George Floyd: Donald Trump slammed by Gregg Popovich over US protests

Enraged San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has sharply criticised the lack of leadership shown by President Donald Trump and called him a “coward” in the wake of week-long protests surrounding the death of George Floyd.

Popovich criticised Trump for being unable to say “black lives matter” at a time when the nation desperately needs to hear those words from the leader of the country.

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NBCA forms racial injustice and reform committee

  • Host of The Woj Pod
  • Joined ESPN in 2017

In describing recent events of “police brutality, racial profiling and the weaponization of racism” as “shameful, inhumane and intolerable,” the National Basketball Coaches Association has established a committee on racial injustice and reform to pursue solutions within NBA cities.

Gregg Popovich, Steve Kerr, Lloyd Pierce, David Fizdale and Stan Van Gundy — some of the profession’s most thoughtful and consistent voices on social issues in the sport — were among the coaches selected to a committee that helped craft a forcefully worded denouncement of the George Floyd killing in Minneapolis and the greater pattern of violence and intolerance toward African Americans in the United States.

After the league’s 30 head coaches participated in a Zoom call Saturday and several participated in a committee meeting Sunday, NBCA president Rick Carlisle and executive director David Fogel told ESPN that the NBCA is planning a Tuesday call to discuss how they can begin immediate action items across the league’s cities.

The statement read, in part: “As NBA coaches — both head and assistant coaches — we lead groups of men, most of whom are African American, and we see, hear and share their feelings of disgust, frustration, helplessness and anger. The events of the past few weeks — police brutality, racial profiling and the weaponization of racism — are shameful, inhumane and intolerable.

“As a diverse group of leaders, we have a responsibility to stand up and speak out for those who don’t have a voice — and to stand up and speak out for those who don’t feel it is safe to do so.

“Witnessing the murder of George Floyd in cold blood and in broad daylight has traumatized our nation, but the reality is that African Americans are targeted and victimized on a daily basis. As NBA coaches, we cannot treat this as an isolated incident of outrage.

“We are committed to working in our NBA cities with local leaders, officials and law enforcement agencies to create positive change in our communities. We have the power and platform to affect change, and we will use it.”

Beyond Popovich, Kerr, Pierce, Fizdale and Van Gundy, the committee includes Cleveland’s JB Bickerstaff and Utah’s Quin Snyder.

Pierce played a leadership role in the NBCA’s weekend dialogue and has shown a determination to encourage the entire roster of coaches — not just those traditionally speaking on issues of race and equality — to be part of a movement of voice and action within the profession’s ranks.

The NBCA’s statement included the signatures of 33 current and former head coaches and nearly 180 assistants.

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Jalen Rose’s passionate plea after death of George Floyd: ‘We need people who aren’t black’ to fight injustice

Jalen Rose is joining the outcry for social justice reform following the death of George Floyd, a black man killed in policy custody.

During the Friday edition of ESPN’s “Get Up!,” Rose made an impassioned plea to whites and people outside the black community to help fight systemic oppression and to stop treating black athletes and entertainers as people limited to their job description.

 The full transcript of Rose’s monologue:

I have to say this. I wish America loved black people as much as they love black culture. There’s so many times that it gets cherry picked, and it gets piggy-backed, but only when it’s convenient. And sometimes it happens in entertainment and athletics.

We’re not here designed only to entertain. We’re actually living and breathing human beings that have a multitude of intelligence, work ethic, discipline, talent. We’ve overcome a lot just like so many other races. This didn’t just start happening. You can Google. We’ve been sprayed with water hoses, we’ve been attacked by dogs, we’ve overcome it. I’m old enough to remember “I Have A Dream,” “Fight the Power,” “Screw the Police.” Now it’s “I can’t breathe.” This is not not new, and it’s not going to come from just us. 

We need people who aren’t black, we need people who aren’t brown. When you know these things are happening in your society to have a voice, a legitimate one, lock and step with us, protest with us, post with us, not just when it’s convenient, when it can be uncomfortable.

The image of Colin Kaepernick taking a knee at a football game during the national anthem is the exact one that we see in Minnesota, when a guy was laying on the ground for over eight minutes, handcuffed, with a knee to his neck. And was murdered. Let’s start calling these things what they are. These are murderings. These are lynchings. These things have caused pain in our society, in our community, for hundreds of years. We’ve been screaming out for your assistance.

