DA's Morning Tip
DA's Morning Tip
DA's Morning Tip
DA's Morning Tip

How might controversial U.S. travel ban affect NBA players, teams?

David Aldridge

David Aldridge TNT Analyst

Archive

Feb 6, 2017 10:26 AM ET

Los Angeles Lakers forward Luol Deng is a native of Sudan.

Would the travel ban proposed by the Trump Administration impact the NBA and its satellite events and offices around the world if ultimately upheld by the courts?

It’s hard to stick to sports when the outside world pokes sports in the ribs with a sharp stick.

At this writing, the future of President Donald Trump’s executive order that would temporarily halt entry to the United States by citizens from seven predominately Muslim nations is uncertain. A federal judge blocked the proposed ban Friday, issuing a temporary restraining order prohibiting the U.S. government from continuing the policy at airports around the country, after officials from Washington state and Minnesota had sought the injunction, claiming the order caused unreasonable harm to some of those state’s citizens and discriminated against Muslims.

A federal appeals court denied an appeal by the Department of Justice late Saturday night that would have restored the order. But the matter is almost certain to continuing winding through the federal courts system for several more weeks, if not months, as further appeals and counter-appeals are heard. It’s uncertain if U.S. Customs and Homeland Security officials on the front lines are aware of what they can and cannot do in the wake of the stay. Published reports Sunday indicated that at least some people from the affected nations were planning to fly to the U.S. and enter the country in the next day or two.

The original executive order signed by President Trump Jan. 27 would have temporarily halted the entire U.S. refugee admissions system for 120 days while the program was reviewed. It banned entry to the U.S. by people from seven predominately, though not exclusively, Muslim nations: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen -- for 90 days, and would halt entry by Syrian refugees indefinitely. The administration said that the ban did not extend to people who lawfully hold green cards, and that religious minorities seeking refugee status from those countries would get preferential status.

Meanwhile, businesses like the NBA with interests around the world, and many of its players, who come from all over the world and have families from all over the world -- have to try and navigate through the uncertainty.

“It’s unnecessary,” said the Hawks Dennis Schroeder, whose father was German and whose mother is Gambian, and who comes from a practicing Muslim family. “People who are born and raised here, it doesn’t matter whether it’s Sudan or somewhere else, if it’s Muslim, I don’t get why he want them out of here. Just Muslim, just Islamic people, they don’t really do anything. They’re just here. They want to live in peace. I can’t talk a lot about it, because it hurts me.”

Former NBA player Nazr Mohammed, a practicing Muslim born in Chicago, wrote a blog post last week in which he was “overcome with sadness” about the proposed ban.

The NBA has been engaged in conversations with the State Department regarding how the proposed ban could potentially apply to players in all of its leagues.

The league employs around 1,300 people around the world. It has offices in Spain, Canada, India, Mexico, Taiwan and China, as well as offices in London (representing Europe), Johannesburg (Africa) and Hong Kong (Asia and the Pacific). Initial indications are that none of the league’s employees who live and work outside of the United States are from any of the seven nations named in the order. Nor are any employees of the NBA D-League or the WNBA from those nations.

The two current NBA players whose families are from Sudan, the Los Angeles Lakers’ Luol Deng and the Milwaukee Bucks’ Thon Maker, are not believed to be impacted by the ban. Deng holds dual British citizenship; his family emigrated from Wau, a city in what is now recognized as South Sudan, a nation independent from Sudan, to Egypt in 1985. In 1990, the family was granted asylum in Britain. South Sudan gained its independence from Sudan in 2011 after that nation was roiled by civil war, and has a much larger Christian population than Muslim.

Deng also has a U.S. Green Card and is a permanent resident of the States.

Maker’s family also came from Wau. He left when he was five, relocating with family members in Perth, Australia. He has an Australian passport.

Deng posted an Instagram message last week declaring himself a “proud refugee” and that he stood by all refugees and “the policies that have historically welcomed them.”

View this post on Instagram

I am a #ProudRefugee.

