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Of the 65 referees in the NBA this season, nine attended Historically Black Colleges and Universities. In celebration of Black History Month, we explore the unique bond that these officials have with one another and the impact that attending an HBCU had on their personal and professional lives.

We continue our series with Tony Brown, who graduated from Clark Atlanta University in 1989. Brown is in his 16th season as an NBA referee and entered the 2017-18 season having officiated 894 regular-season games and 15 playoff games. Prior to joining the NBA, he worked for four seasons in the NBA G League and CBA and three seasons in the WNBA.

Did you know that nine of the 65 NBA referees hailed from HBCUs?

Brown: No I didn’t. I knew there were a few but I didn’t know there were nine. If you ask most of us, it’s not enough. We still think the number is low (laughs). Now that I know there are more people that went to HBCUs on staff, I’m going to have to clearly make sure they know that Clark Atlanta is absolutely the best one around. And they missed out by not attending Clark Atlanta University (laughs).

Do you see any connective tissue as to why there are so many NBA referees that came through HBCUs?

Brown: I don’t think there’s any direct correlation to point to. I wish I had some method to the madness with it, but it’s good to know. I didn’t know there were that many. And I’m even interested to find out the ones I don’t know.

It’s funny because the HBCUs that the guys on our staff are from, it’s not that they’re within the same state in most cases. Except for Eric Lewis and me were both in Florida; he went to Bethume-Cookman and I started at Florida A&M before I ended up at Clark.

I did know that C.J. [Washington], Courtney [Kirkland] and Bennie [Adams] all went to Southern. And Bennie has mentored all of us. Everybody that’s come through coach [John] Guthrie’s system through the SEC training program, Bennie Adams, Leroy Richardson and Tom Washington were primary mentors for a lot of us.

HBCU Referees Series:

Sean Corbin: Coppin State

Karl Lane: Philander Smith College

Derrick Stafford: Morehouse College

Mentoring is such a strong theme when speaking with officials, how important is mentoring in this profession?

Brown: It helps you avoid the pitfalls. Really it’s a must for success because in this business you only grow by learning from your mistakes and your level of experience that you’ve gained through the eyes of other people. You’re not going to live long enough to make all the mistakes, but what helps you avoid that is getting proper direction when you get started. Even though the guys I just named they were my mentors and I know they mentored a lot of other guys because we came through the program, but that’s also what we do on a daily basis with everyone on staff. We look out for one another as best as we can to try to make sure that they avoid the mistakes that we made along the way. That’s where the growth comes in.

What made you decide to attend an HBCU?

Brown: Honestly, I went to an HBCU because of a basketball scholarship that I had to Florida A&M. I went there for basketball but I ended up leaving when the coach left. My choice was Clark Atlanta mainly because it was in Atlanta and I heard it was a good city for African-Americans to pursue success and my hope was to get a degree and then get a great job.

When I got to Clark I ended up not playing basketball there because the program was in transition and then tuition was out of control. That’s when my mom was like ‘Are you crazy, you just left [A&M], where you were in the state of Florida and everything is working out.’ But I went to Clark and took the chance. I ended up not playing but I still graduated on time and had a great time doing it. So it was a great life experience, and I understand the value of hard work by being there.

What impact did attending an HBCU have on your life?

Brown: It allowed me to see possibilities that I had not seen before. I grew up in Tallahassee, playing basketball all my younger years and Tallahassee is a very good college-orientated town, with a lot of diversity, which is great, but [going to Clark] afforded me something that I hadn’t seen before. Then being in Atlanta and at the Atlanta University Center, I saw so many progressive, successful black people in so many different fields. The city itself is known for its political structure and it was governed mainly by black people, which made me pay attention to politics more, whereas I had not before attending Clark. So going to an HBCU changed my view of the world, it gave me a broader perspective.

What was the best piece of advice someone gave you during college?

Brown: My brother told me, especially as a student-athlete, he really wanted me to make sure that I took my education seriously and made it a priority over the athletics. It was emphasized that I should put as much into studying as I did basketball and that was great advice. They can never take the education away from you. It just gives you a sense of pride; this is something that you earned and it helped broaden your thinking.

How was the transition from being a player to becoming an official?

