Herschel Walker is a threat to society — it’s time to get him out of the paint

“I’ve seen plenty of people make mistakes. “I haven’t seen anybody make as many mistakes, Bill Bradley recently said about Walker to Sports Illustrated. Bradley, a former NBA star, Princeton graduate, and Rhodes Scholar, served three terms as a senator. “It seems to me that [Walker] was not prepared to run for office, and certainly not this office. I don’t know what he’s done over the years to try to understand the world or understand his country or understand politics or the economy.”

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Outside of Walker’s erratic behavior and baffling comments — which have been as funny as they are scary at times — Walker has made on the campaign trail, they have occurred at a crucial time where gun control, abortion, women’s rights, and climate change are things Walker could and would be voting on — which is why the prospect of his victory is so scary.

We’re at a point where a man who stands against abortion allegedly has a history of taking part in abortions. Walker doesn’t have a plan for climate control in the same way he’d be lost about choosing an agenda to focus on during his term. The man literally told us that he wasn’t that smart.

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“I don’t know why somebody doesn’t ask him: What committee do you want to be on? Why?” asked Bradley.

But more than anything else, Walker represents just how dirty the Republican Party will play, as he’s proof that there is no basement with them. There’s nothing they won’t do to grab control, privilege, and power. It’s gotten to the point where the party is keeping Trump away from him, in hopes that distancing Walker from the GOP’s leader will help him at the polls in some weird belief that voters will think, “he’s crazy, but not Trump crazy.” But even still, this is the man Kelly Loeffler has already cast her ballot for. If being remembered as someone who had the enthusiastic support of a woman who lost the same Senate seat Walker now seeks (Loeffler lost to Raphael Warnock, who currently holds the seat) and publicly lost the confidence of her WNBA team — the Atlanta Dream — isn’t enough to deter you, then nothing is. The former running back has become a living and breathing example of how serious the apparent implications of CTE can be.

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“I think a lot of Republicans are hoping we’ll be pleasantly surprised, but there aren’t a lot of indications out there to base that on,” Jason Shepherd, former chair of the Cobb County GOP, told Politico in a story that was released just before Election Day. “Just a lot of hope and faith in things unseen. It’s the Christmas season, after all.”

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According to ABC News, the turnout for early voting in Georgia for this election has already broken daily voting records three times since polls opened in every county. In a state that exemplifies what voter suppression looks like in the modern day, people in Georgia are showing up to do their civic duty. Some of them are trying to stop progress by casting their ballots for Herschel Walker. Others are playing defense by voting for Raphael Warnock. And if Warnock pulls out a victory on Election Day, it will be because the citizens of Georgia put up a blockade that even their state’s greatest running back couldn’t get through. Defense wins championships. 

Trae Young and Nate McMillan are surviving instead of thriving with each other

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According to The Athletic, McMillan did not approve of Young’s stance and presented him with an ultimatum: Play off the bench or don’t show up to the arena. As a result, Young was surprisingly scratched from Atlanta’s lineup before their home contest on Friday against the Denver Nuggets.

So how would you respond?

A) Nate McMillan was right to give Trae Young an ultimatum!

B) Trae Young beefs with every coach. No big deal.

C) This is about more than just one shootaround.

D) All of the above

Correct Answer: D

McMillan needed to ease up, but he and Young have never vibed on the same frequency, and it remains to be seen if McMillan’s coaching style even fits this franchise’s needs.

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McMillan chalked his dispute with Young up to a misunderstanding, but leaders in a locker room shouldn’t have the communication standards of two strangers arguing in a nightclub. In a climate where organizations hand nights off to their star players at a dizzying pace, treating one of the NBA’s most high-usage stars like a problematic diva before a low-stakes early December matchup, while he receives treatment on a shoulder injury, hints at some turmoil bubbling beneath the surface.

To paraphrase the sage words of Allen Iverson, “we’re talkin’ about shootarounds. Not a game, not a game, not a game, but a shootaround.” To his credit, Young is surprisingly durable, despite being one of the league’s bantamweight guards. In five seasons, he’s missed only 23 games.

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However, this is about more than just one failure to communicate. Young and McMillan are speaking different languages. Since Atlanta’s run to the Eastern Conference finals in 2021, McMillan’s connection with Young has deteriorated to the point that the Hawks have held several team meetings to address their issues. Lloyd Pierce’s record led to his firing, but discord with Young was also at the forefront of his departure.

