeBron James and could be a great fit.

Finding the pieces to do a deal will be an issue with this pairing. The Lakers can find the money but I'm not sure it would entice the Pacers. Danny Green is due $15.3 million, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is due $8.5 mil (if he opts in), while Kyle Kuzma is set to make $3.5 million. A combination of two of those guys with Alex Caruso ($2.75 million) thrown in could likely be a match. But would that be attractive enough for the Pacers? On the plus side Green and KCP could come off the books after the 2020-21 season, leaving the Pacers with some cap space to play with.

Given his legitimate singing career, Oladipo would likely be happy with a move to LA.

Boston Celtics

The Celtics fell just short of the NBA Finals and now they have to figure out what to do next. Do they continue to build with the current pieces and figure out a way to improve, or should they rework the roster with a dramatic move? Obviously in this case, we're betting the latter.

Recently, former Boston Celtics star Paul Pierce said that he couldn’t call Miami Heat rookie guard Tyler Herro a “bucket” because the 20-year-old wasn’t averaging enough points per game.

There was Lob City, Magic City and now this: Overreaction City, home of the L.A. Clippers, which responded to a disappointing second round exit in the NBA bubble by firing Doc Rivers on Monday, creating a head coaching vacancy just months before the most important season in the history of the franchise.

There will be no full-throated defense of Rivers here. He was bad, just as Kawhi Leonard (career-low 32.9% from three this postseason) was bad, just as Paul George (39.8% from the floor) was bad, just as Montrezl Harrell (a fourth quarter liability defensively) was bad. But you can’t fire the players, so Rivers, it seems, had to go.

“Doc has been a terrific coach for the Clippers, an incredible ambassador, and a pillar of strength during tumultuous times,” Steve Ballmer said in announcing the “mutual decision” for Rivers and the Clippers to part ways. “He won a heck of a lot of games and laid a foundation for this franchise.”

Indeed. The Clippers owned the NBA’s fifth-best regular season record since Rivers took over in 2013. But in L.A., Rivers legacy may be the two blown 3–1 postseason series leads and his inability to take the team deeper in the playoffs than his predecessor, Vinny Del Negro. In Game 6 against Denver, the Clippers blew a 19-point second-half lead. In Game 7, they coughed up a 12-point lead in the first half.

An hour before the 2019 NBA Finals tipped off in Toronto -- the first time the league's showcase event had been played outside the United States -- commissioner Adam Silver reminded those watching that basketball's founder, James Naismith, was a Christian missionary who brought the game to China and Europe in the belief that it could be a common language.

Silver is a like-minded optimist who believes in the NBA as an instrument of soft power across the globe. He is a willing ambassador who spoke that night about the league's foray into Africa and the Indian subcontinent, and its ever-expanding presence in China, where basketball can be used "maybe in the way pingpong was used in the days of Richard Nixon." This is a core part of Silver's message: Be they international borders or the realm of social media, the NBA loves tackling frontiers.

In the months that followed, the NBA would be rocked by a sequence of traumatic incidents, many of which have irrevocably changed the way it does business.

In the 2019-20 season, the outside world overwhelmed the NBA. For the first time, it had to adapt its growth strategy and the political posture of its power brokers. Even the way games are played -- the where, when and how -- was jeopardized by external crises, as the season will end inside a bubble environment in Florida almost a full year after its first game tipped off in Toronto.

A league that has reveled in its standing as a global enterprise was burdened by the weight of the world this season. Yet along the way, the NBA still showed its flair for the dramatic -- Zion Williamson's theatrical debut, an unprecedented solution to safely playing during a deadly pandemic and one of the most unpredictable postseasons in history.

Here's how we got to the doorstep of an NBA Finals that was anything but guaranteed.

June 30, 2019: Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving both announce they plan to sign with the Brooklyn Nets, crushing the hopes of the crosstown New York Knicks.

July 1: The Miami Heat complete a sign-and-trade deal to acquire Jimmy Butler from the Philadelphia 76ers.

July 5: No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson makes his debut at Las Vegas Summer League ... and a 7.1-magnitude earthquake halts play.

July 6: The LA Clippers land both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in separate deals. Leonard departs the defending champion Toronto Raptors and snubs LeBron James' Los Angeles Lakers.

July 11: The Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder exchange superstar point guards, with Chris Paul heading to OKC and longtime face of the franchise Russell Westbrook reuniting with former Thunder teammate James Harden in Houston.

Recently, former Boston Celtics star Paul Pierce said that he couldn’t call Miami Heat rookie guard Tyler Herro a “bucket” because the 20-year-old wasn’t averaging enough points per game.