Many in the sports community have made similar comments since the death of Floyd on May 25. Protests are taking place across the country, including New York, Los Angeles and Minneapolis, the site of Floyd’s death. Floyd was a close friend of former NBA player Stephen Jackson.

Stars from the sports world supported Rose and his comments:

On Friday, Derek Chauvin, the officer responsible for Floyd’s death, was reportedly arrested. He had been fired from his post earlier in the week.

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Michael Jordan’s return to the NBA almost saw him land with another team

Michael Jordan helped lead the Chicago Bulls to six NBA titles in the span of eight seasons, but it all could have been very different.

Jordan shocked the world when he stepped away from basketball in 1993 after the Bulls had completed their first three-peat and decided to chase his dream of playing professional baseball.

His Airness wanted to follow the pursuit his father had laid out in his junior days and, following his grisly murder along with his loss of drive in the NBA, the time was right.

But less than two years later Jordan’s hunger for basketball returned and so did he.

A comeback with the Bulls saw Jordan quickly regain his mantle as the NBA’s best player and Chicago won three more championships in a row.

Now, 25 years later, a story has emerged of just how different it all could have been for Jordan’s return, with the megastar initially dipping his toes back into NBA waters with another team.

Before returning to practice with Chicago, Jordan teamed up with the Golden State Warriors.

Speaking on NBC Sports’ Sports Uncovered podcast, then-assistant coach Rod Higgins and Warriors stars Tim Hardaway and Chris Mullin spilt the beans on Jordan’s cameo on the west coast of America.

“One morning, while Michael was visiting, he calls and asks me … 'Do you think it's OK if I practice with you guys?’” Higgins said.

“And then I said, 'I don't think so, but let me call Nelly — that's what we called (Warriors head coach) Don Nelson — let me call Nelly and I'll get back to you’.

“I call Nelly and I asked Nelly if it's OK, if there's gonna be any issues. Michael wants to know if he can practice with us. Nelly's response was, "Hell, yeah’.

“He came in and we dressed him out, Eric Housen dressed him out in Warrior gear. He might have given him No. 23, I don't think anyone was wearing 23 at the time, but gave him his wrist band to put on his elbow and things of that nature.”

Jordan’s return was sparked with the Warriors.Source:Getty Images

Reminiscing the experience, Hardaway remembered how Jordan made his presence felt on the practice court — a sure sign he was angling for a return to the NBA.

“He came in and he ramped up the practice, and we had closed off practice in the Coliseum. We knew he was coming back then,” Hardaway said.

“He just took over our practice.

“He got the five guys that weren’t playing that much and he said, ‘I take us seven to play you all seven in a scrimmage’. It was like he never left.”

Higgins said Jordan “was a Warrior for 48 hours” while Mullin was amazed at how well he looked after his time away from the game.

“What I remember is him walking on the court, after not playing (basketball), probably playing 36 holes of golf the day before, walking on the court and dominating,” Mullin said.

“I always knew he was coming back.”

According to Mullin, Jordan targeted 24-year-old Latrell Sprewell. Jordan’s personal trainer Tim Grover revealed why.

“Latrell was one of the more explosive, more athletic, and he was probably one of the better players during that short run that he had,” Grover said, per NBC Sports. “So what Michael needed to know (was), ‘Even though I took the time off, can I still come back and kick his a**?’

“And in his mind he’s like, ‘I’ve been gone from this game for how long? And he’s supposed to be the top player? Alright’. He wasn’t testing himself against Sprewell, he was testing himself against himself.”

Michael Jordan – Golden State Warrior for 48 hours?

In the debut edition of Sports Uncovered, hear about the MJ comeback story that has gone untold for nearly three decades.

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After being bundled out of the playoffs by the Orlando Magic, the fire inside Jordan was lit and next season the Bulls pulled off a then record-breaking campaign by winning 72 games and only losing 10 en route to their fourth title.

For the Warriors, their pursuit of capturing their fourth NBA Championship remained on hold from 1975 all the way through until 2015 when Steph Curry led the franchise to silverware and a period of sustained dominance.

