Spencer Dinwiddie goes down: What’s next for the Nets and his free agency future

NBA executives explain what Spencer Dinwiddie’s ACL tear means for Brooklyn’s championship chances and his free agency in 2021.

Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie suffered a partially torn ACL in his right knee, as The Athletic reported.

Dinwiddie injured himself during Sunday’s game in the third quarter while driving to the hoop against Charlotte Hornets center Bismack Biyombo and planting his right leg awkwardly.

Initially, the Nets ruled him out for the game with a right knee strain before further testing on Monday revealed the partially torn ACL.

With Dinwiddie set for surgery next week, HoopsHype polled five executives for their thoughts on what his injury means for Brooklyn’s chances to compete for a title and what he’ll do with his $12.3 million player option.

Will LaMelo Ball live up to the hype? NBA execs, teammates and an overseas opponent weigh in

LaMelo Ball scouting report and player comparisons from NBA executives, former teammates, and opponents.

In high school, LaMelo Ball was as popular as LeBron James. Overseas, fans set record attendances to get a glimpse of the American phenom. Now, as his NBA career begins, will he live up to all the hype?

“He was one of those guys you’re afraid to pick but afraid to pass on,” as one Western Conference executive whose team picked in the lottery told HoopsHype.

HoopsHype spoke with six executives, three NBA scouts, two of Ball’s former teammates, and one overseas opponent who is also entering his rookie season in the NBA, for their thoughts on what the future holds for Ball.

Where Lakers, Heat, Raptors and Mavericks stand with Giannis Antetokounmpo

How Bam Adebayo’s extension affects Giannis Antetokounmpo, and the Heat, Lakers, Mavericks and Raptors could sign the Greak Freak in 2021.

With training camp approaching, Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo still has not decided on his supermax extension offer. As of now, that contract is worth a projected $228.2 million, at a minimum, over five years. The deal would keep Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee through 2026.

“That’s a lot of money to leave on the table!” one general manager told HoopsHype.

The one bright spot in the Bucks’ offseason is acquiring one-time All-Star Jrue Holiday from the Pelicans. While the Bucks will likely continue to dominate the regular season, Holiday gives them an edge that could help them get over the hump in the playoffs.

Aside from the Holiday acquisition, the Bucks’ offseason took an unexpected turn for the worse. Three days ahead of free agency, a botched sign-and-trade for Bogdan Bogdanovic was leaked. Whether there was a deal agreed upon or not, the Bucks did not end up getting Bogdanovic, and they had to change their plans dramatically. They filled out their roster instead by adding DJ AugustinBobby PortisTorrey Craig, and Bryn Forbes.

Will the addition of Holiday be enough to offset the botched Bogdanovic acquisition that happened to the Bucks this offseason for Antetokounmpo to extend? Bogdanovic is a good player, but his inclusion shouldn’t be a make-or-break factor in this decision. Still, the Bucks have filled out their roster up to the hard cap, and there’s not much else for Antetokounmpo to wait on. He needs to decide soon whether he can trust Milwaukee’s front office and ownership group to keep the best team around him as possible over the next six years.

While we wait on his decision, let’s take a look at some of the teams that are looking to sign him next offseason. The current salary cap projection of $112,414,200 million for the 2021-22 season will be used in salary cap calculations. The maximum contract other teams can offer Antetokounmpo based on that projection is $145 million over four years, which has a starting salary of $33,724,200.

Sources: Suns to sign Langston Galloway and updates on Aron Baynes, Alex Len and more

Langston Galloway will sign with the Suns, as first reported by HoopsHype. Check out the rest of our latest NBA free agency intel.

The fourth day of NBA free agency included Washington Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard denying the team has any plans to trade John Wall.

There have also been some notable signings on the market, including Langston Galloway agreeing to a deal with the Phoenix Suns, as first reported by HoopsHype.

Here’s a look at the latest intel HoopsHype has gathered from some other recent free-agent agreements to start the week.

Sources: NBA free agency details on Serge Ibaka, Kent Bazemore, and more

Here’s a look at the latest intel HoopsHype has gathered from some recent free-agent agreements over the weekend.

The third day of NBA free agency has seen several rotation players come off the board.

Here’s a look at the latest intel HoopsHype has gathered from some recent free-agent agreements over the weekend.

NBA execs on Doc Rivers to the 76ers and what’s next for Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons

The 76ers sought Doc Rivers to motivate Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, handle the media in a big market and bring a championship pedigree.

The Philadelphia 76ers sought a new voice who could motivate Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, handle the media in a big market and bring a championship pedigree.

According to several executives who spoke to HoopsHype, the Sixers landed the right man for the job by hiring Doc Rivers and signing him to a five-year contract.

