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Atlanta Hawks

    If basketball icon LeBron James gets his way, NBA arenas and other sports venues around the country will be mega polling sites for the November general election. James and his voting rights group, formed this spring with other black athletes and entertainers, are joining with other professional basketball leaders and Michigan’s top elections official to push for mega voting sites to accommodate in-person balloting amid the COVID-19 pandemic. More Than A Vote, the James organization dedicated to maximizing Black turnout in November, shared its plans with The Associated Press on Wednesday after the Detroit Pistons became the second NBA franchise to announce plans to use its arena for voting later this year. In Georgia, Fulton County elections officials this week approved the Atlanta Hawks’ proposal to use State Farm Arena as a polling site. Plans call for the arena to serve as a countywide early voting site ahead of Election Day. The idea, which comes after Kentucky used large facilities in its June 23 primary, is to use large spaces that allow for in-person voting while still enforcing social distancing guidelines. It also underscores the attention on the mechanics of voting amid the pandemic, with the intensity already reflected in both President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden warning that state and local officials have the power to “corrupt” the election. Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson called her “partnership” with the Pistons an “blueprint for other teams and leagues seeking to advance our common goal of protecting access to the vote for all.” Lloyd Pierce, head coach of the Atlanta Hawks, said the arrangement in his city ensures “high turnout” in a safe environment. Benson, Pierce and David Fizdale, former New York Knicks head coach, will advise NBA franchises and arena management entities around the country on how to replicate the existing deals. The Milwaukee Bucks also confirmed they are willing to use their home arena as a voting site in the most populous city in the key battleground of Wisconsin. The coordinated push is a turnabout, of sorts, in the often-partisan jousting over voting procedures. Some Democrats panned Kentucky elections officials for limiting in-person June primary voting in the state’s two most populous counties to Louisville’s Exposition Center and the University of Kentucky football stadium in Lexington. Voting rights advocates argued in federal court that the plan, part of culling voting sites statewide amid coronavirus concerns, would harm minority voters. A federal judge rejected their claims, and voting proceeded without the melee that some advocates had forecast. Now, Benson, a Democrat, is pushing the arena model not as an example of potential voter suppression, but a way to fight it. “One of our greatest challenges in protecting voters’ access to democracy this November is identifying accessible locations where citizens can safely vote in person,” she said. Amid COVID, that could outweigh potential logistical difficulties of large sites. Lines for such venues can still be long — just as with normal polling locations — as was seen in Lexington at some points on primary day. Voters also could face traffic jams or public transit hiccups given the number of people involved. General elections also have considerably larger turnout than primaries. Nonetheless, there’s a growing bipartisan push for large-venue voting. NFL executive Scott Pioli last week presented the National Association of Secretaries of State a plan for widespread use of professional and college sports facilities. James’ group is officially nonpartisan. But the NBA star has been open about its emphasis on the Black community, where Trump faces intense opposition for his white identity politics. James has not endorsed Biden, but he endorsed Hillary Clinton over Trump in 2016. In Milwaukee, meanwhile, the Bucks owners, the Lasry family, are major Democratic Party donors. Bucks executive Alex Lasry helped lead the effort that landed the Democratic National Convention in the city. __ Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story stated that State Farm Arena would be a voting site on Election Day, Nov. 3. Current plans call for it to be an early voting site ahead of the election, but not an Election Day site.