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Rockets GM Daryl Morey: NBA hiatus and uncertainty helps Houston’s title chances

Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey thinks the NBA's hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic could be beneficial to his team's chances of make a championship run whenever the 2020 playoffs begin.

In a Facebook Q&A with team reporter Cayleigh Griffin, Morey said Thursday the multi-month layoff could be helpful to veterans Houston acquired during the season. By virtue of a second training camp, they could get a new opportunity to work their way into coach Mike D'Antoni's playoff rotation.

The Rockets acquired DeMarre Carroll, Jeff Green, and Bruno Caboclo weeks before the season's suspension on March 11, but Green was the only one to immediately receive a spot in the team's new small-ball rotation.

However, resuming play might change that dynamic since it resets the season and puts NBA rosters back on level footing for training camp.

Join Daryl LIVE for a Q&A with Rockets Sideline Reporter Cayleigh Griffin. Put your questions for Daryl in the comments!

"We do feel like our odds have gone up with the restart," Morey said Thursday. "Because we probably can't call ourselves the favorite — we just haven't played well enough to say that — anything that adds uncertainty to the system is generally good for us."

Griffin asked about the second training camp, and Morey explained how it could be an advantage for the Rockets.

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"I think that's an edge for us. It's one of the reasons why a stop and restart slightly favors us," Morey said. "We have a very deep team. We have veterans who have not been with us all year who have contributed to very good playoff teams in the past. They probably didn't get much of a chance to show what they could do. But with a new training camp and maybe some games before the playoffs … it gives those guys a chance to show coach D'Antoni what they can do.

"Coach likes a tight rotation in the playoffs, which I do think the evidence does support his choice there in the playoffs. But in terms of who our eight, nine or 10 guys are going to be in the playoffs, I do think it gives those guys a chance and it gives us some potential upside."

To Morey's point, Green and Carroll have contributed to playoff teams in recent seasons.

The timetable of the summer training camp remains unclear, though it needs to begin relatively soon in order to hit the league's July target of resuming play. More clarity on the timeline could come in the days ahead. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver had a conference call Thursday with GMs and has another Friday with team owners.

Rockets Wire is part of the USA TODAY Sports Media Group.

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Makur Maker has a big decision to make

Budding basketball star Makur Maker is leaving his options open ahead of next month’s NBA draft.

At the moment it’s not known whether the 211cm-tall Australian teenager will remain in the draft or choose to play a year with one of the several elite US college basketball programs keen to secure his services.

The 19-year-old’s immediate concern is completing high school this week in order to keep the college option open.

“It’s the last week,” Maker told AAP on Wednesday, in between economics, English and US history virtual classes at the Pacific Academy in Irvine, south of Los Angeles.

The coronavirus pandemic has not only forced students across the US to complete the school year online at home, but it has also shaken up Maker’s grand plan to impress NBA representatives in the lead-up to the June 25 draft.

Maker had planned to impress at the Nike Hoops Summit, Iverson Classic and other traditional pre-draft showcase events, but the pandemic postponed them. NBA teams may also be blocked from working out with players ahead of next month’s draft.

It could put Maker at a disadvantage against other prospects who can fall back on extensive video showreels, including Australian guard Josh Green, who played a year with the University of Arizona, as well as LaMelo Ball and RJ Hampton, after their stints in Australia’s National Basketball League.

Makur Maker wants to follow his cousin Thon into the NBA.Source:Getty Images

Key for Maker is ensuring he is a first-round draft pick. If it appears teams will not draft him in the first round he will take up a college scholarship, build up his draft stock and take another shot at the NBA next year.

Maker and his guardian Ed Smith are hoping the NBA allows face-to-face workouts with teams before next month’s draft.

“If Makur gets workouts with NBA teams he feels he will be a first-round pick,” Smith said.

The player’s cousin, fellow Australian Thon Maker, was so impressive during a pre-draft workout with the Milwaukee Bucks the team snapped him up with the 10th pick of the 2016 draft.

