Top 75 balloting has officially closed

The latest on voting for the NBA's 75th anniversary team, big names potentially playing in China and the Gasol brothers' futures highlight our weekly notebook

I need your help.

I love Friday around-the-league columns and feel a great urgency to try to come up with a top-shelf standing intro line to lead them off when I do a empty-the-notebook piece with short news items and quick takes.

Bud Geracie of the San Jose Mercury News had maybe the best tipoff to such pieces: In the wake of the week. My former Orange County Register colleague Steve Bisheff had a good one as well: They're only opinions, but at least they're all mine.

I have been trying — unsuccessfully — to hatch something that catchy. Suggestions are welcome at marcstein@substack.com.

Onto the latest rumbles from the NBA grapevine …

🏀 Ballots for the NBA's 75th anniversary team were due back to the league office today. The league previously announced that the official list of its 75 greatest players, as selected by "a blue-ribbon panel of media, current and former players, coaches, general managers and team executives," will be revealed in October. The voters will also be revealed — not their full individual ballots but the names of those who made the selections.

As covered in a previous This Week In Basketball column, I opted out of voting but will publish my own unofficial top 75 list here before the official list is released. I’ll be seeking your help with that as well. Start thinking about all of the players since the NBA’s 50th anniversary team was selected in 1996 who you think merit consideration. I want to make sure I omit no one.

🏀 The Chinese Basketball Association has yet to formally rescind its long-held plans to bar “import players,” as they’re known, from participating in the 2021-22 season. Yet there is growing confidence in the agent community that the restriction will soon be lifted.

Further evidence to support that expectation surfaced this week when it emerged that multiple teams, according to Chinese media reports, are pursuing former All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins.

Prominent Americans already scheduled to play in China this season include Jimmer Fredette (Shanghai Sharks), Jeremy Lin (Beijing Ducks) and Noah Vonleh (also Shanghai).

🏀 At a news conference Thursday in his native Spain, Pau Gasol told reporters that, at 41, he is still weighing whether he will continue his career after playing last season for Barcelona.

Pau was naturally also asked about his brother and said Marc Gasol, 36, is likewise weighing whether he wants to continue playing or to focus on his role as club president of Bàsquet Girona in Spain's second division.

The word in Spanish basketball circles, as reiterated to me Friday, is that Marc Gasol is most likely to play for Girona if he decides to play on, even though the LEB Oro is one level below Spain's top tier. I'm told he has been working out with new Cavaliers guard Ricky Rubio to stay sharp even after negotiating his release earlier this week from Memphis following the Grizzlies' recent trade with the Lakers to take on the final year of Gasol's last NBA contract.

Pau, who is a Girona vice president alongside his brother, did tell reporters that he and Marc are making their decisions about continuing to play (or not) independent of each other. Marc Gasol founded Bàsquet Girona in 2014.

🏀 From The Twitter if you missed it earlier Friday:

Twitter avatar for @TheSteinLineMarc Stein @TheSteinLine
The Mavericks have signed Frank Ntilikina to a two-year deal with a team option in Year 2, league sources say. More on the former Knick’s time in New York and his future in Dallas:
marcstein.substack.com/p/a-new-home-a… https://t.co/vGrVAxlQzD

Marc Stein @TheSteinLine

The deal we reported Tuesday night to make Ntilikina the 20th player on Dallas’ roster for training camp is now complete. Full story on what’s next for the former Knick is here: https://t.co/FgRRn8o3XC https://t.co/XNZThpbdpN https://t.co/dPvIc9v14g

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🏀 Mike James (above) left New York for France on Thursday night after signing with AS Monaco Basket. I expected James to generate fresh NBA interest after some flashes of strong play with the Nets after joining them in April, but the 31-year-old opted for the more solid (and lucrative) option in signing a one-year deal with Monaco.

🏀 You might have missed it if you weren't listening closely, but my favorite part of Toni Kukoč's Hall of Fame acceptance speech below — beyond the surprise pairing of Michael Jordan and Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf as silent presenters — was the reference to the Croatian club where he established himself as one of Europe's finest players: Jugoplastika Split. Jugoplastika was the plastics and fiberglass manufacturer that sponsored the team; I didn’t know the sponsorship element in my younger years when I first heard of Kukoč and Dino Radja but just thought it was a cool-sounding name for a basketball team.

🏀 Please permit me one more share of my interview from earlier this week with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — if only to direct you to the tale woven within about how legendary Knicks broadcaster Marv Albert was the one who revealed Abdul-Jabbar’s previously secret desire to be traded from Milwaukee to New York or Los Angeles. Albert’s disclosure in March 1975 that Madison Square Garden was one of Kareem’s two preferred destinations forced Abdul-Jabbar and the Bucks to address it publicly. In June 1975, Milwaukee traded Abdul-Jabbar to the Lakers for Brian Winters, Elmore Smith and two freshly selected first-round draft choices the Bucks coveted: Junior Bridgeman and Dave Meyers. (No, it wasn’t nearly enough for Abdul-Jabbar, but it was indeed a better offer than the Knicks could muster.)