The Philadelphia 76ers made it two wins from two games under Doc Rivers, while Washington Wizards star Russell Westbrook recorded his second straight triple-double.

Joel Embiid fuelled the 76ers with a double-double of 27 points and 10 rebounds away to the Knicks in New York on Saturday.

Ben Simmons recorded 15 points, nine rebounds and six assists as he nullified Knicks star RJ Barrett, while Tobias Harris and Seth Curry each had 17 points apiece for the championship-chasing 76ers.

76ers head coach Rivers – who replaced Brett Brown in the offseason – also earned his 945th regular-season victory to move 10th all time, surpassing Bill Fitch.

The 76ers have won 13 consecutive games against the lowly Knicks (0-2).

James Harden registered 44 points and 17 assists, but the Houston Rockets still lost 128-126 to the Portland Trail Blazers in overtime.

Houston were playing for the first time after their season opener was postponed due to coronavirus, and Harden – reportedly eyeing a trade to the 76ers or Brooklyn Nets – almost guided the Rockets to victory in Portland.

The Trail Blazers (1-1) were spearheaded by CJ McCollum (44 points) and Damian Lillard (32 points).

 

Westbrook follows in Magic's footsteps

Former MVP Westbrook became the first player since Magic Johnson in 1982 to post triple-doubles in his team's first two games of the season. Westbrook put up 15 points, 15 rebounds and 12 assists in Washington's 130-120 loss to the unbeaten Orlando Magic. Acquired from the Rockets, Westbrook became the fourth player in NBA history to achieve the feat, along with Johnson (twice), Jerry Lucas and Oscar Robertson, though the nine-time All-Star is the first player to do it with a new team.

The San Antonio Spurs rallied past the Toronto Raptors 119-114 thanks to DeMar DeRozan, Dejounte Murray and Patty Mills. DeRozan scored 27 points and Murray added 11 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds for his first ever triple-double – becoming just the 14th player in franchise history to accomplish the feat. Mills was eight of nine from the field and five of six from three-point range for 21 points off the bench.

Trae Young posted 36 points to lead the Atlanta Hawks past the Memphis Grizzlies 122-112. Kevin Huerter added 21 points off the bench, while Deandre Hunter had a double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds. Grizzlies star Ja Morant finished with 28 points as team-mate Kyle Anderson (20 points and 14 rebounds) also impressed.

The Indiana Pacers took down the Chicago Bulls thanks to Domantas Sabonis' triple-double (22 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists), Victor Oladipo (22 points) and TJ Warren (23 points).

Collin Sexton (32 points), Andre Drummond (23 points and 16 rebounds) and Darius Garland (21 points and 12 assists) combined to inspire the Cleveland Cavaliers' 128-119 overtime victory at the Detroit Pistons.

 

Rough night for Barrett

Barrett struggled to get going under the watchful eye of Simmons. The Knicks star was just two-of-15 shooting from the field, while he missed all six of his three-point attempts. Barrett finished with 10 points, six rebounds and four assists in a team-high 37 minutes.

 

Gilgeous-Alexander calls game!

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander nailed a clutch jumper with 1.4 seconds remaining to lift the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 109-107 win against the Charlotte Hornets.

 

Saturday's results

Atlanta Hawks 122-112 Memphis Grizzlies
Oklahoma City Thunder 109-107 Charlotte Hornets
Cleveland Cavaliers 128-119 Detroit Pistons (OT)
Orlando Magic 130-120 Washington Wizards
Philadelphia 76ers 109-89 New York Knicks
Indiana Pacers 125-106 Chicago Bulls
San Antonio Spurs 119-114 Toronto Raptors
Minnesota Timberwolves 116-111 Utah Jazz
Sacramento Kings 106-103 Phoenix Suns
Portland Trail Blazers 128-126 Houston Rockets (OT)

 

Timberwolves at Lakers

The Timberwolves (2-0) will face defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers (1-1) on the road on Sunday. LeBron James and the Lakers will look to claim back-to-back wins after their Christmas Day success.

The Boston Celtics edged the Milwaukee Bucks in an NBA thriller, while Joel Embiid starred for the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday.

Jayson Tatum (30 points) hit a three-pointer with 1.5 seconds remaining as the Celtics overcame the Bucks 122-121.

Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, who scored a game-high 35 points, missed the second of two free-throws with 0.4 seconds remaining.

Embiid led the 76ers to a 113-107 victory over Russell Westbrook's Washington Wizards.

The center posted a double-double of 29 points and 14 rebounds for the 76ers, while Ben Simmons had 16 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.

Westbrook, traded to Washington by the Houston Rockets earlier this month, saw his debut spoiled despite a triple-double of 21 points, 15 assists and 11 rebounds.

 

Brown brilliant, Jokic dominates in defeat

Jaylen Brown was the star of the show for the Celtics, scoring 33 points on 13-of-24 shooting.

Nikola Jokic dominated for the Denver Nuggets. He became the first player since Larry Bird in 1987 to reach 29 points, 15 rebounds, 14 assists and three blocks in a single game, as per Stats Perform. Denver lost to the Sacramento Kings 124-122.

Ja Morant had 44 points for the Memphis Grizzlies, who fell to the San Antonio Spurs 131-119.

Meanwhile, Terry Rozier posted 42 points but his Charlotte Hornets also lost, going down to the Cleveland Cavaliers 121-114.

It was the first time in NBA history that two different players scored 40-plus points in a season opener but lost the game in the same year, according to Stats Perform.

Wayward VanVleet

Fred VanVleet made a slow start to the season, going three-of-12 from the field in the Toronto Raptors' 113-99 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.

 

Hield heroics

Buddy Hield (22 points) tipped in the game-winner in overtime for the Kings against the Nuggets.

Wednesday's results

Philadelphia 76ers 113-107 Washington Wizards
Orlando Magic 113-107 Miami Heat
Cleveland Cavaliers 121-114 Charlotte Hornets
Indiana Pacers 121-107 New York Knicks
Boston Celtics 122-121 Milwaukee Bucks
New Orleans Pelicans 113-99 Toronto Raptors
San Antonio Spurs 131-119 Memphis Grizzlies
Atlanta Hawks 124-104 Chicago Bulls
Minnesota Timberwolves 111-101 Detroit Pistons
Sacramento Kings 124-122 Denver Nuggets
Utah Jazz 120-100 Portland Trail Blazers
Phoenix Suns 106-102 Dallas Mavericks

 

Mavericks at Lakers

Christmas Day will see five blockbusters, headlined by the Los Angeles Lakers (0-1) taking on the Mavericks (0-1) at the Staples Center.

