Two NBA players test positive for COVID-19 in Orlando

Out of the 322 players tested for COVID-19 since arriving on the NBA Campus July 7, two have returned confirmed positive tests while in quarantine, the league announced on Monday. 

According to the league, those players never cleared quarantine and have since left the Campus to isolate at home or in isolation housing.

Since July 1, during in-market testing, 19 NBA players newly tested positive. These players will stay in their home markets and recovering until they are cleared under CDC guidelines and NBA rules for leaving home isolation and joining the Campus.

The NBA regular season is expected to resume on July 30.

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Wizards’ Brown on Orlando: ‘This is a big opportunity for me’

The goal for the Washington Wizards in Orlando is to try to make playoffs. However, the players who will try to make that happen have changed. 

In the NBA, it’s next man up, and with Bradley Beal(injury) and Davis Bertans out, one of the next men up is Troy Brown Jr. The second-year player has a lot of versatility. He can play multiple positions, and at almost 25 minutes a contest, the 20-year-old Brown is averaging 9.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game. Without Beal and Bertans, Brown will have more opportunities to have the ball in his hands, and more of a chance to showcase his talents.  

“For me, I feel like it’s a big opportunity,” Brown said about playing in Orlando on Friday. “I’m fully trying to lock in for the minimal six weeks we have, so this is a big opportunity for me, and I want to take advantage of this, especially having this time, especially getting those three to four months off to focus on my body, and focus on things and get right, and get an opportunity to come back and make a statement, so I feel like this is a huge opportunity for me..

“You know how the NBA works. I’m sad for Brad’s(Beal) injury. It just sucks that he is not here with us, but at the end of the day, we have to go out and do our job. Brad is a big part for us, so it’s one of those things where we have a lot of guys through the age of 20 to 23. It’s a lot of opportunities here. With him(Beal) and DB(Bertans) being gone, we have to find people that can fill that role of scoring, so I definitely feel like it’s going to be a huge opportunity for a lot of us.”

The former 15th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, will get minutes, touches, and every opportunity to help get the Wizards to the playoffs. Brown has the ability and can get into the lane and finish around the basket. He still needs to improve from three-point range, which could develop in time. But in the end, the time is now for Brown to make his mark in Orlando. 

 

Hawks hire first female GM in G League history

The Atlanta Hawks and their NBA G League affiliate, the College Park Skyhawks, name Tori Miller as the General Manager, the team announced on Thursday.

Miller’s promotion establishes her as the first woman to hold the title of General Manager in the history of the NBA G League. Former Skyhawks General Manager Derek Pierce will continue to oversee Atlanta’s scouting department in his role as Vice President of Player Personnel for the Hawks.

Miller, who was named Assistant General Manager of the Skyhawks on July 30, 2019, began her tenure with the organization as Manager of Basketball Operations three seasons ago with the Erie BayHawks. A native of Decatur, GA, Miller is a University of Miami graduate and spent time as a Basketball Operations Intern for the Phoenix Suns prior to her time in the G League.

Wizards’ GM; ‘We had to play without Bradley(Beal) this year, and we had some success’

The Wizards were dealt a severe blow to their playoff hopes on Tuesday. The team announced that their leading scorer Bradley Beal is out for the season and will not travel to Orlando for the NBA restart. 

According to the team, Beal is dealing with a right rotator cuff(shoulder)injury. The 27-year-old Beal had a tremendous season for the Wizards. Beal averaged 30.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 6.1 assists per game. The seven-year veteran had 21 straight games of 25 points or more, the second-longest NBA streak in 10 years. 

With no Beal and Davis Bertans(opted out), the team’s top two leading scorers, making the playoffs is nearly impossible for Washington. However, without Beal in the lineup, the Wizards are 4-3, so they had some success without him, which GM Tommy Sheppard discussed on Tuesday.

“You’re never better without Bradley Beal, never,” Sheppard said during a video conference call with the media. “We had to play without Bradley this year, and we had some success. These guys stepped up.”

Keeping Beal on the sidelines is not a bad idea. No one expected the Wizards to do much this season without John Wall, so getting the Orlando invite was a considerable accomplishment. Now, they get a chance to let their young guys play in some meaningful games, as the Wizards have an outside chance of making the playoffs. 

“The way you develop players is let them get out there and play, and Bradley’s(Beal) minutes were heavy, but they were down,” Sheppard said. “Our plan was in Orlando, certainly, we wanted to see these young kids get an opportunity to play, and that will continue to be the focus.”

This season was about development for the Wizards. Without Beal, guys like rookie Rui Hachimura, Thomas Bryant, and Troy Brown Jr. will have bigger roles, which will help their development, and while you would like to win now, the best thing for this franchise is continuing to grow their young talent.