McMillan and Young’s tenuous relationship wouldn’t be as much of a concern if the Hawks were producing wins at the pace expected of them. Their 13-10 record to start the season is strikingly similar to Atlanta’s sluggish 12-11 record through its first 23 games in 2021. To McMillan’s credit, the shorthanded Hawks are still fourth in the East and beat Denver on Friday, 117-109. However, Atlanta is also three games out of the Play-In Tournament, and the team’s ceiling has more leaks in it than when team president Travis Schlenk constructed his Dejounte Murray-Trae Young backcourt atrium.

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The white-hot offense that torched opposing defenses and led the league in points per 100 possessions last season is no more. The Young-Murray Hawks have improved from the 26th-worst defense to the top-10, but at the expense of their halfcourt offense, which is now a bottom-10 unit. McMillan’s offense ranks last in 3-pointers made, is ranked 22nd in effective field-goal percentage, which weighs 3-pointers more heavily and they’re missing the je ne sais quoi that made them an All-League Pass team.

Atlanta’s Kevin Huerter trade illustrates how the Hawks front office and their coaching staff have mismanaged their roster. Soon after the offseason of Dejounte Murray, Atlanta shipped Huerter, 24, to Sacramento in exchange for 33-year-old Justin Holiday, 29-year-old Mo Harkless and a 2024 first-round pick. The Hawks envisioned Huerter evolving into Klay Thompson Lite, playing off of Young, but more importantly they seemed to be taking a chance on Sacramento stumbling so they could inherit a lottery pick.

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Instead, Huerter has reached new heights playing in Sacramento’s more decentralized offensive system that ranks second in the NBA in assists and more closely resembles Golden State’s than Atlanta’s Trae Young central attack.

Back to Huerter. In Sacramento, Mike Brown has channeled Huerter’s brilliance into a battery powering the NBA’s second-highest scoring team. He’s the NBA’s most frequent scorer off of handoffs and his two-man game with Domantas Sabonis has allowed him to flex his entire range of skills. Starting alongside Fox, Huerter is averaging a career-high 15.5 points per game, shooting better than 42 percent behind the arc and taking nearly seven 3s per game. He wasn’t getting those looks in Atlanta.

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After getting bagged up by the Miami Heat in a first-round sweep last season, Atlanta didn’t just need a personnel change, they needed a cleanse. Trae Young needs a shooting profile that is more similar to Steph’s than James Harden’s. Young’s struggles are a microcosm of what ails the Hawks. They aren’t putting their offensive stars in the best position to score. Atlanta is heavily reliant on predictable isolations and runs more pick-and-rolls than all but one team. Even with De’Aaron Fox at the point, Sacramento has gone the Golden State route by running fewer pick-and-rolls than any team after ranking fifth during their abysmal 2021-22 campaign.

Last season, 14.2 percent of Young’s 2-point field goals were assisted on and 22.3 percent of his 3-balls were. Young has improved slightly, but only to 15 percent assisted 2-pointers and 38 percent of his 3-point makes.

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Curry, the most efficient off-the-dribble shooter in league history, is scoring 36.5 percent of his 2-point field goals off of assists, nearly three times Young’s rate. On triples? 58 percent of the time. Getting Young easier buckets so he’s not wearing himself out would be a path to assure McMillan’s future employment in Atlanta.

How Schlenk navigates their plans to trade John Collins will determine Atlanta’s short-term success, but the hands on McMillan’s clock are approaching midnight. Former Warriors assistant Mike Brown unlocked the peak-Red Velvet version of Huerter that Atlanta thought they were getting. Atlanta upgraded the roster, but not the staff that deploys it. If the tumult continues in Atlanta, they may want to consider taking a bite off the Golden State coaching tree.

Draymond Green eclipsing Michael Jordan illustrates how much offenses have evolved

If there was ever an instance to illuminate how much the game has changed and how numbers deserve context it’s this moment. Counting stats with no context says Draymond Green and Michael Jordan were equals beyond the arc. Green’s legacy will always be tied to his status as an offensive fulcrum in the most transcendent shooting lineup in league history. However, much of his value has been his ability to find open shooters or set screens that spring their shooters open. Green’s triple doubles are more valuable than him shooting triples. Green is essentially Golden State’s incarnation of Anthony Mason. He’s a career 31.5 percent 3-point shooter with a hunchbacked shooting form and a nasty disposition.

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In addition to being the standard by which all players have measured themselves against, Jordan is still the most efficient and prolific mid-range shooter the NBA has ever seen. He’s also a mere 32.7 percent shooter beyond the arc, just a hair better than Green. In spaced out contemporary offenses, even the Draymond Greens have to shoot 3-pointers at a higher rate than the most dominant scorers of the 90s.

