From Comcast SportsNetSYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) -- Jim Boeheim called it just another number. The message board in the Carrier Dome didn't agree.Moments after his third-ranked Syracuse Orange held off Detroit for a 72-68 victory Monday night in the Gotham Classic, making Boeheim just the third Division I men's coach to reach 900 wins, Hall of Famer Dave Bing, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and Louisville's Rick Pitino offered congratulations on the big screens inside the Teflon dome as the hometown faithful cheered.Boeheim, 68 and in his 37th year at his alma mater, is 900-304 and joined an elite fraternity. Krzyzewski (936) and Bob Knight (902) are the only other men's Division I coaches to win that many games."To me, it's just a number," said Boeheim, whose first victory was against Harvard in 1976. "If I get 900, have I got to get more? That's why maybe it's just not that important to me because to me it's just a number, and the only number that matters is how this team does."So far, it's done OK.James Southerland had 22 points for Syracuse (10-0), which increased its home winning streak to 30 games, longest in the nation. Detroit (6-5), which lost 77-74 at St. John's in the second game of the season and 74-61 at Pitt earlier this month, had its four-game winning streak snapped.Bing, Boeheim's college roommate, teammate and fellow Hall of Famer, and Roosevelt Bouie, a star on Boeheim's first team in 1976-77, were in the Carrier Dome crowd of 17,902.Bing was standing tall in the locker room after the game."Nobody would have thought when we came here 50 years ago that either one of us would have had the kind of success we've had," said Bing, today the mayor of Detroit. "I'm so pleased and proud of him because he stuck with it. He's proven that he's one of the best coaches ever in college basketball, and he'll be No. 2 shortly."After a victory that nearly was short-circuited, Boeheim was presented a jersey encased in glass with 900 emblazoned on it."I'm happy. I've stayed around long enough. I was a little nervous," Boeheim said at center court. "I'm proud to be here. To win this game is more pressure than I've felt in a long time. I wasn't thinking about losing until the end. That wouldn't have been a good thing to happen, but it very well could have."Indeed.Midway through the second half with Syracuse dominating, fans were given placards featuring cardboard cutouts of Boeheim's face with 900 wins printed on the back to wave in celebration. But when the public address announcer in the Carrier Dome invited fans to stick around for the postgame ceremony, the Titans roared back.Juwan Howard Jr., who finished with 18 points, scored 14 over the last 6 minutes to key a 16-0 run, his two free throws pulling Detroit within 67-63 with 55.1 seconds left after the Titans had trailed by 20 with 6:09 to play."You know what, I didn't hear it, but the players probably heard because they sure came alive," Detroit coach Ray McCallum said. "This is a big stage. Guys sitting around the hotel watching television getting ready to play the No. 3 team in the country and they're talking about going for 900 wins, coach Boeheim. That's a lot for a young man to digest."Michael Carter-Williams hit three of four free throws in the final seconds to secure the win."Michael made big-time free throws you've got to make. If he misses a couple, it's a new game. That was the difference," Boeheim said. "We have not been in that situation. Hopefully, we'll learn from that."Carter-Williams finished with 10 assists and 12 points, his sixth straight double-double."It was great to be part of this," Carter-Williams said. "It's a part of history."Doug Anderson scored 18 points and Nick Minnerath had 13 for Detroit. Ray McCallum Jr., the coach's son and Detroit's leading scorer at 19.4 points per game, finished with nine, while Jason Calliste had seven.Southerland scored a career-high 35 points, matching a school record with nine 3-pointers, in a win at Arkansas in late November and, after an 0-for-10 slump over three games, found his range again Saturday night with three 3s in a win over Canisius. He finished 5 of 8 from behind the arc against the Titans.One of the keys to breaking Syracuse's 2-3 zone is hitting the long ball, and Detroit struck out in the first half. The Titans were 0 for 10 and the lone 3 they did make -- by McCallum with just over 6 minutes left -- was negated by a shot-clock violation.Detroit could only lament what might have been if a couple had gone in."We never gave up. That's a tribute to our team," Howard said. "We had the right attitude. We played a tough opponent. You usually don't want a moral victory, but we can take some positives from this game."Syracuse plays again Saturday against Temple in Madison Square Garden, and the Orange faithful are likely to be out in numbers as they usually are when the team plays there.Boeheim was effusive in praise of the support the team has received during his long tenure. Syracuse has had 71 crowds of over 30,000 since the Carrier Dome opened in 1980 and holds the NCAA on-campus record of 34,616, set nearly three years ago against Villanova."The support of fans cannot be overestimated," he said. "You have to have that kind of support in your building to bring recruits in, to help you play better. We've had a tremendous loyal fan base. That's why I always felt this was a great place to coach and why I never really thought about going anywhere else. The support from the fans is the No. 1 thing you have to have."
