Zion Williamson

How teams and players around NBA are taking care of arena staff during hiatus

How teams and players around NBA are taking care of arena staff during hiatus

In the days since the NBA suspended its season in response to the outbreak of COVID-19, athletes around the league have rallied to financially assist non-salaried arena employees and event staff that looked to be left in the dark by the indefinite postponement of games.

Kevin Love became the first to make a gesture when he pledged $100,000 to Cavaliers arena and support staff during the league’s hiatus:

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Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations. And the fear and anxiety resulting from the recent outbreak of COVID-19 can be extremely overwhelming. Through the game of basketball, we've been able to address major issues and stand together as a progressive league that cares about the players, the fans, and the communities where we work. I'm concerned about the level of anxiety that everyone is feeling and that is why I'm committing $100,000 through the @KevinLoveFund in support of the @Cavs arena and support staff that had a sudden life shift due to the suspension of the NBA season. I hope that during this time of crisis, others will join me in supporting our communities. Pandemics are not just a medical phenomenon. They affect individuals and society on so many levels, with stigma and xenophobia being just two aspects of the impact of a pandemic outbreak. It's important to know that those with a mental illness may be vulnerable to the effects of widespread panic and threat. Be kind to one another. Be understanding of their fears, regardless if you don't feel the same. Be safe and make informed decisions during this time. And I encourage everyone to take care of themselves and to reach out to others in need -- whether that means supporting your local charities that are canceling events, or checking in on your colleagues and family.

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On Friday, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Blake Griffin and Zion Williamson followed in Love’s footsteps:

 

 

 

Rudy Gobert, the first player in the NBA to test positive for COVID-19, chipped in $500,000 for an employee relief fund:


Some teams and ownership groups have done the same.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, for one, has been upfront about Dallas’ intent to put together a compensation package for hourly employees from the get-go. This statement from Cuban was made mere hours after the suspension of the season was first announced:

 

Cuban has since elaborated on those plans, saying that for the Mavericks’ next four scheduled home games, the organization will pay hourly employees “as if they worked.”

And the Cavaliers, by whom Love is employed, announced that they plan to compensate all Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse employees as if previously scheduled events were taking place:

 

The Phoenix Suns guaranteed all part-time and hourly workers at Talking Stick Resort Arena full compensation for their six remaining previously scheduled home games:


The DeVos family, who own the Orlando Magic, announced a $2 million compensation package for hourly workers (Magic players have also contributed):


According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Golden State Warriors will donate $1 million to their disaster relief fund for arena employees:


The Trail Blazers are currently formulating a plan to pay their part-time arena employees, according to Jason Quick of The Athletic:

 

Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Hawks owner Tony Ressler has expressed an intention to “take care of” full- and part-time employees, though no official plans have been rolled out yet.

Dana Gauruder of the Detroit Free Press reported that the Pistons, who employ Griffin, will pay all of their full- and part-time employees during the hiatus, as well as look to provide financial assistance to outside companies who help staff Little Caesars Arena.

According to Farbod Esnaashari of Sports Illustrated, full- and part-time Clippers employees have been assured they’ll be paid in accordance with their regular schedule, though Staples Center personnel are still unsure of how they’ll be compensated.

The Milwaukee Bucks committed to matching Antetokounmpo’s donation, as well as any Bucks player that might donate in the future:

 

The New Orleans Pelicans put out the following statement:

 

And finally: “We are considering ways to help our impacted employees,” said a United Center spokesperson when asked for comment.

Sometimes the darkest times can breed the most heartening gestures. Many across the league are proving that. These are unchartered waters, so the hope is, with time, everyone in need is addressed in an appropriate manner.

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'He's a force': Zion Williamson worth the price of admission vs. Bulls

'He's a force': Zion Williamson worth the price of admission vs. Bulls

On Thursday night, the Bulls fell 125-119 to the Pelicans at the United Center. It wasn't as close as that final score might appear. With 3:54 remaining, the Pelicans led 119-96 before a historic 15-point Adam Mokoka spurt sent the United Center into a derisive frenzy — a spurt that ultimately, of course, fell short. 

