NBC plans to shut down the NBC Sports Network TV channel

There are all sorts of shifts happening in the world of TV and digital streaming. The latest, via the New York Post:

NBC Universal plans to shutter its sports channel NBCSN by the end of the year, resulting in the NHL having to move its broadcasts to USA Network, the company announced on Friday.

The move is in line with the current media trend of consolidating cable channels, while NBC appears to also be working on growing its Peacock streaming service and bolstering the programming schedule for other NBC properties like USA.

These days, the line between TV stations and online streaming channels is thinner than ever.

Rapper Big Sean named Creative Director of Innovation for Detroit Pistons

The Detroit Pistons today announced that rap star and Detroit-native Big Sean will become the organization’s Creative Director of Innovation.

In this role, Big Sean will provide creative counsel and strategic guidance on a variety of Pistons off-the-court initiatives, including team merchandise design, in-game experience, co-branded community, and social responsibility activation, and more.

To kick off the partnership, Big Sean has added his Don Life logo to the Pistons practice jersey.

“Sean is an accomplished artist, philanthropist and entrepreneur. Having spent time with him and his family I know how deeply he cares about the city of Detroit,” said Pistons Owner Tom Gores. “We share a common desire to use the power of sports and entertainment to improve our community and make a positive impact on people’s lives. I’m excited to see what we can do working together.”

“It’s a dream come true and a real honor to get to work with the iconic Detroit Pistons,” said Big Sean. “I grew up in the city, which naturally made me a fan of the Bad Boys. I would later have a Grant Hill poster on my wall and then, against all odds, would watch the ’04 Pistons go on to win the Championship, inspiring the whole city of Detroit. I look forward to creatively finding new ways to contribute to their legacy and continue their dedication to the community through sports, art, and, of course, music.”

Central to the partnership, the Pistons and the Sean Anderson Foundation will work together and engage Detroiters through future community initiatives and programming.

The six-time Grammy nominee will also curate music for Pistons in-game entertainment, including halftime performances and DJ playlists.

Additionally, Big Sean will participate in creative sessions and spearhead collaborations with the Pistons design team to launch custom merchandise line extensions.

FYI: New Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault is a big Bruce Springsteen fan

The OKC Thunder have a new coach, promoted from within the organization. Here’s the Oklahoman with some personal insight on the man who got the job:

The Thunder’s new boss had a song for his big day.

It was by The Boss.

Mark Daigneault is a huge fan of Bruce Springsteen. Thunder general manager Sam Presti joked that he didn’t hold that fandom against Daigneault, even though the coach talks about the singer all the time. Daigneault has even been known to blast Springsteen tunes during basketball practice.

He was thinking Wednesday, though, about Springsteen’s “Land of Hope and Dreams.”

“Because the first line is, ‘Grab your ticket and your suitcase. Thunder’s rolling down this track,’” he said…

Presti said after nearly two months of searching for a new coach, there were lots of reasons Daigneault was the right person for the job. How he relates to players. How he teaches the game. How he develops the talent.

The big Thunder news lately, aside from this coaching promotion, is that legendary veteran point guard Chris Paul’s name is appearing in lots of trade rumors. Coach Daigneault’s approach to the squad surely depends on if CP3 is still on the roster next season. Because if he isn’t, the team is rebuilding, and all sorts of objectives and expectations will change.

No surprise: Miami Heat doing well in NBA jersey sales since league restart

The Heat are having themself a year. On the court, and in the jersey sales department. Here’s the Miami Herald:

The Heat ranks fourth in team merchandise sales at NBAStore.com since the league restarted the season (from July 30 through Monday), the NBA announced Wednesday.

It marks the first time the Heat has been in the top five in team merchandise sales since the final season of the Big 3 era in 2014, when the roster included Chris Bosh, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

The Heat also has a player ranked in the league’s top 10 on the jersey sales list. All-Star forward Jimmy Butler ranks 10th, which was also determined based on NBAStore.com sales from July 30 through Monday.

And the South Florida Sun Sentinel:

The only teams with greater sales over that period were, in order, the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls. The Heat and Lakers are playing for the NBA title in the league’s quarantine setting at Disney World, with the NBA Finals opening Wednesday.

Rounding out the Top 10 in team-merchandise sales, in order, were the Golden State Warriors, Toronto Raptors, Dallas Mavericks, Milwaukee Bucks, Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets.

Butler has a tall task ahead, especially if he winds up being the guy to guard Lakers superstar LeBron James in these Finals.