Maker is sharing a house in LA with Thon, now a forward/centre with the Detroit Pistons, and Thon’s brother Matur Maker, a forward with the NBA G League’s Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

The trio have been working out nightly at an LA basketball facility with former Sydney Kings big man turned trainer Anthony Susnjara, and Maker says he is trying to ignore the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m taking the same approach as if the coronavirus was not there,” he said. “I’m just getting my body ready and working on my skills.”

Once his immediate future is sorted out, Maker is keen to represent Australia at next year’s Tokyo Olympics.

“I want to play for Australia,” Maker, who was born in Kenya and moved to Australia with his family as a one-year-old, said.

“I grew up there so it will be great to put on the green and gold.”

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NCAA grants waiver to transfer wing Johnny Juzang, making him eligible for UCLA in 2020-21

Johnny Juzang, a promising 6-5 wing who decided to transfer from Kentucky to UCLA after a single season with the Wildcats, has been granted a waiver to compete in the 2020-21 season by the NCAA.

A source close to Juzang told Sporting News that he will be permitted to play for the Bruins next season. A Los Angeles native who attended Harvard-Westlake School in Southern California, Juzang averaged 2.9 points for the Wildcats in 12 minutes per game.

But he was a hero of Kentucky’s Southeastern Conference championship-clinching victory on the road at Florida on the final day of the 2019-20 regular season. He scored 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting that including two 3-pointers in UK’s come-from-behind win over the Gators.

This story will be updated.

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George Hill is hanging with zebras, kangaroos and wildebeest on his 850-acre Texas ranch

  • Staff Writer
  • Joined ESPN in 2018
  • Appears regularly on ESPN Chicago 1000

IT’S STILL DARK when George Hill drives up the dirt road.

It is 5:30 a.m., and Hill parks his Dodge pickup, trudges over to a small hut perched 12 feet above the ground, climbs the ladder and settles in to watch the sunrise.

Wearing Wrangler jeans and a hoodie emblazoned with the Milwaukee Bucks logo, Hill whips out his phone to play Sudoku as he waits.

Between games, he scans the land for the silhouettes of his animals — kangaroos, wildebeests, donkeys, elk, antelope and six zebras, among others.

“I am mainly on African safari stuff,” he says.

Hill, 34 and envisioning life after basketball, is pouring his time away from the court into learning more about animal care, overseeing projects — expanding a lake and building a “barndominium” are currently underway — and watching over his vast, 850-acre ranch and its exotic residents.

In August 2017, he purchased the massive plot of land here in Texas Hill Country, a 35-minute drive north of his family’s offseason home in San Antonio. Over time, the property has been bulldozed, sculpted and preened into a sprawling ranch.

Normally an offseason retreat, the ranch has become a getaway during the league’s coronavirus suspension. Soon after the announcement that games would be put on hold on March 11, Hill, his wife, Samantha, and their 4-year-old son, Zayden, and 2-year-old daughter, Zoe, flew to Texas from Milwaukee.

“I just think it’s cool for my kids to see,” Hill says. “And for them to have something different. Everyone has a dog or a cat. … I just choose other animals.”

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FALLOW DEER WERE the first animals Hill introduced on his land. Then he added sables — 500-pound brown-and-white antelope that are native to Africa. Now, he has dozens of different animal species.

Hill owns scimitar oryx — tan-and-white creatures that also are in the antelope family, with curved, pointy horns and big bellies. He has Arabian oryx and red lechwe. There are New Zealand red stag, kudu and ostrich, too.

Hill bought the majority of his animals three years ago, but in early May, he added another zebra to his herd. “For my birthday,” Hill says.

Hill says he purchases his animals from Texas-based licensed specialty breeders. According to Lonesome Bull Ranch — an exotic wildlife breeder in Corpus Christi — zebras run anywhere from $3,950 to $5,750. The most expensive animals on Hill’s property are the female sable antelope and kudu, which cost $20,000 to $25,000 apiece. He only keeps herbivores that can nibble on the grass, roots and shrubs.

Just a few have names. A baby zebra born last summer is named Suki after the Bucks’ strength and conditioning coach, Suki Hobson, who visited the ranch days after it was born. Zayden named one of the kangaroos “Hoppy.”