Wizards’ Bryant very confident of team’s chances in Orlando

At 24-40, the Washington Wizards have struggled this season, but without an injured John Wall, many did not expect Washington to have a lot of success. However, with the invitation to Orlando for the NBA restart, Washington probably has a better chance of making the playoffs than they did back in March. 

The 9th-seeded Wizards are currently 5.5 games behind the 8th-seeded Orlando Magic(30-35) for the final spot in the playoffs. If the season weren’t suspended due to COVID-19, Washington would have had to make up 5.5 games with 18 games remaining, which would have been relatively impossible. Fortunately for Washington, all they need to do now is get within four games of the Magic to be eligible to compete in a play-in tournament.

While the Wizards have a shot at the playoffs, some believe that this team should not be in Orlando, but according to Washington C Thomas Bryant, the team will prove a lot of people wrong. 

“People are going say what they want to say,” Bryant said via a video call with the media on Wednesday. “They’ll see when we get down to Orlando that we have all been improving, and you’ll see a spark from us. So, people are going to say what they want to say. It’s the freedom of speech. People have the right to say what they want, but for me, personally, they will be eating those words.”

No one knows what to expect when the NBA returns. Who knows what players will be in shape, and who knows how teams will mesh after being away for so long, so if Washington has Bradley Beal on the court, who is undecided about whether he will play in Orlando, anything could happen. 

Also, what could favor the Wizards is what’s happening with the 7th-seeded Brooklyn Nets(30-34). This team will head to Orlando without Kyrie Irving, DeAndre Jordan(team’s leading rebounder), and Wilson Chandler. Furthermore, there is some uncertainty about Spencer Dinwiddie’s availability(team’s leading scorer), who tested positive for COVID-19 and is reportedly symptomatic. Washington is currently six games behind Brooklyn. 

What will happen in Orlando is anybody’s guess, but to be one of the 22 teams invited is a win for Washington. 

Beal on Bertans’ decision to opt out of NBA restart: ‘I 100 percent understand it’

When the NBA returns in late July, the Washington Wizards will be without one of their best shooters and could be without their best player. Davis Bertans, who can become a free agent at the end of the season, has decided not to play when the NBA restarts in Orlando, and at this point, Bradley Beal is unsure if he is going to play. 

“I am still working my tail off every single day as if I am playing,” Beal said via a video call with the media on Wednesday. “It is more or less a decision that will come down to the medical staff and coming back from zero to 100, and then I have some nagging stuff from the end of the year that we are trying to clean up, too. We are looking at it from all angles. I am definitely working out every single day here. It is good to be back in the facility.

“I am not swayed one way or another.”

Beal also revealed that he talked to Bertans before the third-year player made the decision to opt out public.

“I didn’t feel any type of way about Bertans’ decision,” Beal said. “He actually contacted me before he officially announced it… He explained it and just seeing where he comes from, seeing his situation, and understanding what’s at stake for him and his future.  I 100 percent understand it.”

The 27-year-old Bertans, who in 54 games averaged 15.4 ppg this season, has an opportunity to make a lot of money in free agency. He has the size(6-10) and is a knockdown three-point shooter(42% from three-point land), so his decision to skip Orlando is understandable.

Currently, the Wizards(9th seed) are 5 1/2 games behind the Orlando Magic for the 8th and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. If the team with the eighth-best combined winning percentage in a conference (Currently, the Orlando Magic) is four games or fewer ahead of the team with the ninth-best combined winning percentage in the same conference, then those two teams would compete in a play-in tournament to determine the eighth playoff seed in the conference. The play-in tournament will be double elimination for Team 8 and single elimination for Team 9.

Therefore, Washington must make up some ground if they want to compete in the play-in tournament. 

It was a tall order for the Wizards to make the playoffs with Beal and Bertans. However, it’s probably impossible for Washington to qualify for the playoffs without them. 

With Beal(30.5 ppg), who is having a big-time year, they have a fighters’ chance. It should be interesting to see what Beal decides, but if Washington wants to make a run at the playoffs, they need Beal out there in Orlando. 

Suns sign Cameron Payne

The Phoenix Suns today signed free agent guard Cameron Payne, the team announced today.

According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, it’s a two-year deal.

Payne, 25, has played four NBA seasons with Oklahoma City, Chicago, and Cleveland since being selected 14th overall in the 2015 NBA Draft. The 6-3, 190-pound guard has spent the 2019-20 season with the Texas Legends of the NBA G League, averaging 23.2 points on 48.3% shooting, 8.1 assists, 4.9 rebounds, and 2.3 steals in 15 games since making his season debut on January 26. Payne was named NBA G League Player of the Week on March 2 after guiding the Legends to a 3-0 week, including career highs of 19 assists and 10 rebounds plus 18 points to record a triple-double in a win over the NAZ Suns. Payne scored a career-high 43 points in a win over Iowa on February 8. 