We’ll know in a few hours. Heat vs. Lakers NBA Finals Game 1 is tonight at 9 p.m. ET on ABC TV.

Pieces of Lakers court autographed by Kobe Bryant up for auction

We all miss Kobe Bryant. And as time goes on, don’t be surprised to see an increased amount of Kobe-related items going up for sale or auction. On that front, here’s the Los Angeles Times on two pieces of basketball court that would be pretty awesome to own:

Lakers legend Kobe Bryant scored 60 points against the Utah Jazz on April 13, 2016, before declaring “Mamba out!” and calling it a career.

It was a special night in team history. And one fan can own a unique piece of it.

Before leaving the Staples Center floor for the final time as a player, Bryant autographed two portions of it — the parts decorated with the two jersey numbers he wore during his career, Nos. 8 and 24.

The signed No. 24 portion has been installed at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo. The signed No. 8 portion is available to the highest bidder through Heritage Auctions.

As sports collectibles go, owning a piece of an NBA team’s basketball court, autographed by a legendary player, and knowing that the item is real and is verified authentic, is very cool.

And another quick note, even though we literally already said this above: we miss Kobe.

Michael Jordan, Denny Hamlin forming NASCAR race team, signing Bubba Wallace

NBA legend Michael Jordan and three-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin today announced the formation of a new NASCAR Cup Series race team that will begin competition for the 2021 season. Rising NASCAR star Bubba Wallace has signed a multi-year deal to drive for the yet-to-be-named, single car team.

“Growing up in North Carolina, my parents would take my brothers, sisters and me to races, and I’ve been a NASCAR fan my whole life,” said Jordan. “The opportunity to own my own racing team in partnership with my friend, Denny Hamlin, and to have Bubba Wallace driving for us, is very exciting for me. Historically, NASCAR has struggled with diversity and there have been few Black owners. The timing seemed perfect as NASCAR is evolving and embracing social change more and more. In addition to the recent commitment and donations I have made to combat systemic racism, I see this as a chance to educate a new audience and open more opportunities for Black people in racing.”

Jordan will serve as principal owner of the new team with Hamlin as a minority partner while he continues to drive the No. 11 Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing.

“Starting a race team has been something that Michael and I have talked about while playing golf together over the years, but the timing or circumstances were never really right,” said the 39-year-old Hamlin. “It just makes sense now to lay the foundation for my racing career after I’m done driving and also help an up-and-coming driver like Bubba take his career to a higher level. Plus, Michael and Bubba can be a powerful voice together, not only in our sport, but also well beyond it.”

With the completed purchase of a NASCAR team charter from Germain Racing, Jordan becomes the first Black majority owner of a full-time race team in NASCAR’s premier series since NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Wendell Scott owned and raced his own car from the 1960s into the early 1970s.

“This is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I believe is a great fit for me at this point in my career,” said Wallace, who is the first African-American driver to race full-time at the NASCAR Cup Series level since Scott. “Both Michael and Denny are great competitors and are focused on building the best team they possibly can to go out and compete for race wins. I’m grateful and humbled that Michael and Denny believe in me and I’m super pumped to begin this adventure with them.”

The name, car number, manufacturer, sponsors and other details for the new team will be announced at a future date.

Timberwolves forward Juancho Hernangomez has role in new Adam Sandler basketball movie

The latest Timberwolves news isn’t the usual. Here’s the Minneapolis Star Tribune on a fun development:

Timberwolves forward Juancho Hernangomez won’t be present at the team’s voluntary group workouts the next two weeks. But Hernangomez isn’t injured, nor he is staying away because he’s a restricted free agent. Instead, he’s filming a movie…

A team spokesperson said Hernangomez is filming Adam Sandler’s latest project in Philadelphia. Netflix is producing the film called “Hustle.” It revolves around a basketball scout who searches for talent overseas.. Lakers forward LeBron James is also listed as a producer on the movie.

I haven’t looked into the storyline for this movie beyond much more than the quick description above, but anything involving Adam Sandler and basketball, I’m definitely watching.

ESPN hires Vince Carter as an NBA and college basketball analyst

ESPN has hired eight-time NBA All Star and Olympic gold medalist Vince Carter to a multi-year contract. The 2000 NBA Slam Dunk contest champion will serve as an NBA and college basketball analyst, appearing on pillar ESPN studio shows including NBA Countdown, The Jump, Get Up, First Take and SportsCenter with special appearances on College Game Day.

Additionally, Carter will serve as a game analyst for both NBA and ACC men’s basketball games.

Carter previously appeared on several ESPN platforms as a guest analyst prior to his recent retirement.

