Kyrie Irving has his finger on the Brooklyn Nets’ dead man’s switch

“Trade me”

A dull day with the Brooklyn Nets is merely the calm before a Kyrie Irving storm. On Friday afternoon, the Nets star point guard added another chapter to his tumultuous tenure in Brooklyn by placing his finger on a metaphorical dead man’s switch by outright requesting a trade from the Nets.

Last week, Irving’s agent went on the record with Bleacher Reports’ Chris Haynes to express his client’s desire to sign an extension with the Nets. Irving was known as a cantankerous figure, but in Brooklyn, the distractions appeared to escalate every season. An agreement with Irving would undoubtedly be a one-sided affair. Irving will poke and prod at the guardrails and then cross the third rail when that doesn’t garner enough of a reaction. When the Nets didn’t acquiesce to his most recent demands for a long-term deal, he requested a trade. Now the Nets have to wonder whether he’ll sit out if his demands are met. Don’t give me that screwface. It’s not outside the realm of possibilities.

Advertisement

When healthy, Irving has been a sorcerer with the ball and one of the most creative shotmakers in the entire league. It was worth making one last run at a title and fulfilling the promise of this duo. We should have known trouble was brewing when his social media pages started percolating with more cryptic Da Vinci Code clues. A week after being named an All-Star starter, Irving has stuck another banana in the tailpipe of this Nets franchise.

The saddest part of this saga is that the Brooklyn Nets were finally flying high. Head coach Jacque Vaughn appeared to have Irving’s ear. Their switching defense was more imposing than it had ever been during Steve Nash’s run. Irving pulling this nonsensical sabotage now is the madness he manifests. Between Nov. 27 and Jan. 8, which is when Kevin Durant sprained his MCL, they’d won 17 of 19 games and were ascending fast.

Advertisement

Durant’s knee has barely had time to heal, before a shiv was placed in his back by the point guard he committed to the Nets with back in 2020. The Nets shouldn’t be surprised either. They stuck with him through his refusal to get vaccinated, after he took time off to go partying maskless in the middle of the 2021-22 season during a winter COVID spike across the country and after he served a suspension related to an anti-semitic film he promoted, then took a week to disavow. In the offseason, Irving threatened to opt out, then opted in after they found a shallow market for Irving.

Irving’s request doesn’t just shake up the franchise at the deadline, but it also impales Durant’s career. Durant hitching his wagon to Irving has been the biggest mistake he’s ever made. After the serene two championships in four years Durant won with Golden State, and Irving’s championship years as LeBron James’ sidekick in Cleveland, he and Irving sought to build something as equals. Instead, Irving has written a horror story for Durant. His destructive tendencies were a wedge that played a part in driving away James Harden. He single-handedly tanked the Nets and prior to that, set the Celtics championship project back a few years. Don’t forget, he also requested a trade away from the Cavaliers after the 2017 Finals. This is his pattern.

Advertisement

Ramifications of an Irving trade

So let’s unpack the trade deadline ramifications. The outcomes for Irving are fairly straightforward. Los Angeles is the only franchise that has the will and the pieces to negotiate a trade for Irving and his expiring contract. Russell Westbrook has been a supplemental piece off the bench for the Lakers and his $47 million salary will be instrumental in matching Irving’s contract if a trade were negotiated.

Advertisement

However, for Brooklyn, this would be a deal to strengthen the future. The Lakers would likely need to surrender their 2027 and 2029 first-round picks, but it’s an exchange the Lakers would make in an instant. If Rob Pelinka is savvy enough, he’d lop Joe Harris into the deal as well to provide the NBA’s worst shooting team with another floor-spacing sharpshooter. Then, they’d have to appease him with a contract extension. Fortunately, LeBron is the league’s only proven Kyrie whisperer, and if the Clippers leap on an Irving trade, Laker Nation will be fuming. The Heat are skulking around, but Pat Riley, Jimmy Butler, and Kyrie Irving feel like a match near a leaky gas line.

For Durant, this could take a while. The elephant in the room is the Golden State Warriors. If Irving gets his reunion with James, Golden State should do everything in its power to get involved somehow. A sleepy trade deadline, just got a shock to the heart. The more things change, you can always count on Kyrie Irving to set the world on fire.

