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WNBA To Hold ‘Virtual’ 2020 Draft Amid COVID-19 Outbreak


The WNBA will hold a “virtual draft“—without players, guests and media—on April 17 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

Top prospects, including Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu and Satou Sabally, will take part in the draft remotely, while WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert will announce the picks live on ESPN2. Coverage will begin at 8 p.m. EST.

During the draft, the WNBA plans to honor Alyssa Altobelli, Gianna Bryant, Kobe Bryant and Payton Chester, who passed away in a tragic helicopter crash in January.





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Marcus Smart announces he recovered, cleared of coronavirus – ProBasketballTalk


Marcus Smart stepped forward and self-identified as having tested positive for the coronavirus. He wasn’t showing any symptoms and went into self-quarantine, and last we heard was doing well.

Sunday, Smart said that two days ago he was cleared and has fully recovered from the virus.

Most importantly, this is excellent news for Smart and his friends and family (and, by extension, the Celtics). His health is the most important thing in this story.

The NBA has asked recovered players to donate plasma because scientists are hoping to use the blood — which has developed immunities — to help create a vaccine or medicine to slow COVID-19. It’s optional, but the league is encouraging players to help.

There have been 10 players and five NBA off-court staff — including Knicks owner James Dolan — who have tested positive for the disease. Fortunately, none of them have shown any advanced symptoms that required hospitalization.

University of Colorado forward Tyler Bey has declared for the 2020 NBA Draft:

The junior averaged 13.8 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game for the Buffaloes. Bey shot 53% from the field overall and 74.3% at the free throw line.

Bey also extended his range a bit in his third year at Colorado. He knocked down 13-of-31 three-pointers (41.9%) on the season. At just six-foot-seven, he’ll need to be able to score from behind the arc to find a place in the NBA.

Most draft analysts have Bey pegged as an early second-round pick. Some thought he could play his way into the back-end of the first-round with strong pre-draft workouts. With the pre-draft process up in the air, NBA front offices may have to make their decisions based on what they’ve already seen in person and on tape.

Former NBA player Stephon Marbury told The New York Post that he’s arranged a deal to deliver 10 million N95 medical masks to New York. These masks are much-needed among healthcare workers battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Marbury is having the masks produced at cost in China, where he played the last seven years of his career.

Although Marbury currently lives in Beijing, China, he said “At the end of the day, I am from Brooklyn. This is something that is close and dear to my heart as far as being able to help New York.”

While growing up, Marbury starred at Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn and on New York City’s famed playgrounds. After one year at Georgia Tech, Marbury left for the NBA. The high-scoring guard played for five teams during his 13-year NBA career, including his hometown New York Knicks.

After sitting out for two seasons, Marbury signed to play for the Beijing Ducks in 2011. The move was initially seen as a way for Marbury to prove he could still play at an NBA level. Instead, Beijing became home-away-from home for the New Yorker.

Marbury averaged 21.6 points per game in 271 contests spread over seven seasons with the Ducks.

Georgetown sophomore Mac McClung told ESPN Jonathan Givony that he’s declaring for the 2020 NBA Draft.

McClung first came to national prominence when his high school highlights blew up on YouTube:

In his second season at Georgetown, McClung averaged 15.7 points and 1.4 steals per game. A foot injury in late-January kept McClung out of the lineup for nearly a month. He returned for one game in late-February, but played just eight minutes off the Hoyas’ bench.

The six-foot-two guard is known for his deep shooting range and his highlight dunks. McClung’s shot is inconsistent however, as he shot under 40% in each of his first two seasons at Georgetown. McClung’s defense also needs work.

McClung projects to be a point guard in the NBA, due to his size. To make it as a lead guard, he’ll need to work on his ballhandling and playmaking. With those question marks, McClung is seen as a stretch to be drafted in the second round.

McClung stated he’s signing with an NBA/NCAA approved agent. That will allow him to keep his college eligibility as he goes through the pre-draft process.

Shams Charania of The Athletic reports that the NBA Together initiative is asking NBA players who have recovered from coronavirus to consider donating plasma:

NBA Together was created in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, as the NBA suspended the 2019-20 season.

One of the efforts NBA Together is supporting is the COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project. This project has brought together top medical specialists to determine if plasma donations could help in treating coronavirus.

Several NBA players have tested positive for COVID-19. This group includes Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz, Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets, Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics and Christian Wood of the Detroit Pistons. All players reported either feeling no symptoms or have recovered from the affliction.





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Celtics’ Marcus Smart says he has been cleared after coronavirus diagnosis


Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart, who tested positive for COVID-19 two weeks ago, has been cleared by the Massachusetts Department of Health, he announced Sunday on social media.