But let's not talk about that. Let's talk about Zion Williamson.

The 19-year-old rookie looked anything but in (somehow) just his eighth NBA game, flipping a scoreless first quarter into a 21-point, 9-for-11 shooting performance by game's end. It's his fourth consecutive game with 20 or more points, and sixth of eight overall.

Before you ask: Yes, the dunks were there. Two, to be exact. The latter one came with just over 10 minutes to play in the fourth quarter. Though the game seemed out of reach for the hosts, Williamson refused to let an arcing, 30-foot Lonzo Ball lob escape his grasp:

That elicited the loudest reaction from the United Center crowd of the night (until, of course, Mokoka got going).

"I mean, it was a great pass from Lonzo," Williamson said when asked about that reaction.

That's Williamson's M.O.: Steady, humble, team-oriented. His teammates were willing to heap on a little more praise.

"Zion's Zion," Ball said. "Everywhere he goes, people gonna know him, people gonna come want to see him play."

"He's a force," J.J. Redick said. "No question, he's a force."

As those around the Pelicans are quick to note, Williamson's impact goes beyond the highlight package. All 11 of his field goal attempts tonight did come in the restricted area, but how he got there was unique: Dribble-drives, spinning post and face-up moves, deliberate cuts. Two qualities that bound them all together: Usually, the shots came through contact, and usually, they ended in the bottom of the netting.

Williamson also nabbed a career-high two steals in the victory.

"Obviously, he is a freak athlete, but he's also very skillful," Ball said. "You can give it to him on the break, postups, short rolls, so he can score in a lot of different ways. And that's why it's so hard to stop him."

Williamson made his final eight field goal attempts of the night and led the Pelicans in scoring. Only once has he shot under 50% from the floor in a game this season (against the Bucks when he went 5-for-19); thrice has he cleared 70. Tonight, his 9-for-11 mark was good for 81.8%.

His current 57.4% mark from the field is the best by a player through their first eight career games since Hakeem Olajuwon in 1984-85.

"You're still amazed by it, for sure, you don't wanna get used to that, but other than the Bucks game he's been incredibly efficient every game," Redick said. "You can see the wheels turning a little bit as he's learning how to make reads."

That's the horrifying twist to Williamson's brilliance: He's just getting started. Williamson prides himself on being one that abides by the flow of the game and stays within himself, and tonight, he did just that in his 25 minutes.

With the victory, the Pelicans moved to 4-2 in games Williamson plays more than 25 minutes.

So, is it all starting to come together?

"No, not yet," Williamson said. "I am catching a little bit of a rhythm, but no it's not there yet."

If that's true... Run.

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Zion Williamson (right toe sprain) upgraded to available for Bulls-Pelicans

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USA Today

Zion Williamson (right toe sprain) upgraded to available for Bulls-Pelicans

False alarm, people.

Hours after listing Zion Williamson as questionable for the Pelicans' matchup with the Bulls Thursday, New Orleans upgraded its rookie phenom's status to available.

The Pelicans appeared to be playing it safe with Williamson's minutes to start, but his playing time has been on an upward trend, of late. Williamson has logged more than 30 minutes in each of the team's last two games.

Reports of a right toe sprain were thus a bit concerning, but it seems like Williamson will be able to soldier through without significant risk. The Pelicans wouldn't list him as available if there was.

Still, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Alvin Gentry and co. monitor his minutes closely on Thursday. We'll know more on that front as we move closer to gametime.

Williamson being available at all makes this one a must-watch, regardless. Even with only seven career games under his belt, he's already one of the more exciting draws in the league.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports and tune-in to watch the NBA Trade Deadline Show on Thursday, February 6 at 1:30 p.m. CT. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.