'Shocked' Trail Blazers get swept, now face crossroads

'Shocked' Trail Blazers get swept, now face crossroads

NEW ORLEANS – The Trail Blazers over the years have experienced the pain of playoff loss, but it’s been a while since a series left a mark like this one to New Orleans. 

“I think this one probably hurts a little more because we had such a great season, and we came in with really, really high expectations,’’ Damian Lillard said. 

 Unable to stop Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday, and unable to solve the defensive schemes of New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry, the Blazers were swept Saturday after a 131-123 loss at Smoothie King Center. 

“They were the better team for four games,’’ Maurice Harkless said. “They outplayed us, they outhustled us, they were more physical.’’

The 13-game winning streak, the Northwest Division title, the three seed and hosting a first-round playoff series were all erased with the ease of a Holiday layin and the force of a Davis follow dunk.

“I felt like coming into this playoffs, there was no way you were going to tell me we weren’t going to have a Game 5. You know?’’ Blazers big man Ed Davis said. “I mean, you can tell me, somebody was going to beat us in six or seven, but no way swept.’’

Davis surveyed the quiet locker room, with players cutting tape off their ankles for the final time.

“I mean, we are all shocked right now that we got swept by a team that we really felt like we were better than,’’ Davis said. 

Perhaps most shocking was the inability of the Blazers to free Lillard from the layered Pelicans defense that used two and sometimes three players to trap him.

After having his best overall season in his six-year NBA career, Lillard had his worst playoff series, being held to 18.5 points while shooting 35 percent from the field and amassing 16 turnovers to his 19 assists.

“You have to give them credit for how well they executed offensively and they came in with a great defensive game plan, threw something at us we haven’t seen, and it worked out for them,’’ Lillard said. “We just didn’t play great. We didn’t have our best series.’’

The loss brings the Blazers to a crossroads: Continue full speed ahead with the NBA’s youngest roster to make the playoffs? Or break up a core that has lost 10 consecutive playoff games?

“Ultimately, you are defined by the postseason,’’ coach Terry Stotts said. “I think it’s a little early to say what direction we are going to go and what needs to be done moving forward, but one thing is Neil (Olshey) is really good. We’ve been to the playoffs five straight years and he continues to change and build the roster. I’m pretty confident with that.’’

Lillard, who in January met with owner Paul Allen to discuss the direction of the franchise, said Saturday that he believes the franchise is doing all it can. 

“I feel like to this point, we have,’’ Lillard said. “We’ve done what we can, but obviously there is room for improvement, especially when you come up short in the playoffs and get swept. Obviously there are a lot of things that can be done better on our part as an organization and as players. 

“But for me, the same thing remains: I’ll go back to work and do my part,’’ Lillard said. “Everybody has a job to do and I’ve got to focus on what my job is.’’

Al-Farouq Aminu, who had a standout series with averages of 17.3 points and 9.0 rebounds, said he hopes the team is allowed to grow together.

“The core of the team is still really young and these are some of the lumps we will have to take in order to get better and continue to grow,’’ Aminu said.

The Blazers have four free agents – starting center Jusuf Nurkic; Davis, the NBA’s top reserve center; reserve Pat Connaughton; and reserve Shabazz Napier. 

Davis, for one, says he wants to return. 

“Like I’ve been saying since Day One: I hope I’m back here,’’ Davis said. “I hope July 1 at midnight we have something done and it’s over with. That’s what I’m hoping and banking on.’’

For now, the Blazers will lick their wounds and try to forget the dominance of Anthony Davis (33 points, 12 rebounds, 2.9 blocks), the two-way play of Holiday (27.8 points) and the masterful game-management of Rajon Rondo (11.3 points, 13.3 assists) and look ahead to the future of Zach Collins and what should be the prime years of Lillard and CJ McCollum’s careers. 

“I think we should be proud of what we did in the regular season,’’ Harkless said. “And then just learn from what happened in this postseason.’’

REPORT: NBA Governors to vote on return Thursday, formal dates set

REPORT: NBA Governors to vote on return Thursday, formal dates set

As the NBA inches closer to a return to play, there are so many questions still unanswered.