The 75th NBA season will be different, that is for sure.

Having completed the previous campaign in a Florida bubble due to the coronavirus pandemic, the league starts a reduced 72-game schedule on Tuesday. That is not the only change, though, as a play-in tournament will decide the final two qualification spots in each conference for the playoffs.

So, with free agency long over, trades made and the 2020 draft done and dusted, every franchise starts with a fresh sense of hope and a clean slate.

Ahead of the opening games, here are six players to keep an eye on during the coming weeks and months, including some intriguing rookies and a familiar face now in a new home.

 

LAMELO BALL (CHARLOTTE HORNETS)

Ball will garner plenty of attention in his rookie campaign, even if the guard may have to go through some growing pains with the Charlotte Hornets. 

Selected third in the draft, the brother of Lonzo and LiAngelo has the passing skills and court vision to produce highlight plays. While only 19, it should be remembered he has already played professionally in both Lithuania and Australia. 

His three preseason outings for the Hornets produced averages of 10 points, 5.0 assists and 3.7 rebounds. Dwyane Wade was suitably impressed by what he saw, tweeting: "So breaking news: LaMelo Ball is a problem!"

SADDIQ BEY (DETROIT PISTONS)

Have the Pistons found a gem in Bey, the 19th pick in the draft? The shooting guard went to DeMatha Catholic High School – the same establishment as Victor Oladipo and Markelle Fultz, as well as Jerai, Jerian and Jerami Grant – before moving on to Villanova. 

His final year in college saw Bey shoot 45.1 per cent from three-point range, placing him fifth in the category for Division I players with a minimum of 150 attempts from deep. 

Those numbers offer promise for a Detroit team that averaged 107.2 points per game in the 2019-20 season, ranking them a lowly 25th in the league. 

CARIS LEVERT (BROOKLYN NETS)

The focus in Brooklyn will be on Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, as the Nets finally get to put their two big-name free agency recruits from July 2019 in tandem together. 

Still, the dynamic duo will need help. LeVert averaged 27.4 points in five games during March, including shooting 44.1 per cent from three. He can expect to get open looks this season too, with opposing teams more concerned with his superstar team-mates.

While that is a small sample size, the shooting guard's presence has made a clear difference for the Nets in the past. In the 45 games he played last season, the team averaged 114.7 points. That number dipped to 107 when he did not feature. 

CHRIS PAUL (PHOENIX SUNS)

Paul is preparing to start a third straight season on a different team and, while far from a new name, considering he was drafted back in 2005 and is a 10-time All-Star, it will be fascinating to see what difference the veteran point guard can make to the Suns. 

His solitary year with the Oklahoma City Thunder saw him become just the third player to average at least 17 points and 6.0 assists when aged 34 or older. The others to manage that? LeBron James (also last season) and Kobe Bryant (2012-13). 

Now he joins a Phoenix roster that dazzled during their stay in the NBA bubble, despite eventually missing out on the playoffs. Devin Booker should certainly relish having Paul alongside him in the backcourt, while center and former No.1 overall pick Deandre Ayton should also benefit. 

OBI TOPPIN (NEW YORK KNICKS)

Toppin should feel right at home in the NBA; the Brooklyn-born power forward was drafted in the first round by the Knicks. 

The 22-year-old averaged 20 points, 7.5 rebounds and shot 63.3 per cent from the field for Dayton in college basketball last season, numbers good enough to see him named national player of the year. 

Denied the opportunity to have a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, Toppin will hope to make an instant impact in the Big Apple. The opportunity to play regular minutes – whether it be off the bench or as a starter – makes him a real contender to be this season's top rookie performer. 

COBY WHITE (CHICAGO BULLS)

Coby White was a much-needed positive for the Bulls in an otherwise dismal season. They will at least be well rested having not been involved in the Orlando bubble, while Billy Donovan is now in as coach to try and improve results.  

Selected with the seventh overall pick in the 2019 draft, White averaged 13.2 points in his debut season. That is the fourth most by a Bulls rookie since 2000-01, behind only Derrick Rose, Lauri Markkanen and Ben Gordon. 

However, that number rose to 20.9 points (as well as 4.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists) from February 1 onwards – and there have been positive signs from the guard during a shortened preseason, too. 

John Wall ended his two-year NBA absence as the five-time All-Star made his Houston Rockets bow in preseason.

Not since December 2018 had Wall played a game in the NBA – the star guard missing the last two seasons with injuries to his left Achilles tendon, left knee and left heel.

But Wall returned to the court on Friday after being dealt to the Rockets by the Washington Wizards.

Wall, who was traded by the Wizards along with a protected first-round pick for Russell Westbrook last week, posted 13 points in a 125-104 win over the Chicago Bulls.

"Tonight was just great to be back in an NBA game, period," said Wall, who was six-of-10 shooting against the Bulls in the absence of James Harden as the Rockets superstar reportedly seeks a trade to the Philadelphia 76ers or Brooklyn Nets.

Wall also had five rebounds, nine assists and two steals in 19 minutes of action away to the Bulls, after opening the game with an impressive layup.

"I just knew I was back," Wall said. "I know how much hard work I've been through the last two years. It was a surreal moment for me even though it was preseason."

DeMarcus Cousins, who signed a one-year deal with the Rockets in the offseason, had 14 points, five rebounds, two steals and two blocks during his 15 minutes.

"It's step by step with those guys," said first-year Rockets head coach Stephen Silas. "We really didn't know what to expect when those guys walked through the door, both of them coming off of injuries.

"They both played very well tonight. They both looked really good. They were fun. Hopefully, this is something we can build off of, but it's a day-by-day thing."

Elsewhere, the Los Angeles Clippers topped city rivals the Los Angeles Lakers 87-81 – a warmup for their opening-night showdown on December 22.

NBA champions the Lakers were without star duo LeBron James and Anthony Davis for their preseason curtain raiser, while Montrezl Harrell had a double-double of 13 points and 12 rebounds against former team the Clippers.

Paul George had 10 points in 14 minutes after signing a new max deal with the Clippers, and team-mate Kawhi Leonard finished with just three points.

The Orlando Magic beat the Atlanta Hawks 116-112, the New York Knicks defeated the Detroit Pistons 90-84 and the Sacramento Kings fell to the Portland Trail Blazers 127-102.

The first round of the NBA Draft saw Anthony Edwards headline the league's newest recruits.

Georgia guard Edwards, not LaMelo Ball, was drafted first by the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday.

