Bulls

The only certainty? Unpredictability

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The only certainty? Unpredictability

Well, I guess we can all be thankful that this Blackhawks-Coyotes series hasnt degenerated into what we have seen between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphis Flyers -- at least from Pittsburghs perspective. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are one last knockout punch away from their summer vacation after so many national experts had them as their 2012 Stanley Cup champion.

It just goes to show the unpredictability of this time of year.

Why wouldnt Phoenix feel good with a one-goal lead in the final seconds of each of the first two games with the Hawks? This is a team that came into the playoffs with the leagues hottest goaltender, and had allowed all of 16 third-period goals over its final 31 games! So now, the Hawks are in the playoff record books for forcing overtime in consecutive games in a series by scoring with under 15 seconds remaining.

Then theres that next-to-last Coyotes power play unit from the regular season. They banged home a couple in Game 2 to make the Hawks pay for their penalties. Or were they penalties?

I know one definitely was, and their goal on that second one came if it was even just a two-minute penalty Andrew Shaw probably deserved, in hindsight. Still, you just cant hit quarterbacks, err goalies. Anytime. Anywhere. Id like to think of them as hockey players too. I think they are. Put the pressure cooker up there with baseball closers and QBs.

But Im still saying Smith did a Dennis Rodman flop there. He got two big calls Saturday night, and the Hawks were good enough to persevere through that. Who knows if that collision (I still believe without any malicious intent on Shaws part) ends up resulting in a greater penalty than Shea Weber taking Henrik Zetterbergs head and slamming it into the plexiglass right in front of a referee? The league office has been as inconsistent and unpredictable lately as this first week of the playoffs.

After their first win over the 'Yotes in their last five tries, its on the Hawks to use home ice to establish more consistency and tempo in their game, and not give that home ice back. Phoenix and head coach Dave Tippett deserve credit for playing a better overall game for most of the first two games, but the Hawks can certainly use this momentum and this opportunity to take control of the series. Easier said than done.

Yet even by taking control, theyd still need a fourth win. Ask the Canucks from last years first round how tough that is to do. Or the Boston Bruins against the Flyers two years ago. You can bet every Philly holdover from that series will be thinking about that until they get win No. 4 from their in-state rival.

Seven of the last eight games the Hawks have played have gone beyond regulation. We can ask them not to keep us up too late Tuesday and Thursday, but we wont count on it. Its the playoffs.

Adam Silver gives inside look at conference call with President Trump

Adam Silver gives inside look at conference call with President Trump

On Monday evening, NBA commissioner Adam Silver spoke on Twitter Live in an extended interview with TNT broadcaster Ernie Johnson.

In the discussion, Silver was asked about a possible timetable for the NBA resuming play and also the phone call he and the other professional sports commissioners had with President Donald Trump on Saturday, April 4.

"It was an old-school conference call," Silver said. "No video. I was notified, and the league, I think all the leagues were notified earlier in the week that it was something the President wanted to do. The specific time wasn't set until Friday afternoon. We were notified it was going to take place at noon on Saturday.

"It lasted about 45 minutes. And it was more like a conventional conference call. You were given a call-in number and a participant number that was specific to you, I assume, for security purposes. I don't know who was on the line with the President from his office because only the President spoke, but he made some introductory remarks again just in terms of the fact that he is a passionate sports fan and the fact that he missed seeing live sports on television. He mentioned he'd been watching some classic telecasts of games in all sports and he went on to say, 'I'd love to hear from all of you,' and I think we all just took turns."

From there, Silver said each commissioner offered updates on the status of their leagues. WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert provided a rundown on the W's virtual draft scheduled for April 17 and the recent postponement of their season. Silver discussed the aforementioned "NBA Together" intiative, which strives to circulate best practices for mitigating the spread of COVID-19 — from social distancing and hand washing and sheltering at home protocols.

"Early on I think there was particular concern from the government that young people in particular, who are known to feel a little invulnerable in life," Silver said of the demographic he hopes the league's messaging will resonate with. "I think at this point we've had roughly 30 public service announcements including from players like Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert that were some of the initial well-known people to test positive in this country. So it gave them a chance also to remind young people in particular — even to the extent that the data is showing young people, while at risk, are not as at-risk as older people or people with preexisting conditions — that they owe it to their fellow citizens to sacrifice and to stay at home and observe those protocols."

