Courtesy Providence College

Brandon Austin working out in Philly, but after two reported sexual assaults in college will NBA teams have interest?

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A few years back, Brandon Austin was the kind of player NBA scouts and teams had their eyes on has he worked through high school toward college, he was considered a top 50 recruit in his class. But after being accused of sexual assaults at both his first college, Providence, and his second one, Oregon, he hasn’t played major college ball and he slid some off the NBA radar.

He is currently working out at the Philadelphia 76ers facility — with the team not for them, as reported by Jessica Camerato at CSNPhilly.com — and thanks to an arbitration ruling any NBA team can sign him without fear of fines or suspensions for the player, reports Zach Lowe at ESPN.

Austin’s effort to begin his NBA career has been facilitated by a secret arbitration ruling, meted out in October and pertaining to two players — Austin and one unnamed player — who have faced sex assault or domestic violence allegations, according to sources familiar with the ruling….

Last summer, the league sent a memo to all 30 teams instructing any team interested in signing either player to call the NBA office, sources say. Teams that called were told about the allegations, and that the players could face discipline — including suspensions or fines — in the event any team signed them, sources say. No NBA or D-League team did.

The National Basketball Players Association filed an arbitration claim arguing that the memo had a chilling effect, and that the league had overstepped its bounds by telling teams it could discipline players for past allegations, sources say. The arbitrator agreed with the union that the league could not fine or suspend the players going forward based on prior allegations, sources say. The league sent teams a follow-up memo clarifying that after the ruling.

This is not a simple case for the league.

Austin was banned from playing on two campuses for sexual assault charges, and considering how many colleges sweep athletes committing sexual assault under the rug that is very concerning. However, in neither case was he charged with a crime by police in that city, in both cases officials cited a lack of evidence. I’ll just say, as a former court/crime/police reporter, sexual assault charges can be tough to get a conviction on — because it’s often he said/she said, and the trial can become about victim blaming — so prosecutors are slow to take them on. It’s a crime far too many people get away with because of the challenges in landing a conviction.

The NBA has had its own issues about looking soft on domestic violence, so this is a situation where it tried to be proactive. But again, no conviction, and everything happened prior to Austin being considered for the NBA, so how much can the NBA really do in this case?

As is the case in all pro sports, talent can win out over morality for teams — if Austin shows real potential as an NBA player, some team will take a chance on him. Is he that good? Should he play in Europe/China for a year or two to prove he’s ready? Those are questions only teams can answer.

What the arbitrator did is clear a path for Austin if he has the talent.

 

 

Poll: 61 percent of sports fans will not attend games until a coronavirus vaccine is available

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Even with the pharmaceutical industry racing to get this done, every respected expert says it will be 2021 before a coronavirus vaccine is widely available.

That could hit the NBA and sports across the board this fall and coming winter.

A Seton Hall Sports Poll found three-quarters of all Americans and 61 percent of sports fans will not return to arenas for games until there is a coronavirus vaccine available.

Asked what they would do if the leagues resumed play before the development of a vaccine, 72 percent of Americans said they would not attend games, with 12 percent saying they would if social distancing could be maintained. Only 13 percent said they would feel safe attending as in the past. Among sports fans the number drops to a still significant 61 percent.

That has to concern the NBA and league owners as they think ahead to games in the fall/winter, whenever next season starts up.

That said, fans do want their sports and would watch games broadcast without fans in the stands, something the NBA is considering to get in the playoffs and crown a champion this year.

As for the possibility of playing games with no fans present, a similar number – 76 percent – said they would watch broadcasts of the games with the same interest as before, with only 16 percent saying they would be less interested and 7 percent saying they would be more interested.

It would be interesting to see a followup poll that breaks these numbers down both by sport and by region. Would college football fans in Alabama be more likely to attend a game in person than an NBA fan in Portland? If so, how much more likely? How big a drop off would there be for NFL games compared to baseball or the NBA? Also, as the curve flattens (*knocks on wood*) and eventually life returns to something closer to normal, will these poll numbers change as people try to get back to their lives?

