Boston Celtics swingman Jaylen Brown believes the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted rampant inequality in the United States but feels it offers an opportunity for society to come together.

The NBA has been placed on an indefinite hiatus since March 14 due to the proliferation of COVID-19, with 259 regular-season games still outstanding as the scheduled start date for the playoffs passed on Saturday.

According to the John Hopkins University, the USA has seen over 735,000 cases of coronavirus – almost four times as many as Spain, the second-most affected country – and more than 39,000 deaths.

Brown was critical of a lack of clarity in guidance from local media all the way to the top of government, stating "misinformation is at a peak".

And with unemployment in the USA at an all-time high, he called on those with the financial means to offer a helping hand to others in need.

Despite the implementation of social distancing policies, Brown believes the pandemic has highlighted significant flaws in the USA's society and hopes it can spark change for the future.

"As I write this more than 30,000 people have lost their lives in the US alone. Of those heart-wrenching numbers, the percentage of African Americans and people of colour is both alarming and disproportionate," Brown wrote in The Guardian.

"Our healthcare system could be potentially highlighting injustices this beautiful nation has composed and suppressed since its establishment.

"After being personally affected by this outbreak and its impact on the NBA, there is no way that I can look away after seeing how friends, family and team-mates have been affected by this virus.

"I am proud to be a member of the Boston Celtics and of the NBA for ceasing to continue the season at this time. Sports have an influential position in our society, and I'm grateful the NBA uses its platform considerately.

"My deepest condolences go out to Karl-Anthony Towns, and his family, for the recent loss of his beautiful mother Jackie from COVID-19; the entire NBA mourns with you. I also extend my condolences to anyone with a similar experience or shared communal pain.

"As we all suffer from being torn apart, from news of heartbreak and anguish, my greatest hope is that during this isolation we become more unified than ever.

"As I stare at the walls of my confinement, due to the implementation of social distancing, I hope that our nation not only consolidates over the next few weeks but also heals.

"Ponder the suffrage from other epidemics that have plagued this nation and our planet. Social inequality, gender inequality, inequality in education, poverty, lack of resources, cultural biases, and other various societal imbalances that have yet to be vaccinated.

"Let's use this time to look for solution-based answers and co-operative efforts for those problems.

"It's Game 7 and how we perform down the stretch is going to determine our outcome. Let's lean in and get this done together as a team."

For the Indian Premier League and NFL legend Peyton Manning, April 18 is when it all began.

Twelve years ago the world's premier Twenty20 franchise cricket tournament began with a bang as Brendon McCullum delivered a thrilling example of the format's appeal.

A decade earlier, the Indianapolis Colts made a decision that would alter the franchise's fortunes, for the better, when they selected quarterback Manning.

We take a look at the most notable sporting moments to have occurred on April 18 in years gone by.

 

1998 - Colts opt for Manning over Leaf

Heading into the 1998 NFL Draft there was little to separate Tennessee quarterback Manning and Washington State signal caller Ryan Leaf in many experts' eyes.

The Colts had the first overall pick and chose Manning, who would lead them to 11 playoff appearances and two Super Bowls - their victory over the Chicago Bears in the first resulting in the franchise's first Lombardi Trophy since they relocated from Baltimore.

Manning ended his career in Indianapolis with a glut of franchise records whereas Leaf, who was drafted directly behind him to the San Diego Chargers, proved to be one of the NFL Draft's biggest busts, playing in just 25 games.

 

1999 - 'The Great One' bows out

The crowd at Madison Square Garden said farewell to an NHL legend as 'The Great One' Wayne Gretzky played the 1,487th and final game of his decorated career.

He scored his 2,857th point - an assist - as his New York Rangers suffered a 2-1 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Gretzky remains the leading scorer in NHL history and at the time of his retirement he held 61 league records.

 

2008 - McCullum stars in IPL's curtain-raiser

The IPL need not have worried about fireworks for their opening ceremony as they duly came from the bat of a New Zealander once the action began.

McCullum smashed an incredible 158 not out off 73 balls as Kolkata Knight Riders obliterated Royal Challengers Bangalore by 140 runs in the first ever IPL match.

The only man to better that total in IPL history is Chris Gayle, who became the first to surpass 10,000 runs in T20 cricket on April 18, 2017.

2008 - SuperSonics relocation gets the NBA owners' seal of approval 

April 18 is a dark day for Seattle sports fans as it was when they learned NBA owners had voted in favour of moving the SuperSonics to Oklahoma City.