But most of the animals, Hill says, will never come into contact with humans. A few of his deer were bottle-fed from birth, so they will occasionally allow Hill, his kids and the ranch hands to pet them on the nose or feed them snacks. “[The white-tailed deer] really love peanuts,” he says.

Plus, the animals have plenty of room to roam. Hill’s 850-acre ranch is massive, dwarfing the land areas of the biggest zoos in the country: The Texas Zoo in Victoria — 130 miles southwest of Hill Country — is 106 acres, the Bronx Zoo is 265 acres and the Minnesota Zoo is 485 acres.

“Most of [the animals have] been out there relaxing and reproducing,” Hill says.

Hill tries not to insert himself into his animals’ lives, but if they appear to be ill or have a limp, he or someone on his staff will intervene. Two years ago, Hill noticed one of his elk wasn’t eating. Over the course of a week, the elk got progressively skinnier, until Hill called a neighbor, who is a vet.

“I thought he was going to die,” Hill says. “But my neighbor came over and gave him two shots of antibiotics, and he’s super healthy now. He’s back, huge as ever.”

In Texas, owning exotic animals such as zebras and kangaroos is legal. Texas residents, according to the state health and safety codes, need a permit for “dangerous wild animals,” such as lions, tigers, cougars, leopards and cheetahs, among others.

The Texas Animal Health Commission, in an email to ESPN, explained that there are only regulations for moving zebras into Texas from another state, requiring the zebras to have a certificate of veterinary inspection and a permit.

His zebras, his other animals and the ranch they inhabit are part of Hill’s master plan.

He had wanted a place like this for years. When Hill played for the Indiana Pacers in the mid-2010s, he would talk to friend and teammate C.J. Miles about his dream.

“He was a country boy even back in his Indiana days. I knew it was a matter of time before he found somewhere he could disappear to,” Miles says.

But even Miles was surprised to hear the variety of Hill’s animal collection.

“[Having] kangaroos is actually insane to me,” Miles says. “I’m afraid of them.”

BEFORE THE ZEBRAS and kangaroos, there was a horse named Ropey.

When Hill was a teenager in Indianapolis, his father purchased two pintos that were brothers. Hill named one of the horses “Ropey” after the rope that was slung around the horn of his saddle.

“We used to ride through the neighborhood,” he says.

Hill’s father, who loved horses, had bought a modest plot of land near Wes Montgomery Park.

“He never had [a horse] or really seen people from the hood that had horses,” Hill says of his father. “So he wanted to step outside the box.”

Hill would go to the barn, sling a pad and saddle over Ropey’s back and ride him to his neighborhood down the road. In Indianapolis, a 20-minute drive sees a quaint downtown give way to cornfields and farmland.

“A little pocket of a town [will have] a country feel to it and then get right back to the city,” says Miles, who spent three years with the Pacers. “People think it’s one or the other — it’s not.”

Still, Hill and Ropey stood out among the single-story houses that lined 34th Street.

During summers, Hill would ride Ropey to Washington Park to play basketball. He would stuff plastic, gallon-sized jugs of water into the side bags that draped over Ropey’s withers. When Hill got to the park, he would pour the water into a bucket, tie Ropey’s lead to a tree and play pickup on the outdoor court.

Hill never worried about someone snatching his horse while he ran up and down the court. Most people, Hill recalls, knew his family. His peers never seemed daunted, either.

“It was just like, ‘Damn. This motherf—er has a horse,'” Hill says.

HILL WANTS TO be clear: He is an experienced hunter, but the animals on his ranch are not for hunting.

“The only thing I hunt on my land is wild hogs and coyotes, because they cause so many problems,” Hill says. The hogs, he says, can burrow under the fences and eat the corn and grass meant for his animals, while coyotes can climb in and kill his baby deer.

Hill started hunting after being drafted by the San Antonio Spurs in 2008, when he got to know season-ticket holders Will and Gloria Drash. They became so close that Hill affectionately refers to them as his “adopted grandparents.”

Will Drash taught Hill to shoot on a trip to the couple’s 150-acre west Texas ranch during the All-Star break of Hill’s rookie season.

“I instructed my husband: ‘You do not give George the most powerful rifle out there because I don’t want him throwing his shoulder out,” Gloria Drash says. “And then we aren’t able to go to the games because [Gregg] Popovich is going to get on our case.