Originally the 14th overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft out of Murray State, Payne was selected directly between his now teammates Devin Booker and Kelly Oubre Jr. He holds career averages of 6.0 points and 2.5 assists over 16.0 minutes in 153 career regular-season games, making 11 post-season appearances with the Thunder and Bulls.

Clippers sign C Joakim Noah

The L.A. Clippers have signed free agent Joakim Noah to a new contract, the team announced today.

According to Ohm Youngmisuk, the deal is for rest of the season plus next season (non-guaranteed).

Noah, 35, who signed a 10-Day contract with the Clippers on March 9, is a two-time NBA All-Star (2013, 2014) and former NBA Defensive Player of the Year (2014). He appeared in 42 games last season for the Memphis Grizzlies, averaging 7.1 points, 2.1 assists and 5.7 rebounds. The 6’11”, 230-pound center holds career averages of 8.8 points, 2.8 assists and 9.1 rebounds in 667 appearances across 12 NBA seasons with the Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks and Grizzlies.

Before being selected by Chicago with the ninth overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, Noah played three collegiate seasons at the University of Florida, leading the Gators to back-to-back NCAA Championships in 2006 and 2007.

Mavericks announce eight-game restart schedule

The Dallas Mavericks announced today their eight-game schedule for the restart of the 2019-20 season, which will tip-off against the Houston Rockets on Friday, July 31 at 8 p.m. CT on ESPN at The Arena at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

The 22 teams traveling to Orlando will play eight “seeding games,” as selected from their remaining regular-season contests. Following their matchup with the Rockets, the Mavericks will face Phoenix (Aug. 2), Sacramento (Aug. 4), the L.A. Clippers (Aug. 6), Milwaukee (Aug. 8), Utah (Aug. 10), Portland (Aug. 11) and Phoenix again (Aug. 13).

Fox Sports Southwest will carry all eight of the Mavericks’ seeding games with Mark Followill, Derek Harper and Jeff “Skin” Wade calling the action remotely from their studio in Las Colinas, Texas. In addition to the matchup with Houston, ESPN will also televise the Mavericks’ game against Milwaukee. TNT will air the club’s showdown with the Clippers and NBA TV will show the team’s game against Utah. The league and its broadcast and technology partners are collaborating to enhance game telecasts and bring fans an immersive, interactive viewing experience.

Dallas went into the NBA hiatus with a record of 40-27 (.597) and currently sits in seventh place in the Western Conference entering the restart.

The restart will include strict health and safety protocols and the goal of taking collective action to combat systemic racism and promote social justice. Games will resume with 22 teams playing at The Arena, HP Field House and VISA Athletic Center at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex with no fans in attendance.

Following the seeding games, the seven teams in each conference with the highest combined winning percentages across regular-season matchups and seeding contests will be the first through seventh seeds for the playoffs. If the team with the eighth-best combined winning percentage (regular season and seeding games) in a conference is more than four games ahead of the team with the ninth-best combined winning percentage in the same conference, then the team with the eighth-best winning percentage would be the eighth playoff seed in that conference.

If the team with the eighth-best combined winning percentage in a conference (Team 8) is four games or fewer ahead of the team with the ninth-best combined winning percentage in the same conference (Team 9), then those two teams would compete in a play-in tournament to determine the eighth playoff seed in the conference. The play-in tournament will be double elimination for Team 8 and single elimination for Team 9.

The NBA’s standard playoff tiebreaker procedures will be used to break any ties on the basis of winning percentage. Once the 16-team playoff field is set, the NBA Playoffs will proceed in a traditional conference-based format with four rounds and best-of-seven series in each round. The 2020 NBA Finals will end no later than Oct. 13.

 2019-20 DALLAS MAVERICKS RESTART SCHEDULE

GAME

DATE

OPPONENT

TIME (Central)

VENUE

TV

1

Friday, July 31

vs. Houston

8:00 p.m.

The Arena

FSSW/ESPN

2

Sunday, Aug. 2

@ Phoenix

8:00 p.m.

VISA Athletic Center

FSSW

3

Tuesday, Aug. 4

@ Sacramento

1:30 p.m.

HP Field House

FSSW

4

Thursday, Aug. 6

vs. L.A. Clippers

5:30 p.m.

HP Field House

FSSW/TNT

5

Saturday, Aug. 8

vs. Milwaukee

7:30 p.m.

The Arena

FSSW/ESPN

6

Monday, Aug. 10

@ Utah

2:00 p.m.

The Arena

FSSW/NBA TV

7

Tuesday, Aug. 11

vs. Portland

4:00 p.m.

The Arena

FSSW

8

Thursday, Aug. 13

@ Phoenix

TBD

TBD