Just five days after the Sonics had played what proved to be their final game in Seattle, 28 of the 30 owners approved a move to OKC, where the team became the Thunder.

Professional basketball has not returned to Seattle since, while a Thunder team featuring Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden reached the 2012 NBA Finals, where they were beaten by the LeBron James-led Miami Heat.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the league is not in a position to make any decisions as there is still too much uncertainty amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The NBA has been suspended since March 11 due to the COVID-19 crisis, which has killed at least 154,100 people worldwide.

It remains to be seen when, and if, the 2019-20 season will resume as the United States struggles to contain the outbreak following more than 709,000 confirmed cases and over 37,100 deaths in the country.

While the NBA remains committed to resuming the campaign, Silver told reporters there is still no timetable for a possible restart.

"Based on the reports that we got from varied outside officials, current public health officials ... we are not in a position to make any decisions," Silver said in a conference call on Friday. "And it's unclear when we will be."

Silver added: "There is a lot of data that all has to be melded together to help make these decisions. That is part of the uncertainty. We are not even at the point where we can say if only A, B and C were met, then there is a clear path.

"I think there is still too much uncertainty at this point to say precisely how we move forward.

"I'll add that the underlying principle remains the health and well-being of NBA players and everyone involved. We begin with that as paramount."

The NBA is reportedly exploring the possibility of holding the entire postseason in one location – Las Vegas. There has been talk the league could head straight into the playoffs if the campaign resumes.

"We are looking at all those things right now," Silver said. "I'd say that in terms of bubble-like concepts, many of them have been proposed to us and we've only listened.

"We are not seriously engaged yet in that type of environment because I can't answer what precisely would we need to see in order to feel that that environment provided the needed health and safety for our players and everyone involved.

"I know it's frustrating, it is for me and everyone involved that I am not in position to be able to answer the question. ... There is still enormous uncertainty around the virus as well. Now there is a lot that is changing quickly and we may be in a very different position some number of weeks from now.

"But it is why I initially announced at the beginning of April that I felt with confidence we would not be able to make any decisions in the month of April. I should clarify that I didn't mean to suggest that on May 1 I would be in a position."

The NBA and National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) came to an agreement on Friday to cut player salaries by 25 per cent from May 15.

The reduction will be the first faced by NBA players since the league shut down on March 11 due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Players will be paid in full on May 1 as the last payment under a 60-day promise by the NBA to delay reducing their compensation.  

The reduction is expected to save teams a total of $40million per pay period.  

"Through this agreement, and in order to provide players with a more gradual salary reduction schedule, partial reductions of 25 per cent will begin with the players' twice-a-month payment due on May 15," the NBA said in Friday's news release.

The statement appeared to indicate that more severe cuts could be coming down the line.  

A total of 259 regular season games remain on the schedule, and while the likelihood of them being played decreases by the day, none have officially been cancelled. The playoffs were originally scheduled to begin Saturday.  

The collective bargaining agreement includes a "force majeure" clause, which allows the league to cut salaries in the event of an extraordinary, unforeseen circumstance, like a natural disaster or pandemic. In such cases, the NBA is allowed to reduce a player's total yearly salary by 1.08 percent for every game cancelled.  

North Carolina point guard Cole Anthony announced on Friday he will enter the 2020 NBA draft and forego his remaining three seasons of college eligibility. 

Anthony, the son of former NBA guard Greg Anthony, leaves the Tar Heels after one season that produced its share of highs and lows. The prized recruit set an Atlantic Coast Conference record for debut points by a freshman when he scored 34 against Notre Dame on November 6, but missed 11 games after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in mid-December. 

The New York City native returned from the injury on February 1 and finished his freshman campaign with averages of 18.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists in 22 games for a Tar Heels team that endured its first losing season under coach Roy Williams. UNC finished 14-19 overall and tied for last in the ACC with a 6-14 record.  

"Throughout my time at UNC I was humbled, challenged and always proud to be a Tar Heel," Anthony said in a statement. "Thank you Tar Heel nation for embracing me with open arms from the moment I stepped on campus and sticking by us through a tough season. 

"I am excited to announce the next step in my journey and declare for the 2020 NBA Draft. While no one truly knows what the next few months will look like, I'm ready for whatever God has in store." 