  • Philadelphia 76ers coach Brett Brown says All-Star guard Ben Simmons is “good to go” for the NBA restart after sitting out the final games before the shutdown with a back injury. Brown, whose contract runs through 2021-22, also expected fellow All-Star Joel Embiid to start the season in the best shape of his professional career. The Sixers need their franchise stars at full strength if one of the early favorites to win the East Conference can shake off both an ordinary regular season (39-26; 6th in the East) and a nearly five-month layoff to return contenders for their first NBA championship since 1983. The 23-year-old Simmons had missed his eighth straight game and was receiving daily treatment for his nerve issues in his lower back when the season stopped. Embiid was recovering from surgery on his left hand and had just returned after missing five games with a sprained left shoulder at the time of the shutdown. “I’m looking for Joel to come in as good a shape as he has been in since I have coached him,” Brown said Wednesday. Simmons, who averaged 16.7 points, 7.8 rebounds and 8.2 assists in 54 games, was hurt in a Feb. 22 game at Milwaukee. He vomited because of the pain and there was no guarantee he would have been ready for the playoffs had the season not been suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic. Simmons, the league leader in steals, worked out and played pickup games with LeBron James -- and videos of the two showed both stars playing without mask. Simmons’ trainer, Chris Johnson, posted video two weeks ago of a shirtless Simmons shooting and dunking. “He’s good to go. He’s put in a tremendous amount of work for me to be able to confidently say that,” Brown said. “I think when you search for silver linings with this pandemic and the way things have shaped up, it would be hard-pressed for me to find something more obvious than this. It’s enabled Ben to reclaim his health. But I think ‘inching along’ from maybe a month ago, that is not true.” Embiid has been riddled with injuries since he was drafted with the No. 3 pick of the 2014 draft. Embiid, averaging 23.4 points and 12.3 rebounds, has never played more than 64 games in a season. He was hindered by illness and knee injuries during last season’s playoff run, and the Sixers worked this season to balance his minutes with the proper amount of rest. The Sixers signed the 25-year-old Embiid, a native of Cameroon, to a $148 million, five-year extension that kicked in at the start of the 2018-19 season. It’s about time for the big man to deliver when the NBA resumes July 30 at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Florida. “There is nobody on our team that has put in more time than Joel Embiid,” Brown said. “Forget what he has actually done in the gym for a minute, just go to the man hours and consecutive days and the amount of days that he has put in over the past few months. I’m proud of him, I respect him. He needed to do it. We understand the impact he can have on our team.” Brown also said no player on the Sixers has tested positive for COVID-19 and no player has decided to opt out of the restart. ___ More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • Vince Carter made his retirement official on Thursday, announcing on his podcast that his 22-year NBA career, the longest in league history, has come to an end. The announcement was largely a formality because the 43-year-old Carter had said many times over the course of this season that this would be his last in the NBA. He became the first NBA player to appear in four different decades. “Vince Carter has made an indelible impact on the NBA with his remarkable skill and enduring commitment,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who lauded Carter as “a true ambassador of the game.” Carter appeared in 1,541 NBA games, behind only Robert Parish (1,611) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1,560) on the league’s all-time list. He started his career with Toronto, then played for New Jersey, Orlando, Phoenix, Dallas, Memphis, Sacramento and spent his final two seasons with Atlanta. Carter’s first season was the 1998-99 campaign, which was shortened to 50 games because of labor strife. His final season was shortened by the coronavirus pandemic, and the Hawks will not be part of the 22 teams headed to the Disney complex near Orlando, Florida, next month for the planned resumption of NBA play. “It’s kind of a cool situation for me because I came into the league on a shortened season and I walk away from the league on a shortened season,” Carter said on the “Winging It” podcast. “So for me, it’s just kind of a unique situation.” Carter scored 25,728 points in his career, 19th-most in NBA history. The Hawks quickly lauded Carter for what he’s done, not just in two years with Atlanta but over the totality of his career. “Throughout his historic 22-year journey covering an unprecedented four different decades, his evolving career arc was perhaps like none other in league history — from Top 5 Draft Pick to Rookie of the Year to Slam Dunk Champion to superstar and eight-time All-Star to Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year and valuable role player,” the Hawks said in a statement. Carter’s last game was March 11, a contest the Hawks lost at home in overtime to New York. By the time that game was winding down, the NBA already had announced that it was suspending the season at the conclusion of that night’s play