Jordan’s 3-point shooting is an oft-critiqued data point used to discredit him as the greatest player of all-time. However, that shortsighted analysis is akin to considering James Harden the second-best shooter of all-time if he eclipses Ray Allen for second on the all-time list later this season.

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Jordan’s numbers would suggest that he was a subpar shooter. In reality, Jordan played in a time before the efficacy of 3-point shooting was a consideration. In 1990-91, the league attempted 7.1 3-pointers a game and made 32 percent of those shots. Today, attempts from beyond the arc have increased 500 percent while the league average shooting percentage has improved to 36 percent.

Jordan never incorporated the shot into his repertoire because he didn’t need to during his era. Instead, Jordan retired with the highest career scoring average in part because he was much of a virtuoso shooter from mid-range territory as Steph is between the arc and logo. Kirk Goldsbery’s chart illustrating how Jordan’s shooting profile compares to the best shooting guard in the modern NBA illuminates how the game has changed.

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As for Green, passing MJ on the career 3-pointers list is the latest notch in his belt during a season in which he’s been surprisingly consistent. Green’s three was his only field goal of the night against Houston and while his detractors will use that item as another shred of evidence against Golden State rewarding him with a contract extension. However, aside from a one-game slump against a Houston team the Warriors sleepwalked through, Green is in the midst of a resurgence after the fraught highs and jagged lows he endured last season.

Green remains the most interesting single-digit scorer in the league, delivering bone-rattling screens and anticipating where scorers will be, then delivering clairvoyant passes before the defense can catch up to the present, but he’s approaching league average efficiency for the first time since 2016. The night before, Green drilled a 3-pointer from the left wing that Kerr called the “shot of the night.”

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The ball has never rolled off of Green’s fingertips as easily as it is right now. Green is likely going to present the front office with a difficult choice to make if he opts out next summer. His execution this season makes it even more likely that he will and complicates the tough financial decision, team president Bob Myers will have to make. 

It’s still a terrible idea to expand the College Football Playoff to 12 teams

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What fun. Yet it glosses over possible losses from No. 10 and 11 teams Utah and Kansas State.

Taking a look at the current college football rankings, there are seven three-loss teams competing for two spots as the highest-ranked non-power five school gets an automatic bid. (Two-loss Tulane, or three-loss UCF would be that team this year.) That means Kansas State, LSU, Utah, Florida State, Oregon, Oregon State, and UCLA all have arguments for a place in the bracket. Well, if Utah, LSU, and K State lose in the conference title game and pick up their fourth loss of the year — which Vegas believes will happen — they’d essentially be penalized for playing in a conference title game? How the hell is that fair?

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At first glance, I thought the Ducks were getting screwed by the committee and their conference. Not only are they on the outside in the CFP rankings, but they lost a beyond confusing tie-breaker that led to the Utes making the Pac-12 title game despite Oregon beating them head-to-head. Thus meaning they’d have no shot at an automatic qualifier or an at-large due to the standings. Yet, is it bad? Because a loss would mean zero chance of luck helping them out at all, or a shot at jumping a loser in front of them.

I singled out Oregon because the Pac-12 already eliminated divisions, which was intended to be a workaround to ensure that the two best teams compete for the conference crown. And, look, it’s already madness. You can say this year is a one-off year, but that’s a lie.

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Trying to identify the best 12 teams in the country is much harder than just the top two or four. After a few rounds of this chaos, the BCS and current playoff format are going to be looked upon fondly like that ex you wish you didn’t try to upgrade from. Yes, Denise (or Dennis) had a glaring flaw or two, but they were never as big of a headache as Charlene (or Charles).

Financial fallout will trump physical toll of added games

The arguments stemming from a 12-game field will only lead to added calls for expansion, which would be fine if playing in a football game wasn’t the equivalent of repeatedly smacking your head against a tree stump. This isn’t basketball. There’s a finite amount of hits in the human body, and chances are if a player is good enough to be on a team competing for a national championship, they might have aspirations and the abilities to make the NFL.

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There are players opting out of bowl games right now to conserve their bodies, yet we want to put these “student-athletes” in a position where they’re pressured into competing anywhere from one to four extra times? Not all conference champs get a bye, so in theory, if this year’s Clemson team made a run to the title game, Dabo Swinney’s players would be subjected to 16 games, which is basically a full NFL regular season.