Kyrie wants out of Brooklyn

Image for article titled Kyrie wants out of Brooklyn

Brooklyn Nets heat magnet and resident conspiracy theorist Kyrie Irving wants the team to deal him elsewhere prior to the NBA trade deadline, as reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and The Athletic’s Shams Charania.

Irving, the mercurial point guard who was No. 3 in our 2022 Idiot of the Year list, is currently averaging 27.1 points per game for Brooklyn (31-20), who sits third in the Atlantic Division.

Advertisement

His teammate Kevin Durant requested the Nets trade him back in June.

As I’m sure you remember, in since-deleted messages on his social media, Irving promoted the book and documentary Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America, which pushes several lies about the Jewish people and their mistreatment of people of color. Nike subsequently suspended its relationship with Irving, who later declared he was “free.”

Advertisement

He didn’t apologize until after the Nets suspended him and the Anti-Defamation League rejected his donation.

Irving is also a known flat earther, and anti-vaxxer, claiming his stance on the COVID-19 vaccine cost him over $100 million.

Advertisement

“I gave up four years, 100-and-something million deciding to be unvaccinated and that was the decision,” Irving had said at Nets media day in September. “[Get this] contract, get vaccinated or be unvaccinated and there’s a level of uncertainty of your future, whether you’re going to be in this league, whether you’re going to be on this team, so I had to deal with that real-life circumstance of losing my job for this decision.”

The NBA’s Nepo babies aren’t Steph Curry or Bronny James

Joe Lacob, right, and son Kirk Lacob sit courtside in the first half as the Golden State Warriors played the Brooklyn Nets at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday, March 6, 2018.

What do Bob Myers, Travis Schlenk, Rob Pelinka, and Monte McNair have in common? They’re each experiencing different stages of the NBA’s own burgeoning nepo baby regimes.

NY Mag’s cover story detailing young actors who’d been afforded opportunities that would have never been available to them without their famous last names introduced nepo babies into the national lexicon. Then, NY Mag’s Nicholas Quah attempted to make the same observation about nepotism in the NBA, but it missed the mark.

Referring to Steph Curry as a nepo baby when unproven projects like Zaire Wade being drafted by the G League team his dad partially owns and Bronny James’ exorbitant NIL valuation exist feels like a misfire. We saw what Steph Curry did at Davidson.

Advertisement

Besides, only five percent of the NBA is populated by second-generation stars and the majority had to jostle their way as standouts on the floor to even reach the league. Plus-minus, the eye test, the public nature of the job, and the heat of competition have a way of identifying frauds in the crowd. Sports is more of a meritocracy.

Missing from NY Mag’s cover were the performers who were ill-suited for the work they’d been thrust into and who continuously got work. Take the majority of John Landis’ son Max Landis’ screenwriting or Maria Coppola’s turn swimming out of her depth in the Godfather Part 3 before retreating behind the camera to become a director. The general public is a good barometer for yeeting bad actors out of marquee roles, but behind the scenes, nepotism can proliferate like a fungus until it obtains control. The same warning applies to the NBA where kids of owners are being groomed as shadow general managers or team presidents.

Advertisement

Nepo babies in team front offices

In Atlanta, Nick Ressler, the 27-year-old son of team owner Tony Ressler has served as director of Basketball Operations for the last two years and recently emerged victorious from a power struggle with President of Basketball Operations Travis Schlenk. Schlenk’s track record in the draft has been impeccable, aside from trading Luka Doncic for the Trae Young pick, but blood is blood.

Advertisement

Ressler’s close relationship with Young has created concerns within the organization. Fox Sports’ Ric Bucher reported in January that the trade to acquire DeJounte Murray from the San Antonio Spurs was engineered by a cabal that included new general manager Landry Fields, Nick Ressler, and Young.

