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The Sports Report: Looks like NBA will be back in action at end of July

LeBron James and the Lakers could be back in action at the end of next m
LeBron James and the Lakers could be back in action at the end of next month.
(Getty Images)

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell and some sports are getting very close to returning.

As Dan Woike writes, the NBA is on track for a July 31 return, with 22 of its 30 teams headed to Orlando, Fla., for a resumption of its season that’s been on hold since March 11 because of the coronavirus crisis.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will present his restart plan to the league’s board of governors during a conference call Thursday morning, when the plan is expected to be approved, according to people familiar with the situation.

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The plan calls for a truncated regular season, the possibility of a play-in tournament for the final playoff spots and seven-game playoff series in each round of the postseason.

The 22 teams — the 16 currently in playoff spots plus Portland, New Orleans, Sacramento, San Antonio, Phoenix and Washington — will play eight games to determine the final seeding order. If the ninth-place team in each conference is within four games of the eighth-place team, the two teams will have a play-in tournament for the final spot. The ninth-place team would need to beat the eighth-place team twice to advance.

Then the conference playoffs would begin, with the NBA Finals possibly extending into the second week of October.

“It’s fair,” said an Eastern Conference executive on an Orlando-bound team. “It’s all about getting back to basketball.”

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The NBA needs the players’ union to approve the plan before it can be official. The league still must also finalize a deal with Walt Disney World to host the rest of the season and playoffs at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex.

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NFL

Drew Brees is facing backlash for his stance that kneeling during the national anthem is disrespectful to the U.S. and its flag.

During an interview with Yahoo Finance, the New Orleans Saints quarterback was asked the prospect of such protests, started by Colin Kaepernick in 2016, returning in force this year in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death and the unrest that has followed.

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“I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country,” Brees said. “Let me just tell you what I see or what I feel when the national anthem is played and when I look at the flag of the United States. I envision my two grandfathers who fought for this country during World War II — one in the Army, one in the Marine Corps — both risking their lives to protect our country and to try to make our country and this world a better place. So every time I stand with my hand over my heart, looking at that flag and singing the national anthem, that’s what I think about.

“And in many cases, it brings me to tears thinking about all that’s been sacrificed. Not just those in the military, but for that matter, those throughout the civil rights movements of the ‘60s and all that has been endured by so many people up until this point. And is everything right with our country right now? No, it’s not. We still have a long way to go. But I think what you do by standing there and showing respect to the flag with your hand over your heart is it shows unity. It shows that we are all in this together, we can all do better and that we are all part of the solution.”

Lakers star LeBron James retweeted a clip of Brees making the comments and wrote: “You literally still don’t understand why Kap was kneeling on one knee?? Has absolute nothing to do with the disrespect of [U.S. flag] and our soldiers (men and women) who keep our land free. My father-in-law was one of those men who fought as well for this country. I asked him question about it and thank him all the time for his commitment. He never found Kap peaceful protest offensive because he and I both know what’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong!”

LAKERS

The Lakers held a Zoom conference with players, coaches and some executives to discuss the ongoing protests and civil unrest in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, according to people who were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

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Lakers great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who never has shied away from speaking about social injustice, was the guest speaker and he was riveting, according to people familiar with the call.

Participants talked about how the Lakers organization and players can help steer a positive change going forward in Los Angeles and around the country in a racially charged environment.

The session was seen as an important step after Floyd, an African American, died following his arrest by Minneapolis police officers on May 25. Officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, had his knee pressed into Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes after the apprehension and has been charged with second-degree murder. Three other officers were at the scene and they will face charges of aiding and abetting murder, according to reports on Wednesday.

Abdul-Jabbar was asked “a lot of great questions” about how he dealt with racial issues while playing basketball during the 1960s and ‘70s, when there was civil unrest around the country.

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Abdul-Jabbar wrote an opinion piece in The Times last Saturday about the protests and why people are pushed to the edge.

RAMS

There was sadness, and also anger and tears. “It was as real and authentic as it gets,” Rams coach Sean McVay said.

The Rams returned to their regularly scheduled virtual offseason program, but McVay said that an emotional and “powerful” team meeting the previous day continued to reverberate.

McVay said about 125 players, coaches and staff participated Monday in a videoconference that afforded all a platform for discussing the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the worldwide protests that have followed and the feelings and experiences that have shaped individual and collective reaction.

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MLS

Major League Soccer’s players association voted to ratify a new collective bargain agreement with the league Wednesday, clearing the way for MLS to become the first major league in the U.S. to come back from the coronavirus pandemic that shut down professional sports in March.

The deal includes significant economic concessions from both sides but removes the threat of a lockout, an action the owners had threatened to take this week.

“Today’s vote also finalizes a plan to resume the 2020 season and provides players with certainty for the months ahead,” the union said in a statement. “It allows our members to move forward and continue to compete in the game they love.”

The vote will allow the league to go forward with a plan for all 26 teams to gather later this month in Orlando, Fla., where they would be quarantined at a Disney resort and play a televised tournament behind closed doors at ESPN’s sprawling Wide World of Sports complex beginning in early July.

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OLYMPICS

When hammer thrower Gwen Berry and fencer Race Imboden protested against social injustice at the Pan American Games last summer — she raised a fist on the podium, he kneeled — U.S. officials quickly placed them on probation.

Now, amid nationwide demonstrations sparked by the death of George Floyd, Berry is demanding an apology and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee says it will hold a town hall for its athletes to talk about racial issues.

“We are reading and hearing the messages you, and so many citizens across this nation, are sharing and we understand you are struggling with anger, frustration and uncertainty,” USOPC Chief Executive Sarah Hirshland wrote in an open letter.

Berry, who is black, and Imboden, who is white, both said their protests in Lima, Peru, last August were meant to raise awareness of inequities back in the United States. Their actions violated a code of conduct they had signed and both received 12 months’ probation from the USOPC.

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I-5 SERIES

The I-5 Series has come to a conclusion, and you can watch the games below:

Game 3: Click here.

Game 4: Click here.

Game 5: Click here.

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Game 6: Click here.

Game 7: Click here.

BORN ON THIS DAY

1932: Former Angels manager John McNamara

1939: Baseball player Phil Linz

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1943: Golfer Sandra Haynie

1948: Golfer Sandra Post

1957: Baseball player Tony Peña

1963: Football player Jim Lachey

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1963: Basketball player Xavier McDaniel

1965: Tennis player Andrea Jaeger

1974: Former Angel Darin Erstad

1980: Hockey player François Beauchemin

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1985: Figure skater Evan Lysacek

DIED ON THIS DAY

1969: Tennis player Rafael Osuna, 30

2010: Former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, 99

2012: Baseball player Pedro Borbon, 65

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2014: Baseball player/manager Don Zimmer, 83

2018: Football player Dwight Clark, 61

AND FINALLY

Darin Erstad catches the final out of the 2002 World Series. Watch it here.

Until next time...

That concludes today’s newsletter. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.

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