While the logical choice would be to lop a week off the schedule, that sucks for the 100-plus other schools who aren’t in the playoff. Universities aren’t going to be amped to lose revenue from that lost game. Fans are only guaranteed 12 days per year from their favorite team, and dropping that to 11 to protect 12 programs seems unfair, as well. Think of the smaller FBS and FCS programs that get big paydays from signing on to be sacrificial lambs that also would miss out on needed money from one less non-conference matchup.

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We’ve learned to not expect colleges to act altruistically when it comes to paying their free workforce. However, what if that happens, and the NCAA starts operating like a pro league? The NBA, NFL, and MLB are never in favor of shortening the season.

More isn’t always better. College football is facing enough existential threats as it is, so it seems unnecessary to add another obstacle to the course. Yet here we are. Plowing ahead with the caution of a puppy approaching a raccoon.

Steve Ballmer has got to be sick thinking about how good his Clippers could be

Thus far, the season Ballmer envisioned has yet to unfold in his favor. Behind closed doors, Ballmer is probably sick when he watches how good this team is without their star players. Leonard has participated in just five of 22 games this year, while George has suited up for 16. The reason? Injuries and load management. Kawhi is apparently still having issues with his knee, and George is battling a hamstring injury.

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Managing the load

Sure, both guys may have already tweaked something early in the season. Still, it also can’t be overlooked that Leonard (primarily) has been a prominent advocate for load management during his NBA career. He did it in Toronto en route to winning the franchise’s first NBA title in 2019. In “The Claw’s” lone season as a Raptor, he played in roughly 73 percent (60 games) of the team’s games. That year everything came together, and Toronto, led by Leonard, was able to take advantage of a few breaks to win the title.

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That run Leonard and the Raptors had was the catalyst for his signing with the Clippers and recruiting George. In year four of the Kawhi-PG era, the Clippers are farther away from achieving the ultimate goal for Ballmer — winning the franchise’s first NBA title — than they were before arriving in L.A.

The Clippers had that run a couple of years ago where they reached the first Western Conference Finals in franchise history, accomplishing much of that without Leonard on the floor. You’ll recall he tore his ACL in game four of the semifinals against the Utah Jazz that year. George led the Clippers past the Jazz in six games before losing to the Suns in the WCF in six. That’s the closest they’ve come to “taking over” L.A.

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You get what you paid for

Ballmer is an eccentric and confident billionaire. So, there’s no way he didn’t expect that by year four, this tandem of Leonard and George wouldn’t have already led the Clippers to at least an NBA Finals appearance. Instead, Ballmer is stuck with an aging former superstar who can’t (or won’t) get on the floor. PG-13 is still very good and a top 15-20 player when available, but he alone won’t be enough through that gauntlet in the West.

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This team is so deep that it’s frustrating watching just how good they are, knowing they don’t have their top two players. On Tuesday night, in Portland, the comeback kids did it again, rallying to overcome an 18-point deficit against the Blazers late in the third quarter to win 118-112. Both teams were without their stars, as Damian Lillard has been battling a calf strain.

Norman Powell led the Clippers’ charge off the bench scoring 32 points, dropping 22 in the fourth quarter. Reggie Jackson added 24 points, along with Robert Covington, Ivica Zubac, and Terance Mann scoring double figures. Seven of the 11 players that suited up for coach Tryonn Lue in this game contributed at least seven points to the victory.

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Unhappy in LaLa land

So, Ballmer must watch a performance like this and shake his head, visualizing what could be with his heavyweights on the court. You don’t become a billionaire by playing it safe. As the saying goes, scared money doesn’t make money. If you’re a Clippers fan, you’ve got to love that Ballmer is willing to spend what it takes to field a contender. But if you’re spending the money on stars that barely play, eventually, that will get old.

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Every team had a championship window. The Cavs had theirs with LeBron James a few years back and capitalized, same goes for the Warriors, who have won multiple titles and have even opened a whole new championship window. The Clippers’ window is quickly shutting if it hasn’t already been boarded up completely. Barring some miraculous run in the postseason, Ballmer’s dream of being king of L.A. will remain just that. But at least he’ll have his own arena in a couple of years. That will end up being the best thing to come out of this. 

Patrick Beverley is an insufferable jackass

This is like the 15 millionth time Beverley has instigated shit because he’s fucking irrelevant otherwise. Recently seen jumping on the scorer’s table in Minnesota because he was on the floor when the T-Wolves eked out a couple of play-in games, or spouting whatever self-aggrandizing take comes to mind on ESPN, Pat Bev’s highlight reel rarely, if ever, features actual basketball.