In Golden State, Bob Myers’ stint could be rolling to an end as the son of Warrior’s majority owner Joe Lacob’s son grows his influence. The speculation over Myers’ future is rampant because Myers’ contract is due to expire at the end of this season making him the offseason’s most desirable free agent. Kirk Lacob, 33, joined the organization as general manager of the G League affiliate in Santa Cruz after a semester at sea and is now Myers’ deputy as executive vice president of basketball operations.

Advertisement

Ironically, Schlenk, Myers’ former assistant general manager on the Warriors before he left for Atlanta in May 2017, would be the ideal replacement in Golden State. However, he may find more of the same here as the circumstances begin to resemble what led to his exit from the Hawks.

Sacramento’s Monty McNair is safe for now, but before the draft lottery, last May owner Vivek Ranadivé parachuted his pop singer daughter, Anjali, into the assistant general manager’s role for their G League affiliate.

Advertisement

Jeannie Buss’ nephew, Jesse, has matriculated through the ranks of the organization where he now operates as an assistant general manager directly below Rob Pelinka on the Lakers masthead. The rumblings around Lakerland signal that Jesse (and Joey) will have a larger say in the roster.

NBA front offices will resemble HBO’s Succession

You can see where this is going. Before long, NBA front offices will look like the cast of HBO’s Succession. Three decades ago, Bryan Colangelo was the blueprint for this trend. In 1995, the 29-year-old son of the then-Phoenix Suns’ owner, Jerry Colangelo, was named general manager of the franchise. Not of the developmental team or the practice squad. There was no G League team then. Granted Colangelo had Ivy League basketball experience stemming from his college career on Cornell’s roster, but let’s not kid ourselves and pretend like he worked his way up to the top of Phoenix’s organizational hierarchy by the time he was 30 through pure acumen and guile. It worked in part because the Colangelos were a basketball family. His father Jerry was a guard at Illinois, a four-time Executive of the Year, and managing director of Team USA’s hoops program between 2006 and 2021. That typically isn’t the case though.

Advertisement

And even Bryan’s basketball executive career ended in disaster when Jerry appointed his son to lead the Philadelphia 76ers Basketball Operations department. Colangelo’s front office run with the Sixers came to a screeching halt when he resigned after a burner account was discovered in which his wife disparaged Joel Embiid and other execs with info provided to her by Bryan.

The Lakers, Warriors, Kings, and Hawks franchises may be flourishing now, but we learned from James Dolan’s two decades of lowering that bar that sometimes the apple can fall far from the tree. What happens when they take the extra leap and begin entrusting their basketball decisions with second-generation trust fund kids? The Knicks are a cautionary tale. Family, can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em, but you can work without them.

The NHL will always be a niche sport — and that’s fine

Toronto Maple Leafs’ Wayne Simmonds (24) and Boston Bruins’ A.J. Greer (10) fight during the third period, Feb.1, 2023, in Toronto.

There is no fanbase that can whipsaw from beseeching the masses to watch their sport to getting pissed off at any mainstream coverage or attention quite like hockey fans. Any discussion of hockey’s ratings and popularity always includes a collection of the same reasons it’s not more popular, along with a scowl from hockey fans about why nobody watches. Hockey fans get pissed when it’s pointed out that it’s a niche sport, and then get equally pissed whenever it moves beyond that.

This is the tweet that started the usual carnival ride yesterday:

Advertisement

However, as The Athletic’s (devilishly handsome!) Sean Gentille pointed out, these numbers are fudged a bit by some new scheduling by ESPN. The long and short of it is that ESPN started putting games up against Sunday Night Football, which is obviously going to crater ratings. Take those out of the equation, and ratings are even ahead of where they were last season on ESPN. TNT’s ratings are down, but regional blackouts have kicked in this year and that has had some effect.

Does that mean the NHL’s ratings are great? Depends on how you define that. They’re never going to approach the NBA. Those numbers put it behind Premier League ratings on NBC’s swatch of channels, but that’s basically where hockey is. All that matters is what ESPN and TNT think.