Ball – the younger brother of 2017 second round pick and New Orleans Pelicans star Lonzo – was the third draftee to the Charlotte Hornets, behind Golden State Warriors-bound center James Wiseman.

Here are the first 30 picks from the 2020 Draft.

 

2020 NBA Draft:
1. Anthony Edwards (Minnesota Timberwolves)
2. James Wiseman (Golden State Warriors)
3. LaMelo Ball (Charlotte Hornets)
4. Patrick Williams (Chicago Bulls)
5. Isaac Okoro (Cleveland Cavaliers)
6. Onyeka Okongwu (Atlanta Hawks)
7. Killian Hayes (Detroit Pistons)
8. Obi Toppin (New York Knicks)
9. Deni Avdija (Washington Wizards)
10. Jalen Smith (Phoenix Suns)
11. Devin Vassell (San Antonio Spurs)
12. Tyrese Haliburton (Sacramento Kings)
13. Kira Lewis (New Orleans Pelicans)
14. Aaron Nesmith (Boston Celtics)
15. Cole Anthony (Orlando Magic)
16. Isaiah Stewart (Portland Trail Blazers)
17. Aleksej Pokusevski (Minnesota Timberwolves)
18. Josh Green (Dallas Mavericks)
19. Saddiq Bey (Brooklyn Nets)
20. Precious Achiuwa (Miami Heat)
21. Tyrese Maxey (Philadelphia 76ers)
22. Zeke Nnaji (Denver Nuggets)
23. Leandro Bolmaro (New York Knicks)
24. R.J. Hampton (Milwaukee Bucks)
25. Immanuel Quickley (Oklahoma City Thunder)
26. Payton Pritchard (Boston Celtics)
27. Udoka Azubuike (Utah Jazz)
28. Jaden McDaniels (Los Angeles Lakers)
29. Malachi Flynn (Toronto Raptors)
30. Desmond Bane (Boston Celtics)

At this time a year ago, most NBA teams were right around the 10-game mark.

The Los Angeles Lakers, who would capture the season's delayed championship a mere 11 months later, sat atop the Western Conference at 8-2, while defending conference champions and injury-ravaged Golden State Warriors were tied with the lowly New York Knicks for the league's worst record at 2-9.

Fast-forward a year, and the NBA is in the midst of an offseason, albeit a brief one. The 2019-20 season ended on October 11, and just this week the NBA made it official that the 2020-21 campaign will tip off on December 22.

The draft had been scheduled for October 16 before being pushed back to next Wednesday, when it will take place virtually from the ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut.

The draft order was set back on August 20, when the league conducted its lottery at the NBA office in Secaucus, New Jersey, revealing the Minnesota Timberwolves have the top selection and the Boston Celtics have the last lottery pick – courtesy of the Memphis Grizzlies.

Most of these teams have not played a game since mid-March, so in case you have forgotten about how the league's also-rans fared – or tried to forget if you are a Knicks fan – here is a little breakdown of some notable stats from the teams with lottery picks.

 

1. Minnesota Timberwolves

For the second time in franchise history the Timberwolves have the top overall pick. The only other time they picked first was in 2015, when they selected Karl-Anthony Towns out of Kentucky. Towns led the Timberwolves last season with 26.5 points per game, while D'Angelo Russell averaged 21.7 and Malik Beasley averaged 20.7. The Timberwolves and the Celtics were the only two teams last season to have three players average 20 or points (minimum 12 games played). Minnesota could have possibly had more 20-point players if they could have made a higher rate of their shots. Minnesota were third in the league in three-point attempts per game (39.7) but were the NBA's third-worst team in three-point shooting at 33.6 per cent to become just the third team in league history to rank in the top three in three-point attempts per game and third worst in three-point percentage, joining the 1999-2000 Sacramento Kings and 2003-04 New Orleans Hornets. While the offense struggled, Minnesota's defense were abysmal, allowing at least 100 points in each of their final 30 games. After the All-Star break, the Timberwolves' opponents' scoring average of 125.3 points and opponents' shooting percentage of 51.7 percent both ranked last in the league. Winning the lottery and picking first is usually a blessing, but without a clear-cut number one in this draft, Minnesota have some decisions to make with how they plan to bolster their roster.

2. Golden State Warriors

A year ago, the Warriors were picking 28th and now they are second. Times have certainly changed, but you would have probably noticed that already. Given the Warriors were without Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson for essentially the entire season, it is no big surprise Golden State's winning percentage from 2018-19 to 2019-20 dropped by .464 – the biggest decline by any team from one season to the next since the Cleveland Cavaliers' drop in winning percentage of .512 from 2009-10 to 2010-11. Offensively, Golden State finished last in the NBA in effective field goal shooting at 49.7 per cent - (FGM plus 0.5 three points made)/FGA – and last in points scored per 100 possessions at 102.9. Eric Paschall led the depleted Warriors in scoring with 837 points – the lowest by any team leader in 2019-20. As Golden State's scoring leader, Paschall became the first Warrior rookie to lead the team in scoring since Hall of Famer Rick Barry in 1965-66. With Curry and Thompson healthy, the offense will have an entirely different look for 2020-21 and get Golden State back among the upper echelon of teams. The Warriors now seem to be targeting Memphis big man James Wiseman to upgrade a defense that allowed 110.9 points per 100 possessions – tied with the San Antonio Spurs for the fifth worst in the NBA.

3. Charlotte Hornets

After a lacklustre offensive showing in 2019-20, the Hornets are picking third for the first time since taking Gonzaga's Adam Morrison in 2006. While the NBA scoring average was at 111.8 points per game, Charlotte averaged a league-low 102.9 points and shot a league-worst 43.4 per cent – the first team since the 2015-16 Lakers to finish last in both categories. They shot a league-worst 33.4 per cent on pull-up shots and even right at the rim they struggled to convert, recording a league-worst 56.6 per cent on dunks and layups. In their 65 games played last season, they were outshot in 48 of them – the most in the league. You get the picture, the Hornets need to improve their shooting.

4. Chicago Bulls

The Bulls are the only team to rank in the bottom five in scoring each of the last three seasons. They concluded the 2019-20 campaign with the NBA's fourth-worst scoring offense at 106.8 points per game and the fourth-worst offensive rating at 104.1 points per 100 possessions. They were the fifth-worst shooting team on catch and shoots at 35.7 per cent and sixth worst at converting dunks and layups at 58.4 percent. Not only were the Bulls not much of threat offensively, they were a mess on the glass, averaging the second-fewest rebounds in the NBA at 41.9 per game – the franchise's fewest since averaging 40.0 in 2001-02. Upgrading the offense with a proven shooter could be the way new executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas leans.