Smart and the Celtics were in Milwaukee on March 11, preparing to play the Bucks the next night — in front of no fans — when the NBA suspended its season after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus before that night’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Boston, having played Utah the week before, went home from Milwaukee the next day, and players self-quarantined before Smart tested positive for the virus.

“Corona Free as of two days ago. Cleared by Mass Dept of Health,” Smart wrote on Twitter. “Thanks for everyone’s thoughts and prayers and I’m doing the same for everyone that’s been effected by this. Stay safe and stay together- apart! Much love!”

In a media conference call last week, Boston coach Brad Stevens was enthused about Smart’s progress, saying he was doing “great.”

“Great spirits. Joking as always,” Stevens said Friday. “We had a Zoom with the team, told the team we were going to give them their own space to hang out and have fun — and he told us to get off. So he’s great.”

Stevens also spoke about Smart’s courage to speak out once he received his prognosis.

“I’m proud of how he kind of took the initiative to tell people that he had it and that he felt good and that he got online and just continued to ask people to practice social distancing and self-isolation right now,” the coach said. “It’s a really unique, unsettling time for everyone.”

Smart, 26, is averaging 13.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists this season. If and when the league resumes the regular season, Boston will take the floor in third place in the Eastern Conference, at 43-21.





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Why Magic vs. Bird forever changed college basketball


In March of 1979, a partial meltdown at Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania caused alarm coast to coast. The first Space Shuttle was delivered for use to Cape Kennedy. And there being no NCAA tournament yet for women’s basketball, Old Dominion beat Louisiana Tech for something called the AIAW title.

In March of 1979, the Seattle SuperSonics and Washington Bullets were in the closing stages of an NBA season that would end with them meeting for the title. But in a glaring sign of just how low the league had sagged, game 2 on a Thursday night was not even shown live in the East, but rather on tape delay at 11:30 p.m. The NBA Finals were not considered good enough for prime time.

In March of 1979, two extraordinary college basketball players — one from the factory side of Lansing, Michigan, the other from a small town in southern Indiana — met on a court in Salt Lake City. Their sport would never be the same.

HISTORY: Jim Valvano and Lorenzo Charles will forever be connected by a dunk at the 1983 tournament

It was the most fortuitous and fateful of plot twists for the game, when Magic Johnson and Michigan State faced Larry Bird and Indiana State. The NCAA tournament was still looking for a post-John Wooden identity, while pondering more expansion from its 24-team field in the 1980s. Clearly, the NBA was in dire need of an infusion of . . . something.

It was not a great game that night in Utah. Not in terms of last-second drama, anyway. Michigan State took the lead and relentlessly suffocated Indiana State with zone defense that had been worked on the day before, when the role of Larry Bird in practice had been played by Magic Johnson. It would end 75-64, with 24 points from Johnson, with 19 points and 13 rebounds from Bird, who struggled with his shot, missing 14 of 21 attempts. Nor was the crowd memorably large: barely 15,000 in those days before domes.

But the grandeur of the moment was impossible to miss. There was something about the two giants sharing stage for the first time — with their similarities and their differences — that had the nation turning to its TVs. It was the highest rated NCAA tournament game ever at the time. Four decades later, it still is. So what made them such perfect partners, the effervescent Johnson and earnest Bird, to take the tournament to another level, and later maybe save the NBA?

“Because we played the game the right way,” Johnson said years later. “We didn’t play it for ourselves, we played it for our teams. We were two unique guys being over 6-8, being able to handle the ball, being able to score inside, outside, being able to make the right pass to our teammates. Because we didn’t’ really care about scoring, we cared about winning . . . and then you have one player black, one player white, one player smiling, one player who don’t.”

Bird: “Playing each other . . . it was the ultimate experience for me, because I finally found somebody who thought and played the game the way I thought it should be played.”

VOTE: How does this March Madness moment rank amongst the all-time greats

Their teams had taken different journeys to that Monday night: Michigan State was 25-6 and had endured the January blahs, losing four of six games, including an 18-point thumping at Northwestern, who would finish the season 6-21. Indiana State had not even been picked to win its own conference, but Bird’s brand of magic had the Sycamores perfect at 33-0.

Each man understood what was coming. Two days before in the semifinals, had Bird managed one more assist, they both would have had triple doubles. Talk about your promo for the championship game.

Bird produced 35 points, 16 rebounds and nine assists in Indiana State’s two-point win over DePaul.

“We went back to the hotel and we were like, `Oh my goodness, what are we gonna do to contain Larry Bird?’” Johnson said in 2009, when the 30th anniversary of the game was celebrated. “We had never seen a player like Larry Bird.”