“Of course, they didn’t listen to my instructions.”

Since then, Hill has chased bigger, more expensive game. During offseasons, he has traveled to Alaska to hunt grizzly bears and Canada to hunt elk. He has shot pheasants with Bucks’ vice president Alex Lasry. Three years ago, Hill posted a video on Instagram of him shooting wild hogs during a guided helicopter hunt.

And while Hill explains the efforts he takes to be a responsible hunter — hiring experts and guides to identify which animals are aging and approved to kill, purchasing appropriate hunting permits and harvesting the animal’s meat so that his kills are functional — his social media followers have varied reactions to his hunting-related posts.

Mixed into the congratulatory comments — “nice kill brother” and “glad to see some hunting content back on your page” — are people calling him “cruel,” “disgusting” and telling him to “shoot baskets not animals.”

“I don’t really pay that no attention,” Hill says. “Most people that always have something against hunting are the same ones that go out to a restaurant to eat a steak or order a burger. So I always say, if you really see all those animals [get] to your plate, you’d probably think differently about hunters.

“If you’re hunting just to kill s—, you have a problem.”

BY 7 A.M., the ranch is bustling.

Social distancing has always been the norm for Hill and his 16 ranch hands.

“You’re already 100 acres from another person. Everything you do, you have to take an ATV or truck,” says Hill, who has continued to employ his staff throughout the pandemic, as the Department of Homeland Security deemed farmworkers as essential.

Four people are clearing weeds and mending fences. Four are working on expanding a lake for Hill, an avid fisherman. Four are building a three-bedroom home called the “barndominium,” one of the projects Hill is most excited about. On this day, the porch on the upper level is nearing completion, with installation complete on dozens of lights dotting the ceiling.

Eventually, this is where Hill wants to retire. “You are starting to see how it will all come together,” he says.

Four other employees are in charge of the animals, making sure the feeders and water troughs are full and the animals are healthy.

Hill is taking in all the knowledge he can.

“I am just going from job to job, talking to them, asking them if I can help do things so I can learn,” Hill says.

Hill aims to be back with his family by 2 p.m. to play with his kids — and return to real life.

Virus concerns — Samantha’s 85-year-old grandmother had COVID-19 and has recovered — have forced Hill to tell teammates who wanted to stop by the ranch in the offseason that plans might be off; and there is the realization that he was supposed to be in the middle of a playoff run with the Bucks.

“I feel like there is so much negative s— going in the world, man,” Hill says. “So, I always try to think positive. Like, man, this is just preparing myself for retirement.”

For now, the ranch and the exotic species he helps care for remain Hill’s refuge. One day, he hopes to pass it down to his children.

“If this is what retirement looks like,” Hill says, “this is better than I thought.”

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Patrick Ewing released from hospital and ‘getting much better’ after contracting coronavirus

NBA icon Patrick Ewing has been discharged from the hospital and is recovering well after contracting coronavirus.

The 11-time All-Star revealed on Friday that he had tested positive for COVID-19 and was isolating in hospital. Ewing’s son, Patrick Ewing Jr, gave a positive update on his father’s condition Monday.

“I want to thank all the doctors and hospital staff for taking care of my father during his stay, as well as everyone who has reached out with thoughts and prayers to us since his diagnosis,” Ewing Jr. tweeted. “My father is now home and getting much better. We’ll continue to watch his symptoms and follow the CDC guidelines. I hope everyone continues to stay safe and protect yourselves and your loved ones.”

Ewing’s updated health condition brought joy to plenty of NBA fans, reporters and players.

Ewing won a national championship with Georgetown in 1984 and won gold medals with Team USA at the 1984 and 1992 Olympics.

The former Seattle SuperSonics and Orlando Magic center was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008.

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Ja Morant leading evolution of NBA point guard play, says Isiah Thomas

Memphis Grizzlies rookie star Ja Morant is leading the evolution of point guard play in the NBA, says Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas.

Morant, the No 2 overall pick in the 2019 Draft, has made a big impact in his first NBA season, leading the Grizzlies to eighth place in the Western Conference in a year when most observers expected a young Memphis team to endure a tough season of rebuilding.

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