after Utah center Rudy Gobert became the first player in the league known to test positive for the coronavirus. The moment was not lost on Atlanta fans, who chanted “We want Vince!” repeatedly with 19.5 seconds left in overtime and with the Knicks' victory clearly decided. Carter checked back into the game at that point, inbounded the ball to Trae Young, then trailed the play as the Hawks headed downcourt. Young flipped the ball back to Carter, who took an uncontested 3-pointer. The shot went in, Carter threw his arms skyward, and the clock ran out on the game a few seconds later. What many suspected would be the case that night became reality: The clock had run out on Carter’s career, too. “There were times, probably in April, I was like, ‘Man, I wish this didn’t happen like that,’” Carter said. “And then, after a while, I was kind of like, ‘It is what it is.’ Once I was able to kind of put that aside and say: ‘Retire, Vince. You can go and golf now,’ it’s been easier.” Carter was an eight-time All-Star selection, was rookie of the year in 1999, won the slam dunk contest in 2000 and helped USA Basketball win gold medals at the 2000 Sydney Olympics — highlighted by his dunk over 7-foot-2 French center Frederic Weis — and the 2003 FIBA Americas tournament. He played college basketball for three years at North Carolina, starting his career there under Dean Smith, and Carter's retirement means there are no more Smith-coached players left in the NBA. “Half Man, Half Amazing, ALL class!' Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce wrote on Twitter in a message to Carter. “It’s been an honor and a privilege for me to work with you.' Carter said he will still play the game of basketball — for fun. It has long been expected that television networks will pursue him as an analyst, something he's dabbled in at NBA Summer League in recent years. “I’m officially done playing basketball professionally,” Carter said. “I’ll play at home.” ___ More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • Bradley Beal grabbed a microphone and asked the crowd that joined the Washington Wizards and WNBA's Washington Mystics on a march to collectively raise a fist into the air and join together in saying “Together we stand.' And they did. “We will stand for something bigger than ourselves,' Beal said. Such was the sentiment across sports on Friday, as many teams from the major U.S. pro leagues stopped to commemorate Juneteenth — the celebration of what occurred June 19, 1865, the day that all enslaved Black people in the U.S. learned they had been freed from bondage. The day carried particular importance this year, with teams recognizing the day as important enough to declare it a paid holiday for workers — acknowledging the problems the country is facing today after several weeks of protests demanding the elimination of police brutality and racial inequality. Many pro athletes, Black and white, have taken part in those protests. “We’ve never posted about Juneteenth, but it is always the right time to do better than before,' read a tweet posted by the New England Patriots. “Today is a reflection of freedom, a day to celebrate and educate.' The NBA gave its employees paid time off on Juneteenth for the first time and Commissioner Adam Silver urged league personnel to take the day and think about race relations. Silver, in a letter to league employees, said Juneteenth provides a moment in which to “pause, further educate ourselves and reflect on both the history and the current state of race in our country.' “The past few weeks have left us all feeling sad, frustrated and often helpless,' Silver wrote to staff, citing the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. The league also had an array of Juneteenth-related material on its social channels and made arrangements for all teams to screen “John Lewis: Good Trouble” — a film about U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who has championed social and racial justice for more than six decades. “Black lives matter. There is no in-between,” Atlanta Hawks principal owner Tony Ressler said. The Miami Heat celebrated the day with a pledge to make financial contributions and other commitments to organizations trying to eliminate racial inequality. The Heat made the announcement in a video featuring several team employees, including managing general partner Micky Arison, team president Pat Riley and coach Erik Spoelstra. “We will not stand for hate, racism or police brutality,” said Spoelstra, who later in the day led a virtual town hall with Heat players and took questions about race. The team said it will make new investments in educational programs that serve the Black community and provide more scholarships for Black students who want to attend college. The team also said that Election Day will now be a paid company holiday, so Heat staff can assist in getting-out-the-vote efforts. “Let us be perfectly clear,” Arison said. “This is just the beginning. Our commitment is never-ending.” The Wizards and Mystics joined together for a march to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in their city, the Memphis Grizzlies urged fans to follow the National Civil Rights Museum to further the conversation on race-related matters, and the Denver Nuggets urged fans to help with a petition to make June 19th an official national holiday. The Orlando Magic called the day “a day to stand in solidarity and a day for education, connection, and celebration