Brown: The biggest transition for me was trying to always not follow the ball. Because as a player the action is always on ball, and you have to get out of the mindset of looking at the game as a player, basically understanding and anticipating movements and trying to just be a student of the game. Officiating and being a player are both done on instinct, it’s split second decisions. As a player you get out and you practice all of your moves way more than referees practice how they’re going to call a foul. But the great thing that bridges referees and players within the game is the way we watch video and learn the ebbs and flows of the game, and the intricacies of the game, which helps us become better and that’s what makes us great.

How important is the celebration of Black History Month not only to you personally, but in society in general?

Brown: It gives me such a sense of pride to see the nation embracing everyone’s culture. The great thing for me when I look at African-American pioneers – mind you there were several African-American pioneers that really helped mold my thinking as a young adult and kid – but for me there was none more important than my parents, who guided me and shared the stories of others’ greatness and willingness to lead the charge for change. I got to learn a little bit about all of them and they all achieved a special spot in my heart because they all had an impact, whether small or big, they impacted where we are today. It’s going to continue to be a work in progress but it looks good.

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Report: Dallas Mavericks set to chase DeAndre Jordan after opt out



DALLAS (AP) — The Dallas Mavericks are making another run at DeAndre Jordan, three years after the center jilted them in free agency to stay with the LA Clippers.

Jordan has opted out of the final year of that contract he signed with LA in 2015, and the Mavericks intend to pursue him as an unrestricted free agent, a person with knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press on Friday.

Dallas also intends to decline the $5 million club option on Dirk Nowitzki’s contract and re-sign him once its salary structure is more settled, the person told the AP on condition of anonymity because the sides are not publicly commenting on moves ahead of free agency opening Sunday.

The move on Nowitzki is designed to create more room under the salary cap, as were the decisions to rescind qualifying offers to shooting guard Doug McDermott and center Salah Mejri, making both unrestricted free agents.

Jordan was set to make $24.1 million under the four-year, $87.6 million contract he signed to stay with the team that drafted him in 2008. Seven years later, the Mavericks made a strong play for Jordan, who agreed to sign with them as a free agent.

The Houston native changed his mind, and the saga played out on social media the day before Jordan could sign. Former teammate Blake Griffin and coach Doc Rivers were part of a contingent that went to his house and stayed with him until the deal was official.

The reversal was a stunning setback for Dallas, which made the playoffs without Jordan the following year but lost in the first round and now is coming off consecutive losing seasons for the first time in nearly 20 years.


Is DeAndre Jordan the perfect free-agent fit for Dallas?

Circumstances are much different now, with the former All-Stars who helped persuade Jordan to stay no longer around. Chris Paul engineered a trade to Houston last summer, and the Clippers shipped Griffin to Detroit in January in a sign that rebuilding years could be ahead.

The Mavericks are two years into their own reconstruction, with 2017 first-round pick Dennis Smith Jr. joined by another player who will begin his NBA career as a teenager in European standout Luka Doncic.

Dallas moved up two spots in the Draft last week to get the Slovenian guard, who was taken third overall by Atlanta while the Mavericks selected former Oklahoma scoring sensation Trae Young for the Hawks.

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Reports: Kevin Durant to sign 2-year deal with Golden State Warriors



Kevin Durant has decided to sign a two-year deal with the Golden State Warriors, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Saturday because the deal cannot become official until the league’s offseason moratorium ends on Friday. The deal comes with a player option for 2019-20, so Durant can — and likely will — become a free agent again next summer.

It’s a win on multiple levels for the two-time defending NBA champion Warriors. Not only do they get to keep the 2017 and 2018 NBA Finals MVP, but they also get some financial flexibility in the deal.

Durant will be paid about $30.5 million this coming season, about $5 million less than he could have commanded if the deal was structured differently. That savings will give Golden State options for other moves this summer, as the Warriors look to bolster their bench for a run at what could be a fourth title in a five-year span.

The New York Times first reported Durant’s intention to sign the deal.

Warriors general manager Bob Myers said after his team won the 2018 Finals that he expected swift negotiations to re-sign two-time reigning NBA Finals MVP. 

“Sometimes you don’t negotiate. I’d love to have him for 10 years. Kevin Durant, look what he did for us last year, he did us a great service,” Myers said on June 12. “He’s earned the right to sign whatever deal he wants. I just want him to sign a deal. But want him to be happy and want him to know that we want him as long as he wants to be here. He’s earned that, to kind of lay out the terms. He can do whatever he wants. That shouldn’t be a long negotiation. Our goal, to be honest, is to try to keep the whole thing together, so that’s the pieces of the puzzle we’ve got to try to figure out.”