Herro finally gave his response to Pierce on Monday, one day after the Heat finished off the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Damian Lillard's full Kobe Bryant tribute track just dropped ... and it's 3 minutes packed with tons of nods to the Mamba -- with Snoop Doog going off on the beat as well.

The song starts with Derrick Milano's chorus ... and then goes right into Lillard's emotional bars remembering one the NBA's greatest of all-time.

"Rest In Peace to the Mamba and Baby Gigi," Dame rapped.

The officiating in Thursday's Toronto Raptors Game 6 victory over the Boston Celtics courted plenty of controversy. Two plays in particular stood out. With 43 seconds left in regulation, Celtics forward Jayson Tatum threw a pass out of bounds in the direction of Toronto coach Nick Nurse, who was standing in the corner without technically stepping in bounds. Later, with only 4.4 seconds remaining in regulation, Celtics guard Kemba Walker attempted a possible game-winning shot, but was hit by Raptors forward OG Anunoby for what looked like a foul. No foul was called, though, and the Raptors survived to win in double overtime.

Celtics fans have anxiously awaited the league's verdict on the matters, and on Thursday, it released the Last 2 Minute Report on the game's ending. On the first play, it ruled that Nurse had not violated any regulations, saying "coaches may be on or off the bench from the substitution box line (closest to the coach's bench) to the baseline. Coach Nurse's (TOR) presence in the corner is not illegal and he does not directly interfere with the play."

Barring a miraculous three-game winning streak against the NBA title favorites in that of the Los Angeles Lakers, James Harden and the Houston Rockets will face another premature playoff exit.

Down 2-1 in their Western Conference Semifinals series againt Los Angeles, the Rockets fell flat on their faces Thursday evening in Orlando. Harden himself made two more field goals than yours truly in the must-win game. He attempted a total of 11 shots throughout the evening. It was a career-worst performance.

Following the game, the former NBA MVP didn’t have a real answer to a question that pretty much everyone was asking.

We know the narrative surrounding these Rockets. We know that they have choked big time in the biggest games the team has played during the Harden era.

It’s now time for Houston general manager Daryl Morey to finally pull the plug on this project.

In their current iteration, these Rockets are nowhere near NBA title contenders. We saw it last season when the team came up small against the Kevin Durant-less Golden State Warriors. It’s on the verge of being repeated this season.

Kevin Durant disappointed New York Knicks fans when he chose to play for the Brooklyn Nets last summer instead of taking his talents to Madison Square Garden. On Thursday, Durant revealed the Knicks were never actually under consideration for his services. It's yet another blow to a franchise that hasn't been able to lure big-name talent for years.

Durant was a guest on J.J. Redick's podcast The Old Man and the Three, and said the Knicks were out of it from the beginning.

If the Lakers advance past the first round of the playoffs against the Portland Trail Blazers, they plan to wear the Black Mamba jersey in honor of Kobe Bryant during the following rounds, according to people who were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

The jersey was co-designed by Bryant and it features a snakeskin print on the outside with black interior and 16 stars on the side panels. The Lakers have won 16 NBA championships, and Bryant played on five of those title-winning teams.

Philadelphia 76ers general manager Elton Brand is ecstatic that team ownership, Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, is pledging $20 million over the next five years to invest in the cities where its teams work and live in hopes of fighting for equality and against systemic racism.

HBSE, owners of the Sixers and NHL's New Jersey Devils, announced a companywide plan Monday to fight systemic racism. While taking suggestions from their players, the Sixers plan to use $10 million of that contribution for the NBA's announced foundation to "drive economic empowerment in Black communities."

"Looking at things from my perspective as a Black man in America, as an executive for HBSE, I really wanted to have action and more than just words. And that is what really excites me about this," Brand told The Undefeated. "They were not just allies. They were going to another level in terms of being part of actual change."

HBSE plans to help revitalize neighborhoods where its teams and fans are located, most notably in Philadelphia; Newark, New Jersey; and Camden, New Jersey, through partnerships with Black developers, local community groups and officials, as well as HBSE Real Estate's Community Advancement Program.

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes, track star Allyson Felix and numerous other athletes have signed a letter with More Than A Vote to combat Black voter suppression in 2020.

The letter, which was shared with The Undefeated, is addressed to “our fans of every age, race and gender.”

“We saw you in the streets,” the letter reads. “We saw your social media posts. Your voices are breaking through, but it’s now time to do more. We know you have the ability to organize. So join us and take your protest to the election and fight to keep our community from being silenced.

“The most important thing you all need to know is Black voters matter more than ever.”