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This year has been especially bad for a plethora of reasons, most notably guaranteeing the Lakers would make the playoffs before the season as if anyone in the Staples Center will be overjoyed with a postseason appearance. He’s averaging 4 points per outing while shooting 26 percent from the field and 23 percent from deep, and the Lakers are 5-11 and more or less the laughing stock of most NBA fans’ feeds.

The incident Tuesday overshadowed a 31, 21, 2, 5, and 5 night out of Anthony Davis in a game that, until the Beverley shove, wasn’t another embarrassment for the Lakers. Predictably, instead of talking about AD’s recent resurgence after the contest, it was all about a guy who finished 0-for from the field, with a plus-minus of -15 in 29 minutes of what could loosely be termed basketball.

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Of course, Beverley’s teammates and coach defended him after the game, and the only person I believe did it in earnest was Russell Westbrook. Davis’ defense of the cheap shot is tepid at best.

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I don’t think that explanation is going to get Beverley out of a suspension, and he definitely should be sat down for multiple games. I appreciate Devin Booker telling Bev to say it to his face after the game, yet we know that’s not how Bev works. The smallest guy on the court body-checking the biggest guy on the other team, then walking around like he set a tone despite no chance of physical recourse and his squad trailing by double digits, is quintessential Patick Beverley, and definitely isn’t a fucking vibe.

It’s a jackass venting frustration and looking for attention that he can’t get via on-court play. His career arc is rapidly headed for a studio chair, and he knows screaming like a lunatic in a suit — not an NBA uniform — won’t get him the requisite reaction needed to satisfy his ego.

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I’d like to say I can’t wait for Beverley to be out of the NBA, but you know we’ll be hearing from him long after the Lakers cut, trade, or move on from him — and that might be more insufferable than his monthly tantrum.

Luka Dončić can’t do it all himself

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Dončić recently became the second-fastest player in the history of the NBA to record 50 career triple-doubles. Watching “The Grillmaster” play is like a one-man demolition derby. He can do so many things and affect a game in so many ways offensively, but he still isn’t completely trusting in those around him.

Luka leads the NBA in scoring over the first month averaging 33.5 points per game. The Mavs rank 25th in the association in scoring at 109.1 ppg while ranking last in assists per game with 20.8. Dončić is taking that me against the world attitude to another level, and as usual, it’s to the team’s detriment.

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However, we cannot place all the blame on the shoulders of Dončić. The front office and head coach Jason Kidd should also be held accountable. While it seemed like the Mavs had turned the corner last year with their improbable run to the Western Conference Finals, they’ve taken massive steps back early this season.

Quite frankly, Dallas has swung and missed when it comes to surrounding its star with other playmakers. It either hasn’t worked out when they have, or they’ve failed to keep those players on the roster.

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A prime example of this is the emergence of Jalen Brunson as Luka’s running mate and No. 2 option last season. Brunson carried the Mavs through the first round of the postseason, with Dončić missing half the series against the Utah Jazz. Then the offseason and free agency period rolled around, and it was a foregone conclusion that Brunson was heading to New York, where he now resides as a Knick. Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban barely seemed to put up any fight attempting to keep Brunson on the payroll.

Then there’s the Kristaps Porzingis deal that flopped last year. Porzingis clearly isn’t the “unicorn” he was once billed as. His frustration playing alongside Dončić was glaring. Porzingis and the Mavs had seen enough, and the unicorn was traded to Washington at the trade deadline last season for Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertrand. Dinwiddie was a nice addition, but he can’t be the second option on a team with championship aspirations.

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Dallas also traded for former Houston Rockets rising star Christian Wood over the summer, and he was supposed to be the answer in helping the Mavs capitalize on what they began last season. So far, that hasn’t been the reality in Dallas with Wood on the roster. For some reason, Kidd has chosen not to play Wood as much in the second half of games this year. In an overtime loss to the Thunder, Wood never touched the floor in OT.

“We left C Wood out there with that group, and it didn’t go well on either end,” Kidd said of Wood sitting late in the game.

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You traded for this player, so you need to give him a chance to get acclimated and mesh with your star and the rest of his teammates. The Mavs are expected to be playoff contenders, and they’ll need Wood if they plan to make another deep run like last season.

Eventually, Dončić needs to decide whether he wants to be remembered as another all-time great scorer or if he wants to be an all-time great player who learned how to make his teammates better and win titles. Michael Jordan had to figure that out, and once he began to trust his team, the Bulls broke through and became a championship team. Dončić isn’t Jordan, but he is in that mold of wanting to take on the world by himself as Jordan was early on.