Johnson had 29 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists as the Spartans crushed Penn 101-67.

“After the DePaul game, I remember back at the hotel I had some time to myself,” Bird said. “I was thinking, `If I don’t score 40 points Monday night, we don’t have a chance to win.’”

Jud Heathcote’s game plan was not about to let him get 40. “They had me covered pretty well. They had a guy in front of me, a guy in back of me,” Bird said. “When I put it on the floor, somebody else was coming.”

When Indiana State erected a Bird statue on campus in Terre Haute in 2013 — making bloody well sure it was taller than the Magic statue in East Lansing — Bird was still brooding about a night 34 years before.

“You never get over that. It’s impossible to get over it when you have your heart broken. I knew going into that game that I was going to have to play the best game I’d ever played in my life, and I didn’t do it. I let us all down.”

That contest might be one of college basketball’s golden moments, but he has never watched a replay. He never will. “I know how it ended.”

Said Johnson in 2009, “I’ve watched it enough for him and I.”

RELIVE: 11 important details you might not know about UTEP’s historic upset of Kentucky in 1966

Together, the two men gave the NCAA tournament a momentum push to take into the next decade, when the field would be expanded to 64 teams, making room for all the underdogs and giving birth to March Madness. Then they midwifed a rebirth for the NBA.

As Johnson once said, “There would be no Magic Johnson without Larry Bird.” And vice versa. That’s why an 11-point game in Utah can never be forgotten.



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RJ Hunter’s Game-Winner Against Baylor in 2015


Welcome to MEMORY LANE

With March Madness canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, we’ll be reliving some legendary tournament moments on the days when NCAA basketball would’ve been played. Enjoy.

Overcome with joy, Georgia State coach Ron Hunter collapsed to the ground. Lying flat on the sidelines, his mobility scooter pushed aside, he pounded the hardwood. Assistant coaches rushed to his aid, but Hunter waved them back. He was savoring the moment.

“I can’t feel anything right now,” he told CBS Sports afterwards.

Hunter had suffered a torn Achilles while celebrating his team’s win in the Sun Belt championship game less than a week earlier. Now he was on the floor celebrating again, as the Panthers were about to upset Baylor in the first round of the 2015 NCAA tournament.

OK, let’s back up. Georgia State’s conference title landed them a spot in the Big Dance as a No. 14 seed (their first appearance since 2001). The only ranked opponent they faced in the regular season was Iowa State and they got blown out by 23. No one gave them much of a shot against the No. 3-seeded Baylor, who had three future NBA players in Taurean Prince, Royce O’Neale and Johnathan Motley.

RJ Hunter, a 6-6 junior guard and Ron’s son, was the main weapon for the Panthers, averaging just under 20 points per game. With their second leading scorer, Ryan Harrow, out due to injury, Georgia State was depending on RJ to carry an even bigger burden. He started slow and the Panthers went down 16-6, but they fought their way back and trailed by just three at the break.

The Bears ripped off a run late in the second half and held a 12-point advantage with under three minutes to play. That’s when Georgia State turned up the defense, pressing and trapping full court. RJ scored nine straight, capped by a steal and layup that made it 56-53 at the 1:23 mark. The Panthers hit a free throw to come within two and regained possession with a chance to tie or take the lead in the final 15 seconds.

RJ tossed the ball to his big man (TJ Shipes) a few feet behind the arc and immediately ran around him for a hand-off. Shipes’ screen created just enough space for Hunter to rise up and let it fly.

And you know the rest. What started as a prayer ended with dad falling off his stool. It was a perfect March Madness moment, combining an insane highlight with a heartwarming story and reaction.

“It was a great game, but I’m not going to coach, I’m going to be Dad right now,” Ron said. “This is my son. Proud of him.”

PREVIOUS MEMORY LANE STORIES:

Illinois’ Elite 8 Comeback vs. Arizona in 2005

Michigan State’s National Title in 2000

Florida Gulf Coast’s Incredible Run in 2013

Butler vs. Duke in the 2010 National Title Game

UCLA vs. Gonzaga in the 2006 Sweet 16

Luke Maye’s Game-Winner in the 2017 Elite Eight

Alex Squadron is an Associate Editor at SLAM. Follow him on Twitter @asquad510.

Photo via Getty.





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Georgetown sophomore Mac McClung declares for 2020 NBA Draft – ProBasketballTalk


In an Instagram Live chat with friend Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony said he’d “have won 2-3 championships” if drafted by the Detroit Pistons:

Anthony was drafted third overall in the 2003 NBA Draft by the Denver Nuggets. LeBron James went off the board first to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Pistons then drafted Darko Milicic with the second pick. Chris Bosh was drafted fourth by the Toronto Raptors, and Wade was selected with the fifth pick by the Miami Heat.