  • When will the season start?
  • Will there be a play-in style tournament to determine the playoffs?
  • Will the NBA go straight to the playoffs?
  • Will they return to play at a single site or two single sites?
  • What will the protocols be?
  • When will the season end?
  • When will next season begin?

This Thursday could be the day we get all or most of those questions answered.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the NBA Board of Governors will meet Thursday to vote on the finalized plan for return. The NBA’s proposed timeline as a last possible date for Game 7 of the NBA Finals would be October 12, according to the report.

It was back on Mar. 11 when Utah Jazz big man Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 and then later that night the news quickly broke that the NBA was suspending the 2019-20 season.

During last Friday’s conference call with the NBA Board of Governors, Commissioner Adam Silver reportedly laid out four options to what the NBA could look like once play resumes:

  • 16 teams: Directly to playoffs
  • 20: Group/stage play
  • 22: Games to determine seeding, play-in tournament for final seed(s)
  • 30: 72-game regular season, with play-in tourney

From the sounds of it, it seems the league is leaning more towards the format of 22 teams returning in a play-in type tournament.

We should know a lot more on Thursday. 

Be sure to check out the full Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with host NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon, and Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri. 

Carmelo Anthony and rapper T.I. call for unified, collective action, justice

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Carmelo Anthony and rapper T.I. call for unified, collective action, justice

Trail Blazers veteran and future Hall of Famer Carmelo Anthony shared a glass of wine with rapper Tip Harris AKA T.I. on Melo's weekly YouTube live show, 'What’s in your Glass'.

This week, though, was not about wine. 

Instead, it was a real conversation between Melo and T.I. about the current state of the nation.

“There’s things that need to be talked about, things that need to be discussed,” Anthony said. “We’re going to focus more on where we’re at as a country. It’s a matter of generational racism that got us to a point where we’re at right now.”

The Trail Blazers forward started off the show with a virtual toast and asked his special guest how he was doing.

T.I. took a moment before answering.

I’m torn up just like everyone else, emotional, angry, upset. I’m sick and tired of it, fed up. As long as I’ve been living, I’ve been hearing from people that we don’t stick together. 

These past few days, we’ve been sticking together. One thing I want to focus on are the things that bring us together vs. the things that tear us apart. We may have a different idea of how to get there, but we’re all on the same journey and we’re all fighting for the same cause. 

We’re all fed up, we all know something must be done, we’re all on the same side fighting the same enemy. So, I say we start there and then build and grow.  -- TI on What’s In Your Glass

Melo opened up about his difficult conversations with his 13-year-old son, Kiyan.

As Melo asked for T.I.’s advice on what he's saying to his young adult children, Melo added, “I’m having a hard time sitting down with my son.” Anthony also said that his son has “witnessed maybe 6 or 7 police killings of a black man.”

T.I. has made it clear to his children that he wants them to know, "This is not a problem that they brought about, that they caused. This was like that before they got here.”

The Atlanta, Georgia native continued to share how he sits down and talks with his kids.

We just have to find the best way to deal with it and remain safe, healthy and free in the process and I think the best way to do that is remove emotion. It’s difficult, especially for young people. [My advice] is hit or miss because there are no right answers. There’s nothing that they can do that will guarantee that they will not be killed. There’s nothing I can tell them, for sure, without fail, if you do it like this, you’ll stay alive. I don’t have that answer. The main message I have for youth is that we support you. We may not always understand you, we are all on the same side. It’s going to take all of what you’ve got and a little bit of what we’ve got to defeat this beast that we have ahead of us.

Anthony shared how he feels things are different right now and reiterated that it’s up to him, T.I., and other influencers to make sure they continue to work towards change.