A post shared by Luol Deng (@luoldeng9) on

Big “tentpole” events like All-Star weekend in New Orleans later this month would likely be less affected if the ban were restored -- though the league is holding a Basketball Without Borders global camp during this year’s activities in New Orleans. No kids currently lined up to attend the camp are from any of the seven nations cited in the proposed ban.

Though nationals from none of the seven countries listed in the proposed ban have been involved in terrorist actions on U.S. soil -- the 20 terrorists who carried out the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center in New York and severely damaged the Pentagon were from Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Lebanon, nations that are not on the banned list -- the Trump Administration claimed it was being proactive rather than engaging in stereotyping Muslims by enacting the ban.

“Deteriorating conditions in certain countries due to war, strife, disaster, and civil unrest increase the likelihood that terrorists will use any means possible to enter the United States,” President Trump’s Executive Order read. “The United States must be vigilant during the visa-issuance process to ensure that those approved for admission do not intend to harm Americans and that they have no ties to terrorism.”

But laws with such reach often have unintended consequences. While NBA employees can come in and out of the States with no difficulties, predicting who’ll work for the league, or who is related to someone who might, is an inexact science.

While there haven’t been many NBA-caliber players from the seven countries named, there have been some connections in the past.

In 2008, the Rocky Mountain Revue, the summer league run by the Utah Jazz, invited the Iranian National Basketball team to play in the league. Former Memphis Grizzlies center Hamed Haddadi, the first Iranian-born player to play in the NBA, is currently playing in China.

The 31-year-old still hopes to get back to the NBA, where he played for five seasons. Iranian-born forward Arsalan Kazemi, drafted by Washington in the second round in 2013 out of Oregon, and who had camp stints in 2015 with Philadelphia and Houston, is back in Iran, playing in the Iranian Basketball Super League. Just 26, Kazemi is hopeful he could someday get another NBA invitation.

In the meantime, there is nothing to do but wait until the courts decide.

“I usually don’t like to talk about politics,” said Pelicans center Omer Asik, a Turkish-born Muslim. “That’s all I can say. It is bad.”

… You Write In, DA Answers …

For once, I’ll listen to Smooth Jazz. From Travis Stevens:

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the Miller family transferring Jazz ownership to a legacy trust. As I understand, this is a first in the four major U.S. sports. What's the impact on the NBA, specifically small-market teams? Which, if any, other teams do you think are most likely follow a similar path?

There’s no impact on the league, Travis. The impact is in Salt Lake City, where the Jazz will now remain for the foreseeable future. The Millers knew that big financial decisions were looming -- starting with All-Star Gordon Hayward’s impending free agency. They didn’t want any doubt about the franchise’s ability to pay top dollar, or any speculation that the team would be sold. Hence, the team will go into the trust, which will be run by the family, starting with Gail Miller, who’s owned the team since the death of her husband Larry in 2009, as trustee.

All the team’s profits will go into the trust, which will be used to pay the salaries of the players and coaches and the $125 million renovation of Vivint Smart Home Arena. The team will stockpile cash reserves now for those times when the Jazz aren’t as profitable (this is a very good explainer of the financial details and tax implications involved with the Jazz’s trust, a version of what is known in economic circles as a Generation Skipping Trust, or GST).

“When we need to act fast, we have the ability to do that now,” Steve Starks, the president of Miller Sports and Entertainment and the Jazz, told me a couple of weeks ago, after the establishment of the legacy trust was announced. “We will have enough cash flow to be able to support the organization. The trust will be self-sufficient. We will remain competitive.”

The most apt comparison would be with the NFL’s Green Bay Packers, which have been a publicly owned, non-profit corporation since 1923, and now have more than 360,000 shareholders around the world. The Packers raise money for renovations and other team needs by issuing stock offerings to those shareholders, almost none of whom have any true say in how the franchise is run; their “stock” is essentially worthless, as it can’t be re-sold or grow in value, but people can say they’re “part-owners” of the Packers (full disclosure: I bought such “stock” for my two kids a few years ago). The Packers have a seven-person executive committee, one of whom, team president Mark Murphy, represents the team in NFL matters. But Murphy is the only member of the board who is paid a salary; the others serve for free.

After Gail Miller dies, a six-member board, all comprised of Miller family members, will serve as trustees.