James, Wade, and Bosh would famously team up in Miami seven years later. Those three and Anthony all put together Hall of Fame careers. Milicic was another story entirely.

Detroit had that second overall pick by virtue of a 1997 sign-and-trade with the then Vancouver Grizzlies for forward Otis Thorpe. Vancouver didn’t even keep Thorpe for one full season, as he was shipped to the Sacramento Kings at the 1998 trade deadline. By the 2003 draft, the team had moved from Vancouver to Memphis.

The Pistons went on to win the championship in 2003-04, despite relatively limited production from rookie Milicic. The seven-footer played in just 34 games as a rookie during Detroit’s title run. Milicic then appeared in just 62 games over the next two seasons before he was traded to the Orlando Magic at the 2006 trade deadline.

Despite never living up to his draft position, Milicic did carve out a 10-year NBA career. On the other hand, Anthony blossomed into a 10-time All-Star.

Anthony went on to make six All-NBA teams over the course of his time with the Nuggets and New York Knicks. He holds a career average of 23.6 points per game, but has yet to win that elusive ring.

Detroit passing on Anthony is one of the more interesting what if’s in recent NBA history. The Pistons only got the one championship, but made the Finals back-to-back years. They had a multiple-year run of contention behind a core of Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton in the backcourt. The frontcourt was anchored by Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince. The one thing that group struggled with on occasion was scoring, which Anthony would have provided.

Had Anthony been drafted by the Pistons, he’d likely have a ring and Detroit would have a fourth banner. Who knows? Maybe they’d each have a couple more beyond that.



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Stephon Marbury trying to get masks from China for N.Y.


Former New York Knicks guard Stephon Marbury is trying to arrange a deal that would deliver 10 million N95 masks to New York City, but he has run into issues coordinating a deal between a Chinese company and the coronavirus-struck city.

Marbury told the New York Post that he arranged for a supplier in China to sell the masks for $2.75 each, nearly two-thirds less than their standard price tag.

“At the end of the day, I am from Brooklyn,” Marbury told the Post from Beijing, where he coaches the Chinese Basketball Association’s Royal Fighters. “This is something that is close and dear to my heart as far as being able to help New York.”

Marbury added: “I have family there in Coney Island, a lot of family … who are affected by this, so I know how important it is for people to have masks during this time.”

Marbury reached out to Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams to help coordinate the sale.

But Adams told the Post that he was initially informed by city and state officials that they did not need the masks. When the Post contacted state Department of Health officials, however, they said state officials “want to talk to Stephon.” The department was put in touch with Adams’ office to continue talks.

Marbury played in the NBA for 13 seasons, including five with the Knicks, before joining the CBA, where he played from 2010 to 2018 before becoming a coach last year.



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A closer look at Villanova’s last-second victory over North Carolina in the 2016 national championship game


Remember the line from Herb Brooks’ famous pre-game pep talk to the U.S. Olympic hockey team before the Miracle on Ice?

 

Great moments are born from great opportunity.

 

Well, here was certainly a great opportunity for the Villanova Wildcats, that night in Houston in 2016. North Carolina had just tied the national championship game on a Marcus Paige double-pump 3-pointer with 4.7 seconds left. It was the kind of save-the-day shot that would never be forgotten. Unless… 

 

The Wildcats called timeout to set up a last play, but at that point, most everyone was thinking overtime. Everybody in the Tar Heels section, certainly. Let Villanova guard Ryan Arcidiacono take it from there, since it was his job to get the ball up the court.

 

 

“We drew up a play, we knew what play we were going to at the end of the game, because we work on it every single day in practice. I wanted to be aggressive. If I could get the shot, I was going to shoot it. But I heard someone screaming in the back of my head. It was Kris.”

 

Kris Jenkins. He had inbounded the ball, and then curled behind Arcidiacono, like a lion waiting for his chance to pounce. As the Tar Heels scrambled to stop Arcidiacono’s progress and cover assorted other Wildcats, the trailing Jenkins had been overlooked a fatal few seconds. He was left with just enough open air to do something epic. “Arch! Arch! Arch!” he shouted. Great opportunity, and then a great moment. Pass from Arcidiacono, shot from beyond the 3-point line, swish, buzzer, championship. One of the most dramatically won ever in the Final Four, and that’s a high bar.

 

It was yet another keeper for the highlights of the future, showing how something truly magical can happen so suddenly in the NCAA tournament. For look at all that was jammed into those 4.7 seconds.
 