“We’re dealing with a new, different breed of protestors who don’t know consequence, who don’t give a damn about consequence, who’s ready to go by any means necessary,” Carmelo said. “Even though everyone’s out there doing what we're doing, we're protesting, we standing up for what we believe in, we standing up for what’s right, we’re standing up against injustices, I don’t think people understand why people are protesting... I don't think they understand that this country was built on protests at the end of the day. We’ve protested to have this country to be what it is today... The people that are in power right now are abusing that... I don’t like tearing up our s***. I don’t like tearing up our communities, but there comes a time where we can’t tell people to stop at this very moment... We’ve got to be careful in what we say because we are the influencers in our community, which is the black community.”

What’s going on right now is different from past movements and this is how T.I. and Melo know:

“I’ve never seen a police station burn,” T.I. said, to which Anthony replied, “That’s when I knew s*** was real.”

What about T.I's. message? 

That’s what Melo wanted to know and wanted his friend to share with the world as Anthony mentioned he is still trying to figure out his message.

America has incredible debt to pay and the laws of reciprocity are in order. But, in order for the movement to make the most significant amount of impact, you’ve got to have an incredible amount of purpose and direction... I think if you lead with purpose and direction, I think you make more impact that way. -- T.I.

Melo continued to share his thoughts on what he can do, saying “it’s on us, as leaders to lead because we can’t rely on the leaders in place right now.”

Carmelo wants to make sure his voice and the voices of other black lives are being heard now and will continue to be heard.

“I think the smartest thing to do... Now that we’ve got their attention, we’ve got to start plotting because they want to shut s*** down. They’re going to do everything in their power to shut s*** down, shut us up. How do we come out of this as a black community?”

T.I. echoed that sentiment, saying people need to also show up at the polls and vote.

I hope that we can depend on justice…

We have all the power we need. We can build or destroy any business, any brand, any corporation. All we have to do is show united support or united disgust to any corporation or person and the power comes from our collective effort... It’s going to take all of what you’ve got to defeat this beast that we have ahead of us. It’s a dastardly machine with with clandestine intentions and I don’t think that my way alone is going to work and I don’t think your way alone is going to work. But together, collectively, we can work together to play each card when it’s time to with the appropriate amount of force, effort, energy and purpose. -- T.I.

Today, on June 2nd, Black Out Tuesday, we can all learn from Carmelo Anthony and T.I.’s discussion on this day of collective disconnect from work as we come together in support of the Black community.

Check out the entire episode of What’s in Your Glass right here.

Trail Blazers, Seahawks, Ducks, Beavers unite for Blackout Tuesday

Black Lives Matter

Trail Blazers, Seahawks, Ducks, Beavers unite for Blackout Tuesday

Today, June 2nd, is Black Out Tuesday, a day of collective disconnect from work meant to help people reflect and come together in support of the Black community. It is a day promoted by activists to observe, mourn and bring about policy change.

The campaign is aimed at protesting police violence and racism as well as honoring George Floyd, whose death at the hands of police has sparked universal outcry and demonstrations in US cities and around the world.

Tuesday, Northwest sports teams and its athletes, both past and present stand against social injustice, racism and police brutality. 

Below is a running list of sports organizations, players and coaches who have shared the powerful message:

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#BlackoutTuesday 🙏🏽

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#blackouttuesday Living in Europe with my wife and daughter, walking around, I feel like we live in a completely different world than North America right now. We walk outside everyday and get to enjoy our family time without any worries. However, my wife and I feel a small piece of guilt. Not for our happiness, but because we think “why do we get to live this way, while so many are living in fear right now? What can we do to help?” We discuss this issue everyday with each other and believe that using our social media platforms, it is a tool to spread awareness. This is the best way we can help right now, since we can’t protest or march because of where we live. I’M BLACK AND I’M PROUD TO BE. We will get through this. We just have to stay unified, stay strong, and put our faith into God. He will always find the way for His people! ✊🏾🙏🏾

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These last few days have not been the best, but we’ll get through. I look at the Instagram posts, Twitter posts, the comments on these places, the news, and it is obvious that this country is broken. People are fed up. Black people have broken the chains off of their people through waves of generations. This is our wave. This is the chain that must be broken in order to give a better future for the next generation. Let’s continue to stand together a month from now, a year from now, and so on and so forth. There’s a systemic war going on people, and we have to be smart about our next move once we let some of this steam out. Love all of y’all. Stay safe. And yes I’m bi-racial, but shittt stay black my brothers. 👊🏽 #blackouttuesday

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BLACK LIVES MATTER ✊🏾 #blackouttuesday

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Believe it ..#Blacklivesmatter #blackouttuesday

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We are all Human #blackouttuesday

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Those who participate in this social media campaign are asked to use the hashtag #BlackoutTuesday and reserve all BLM hashtags to activists and organizers. 

