The Anthony Davis sweepstakes might have to wait

USA Today Sports

The Anthony Davis sweepstakes might have to wait

This generation’s best big man has made it known: He wants out. 

Anthony Davis, who can be a free agent in 2020, informed the New Orleans Pelicans he will not sign an extension this summer and would like to be traded. Davis is eligible for a five-year, $240 million supermax extension this summer, but he has indicated, through his agent Rich Paul, that he’s not interested. 

This was not a total surprise. As I detailed earlier this month, the Pelicans have a 240-302 (.443) record in the Brow era, which, amazingly, is a smidge worse than Charlotte -- the franchise that lost out on Davis following a 7-59 season and drafted Michael Kidd-Gilchrist instead. The Pelicans have struggled to outfit Davis with a worthy supporting cast, and here we are.

The ten-day countdown to the Feb. 7 trade deadline has begun with fireworks. You can bet that every trade discussion from here on out will begin with a Davis update. 

But here are three reasons why Davis will likely stay in New Orleans until this summer.

1. Boston Celtics can’t really play ball until July 1

On paper, the Celtics are the most logical Davis destination. Jayson Tatum still can’t legally order an adult beverage. Jaylen Brown, as a 21-year-old, averaged 19.7 points per game in last year’s Eastern Conference finals while often guarding LeBron James. Boston could have three, possibly four, first-round picks in the upcoming draft. Marcus Smart’s contract, with an average salary of $13 million through 2021-22, when combined with Tatum and Brown’s deals, magically adds up to roughly Davis’ salary. (This was not by accident).

So when news broke on Monday morning, Celtics president Danny Ainge called up the Pelicans and offered the godfather deal, right? 

There’s one problem to that plan: By rule, the Celtics can’t acquire Davis to play with Kyrie Irving … until this summer. That’s because of a collective bargaining agreement quirk that does not allow teams to have multiple designated veteran players on the roster that were acquired via trade (scroll to Question 24 on Larry Coon’s indispensable to learn more). Kyrie Irving is one, from the Cleveland deal. Davis would be the other.

That doesn’t mean Irving and Davis can’t play with each other; it just means that it can’t happen at this trade deadline. The good news for Boston is that Irving could forgo his player option and become a free agent on July 1 and sign a long-term contract with Boston. That would mean he wasn’t “acquired via trade” anymore, which would open the door for the Celtics to trade for Davis. 

Of course, Ainge could just put Irving into a deal for Davis and be done with it. Though it’s an unlikely scenario, don’t put it past Ainge. This is the same executive who traded Isaiah Thomas at peak cult-hero status in Boston. Irving needed multiple surgeries in his right knee last season to clear up complications resulting from a fractured knee cap suffered in the 2015 Finals. Could that scare the Celtics out of making him a franchise pillar? 

Probably not. The expectation around the league is that the Celtics will wait until this summer before jumping into the Davis sweepstakes. While the Celtics have the most to offer, it’s not a given that they’d win the Brow sweepstakes. Many still believe that the Lakers are the ultimate destination.

“Ainge will do what he can, but I don’t think AD wants to be there,” said one Eastern Conference executive.

Maybe that’s wishful thinking from a decision-maker that would have to face Davis more if he’s dealt to his conference. But it is interesting that the trade wish didn’t come with more demands.

Davis’ agent reportedly told New York Times’ Marc Stein that Davis hasn’t made a preferred destination list. That being said, the sentiment around the league is that the Lakers are the endgame. Davis’ agent also represents LeBron James, and the chance to play with him while in the L.A. market might give Davis the best chance to make up the forgone supermax money from New Orleans.

There’s just one issue with that idea.

2. The potential Lakers package has gotten worse

Let’s be clear: No one wants to see anybody get injured. But Boston’s chances of landing AD this summer were indirectly boosted by Lonzo Ball’s Grade-3 ankle sprain suffered last week. The recovery time of four to six weeks will sideline the 2017 No. 2 overall pick through the trade deadline, undoubtedly making things a little more difficult in potential trade talks. 

When James signed with the Lakers this past summer, Ball was seen as a crown jewel in a potential Davis deal. But two weeks after James made his commitment, Ball needed arthroscopic surgery to remove part of his meniscus in his problematic left knee. Despite that surgery, Lakers president Magic Johnson saw big things for Ball, telling reporters at a preseason press conference that the point guard was “going to be ready to have a breakout season.”

