NBA Notebook: Latest News and Rumors Around the Association

What will it take for the NBA to return? Why are the Knicks and Bulls not clawing each other over Kenny Atkinson?
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News, notes and observations while waiting for (some) NBA team facilities to open up next week.

· Steve Kerr told reporters this week that the Warriors were in “offseason mode,” anticipating that Golden State’s injury-riddled 15-win season was over. Kerr is right—or at least he should be. The NBA is correct to plot a post pandemic return, but it’s a little wacky to think that teams like Golden State or Cleveland should go through a three-week training camp just to come back to play a handful of meaningless regular season games. That may sting teams like Portland, New Orleans or Sacramento, teams with a mathematical chance of making the playoffs. But it’s complicated enough devising a 16-team playoff plan—the NBA should tell the non-playoff teams that they are done.

· We can peel back the layers on what it will take for the NBA to return, but for league officials it invariably comes back to this: Testing. The NBA can probably acquire the testing it needs to hold a postseason through private companies. But there is no way the league will do that until testing is widely available nationwide. There’s no real discussion to be had about when the NBA will come back until then.

· The Knicks decision to retain GM Scott Perry was … interesting. New team president Leon Rose has a firm understanding of who the top executives are in basketball, so it was a little surprising to see Rose keep an incumbent GM. Still, a one-year extension isn’t exactly a resounding vote of confidence, and the expectation around the league is that Rose will fill out the front office with new hires in the coming weeks.

· Would love to know who in LA’s front office thought it was a good idea to apply for (and accept) a loan as part of the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program. The Lakers were publicly maligned this week after word got out they had accepted a $4.6 million loan, which the team announced it had repaid. There’s no question NBA owners are losing money, but the idea that a team Forbes values at $4.4 billion would seek a $4.6 million loan designed to help small businesses is wild. That’s like LeBron James claiming a stimulus check.

· The Lakers weren’t the only team to consider applying for one of these loans, by the way. They were, to my knowledge, the only team crazy enough to do it.

· Why are the Knicks and Bulls not clawing each other over Kenny Atkinson? The ex-Nets coach has been a free agent since falling out of favor with (some) in Brooklyn. He has an earned reputation for player development, from damaged blue chippers (D’Angelo Russell) to late first round picks (Caris LeVert) to second rounders (Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris). Think Atkinson wouldn’t be impactful with Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Coby White? Think R.J. Barrett, Kevin Knox and whatever point guard the Knicks draft wouldn’t thrive under Atkinson? Discussed this at length on this week’s podcast—why Atkinson is still available eludes me.

· I’m here for LeBron James’s quarantine beard.

· Vegas mayor Carolyn Goodman definitely damaged her cities chances of landing any quarantined postseason with that bonkers interview on CNN last week, where Goodman insisted Vegas was ready to open and that she was ready to offer up the citizens of the city as some kind of control group to determine what happens when you open up. The NBA has a longstanding relationship with Las Vegas, and to be clear, Goodman can’t open so much as a Bonanno's on the Strip, which is outside of her jurisdiction. But I’ve talked to a few people this week who have strongly indicated that interview resonated strongly with league power brokers—and not in a good way.

· ESPN reported there was some momentum to start the 2020-21 season in December, and besides being the right long term decision—I’ve articulated my thoughts on that here—it might be the only short term one. With the endgame for COVID-19, the coronavirus, unknown, the smart financial move is to push the start of next season as far back as possible. And if the league can cobble together a full season, beginning in December, it would learn a lot about the viability of a summer schedule.

· This is the final season of Game of Zones? Why?

· As I reported on Monday, the NBA’s plans on when to re-open team facilities in states that have relaxed stay-at-home restrictions has always been a moving target. The NBA firmly believes there are safety issues—opening the facilities will keep players out of public gyms, reducing their potential exposure—and has a structured plan in place to minimize contact. It’s very likely facilities in several states open as early as next week. How to handle teams in states still on lockdown is an ongoing discussion. Legally, the NBA can’t open these facilities. And even if they received exemptions from local governments to open up, it’s terrible optics for a multi billion dollar business like the NBA to be getting back to work while small businesses nearby remain closed—some permanently.