“This creates an opportunity for the Millers to remain stewards,” Starks said. “When Larry bought the team, the motive was for the team to stay in Utah. That’s always been the motive for the Miller family. This allows that to happen in perpetuity.”

The bottom line is that the Jazz will not be leaving Utah any time soon, or any time later well after all of us are long gone.

Get Up off the Floor. From Mike Chamernik:

Why do teams add marginal players to reach the salary floor? Wouldn't it be better to just split the difference between the players on the team, giving each player a small bonus and building some goodwill? Or is my premise incorrect?

For those scoring at home: each team is required to spend a minimum of 90 percent of the salary cap in a given season. This year, for example, the cap for each team is $94.143 million. That means every team has to spend at least $84.7287 million on salaries. If a team spends less than that, the difference between the $84.7287 and what they actually spend is divided among the players. Almost every team is well above the cap so it’s never a problem for most, but on occasion, a team not looking to spend lavishly and which doesn’t see a difference maker it’s willing to absorb with its cap space will stay under. Currently, according to numbers compiled by Basketball Insiders’ Eric Pincus, six teams -- Philadelphia ($76.924 million), Denver ($77.1126 million), Brooklyn ($78.297 million), Utah ($80.498 million), Phoenix ($80.863 million) and Minnesota ($81.427 million) are below the floor. The short answer to your question, Mike, is that I don’t think there’s a conscious decision by teams in that situation to avoid paying the difference to their players rather than bringing someone in who’ll get them to the cap floor. The flexibility those teams have with such low payrolls allows them to be able to make moves like bringing in someone via signing or trade that can help them.

Gary (doesn’t) read my mind (at all). From Gary Niemerg:

Would you be willing to take into your home two adult refugees from Syria using our previous vetting techniques? Didn't think so. Why then are you for letting them into, or near other people's homes? Unfortunately, we have a lot of BAD people in this world who want to KILL us. We have to be careful. A 90-day ban will pass quickly and better vetting will be taking place. How is that bad?

Thanks for answering for me, Gary, but you were wrong. I wouldn’t have any issue housing two adult Syrian refugees or having them live in my neighborhood. Why would I care any more about where they’re from than, say, two adult Pakistani refugees or two adult Malawan refugees? I have no idea what countries my neighbors are from, nor do I care, as none of them has done or said anything that I view as threatening. The guy who walks his dog past my house every morning? I don’t know if he’s from Philly or Phuket.

The man who is suspected of killing six Muslims at a mosque in Quebec last week is a white French Canadian; should we start “extreme vetting” of all white French Canadian refugees? What part of “no one from any of these seven countries has carried out a terrorist attack against Americans on American soil” do you not understand?

It is very easy to say a 90-day ban a) will go quickly, from the comfort of your living room; you aren’t stuck in limbo for three months, unable to see your family or return to your home; b) will only last 90 days, c) will result in better vetting. Already, a significant number of visas have been revoked since the ban -- the Justice Department says it’s “only” 60,000, though others say the number is much higher.

In my opinion (since you asked for it), this proposed ban would do nothing to make us any safer. It is a canard designed to create a false sense of security, with a dollop of racism and stereotyping thrown in. We are supposed to be better than that and represent better than that to the rest of the world.

Send your questions, comments and other close calls involving large chunks of ice and rock hurtling toward us at something approaching the speed of light to daldridgetnt@gmail.com. If your e-mail is funny, thought-provoking or snarky, we just might publish it!

MVP WATCH

(Last week’s averages in parenthesis)

1) Russell Westbrook (33.8 ppg, 7 rpg, 10.5 apg, .436 FG, .913 FT): For once, it’s the New York Times that has to try and solve someone else’s puzzle on Sunday.

2) James Harden (31 ppg, 9 rpg, 8.3 apg, .400 FG, .795 FT): Hey, kids: plyometrics works!

3) LeBron James (27.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg 10.3 apg, .593 FG, .600 FT): Twenty-eight thousand career points. Only seven other men -- Abdul-Jabbar, Malone, Bryant, Jordan, Chamberlain, Nowitzki and O’Neal -- have gotten there, and none as quickly as the 32-year-old James.