That hasn’t exactly happened. Ball’s free-throw stroke is broken and his output has been wildly inconsistent this season. Then he got hurt. The truth is that the left leg has been giving him issues all season. He turned his ankle at an early November practice and then needed X-Rays on it a few weeks later after turning it again in a loss against the Nuggets. In late December, he had to leave a game because his left calf muscle was cramping up. And then, the Grade-3 ankle sprain.

If Pelicans GM Dell Demps and the team’s brass love Ball’s game enough, the mounting injuries to Ball may not matter. I’m still a big fan of Lonzo’s skills, but the leg issues have become more of a concern than his shot.

Ball’s spell of injuries is just one of the several misfortunes that have soured Lakers’ potential AD package. Brandon Ingram’s shot has badly regressed in Year 3. Josh Hart is a solid role player but has distinct limitations; he has scored double-digits in just one of his last nine games. Kyle Kuzma has had a nice season, but he’s shooting 28 percent on 7.3 3-point attempts per game since James went down. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope turns 26 years old in a month.

Look, PER isn’t the end-all, be-all by any stretch of the imagination. But it can’t be a good sign that none of Kuzma, Ball, Ingram and Hart have a PER north of 15, the metric’s benchmark for league average. Kuzma is exactly league average (15.0). This season, there are 22 players in their age-23 season or younger with at least 1,000 minutes played that are more productive by that measure (former Lakers first-round pick D’Angelo Russell, at 18.8, is one of them). Denver has three such youngsters, per Basketball Reference.

If you don’t like PER (it does have its warts), the other metrics paint a darker picture of the Lakers’ supporting cast. LeBron is the only Laker in the top 75 in ESPN’s RPM. JaVale McGee is the only non-LeBron Laker to rank top-100 in win shares. Ingram checks in at 418th in RPM, 363rd in win shares per minute and 350th in box plus-minus. Ingram is better than that, but it has to be alarming that a 6-foot-9 shooter has made 21 3s all season.

With Ingram and Ball having down years, who’s the Lakers’ most valuable youngster in 2019? If it’s Kuzma by default, then that’s a bad look for the Lakers, who drafted No. 2 overall for three out of the last four drafts. You know which players were No. 3 in the last two drafts? Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. In an alternate universe, the Lakers could already have Davis by now with Tatum and Brown starting next to Jrue Holiday in New Orleans. The Pelicans could wait and make that Holiday-Tatum-Brown dream a reality but send Davis to Boston instead. Funny how that works.

Front offices across the NBA are waiting for the “preferred trade destination” news to break, which for many seems like an inevitability at this point. Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Jimmy Butler all went this route.

Depending on who you ask, LeBron’s presence in L.A. is either the draw or the deal-breaker. Some executives point to Davis’ quiet personality as a reason he’d prefer playing sidekick to LeBron and letting the King take the spotlight. Some point to that very thing -- Davis’ reserved temperament -- as the reason why he’d hate Los Angeles and the LeLakers.

That Davis hasn’t made his preferences be known is telling. It’s also added a layer of uncertainty on top of an already cloudy situation. But there’s one variable that could shift the entire equation.

3. Zion Williamson 

Most AD watchers have Feb. 7 circled on their calendars because it’s trade deadline day, but May 14 may be just as important. That’s the night of the draft lottery when the NBA finds out who will win the chance to draft Duke’s Zion Williamson, who is currently averaging 25 points per game in conference play on -- this is not a typo -- 70.4 percent shooting. 

Right now, there’s too much uncertainty at the bottom of the NBA standings to accurately gauge how much a trade package is worth. Let’s say the Bulls feel good about convincing Anthony Davis to sign longterm in his hometown of Chicago (whether they should feel optimistic is a story for another day). The Bulls could call up Demps this week and put Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter and its 2019 first-round draft pick on the table --- that’s a really nice return for the Pelicans. 

But four months from now, that pick could fall to No. 4, a devastating blow in a top-heavy draft. If the Bulls win the draft lottery, they jump to the front of the line in the Davis sweepstakes. At the very least, the market will be much, much clearer come May 14; figuring out what an unprotected pick is worth today is like shooting darts in the dark. 