“I think he will do a better job with Philly’s culture and with Embid and Simmons,” one Eastern Conference executive told HoopsHype. “From what I’ve heard, Brett (Brown) allowed Joel and Ben to do whatever they wanted, and it really hurt the culture.”

Brown and the Sixers lost in Game 7 in the semifinals on a Kawhi Leonard gravity-defying shot at the buzzer in 2019 and were just swept in the bubble with Simmons sidelined. Before his injury, Brown moved Simmons to power forward in an attempt to make the tandem of Embiid and Simmons more cohesive. It’s unclear how Rivers plans to use Simmons going forward.

Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Trade Rumors, Philadephia 76ers

One thing is clear, Sixers general manager Elton Brand plans to keep Embiid and Simmons together for the foreseeable future before considering moving either player. It’ll be up to Rivers to maximize the duo’s potential, which is a task he can handle, according to one of his former colleagues.

“I think Doc in Philly is a great fit,” a former executive who worked with Rivers told HoopsHype. “I feel like he’ll be able to mesh extremely well with Ben and Joel. Now whether or not they are a great fit with one another in terms of skill set is another question, but I think Doc will do a great job with managing the personalities. He’s an excellent coach and a wonderful human being as well, so I think it will be a very good partnership there.”

Another rival executive who will face Rivers and the Sixers often next season agrees that Rivers is the best person to toe the line between a coach, mentor, and disciplinarian to help Embiid and Simmons coexist better on the court. However, even if Rivers can improve the chemistry of his All-Star tandem, he’ll have a difficult time balancing out the rest of the team’s unbalanced roster.

“I think what Doc does well is exactly what the Sixers need,” the executive told HoopsHype. “He will hold guys accountable and push the best players to be better. Ben and Joel need someone that isn’t afraid to tell them what they need to do. That being said, they still need to change parts of the roster.”

Changing the roster, however, is easier said than done. Philadelphia is projected for a $147 million payroll next season, according to our Sixers salary page. Al Horford is owed $81 million over the next three seasons and struggled mightily in the playoffs, which makes him an albatross to trade. Josh Richardson is on the books for $10.8 million, a bargain for a starting-caliber player in today’s NBA market. Theoretically, he could be traded to shake things up, but given the team’s payroll situation, it would be tough to find equal value at that price.

With seemingly little flexibility to alter the roster significantly, Rivers will have to help one of his former players regain his top form for the overall success of the team.

Tobias Harris, Philadelphia 76ers

Tobias Harris is entering the second year of his five-year, $180 million contract. Harris played the best basketball of his career under the tutelage of Rivers averaging a career-high 20.3 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. Harris also shot the ball better than any other time in his career from the field (.487), beyond the arc (.426) and the free throw line (.856).

“They need Tobias to start playing like a max player every night,” one Eastern Conference executive told HoopsHype bluntly.

Expect more turnover on the bench than the player side of Philadelphia’s roster.

Former New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry is a “serious” possibility to join Rivers’ coaching staff, according to ESPN. Other names to keep an eye on are Los Angeles Clippers assistant coaches Rex Kalamian, Sam Cassell and Brendan O’Connor.

Of course, those dominoes falling are also dependent on whether the Clippers hire Ty Lue as their head coach or not. If Lue takes over for the Clippers, a potential assistant to keep an eye on is James Posey, who shared the bench with Lue for four seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Posey is currently a writer and host of “The Posecast” on BasketballNews.com.

MORE: Find out where Ben Simmons ranks among top players under 25 to build around according to NBA executives

MORE: NBA execs react to Clippers and Doc Rivers split

MORE: Should the 76ers trade Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons? NBA executives and coaches weigh in

You can follow Michael Scotto on Twitter: @MikeAScotto

NBA agents: What it’s like getting fired

HoopsHype spoke with six NBA agents on the condition of anonymity about their experiences getting fired by clients.

An NBA player firing his agent has become as common as changing his cell number.

For example, Mitchell Robinson has had six agents since declaring for the draft through only his second season in the league.

Being an agent in the league is about more than negotiating a lucrative contract during free agency or an extension period. An agent’s job description in today’s world can include the following: Recruiter, mentor, friend, advisor, and communicator. During the social media age, where there are more access points to a player than ever before, agents have to work harder to maintain a relationship with a player and bring the player’s family into their own as if they’re in-laws. If they don’t, there’s always another agent looking to swoop in and poach a client for a hefty commission before he signs his next big contract.

HoopsHype spoke with six NBA agents on the condition of anonymity about their experiences getting fired by clients. The agents have varying experience levels ranging from several years in the business to multiple decades.