5. Cleveland Cavaliers

Defense was somewhat optional for the Cavaliers last season, and they essentially opted not to play it, ranking last in the NBA in points allowed per 100 possessions at 113.6. Since the advent of the three-point line in 1979-80, their opponents' effective field goal percentage of 56.0 was the second worst by any team in a season beating out only the 2018-19 Cavs' 56.4. Their offensive production was not much better, with their 104.4 points per 100 possessions ranking sixth worst in the NBA. Carelessness played a part in Cleveland's inefficient offense with their 16.5 turnovers per game ranking last in the league – the first time since 1997-98 they finished last in turnovers per game. The Cavs enter this draft with plenty of needs on both sides of the ball.

6. Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks had glaring issues both offensively and defensively last season, posting the fifth-worst offensive rating at 104.3 points per 100 possessions, along with the third-worst defensive rating at 112.3 opponents' points per 100 possessions. Their defense was especially shoddy down the stretch, permitting a league-worst 124.3 points per game since February 1. Their offensive woes, meanwhile, stemmed from poor perimeter shooting, as they ranked last in the league in three-point shooting at 33.3 per cent – the first time since 2006-07 they had the NBA's worst three-point percentage. Finding someone to compliment Trae Young would go a long way in boosting the offense. Young averaged a team-high 29.6 points while the Hawks' second-leading scorer, De'Andre Hunter, averaged 12.3 points. That difference of 17.3 points per game was the largest gap in the NBA between a team's leading scorer and its second-leading scorer.

7. Detroit Pistons

Perhaps the biggest issue for the Pistons last season was that the oft-injured Derrick Rose led the team in scoring – not exactly the ideal player a team want to build around given his age and inability to stay healthy. Rose's average of 18.1 points per game was the second lowest for a team leader in 2019-20, and the Pistons had a 30-point scorer in just seven games – tied with the Miami Heat for the fewest 30-point games by a player last season. Detroit's offense was never flashy, averaging the fifth-fewest fast-break points per game at 11.0, and then it really shrivelled down the stretch, averaging a league-worst 103.7 points per 100 possessions after the end of January. Selecting a playmaker that can jump-start the offense should be Detroit's prime goal come draft night.

8. New York Knicks

Offense was not New York's strong suit last season. The Knicks had the league's worst true shooting percentage at 53.1 per cent and second-worst effective field goal percentage at 50.1. Not to be outdone, they also had the league's second-worst offensive rating at 103.8 points per 100 possessions. Behind power forward Julius Randle, the Knicks found success in scoring inside, scoring 46.9 percent of their points on dunks and layups – the seventh-highest rate in the NBA – but had the league's fourth-worst three-point percentage at 33.7. Upgrading at the point guard position, preferably with one who can score, is the troubled team's top priority.

9. Washington Wizards

Defense – or lack thereof – was the downfall of the 2019-20 Wizards, who surrendered 125 or more points in an NBA-worst 26 games. Washington were last in the NBA in opponents' true shooting percentage at 59.6 and had the league's second-worst defensive rating, allowing 112.7 points per 100 possessions. The team also had no answer on the boards, as they were outrebounded in an NBA-worst 50 games. Bradley Beal, meanwhile, carried the offense, leading the team in scoring in 46 games last season – two fewer than Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Milwaukee Bucks outright in scoring for the most in the NBA. Led by Beal, the Wizards reached the 115-point mark in 34 games – eighth most in the NBA - but their .500 winning percentage (17-17) in games scoring 115 points or more was tied with the Timberwolves (15-15) and Warriors (8-8) for the worst in the league. The all-out offensive attack does not seem to be working for the Wizards, so a defensive stopper may be the answer.

10. Phoenix Suns

The Suns were all business on their summer trip to "The Most Magical Place on Earth," but still missed the playoffs for a 10th straight season – the second-longest active playoff drought behind the Sacramento Kings at 14. Phoenix are seemingly a playoff-calibre team, at least it looked that way at Walt Disney World Resort, where they won all eight of their games in the restart to become the first team in NBA history to end the regular season on an eight-game winning streak and still miss the playoffs. The Suns averaged 122.3 points and shot 40.2 per cent from three-point range in Orlando after averaging 112.6 points while shooting 35.3 per cent from beyond the arc before the season went on pause. Prior to the restart, the Suns were tied with the Cavs for 20th in the NBA in three-pointers made per game at 11.2, so adding a wing that can connect from long range would help. What would also help would be capturing that magic the team displayed inside the Orlando bubble and playing with that intensity from the get-go instead of waiting until the last two weeks.

11. San Antonio Spurs

With the 11th pick of the draft, the Spurs have a lottery pick for the first time since drafting Tim Duncan first overall in 1997. That is what happens when the team misses the playoffs for the first time in 23 years. San Antonio had some success offensively last season, ranking fourth in three-point shooting at 37.6 per cent. The problem was only the Knicks attempted fewer three-pointers, so Gregg Popovich was not buying into the chuck up three-pointer offense. The offense, however, neglected to force the ball inside, attempting a league-low 27.6 percent of their shots on dunks and layups. Instead, San Antonio attempted an NBA-high 70.4 per cent of their shots on jumpers. Popovich's defense also was not up to normal standard last season, allowing 110.9 points per 100 possessions - tied with the Warriors for the fifth worst in the NBA. While the defense could be improved, upgrading the offense with a playmaker is paramount.

12. Sacramento Kings

The Kings may be owners of the longest active playoff drought at 14 years, but their trajectory is pointing in the right direction with an offense revolving around De'Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield. Since the start of February, Sacramento ranked seventh in three-point shooting at 38.0 per cent and 10th in scoring at 115.6 points per game. The problems begin with their lack of size and athleticism in the interior. The Kings were the fourth-worst rebounding team, averaging 42.6 boards, and fourth worst in blocking shots, averaging 4.07. Opponents also shot 64.9 per cent within five feet of the rim – the second-highest field goal percentage in the league. Finding a rim protector could be the difference in the Kings reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2006.

13. New Orleans Pelicans

Like the Kings, the Pelicans have a solid young core behind Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball and are on the precipice of becoming a playoff team. Last season, they ranked seventh in three-point shooting at 37.0 per cent, fifth in three-pointers made per game at 13.6 and fifth in scoring at 115.8 points per game. However, they also ranked 17th in offensive rating at 108.0 points per 100 possessions after ranking 29th in turnovers per game with an average of 16.4. Their defense also left something to be desired, especially in the restart, where their opponents' average of 113.4 points per 100 possessions was tied with the Brooklyn Nets for the fifth worst from the eight seeding games. The defense should see improvement under new coach Stan Van Gundy and drafting a big man that can step out to draw opposing defenses away from Williamson will make the offense more dangerous.