to recognize and celebrate Black history & culture.” And many teams, including the Oklahoma City Thunder, said the day recognized freedom. “We’re commemorating the joy… the monumental moment when enslaved people finally gained their freedom,” the Thunder wrote in a statement. Major League Baseball unveiled a new version of its logo, flipping the colors around to depict the batter as being Black. The Seattle Mariners hosted a panel discussion with four of that franchise's Black players to discuss situations where they felt like targets of racism and concerns they've had about speaking out on the topic. “We’re scared to say this. We’re nervous,' Mariners infielder Dee Gordon said. “The reason we’re nervous is we’ve been told our whole life and our whole careers to don’t say anything. Don’t ruffle any feathers. Don’t, pretty much stand up for yourself as a man and for your family’s name.' Hockey's San Jose Sharks told fans that it was fine to not know where to start when it comes to understanding the significance of Juneteenth. The team put out a list of resources for fans to review if interested. “In recognition of Juneteenth, our front office is starting a new tradition,' read a statement on the Sharks' site. “As an organization, we will be dedicating time on this day each year to actively participate in Juneteenth. Our goal — to advance meaningful progress.' ___ More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • Rayshard Brooks was fatally shot by Atlanta police Friday night in a Wendy’s parking lot after a struggle with authorities during a sobriety check. The shooting led to the resignation of Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields and sparked a demonstration where hundreds of protesters marched through the city, setting fire to the restaurant where Brooks, 27, was killed and blocking traffic on part of the highway. Live updates for Monday, June 15, continue below: At least 19 Atlanta police officers have resigned in past 10 days, organization says Update 10:29 p.m. EDT June 15: The Atlanta Police Foundation told WSB-TV on Monday that at least 19 police officers have resigned during the past 10 days. The nonprofit foundation did not elaborate on the individual reasons for the resignations but did indicate to TV station that low morale throughout the department is a contributing factor. Atlanta mayor details police reforms effective immediately Update 4:55 p.m. EDT June 15: Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said during a Monday news conference she has signed several administrative orders effective immediately on police use of force. Bottoms said, per the orders, the city’s chief operating officer will coordinate with interim Police Chief Rodney Bryant to implement reforms to the department’s standard operating procedures and work rules regarding use of force. The orders include, but are not limited to the following: • Officers are ordered to use only an amount of reasonable force required to successfully protect themselves and others when arresting an individual or bringing an incident under control. This order applies to any dealings with members of the community, suspects and detainees. • All incidents of deadly force used by a police officer must be reported to the Citizens Review Board. • The department is adopting and will implement a duty to intervene, meaning any officer who witnesses another using force beyond what is reasonable, given the circumstances, is duty-bound to intervene and prevent the excessive use of force. The witnessing officer must also report the misconduct immediately. “Our police officers are to be guardians, and not warriors within our communities,” Bottoms said. Atlanta mayor orders police reforms in wake of Rayshard Brooks killing Update 4:22 p.m. EDT June 15: Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said Monday afternoon she will sign executive orders on police reform following the death of Rayshard Brooks. “In an effort for us to develop a succinct appeal for human rights, I am signing an administrative order that will convene a body to begin to succinctly articulate our grievances and what we see as our solutions,' Bottoms said at a news conference, adding that she is hopeful it “will be a framework in Atlanta and possibly the nation.” Atlanta mayor holding news conference Update 3:55 p.m. EDT June 15: Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is holding a news conference Monday following the death of Rayshard Brooks during an encounter with Atlanta police. Tyler Perry to pay for funeral of Rayshard Brooks Update 2 p.m. EDT June 15: Media mogul Tyler Perry announced plans Monday to pay for the funeral of Rayshard Brooks, WSB-TV reported. An attorney for the Brooks family made the announcement during a news conference in Atlanta, according to WSB-TV. Brooks died Friday after police were called to respond to a report that he had fallen asleep in his car while it was parked at a Wendy’s parking lot. Police shot and killed him, prompting police Chief Erika Shields to resign from her position. >> Read more on WSBTV.com Family remembers Rayshard Brooks as ‘always happy,' ‘loving husband’ Update 12:05 p.m. EDT June 15: Family members remembered Rayshard Brooks as a cheerful man dedicated to his family while urging an end to police brutality during an emotional news conference Monday. His niece remembered him as a “loving husband, a caring brother and, most importantly to me, an uncle that I could