Remember, if the Kings -- who have lost four of their last six games -- continue to slide and “win” the draft lottery, the pick goes to Philadelphia because of the pick protections in the Markelle Fultz trade (Philadelphia traded the Kings’ 2019 first-round pick to Boston in order to move up and draft Fultz, but added a top-one protection). Philadelphia doesn’t appear to be a major player for Davis now, but that could change at the drop of a ping-pong ball.

Chicago is a fascinating destination because they have young pieces, a top pick and the hometown element. That package is not something that the other basement-dwellers can match. Because of the new draft lottery rules, the worst five teams -- currently Cleveland, New York, Phoenix, Chicago and Atlanta -- have anywhere between 14- and 10.5-percent odds. Those percentages will likely pose far too much risk for the Pelicans to make a deal at the deadline. 

You think the market for Davis is crazy now? Once those picks become known, the trade winds will blow even louder.

NBA’s biggest questions before return

NBC Sports

NBA’s biggest questions before return

The NBA is back. Well, sort of.

No Stephen Curry, Draymond Green or Klay Thompson.

No Trae Young, Karl-Anthony Towns or D’Angelo Russell. Teams in large markets like the Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks will be watching from home. Charlotte, Detroit and Cleveland: back to the big board.

But for everyone else, NBA games are upon us. 

For weeks, the league office, the board of governors and the National Basketball Players Association have gone back-and-forth on a variety of ideas with the explicit goal of resuming the NBA season in some form. Everyone wanted to play basketball. That was never in doubt. But not everyone wanted to play basketball if it meant a substantial risk of getting infected with coronavirus or suffering a major injury due to the extreme circumstances.

Following Thursday’s board of governors vote, the NBA believes it has a plan to account for both of those risks. But as they say, the devil is in the details. 

As much as we’d like to believe we have all the answers and everything is wrapped with a bow, the world does not work that way. There’s still plenty of uncertainty in this plan.

Here are seven lingering questions as the NBA proceeds towards July 31.

Is it, you know, safe?

“It’s about the data, not the date.” Commissioner Adam Silver said those words on a conference call with the media in late April while addressing the NBA’s eventual return-to-play plans.

Well, it’s early June and we have a date. The data? That’s another story.

The league and the players union have insisted that health comes first and there are signs that they’re taking that side of the plan very seriously. For one, they’ve planned to convene at one central site. Secondly, according to an ESPN report, there are plans for daily testing, which would be an enormous undertaking financially, logistically and politically. 

In my discussions with epidemiologists and infectious-disease experts, those were critical elements of a safe return-to-play plan, but there are still finer details that need to be addressed. Who’s allowed in the bubble? What kind of tests will those people receive? Does the league have the requisite supplies? What about hotel, food and maintenance staff testing? 

Above all, the NBA would be wise to have a concrete plan in the case that one or multiple people inside the bubble test positive. How many positive tests are acceptable? One? One per team? Does a positive test in August have different implications than one in October presumably in the Finals? 

In talks with teams around the league, this is one of the thornier issues that team executives need the league to address. A strictly-enforced guideline on how to handle positive tests would do a lot to strip away the emotions that can get in the way of making sound decisions and help the league protect its employees -- players, coaches, execs or team staffers -- from harm.

Not every team is in the same position. Take the New Orleans Pelicans, whose head coach, Alvin Gentry, is 65 years old. His top assistant, Jeff Bzdelik, is 67 years old. The CDC states that people 65 years or older are considered a high risk for severe illness from COVID-19. If a positive test pops up on their team, does the NBA need to take stronger action than other teams? What if they played a team with a positive test? 

Should Gentry and Bzdelik have to wear a mask on the sidelines? Should they be on the sidelines? These are thorny questions that don’t appear to have answers at the moment. 

And that’s just one coaching staff. What about referees? The NBA’s longest-tenured referee, Ken Mauer, is 65 years old. So is longtime NBA referee Michael Smith. If Gentry and Bzdelik have to wear masks, do Mauer and Smith have to wear masks as well? Can you officiate that way? And would the NBA let them officiate games of teams if they officiated a team with a recent positive test?