14. Boston Celtics

Eight weeks after playing in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Boston Celtics own a lottery pick via a trade with the Grizzlies from five years ago. Boston are the only team with three first-round picks, so for a team with a championship window wide open it seems unlikely they will keep all of them. The Celtics ranked second in three-point defense last season at 34.0 per cent and fourth in defensive rating at 104.5 points per 100 possessions. They were also tied with the Spurs for fifth in offensive rating at 110.4 points per 100 possessions and will bring back most of their roster, so they do not have a lot of big-time needs. More depth would certainly be welcome, however, after Boston's reserves accounted for just 25.0 percent of the team's total points – the third-lowest percentage of bench points in the NBA.

Thursday marks 17 years to the day since LeBron James made his NBA debut with the Cleveland Cavaliers against the Sacramento Kings.

The number one overall draft pick, who had 25 points in his first game, went on to win the Rookie of the Year award in 2003-04 and has been at the forefront of the league ever since.

James has been MVP on four occasions and earlier this month collected his fourth championship ring, also winning Finals MVP for a fourth time at the age of 35.

Only three other players have been named Finals MVP after their 35th birthday: fellow greats Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and, of course, Michael Jordan.

But how did they fare in the final years of their careers after being the main men on title-winning teams as veterans? And how might that colour what we can expect from LeBron beyond year 17?

We use Stats Perform Data to take a look.
 

WILT CHAMBERLAIN - 1972 Finals MVP, aged 35

The Finals MVP award was not introduced until the 1969 series when Chamberlain was already in his 30s – by then an NBA champion with the Philadelphia 76ers and a four-time MVP – but he was belatedly recognised as he guided the Lakers past the New York Knicks three years later, winning their first title since moving to Los Angeles.

But Wilt would not then go on to add to his honours as he played just one more season before retiring.

The veteran still played all 82 regular season games in 1972-73, averaging more minutes (43.2) than in the championship-winning campaign, but he endured the lowest scoring year of his career, with 13.2 points per game. He had peaked at 50.4 points 11 years earlier.

Shooting less regularly, there were still flashes of Chamberlain's old magic as he remarkably had the NBA's highest all-time field-goal percentage across a season (minimum 500 attempts) with 72.7 per cent made. Only DeAndre Jordan in three straight seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers – between 2014 and 2017 – has shot above 70 per cent.

The Lakers will certainly hope James does not go down the same path, having been backed to play into his 40s by LA assistant Jason Kidd and former Miami Heat team-mate Dwyane Wade.
 

KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR - 1985 Finals MVP, aged 38

Abdul-Jabbar won his first Finals MVP with the Milwaukee Bucks the year before Chamberlain's but, despite collecting two more rings in the interim, had to wait until 1985 to be hailed again as the postseason's outstanding player. Kareem outperformed Lakers team-mate Magic Johnson – 12 years his junior – as they beat the Boston Celtics and he became the oldest NBA Finals MVP.

And yet his career was not over, with the support of Johnson surely an example the 2020 Lakers would like to follow as Anthony Davis aids LeBron.

Abdul-Jabbar's production actually improved in the season he turned 39 – scoring 23.4 points per game, up from 22.0 – but that would be the last year he averaged at least 20.0, ending a record 17-season streak that has since been matched by Karl Malone and James, who can surpass that mark in 2020-21.

The Lakers kept winning as Kareem's numbers understandably dropped, though, taking the title in 1987 and 1988 – led by Johnson and James Worthy.

A 42-year-old Abdul-Jabbar retired in 1989 after seeing his field-goal percentage dip below 50 per cent in a season for the first time at 47.5. His astounding 19-year stretch of making more than half of his attempts stands as a record, later tied by Shaquille O'Neal.


MICHAEL JORDAN - 1998 Finals MVP, aged 35

Jordan might be considered the clear rival to James in the 'GOAT' debate, but LeBron is not likely to follow in MJ's footsteps after his 'Last Dance' with the Chicago Bulls in 1998. Beating the Utah Jazz, he won a third straight title and a third straight Finals MVP for the second time yet was done at the top level thereafter.

The 35-year-old retired from the sport again, only to return once more in 2001 with the Washington Wizards.

Jordan would donate his salary to relief efforts after the September 11 terror attack but struggled to deliver on the floor as he battled injuries.

The statistics when MJ did appear in 2001-02 – he made 53 starts in 60 regular season games – did not make for great reading. The five-time MVP ranked worst in the league for three-point percentage (minimum 50 attempts) at 18.9 per cent, making just 10. He was 41st of the 48 players who attempted at least 1000 field goals that year at 41.6 per cent.

Jordan quit the sport for good in 2003.
 

LEBRON JAMES - 2020 Finals MVP, aged 35

If Abdul-Jabbar provides the best example of how a superstar should treat the final years of his career, LeBron appears well placed to similarly profit.

With the arrival of Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans last year, James' game changed to incorporate a second elite scorer, becoming a passer as he logged a career-high 10.2 assists per game.

LeBron became the oldest player in NBA history to average 25.0 points and 10.0 assists. No rival has ever managed such a performance past the age of 30, let alone 35.

Crucially, the former Cavs man was also more protected. He visited the foul line less often (down from 7.6 free-throw attempts to 5.7) and recorded fewer rebounds (down from 8.5 to 7.8)

And his 34.6 minutes per game – a career-low – represented the fewest in league history while scoring 25.0 points and 10.0 assists.

With a gruelling next season just around the corner, James is likely to play even fewer minutes again but, alongside Davis, still looks primed to make the difference when it matters most.

The Chicago Bulls have appointed Billy Donovan as head coach, the NBA franchise announced on Tuesday.

Terms of the contract were not disclosed but Donovan, 55, arrives after leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder following five seasons in charge at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

The Bulls had been looking for a new coach since dismissing Jim Boylen in August after finishing the coronavirus-hit 2019-20 season with a 22-43 record.

"I want to thank Jerry, Michael, Arturas and Marc for the opportunity to coach the Chicago Bulls," Donovan said.

"I also want to thank them for the time and effort they put into this hiring process. I'm excited to partner with Arturas [Karnisovas] as we work together on behalf of this historic franchise."