As it stands right now, the NBA appears well on track to begin its 22-team season restart on July 30 in Orlando.
The question, though, is if it will finish what it starts.
On the most recent episode of the Bulls Talk Podcast, NBC Sports NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh explained the array of apprehensions that come with the experiment the league is about to embark on. From the health and safety issues that come with a still-raging pandemic, to the mental health concerns facing a player population under relative isolation, and more, pulling this bubble off would be a grand logistical feat by the NBA.
So, what odds did Haberstroh give the season ending as currently planned, and with a champion crowned? 50-50. A coin flip.
“I know that’s a cop-out,” Haberstroh said, “but I think it’s about a 90 percent chance we see a tip-off on July 30, and I think it’s going to be less so at the end of the playoffs. Because I think, we don’t know how this coronavirus is going to react to this bubble, we don’t know how disciplined the players will be in respect to staying in the bubble and respecting the social distancing rules and the mask rules.
“Everything looks good on paper. The 113-page protocol the NBA gave out was very thorough, an epidemiologist that I talked to said that it was a really solid plan. Of course, as Adam Silver says, it’s not risk-free. There’s risk in this bubble, and I think, when I mentioned the 50/50 proposition to an executive two days ago, he responded, ‘I don’t think that’s pessimistic enough.’ And I thought I was on the wrong side of that — I thought, I was like ‘Is that too pessimistic here, 50/50?’ And he assured me that there is concern around the league about — not Week 1, I don’t think it’s the first month in the bubble that teams worry about. I think it’s just as the bubble continues, Month 2, Month 3, is that people let their guard down and slowly just get a little bit too comfortable with the surroundings, and that’s what you have to guard against.”
The NBA released the latest results from its mandatory “Phase 2” testing on Thursday, reporting that 25 of 351 (7.1%) players tested since June 23 were positive for COVID-19, along with 10 of 884 (1.1%) team staffers.
“Phase 2” of the league’s restart plan saw the 22 invited teams return to their home markets (the one exception being the Toronto Raptors, who traveled straight to Orlando) for restricted workouts at team facilities. An influx of positives under those circumstances was to be expected. In fact, the Nuggets, Clippers and Nets all recently reportedly shuttered their facilities on a temporary basis after positive tests in their respective organizations — though the Nets have since reopened theirs, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
The hope for the league is that the invited teams can enter Orlando as infection-free as possible, and from there, daily testing, symptom monitoring, contact tracing, and targeted sanitation and social guidelines can mitigate potential infection, spread, or, worse yet, outbreak.
But there are concerns on that front, as well, starting with the testing protocols surrounding the Disney employees that will staff the bubble.
“The biggest worry, to me, is the Disney staffers who are not being quarantined, who are not being tested day-to-day,” Haberstroh said. “Adam Silver on a recent call with reporters said that they are trying to find a subset, or negotiate with Disney, a subset of their Disney staffers who are coming from homes or an environment where there’s as high as 15% positive tests in Orange County, Fla., they’re trying to figure out a way to test those individuals before they come into the bubble. Right now they are not being tested.”
Should the league keep its players sufficiently insulated from said staffers, perhaps that won’t be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. But given the unpredictability of the virus, and the unpredictability of individual human behavior, it’s impossible to yet know exactly how the bubble experiment will play out. How many positive tests will there be in the bubble? How many positives would warrant another season shutdown? Will positive tests on different teams be treated differently based on specific risk factors — e.g. age of coach? For that matter, will older coaches be allowed to walk the sidelines? Will we even see quality basketball? Could players be at higher injury risk after a months-long hiatus? Will anyone break the bubble? Is this all even worth it?
As Haberstroh noted Silver saying, there’s no risk-free option for resuming a contact sport during a global pandemic, especially considering all the variables the NBA brings with it. The above questions are nebulous for now. But answers may soon rear their head.
Listen to the rest of the conversation, in which Haberstroh and Co. discuss the NBA's restart, Zion Williamson's return to action and the state of the Bulls' rebuild, here or via the embedded player above.
Bulls Talk Podcast
The first game in the NBA Bubble in Orlando is scheduled for July 30 for the resumption of the 2019-2020 NBA season.
Kevin Anderson and Rob Schaefer are joined by NBC Sports NBA insider Tom Haberstroh to discuss the details of the bubble and if the top four seeds should select their opponent in the playoffs. Later, Tom shares his thoughts on the Bulls' front office changes.
(1:14) - Will the NBA finish the rest of the season?
(9:11) - How concerned is the NBA with the mental health of the players in the bubble?
(17:35) - This will be the hardest championship ever won
(30:18) - Should the top four seeds be able to select their playoff opponent?
(43:35) - What does the rest of the NBA think of the Bulls' front office changes?
Listen here or below.
Bulls Talk Podcast