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That one-on-one streetball mentality doesn’t win in today’s NBA. It never really has. Look no further than players like James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, etc. Durant won when he played a system that moved the ball, and he wasn’t happy about that at times. Irving won riding LeBron James’ coattails, and that’s not an overstatement. Dončić will have to learn trust. Until then, Luka will be another flashy high-volume scorer who continues to come up short in the postseason. 

Here’s how the Sacramento Kings became the NBA’s team of redemption

Since the Kings’ first win on Oct. 29, they’ve won nine of their last 11 games, and Sacramento has embarked on its first six-game win streak since January 2005. They’ve been such a sad sack of a franchise, Chris Paul has played an entire Hall of Fame career between six-game Kings winning streaks. A month into the season, fans clamor for the victory beam before the final buzzer.

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The victory beam is just one of a slew of savvy changes the Kings made this summer. Their first change was replacing former Warriors assistant Alvin Gentry with Warriors assistant Mike Brown. After mixed results as the head coach of the Cavaliers and an ignominious stint in Los Angeles, Brown spent six seasons as a trusted aide to Steve Kerr on Golden State’s sidelines. However, his desire to take another shot at taking the reins of his own team led him to Sacramento this summer.

Ranadivé’s obsession with mimicking the Warriors can be embarrassing at times, but Brown has been a resounding success by taking an unfamiliar approach. Browns’s Cavs and Lakers teams were known for their slow-paced offenses and high defensive IQs. These Kings play breakneck offense at the league’s seventh-quickest pace and Brown is physically pushing players to get out in transition for easy buckets. Their 27th-ranked defense needs plenty of improvement, but Sacramento has had 16 years to fixate on the negative.

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The offense is one of the league’s best, and these redemptive Kings have given their fans realistic postseason aspirations. A year ago, De’Aaron Fox had lost his way. He regressed as a shooter, hitting just 29 percent of his tries from 3-point range, and was one of the most inefficient scoring lead guards in the league. When the lane was clogged, Fox was a professional bricklayer.

Early on in his career, Fox was considered a top-five young point, but he has plateaued and was passed up by younger guards since signing his rookie extension — and fell out of favor in the ensuing years. The sentiment around Fox entering the 2021 season was that the lightning-quick guard had peaked early and that the franchise should hand the offense’s keys to the more cerebral Tyrese Haliburton. Fox’s name was bandied about in trade rumors, which made Sacramento’s trade deadline deal sending Haliburton to Indiana even more mystifying. It felt like the type of miscalculation that had extended the Kings’ playoff drought to 16 seasons.

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In the first month of the 2022-23 campaign, Fox has bounced back and improved his shot selection, is pacing himself better, and displaying better decision-making. In return for Haliburton, Sacramento fetched versatile forward Domantas Sabonis. Trading one of the most sought-after young point guards in the league for a power forward raised eyebrows. The early returns on Sabonis were modest, but after a full offseason to integrate into Brown’s system, he’s shown why the trade was justified, operating as Sactown’s power forward version of Nikola Jokic.

Rookie Keegan Murray’s upside probably isn’t as high as the one-and-done prospects taken directly before him, but the 22-year-old was the safe fourth overall pick. For a franchise that has missed on a litany of lottery picks over the past decade, Murray’s stability has been needed.

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In July, Sacramento traded Justin Holiday, Moe Harkless, and a future first for Hawks guard Kevin Huerter. Red Velvet came to Sacramento as a depreciating asset. However, Atlanta’s loss has been Sacramento’s gain. In his first season outside of the Trae Young-centric Hawks system, Huerter has finally grazed his potential as a savvy off-ball shooter and a crafty playmaker with the ball in his hands. Huerter’s precise shooting stroke has been a known commodity since he was drafted out of Maryland, but he’s hoisting two threes more than his career-high in Atlanta while his efficiency has climbed in a more prominent role.

Former lottery pick Malik Monk revived his own dormant career in Los Angeles, as a reliable bench producer off the bench for the Lakers. However, when Rob Pelinka let Monk walk, he signed a two-year $19 million deal that currently looks like a steal. In relief of the starters, Monk’s energy has injected the second unit with a boost.

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Monk fell from grace early on in his career as an electric, but inefficient volume scorer with a one-dimensional game. In 22 minutes a game, Monk is averaging a career-high in assists, logging nearly 13 points a night, spacing the floor, and flashing his athleticism when he finds a driving lane. In just 15 games, Monk’s band-aid-on-his-face look has endeared him to Kings Nation.