It feels a bit like we’re putting the cart before the horse. We’ve already planned a return date when one of its teams, the Spurs, haven’t deemed it safe to reopen their own practice facility because of coronavirus concerns

All these questions are tricky because there is still so much we don’t know about the novel coronavirus. But teams are hoping the league addresses them clearly in a league-issued document.

Will NBA players take a knee?

As the league plots a return to the court, NBA players, the vast majority of whom identify as black or African-American, are facing more than a deadly pandemic. Perhaps no one put it more clearly than former NBA All-Star Caron Butler, who said Wednesday night on the NBA’s official platform: “We’ve been dealing with two viruses: COVID-19 and racism.”

When it comes to social issues and civil rights, NBA stars have been some of the most outspoken in all of American sports. These days have been no different. LeBron James, who in 2017 called the President a “bum” for his response to Stephen Curry’s White House rebuff, recently blasted Drew Brees on Twitter after the Saints quarterback reiterated that kneeling during the anthem is disrespectful to the military.  

Players like Curry, Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown and Towns have marched or attended rallies in recent days to protest systemic racism and police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of law enforcement. One of the most vocal activists in the country has been Floyd’s friend, Stephen Jackson, a 14-year NBA veteran.

While the NHL has plans for a return and MLB is negotiating for one, there’s no doubt that the NBA will be the main draw in town. As such, the NBA megaphone may be louder than ever. 

However, some players already feel a restart may be taking away from the larger societal conversation.

Los Angeles Clippers point guard Patrick Beverley is known as one of the fiercest competitors in the league, but he strongly disagreed with the renewed focus on basketball.

Beverley wasn’t alone. When news broke Wednesday of the imminent agreement on return-to-play, Brooklyn Nets forward Wilson Chandler tweeted: “Government can’t wait until the NBA start the season back. Need a distraction from the bulls*** that’s going on. Always in need of a distraction.” Miami Heat guard Andre Iguodala, Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma, San Antonio Spurs forward Trey Lyles each retweeted Chandler’s sentiment with supportive comments.

On Wednesday night, Kuzma went further, tweeting a photo of Brees kneeling with teammates with the caption: “This shows you that there are a lot of people & companies out there right now that will say they stand with us but only do it so they dont get bashed not because they mean it.”

League insiders have been supportive of NBA players protesting in the streets of America. But what happens if they take those protests to the basketball court? Or the national anthem itself? 

If NBA players decide to kneel during the anthem like Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players did, it will be in violation of NBA rules. In the Player/Team Conduct and Dress section of the Official NBA Rule Book, Rule 2 states: “Players, coaches and trainers are to stand and lineup in a dignified posture along the sidelines or on the foul line during the playing of the National Anthem.”

In 2017, the commissioner said he expects players to stand and follow the rules. The players did fall in line, choosing instead to stand with interlocked arms during the anthem for several games. 

NBA players might choose a different demonstration this time around. Kneeling during the anthem is officially against NBA rules, but it remains to be seen what the official punishment would be if NBA players decided to protest in that manner. One thing’s for sure: The world will be watching.

Is the scheduling fair?

The NBA landed on a compromise. They could have played the rest of the regular season or gone straight to the playoffs. Playing the rest of the regular season would mean teams would have to play 17 games on average. The NBA decided to split the difference and play eight.

Fair enough. But who would those 22 teams play in those eight games? One idea is to pick up where they left off before the league shutdown on March 11 and play the next eight games on the schedule. Seems fair, right?

That doesn’t work in a league where eight teams are no longer playing. For example, the Spurs’ next eight opponents were, in order: Denver, Minnesota, Memphis, New Orleans, Chicago, Utah, Utah again and finally a repeat date with Minnesota. Minnesota and Chicago aren’t going to be in Orlando. 

So what do you do? If you take those three games out and move up the next three opponents in line, the Spurs would then play Denver, Golden State and Sacramento. Uh, oh. Golden State won’t be there either. If you take Golden State out and look to their next scheduled game … you find Golden State, again. The next opponent would be New Orleans. To just get to eight games, the Spurs would have to look at their next 15 games.