depend on.” “He was always happy,” Brooks’ cousin, Jymaco Brooks, said at a news conference. “He was always smiling.” Family members called for change to the mentality of police departments, decrying Rayshard Brooks’ death as completely unnecessary. The 27-year-old died in a confrontation with Atlanta police after he fell asleep in his car in a Wendy’s parking lot. “Look at your children,” Jymaco Brooks said Monday. “When you see them laugh, that innocence, that joy, that pureness of soul ... you have a glimpse at what we lost. You have a glimpse of what it feels like.” Rayshard Brooks’ cousin: ‘The trust that we have for the police force is broken’ Update 11:50 a.m. EDT June 15: The family of Rayshard Brooks, the man killed by Atlanta police after falling asleep in a Wendy’s parking lot Friday, denounced his killing and highlighted the need for police reform in the wake of his death. “If we stand together and unite as one, there will be no more cases similar to Rayshard’s,” Brooks’ cousin, Tiara Brooks, said during a news conference Monday. “How many more protests will it take to ensure that the next victim isn’t your cousin, your brother, your uncle, your nephew, your friend or your companion?” L. Chris Stewart, the attorney representing Brooks’ family, said Monday that there needs to be a “mental change in policing.” “The trust that we have for the police force is broken and the only way to heal some of these wounds is through a conviction and a drastic change of the police department,” Tiara Brooks said. Family of Rayshard Brooks expected to speak Update 11:15 a.m. EDT June 15: The widow of Rayshard Brooks, the 27-year-old man shot and killed Friday night by Atlanta police, is expected to speak alongside other members of Brooks’ family at a news conference Monday. Demonstrators prepare to march in Atlanta Update 9:05 a.m. EDT June 15: Hundreds of people gathered Monday in Atlanta for a march to address police brutality, the criminal justice system and voting rights following the deadly police shooting of Rayshard Brooks, WSB-TV reported. ‘Anonymous’ hacking group temporarily takes down Atlanta police website Update 7:34 a.m. EDT June 15: A notorious hacking group says it was responsible for taking down the Atlanta Police Department’s website Sunday morning. According to WSB-TV, the group, “Anonymous,” says it took down the website in retaliation for the killing of Rayshard Brooks. In a tweet, the group said, “Anonymous has taken action against Atlanta PD for the execution of #RayshardBrooks, we call for the arrest of the two murderers.” The site was back online about two hours later. Read more here. Martin Luther King III weighs in on Rayshard Brooks’ death Update 6:21 a.m. EDT June 15: The son of one of our nation’s most influential civil rights leaders is weighing in on Rayshard Brooks’ death, according to Atlanta’s WSB-TV. “It is very difficult to define what justice is. Tragically, a building was burned down but that building can be re-erected. How do you re-erect a human life?” said Martin Luther King III. The son of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said we have to find ways to address these problems and before something like this happens again. Brooks was shot and killed by Atlanta police officers who responded to a Wendy’s drive-thru, where the father of four was sleeping in his car. Demonstrators to march in Atlanta for criminal justice reform, ending police brutality Update 4:56 a.m. EDT June 15: Crowds of people, including the Atlanta Hawks’ head coach, are expected to join the NAACP on Monday to march in downtown Atlanta to address police brutality, the criminal justice system and voting rights. According to WSB-TV, the March for Justice peaceful protest is expected to begin at 9 a.m. Monday at The Richard B. Russell Federal Building and end at the state Capitol. The NAACP and Just Georgia Coalition held a virtual news conference over the weekend. Atlanta police Chief Erika Shields resigned Saturday following the deadly police shooting of Rayshard Brooks, but the NAACP is demanding that Shields be completely removed from the police department and no longer be an employee. Both groups said now is the opportunity to listen to protesters in the streets who are demanding change. “We are asking and demanding urgent action so that we can move forward as a city, community and as a state to ensure that no other family has to go through what Mr. Brooks’ family has to go through,' said the Rev. James “Major” Woodall, state president of the Georgia NAACP. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued an administrative order for an advisory council made up of community members to examine the city’s use of force policies and procedures. They will make recommendations for operational or legislative changes to the city’s existing use of force policies. Civil rights and criminal defense attorney Tiffany Roberts believes there has to be a transformational cultural shift within the Atlanta Police Department. “We have to move past this belief that training is the issue that causes the systemic harm in our communities. We have some information that the officer involved with Mr. Brooks had been trained on use of force and had been trained on de-escalation, so there is no training regime that can undo a toxic culture,” Roberts said. Neighbors pay their respects, clean up after protests Update 2:09 a.m. EDT June 15: Neighbors volunteered their time Sunday morning to pay their