Donovan led the Thunder to the playoffs in each of his campaigns at the helm, but they bowed out in the first round for the fourth straight year in 2019-20.

After guiding the team to a 243-157 record, Donovan and the Thunder did not renew his contract.

The Bulls have not reached the playoffs since losing to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference first round in 2016-17.

"We are very pleased to welcome Billy and his family to the Chicago Bulls. The success that he has sustained over the course of his coaching career puts him on a different level," said Bulls executive vice-president – basketball operations Karnisovas.

"We feel his ability to help his players reach their potential, both individually and collectively, will mesh well with our roster. Whether as a player or as a coach, he has won everywhere his career has taken him, and we hope that will continue here in Chicago."

 

The Chicago Bulls have fired head coach Jim Boylen after two seasons in charge.

After working for the team as an associate head coach, Boylen was appointed to the top job in Chicago in December 2018, though he was not able to turn around the franchise's fortunes.

The Bulls posted a 39-84 record during his tenure, failing to make the playoffs. They were 22-43 when the current campaign was suspended, meaning they missed out on being involved in Orlando when play eventually resumed in late July.

Arturas Karnisovas, executive vice president of basketball operations, confirmed Boylen had been relieved of his duties on Friday, with the search to find his replacement beginning immediately.

"After doing a comprehensive evaluation and giving the process the time it deserved, I ultimately decided that a fresh approach and evolution in leadership was necessary," Karnisovas said in a statement.

"This was a very difficult decision, but it is time for our franchise to take that next step as we move in a new direction and era of Chicago Bulls basketball.

"Jim is a great human being that cares deeply about this organisation and the game of basketball. I want to thank him for his professionalism and commitment to the franchise."

As well as serving as head coach at the University of Utah between 2007 and 2011, Boylen has also worked as an assistant at several NBA teams, including being part of the Houston Rockets when they won successive NBA titles in 1994 and 1995.

The 55-year-old was also part of the championship-winning staff at the San Antonio Spurs in 2014.

Cristiano Ronaldo is football's equivalent to basketball legend Michael Jordan, according to Manchester United midfielder Jesse Lingard.

NBA icon Jordan won six championships across two stints with the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s and was crowned MVP on five occasions.

By comparison, five-time Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldo has clinched seven league titles in three different countries, most recently helping Juventus to back-to-back Scudettos.

And Lingard, who was part of United's academy during Ronaldo's time at Old Trafford, believes the Portugal international is football's answer to Jordan.

"I have to say Cristiano Ronaldo," he told Sky Sports when asked to pick a footballer who can be likened to Jordan.

"Everything he has achieved in his career. He has been at plenty of clubs and won many trophies. I believe he is a real icon of football, the Michael Jordan of football."

Lingard never played in the same side as Ronaldo in a competitive game but was on opposing sides to the forward in United's 2-1 Champions League win against Juve last season.

But the England international insists the former Real Madrid superstar has not posed him too many problems in the years since he left United.

"I have played against him a few times. Did he give me trouble? No, he wasn't too bad, to be fair," he said. 

"There was one game in pre-season where he came on and you could see the skills and the qualities that he brought.

"When he first came to Manchester United, I was 11 or 12. We did a skills DVD and it was him teaching us skills which was good. 

"That was the first time I had seen him. He was young and skinny when he came to the club."

Michael Jordan raced back on defense after a drive to the basket saw him bring the Chicago Bulls back to within a point of the Utah Jazz with 37 seconds remaining.

It was June 14, 1998, Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals and victory would see the Bulls clinch a historic second three-peat and Jordan get his sixth championship ring in what would be their 'Last Dance'.

Jordan's next pivotal play saw him steal the ball from Karl Malone in the post with 18 seconds left. He then carried the ball forward, crossed up Bryon Russell and made an iconic mid-range jumper to put Phil Jackson's team in front.

When John Stockton failed to make a three-pointer at the buzzer, history was made.

But how do Jordan's performances, and those of his team-mates, in the 1997-98 season compare to players in the modern era?

That is what Stats Perform's AI analysts attempted to find out.

By looking at player statistics compared to the league averages rather than raw values, they developed a similarity score metric.

It uses a host of era-adjusted per-30-minute stats and more advanced rate metrics, and calculates the Euclidean distances between the seasons of each of the 1997-98 Bulls and every other player since the start of 2010-11.

From those results, a relative similarity percentage can be calculated i.e. the player since 2010-11 with the greatest similarity to one of the 1997-98 Bulls would score closest to 100 per cent.

By looking at player seasons since the start of 2017-18, we can see who in the NBA's modern era is the nearest equivalent to Jordan and the rest of the Bulls in that historic season.

Michael Jordan

Jordan's closest contemporary is Kawhi Leonard, with the Los Angeles Clippers star's 2019-20 season registering a relative similarity percentage of 28.7.

Leonard's NBA championship-winning campaign with the Toronto Raptors in 2018-19 is a close second (26.7 per cent), while Bradley Beal this season ranks third at 24 per cent.

DeMar DeRozan rounds out the top five, though his 2018-19 output had just 16.5 per cent relative similarity. His efforts the year prior produced a score of 23.7 per cent, close to Beal.

When looking at all players since 2010, though, Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant in 2010-11 is the top comparison at 46.8 per cent.

Bryant played all 82 games that year but was unable to emulate Jordan and lead the Lakers to a second three-peat under Jackson, with the Dallas Mavericks sweeping them in the Western Conference semi-finals.

 

Dennis Rodman

It is tough to find a modern comparison for what Rodman did with the Bulls in 1997-98.

Marcin Gortat's 2018-19 season with the Clippers is the nearest but has a relative similarity percentage of just 9.7, with Noah Vonleh in 2017-18 a close second at 9.3. Vonleh's past two seasons rank fifth and fourth, behind Ed Davis this term at 7.4 per cent.

When looking beyond the past three seasons, a player who made his name in Chicago comes in as Rodman's closest contemporary: Joakim Noah.

Noah was a two-time All-Star and the 2014 NBA Defensive Player of the Year during his time with the Bulls, but it is his production in the 2016-17 season – his first with the New York Knicks – that compares best, though his relative similarity percentage is still just 16.3.

 

Scottie Pippen

After electing to delay having surgery on his foot so he could enjoy the offseason as his contract dispute with the Bulls continued, Pippen missed almost half of the 1997-98 regular season.

Tyreke Evans in 2018-19, a season that ended with him being kicked out of the league for two years for violating the NBA's anti-drug programme, provides the nearest resemblance of Pippen's performances during the Last Dance with a relative similarity score of 64.7 per cent.