HOW AGENTS LOSE PLAYERS

There are numerous ways an agent can lose a player.

When a player is underperforming in a contract year, he sometimes blames his poor play on the agent or coach and looks for a change. That’s when the player is vulnerable to another agent or outside voice getting into his head. Or, when a player starts to improve and outperforms a previously negotiated contract, a rival agent can claim the player’s current agent didn’t do a good job negotiating, and the player isn’t being promoted or marketed enough while he’s playing well. The prospective agent sells a grass is greener on the other side concept to the player in limbo.

Older agents can sell players on their experience and a client list and several big contract signings as proof of their work compared to younger agents seeking their first big deal.

“For me, I think what’s used against me is that I’m inexperienced, so I don’t really have the experience or the power, which is I think a bunch of b——- at the end of the day,” one agent told HoopsHype. “I don’t think that’s a real thing. I think it comes into play a little bit. Relationships are important, but at the end of the day, I still think talent is really what sets the mark. I mean, me and you could be LeBron James‘ agent, he’s going to get a max contract.”

Some agents also promise marketing opportunities such as private equity and help to take care of a potential client’s family members.

“We all know that there’s literally about 2-5 percent of the NBA players make significant income off the court,” one long-time agent told HoopsHype. “It’s either because they have a massive appeal, a massive social media, following, or they’re just superstars.”

Whether it’s a family member, manager, trainer, former coach, close friend, teammate, or someone else in a player’s inner circle, there’s usually an angle for an intermediary to push for a change in representation.

“Everyone’s incentivized when people switch,” one prominent agent told HoopsHype. “Somebody’s getting paid, like 99 (percent) someone’s getting taken care of in the next contract, or somebody’s getting paid when there’s an intermediary involved. Sometimes, players grow up, and they start to figure things out, and then they don’t use an intermediary. They learn enough, they talk to some veterans that they respect, who have a good reputation. They say, ‘I’m going to find someone for me, not who my dad wanted or, or my AAU coach wanted or whoever. I want to make my own decision.'”

Veteran players – especially superstars – have major influence over younger players, according to several agents. The veteran can snatch the younger player and bring him to the agency representing him. What’s the incentive for the veteran player? A reduced agent commission fee is a possibility, per several agents. An agent can make a maximum of four percent on a playing contract. If a player recruits another client, an agent can offer to negotiate the player’s contract for a lower commission percentage.

Intermediaries can come outside the locker room from sources you’d never expect who have access to a player, including sneaker representatives and even tailors.

“They (sneaker reps) have relationships with the players at a different angle, and they’re trying to push players with an agenda whether it’s for kickbacks, which I assume it is, or it’s for another reason, I don’t know, but they don’t play neutral,” one agent who has negotiated maximum-salary contracts and large endorsement deals told HoopsHype. “Then you’ve got the managers, and then you got the trainers. If you don’t sync up everybody onto your page and everyone’s biting out of your pocket, you’re going to lose a guy. You have to insulate the player to anyone that has any influence, and people that you don’t know have an influence, you have to be aware of as well. It’s a never-ending cycle. I remember one time, there was a tailor, like a clothier, who had influence over players who was pushing them to an agent for a kickback.”

Poachers can strike everywhere. A rival agent with a player on the same team could be waiting in the tunnel of an arena and strike up a conversation with another agent’s client.

For an agent with a star client, paranoia can set in trying to prevent a potential poacher. On a given road trip, an agent could make several trips to see his star client by visiting him when he gets to his hotel and greet him after a team dinner at the hotel, so another agent or potential influencer doesn’t bump into the player in the lobby. He can also greet the player the next morning before and after shootaround. The following day, an agent can visit the player before and after his game. Ultimately, an agent can only cover so many places, and there are going to be opportunities for poachers when the player travels to 29 other cities.

One player rep recalled losing a client to an agent who was living in the same city his client played. The agent claimed his former client was befriended and taken to strip clubs where he partied, drank, and smoked weed.

Maintaining a relationship with a client becomes similar to dating. If you’re dating an attractive person, there are going to be other people trying to flirt with that person. As an agent, you have to develop trust and a bond with the client you represent. Clients that have that connection with their agent will even share a text message, private DM, or any other contact attempt from a rival agent.

The added element of social media has changed the way one agent with multiple decades of experience corresponds with his clients. Before social media, he’d talk to his clients every 7-10 days. Now, it’s almost daily communication because there are numerous people around him. It’s intensified his relationship with his clients.

Sometimes, it’s not about the relationship or as subtle as recruiting a player by taking him out to fancy dinners, it’s more direct.

“The ones that upset me is when another agent drops a bag of hundreds of thousand dollars off at their house, and you lose the player over that,” another agent told HoopsHype.