Advertisement

Action & Action

The fact that NHL ratings are in the same pool as the Premier League puts paid to one of the tired and lazy tropes about why hockey isn’t more popular, and that’s scoring. This is an argument that burns my ass royally, because what fans want isn’t scoring. They want action. And hockey has never had more action. Watch a game these days and you’ll see far more happen in a 3-2 game than you would in a 9-7 game in 1986. Hockey will never get back to that, and nor should it, because honestly, it was pretty shitty. The goalies are too good now. The NHL has done its best to scale down goalie equipment, but there’s only so much you can do while keeping goalies safe. They’re still maybe the most athletic players on the ice instead of the confused wildebeests they were in the 80s. The NHL isn’t going back.

Advertisement

But the game is fast and loud, and it’s as good as it’s been. It just doesn’t have 12 goals a game. That doesn’t mean nothing is happening. Yes, blocked shots and defensive outlooks from coaches are still something of a problem, but less of one than they were. Players are faster and more skilled than they’ve ever been, and the pace of games, even in the middle of the regular season, reach plaid more often than ever.

Marketing stars and expanding the audience

There was also the customary lament that hockey doesn’t know how to market its stars, though that leads to the question if these stars are even marketable. Have you ever heard Connor McDavid talk? You’re just waiting for him to get to the part about TPS reports. Most of these guys aren’t that different, and overexposing a host of guys with barely eighth-grade education can go backward in a lot of ways. And while the blame is put on the league, or the teams, or the marketing execs, hockey culture still puts its foot down on any player trying to rise above the team in any way. This just might not be an avenue that’s as open as people think.

Advertisement

Of course, there’s the problem with the makeup of the playing staff and fanbase, and the sport’s unwillingness to open itself up fully to a new crowd. That’s a problem, and hockey’s constant fear of pissing off its base of crusty white men is getting in the way. But it’s no gimme that even if they were able to hit the right notes on any of that the ratings would then skyrocket.

Hockey, quite simply, is just not ingrained. While youth participation continues to grow, it still trails most other sports. There were six million high school soccer players last year. There were 42,000 hockey ones. If someone is still playing at the high school level, the sport has become entrenched. Maybe that doesn’t mean a lifelong, diehard fandom. But it likely means at least a casual one, and certainly the possibility that person would tune into a big EPL match in their 20s and 30s. Hockey just isn’t going to get to that level.

Advertisement

But really…what’s the problem? If you’re a hockey fan, you can watch every game simply with an ESPN+ subscription, which is far cheaper than the other league pass packages. Arenas are filled. The only teams that aren’t filling their building to at least 85 percent of capacity are Buffalo, Chicago, Ottawa, and San Jose. All of those are strong hockey markets that just have teams that suck ass right now or have sucked ass for a decade, and all will return to full capacity as soon as they are good again to be sure.

The players may want to make more money, but they’re free to collectively bargain for that. Unless ESPN and TNT start bitching about ratings and ad revenue, there really isn’t any danger. If you watch hockey, and you have buddies to watch with, why do you care how many other people are?

Advertisement

Hockey is in the same place it’s always been, it’s just that everyone has more access to niche stuff now. Ask soccer fans or wrestling fans. And that’s where it will stay.

And now let’s just get silly

Don’t expect Dallas to host a Super Bowl any time soon

AT&T Stadium

Jerry Jones championed the construction of Jerry World — AT&T Stadium — to host major sporting events far and wide, not simply for eight or nine Dallas Cowboys home games per year. His building hosted a Super Bowl in 2011 but weather problems in the Metroplex made that one a miserable experience. Now an NBA game between the Washington Wizards and Detroit Pistons, have been affected by weather in that region, which will go further towards making his beautiful facility a less than ideal location for the big game.

The Pistons lost to the Dallas Mavericks 105-111 on Monday, and are still stuck in Dallas. An ice storm has forced thousands of cancellations at both Dallas Fort-Worth and Dallas Love airports, and residents are being advised to stay off of the roads. With it not being safe for the Pistons to travel back home to Detroit, the NBA announced that their Wednesday night matchup against the Washington Wizards will be postponed.

This is not the first time an NBA game has been moved due to weather. A Wizards game was postponed in 2016 due to a winter storm.