But that sprouts two more problems. First, the Spurs just replaced non-playoff teams opponents with playoff-aspiring teams. Is that fair? By pure luck, the Grizzlies have already played 15 of their 16 scheduled games against the eight non-bubble teams, going 11-4 against the league’s doormat clubs. On the other hand, the Spurs just got five of their easier games erased and replaced them with harder opponents. Yikes.

And that brings the second issue. The Spurs’ eighth game against New Orleans? The Pelicans would be long done by then. 

To solve this issue, the league could just scrap the regular-season schedule and play a new set of games with fairer distribution of games.

You might say, “Who cares? Just play the games.” Try telling that to New Orleans, Portland, San Antonio and Sacramento, four small-market teams that are all but dead-locked in the standings and fighting for that final playoff spot. Every detail matters. 

Of course, there’s nothing fair about a pandemic. But there are things that the NBA can control. This is one of them, and it could have long-lasting ripple effects, especially for small market teams.

Given the huge moats surrounding the No. 8 seeds (Magic have a 5.5-game lead on the Wizards and Grizzlies have a 3.5-game lead on three teams), schedule equity could be a moot point anyway. The play-in game (it’s not a tournament) only comes into play if the ninth seed is within four games or fewer of the eighth seed at the end of the eight games. Even then, the No. 9 seed would have to win twice against the No. 8 seed to punch their ticket. Not to throw a wet blanket on the bubble teams, but if you’re not in the eighth seed by now, you’re basically Lloyd Christmas talking to Mary Swanson.

Will players be physically ready?

This is not like the 2011 lockout. This is a pandemic, not a work stoppage. In previous lockouts, the players regularly played pick-up games, sometimes for charity in front of crowds, to stay in shape. This time around, NBA players haven’t been allowed to play five-on-five in months. 

Early on in the process, the NBA presented a plan in which all 30 teams would return under the bubble environment, but that idea was met with considerable resistance, according to league sources. Multiple players and teams expressed disagreement with that idea and would rather not play than risk injury and infection. Portland was the lone team that dissented during Thursday’s vote and its star player, Damian Lillard, went on the record in late May to say he would sit out unless the Blazers could fight for the playoffs. Lillard told Yahoo Sports he was just coming off a groin injury and that factored into his calculus: “I'll be putting myself at risk for injury and reinjure myself.” 

The Blazers were given that chance to make the playoffs and still the team voted against. While it’s unclear how much of a role Lillard’s comments played into the Blazers’ position, it’s telling that even a superstar with five years guaranteed after this season is still iffy about risking it. According to reports, the Blazers preferred other formats and listened to their players before making the call.

Imagine being a free agent on a bubble team this summer and getting your body ready to play potentially only eight games. Is it worth it? If Washington Wizards sharpshooting forward and unrestricted-free-agent-to-be Davis Bertans felt the risk wasn’t worth the reward, I wouldn’t blame him for sitting out these games to protect what might be the biggest payday of his career.

Athletic trainers, strength and conditioning coaches and medical staffs will be hard-pressed to get their players ready in time for the July 31 kickoff. Three months of no basketball will disrupt the kinetic chain of joints, muscles and ligaments that make NBA players so thrilling to watch. 

On that note, prepare for some bad basketball as players work themselves back into shape. According to Basketball Reference tracking, the two biggest drops in year-to-year offensive efficiency in NBA history came during lockout seasons in 2011-12 (minus-2.7) and 1998-99 (minus-2.8). With a denser schedule and accelerated training camps, teams coughed up the ball at higher rates and shooting percentages bottomed out. Expect more of the same in the coming months. Basketball is back … ish.

What about the other eight teams?

The NBA’s 22-team return-to-play plan means we won’t see the Golden State Warriors in action until December. Here’s a crazy thought: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green will go 18 months without playing in real games together. Life comes at you fast in the NBA. 

I hope the other eight teams will be able to participate in some sort of charity tournament or other competition between now and whenever the 2020-21 season starts (Curry vs. Thompson showdown, anyone!?). Nine months without playing basketball is a long time -- especially for teams like the Minnesota Timberwolves who remade their roster at the trade deadline and had almost no time to build on-court chemistry. D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns played in one game together in the 2019-20 season.

There’s also the issue of the draft and the draft lottery. For the teams that make the playoffs, draft order will be based on their regular-season record, including their eight “seeded” games. But for the lottery teams, the lottery odds are locked in as of their record on March 11. 