The battle between agents for a client and a hefty commission can get heated if any of these scenarios occur, and a poaching attempt is provable.

“You have to get in the agent’s face and say, ‘Stay out of my yard,’” an agent told HoopsHype. “Then, you have to write them a law letter claiming tortious interference. Send them a very strong letter to say I’m not going to tolerate this, and you have to police it yourself. You either move the needle that way or the person is criminal, he doesn’t give a s— anyway, he does it anyway, and then you’ve got a battle on your hands.”

HOW THE BREAKUP HAPPENS

The ending of a relationship between an agent and a player is somewhere between ghosting someone you’ve dated or a messy and bitter divorce.

Usually, the first sense an agent has the relationship with a client is nearing the end is when the player doesn’t return phone calls or text messages.

“By the time they get to the phone, you could tell when someone calls you if they have the balls, most of the time they don’t, it’s by text,” one veteran agent told HoopsHype. “You know, it’s really an empty veil. It’s like a breakup by text with a girl you know or divorcing someone by sending them a letter or an email. It’s like thanks for your service, but I decided to move on. Very rarely do you get the reason why.”

While some agents felt their termination was coming, most of the agents expressed shock when terminated.

“I talked to an agent once out of New York who said, “S— my guy was toasting me at my wedding, and a week later, I got a FedEx package,” one longtime player rep told HoopsHype.

Another agent was preparing to negotiate a deal for his client on July 1. This agent saw the FedEx truck showing up at his cul de sac on June 15th. At that moment, the agent knew without opening the envelope that he’d been fired and would lose a large commission.

In case you were wondering, FedEx was the most noted carrier of the termination envelopes, according to the agents polled for the story.

Another agent was in the middle of negotiations on a multi-year contract worth tens of millions of dollars for his client, who was at his house for a Sunday barbeque when he was terminated.

“We’re two weeks into free agency, and he’s getting antsy because the deal wasn’t done,” the agent told HoopsHype. “It was agreed upon, but it just wasn’t done. (Another player) was in his ear saying, ‘You’re not being treated like a superstar player. Your deal should have been done on July 2nd.’ He fired me in the middle of doing a deal. This is a guy I raised in the business. He was like my son. It doesn’t really matter how close you are, it’s just random and arbitrary.”

During contract negotiations with a general manager, it can become extremely awkward and tense when an agent calls to say the client left but is working on getting the client back. It could lead to the end of advanced contract talks where a verbal agreement was in place.

“They don’t want that s—,” said another agent whose client fired him in the middle of negotiations. “They’ve got bigger fish to fry.”

Based on the experiences of the agents polled for this story, rarely does the relationship end on good terms.

“How often do you get back with your ex?” one agent asked. “Especially when there’s so much emotion and so many variables involved? It’s very hard to put it back together.”

THE AFTERMATH

Once the dust settles between the agent and former client, the relationship can go in a few directions down the line.

First, an agent takes the high road, wishes the former client well, and eventually, the client returns because he realizes the grass isn’t greener on the other side or he was lied to with false promises.

“I’ve had several athletes come back,” one prominent agent said. “I’m not a bridge burner. Sometimes it’s hard because you feel like you’ve been personally violated. You’ve gone to great sacrifice to help them and a lot of times it’s personal sacrifices with your time being away from your family, which a lot of times they don’t appreciate.”

“They’re very remorseful, and the relationship actually turns out to be better than ever,” one veteran agent added. “They show a lot of remorse because they really didn’t advance at all, and they learn the hard way.”

Second, there’s no further contact between the two sides and a lack of closure for the agent as to why he was terminated.

“I always try to reach out,” an agent said. “Sometimes they duck you. I just want an explanation. I want to know why. I’m trying to learn why you made this decision to move on.”

Third, the bad blood between the two parties can boil over into a heated confrontation and bitterness for years to come.

“I think in the beginning of my career I probably lost my cool one time with one guy,” an agent with a handful of years as a certified agent told HoopsHype. “We exchanged some words and kind of got into it where he was like threatening me.”

Many times before games, a former agent and client will look at each other and turn away immediately or say hello briefly and carry on. Generally, the tension can be felt by those around both people.

POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS 

The overwhelming consensus was some form of compensation is warranted for an agent who has worked with a client multiple years. That would provide the agent protection should a player decided to leave right before free agency when an agent has worked years laying the groundwork for the negotiation commission.

“If a guy works for a guy for four years, and he fires him two months before the deal’s up, absolutely, there should be something,” one longtime agent said. “I know the player has a right to move on, but there should definitely be some recognition of what that previous agent did.”