Following death of George Floyd, Terry Stotts shares powerful statement

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Following death of George Floyd, Terry Stotts shares powerful statement

Many professional sports teams along with players and coaches are speaking out about the death of George Floyd and social injustice.

Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, lost his life last Monday after a white police officer held Floyd down on the ground with his knee to Floyd's neck for several minutes.  

Four police officers connected to the death of Floyd were fired. The officer who held Floyd down, Derek Chauvin, has since been charged with third degree murder and manslaughter.

Since Floyd's death, there have been protests, riots and looting in Minneapolis where the incident occurred and all across the country.

[RELATED]: Nassir Little shares impassioned message, "Change is coming!!"

On Saturday, the Trail Blazers released a joint statement from the organization and its players to express their sympathies to not just Floyd's death, but also that of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, both of whom are black and tragically lost their lives. 

We are devastated and frustrated by the most recent senseless acts of violence in the long continuum of racial injustice in our country. The Trail Blazers organization and players grieve the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and the countless others who have lost their lives in this increasingly familiar manner. This unprecedented moment has challenged us to not be silent but to use our voices, our time and our energy to be genuine allies to those who endure these injustices directly. Now is the best time to support one another and condemn all prejudice, racism and injustice in our society, country and world. We will continue to utilize our resources to unite and show up in impactful ways.

Monday evening the Trail Blazers tweeted out a statement from Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts.

Coach Stotts started out by saying:

I am not black. I cannot pretend to know what it means to be black in the United States. I support and appreciate our police. We need our police to protect and serve. I cannot pretend to know what it means to be a police officer in the United States of America. What I do know is that we have endemic racial injustice in our country. We have had racial injustice since the birth of our nation.

Stotts' statement ended with this message:

“I urge EVERYONE to seek out ways we, as a people, can be better. More importantly, I urge EVERYONE to be introspective and seek out ways we can be better individually. 'The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.' It can happen if we want it to happen. We must.” 

Portland Trail Blazers' team chemistry in early 90s was just different

Portland Trail Blazers' team chemistry in early 90s was just different

Rip City has so many fond memories and moments that come to mind when looking back at the 1989-92 Trail Blazers seasons.

The early 90s teams were special on the court, no doubt, but their bond off the court may have been even more special.

“Those were fun times,” Terry Porter reminisced on NBA TV’s Trail Blazers documentary, ‘Rip City Revival.’ "There’s nothing like playing professional sports. You build a bond, a brotherhood, a willingness to protect each other, and you always have that.”

The final two segments of Sunday’s special on the 1989-92 Trail Blazers era focused on what made this Blazers squad so unique: their team chemistry.

As you know the longer you're with a group of guys, the more chemistry you develop, especially when you’re all really good friends and so that was the key to our success. -- Clyde Drexler on ‘Rip City Revival’

[RELATED]: 'Rip City Revival' was a Trail Blazer history lesson that left out a few chapters

During Portland’s 1989–90 campaign, the team posted a 59–23 record. They defeated the Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs, and Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference playoffs, before ultimately losing to the defending-champion Detroit Pistons.

In the 1990–91 season, the Blazers posted a 63–19 record, which was the best in the league and the best in franchise history. Their season ended in the West Finals when the Lakers defeated the Blazers 4–2.

As for the 1991–92 season, Portland repeated as Pacific Division champions as they dominated through the Western Conference playoffs. They met the Chicago Bulls in the Finals, losing 4–2, with the big storyline being Michael Jordan vs. Drexler.

[RELATED]: 'Rip City Revival' vs. 'The Last Dance': A different take on the 1992 NBA Finals

“The whole team, I mean that’s what made this team so unique, is the chemistry, the personnel,” Buck Williams said during the NBA TV special.