Led by James, a long list of high-profile athletes and entertainers announced in June the start of a nonprofit organization called More Than A Vote that is focused on getting more African Americans to the polls. Last week, the organization announced that it was partnering with the Los Angeles Dodgers to make Dodger Stadium a polling place for the November general election, marking the first time a Major League Baseball team has offered its facility as a voting center.

The 2020 NBA draft lottery is just three days away, having been rescheduled to Thursday, August 20 after being postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The event could significantly impact the fate of several NBA franchises vying for the right to select top prospects such as Anthony Edwards, LaMelo Ball, and James Wiseman.

This will be the second time that the NBA is using a new lottery format that has smoothed out the odds, reducing the league’s worst team’s chance of getting the No. 1 pick from 25.0% to 14.0%. A year ago, the new format had an immediate impact — the Pelicans and Grizzlies were tied for the seventh-best lottery odds, but jumped up to No. 1 and 2, respectively, allowing them to land Zion Williamson and Ja Morant.

Los Angeles Lakers guard Rajon Rondo has reportedly returned to Orlando, Florida, to continue rehabbing his surgically repaired right thumb, according to Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes on NBA on TNT.

He hasn't yet rejoined his team inside the NBA bubble.

Rondo is working with Lakers senior adviser Kurt Rambis, per Haynes, with an eye on returning for the first round of the postseason.

The Los Angeles Clippers have been playing with guys in and out of the lineup throughout their time in the Orlando bubble. Late Sunday night, the Clippers got one step closer to full strength with the arrival of Montrezl Harrell to the bubble.

After almost a month away from his team to deal with the passing of his grandmother back home, Harrell announced his return to the bubble. He’s currently undergoing the quarantine process inside his hotel room equipped with a treadmill, a stationary bike, and other workout equipment.

The New Orleans Pelicans were eliminated from playoff contention on Sunday after a 122-113 loss to the San Antonio Spurs, and some of their players are blaming themselves.

The Pelicans fell behind 17 points in the first half before starting to come back. Zion Williamson said the team’s effort to start the game was “not acceptable.” He also said the lack of effort translated to problems in the second half.

With the Nets having gone 6-2 under interim coach Jacque Vaughn — with wins over the NBA’s top three title contenders — their confidence is sky-high.

High enough to think they can beat the defending champs, after Sunday’s win over the Clippers clinched the seventh seed in the East and a first-round date versus the Raptors.

“We know they’re a really good team. Obviously they’re playing good basketball, they move the ball really well, they’re a great defensive team, as well,” Caris LeVert said. “But for us, we feel like it’s about us. If we move the ball well, if we play good defense, if we’re locked into the game plan, we can win that series. We truly believe that. So we’re gonna go into that playoff matchup all the way locked in.”

LeVert had 27 points and a career-high 13 assists to lead the Nets to a 129-120 victory over the Clippers.

New Orleans Pelicans star Zion Williamson isn't enjoying his minutes restrictions over the club's past two contests.

"It's very tough, to be honest, because as soon as I start to break that sweat, I look over and that horn is for me and I have to come out the game," Williamson said Sunday, according to ESPN's Andrew Lopez.

Williamson added, "I'm a competitor, I want to stay on the court. When I'm coming out of the game, my competitive side of me that I want to stay in. I guess that does affect the fun a little bit, but not too much."

Williamson has played 15 and 14 minutes, respectively, in his first two games in Orlando. New Orleans has mostly used the No. 1 pick in "burst restrictions" at the beginning of quarters.

Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac exited Sunday's game against the Sacramento Kings with a left knee injury. Isaac reportedly has a torn ACL in his left knee, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

Isaac finished the game with four points and three rebounds in Orlando's 132-116 win.

Isaac garnered national media attention on Friday when he stood for the national anthem while his teammates, coaches and opposing players all knelt.

Meyers Leonard of the Miami Heat chose to stand for the national anthem while the rest his teammates knelt on Saturday, during the team’s reopening game against the Denver Nuggets at Walt Disney World.

Despite his public support for the Black Lives Matter movement, he says he couldn’t bring himself to kneel in protest.

“I absolutely believe Black Lives Matter,” he said, according to the NBA.

Nevertheless, he stood with his hand over his heart as “The Star-Spangled Banner” played just before tipoff.

On Twitter, the sister of Al Horford, Anna, jumped all over the opportunity to blast him for his actions.

The NBA is making crucial changes, adjusting its protocol for players who return inconclusive tests for the coronavirus, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The new protocol will allow for a potentially quicker return to game action.