Watch full replay: Villanova vs. UNC: 2016 National Championship

The glorious and indisputable validation of Jay Wright’s Villanova program. The Wildcats had become notorious for their early tournament flameouts. Not anymore.

 

The pure anguish of a team that had fought from six points behind in the last two minutes, but just watched a game — and maybe a national title — vanish before its collective eyes. “That feeling of walking off the court, feeling the confetti fall, but it’s not for us, it’s a horrible feeling,” North Carolina’s Joel Berry II said.

 

 

The poise and confidence of Jenkins, who with an entire program’s dreams in his hands, never flinched. He knew just where to find the open spot, trailing Arcidiacono, and knew just what to do, when he got the ball. “I think every shot’s going in,” he would say later. “This one was no different.”

 

The unselfishness of Arcidiacono, who at that instant was the very symbol of the Villanova way of doing things; team pursuits over all else. How many seniors would try to create a chance to win it by themselves in that situation — maybe 99 out of 100? But he chose to flip the ball away to someone else, because it was the correct thing to do. “It’s not about me taking the right shot, it’s about me making the right read. I think I just did that,” he said afterward. “It shows what type of teammate he is, what type of person he is,” Jenkins said.

 

The bittersweet mixed feelings of a family drama, for Jenkins is the adopted brother of Nate Britt — who came off the bench to play for North Carolina. “I’m not going to say too much to him tomorrow,” Jenkins said.

 

A boost for the newly reborn Big East, which was trying to establish its credentials on the national stage with the heavyweight conferences. “I hope the power-5 schools can see that we’re really important to college basketball,” Wright said.

 

 

Put all that together and it was such a perfect way to decide a national champion, with all the subplots, and all the drama, and the last shot in the last second. That doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, the deep emotional currents of this event are never more real, or raw. The heartbroken losing coach understood that as well as anyone that night.

 

“The difference between winning and losing in college basketball is so small. The difference in your feelings is so large,” Roy Williams said. “But that’s the NCAA tournament.”

 

There would be a postscript, of course. The returning Tar Heels used the pain from that night to drive them the next 12 months. Redemption was their mission. Not until they cut down the nets as national champions 364 days later, could they try to forget those 4.7 seconds.



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UCLA vs. Gonzaga in the 2006 Sweet 16


Welcome to MEMORY LANE

With March Madness canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, we’ll be reliving some legendary tournament moments on the days when NCAA basketball would’ve been played. Enjoy.

Heartbreak city.

That’s how Gus Johnson described the last 40 seconds of UCLA’s miraculous come-from-behind win against Gonzaga in the Sweet 16 in 2006. The Bruins, heading into the tournament as the No. 2 seed, faced the No. 3-seeded Zags with one of the nation’s top-scorers in Adam Morrison (28.1 ppg).

It was one of college basketball’s best scorers against one of college basketball’s most historic programs. UCLA trailed by 17 points heading into halftime and shot a dismal 7-of-27 from the field. The Bruins rallied and would eventually cut the Zags’ lead to nine with just over three minutes left in the game. With under a minute left, trailing 61-58, Ryan Hollins sank two free throws to cut the lead to one.

On the ensuing inbounds, UCLA trapped Morrison in the corner, forcing him to make the pass to center J.P. Batista with another double coming at him. Jordan Farmar stripped Batista, passing it to then-freshman Luc Richard Mbah a Moute for the layup to put UCLA up 72-71—its first lead of the game—with 9.1 seconds to go.

“UCLA has climbed the mountain,” an exuberant Johnson said.

Moments after the most important bucket of his basketball career, Mbah a Moute, who scored six of the Bruins’ last 11 points, made a diving, game-sealing steal on Gonzaga’s Derek Raivio. Shortly after, the cameras focused on Morrison, who buried his face in his jersey in total disbelief after realizing his collegiate career was coming to an end.

Aaron Afflalo would split a pair of free throws, giving Gonzaga a chance to send it to OT, but Batista’s 15-footer was nowhere near the rim as the Bruins bench rushed the court to celebrate the 73-71 win and their first regional final since 1997. Morrison, who finished with a game-high 24 points, was spread out near mid-court in tears.

Heartbreak city indeed.

PREVIOUS MEMORY LANE STORIES:

Illinois’ Elite 8 Comeback vs. Arizona in 2005

Michigan State’s National Title in 2000

Florida Gulf Coast’s Incredible Run in 2013

Butler vs. Duke in the 2010 National Title Game

Drew Ruiz is an Associate Editor at SLAM. Follow him on Twitter @DrewRuiz90.

Photo via Getty.





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