Drexler discussed how on the road they would hang out and go to movies together as a team. Porter reiterated that, adding this was a team that enjoyed hanging out with each other and would do so every chance they got. 

“What made it all go was trust, we trusted each other,” Williams added.

They had fun together.

“To have the success we had as a group and the excitement we brought this city and this state -- it is always going to be somewhere special in my heart. We grew up together on and off the court,” Porter said.

As Drexler put it, “That bond will keep you together for a lifetime.” 

Be sure to check out the full Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with host NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon, and Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri. 

'Rip City Revival' vs. 'The Last Dance': A different take on the 1992 NBA Finals

'Rip City Revival' vs. 'The Last Dance': A different take on the 1992 NBA Finals

Sunday’s ‘Rip City Revival’ on NBA TV provided a few favorable highlights from the Portland Trail Blazers and Clyde Drexler vs. the Chicago Bulls in the 1992 Finals.

Obviously, a documentary aimed at painting the Trail Blazers 1989-92 successful era in a positive light is going to cover certain events differently. The 1992 Finals weren’t portrayed as the complete Michael Jordan one-man domination show that was shown recently on ESPN’s “The Last Dance.”

But, even more than that, it’s what the players had to say then and now that was a bit different on the ‘Rip City Revival’ versus ‘The Last Dance.’

[RELATED]: 'Rip City Revival' was a Trail Blazer history lesson that left out a few chapters

Make no mistake, the Trail Blazers hour-long special that ran on NBA TV provided the story of the 1992 NBA Finals as being the Clyde vs. MJ showdown.

“Big storyline going into that series was Michael and Clyde." Terry Porter said on ‘Rip City Revival.’ "At the time they were one, two in the MVP voting.”

However, instead of having MJ “take offense” to being compared to Drexler like he said in 'The Last Dance,' there were several compliments paid to each other that both players had made back in 1992.  

‘The Rip City Revival' took a look back at a 1992 NBA Finals interview with Drexler and NBC’s Ahmad Rashad.

Drexler told Rashad with a smile on his face, “I think it’s an honor to be compared to Michael Jordan, even though I’m older than him. I think there are many similarities, but I think the most important thing is – both of us play to win.”

While Jordan said in a 1992 interview, “Clyde is somewhat of a mirror of me in a sense. I mean, he’s so versatile. He plays offense. He plays defense. He’s good with assists. He can score. So, you’ve got to respect him in all areas of basketball.” 

Now, fast forward back to the present, when ESPN featured the 1992 Finals as a major storyline in episodes five and six, and Jordan mentioned how he will never forget that so many compared him to Drexler.  

Clyde was a threat. I’m not saying he wasn’t a threat, but me being compared to him, I took offense to that. -- Michael Jordan on Clyde Drexler on The Last Dance

From Game 2 to Game 6 of the 1992 Finals, the Bulls had just a 10-point differential in the series.

So, if Portland could take Game 1 out of the equation where Jordan took right at the Blazers, maybe there wouldn’t have been as much talk from MJ about Drexler nowadays. Maybe? Okay, no, there probably still would be. 

[RELATED]: Terry Porter and Trail Blazers fans share a mutual, everlasting love

In the Trail Blazers special, this is all Drexler had to say about the comparisons:

They were always saying the best two guards in the league – Jordan, Drexler and now they’re in the Finals we’re gonna see which one of them is going to come through.

Buck Williams, who became the last piece to the Trail Blazers puzzle of success in the early 90s, shed some light on the Drexler and MJ battles. 

“Clyde wanted an opportunity to play with Jordan. Clyde may not say that to this day, but being a great player, I know that Clyde wanted to match up with Jordan."

Willliams added, “I heard that Michael really wanted to make a point that, hey, everybody is saying, 'you know Clyde Drexler this, Clyde Drexler that.'

After the first game when MJ dropped 35 points in the first half and the Bulls beat the Blazers 122-89, Bulls big man Horace Grant told the media, “I’ve never seen Michael play like this, shoot the ball like this. It was incredible.”