Some agents suggested earning a commission on a year-to-year basis for their services instead of earning it off a contract negotiation. The thought process was agents make little to nothing on a rookie and could get fired by the player before negotiating his second contract.

In some instances, an agent and an agency split the commission if an agent leaves the company. In theory, the prior agent and the new one could split the commission of a client who changed representation for X amount of months before free agency.

Ultimately, the players dictate the livelihood of agents, and a split-second decision can change the life of one agent drastically.

“It’s really an awful business that’s really tough and very competitive, and there aren’t a lot of restrictions or rules on it,” one high-level agent told HoopsHype. “The players kind of set the rules, and the players want freedom, and they like getting the bag sometimes. Some guys like being bought and sold, which is f—– up, but it’s true.”

To keep up with the latest player representation changes, click here

NBA agent: After this, league will come out firing

I’ve worked in basketball for 16 years now and can honestly say this season has been 10 seasons wrapped up in one. For years, I believed one week in the NBA in normal circumstances is about the same as one month in regular life. S o much happens and …

I’ve worked in basketball for 16 years now and can honestly say this season has been 10 seasons wrapped up in one. For years, I believed one week in the NBA in normal circumstances is about the same as one month in regular life. So much happens and changes so fast. This year that has been in overdrive.

For me, the season began on opening night walking into a client’s house to ride to a game with him. Instead, I ended up going to a hospital for a birth. At the time, it was a reminder that life is so much bigger than just what you do. It has also been the underlying theme to this entire year.

In so many ways, it feels like the current situation came up out of nowhere, but looking back it seems clear the impending danger was coming.

I ignored it.

We ignored it.

I remember hearing the story of the Chinese League shutting down in January and thinking, ‘Well, that’s China’. In reality, I have flown to China and back in the span of three days for a two-hour meeting before, so if anyone should have been aware of how small the world is it should have been me.

But I like everyone ignored it.

Two days before all of this happened, Bruce Arthur from the Toronto Star asked me if I had made plans for the season being impacted and I indignantly said to him that I didn’t even think the NBA would have to play in empty arenas, let alone postpone games.

Within 24 hours of saying that, the Utah-OKC game had to be stopped. It seems almost surreal to be that wrong.

I have always been a firm believer in the theme of opportunity in every situation. My life and career is a living breathing reflection of that. As I have looked at this situation, I have been trying to figure out what that is and what the path forward looks like – once the world around us hopefully begins to repair itself, which obviously is the only thing that matters.

In a lot of ways and on a much smaller scale in the context of sports, I equate the scope of emotions with all of this with the range of emotions that occurs when a client gets hurt.

First, there is the shock. Injuries come up out of nowhere so unexpectedly and you never consider them until you are sitting in a room with a doctor getting an answer that you don’t want to hear.

Second, there is the initial wave of energy that comes from support. An athlete’s brain is built to thrive on challenges, so once a path of overcoming an injury is laid out, elite’s athletes make that rehab their new form of competition and they embrace it.

Third, it’s when the monotony sets in and the reality of how long the path ahead is and how much the entire ordeal sucks. This is also the phase where self-doubt sets in, where in private moments the thoughts of ‘what if’ creeps in for every reasonable-minded human being.

The fourth stage is the final stage and it is the rebirth; the rebirth looks different for each person. Sometimes it is everything you want it to be, sometimes it is more, sometimes the completion of the rehab is the finish line itself. You never know until you know.

I remember watching my client Jimmy Butler go through his rehab when he hurt his knee in Minnesota and when he got to the finish line. It was time to test himself for the first time with other moving bodies so I went to Minnesota and watched him play 3-on-3 with two bench players, an intern and coaches. It was the first time I had seen Jimmy play since he got hurt in Houston, so obviously there was some nervous energy and excitement to see where he was at.

In the 30 minutes they played, and we watched him, he stunk. Justin Patton and Amile Jefferson looked like All-Stars. My old client John Lucas III, who was a coach in Minnesota, started considering a comeback and Kodjoe, an intern in Minnesota who played college basketball probably thought in the car ride home, “I knew my college coach was a hater.”

But when Jimmy walked off the court and I asked him how he felt, he said great… Somehow, he knew. A few days later he played his first game back in L.A. Minnesota had to win their last three games to make the playoffs. I walked into that arena with no clue about what was about to happen and very nervous beyond, but also super mindful of how far the path to even get to that point was. I stood in the tunnel feeling like I was going to puke but very early in that game it was clear that Jimmy was the best player on the floor and it wasn’t even close. A few days later, he scored 31 points in a must-win game against Denver to get Minnesota into the playoffs for the first time in 14 years. The entire ordeal taught me the lesson and value of perseverance and appreciation of the process itself, what made the other side of that experience so enjoyable was everything it took to get there and it’s a lesson I’ll never forget and it’s a lesson that I apply to now.

