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Report: NBA facilities will begin to reopen May 1 – 680 News



NBA players will be allowed to return to team training facilities starting Friday, provided that their local governments do not have a stay-at-home order prohibiting such movement still in place as part of the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Any workouts that take place would be voluntary and be limited to individual sessions only, according to a person familiar with the league’s decision. The person spoke to The Associated Press on Saturday on condition of anonymity because the directives from the league were not released publicly.

Group practices would not be allowed yet, and teams will not yet be permitted to organize in-person workouts.

But as certain states and municipalities began loosening restrictions on personal movement, the NBA decided it was time to let players return to their practice courts – if only on a limited basis. Georgia and Oklahoma are among the states that have allowed some businesses to reopen and some cities in Florida are expected to loosen their stay-at-home policies in the coming days, even though health officials are warning that such moves are being made too quickly.

For those teams in cities where stay-at-home orders still make such a return impossible, the NBA said it would work to find “alternative arrangements,” the person with knowledge of the matter said.

In Ontario, home of the Toronto Raptors, all gatherings of five or more people are banned at the moment, with no exceptions currently in place for sporting activities and it is not immediately clear if an arrangement could be made to allow players to engage in solo practices should the NBA’s decision go into effect.

This move does not mean that a resumption of games is imminent. Still, the decision to let teams back into facilities is a significant step.

ESPN first reported details of the NBA’s decision.

In the NHL, suspended at about the same point of the season as the NBA, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said league officials “haven’t made any decisions yet.” Daly said only the NHL owes players and teams guidance before April 30 and will consider its next steps in that context.

Many NBA players have said they haven’t even had access to a basket since the league ordered teams to close their practice facilities on March 19. All-Star Jimmy Butler sent baskets to his Miami Heat teammates earlier this month, but some other players around the league said they haven’t even touched a basketball during the shutdown.

If they’re so inclined, that can now change. There remains no indicator about when a full-fledged return to organized team workouts will resume, however.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has said on several occasions that the league does not anticipate being able to decide until sometime in May – at the earliest – if a resumption of the season is possible.

The NBA suspended the season March 11. It ordered teams to shutter their facilities eight days later, saying at the time it was doing so “in light of the rapidly-developing coronavirus situation, and consistent with evolving advice from health experts regarding how to promote individual and public health while minimizing the spread of the virus.”

Files from Sportsnet were used in this report

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Pope, for first time, says China's Uighurs are 'persecuted' – Reuters



VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – In a new book, Pope Francis for the first time calls China’s Muslim Uighurs a “persecuted” people, something human rights activists have been urging him to do for years.

Pope Francis delivers his homily during a Mass celebrated as part of World Youth Day, at St. Peter’s Basilica, at the Vatican, November 22, 2020. Vincenzo Pinto/Pool via REUTERS

In the wide-ranging “Let Us Dream: The Path to A Better Future,” Francis also says the COVID-19 pandemic should spur governments to consider permanently establishing a universal basic income.

In the book, a 150-page collaboration with his English-language biographer, Austen Ivereigh, Francis speaks of economic, social and political changes he says are needed to address inequalities after the pandemic ends. It goes on sale on Dec. 1.

He also says people who see wearing masks as an imposition by the state are “victims only in their imagination” and praises those who protested against the death of George Floyd in police custody for rallying around the “healthy indignation” that united them.

“I think often of persecuted peoples: the Rohingya, the poor Uighurs, the Yazidi,” he said in a section where he also talks about persecuted Christians in Islamic countries.

While the pope has spoken out before about the Rohingya who have fled Myanmar, and the killing of Yazidi by Islamic State in Iraq, it was the first time he mentioned the Uighurs.

Faith leaders, activist groups and governments have said crimes against humanity and genocide are taking place against Uighurs in China’s remote Xinjiang region, where more than 1 million people are held in camps.

Last month, during a conference at the Vatican, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blasted China over its treatment of Uighurs.

Beijing has rejected the allegations as a attempt to discredit China, saying the camps are vocational education and training centres as part of counter-terrorism and deradicalisation measures.

Many commentators have said the Vatican was reluctant to speak out on the Uighurs earlier because it was in the process of renewing a controversial accord with Beijing on the appointment of bishops. The accord, which Pompeo urged the Vatican to abandon, was renewed in September.

Francis also gives his clearest support to date in the book to universal basic income (UBI), a controversial policy espoused by some economists and sociologists in which governments give a fixed amount of money to each citizen with no conditions attached.

