Gregg Popovich’s thoughts and musings on race in America — or nearly any topic, to be honest — were never meant for Twitter. To say “Gregg Popovich knocks NFL, Roger Goodell” is to vastly oversimplify his thoughts.
Which is why an extended interview in the New York Times with columnist Maureen Dowd is a better format — and Popovich did rip the NFL and Goodell. But he also questioned himself and what he thought he knew.
“Especially if you’re a white coach and you’re coaching a group that’s largely black, you’d better gain their trust, you’d better be genuine, you’d better understand their situation,” he tells me. “You’d better understand where they grew up. Maybe there’s a black kid from a prep school. Maybe there’s another black kid who saw his first murder when he was 7 years old…”
But in recent calls with the Spurs’ players and staff he has been amazed at the level of hurt. “It would bring you to tears,” he says, his voice cracking. “It’s even deeper than you thought, and that’s what really made me start to think: You’re a privileged son of a bitch and you still don’t get it as much as you think you do. You gotta work harder. You gotta be more aware. You gotta be pushed and embarrassed. You’ve gotta call it out.”
Popovich, a former Air Force officer, had ripped President Donald Trump before, and said he thought the NFL’s response to Colin Kaepernick kneeling was out of fear of the president’s response.
“A smart man is running the NFL and he didn’t understand the difference between the flag and what makes the country great — all the people who fought to allow Kaepernick to have the right to kneel for justice. The flag is irrelevant. It’s just a symbol that people glom onto for political reasons just like Cheney back in the Iraq war…
“[Goodell] got intimidated when Trump jumped on the kneeling.”
Popovich is genuine and authentic, plus he works to empathize with people. It’s a skill not enough politicians work to hone.
The public messaging on players who choose not to play in the NBA’s resumption at Disney World: They won’t face discipline.
But they won’t get paid, which is no small matter.
they will lose payment on games missed — 1/92nd of the money owed them, sources said.
I wonder whether that’s actually 1/92.6th, which is the amount salaries are reduced for each game canceled through force majeure.
Either way, it’s a higher proportion of salary than players lose when suspended.
Here’s the share of salaries players lose per game when:
- Suspended for fewer than 20 games: 0.7% (1/145th)
- Suspended for 20 games or more: 0.9% (1/110th)
- Choosing not to play at Disney World: 1.1%
That seems unfair – especially when players on the eight done teams will receive the same percentage of their salaries as reporting players on the continuing 22 teams.*
*Almost certainly, no players will get their full slated salaries with league-wide revenue way down.
Players have expressed a variety of concerns about continuing play – safety amid the coronavirus pandemic, standard of living in a closed campus, advancing the Black Lives Matter movement. For someone to choose not to play would be a heavy decision. It feels crass to treat him more harshly financially than a suspended player.
There’s not necessarily an easy way to handle this unprecedented situation. Nobody signed up to play games under these circumstances. It’s also tough to make a case that owners should pay players who choose not to play.
In practical terms, players who choose to sit out would lose 9%-41% of their salaries, based on this reporting. The continuing 22 teams will each play eight seeding games plus potentially one or two play-in games and up to 28 games through the playoffs.
For the three players most commonly linked to sitting out, here would be their lost wages:
- Kyrie Irving (Nets): $2,760,174 – $9,660,609
- Dwight Howard (Lakers): $223,022 – $780,577
- CJ McCollum (Trail Blazers): $2,396,257 – $8,985,965
Obviously, it’s highly unlikely any team reaches a Game 7 in every round, especially a team that participates in a play-in. So, the high end of these ranges are mostly theoretical.
But if enough players sit out to force the NBA to cancel the rest of the season, lost 2019-20 salaries would be just the start of financial ramifications for players. Owners would almost certainly terminate the Collective Bargaining Agreement, leaving players locked out and negotiating at a time NBA games are less valuable.
Back to this season… Irving almost certainly won’t have his salary docked. He underwent season-ending surgery. His injury excuses him – with pay.
Really, I wonder whether any players – whatever their main reason(s) for not returning – will actually have their salaries reduced for not playing. NBA players put their bodies through incredible physical tolls. Some could undergo surgery for a lingering issue that doesn’t necessarily need to be addressed immediately but would make them legitimately unavailable. There’s a playbook for this.
But it’s a shame players would have to resort to that type of subterfuge just to get treated better than a suspended player.
Lakers center Dwight Howard released a powerful statement that said “Basketball, or entertainment period, isn’t needed at this moment, and will only be a distraction” and “No Basketball till we get things resolved.”