Anthony's decision was entirely expected, as he entered North Carolina considered a candidate for the first overall pick in 2020. He delayed making an announcement, however, to focus his attention on the coronavirus pandemic that's been particularly problematic in his home city of New York. 

"I believe the platform I have been blessed to create because of the game I love so much should be used for a higher purpose at the moment," Anthony wrote in a Twitter post on March 24. "Living in New York City, the coronavirus hits hard. My family and I know many people directly affected by the coronavirus - many hospitalised, a few in critical condition and one person who has died. So, my biggest concern right now is trying to figure out how I can help during this crisis." 

Anthony's father, Greg, was a first-round pick of the New York Knicks in the 1991 NBA Draft and played in 757 games over 11 seasons in the league.

After a gruelling 82-game regular season, April is usually an exciting time for NBA players and fans.

This time of year is typically headlined by playoff basketball, but the coronavirus pandemic has brought the NBA and sport to a standstill globally.

The NBA has been suspended since March 11 – halting the regular season and putting the playoffs on ice amid COVID-19 as the high-flying Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers vie for supremacy.

 

As the NBA waits for the threat of COVID-19 to subside, and for normal life to return, the Stats Perform AI team have been crunching the numbers behind the scenes.

Having simulated the rest of the regular season to produce projected final standings, the goal was to see how the postseason would pan out too.

The Stats Perform model takes proprietary data and creates an offensive and defensive rating for each team.

Those ratings are paired with the team's opponent and adjusts it for each team's pace. In addition, the home team gets a slight boost for home-court advantage.

The model uses this information to calculate a projected score for both teams. The winners receive a victory in the race for the Larry O'Brien Trophy – this was done for every game in the playoffs. So, here are the results…

 

BUCKS, LAKERS CRUISE INTO SECOND ROUND

Like last season, the Bucks earned the best regular-season record heading into the postseason. Milwaukee swept the Detroit Pistons in the opening round of the Eastern Conference playoffs in 2019 and the Bucks match that feat this year, albeit against the Orlando Magic. After one-point wins in the first two games, Milwaukee cruise into the Conference semi-finals – winning 112-106 and 113-93.

Back in the playoffs for the first time since 2012-13, Western Conference pacesetters the Lakers blitz the Memphis Grizzlies 4-0 – highlighted by a 118-89 blowout in Game 2. The Los Angeles Clippers faded at the end of the regular season as they dropped down into the fourth seed, but the Lakers' neighbours prove too good for the Oklahoma City Thunder 4-2.

James Harden and Russell Westbrook had one foot in the second round but the Houston Rockets – who ended the regular season on a 15-3 run to claim the third seed – lose four straight games to the Utah Jazz in the west. Luka Doncic's Dallas Mavericks – back in the playoffs following a three-season absence – win three games in a row to take down the second-seeded Denver Nuggets 4-2.

For the second time in three years, the Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat meet in the east's first round and the latter prevail 4-2 as Jimmy Butler has the last laugh against his former team. The Boston Celtics also see off the Indiana Pacers by the same scoreline.

No Kawhi Leonard, no worries for defending champions the Toronto Raptors, who only drop one game in a comprehensive 4-1 victory over the Brooklyn Nets.

LEBRON MATCHES EARLIEST PLAYOFF EXIT

Hopes were high for LeBron James but the Lakers are upstaged by cross-town rivals the Clippers in six games. The Lakers level the series at 2-2 but the Clippers reel off back-to-back victories in a matchup where the margin does not drop below 10 points. It equals the earliest exit of James' playoff career, having reached the Finals in each of his past eight trips to the postseason.

Staying in the Western Conference and the Mavericks advance to the Conference Finals for the first time since 2011 – when they won the title – by rallying past the Utah Jazz. After dropping the first two games, Dallas win four on the bounce. The Mavericks' run, however, ends at the hands of the Clippers just shy of the NBA Finals, edged 4-3.

The Bucks fell short of a trip to the big dance last season, but Giannis Antetokounmpo and Milwaukee get the job done this time around by topping the Heat and Raptors in the east. A 130-96 Game 1 rout sets the tone for the Bucks, who beat Miami inside six games.

The Raptors are no match for the Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals, losing 4-1. Toronto's exit snaps a streak of four straight seasons in which the defending champions returned to the Finals the following year. The last team to win the title and then not reach the showpiece series the following season were the San Antonio Spurs, who claimed the championship in 2014.

