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Friday, July 10, 2020

Stories by Darryn Albert:

‘NBA Jam’ creator admits he rigged beloved video game against hated Bulls

Chicago Bulls logo

“NBA Jam” was a defining video game for many of our childhoods, but its creator is making a revelation that you may not have known about the game.

In an interview this week with Ars Technica, Mark Turmell, the lead designer and programmer of “NBA Jam,” admitted to installing a code in the game such that the Chicago Bulls could never make a last-second shot against the Detroit Pistons. Turmell is a native of Michigan and a fan of the Pistons.

“Making this game in Chicago during the height of the Michael Jordan era, there was a big rivalry between the Pistons and the Bulls,” said Turmell, per Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago. “But the one way I could get back at the Bulls once they got over the hump was to affect their skills against the Pistons in NBA Jam. And so I put in special code that if the Bulls were taking last-second shots against the Pistons, they would miss those shots. And so, if you’re ever playing the game, make sure you pick the Pistons over the Bulls.”

“NBA Jam” was first released in 1993 and became a global sensation, such that it is still regarded as a classic today. While Turmell mentions that it was made at the peak of the Michael Jordan era, Jordan’s likeness did not actually appear in the game, as he chose to opt out of the NBPA’s licensing agreement.

As for the rivalry between the Bulls and the Pistons, it found its way back into the headlines recently, and Turmell’s revelation adds yet another layer to it.

Ryan Zimmerman considering sitting out 2020 season

Ryan Zimmerman may not take part in his team’s title defense in 2020.

Speaking on Friday with AP’s Howard Fendrich, the Washington Nationals infielder said that he was still deciding whether or not to play in the coming season. Zimmerman mentioned that he has a three-week-old infant and that his wife has multiple sclerosis, making her “super high-risk.” He also noted his concerns about the travel aspect of the shortened season.

Zimmerman, a career-long National, won his first World Series with the team in 2019, contributing a number of clutch plays down the stretch. He battled plantar fasciitis during the season however and will turn 36 later this year.

The ex-All-Star signed a one-year, $2 million deal to return to Washington over the winter. With his career winding down though and the Nats seeming likely to accommodate him if he would like to return in 2021, Zimmerman can certainly afford to sit out the 2020 season for the greater good if he so decides.

Royals manager has encouraging Salvador Perez update amid Tommy John recovery

Salvador Perez has been on the mend for roughly a year-and-a-half now, but he could be ready to make an impact in the shortened 2020 season.

Speaking with reporters on Friday, Royals manager Mike Matheny gave an encouraging update about Perez’s health. Matheny said that the veteran catcher was “in better shape” now than he was in the first round of spring training, per Alec Lewis of The Athletic.

Perez, the six-time All-Star, missed the entire 2019 season after tearing the UCL in his right elbow and having to undergo Tommy John surgery. The 30-year-old was in usual top form during his last healthy season in 2018, hitting 27 home runs with 80 RBIs en route to Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Awards.

While Perez did suffer a bizarre unrelated injury at the start of that year too, he appears to be inching closer to finally putting the injury bug behind him.

Ja Morant seemingly welcoming Grizzlies’ challenging new schedule

Ja Morant

The Memphis Grizzlies will not have a cakewalk to officially clinch a playoff spot, but Ja Morant appears to be ready for the challenge.

In a tweet on Friday, the Grizzlies guard seems to indicate his approval of the team’s new schedule, which was released earlier in the day.

The NBA will hold eight regular season seeding games to begin July’s planned restart of play in Orlando. The Grizzlies, who were No. 8 in the West when the season was suspended, will have to finish over four games ahead of the No. 9 seed in the conference to clinch a playoff berth outright. Otherwise, the two teams will go to a play-in tournament to determine who gets the final spot.

Memphis actually got one of the hardest draws in the league, including games against the NBA-best Milwaukee Bucks and the defending champion Toronto Raptors. Meanwhile, the New Orleans Pelicans, a likely challenger for the West’s final playoff seed, received one of the easiest schedules.

Some indications are that the league wants the Pelicans and star player Zion Williamson to make the postseason, but Morant and the Grizzlies definitely seem to be intent on disrupting those plans.