After entering quarantine, if a player is asymptomatic and tests negative on a first re-test, he will be allowed to play in the next game, so long as there’s another negative return within an hour prior to tip-off. Prior to the new protocol, players would have had to quarantine for a 48-hour quarantine period after an inconclusive result.

Imagine a 7’3″ basketball prospect who could shoot like Porzingis, defend like Rudy Gobert, and handle/pass the rock like a point guard. Apparently, that describes French basketball star Victor Wembanyama, who one scout described as “the best prospect in the world.”

Kristaps Porzingis was in quarantine for a day after missing a coronavirus test in the NBA Bubble, which he calls a “mistake.”

Players in the NBA’s bubble are required to be tested daily for the coronavirus. The Dallas Mavericks big man missed his test on Saturday and could not scrimmage with his team on Sunday as a result.

The Golden State Warriors have been the envy of the NBA the last five years. After a horrible 2020 season, the Warriors need to address a few issues before they can expect to be the talk of the league once again.

The big picture: With the Warriors offseason beginning at its earliest in five years, what does the team need to address in the offseason?

The Warriors’ defense needs work.

Since winning the their first championship in 40 years in 2015, the Warriors have been steadily declining in defensive rating. Defensive rating is defined as the amount of points a team allows per 100 possessions. In 2015, the Warriors ranked 1st in the league while in 2019, they ranked 13th.

Typically, teams that win the NBA championship are top-five in both offensive and defensive rating. The Warriors have been able to win championships even with subpar defense because of how strong their offense is – they were top-five in offensive rating the last five years.

A number of team owners around the NBA are feeling the financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic, as Brian Windhorst of writes. Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta, for instance, has seen business fall off precipitously at his restaurants, hotels, and casinos, while Heat owner Micky Arison has had to temporarily shut down his Carnival Cruise Lines.

While some team owners have been hit harder than others by the effects of COVID-19, there’s an expectation that the pandemic will have a league-wide impact on spending this offseason, as Windhorst writes. Some teams may have to make difficult financial decisions that could result in unexpected player movement.

“With few exceptions, no one wants to make long-term commitments right now,” one general manager told ESPN. “You can already feel it coming.”

In addition to the teams that may feel pressure to dump pricey contracts or avoid expensive free agent commitments, some clubs may face financial constraints in the draft. Although selling second-round draft picks remains fairly common, no NBA team has sold a first-round pick since the Nuggets did so with the No. 27 selection in the 2013 draft, according to Windhorst. Some people around the league believe that teams will consider the possibility again in 2020.

The options for the NBA’s social justice messages are set.

Players will have a list of 29 statements to choose from to put on the back of their jerseys in place of their names for the first four days of the league’s resumption in Orlando, ESPN’s The Undefeated reported Friday.

The list, as agreed upon by the league and the NBA Players Association, includes these messages: Black Lives Matter; Say Their Names; Vote; I Can’t Breathe; Justice; Peace; Equality; Freedom; Enough; Power to the People; Justice Now; Say Her Name; Sí Se Puede (Yes We Can); Liberation; See Us; Hear Us; Respect Us; Love Us; Listen; Listen to Us; Stand Up; Ally; Anti-Racist; I Am A Man; Speak Up; How Many More; Group Economics; Education Reform; and Mentor.

Steven Adams pointed the webcam to his left arm. He wanted to show off the farmer’s tan he’d been working on in New Zealand.

"Just from here down," Adams said, lifting his T-shirt sleeve. "It was bloody brilliant. The cows are doing good though, mate."

The Oklahoma City Thunder center returned to his home country in March, shortly after the NBA season was suspended. His first instinct was to be near family and friends as the coronavirus pandemic spread.

"That’s with any international player," Adams said. "They’ll feel the same way. They just want to be close to loved ones. In case anything happens, you want to be there."

Adams recently flew back to Oklahoma City ahead of the NBA season restart, arriving to a place much different than the one he left 7,500 miles behind.

Toronto Raptors star Pascal Siakam feels as comfortable as possible given the unique circumstances he and his teammates are currently training under.

"Obviously Florida is one of (the states) that's pretty high at the moment, but ... the team has been doing a fantastic job in terms of making sure we're kind of isolated," Siakam told reporters Friday, including Lori Ewing of The Canadian Press. "Obviously, you're kind of scared seeing the cases rise but you trust the team's going to do everything, the NBA is going to do everything to make sure we're safe."

Head coach Nick Nurse recently shared a similar sentiment, saying he feels "really safe" with the team's current setup.

Members of the Raptors' traveling party began making their way to Fort Myers last week.