 

CLIPPERS MAKE HISTORY BUT FALL TO BUCKS

It is a landmark moment for the Clippers, who feature in the NBA Finals for the first time in their history. In the four major US sports – NBA, MLB, NFL and NHL – the Clippers are the oldest franchise that have never progressed to the championship round, having played their first NBA game in 1970.

However, the Bucks spoil the party as they end the longest title drought in the NBA courtesy of a 4-2 triumph on the biggest stage. The Golden State Warriors held the record for the longest gap between championships – 40 years – but Milwaukee reign supreme for the first time since 1971, ending their 49-year wait.

Milwaukee and Los Angeles split the opening two games before the Bucks win two on the bounce to eventually claim a second NBA crown. Milwaukee's success also continues a common theme in the league, with five of the past eight champions having boasted the best regular-season record and won the title in the same year.

Utah Jazz star Mike Conley Jr. was crowned NBA Horse Challenge champion on Thursday.

The point guard beat the Chicago Bulls' Zach LaVine H-O-R-S-E to H-O in the final, putting on a show with several incredible trick shots.

Conley had defeated Chauncey Billups in the semi-finals, while LaVine overcame WNBA star Allie Quigley.

The competition was held with the NBA season suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Conley was averaging 13.8 points, 4.3 assists and 3.2 rebounds for the Jazz when the season was stopped.

Jalen Green, an elite prospect in the high school class of 2020, will forego playing NCAA basketball and go straight into the NBA's G League, possibly opening the door for other top young players to skip college.  

Viewed by many scouting services as a potential first overall pick in 2021, Green announced his decision by posting a video on Instagram, saying that his "ultimate, end goal" was to play in the NBA.  

Green will be the first player in a still-developing program to give high school graduates a one-year stateside alternative to playing in the NCAA. 

Although the G League started offering $125,000 contracts to young players in 2018, it was not enough to keep 2020 draft prospects LaMelo Ball and RJ Hampton from spending a year in Australia's National Basketball League. No players signed with the G League under the 2018 initiative.  

NBA commissioner Adam Silver and G League president Shareef Abdur-Rahim have since revised their development plan for elite prospects.

They have relaxed the game schedule and increased salaries to be more competitive with international leagues, reportedly upwards of $500,000 for the best players.  

Green will not play for a particular G League team or NBA affiliate but will instead play a revised schedule that focuses on draft preparation, skills development and off-court training in professional and life skills.  

The system aims to place blossoming stars like Green on a team with veteran mentors under G League coaching and have them play exhibition games against G League squads, foreign national teams and international development academies.  

Green is the first player to join the new initiative but is proof that the G League's plan can be enough to lure leading names away from the college experience.  

Memphis and Auburn were considered favorites to land Green, though he also visited Kentucky and Oregon.  

Israeli forward Deni Avdija, a potential top-five pick, has declared for the 2020 NBA Draft.

The 6ft 9in Avdija made his announcement on ESPN on Thursday, saying: "First of all, the NBA is the best league in the world. There is a lot to learn over there and a lot of experience there.

"It's going to be great to take my game to the next level."

Avdija plays professionally in the EuroLeague and Israeli league for Maccabi Tel Aviv.

The 19-year-old forward combined to average 7.7 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 19.8 minutes per game last season.

Avdija was named MVP of the 2019 FIBA U20 European Championship after leading Israel to the gold medal while averaging 18.4 points, 8.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 2.4 blocks and 2.1 steals.

Brad Greenberg, head coach of Maccabi Ashdod in the Israeli league, told the New York Post that Avdija "made some significant jumps this year".

“This a guy if he continues to get better like he did the last eight to 10 months, if he keeps that upwardness, he's going to be a player,” Greenberg said.

The NBA Draft is due to take place on June 25 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

For years, the NBA has kept us entertained with its dazzling array of unbelievably athletic, super talented players.

They are the centerpiece of some of the greatest stories ever told in sports, anytime anywhere. Although the game is played exclusively within the borders of the United many of the NBA stars, whether directly or indirectly come from all over the globe, which gives the league a rich international flavour.

It is then, of course, no surprise that quite a few of this talented bunch come from the Caribbean region, which is widely regarded for its ability to produce some of the crème de la crème of athletic endeavor. 

Below is our list of the most talented NBA players of all-time with Caribbean roots, however, there is a twist.  The players have been placed on two teams for an imaginary five-on-five contest.