Michael Kopech will have big 2020 after Tommy John surgery, White Sox GM thinks

Michael Kopech

Chicago White Sox fans have been waiting for nearly two years to see Michael Kopech back on the mound, and Rick Hahn thinks that Kopech can deliver.

Speaking with reporters Thursday, the White Sox general manager said that he believes Kopech will be able to have a “significant impact” for the team in the 60-game 2020 season, per Scott Merkin of MLB.com.

The 24-year-old underwent Tommy John surgery in Sept. 2018 and has not pitched since. He has still only made four career MLB starts but was known for hitting some insane speeds on the radar gun.

Kopech has since said that he may scale back on his velocity post-surgery, but the White Sox should still have plenty to be excited about with their rotation in 2020. In addition to Kopech’s return, they also signed Dallas Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez this offseason to complement All-Star ace Lucas Giolito.

Ex-Knick Stephon Marbury blasts team’s hiring of William Wesley

The New York Knicks made a power move this week with the hiring of William “World Wide Wes” Wesley, but not everybody approves of the decision.

Retired former Knicks guard Stephon Marbury took to Instagram on Thursday to criticize the team’s hiring of Wesley to their front office.

View this post on Instagram

@nyknicks World wide sucker!

A post shared by Starbury.com (@starburymarbury) on

“C’mon man, c’mon man,” said Marbury. “At New York Knicks, did you really just now bring ‘World Wide Sucker’ to the New York Knicks? … Really? You brought this dude here? Why? I’m a real New York Knicks fan. I’ve been a New York Knicks fan since I was a [kid].

“C’mon [James] Dolan man,” Marbury added. “You gotta be kidding me, man. You brought this dude here? Really? What’s going on, man. There’s gotta be an explanation. Not him. Out of all people, you bring this dude here? You bring him to NYC? To New York? He don’t got no credibility here. Nah.”

Marbury then continued on Twitter, calling Wesley a “fake kiss a$$.”

Wesley, who had previously worked with new Knicks president Leon Rose at Creative Arts Agency, is widely recognized as a powerful shadow figure in the basketball world. He is known for his relationships with several top-name players and coaches and will now serve as executive vice president/senior basketball adviser for the Knicks.

As for Marbury, he played for the Knicks from 2004 to 2009, representing his longest NBA stop. Marbury is also something of a New York basketball purist, so it isn’t too shocking that he feels very strongly about the Wesley hiring.

Report: NBA will have big law enforcement presence in Orlando to secure bubble

Adam Silver

The NBA is taking the matter of security very seriously as they plan for the restart of the season in just over one month.

Tim Bontemps of ESPN reported on Thursday that the league has informed its players that they will use local, state, and federal law enforcement to secure the Orlando bubble in addition to former special operations forces. Bontemps also says social media will be monitored by Walt Disney security, NBA Global security, and the Department of Homeland Security for potential threats.

The NBA is planning to resume play on July 30. The bubble experiment in which it will take place is a wholly unprecedented one and does create some possible security concerns with all of basketball’s top stars and their families set to be in a single location.

The league is also implementing other security measures in order to ensure the safety of all those in the bubble, and it is certainly good for them to err on the side of caution with an experiment of this magnitude.

Mike Miller jokes about unretiring to reunite with LeBron on Lakers

LeBron James won two of his NBA championships with Mike Miller by his side, and now Miller is jokingly offering to help The King win another one.

The retired former Sixth Man of the Year Miller reacted to the news of Los Angeles Lakers guard Avery Bradley opting out of the NBA’s restart this week by pitching his services to the team in jest.

Miller, now 40 years old, retired in 2017 and subsequently went on to become an assistant under Penny Hardaway at the University of Memphis (though he resigned from his post earlier this month). He spent three seasons with James on the Miami Heat, and James was infamously not happy about the team’s decision to amnesty Miller in 2013. The two then reunited for an additional season together on the Cleveland Cavaliers.

While the sharpshooting Miller might have been an attractive signing if he was actually being serious here, the Lakers may use the open roster spot on another one of James’ ex-teammates instead.