The path forward for the NBA is highly unknown, but the values and the lessons of this experience remain. In my opinion, this league has the most recognizable players in the world and I have always felt that the connection comes from a common bond – people can relate to the stories of the players, the players themselves are so accessible and social media fuels that feeling of connectivity.

NBA players have a way of participating in the narrative and stories by being self-deprecating and, just in general, getting it. Right now there is no more equalizer of humanity then what we are going through. We can go onto Steph Curry’s IG live and hear him tell stories about having to learn how to home school his kids and how hard it is. (Side note: When this all blows over, I am going to represent any and all teachers for free and there won’t be one of them that doesn’t get a max deal). We can tune into Jimmy’s IG Live and see him looking like The Weeknd because he can’t get a haircut.

These are all themes and struggles we can relate to right now. No matter who you are, what you have or what you do, at the core of it all you are a person flying around on a rock with a bunch of other people.

What we are missing right now is leadership. For the most part, we don’t know who to look, to listen to and to help us navigate this all. As easy as it is to exchange information right now, we have never been more disconnected. Ever! But again, with every void comes opportunity and into that void will come the adaptability of the NBA and its players. The leadership that composes the NBA is second to none, especially when challenged and no professional sports league has been as challenged in recent memory as the NBA has been this year. Coming out of this, the NBA is going to play 3-on-3 with some low-min guys and some interns and it is going to show up at its first game back in two months and within four minutes it is going to scream to its own bench as it runs back down the court after completing a back door alley-oop “I’m f****** back.”

Until that time, though, I can’t stop thinking about every arena worker, bus driver, bell person, restaurant server, security guard and store clerk that I interact with on a daily basis in my travels around the league and I can’t even imagine the impact this is having on them and their families. I can’t wait to see them again soon as we all rebuild together. Until then if we could all, in the words of the great Samuel L. Jackson, just stay the f*** home so we can hurry this up. By the way, if anyone has a Dr. Fauci throwback jersey from high school, let me know.

Bernie Lee is an NBA agent.

What made Karl-Anthony Towns’ mother so special

In just about every possible way Jackie Cruz Towns was everything you would want in a mother. Her parenting strategy mirrored her profession as a nurse at Rutgers for over 20 years. Jackie was caring and loving, a mentor and a passionate and vocal …

In just about every possible way Jackie Cruz Towns was everything you would want in a mother.

Her parenting strategy mirrored her profession as a nurse at Rutgers for over 20 years. Jackie was caring and loving, a mentor and a passionate and vocal cheerleader for her family.

She instilled years of hard-earned experience in her kids; a champion for all that involved her daughter Lachelle and basketball superstar son, Karl-Anthony.

While producing a documentary on the then-high school junior, I got to know Karl-Anthony’s parents well and asked Jackie about the reasons why she felt it imperative to play such an active role in her son’s life.

“The support system is always what’s needed for any student-athlete to achieve their goals,” she said. “If you don’t have the family behind you, you very rarely get there. We want him to have a better life than we did.”

Jackie’s tutelage and devotion to her seven-foot son who she affectionately called “Little Karl” occurred both behind closed doors at their central New Jersey residence, as well as in the presence of Karl’s classmates and fans.

The St. Joe’s Metuchen basketball gym was always packed – filled with supporters thrilled to watch one of New Jersey’s greatest prodigies perform as Jackie put it, “like a ballerina dancing.”

For games, her routine was consistent. She would sit with Lachelle and her daughter JJ in the top row; row 4, underneath the north basket.

Her seat location was always about as far away from Karl Sr. as possible. Not because they didn’t get along – the Towns parents had an idyllic relationship, but Karl Sr., himself a standout player at Monmouth College, found it a challenge to concentrate on the nuances of the game with Jackie’s constant cheering.

Karl Sr. knew he couldn’t get his wife to tone down the cheering for their son. Her passion wasn’t to be muted, and Jackie made sure to inform those around her of her intentions prior to tip-off.

That year she told me that she would explain to those seated near her: “I am really sorry, but this is the way I react, so please forgive me now and I’ll come back to normal when the game is over.”

During that season Jackie also explained the feelings she felt when watching her son in action.

She said, “I just have this out-of-body experience (when I watch Karl play). I don’t see anybody but my son.”

But Jackie wasn’t just Karl-Anthony’s No. 1 fan. Along with Karl Sr., she imparted a tough, don’t settle for anything less than perfection attitude in her son, who graduated high school with a 3.96 GPA.