Myers wants to keep as much of the core of the two-time defending champions intact while also realizing the Warriors will be a younger team without the same veteran presence as the group that swept LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers out of The Finals. Myers said after The Finals that working to try to extend the contracts of Draymond Green and Klay Thompson could be discussed as well.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report

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East Player Movement | West Player Movement | Free Agent Tracker

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LeBron James returns to Los Angeles to plot next move



CLEVELAND — LeBron James flew back to Los Angeles from a family vacation in the Caribbean. He could be there longer than usual.

Hours before NBA free agency opened with the three-time champion as its most coveted prize, James returned Saturday to Southern California, where he has two homes and a film production company. The Lakers are hoping they can persuade him to sign with them and return them to glory.

Los Angeles is among the teams in the mix to land James after his agent told the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday that he will not exercise his $35.6 million contract option for next season. At 12:01 a.m. Sunday, James will be an unrestricted free agent, and agent Rich Paul is expected to contact several teams with the Lakers and Cavs atop his list.

By declining his option, James positioned himself to be able to choose where he’ll play next, and Cleveland, just up the road from his home near Akron, remains a strong possibility. But there are at least three other teams – and maybe an outsider or two — with legitimate shots at landing James, who made it clear following this year’s NBA Finals that he’s still driven to win championships.

While every team dreams of being ruled by King James, only a few have a legit chance of signing him.

Here are the cases — for and against — the leading contenders:


WHY: Home; money.

James came back four years ago to a hero’s welcome, something that seemed unimaginable when he left in disgrace four years earlier for Miami. But he vowed to do everything he could to deliver a title to championship-starved Cleveland. He delivered in 2016, erasing past sins and raising James to a worshipped level few athletes in any sport have experienced. His family is comfortable here and it’s where he has complete control.

The Cavs can also offer him the most lucrative package, a five-year, $209 million contract.

WHY NOT: Flawed roster; blemished relationship with owner Dan Gilbert.

Last summer’s stunning trade of guard Kyrie Irving left the Cavs without a quality running mate for James, who was forced to carry a heavier offensive load throughout the regular season and playoffs. Cleveland has deep salary-cap issues – partially caused by James’ failure to commit long-term – and the Cavs currently lack enough talent to unseat the champion Golden State Warriors.

Gilbert and James mended some fences for his return in 2014, but they remain distant other than a shared commitment to winning. Gilbert has gone above and beyond financial barriers to appease James, but the well could be running dry.


WHY: Salary-cap space; business interests; iconic franchise.

With some savvy moves, the Lakers are poised to potentially add two superstars – James and Paul George and maybe Kawhi Leonard – to a team featuring up-and-coming talents like Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball, who is reportedly dealing with a knee injury. James loves the Hollywood lights, and with two homes in the Los Angeles area as well as a film production company, he has already established some roots in the land of movie stars and slow-moving traffic. The appeal of playing for one of the league’s most storied teams is another allure.

WHY NOT: Youth; the Western Conference.

There’s little doubt James has some quality years ahead of him. But does he have enough time to let a group of unproven players with no postseason experience develop into a title contender? And if he jumps conferences for the first time in his career, the path to the Finals is far more treacherous.


WHY: Rising team; staying in the East.

In Sixers guard Ben Simmons, James sees a younger version of himself and he’d relish the chance to play alongside the 21-year-old while mentoring him. The Sixers also have center Joel Embiid, 24, projected to become the game’s next dominant big men. Philadelphia would instantly vault from conference contender to favorite with James, who could make a strong run at his ninth straight Finals in Year One.

WHY NOT: Too young; front-office dysfunction.

Much like the Lakers, the Sixers lack postseason experience and James would be surrounded by players who have barely tasted the postseason. General manager Bryan Colangelo’s resignation following an investigation into whether he created Twitter accounts to criticize his own players, has given the impression that the team isn’t operating in concert and then would turn off James quickly.


Houston: While the Rockets once seemed a good fit, James declining his option all but eliminated the chances of him joining up with close friend Chris Paul and MVP James Harden. If James had opted in with the Cavs, they could have worked out a sign-and-trade with Houston.

San Antonio: James reveres Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, but living in Texas doesn’t seem appealing to the star’s family and the Spurs are still trying to figure out what to do with Leonard, who can become a free agent after next season.

East Player Movement | West Player Movement | Free Agent Tracker

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