respects to Rayshard Brooks and clean up following protests this weekend, WSB-TV is reporting. Brooks was shot and killed Friday night during a confrontation with two Atlanta police officers at a Wendy’s restaurant. Protests were held all day Saturday, although the night took a violent turn when some people set the restaurant on fire. Atlanta police and public works trucks blocked University Avenue on Sunday morning as cleanup began. WSB-TV′s Tony Thomas watched as members of the Atlanta City Council and neighbors stopped by. “You can still smell the smoke. I see hurt, I see anger, I see frustration,” said Will Norwood. “I see people who are trying to find a way to express that things have to change.” Marina Grant and several other volunteers picked up the trash around the restaurant and in the street. “This is my neighborhood,” Duane Kelly said. Kelly stood nearby as a WSB-TV drone flew over the damage for a better look. Not much is left of the building following the fires that burned for hours. “People are tired. They’re tired. Not always agreeing with the way they express that anger, but at least now people are starting to finally listen,” Kelly said. Throughout Sunday, more and more people arrived to look at the site where so much has happened in the past two days. “Unfortunately, there is a lot of things that need to change, and hopefully this is spark[ing] something,” Norwood said. Memorials have been set up in the parking lot with flowers in support of the Brooks family. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • The NBA is in talks with The Walt Disney Company on a single-site scenario for a resumption of play in Central Florida in late July, the clearest sign yet that the league believes the season can continue amid the coronavirus pandemic. The National Basketball Players Association is also part of the talks with Disney. Games would be held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, a massive campus on the Disney property near Orlando. NBA spokesman Mike Bass said the conversations were still “exploratory,” and that the site would be used not only for games but for practices and housing as well. “Our priority continues to be the health and safety of all involved, and we are working with public health experts and government officials on a comprehensive set of guidelines to ensure that appropriate medical protocols and protections are in place,” Bass said. The ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex is a 255-acre campus with multiple arenas that could host games simultaneously and has been home to, among other things, the Jr. NBA World Championship in recent years. ESPN is primarily owned by Disney, one of the NBA’s broadcast partners. >> Former NBA star Patrick Ewing has coronavirus Space won’t be an issue, even if Major League Soccer — which is also in talks to resume its season at Disney — is there at the same time as the NBA. The entire Disney complex is roughly 40 square miles, with nearly 24,000 hotel rooms owned or operated by Disney within the campus. The NBA suspended its season March 11, becoming the first of the U.S. major pro leagues to do so after it became known that All-Star center Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz tested positive for COVID-19. The list of NBA players who were known to test positive eventually grew to 10 — not all were identified — and Commissioner Adam Silver said last month that the actual total was even higher. But the league has been working on countless return-to-play scenarios for several weeks, all with the caveat that testing would be an integral part of any resumption of the season. Teams have been allowed to welcome players back to their training facilities for voluntary sessions since May 8, and more than half of the league’s franchises have taken advantage of that opportunity. The next steps would likely include a loosening of the restrictions for those voluntary workouts — no more than four players are currently allowed inside any facility at a time — and then a plan for when training camps could open. If the league plans to resume play in late July, then camps conceivably could open around the start of that month. » More AJC coverage of the coronavirus outbreak You may find this story and more at AJC.com.
  • The NBA took tiny steps toward a return to normalcy, as a small number of practice facilities reopened for workouts Friday and at least one team received permission from the league to test players and staff for the coronavirus. Meanwhile, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver took part in a teleconference with members of the National Basketball Players Association on Friday night. Silver, according to a person familiar with the call's details, told players that the league is still aiming to hold full best-of-seven playoff series should the season resume and that playing without fans is an obvious possibility. Silver also spoke about the well-known notion of having the season resume in a centralized location, though cautioned that no decisions may be made for another several weeks, according to the person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because details of the call were not publicly released. Cleveland and Portland were open for players who wanted to get voluntary workouts in, with Cavaliers forward Cedi Osman among the first to be back on an NBA practice court since the league ordered those facilities closed seven weeks ago. “Great to be