That mantra became evident at the dinner table, the site of so many teaching moments throughout his childhood, after an excruciating loss to archrival East Brunswick High School.

It was the second time that season St. Joes had failed to beat the Bears, and Jackie implored her son to utilize the seven-point defeat as a learning experience.

But Karl-Anthony wasn’t having it. He calmly told his mom, “Sooner or later you have to stop learning. We can keep learning and learning but if we don’t do (anything) it doesn’t make a difference.”

Instead of accepting defeat and chalking it up to another life lesson gained, he knew he needed to win – nothing else would suffice.

That year, Jackie told me about the sacrifices Karl-Anthony made to be on the path to stardom. She mentioned that he didn’t hang out with friends like the other kids his age did.

The family had often discussed what it would take to realize the dream of making it to the NBA.

He had to get his shots in – he had to get bigger, stronger, more mobile.

And, in that moment, in the dining room, he knew that the sacrifices would only be worth it if he won.

His mother played many roles in his life – mentor, inspiration, best friend (along with his dad) and role model were just a few.

And as kids often do, Karl-Anthony always sought to make his mother proud of him.

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 12: Karl Towns #12 (L) of the Dominican Republic and Anthony Davis #14 of the US Men's Senior National Team tussle for a rebound during a pre-Olympic exhibition game at Thomas & Mack Center on July 12, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Davis was a last minute replacement for injured Blake Griffin. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)

A shining example came on July 12, 2012, when the 16-year-old Towns laced up his sneakers in an exhibition game for the Dominican National Team in Las Vegas. The opponent: Team USA.

Jackie was a native of the Dominican Republic and when she reflected on that game which included the youngster smoothly connecting on a three-pointer over future top overall pick Anthony Davis, she could hardly contain her emotions.

She said, “That was the ultimate; watching him at 16 playing against LeBron and Kobe and Anthony Davis and doing all of the fundamental things that those pros were doing. That was the most inspiring and memorable moment.”

While the recruiters, elite college coaches, fans, pro scouts and the rest of the basketball world took notice of the big man with otherworldly skills, the Towns parents made sure Karl-Anthony’s priorities and attitude were kept in check.

Jackie always impressed upon her son the notion that others need had to be taken care of prior to fulfilling one’s own.

After each high school game, when the media wanted to speak with Karl-Anthony about the game and Karl Sr. wanted to provide feedback on his performance and coach Dave Turco was looking to address his squad – Jackie made sure Karl-Anthony signed every autograph, took every selfie, and treated every youngster the way her youngster was being treated by his adoring fans.

During that eventful high school season Jackie said, “Karl is very grounded. He’s Karl; we don’t see him as anyone else and he doesn’t see himself as anyone else.”

That same humility remains evident today within the 24-year-old two-time NBA all-star. Coach Turco recently said, “I’ve always said Karl is a better person than basketball player, and that comes from the life lessons that Jackie instilled in him.”

To Jackie, importance wasn’t based on status, but determined by what she felt best aligned with her morals. The more respect people gave, the higher the person ranked with her.

As Karl continued his ascent up the hierarchy of high school prospects, he gained recognition and coverage from the biggest national sports media outlets, but she was never prouder than when his picture landed on the cover of the sports section of the local newspaper. It was that outlet which she read daily and it was that one which featured reporters who covered her son most often.

The 2015 NBA draft in Brooklyn, the one which saw “Little Karl” selected first overall, provided Jackie an all-access pass to mingle with NBA royalty.

But it was meeting local sportscaster Andy Adler that left her awestruck. Adler made an indelible impression on Jackie and the chit-chat provided a lasting memory for the Towns matriarch.

It truly was all about respect, humility, friends and family for Jackie Towns.

That’s one reason why she regularly drove the 700 miles from New Jersey to Lexington, Kentucky with Karl Sr. to see her baby compete for the Wildcats.

It’s also the reason why she had to be physically restrained (by Karl Sr.) as she was flipping off and cursing at Joel Embiid after the Sixers center, who had just been in a physical altercation with her son, exited the court.

She felt Embiid had disrespected her son and that just could not happen.

The passing of Jackie Towns is tragic. She was a beloved wife, mother, daughter, grandmother, sister, aunt and friend to so many. She worked tirelessly to provide the best life possible for her kids, and for just a short time, enjoyed the spoils which accompany the success of her adoring son.

That son made sure she was well taken care of and felt as much love as Jackie provided him.

Love, as explained on Karl-Anthony’s Instagram recently, which included his mother sleeping with him in Pre-K so he could get the best possible nap.

One of the earliest gifts Karl-Anthony bestowed on his mom was a surprise wedding vow renewal at Snuffy’s in Scotch Plains, New Jersey.