Howard’s agent, Charles Briscoe, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN:
“The statement was about social injustice and racism,” Briscoe said. “Yet everybody is still talking about whether basketball should be played. He isn’t saying that basketball shouldn’t be. He’s just saying that you should not be taking attention away from what’s going on in the country to talk about basketball. Basketball is just a sport, at the end of the day. But what’s going on with people dying in the streets, that’s something real. That statement, it had nothing to do with sports. It had everything to do with racism and social injustice.”
I have a tough time reconciling Howard (“No Basketball till we get things resolved”) and Howard’s agent (“He isn’t saying that basketball shouldn’t be”). Obviously, the problems of social injustice and racism are not resolved.
Lakers star LeBron James has made clear: He believes he can continue playing while advancing social change. LeBron holds incredible influence in how the Lakers operate. It can be difficult for anyone in the organization to oppose him.
LeBron isn’t alone in his sentiments. Other players have espoused the value of continuing to earn high wages, both because it can increase black wealth and because not playing wouldn’t necessarily advance the cause of combating racism.
In fact, professional athletes have used their platforms to advance the cause. Colin Kaepernick made the strongest stand in recent years. NBA players have also contributed by doing things like wearing shirts in protest of police brutality during pregame, calling attention to segregation and forming an organization to grow and protect black voting rights. Those words and actions were amplified by the spotlight on active NBA players and the money they earn.
Could NBA players do even more for the cause by not playing? Maybe.
But that even Howard and his agent sound unaligned shows that side of the debate needs work on its message.
Now Thompson heads into an offseason unsure of what’s next or what the free agent market will look like. Who will want — and be able to afford — his services?
The Cavaliers want to bring him back, reports Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Multiple sources tell cleveland.com the Cavs want Thompson to stay. The front office discussed an extension with his camp earlier this season. While those talks quickly broke down and the Cavs eventually traded for two-time All-Star center Andre Drummond, the Cavs plan to at least try to re-sign Thompson this offseason — even if it’s a one-year, mutually-beneficial deal that allows him to hit free agency in the summer of 2021, where more teams will have cap space and the impact of COVID-19 may soften.
This is what the Cavs have to say, “of course we want to bring back a popular player and link to our title team.”
The reality is last season was likely Thompson’s last with the Cavaliers — he asked to be traded at the deadline, the team just couldn’t find a deal it liked. Cleveland kept Thompson around in part because he’s a good influence on the young Cavaliers’ core, guys such as Collin Sexton and Darius Garland.
The questions for Thompson this offseason are money and role.
Thompson, at 30, started most of the Cavaliers’ games before the shut down of the league last season, stayed healthy, and averaged 12 points and 10.1 rebounds a game playing 30 minutes a night. He’s strong on the boards and showed good energy on defense. He’s going to want close to that kind of role going forward, but the Cavaliers now have Drummond, so Thompson would become a backup.
Money is going to be tougher in a season where not a lot of teams had cap space, and now the salary cap is expected to drop some (how much depends on negotiations between the league and players’ union that are ongoing).
Maybe the Cavs and Thompson reach terms on a one-year contract so Thompson can hit the market again in 2021 when more teams are expected to have cap space. However, it’s more likely Thompson takes a deal elsewhere this offseason — not for the five-years, $82 million he got from Cleveland back in 2015, but for more money and a bigger role than Cleveland can offer right now.
His name has been at or near the top of the “next guy in line to be a GM somewhere” list for a long time, and he’s interviewed/been considered for multiple jobs. It looks like Tory Weaver finally will get his chance in Detroit.
Weaver, who had been mentioned as a candidate before, is the frontrunner to become the Pistons’ GM, something first reported by Marc Stein of the New York Times and confirmed by others.
Longtime Thunder executive Troy Weaver has emerged as the top choice in Detroit’s search for a new GM, @NYTSports has learned, with the Pistons actively working to complete a deal to hire Weaver
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) June 15, 2020
Sources to @YahooSports: Major hurdles have been cleared to pave way for OKC’s Troy Weaver to become Detroit Pistons new GM. Both sides want to make this happen
— Vincent Goodwill (@VinceGoodwill) June 15, 2020
Weaver is currently the vice president of basketball operations and the No. 2 guy with the Thunder, behind Sam Presti. Weaver has been there a decade and would only leave for a job that’s a promotion in title and power.
Ed Stefanski is in charge of basketball operations in Detroit, he is the man hired to rebuild the Pistons. He has the ultimate hammer, but was hired as a consultant to the owner and may want to return to more of that role. The Pistons have been looking for an experienced person to step into the general manager role, and Weaver fits the bill.
Presti’s Thunder front office has produced a number of people poached by other organizations. Most recently, the Knicks pulled Frank Zanin out of Oklahoma City to be part of Leon Rose‘s staff.
Once hired, Weaver and the Thunder front office would have big decisions to make. Stefanski traded Andre Drummond during the season, whether Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose should follow Drummond out the door to jump start the rebuild becomes the big question.