Moreover, Silver said the commissioners and President Trump discussed the economic and societal good that sports returning might have on a country that is in for a long relief and recovery process as a result of the pandemic.

"I know all the leagues share this view that we'd love to be part of the movement to restart the economy," Silver said. "Of course that can't come in a way that would compromise safety. But I think we also have to recognize that it's a public health matter to shut down the economy and leave tens of millions of Americans unemployed. It's a public health matter to isolate people."

But of course, that is a secondary priority to solving the problem in the first place. Silver understands that point.

"Again, all done for good reason right now. Health and safety have to come before any commercial interests. It's a balance but even in terms of psychological impacts of isolating people.  I think there's no doubt at this point that as a country we are following the right course."

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NBA commissioner Adam Silver gives update on timetable to resume play

NBA commissioner Adam Silver gives update on timetable to resume play

On Monday evening, NBA commissioner Adam Silver spoke on Twitter Live in an interview with TNT broadcaster Ernie Johnson. The interview was conducted as part of a program called "NBA Together." 

In the discussion, Silver was asked about a possible timetable for the NBA resuming play and the obstacles of a possible return for the league. Johnson said that this was the first time he and Silver had spoken since March 12, one day after the NBA postponed its season. He asked Silver if he had a better feel for where the league is regarding a possible resumption of play. 

"The short answer is no," Silver told Johnson. "When we initially shut down, we were calling it a hiatus or a pause. There was a notion of 30 days, because there wasn't any of the widespread view at that point that, in essence, our country would be entirely shut down over the next several weeks. And so the fact is now, sitting here today, I know less, in a way, than I did then."

Silver added that while it’s still too early to project where the NBA (or world) will be in a few weeks, he expects that at least for the rest of April — and perhaps beyond — the league “won’t be in any position to make any decisions.” It’s simply still too early to plan or predict anything about this rapidly evolving crisis with any certainty.

In that vein, when asked by Johnson if the NBA has made headway on a plan to resume the season, Silver was noncommittal, and understandably so. The commissioner said he’s learned to be wary of making any prediction in these uncertain times. 

In a recent appearance on SportsCenter, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported that there is increasing pessimism throughout the league that a resolution to this season will end up being feasible. While Silver didn’t go that far, he did echo a concern that Windhorst brought up in his reporting: impacting the start of the 2020-21 campaign.

“As I look out into the summer, there does come a point at which we start impacting next season,” Silver said. “A few weeks ago, nobody thought we were talking about even potential impact on next season independent of what we might choose to do to finish our regular season and playoffs. Again, I think now, because so little is known, we're here, we're ready to go. I mean, I don't want to leave the suggestion with anybody that we're not doing everything we possibly can to restart under the right circumstances, but of course player safety and the health of everyone in the NBA family has to come first.”

Silver then went into detail on the logistical hurdles strategizing a return to action comes with, even saying the league has been in touch with potential sites to host fanless or quarantined games.

“That may mean that there is a scenario in which we can play without fans. That is something we (have) looked at lot at,” Silver said. “In fact, I think the Warriors were scheduled to play the first fanless game before we were shut down. So we are looking at that possibility and we were thinking about what that might mean.

“How would those games be televised? Would we still play in huge NBA arenas? Or would we go to practice facilities? Would we go to a single site? I mean, there's been a lot of conjecture about various cities and places that might hold a tournament. Again, we are in listening mode right now. We've been contacted by many of those jurisdictions to ask what our level of interest is and we've talked to them about what their capabilities are. But once again there's just too much unknown right now.”

But Silver strongly emphasized that health and safety considerations have and always will be paramount. Still, if a return were possible for the NBA or other professional sports, there could be great economic and societal benefit. It’s a difficult line to straddle, a point Silver understands well.

“The health of everyone in the NBA, our players, coaches, anyone who's on the front line has to come first,” Silver said. “I will say to [Ernie Johnson's] point about the greater good, we, sports collectively, in essence led the way in shutting down. And it's something I said when we were all on the call with [President Donald Trump] this weekend, I know all the leagues share this view that we'd love to be part of the movement to restart the economy.”

“Of course that can't come in a way that would compromise safety. But I think we also have to recognize that it's a public health matter to shut down the economy and leave tens of millions of Americans unemployed. It's a public health matter to isolate people.”

Ultimately, the data will dictate when a slow return to normalcy can begin. Silver believes sports can play a role in that collective healing process, but only once an “all-clear” consensus is reached. 

When that might be remains to be seen.

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