Carter, the only player in NBA history to play 22 seasons, was drafted in 1998 by the Toronto Raptors where he was named Rookie of the Year (1999), NBA All-Rookie first-team (1999), All-NBA third-team (2000), All-NBA second-team (2001) and an All-Star for five consecutive years (2000-2004). After he was acquired by the New Jersey Nets in 2004, Carter continued his NBA success with three additional All-Star trips (2005-2007). Carter played for a total of eight NBA teams throughout his career, which expanded across four different decades. Carter was the scoring leader on the 2000 United States Men’s Olympic Basketball Team where the USA defeated France to win the nation’s twelfth Men’s Basketball Olympic gold medal. Carter officially retired from the NBA after the 2019-20 season.

During his three-year college career at the University of North Carolina, Carter led the Tar Heels to consecutive ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament titles and NCAA Final Four appearances. The emerging star was named second-team All-American and third-team All-ACC in 1997, and first-team All-ACC in 1998. Carter’s number 15 jersey was honored by the Tar Heels in 2000. While playing in the NBA, Carter continued his coursework at North Carolina and earned a bachelor’s degree in 2001.

Carter attended Mainland High School in his hometown Daytona Beach, Fla where he led Mainland’s basketball team to its first state title in 56 years. He was named Parade All-American, McDonald’s All-American and Florida’s Basketball Player of the Year in 1995. In 2007, Carter was inducted into the Florida High School Athletic Hall of Fame.

In NBA real estate news, Draymond Green buys new house

Warriors forward Draymond Green has reportedly bought a new $9.6 million house in California. Here’s the San Jose Mercury News reporting:

Though he’s played solely for the Golden State Warriors since the 2012 NBA draft, it appears Draymond Green is looking to spend his future off-seasons a bit further south of San Francisco. The three-time All-Star and Michigan native has bounced into a lavish estate in L.A.’s prestigious Brentwood area, the same neighborhood that is also home to other superstar ballers like LeBron James, Blake Griffin, and Russell Westbrook.

The $9.6 million house picked out by Green and his fiancee, television personality Hazel Renee (“Basketball Wives,” “Real Housewives of Atlanta”) is essentially all-new, completed in 2019 and described in listing materials as a “timeless Georgian Colonial.” Complete with elegant snow white paint and jet black trim, the mansion is indisputably grand and guaranteed to impress guests with its multitude of high-style sconces, plus its columned porch and soaring roofline.

Inside, a two-story foyer with paneled walls and checkerboard marble floors sets the tone for the rest of the public rooms, which are decidedly posh and veer toward the formal side of the decor spectrum. There’s a gourmet kitchen with Italian marble countertops and luxe Woolf appliances that connects to the dining room and adjoining wine closet, plus a butler’s pantry servicing a lounge-like den. The living room and downstairs private office are both equipped with fireplaces and bronze chandeliers, and European oak hardwood lines the floors.

Sounds solid.

Okay, it sounds fantastic.

We’ve enjoyed Dray’s commentary on Inside the NBA on TNT. He’s got a bright future as an NBA analyst once his playing days are over. But that’s not anytime soon. Right now, the Warriors will be focused on using their lottery pick to add to their already star-filled cast.

Examining the virtual Raptor fan situation at Disney NBA bubble

At the NBA restart at Disney Wide World of Sports, fans aren’t in attendance at the game, except virtually, by use of video screens that show their faces at the game while they sit at home. It’s a cool thing. Here’s the Toronto Star talking about the virtual Raptor fan situation:

There are about 320 “seats” occupied by the visages of fans that, in the case of the Raptors, will be chosen from the team’s season-ticket base of about 15,000 when the playoffs begin later this month.

For now, team employees are working through the inevitable wrinkles in a process that’s brand new. But they expect to see regular “fans” at post-season games, meaning the likes of Superfan Nav Bhatia and global ambassador Drake might be there — so to speak.

“We’re seeing familiar faces on those screens, and who knows what it’ll evolve to here two months from now” when the Raptors may be playing for their second straight championship, Nurse said. “So I don’t want to discount the home-court thing quite yet.”

The fans have become a quirky sidebar to the actual games as the NBA tries different ways to guarantee spectator involvement.

I thought about suggesting adding more video screens and more fans, but the whole fun of being a virtual fan is that the virtual fan gets to see his or her face on the actual broadcast. If the video screens are high up in the air, away from the court, those fans won’t be visible on the TV broadcast, and that’s not as fun for them.

In other words, the NBA is doing this correctly.