The victory beam has energized Sacramento’s beleaguered fans, but without their redemptive pieces, it would just be an annoying gimmick collecting dust that reminds them of their team’s ineptitude. Sacramento’s victory beam is one of those NBA traditions that appears like it’s here to stay.

Jaylen Brown confusing Black Hebrew Israelites for Omega Psi Phi is a bigger issue than he realizes

What followed was a comedy of errors by Brown that showed us that an athlete who is from where he’s from and grew up around the people he grew up with, went to the university he attended, and plays in a city like Boston, is somewhere between a grown man that needs to read more or a person that’s desperately failings at trying to become the “voice of a generation.”

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After Brown’s initial tweet, ESPN’s Bomani Jones added some context to the video that was making its way around social media to help those “outside of the culture” understand what was happening. “And a little help to our Caucasian brothers and sisters: no, these aren’t the dudes from college in purple and gold with gold boots who used to bark and jump around all the time. though I guess some subscribe to both camps.”

Jones was implying that the men outside of Barclays Center were not members of Omega Psi Phi — a Black fraternity — given that they were all wearing Purple and Gold, which are the same colors of the fraternity that’s been around since 1911. It was a true “Two Americas” example, as Black people could immediately identify something that might have puzzled some in White America. Context is always necessary. What happened next, was not. Brown went on to post a “clarification” because he didn’t know the difference between the two groups in the greatest example of “whose mans is this?” to occur in 2022.

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“I was not aware of what specific group that was outside of Barclays Center tonight, Brown tweeted. “I was celebrating the unification of our people welcoming the return of Kyrie to the court, first glance I thought it was a known fraternity the (C/Que’s) Omega psi phi (step’n) showing support.” Brown would then go on to tweet random photos of members from the fraternity that he found on the internet as a way to show that his ignorance was acceptable, even though it wasn’t.

“I guess I shouldn’t have limited that tweet to white folks?” replied Jones.

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We’re only a little more than a month into the 2022-2023 NBA season and this is the third time that Brown has made a fool of himself. It all started on Opening Night when he took to the mic before the Celtics’ season opener to say some words about Bill Russell — it was a disaster.

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Brown looked and sounded like an unprepared child delivering an Easter speech that the youth minister forced them to learn just hours before the service.

“Bill Russell was a great man, but what defined his greatness,” he said. “Who he was as a mentor, a father, a member of his community, and most certainly his eleven championships here in Boston both playing and coaching, but undoubtedly, Bill Russell was a great man for what and who he stood for. During the peak of racial tension in our society, he represented a type of nobility and honor that transcended sports.

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“The amount of respect that he receives from his people will live on eternally, and I’m grateful to be able to shake his hand. He was a true champion both on and off the floor, and our gratitude is endless. I started off by saying Bill Russell was a great man; in closing, Bill Russell was the greatest of men in the NBA, this organization, and this world was very lucky to have him. May he rest in peace.”

My description of Brown from that night isn’t a shot at people who struggle with public speaking or athletes who want to use their platforms. It’s about understanding your strengths and weaknesses and knowing what you’re talking about before you open your mouth.

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Brown isn’t a good public speaker and should not have been the one to share remarks. His actions of late also do not coincide with the way that an icon like Russell lived his life as an activist, as he was always prepared whenever he spoke due to being knowledgeable on the subjects at hand. DragonflyJonez perfectly summed up the situation in one tweet when he wrote, “Boston man (Brown) who didn’t do his research on group (Black Hebrew Israelites) that was supporting Brooklyn man (Irving) who didn’t do his research on a documentary he posted recants statement. More at 11.”

Just a few weeks ago, Brown found himself looking like “Boo-Boo The Fool” when he went from sticking beside Kanye West as a member of Donda Sports — that’s run by the likes of Antonio Brown — to parting ways with the company only after receiving the public backlash that rightfully comes along with standing by West’s side in moments like this. In each of these situations, Brown has put his foot in his mouth without showing us that he’s learned anything from the last time he was sucking his toes. It reeks of arrogance, ignorance, and the audacity to believe that your Blackness and your ability to fill up a box score are enough to give you a platform that comes along with unlimited forgiveness for making unforced errors.