4) Kawhi Leonard (24.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 4.7 apg, ..482 FG, .750 FT):Yes. Glad to be of help.

5) Kevin Durant (18 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 6.7 apg, .378 FG, .944 FT): Ten points scored in Saturday’s overtime loss to the Kings are the lowest KD has scored in a game since he scored 10 on Dec. 5, 2014, against Philly.

BY THE NUMBERS

486 -- Career games with the Rockets for Yao Ming, who had his number 11 retired at Toyota Center last Friday. Yao finished his Hall of Fame career in Houston second on the franchise’s all-time list for blocked shots (920, behind Hakeem Olajuwon’s 3,740) sixth all-time in rebounds (4,494) and field goal percentage (.524) and seventh in points (9,247).

 

Take an all-access look as the Rockets retire Yao Ming's No. 11 jersey.

3,252 -- All-time wins, before last Friday’s game between the teams, for the Lakers and Celtics. That’s correct: the NBA’s two most successful franchises were, going into their 359th meeting with one another last Friday, had the exact same number of victories in their respective franchise’s history. Boston took a one-game overall lead in the series with its 113-107 win.

5 -- Times under Coach Erik Spoelstra that the Heat has had a win streak of at least 10 games; the fifth and most improbable is in progress as you read. Miami’s had four others nine-game win streaks and three eight-game streaks since Spoelstra took over for Pat Riley in 2008.

I’M FEELIN’ …

1) Class move by Doc Rivers to give Paul Pierce the start Sunday in his final game at TD Garden.

 

Relive some of the best moments from Paul Pierce's career in Boston.

2) You want to know why the Sixers are winning a lot more? Their five-man lineup of T.J. McConnell, Nik Stauskas, Robert Covington, Ersan Ilyasova and Joel Embiid has the second-best defensive rating in the league -- 90.3 points per 100 possessions -- of those with 100 or more minutes on the floor, per NBA.com/Stats.

3) So glad to see Khris Middleton back. The Bucks, obviously, are in desperate need of his perimeter shooting.

4) Twenty-five years ago last week, the new/old advisor to the Lakers, Earvin Johnson, was a bit player in one of the most anticipated video premiers up to that time, in early 1992. Michael Jackson’s song “Remember the Time” premiered on MTV, BET and Fox 25 years ago last Friday. I remember that night like it was yesterday; kids, we used to watch song premiers in the form of videos get released to the public in hugely anticipated premiers.

5) All good luck to Jemele Hill and Michael Smith as they take over the 6 p.m. ET SportsCenter show on ESPN today. That two young African-American journalists have been entrusted with one of that network’s most important programs says a lot both about them and the network. Proud of you two.

NOT FEELIN’ …

1) Did not need to hear Zach LaVine is out for the season. Damn. He and the Wolves had just started figuring it out defensively under Tom Thibodeau.

2) Hard to see Magic Johnson coming back to the Lakers as an adviser to team president Jeanie Buss just to maintain the status quo -- and that’s not good news for Jim Buss, the Lakers’ current executive VP of basketball ops.

3) Guys get waived for a million different reasons, but it’s got to sting a little in Brooklyn to see undrafted guard Yogi Ferrell sign with Dallas and quickly explode for 32 Friday night in a win over the Blazers. The Nets had signed Ferrell just after the season started but waived him Dec. 8 in order to sign Spencer Dinwiddie out of the D-League. Since coming to Dallas on a 10-day contract, Ferrell is averaging 17.8 points in four games, and is shooting 52 percent on threes after hitting just 29.6 percent behind the arc for the Nets, and is probably going to get his own multi-year deal out of the Mavs in a few days.

4) It’s a gamble for Charlotte to take on most of the $52 million in Miles Plumlee’s almost-new contract, signed last summer -- for the former Bucks’ center, traded to Charlotte last week for Spencer Hawes and Roy Hibbert -- considering Plumlee will play behind Cody Zeller. But the Hornets thought they had to do something to shake things up.

More Morning Tip:Howard, Rockets succeed apart from each other | DA's Top 15 Rankings | Q&A with Jrue Holiday

Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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