Evans (52.4 per cent) also ranks second thanks to his 2017-18 season, ahead of Caris LeVert of the Brooklyn Nets. LeVert has a score of 50.3 per cent for this season and 48 per cent for 2018-19.

When looking at all players since 2010, J.R. Smith features highly. His 2012-13 campaign has a relative similarity score of 53.7 per cent, which is one of three entries for him in the top six.

 

Luc Longley

Domantas Sabonis helped the Indiana Pacers reach the playoffs in 2017-18, and with a relative similarity mark of 45.4 per cent he has the nearest modern comparison to Longley.

There is little to separate Jordan Mickey (2017-18) and Zach Collins (2018-19) in second and third, with the former's 43.8 just beating the latter's 43.

When widening the scope to include all player seasons since 2010-11, however, two players dominate the top 10: Spencer Hawes and Jason Smith.

Hawes' second year with the Philadelphia 76ers (2011-12) takes first place with a relative similarity percentage of 63.6, while his last season with the Charlotte Hornets (2016-17) is second at 59.1.

Smith takes up the next four places (2015-16, 2012-13, 2014-15 and 2011-12 respectively) and also eighth, which is sandwiched by Hawes in 2010-11 and 2012-13.

The top eight seasons all have a relative similarity score in excess of 50 per cent.

 

Ron Harper

Over the past three seasons, Garrett Temple is the closest you can get to Harper.

Temple's output with the Nets this year most closely corresponds to Harper at 60.1 per cent relative similarity.

His two prior seasons also scored within 0.5 per cent of that mark, with Trevor Ariza rounding out the top five on 56.1 per cent for both this season and 2018-19.

Since the start of the last decade, though, Damien Wilkins in 2010-11 is the nearest comparison at 68.3 per cent.

 

Toni Kukoc

Gordon Hayward with the Boston Celtics this season comes in as the top modern comparison for Kukoc at 65.2 per cent.

MarShon Brooks in 2018-19 has a relative similarity of 62 per cent, while Bogdan Bogdanovic this year is at 59.8 per cent.

Chandler Parsons in 2017-18 is fourth on the list, and he certainly has a lot in common with the Croatian when you look back further.

Parsons provides the top four comparisons to Kukoc since 2010-11 and his efforts in the 2014-15 season have a relative similarity percentage of 99.9, which is the nearest equivalent of all data analysed.

 

Steve Kerr

Kerr may have moulded Stephen Curry into a two-time MVP and three-time NBA champion, but the Golden State Warriors star's brother Seth Curry is his closest comparison.

Seth Curry's performances for the Mavericks this season registered a 50.1 per cent relative similarity score, while his 2018-19 campaign with the Portland Trail Blazers was second at 44.4.

Reggie Bullock (2017-18), Langston Galloway (2019-20) and Courtney Lee (2017-18) also feature in the top five from the past three years.

 

What about the others?

Bill Wennington

Since 2017: Jon Leuer in 2018-19 (37.9 per cent)
Since 2010: Jon Leuer in 2018-19 (37.9 per cent)

David Vaughan

Since 2017: Domantas Sabonis in 2017-18 (70.8 per cent)
Since 2010: Thomas Robinson in 2013-14 (88.4 per cent)

Dickey Simpkins

Since 2017: Caleb Swanigan in 2019-20 (31.8 per cent)
Since 2010: Samardo Samuels in 2011-12 (45.4 per cent)

Jason Caffey

Since 2017: Domantas Sabonis in 2017-18 (62.9 per cent)
Since 2010: Samardo Samuels in 2011-12 (78.6 per cent)

Joe Kleine

Since 2017: Wilson Chandler in 2019-20 (40.9 per cent)
Since 2010: Juwan Howard in 2010-11 (40.9 per cent)

Jud Buechler

Since 2017: Danny Green in 2019-20 (59.1 per cent)
Since 2010: Wesley Johnson in 2013-14 (56.9 per cent)

Randy Brown

Since 2017: Shaquille Harrison in 2018-19 (51.1 per cent)
Since 2010: Ronnie Price in 2010-11 (52.8 per cent)

Scott Burrell

Since 2017: Sterling Brown in 2017-18 (68 per cent)
Since 2010: Wesley Johnson in 2015-16 (82.8 per cent)

June 12 was a day when Michael Jordan finally became an NBA champion, while the Los Angeles Lakers and the Golden State Warriors also enjoyed Finals celebrations.

Jordan became widely regarded as the greatest player of all time but had to endure a couple of heartbreaks before finally tasting glory with the Chicago Bulls in 1991.

Shaquille O'Neal made history with the Lakers on this day 18 years ago, while you only have to go back to 2017 for Kevin Durant's moment to shine.

The St. Louis Blues also had reason to celebrate 12 months ago as their long wait for Stanley Cup glory came to an end.


1991 - MJ and the Bulls earn first of six

Having been beaten twice in the Eastern Conference Finals by the Detroit Pistons, the Chicago Bulls finally bested their rivals in the 1990-91 playoffs.

That led to a Finals series with the LA Lakers and Jordan was not about to miss his opportunity.

The Bulls wrapped it up in five with Jordan the fulcrum of their success en route to being named Finals MVP.

He scored 30 points and Scottie Pippen put up 32 as the Bulls defeated the Lakers 108-101 to win their first NBA title on this day. They would go on win six in eight years in one of sport's greatest dynasties.


2002 – 'Get ready for the Shaq attack!' Lakers rout Nets

It was a night of history for Shaq and Phil Jackson as the Lakers completed a 4-0 series of sweep of the New Jersey Nets in the NBA Finals.

Finals MVP Shaq put up 34 points in the 113-107 victory in New Jersey as the Lakers became the fifth team to win at least three straight NBA Championships.

With 145 points in the series, Shaq became the highest scorer in a four-game Finals, beating the 131 of Hakeem Olajuwon, which he achieved in 1995 for the Houston Rockets against O'Neal's Orlando Magic.

For legendary coach Jackson, it represented a ninth NBA title as a coach - levelling Red Auerbach's benchmark.


2017: Durant the Golden boy as James' Cavs beats

Just a year earlier, LeBron James had inspired the Cleveland Cavaliers to the 2016 NBA championship from a 3-1 deficit to avenge their loss to the Golden State Warriors the season before.

But in the third year of their fourth straight battle in the NBA Finals, it was the Warriors who celebrated a 4-1 series triumph.