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Athletes have historically hated being labeled “dumb jocks” — especially Black ones. It’s a lazy term assigned to a group of people that screams “We’re just here to be entertained by you, nobody cares what you have to say.” And over the last few years, athletes of all colors and races have shown that they’re more than just physical specimens and have used their platforms to become important voices for society, proving that they won’t just “shut up and dribble.” However, with that comes a responsibility that requires you to not only be knowledgeable of what you speak of but to be accountable when mistakes happen.

Monday morning, Brown addressed his tweets from Sunday to the media at the Celtics shootaround. As usual, it fell flat.

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So far, Jaylen Brown has shown us that he’s incapable of both. Because if you can’t tell the difference between The Ques and a bunch of Black Hebrew Israelites “hootin’ and hollerin’” outside of an arena, then you should spend more time learning all of Kool-Aid’s flavors before you start dipping in them.

Kyrie Irving’s apology tour comes to a close, but he still has a few kinks to work out

In an interview on Saturday with SNY’s Ian Begley, Irving discussed reactively defensively and steadfastly denied purposely spreading antisemitic content. Irving at least showed the appearance of someone who regrets his actions. On Sunday, Irving sounded his most sincere yet during a news conference in which Nets brass confirmed his reinstatement.

“I don’t stand for anything close to hate speech, or antisemitism, or anything that is anti going against the human race,” Irving said. “I feel like we all should have an opportunity to speak for ourselves when things are assumed about us. And I feel it was necessary for me to stand in this place and take accountability for my actions because there was a way I should have handled all of this.

“… I meant no harm to any person, any group of people. And yeah, this is a big moment for me because I’m able to learn throughout this process that the power of my voice is very strong. The influence that I have within my community is very strong. And I want to be responsible for that. In order to do that, we have to admit when you were wrong and instances where you hurt people and it impacts them.

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Irving loses a few points here for this boilerplate message about understanding the power of his voice. It’s been a year since he used his voice to advance vaccine denialism and referred to himself as a voice for the voiceless.

However, he appeared earnest, and didn’t resort to his cryptic brand of circular speaking to avoid direct answers while demonstrating the type of response a remorseful person gives instead of an unrepentant prick reading off a ransom note.

“It should have been on the first day that I was dealing with all this of just being there for all those that felt like this was antisemitic,” Irving said. “And I should have clarified that I am not antisemitic and I am not anti-anything when it comes to the way I live my life. So the learning lesson for me was just the power of my platform and the impact that it can cause if it’s not taken care of the right way. So meeting with different people within the Jewish community has offered me some clarity on a deeper understanding of what’s going on and the impact that was made and the hurt that was caused.”

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In the two weeks since Irving’s Nov. 4 suspension, the Nets have been surprisingly tranquil. Brooklyn got a taste of harmony and ultimately decided against lighting a match near a leaky gas pipe by passing on Ime Udoka in favor of removing the interim tag from long-time assistant Jacque Vaughn.

Yet, as much of a healing moment this is, this signals that it’s also time to revive Irving’s “(Blank) Days Since An Incident” sign. Irving re-joins a Nets team that has been focused on hoops in his absence. Irving’s dazzling offensive repertoire has obscured an apathy on the defensive end. Irving found himself on the outs by getting defensive, but that’s exactly where he should spend more energy when he’s back in uniform.

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According to FiveThirtyEight, Irving’s negative-0.9 defensive RAPTOR in the 2021-22 season ranked 41st out of 72 point guards who played at least 1,000 regular-season minutes.

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Since Irving was suspended from the 2-6 Nets on Nov. 4, the Nets have won 5 of 8, allowing the fourth-fewest per 100 possessions after being the league’s worst defensive team while Irving was active. Vaughn’s Nets defense skews towards being more switch-heavy, in contrast to Nash having guards attacking over screens while bigs defend pick-and-rolls in drop coverage to prevent layups or back cuts toward the rim. His first opportunity to fit in with the resurgent Nets will come Sunday night against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Prior to Nash’s firing, Irving was blowing off his head coach’s playcalls. Irving is averaging 26.9 points, 5.1 assists and 5.1 rebounds, but at the time of his suspension, the Nets were 25th in assist-to-turnover ratio and 12th since Nov. 4. The Nets’ offense that scored 111.6 points per 100 possessions with Irving out, averaged 112 during his suspension.

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Irving is integral to the Nets making a title run, but there are three things he must do for that reality to come to fruition. By buying into Vaughn’s philosophy on both ends, incorporating his offensive wizardry into the decentralized offense and avoiding the ancillary distractions that have plagued his stint in Brooklyn, Irving can finally begin the process of rehabilitating his polarizing image.