While Jackie had thought she was attending a ceremony for a friend, unbeknown to her, she was provided a wedding gown and feted with a ceremony – something she didn’t have when she originally married Karl Sr.

Coach Turco recently said, “She was the heartbeat of every room she walked into.” And on that day, as with so many others, that statement rang true.

Jackie Towns’ time on earth was cut short by a hideous virus. It’s unfair and her passing leaves a gaping hole in the hearts of those who loved her dearly.

She was special – and the lives she touched, including that of one of the NBA’s most unique talents, will forever be enhanced because of her life which she lived so well.

The suspension sucks, but also gives the NBA a chance to experiment

The NBA is set to continue its suspension through what will likely be a minimum of three months. This would have the regular season come back in mid-June, have the playoffs in July and finals in August. If this were to happen, this would likely push …

The NBA is set to continue its suspension through what will likely be a minimum of three months. This would have the regular season come back in mid-June, have the playoffs in July and finals in August. If this were to happen, this would likely push the start of the 2020-21 season a couple months forward as well, likely around Christmas.

A December-to-August NBA calendar is exactly what Hawks owner Steve Koonin proposed just a couple days before the NBA announced its suspension. If the NBA’s three-month break remains on schedule, he may end up getting what he wishes for.

The schedule doesn’t need to be the only thing that the NBA radically alters or adds. The season being paused has put the league in completely new territory, and in order to keep up with what could be a reduced rest-of-season schedule, every creative option is on the table. The league and players have a window of opportunity to agree to many ways on how to continue the rest of this year, and potentially implement in future campaigns.

SCHEDULE

The main benefit of a new schedule is ratings. As Koonin explains, the current NBA calendar starts in October, putting them in immediate competition with the NFL and NCAA Men’s Football. If the NBA season started around Christmas, this would allow the league to start when both football seasons are close to ending. The idea is that the NBA would have better ratings if games are mostly played in the winter and spring, a time where they and the NHL dominate. Also, ending in August allows the NBA to have playoffs during the summer, a time that currently only the MLB plays in. With the NBA continuing to grow, and the NFL still the leading professional sports league in the United States, completely avoiding their schedule makes sense. With the NBA campaign stretching out into August most likely, that could very well force the start of the 2020-21 season into December.

The players and league could alternatively agree to a shorter offseason with the reasoning being that they are already getting three months off in the suspension. This could allow the league to continue its normal October-to-June season calendar.

PLAYOFF PLAY-IN

With the season suspended for a minimum of three months, canceling regular season games may be in consideration. Jumping straight into the playoffs would be unfair to the several teams that are still fighting for one of the last few postseason spots. It also might be best for players to get a few games to get back into the speed of things before they start the playoffs. Some type of mini-tournament could be implemented to speed things up while giving most teams a fair opportunity to get in the playoffs.

Back in December 2019, the league proposed a playoff play-in tournament where the 7-10 seeds play in a single-game elimination tournament to determine the 7 and 8 seeds in each conference. The league and players could agree to implement this tournament format for the 2019-20 season. After completing it, the trial can convince the league and players to revisit implementing this system permanently.

The league can also try to implement a league-wide, single-elimination tournament and playoffs hybrid. The NBA also proposed a mid-season tournament that would involve every team. Perhaps they can adapt it and give almost every team a chance to qualify for the playoffs. Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie proposed a 28-team bracket where seeds 1-4 get first-round byes while 5-28 play a single-elimination game. The 12 winners qualify for the playoffs along with the top 4 seeds, and those 16 teams make up the playoff teams. This format would also serve as a trial for playoffs without conferences, which is something that the NBA has discussed over the past few years.

OFFSEASON

If the 2019-20 season does return in June and ends in August, offseason dates need to be moved around. This would mean pushing the draft and draft related events such as workouts and the combine, free agency, and summer league into the fall.

When to have the draft is one of the more complicated issues because it involves so many different parties. Putting the draft in late August/early September instead of June conflicts with the NCAA timeline. Of course, the NBA is nearing the 2021-22 season where they will lower the age requirement, allowing top prospects to enter the league right after high school. Also, right now the draft is set for June, which would be when the season is supposed to resume. The draft is a great time for teams to make trades, but teams that are still in the playoffs wouldn’t be allowed to make any. Pushing the draft forward seems like the best option for the NBA.

While they are moving dates around, perhaps the league and players can agree to push free agency ahead of the draft. This has been something supported by Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, and now would be the perfect time to test it out. Many upcoming players are going to be eager to get into free agency with so much uncertainty over revenue. They might prefer getting their new deals before teams draft players, because a draft pick being made first could take away money from a free agent signing.