back,” Osman wrote on Instagram, as he took a selfie standing in what appeared to be an otherwise-empty practice gym. >> The four best Atlanta Hawks ever? Another good sign: the Orlando Magic revealed that they have been authorized by health officials in Orange County, Florida to test players and staff. In a letter obtained by AP, Orange County told the Magic it has more than enough testing resources for health-care workers and asymptomatic individuals. “With the Orange County Department of Health authorization, the NBA has advised us that we are able to have our players tested,” Magic spokesman Joel Glass said. The Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers are expected to be able to follow suit and test players and staff with the approval of local officials soon as well. Lakers players were tested several weeks ago and two players were positive; Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said last week that all residents of Los Angeles County are now eligible for free testing. The NBA has yet to implement a full-scale testing program for all teams, a step that must be taken if there is going to be a return to play this season. But the league has also advised teams that they may be permitted to test, with NBA approval, if local health officials say “robust” testing already exists for at-risk healthcare workers in that community and other conditions are met. The NBA, like other major U.S. leagues, also is trying to avoid any sense that it is jumping the testing line by getting players tested in cities where necessary resources are scarce. Orange County health officer Dr. Raul Pino told the Magic that they can “rest assured” that would not be the case in Orlando. Toronto said it would welcome players back for workouts starting next week. The Raptors will be using rules even more strict than the NBA mandates right now; only one player will be allowed in the facility at a time, and the court will be the only place open to players. Everything else, including locker rooms and weight rooms, will remain closed. Other NBA teams, when they open, may have as many as four players in the facility at once. “We thought this was reasonable,” Raptors general manager Bobby Webster said. “We thought it allowed our guys to start moving and getting out of their apartment a little bit ... maybe more for mental health, for them to start shooting and doing things like that. I don’t think it was necessarily compared to the NBA rule. I think it was more something that we developed internally.” Denver and Sacramento are among the teams planning to reopen for workouts Monday and many more are expected to effort toward reopening facilities for the voluntary workouts in the coming days; roughly half the league could have players working out next week barring any major setbacks or policy changes. » More AJC coverage of the coronavirus outbreak All the Friday news, however, wasn’t good: The Utah Jazz ownership group announced it was furloughing 40% of its staff, the second such move by Larry H. Miller Sports & Entertainment since the NBA suspended its season on March 11. “With no clear indication of when our businesses can fully reopen, we have made the difficult yet necessary decision to furlough a portion of our employees,” Jim Olsen, the organization’s president, said in a statement. The furloughs affect Jazz employees, workers at the team’s arena, a chain of movie theatres and the Los Angeles Angels’ minor league baseball affiliate in Salt Lake. And the Charlotte Hornets said that, even though North Carolina is beginning to reopen, they have no plans to bring players back right away. They said the decision will be evaluated on a week-to-week basis. “We believe this decision is in the best interest of our players, coaches and staff,” the Hornets said.

News

  • There are new rules in place for the holiday weekend if you plan to rent an Airbnb. The company says guests under 25 years old with fewer than three positive reviews will not be able to book an entire home close to where they live Airbnb didn’t reveal how it defines what is “close.” Airbnb said it wants to weed out any potential problems, specifically unauthorized house parties and feels this is the best way to do so. The company says it’s a nationwide policy, but it is most relevant for a handful of cities. The company says its technologies would block that guest from booking. “No one policy is going to stop all unauthorized parties. We’re also conscious that just because you’re 25 or older doesn’t mean that every single person in that group is booking for the right reasons too,” spokesperson Ben Breit told WSB-TV. Guests under 25 with at least three positive Airbnb reviews and no negative reviews won’t be subject to the restrictions. Airbnb began stepping up efforts to ban “party houses” last November after five people were shot and killed during an unauthorized party at an Airbnb rental in Orinda, California. At the time, Airbnb set up a rapid response team to deal with complaints from neighbors and started screening “high risk” bookings, such as reservations at a large home for one night. In a message to hosts, the company said reducing unauthorized parties is even more of a priority right now as states try to avoid coronavirus outbreaks. “With public health mandates in place throughout the country, we’re taking actions to support safe and responsible travel in the United States,” the company said. The Associated Press contributed to this story.