Kevin Durant, signed as a free agent at the start of the 2016-17 season, was named Finals MVP after averaging 35.2 points, including putting up 39 in Game 5.

James had 41 but was unable to prevent the Cavs slipping to a 129-120 loss.


2019: St Louis finally end Stanley Cup Blues

In a back-and-forth Stanley Cup Finals series, it all came down to Game Seven between the St. Louis Blues and the Boston Bruins.

But the Boston fans were left disappointed at TD Garden as St. Louis ran out 4-1 victors.

It marked the Blues' first Stanley Cup triumph in their 51st season as a franchise.

June 7, 2009 was the date Roger Federer finally reigned at Roland Garros.

The Swiss completed his grand slam collection when beating Robin Soderling in the French Open final and, in doing so, equalled a record held by Pete Sampras.

This was also the date when 'The Last Dance' Chicago Bulls shut down the Utah Jazz in emphatic fashion in 1998.

Take a look at events that previously happened on this date through the years.

 

1996 - Chavez's century ends in defeat

Julio Cesar Chavez and Oscar De La Hoya were both multi-weight world champions during their careers and a fight between the two was highly anticipated in 1996.

De La Hoya, who owned a 21-0 record heading into the bout, was 10 years younger and facing an opponent who was fighting for the 100th time, Chavez having won 97 of the previous 99.

However, the light-welterweight contest was short-lived, falling way short of the hype as Chavez suffered a serious cut in the opening round and eventually succumbed to a barrage in the fourth, unable to continue after De La Hoya's left hook broke his nose.

Chavez would fight for another seven years, however, finishing with a 107-6-2 record, while De La Hoya retired in 2008 following losses to Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao.

 

1998 - Jazz fail to hit the right notes as Bulls gain Finals advantage

The series was finely poised at 1-1 when the Bulls and Jazz tipped off in Game 3 of the 1998 NBA Finals.

What followed was the most dominant victory in Finals history as the Bulls won by 42 points, 96-54, as Utah scored what was at the time the lowest total in an NBA game since the inception of the shot clock.

Despite Karl Malone's 22 points, the Jazz went 13-of-59 from the floor as Dennis Rodman, Scottie Pippen and the rest of Chicago's defense delivered a performance that swung the series in their favour.

Chicago would go on to win the Finals 4-2, delivering a second three-peat to end a glorious run in the Windy City for Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson.

2009 - Finally for Federer

Having already triumphed at the other three slams, a French Open title had evaded Federer, thanks mainly due to the presence of Rafael Nadal.

However, in 2009 the Spaniard was suddenly out of the picture after a shock fourth-round loss to Soderling, who would go on to set up a final against Federer.

The showdown proved a mismatch; Federer eased to a 6-1 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 triumph in under two hours to win his 14th grand slam title.

In doing so he equalled Sampras' all-time record, with Federer eclipsing the American's haul with victory at Wimbledon later that year when he overcame Andy Roddick in an epic encounter.

The Chicago Bulls will not make a decision anytime soon about head coach Jim Boylen's future with the franchise. 

Arturas Karnisovas, the Bulls' new executive vice president of basketball operations, began Saturday's conference call with reporters by issuing a statement on the divisive coach. 

"I know that you are anxious for me to comment definitively on our future of the Chicago Bulls. I understand that anticipation," Karnisovas said. 

"That said, I take pride in being deliberate and thoughtful in my decision-making and take the weight of my decisions seriously. 

"I'm not inclined to make evaluations prematurely to satisfy our excitement to move this team forward."

Karnisovas was hired in April – more than a month after the NBA season was paused due to the coronavirus outbreak – and he has yet to see his team play since joining Chicago. 

One reason for the patient approach, he said, was the NBA's 22-team plan for concluding the season, which excludes the Bulls. 

"We want to spend time internally to assure that we are thorough in our appraisals," Karnisovas said. 

"Our intention was to return to play at some point and have the opportunity to make informed decisions. There are several unprecedented circumstances beyond our control. 

"We have been limited in certain obvious ways, so our objective is to use this time in innovative ways to create opportunities for our players and coaches to encourage development."

Boylen took over as head coach 24 games into the 2018-19 season after the dismissal of Fred Hoiberg, but the Bulls are just 39-84 under Boylen. 

Chicago finished this season 22-43 – 11th in the Eastern Conference – and ranked 26th in the NBA in scoring at 106.8 points per game. 

"Coaching in the league is very difficult. To make a decision about coaching is really hard. It's probably the hardest thing for executives," Karnisovas said. 

"So I look at a lot of aspects – I've had numerous conversations. 

"That said, I'd like to be in a building, to be in practices, to be around the coaching staff in meetings. We're looking forward to getting in the video room together, analyse the games, to watch games together."

Karnisovas, previously the general manager of the Denver Nuggets, has already replaced Chicago's former top executives Gar Forman and John Paxson. 

Marc Eversley will take over as the team's new general manager, while assistant general manager J.J. Polk and vice president of player personnel Pat Connelly were also added this offseason. 

Zach LaVine is upset that the Chicago Bulls will not be part of the 22-team tournament that will restart the NBA season.

The 2019-20 campaign has been on hold since March because of the coronavirus pandemic, but on Thursday plans to recommence the league in Florida next month were approved.

However, only 22 teams will head to Orlando - the 16 teams currently occupying the playoff spots and the six that are within eight games of the eighth seeds in each conference.

Chicago, who had a 22-43 record when the season was halted, missed the cut-off by two games, much to LaVine's frustration.

"It sucks," he told reporters.

"You've got to understand it. It's a weird time, especially with everything that's going on right now, but it's upsetting too.

"We weren't even good enough to get to the play-in game, so it's upsetting and it just shows that we've got to do a lot of things differently to get ourselves that recognition to get to that spot."

With the 2020-21 season not due to start until December, players like LaVine will have gone nine months without playing a competitive game.

However, those whose teams are still alive this season will have to live at a campus and remain on site for all practices and games under the NBA's proposals.

That scenario brings its own concerns, according to LaVine's team-mate Thaddeus Young.

"For me, it's two-fold. Obviously, I wanted to play. I wanted to be a part of it," he said.

"But another side of me was worried about being away from my family or if they were to even come down. Just me being around everybody in general, playing basketball and then going back to my family and not knowing if I contracted the virus. Or not knowing if my family contracted the virus.

"As I said before, I have two young kids and I have a wife and my major concern is their health.

"Me, personally, I think I can fight it off, but I don't know if my kids would be able to do that. I don't know if my wife would be able to do that. So I don't want to put them in harm's way."

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