In the NBA TV special on the Trail Blazers, Buck Williams was the one to speak on MJ’s game one performance, saying, “I think it was a message, the warning shot to the Trail Blazers and to our guards that, ‘hey, man, you guys – you’re out of your league, you can’t stop me.’ At the end of the day, I’ve never seen Jordan shoot the ball like that.”

So, there was no iPad of Drexler listening to what MJ had to say or anything similar to that like we saw in ‘The Last Dance,’ because after nearly 28 years since the 1992 Finals, Drexler declined to dismiss any of his opponents while taping ‘Rip City Revival.’  

Be sure to check out the full Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with host NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon, and Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri. 

Sources say NBA likely to go with 22 teams -- what will that look like?

Sources say NBA likely to go with 22 teams -- what will that look like?

The NBA is expected to announce later this week its plans for resuming the season this summer in Orlando, Fla., at Disney World. A part of that announcement should be a glimpse of what that plan will look like and who will play.

According to league sources, a format involving 22 teams has the most support. But the exact look of this has apparently still not been decided.

However, playing the numbers game provides some possibilities. The NBA uses a 16-team playoff structure and a 22-team field would mean six other teams aside from the 16 now sitting in the playoffs at the conclusion of the truncated season, would be included in some sort of expanded postseason scenario.

Figuring out those six teams is an interesting guessing game.

There are five Western Conference teams, Portland, New Orleans, San Antonio, Sacramento and Phoenix, within six games of Memphis, the eighth-place team in the West. There is one team, Washington, within six games of Orlando, the No. 8 team in the East.

That would be a six-team addition to the playoff field, which would, we assume, be involved in some sort of tournament to earn playoff inclusion. The idea of World Cup/group play has not gained much support.

Of course, given that this format includes teams in both conferences, it would be assumed that the eighth-place teams in each conference would also be included in this playoff. You would be competing with those teams for their spots and it would set up an eight-team tournament.

I would also surmise, then, that two teams would advance from this mini-tournament into the usual 16-team NBA playoff. The two winning teams could be split in each conference to be part of a 1-8 playoff or, more likely, just be the final two seeds in a 1-16 playoff format, with no regard for conferences.

I have no idea how the league would stage an eight-team mini-playoff -- whether games played prior to that tourney or regular-season standings, would provide seeding, or if current eighth-place teams would get a bye.

But this format would be innovative, include a lot of fanbases and provide some new teams a chance to jump into the postseason. Got a better idea? I’m open to suggestions.

Certain NBA playoff scenarios could have big implications for small markets

Certain NBA playoff scenarios could have big implications for small markets

We have the place: ESPN’s World Wide of Sports in Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.

We have the targeted date: July 31.

Now, discussions have begun as to what the league will look like once play resumes.

NBC Sports’ Kurt Helin broke down the four options the NBA is considering:

- 16 teams: Directly to playoffs

- 20 teams: Group/stage play

- 22 teams: Games to determine seeding, play-in tournament for final seed(s)

- 30 teams: 72-game regular season, with play-in tourney

[RELATED]: The four scenarios the NBA is considering to resume play

It sounds like the NBA is leaning towards the 22-team format. The idea is the 22 teams — all teams within six games off the last playoff spot in each conference would play eight regular season games, then the standings at the end of those games would set up the play-in tournament for the eighth seed. After that, the playoffs would start.

EAST: Washington Wizards 

WEST: Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs, and Phoenix Suns

But what about the other eight teams?

The 2020-2021 NBA season is projected to start around December 2020, which means those eight remaining teams who will not be playing in Orlando, Florida, won’t play any league games from March 2020-December 2020, nearly nine months of no game action. 

Reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe, small market teams are urging the NBA to include entire league once play resumes. Near the end of the NBA's board of governors call on Friday, Oklahoma City Thunder owner Clay Bennett delivered an impassioned soliloquy on why the league and owners needed to consider the competitive and financial plights of smaller-market teams that could be left out of the season's summer resumption in Orlando, Florida.