  • Jillian Wuestenberg, 32, and Eric Wuestenberg, 42, were charged Thursday with felonious assault after pulling a gun out on a Black mother and her children when a confrontation escalated outside a Chipotle in Michigan. Each of them had a loaded firearm and concealed pistol licenses. Deputies seized the two handguns, Sheriff Mike Bouchard said. On Thursday, the couple was arraigned and were given a $50,000 personal bond.  “As part of the bond conditions, they must turn over all firearms, not engage in any assaultive behavior, and may not leave the state,” sheriff’s officials told The Detroit News. The Detroit News first reported on the three-minute video posted online that shows part of the interaction. Takelia Hill, who is Black, told the newspaper that it happened after the white woman bumped into Hill’s teenage daughter as they were entering the fast food restaurant. The video footage [WARNING: Contains graphic language] starts after that, in the parking lot. A woman since identified as Jillian Wuestenberg is heard arguing with Hill and her daughters. Wuestenberg climbs into the vehicle, rolls down the window and says, “White people aren’t racist,” and, “I care about you,” before the vehicle she was in starts to back away. Her husband, who had led his wife to the vehicle, turns to the camera and asks, “Who ... do you think you guys are?,” using an expletive. Then, as someone is standing behind the vehicle, Jillian Wuestenberg jumps out and points a handgun in the direction of a person who’s recording. She screams at people to get away from her and her vehicle. A woman shouts, “She’s got a gun on me!” and urges someone in the parking lot to call the police. Wuestenberg then lowers the gun, climbs into the passenger seat and the vehicle drives off. Cooper, the prosecutor, told The Associated Press that her office viewed the available video and looked at the facts before filing charges. “It is an unfortunate set of circumstances that tempers run high over, basically, not much of an incident,” she said of the initial alleged spark that caused the confrontation. Bouchard said people are “picking sides” and that threatening calls were made to the sheriff’s office dispatch center after the videos were posted online. “We don’t see sides. We see facts,” he said. “There’s a lot of tension in our society, a lot of tension among folks and people with each other. I would just say this, we are asking and expect our police — and rightfully so — to deescalate every situation they possibly can, and we should be doing that. But I would say that needs to happen with us individually in our own lives and situations, that we interact with each other and deescalate those moments.” The Associated Press contributed to this story.
  • The United States Geological Survey reported that a 4.9 magnitude earthquake struck this morning near Puerto Rico around 9:55 a.m. EDT. The quake was felt across the U.S. territory and is the latest in a series of tremors that began in late December and have damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes. Ángel Vázquez, who oversees the emergency management agency in Ponce, said a house collapsed in the town of Lajas. The house was empty and slated for demolition, according to Kiara Hernández, spokeswoman for Puerto Rico’s Department of Public Security. Víctor Huérfano, director of Puerto Rico’s Seismic Network, told The Associated Press that the tremor is an aftershock related to the 6.4-magnitude quake that struck in early January, killing at least one person and causing millions of dollars in damage. The Associated Press contributed to this story.
  • With The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Peachtree Road Race postponed this year, the Atlanta Police Department warned people against running or walking the course on the Fourth of July. APD noted in a tweet Friday that the course will not be closed to car traffic on Independence Day. With hashtags including #MyPersonalPeachtree and #APDCares, the police department said in the tweet that people should avoid running or walking the course on Saturday for safety reasons. >>Read MORE on AJC.com. [Summary]
  • The Washington Redskins issued a statement that they will “undergo a thorough review of the team’s name.” “This process allows the team to take into account not only the proud tradition and history of the franchise but also input from our alumni, the organization, sponsors, the National Football League and the local community it is proud to represent on and off the field,” Majority owner Daniel Snyder said in the the statement. Snyder had previously shown no indication he would change the name since buying the team in 1999, but was quoted in the release. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said that he supports “this step.” The title sponsor of the Washington Redskins’ stadium, FedEx asked the NFL team to change its name in a statement Thursday. The company paid the team $205 million in 1999 for the naming rights to FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland. Amid the national debate over race, pressure has been mounting on the organization to abandon the name called a “dictionary-defined racial slur” by experts and advocates. Investors this week wrote to FedEx, PepsiCo and other sponsors asking them to request a change. FedEx is believed to be the first to take action. Nike appeared to remove all Redskins gear from its online store Thursday evening according to The Associated Press. The other 31 NFL teams were listed and a search for “Redskins” came up with no results. The team last week removed the name of racist founder George Preston Marshall from its Ring of Fame at FedEx Field, and a monument to him was removed from the site of the old RFK Stadium. Washington, D.C., mayor Muriel Bowser also said the name was an “obstacle” to the team returning to the District. The team’s lease at FedEx Field expires in 2027, and it is still talking to Washington, Virginia and Maryland about building a new stadium. The Associated Press contributed to this story.
  • Two people are dead after a shooting Friday morning near North Carolina A&T State University. The shooting happened just before 6:30 a.m. near North Dudley and and Salem streets in Greensboro. The victims, 34-year-old Rodney Letroy Stout and 34-year-old Bakeea Abdulla Douglas both died of their injuries, according WGHP. Police said they are now investigating the case as a homicide. The university sent out an Aggie Alert at 7:15 a.m., encouraging students and staff to “stay behind closed and locked doors until further notice.” University officials said the shooting involves a “male suspect wearing a white t-shirt with black pants and a black mask traveling in an unknown direction.” No arrests have been made.