While some NBA players are not all in on having to remain in the NBA bubble when play resumes, Boston Celtics point guard Kemba Walker doesn't have a problem with it. The C's star says he doesn't get out much anyway, so being restricted to one area will not be a problem for him.

Walker shared his thoughts on the bubble with The Athletic. Here's what he said:

"I'm a single man with no kids, so I'ma be fine. All I do is stay in the house anyways, so there's nothing wrong with me staying in the room. I'm actually looking forward to it cause I'm ready to play basketball. And it's going to be set up so we can have fun."

It was April 4, 1968. In just over 24 hours, the city of Philadelphia was set to host Game 1 of the 1968 Eastern Divison Finals which at the time stood to be among the most anticipated playoff series in NBA history. One year earlier in the same round, Wilt Chamberlain finally topped Bill Russell en route to the NBA Finals where he eventually won his first championship and ended Boston's run of seven straight titles. The Celtics - hungry to reclaim their spot atop the NBA - were ready for revenge.

Just over 1,600 kilometres due southwest, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the balcony outside of his second-story room at the Lorraine Motel just outside of Memphis, Tennessee. The renowned civil rights leader was in town to support a sanitation workers' strike and was on his way to dinner when the bullet struck. Just 39 years old, Dr. King was later pronounded dead after his arrival at a Memphs hospital.

It didn't take long for news of his death to spread. In a time which long predated the internet and social media, radios across the country began broadcasting news of his assassination with television and print media not far behind. In the aftermath of the tragey, protests and riots sprung up in more than 100 cities across the United States with some lasting in excess of one full year.

Meanwhile, time seemed to stand stil at the home of Bill Russell in Reading, Massachusetts, about 26 km from the city of Boston. The Celtics player-coach knew the civil righrs activist well having met him face-to-face several years prior in the lead-up to the March on Washington at the hotel where both were staying that night. There in the nation's capital, sitting in the front row, the most decorated player in NBA history would witness along with more than 200,000 people one of the most historic and defining moments of the 20th century as MLK delivered the iconic 17-minute 'I Have A Dream' speech, an impassioned call for social justice in the fight against racism and inequality.

The game of basketball has a lot of plays where one player can stand more than others depending on their quality. You can be a good rebounder, passer, a defender, whatever you want, but in the end, the team that scores more points wins the game.

Being a scorer is something that not many can brag about. The NBA has featured the greatest players of all time and of course, the most gifted scorers ever left their mark on the league. Several players scored a lot of points that served their teams to win championships or put them as one of the bests ever.

Today, we’re going to take a look at the career points hierarchy. Players who joined exclusive clubs during their careers, getting collective and individual honors for their performances and the way they shoot the ball, attack the rim or find ways to score.

+20,000 PTS Club:
Patrick Ewing, Ray Allen, Allen Iverson, Charles Barkley, Robert Parish, Adrian Dantley, Dwyane Wade, Elgin Baylor, Kevin Durant, Clyde Drexler, Gary Payton, Larry Bird, Hal Greer, Walt Bellamy, Pau Gasol, Bob Pettit, David Robinson, James Harden, George Gervin, Mitch Richmond, Joe Johnson, Russell Westbrook, Tom Chambers, Antawn Jamison

The first floor of this pyramid features great names, some players that carried their teams to play for big things, some winning, some losing. In the end, all those efforts put them here, in the +20K-point club. Big men, forwards, guards, a variety of players made it here, in a club that most would kill to join.

Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, Pau Gasol, David Robinson and co. earned their life near the paint; they didn’t need many 3-pointers to be part of the biggest scorers in NBA history, just like Russell Westbrook now, another member of this group. Ray Allen, Allen Iverson, Dwyane Wade and Joe Johnson had more weapons to use, and they were actually more gifted from 3. Unlike AI, having other stars by their side perhaps damage their chances to rank higher on this list, but there is no doubt that these guys could score.

If we talk about current stars, Kevin Durant and James Harden are also part of this list. They are considered the greatest scorers in the NBA at this moment, so it won’t be a shock if we see them in a different club when they finish their careers. KD and the Beard can do anything to score, the question now is who is going to rank higher when their careers are over.

Los Angeles Lakers owner Jeanie Buss shared a disgusting and NSFW letter from a fan who told her to join Kobe Bryant in hell.

Warning, the letter is very graphic:
The Lakers, as well as a bunch of teams in the NBA, gave the organization Friday off in order to observe Juneteenth, the holiday that commemorates the end of slavery. Friday marks 155 years since all enslaved people in Texas were emancipated — the last of the Confederate states to do so — on June 19, 1865.