The Seton Hall poll interviewed 762 people nationwide and used both landlines and cellphones. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.6 percent.

Kings giving tickets to girl who cried about coronavirus-forced postponement (video)

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The Pelicans reportedly refused to play the Kings in what would have been the last game before the NBA’s coronavirus hiatus. As we’ve learned more about the effectiveness of social distancing, it was obviously good the game got postponed.

But in the moment, that left one young Sacramento fan heartbroken in a memorable scene:

Harry Giles and the Kings are stepping up to console her.

Kings:

This is fantastic. Watch that video, and you’ll probably smile.

But I also can’t help but think about the fact that Giles might not be with the Kings by the time this girl attends a game.

Security guard for DeMarcus Cousins, Draymond Green and Rajon Rondo dies of coronavirus

Rajon Rondo and DeMarcus Cousins
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A security guard who protected DeMarcus Cousins, Draymond Green and Rajon Rondo has died from the coronavirus.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

Noordin Said, a beloved security official to NBA players and numerous musical artists, died Tuesday in New York after contracting COVID-19, his daughter confirmed to Yahoo Sports.

“I was heartbroken,” Cousins told Yahoo Sports of hearing the news of his friend’s passing. “It sucks, especially losing a guy like him. He’s an A-1, first-class-type dude. Anybody he’s ever come in contact with, all you heard was good reviews. He’s just a good, genuine dude. He took his job seriously, did it with class, did it with the best of his abilities, super professional, and the family man in him would give you advice on the daily. He was an OG at the same time. This hurts. It was a bad situation. There wasn’t much you could do. All you could do was sit from afar and hope and pray for the best. And that’s what we did.”

This is obviously heartbreaking for Said’s family and friends. Condolences to them.

It’s also yet another warning to the NBA as the league considers resuming play in a centralized location amid the ongoing pandemic.

Said didn’t work for teams. Cousins, Green and Rondo hired him on their own. If teams congregate in Las Vegas to finish the season, some players will probably want personal security. The number of people – and potential coronavirus connection points – who’d be involved in a restarted season is huge.

Report: New Bulls lead executive Arturas Karnisovas to hire person of color as GM

Bulls lead executive Arturas Karnisovas
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The Bulls picked Arturas Karnisovas as their new executive vice president of basketball operations.

But not before drawing criticism for a search that produced eight known candidates – seven of whom were white and none of whom were black.

Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports:

Karnisovas plans to hire a person of color to be the franchise’s general manager, a league source told Yahoo Sports.

COO Michael Reinsdorf, the son of Jerry Reinsdorf, spearheaded the hiring of Karnisovas, and the Bulls asked for permission to interview Oklahoma City Thunder vice president of basketball operations Troy Weaver, an African-American, but were denied by the Thunder, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

It’s difficult to assess racial bias on a case-by-case basis. Previously unreported consideration of Weaver is one example why. We don’t know everything the Bulls did during this search, let alone what they were thinking.

But in a macro sense, it’s more clear black people get unfavorable treatment in front-office hiring. It’s just unfathomable that, if treated fairly, black people would hold so few executive positions.

The Bulls are clearly trying to change the narrative around them. But the box-checking is disturbing.

Does Karnisovas already have a general manager lined up? If so, it seems cheap to leak his or her identity as only a “person of color.”

Or is Karnisovas narrowing his search to only people of color? If so, that doesn’t address the root of the problem.

The Bulls should hire the best person for the job. They should do their best to eliminate bias in the search process. Without actively taking that difficult step, they won’t actually give themselves the best chance of finding the best person.

If all teams did that, there’d be more black executives. There’d be more women executives. There’d be more diverse executives by any reasonable measure.

A system-wide problem demands a more-holistic solution than a narrowed search in the other direction.