That eliminates the incentive for the Wizards to tank the eight-game slate in epic fashion, go 0-and-8 and leap the Charlotte Hornets and Chicago Bulls in the draft order odds. As my astute colleague Dan Feldman points out, that would raise the Wizards’ odds of a top-three pick from six percent to 15 percent. 

My hope is that the Wizards wouldn’t do that for the spirit of the competition, but the fact that the NBA pre-empted such an egregious tank job by freezing draft odds on March 11 is a tacit admission that teams are incentivized to throw games. We should just abolish the draft all together and let prospects choose their destination like we do for NBA free agents already. But that’s a discussion for another day.

Charlotte and Chicago have to be happy the league stepped in. If there’s a silver lining for the Delete Eight, as John Hollinger brilliantly dubbed them, it’s that they can finally move forward with clarity. The draft is tentatively set for Oct. 15 and the Bulls, who have picked seventh in the last two drafts, have the seventh-best odds in the draft lottery. At least there’s some semblance of normalcy in all this.

How weird is this going to be?

Super weird, at first. Are we going to have ads covering up the seats? Are we going to pipe in crowd noise? How much will that taint the viewer experience? 

We’ll probably get used to that, just like we’re used to laugh tracks on sitcoms. We better get used to it. Believe me, the NBA or the players’ union won’t allow raw audio from the court to be heard at home. That screams PR disaster. 

Even if they could offer an “uncensored” feed for a nominal fee to scrape together some extra dough, I’m guessing the unsavory stuff would trickle out onto the internet in no time. There are better ways for the NBA to have fans feel more engaged and closer to the action. Referee cams? Alternate broadcaster teams? NBA Jam-like flames when a player hits consecutive shots? Let’s get weird.

What does this mean for the NBA beyond 2020?

Even before this pandemic hit, I’ve argued that the NBA should kick off the regular season on Christmas Day. It’s time to make it a permanent change. Most fans don’t tune into the NBA until Christmas anyway (the league office programs its national TV schedule accordingly). The NBA has owned that day on the sports calendar. Just make it official already.

Although the NBA says that it will “likely” begin the 2020-21 season on Dec. 1, I wouldn’t be surprised if they buy some more time to raise the chances that they can get at least some fans in the seats. The commissioner has told players recently that ticket revenue typically makes up 40 percent of the league’s income, according to a report from Shams Charania. That’s an enormous pile of cash to leave behind in 2020-21. 

It’d be difficult to slowly re-integrate fans into the stands without shutting down for a period of time, allowing arena staff to reset protocols and observe new health guidelines. Perhaps the NBA can gradually fill seats on the fly without a pause in the schedule, but finding a sensible and healthy way to recoup ticket revenues should be a top priority for 2020-21.

From a fatigue standpoint, a Dec. 1 start for next season seems to be pushing it. The Finals will end sometime in early October and training camp would be slated for Nov. 10. Do we really want the league’s best players and teams to be coming into training camp ragged for 2020-21? After an injury-marred season from Curry and Williamson, I’d imagine the league will be looking to ensure every possibility that its top draws are as healthy as possible.

It seems the dates for 2020-21 are moving targets, according to reports from ESPN. My educated guess is that the league settles on Christmas Day as the 2020-21 season opener, pending any major coronavirus developments. A lot can change between now and then.

Follow Tom Haberstroh on Twitter (@TomHaberstroh), and bookmark for my latest stories and videos and subscribe to the Habershow podcast.

NBA has more work to do after George Floyd response

NBA has more work to do after George Floyd response

Out of 30 NBA teams, 28 issued official statements on Twitter regarding the George Floyd killing. The only two teams that failed to issue a statement with the New York Knicks and San Antonio Spurs, as of the morning of June 3. 

Spurs coach and team president Gregg Popovich condemned police brutality, white privlege and leadership issues in an interview with The Nation. The Spurs organization have not yet publicly backed Popovich's comments.

Out of those 28 teams, 26 cited Floyd by name, but only six official statements released on Twitter included the words police, law enforcement, or those in uniform. The Washington Wizards released possibly the strongest statement, notably doing so on behalf of their players, including the phrase, "We will no longer tolerate the assassination of people of color in this country."