UBI was a cornerstone of the campaign of Andrew Yang last year during the Democratic presidential primaries in the United States.

“Recognising the value to society of the work of nonearners

is a vital part of our rethinking in the post-Covid world. That’s why I believe it is time to explore concepts like the universal basic income (UBI) …” he said.

“By providing a universal basic income, we can free and enable people to work for the community in a dignified way,” he said.

Francis again criticised trickle-down economics, the theory favoured by conservatives that tax breaks and other incentives for big business and the wealthy eventually will benefit the rest of society through investment and job creation.

He called it “the false assumption of the infamous trickle-down theory that a growing economy will make us all richer.”

Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing By Tom Brown

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Raptors’ Alex Len presents untapped talent at low risk –



The Toronto Raptors have reportedly agreed to a deal with veteran centre Alex Len.

Likely fitting in as another end-of-rotation depth piece, Len, along with the reported signings of Aron Baynes and Chris Boucher, fill out Toronto’s depth chart at the centre position with the departures of Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol.

Here’s more on what he might be able to provide the Raptors.

Age: 27
Nationality: Ukranian
Position: Centre
Height: Seven feet | Weight: 250 pounds
Former team: Sacramento Kings
2019-20 stats: PPG: 8.0 | RPG: 5.8 | FG%: 55.5

A former top-five pick

Believe it or not, back in 2013 the Phoenix Suns took Len fifth overall in the NBA draft.

Granted that wasn’t exactly a world-beater draft year, but even back then it seemed a little high. As such, the “bust” moniker has dogged him for much of his career.

With that said, this could be to the Raptors’ benefit.

According to Sportsnet’s Michael Grange, Len is signing a one-year deal with the remainder of the team’s mid-level exception — which comes out to just about the minimum — giving the Raptors an opportunity to see if he might be able to pan out as a reclamation project of sorts at almost no risk, like they’ve attempted in the past with names like Bismack Biyombo and Jared Sullinger.

Obviously, one of those guys worked out and the other didn’t, and we don’t know the outcome of the Len experiment yet, but adding more depth at centre with the possibility of some untapped talent at little risk seems like as good an idea as any.

A classic, bruising big

As for Len’s game, the main reason why he didn’t live up to his draft billing is because the style of the play in the NBA passed him by. His low-post skills have become much less valuable and his inability to stretch the floor with outside shooting make him something of a liability as he’s not a feature centre that will have plays run for him and be surrounded by shooters himself.

Len is an old-school centre with limited offensive game outside of post-ups and tip-ins around the basket. However, he’s so big and strong that when given the opportunity, he’s quite adept at doing those two things.

Unfortunately, he lacks athleticism so he isn’t a player who’s going to do much above the rim, but he can make up for it with his great motor and general energy he brings to the game when on the floor. There will be no fear of a lack of effort from Len.

Defensively, Len might be able to show his value more as he’s a good shot-blocker with excellent timing on when to go up and contest the ball. Looking at his combined numbers split between the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks (who dealt him to the Kings on trade deadline day), Len averaged nearly two blocks per 36 minutes. Additionally, he has quicker feet and is more agile than you might think just looking at him, meaning he can defend some pick-and-roll as well.

Though he may not feature the ideal skill package you want in a modern NBA big man, Len still has some he can bring to the table.

His name makes for some obvious puns

All right, come on. Get it out of your system now:

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Report: Raptors reach deal with C Len – TSN



The Toronto Raptors have reached a deal with free agent centre Alex Len, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

ESPN reports the one-year deal is worth $2.3 million.

Len was traded in February from the Atlanta Hawks to the Sacramento Kings. He averaged eight points, 5.8 rebounds and 0.9 assists in 60 games between the two teams.

The 27-year-old was selected fifth overall by the Phoenix Suns in 2013 NBA Draft out of Maryland. He spent the first five seasons of his career with the Suns before joining the Hawks in 2018.

A veteran of 467 NBA games, Len has a career average of eight points and 6.3 rebounds and 0.8 assists per game.

The move helps to boost the frontcourt of the Raptors after the team lost Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol in free agency over the weekend.

Len is coming off of a two-year, $8.5 million deal signed with the Hawks.

The Antratsyt, Ukraine native becomes the third addition to the Raptors’ frontcourt in the past 48 hours with the team also signing free agent centre Aron Baynes and forward DeAndre Bembry.

The Dinos also agreed to terms on a two-year, $13.5 million deal with restricted free agent and Montreal native Chris Boucher to return to the club.

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