Advertisement

Still, as ugly winter weather can be, it is uncommon for NBA, and even major college basketball, to postpone games due to weather or other water issues. During the legendary 2010 Snowmageddon that dumped up to three feet of snow in the Washington Area, Scottie Reynolds took the subway from the Villanova’s hotel to Georgetown’s home arena. In 1994, pyrotechnics caused fire-fighting water cannons to drench the Alamodome in water. The arena was ready for the game to tip off 50 minutes later.

Advertisement

Bad weather didn’t force a kickoff delay the night Aaron Rodgers won his only Super Bowl Championship in Arlington, Texas, but that week was a misery for everyone who was in town. Falling ice from the stadium roof injured construction workers. The weather affected events in town, and also customers who paid Super Bowl prices to be in the stadium for the game.

Temporary seats were put in place to sell more tickets for the game. Due to the icy conditions, installation of those seats was put behind schedule. The job wasn’t finished until game day, which didn’t allow the fire marshalls enough time to inspect them. Those seats were deemed unsafe, and 1,250 people had to be relocated. Per an NFL statement, there were 400 people who weren’t able to be reseated and were given a refund at triple-face value.

Advertisement

A decade later, another ice storm is forcing the postponement of an NBA game 1,000 miles away. That delay of course pales in comparison to what the people of north and central Texas are dealing with at the moment. Hundreds of thousands of homes and other buildings are without power. That can bring back some bad memories of what happened during the Texas power crisis of Feb. 2021 when millions of people lost power during a severe winter storm.

Politics or climate?

Ask Jones why his building hasn’t been awarded a Super Bowl since 2011, and he would blame politics. In Jan. 2022, he said on 105.3 The Fan that new stadiums are being constructed with the promise of receiving a Super Bowl — kind of like how Dallas hosted its first-ever Super Bowl two years after opening its new facility.

Advertisement

He is correct that Minneapolis, Atlanta, San Francisco, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and New York, all hosted Super Bowls after opening new state of the art stadiums. However, the Super Bowl is in Arizona this year after being there in 2015. The NFL also replayed other hits from the past and went back to Miami, New Orleans, Tampa, and even Houston.

Dallas had its shot to be part of the rotation and it missed badly. With February winter storms again affecting transportation, it’s time to realize that the Metroplex shouldn’t host a worldwide spectacle like the Super Bowl that requires a massive amount of people to travel there during that time of year.

Advertisement

Plenty of other major events are still out there for Jones’ building to host and keep its elite standing in the public eye.

These NBA alternate jerseys are an eyesore

Image for article titled These NBA alternate jerseys are an eyesore

NBA, I’m ready to bargain. I complain regularly about the uniforms because back when the NBA was a proper league, the home team wore white except for the Los Angeles Lakers gold. I can accept that those days are long gone, but Adam Silver please meet me 25 percent of the way. If a classic matchup is taking place — like say the Lakers and New York Knicks — let’s show some reverence for history and wear the traditional jerseys.

It happened again

This is the second time in less than a week that the NBA has besmirched a nationally televised matchup between two of the NBA’s most historic franchises. On Tuesday, the Knicks broke out those black City Edition jerseys and that ugly black court. The Lakers wore white, and not the snazzy Sunday whites either. They went with a hybrid of their old white and blue jerseys with gold trim.

Advertisement

So the decision for the night was to go with colors that don’t exist in either team’s logo, one uniform was somewhat of a throwback and the other looked like it belonged to Batman’s rec-league team. And to top it all off, the design of the league’s most legendary court was changed to the point where it didn’t even look like Madison Square Garden on television. The retro style of the Lakers’ jerseys wasn’t awful but if we’re going to do throwbacks, how about the colors both franchises wore when they played against each other three out of four NBA Finals in the 1970s?

Not just at MSG, but also in Boston

And let’s not forget about the atrocity that took place at TD Garden on Saturday night. ABC’s NBA Saturday night special between the Lakers and the Boston Celtics. The disrespect that was shown to the rivalry that saved the league was appalling.

Advertisement

For one, the Lakers wore gold. The Lakers used to never wear their gold on the road, and that most certainly was the case during those heated 1980s NBA Finals clashes. As disrespectful as that choice was to this rivalry, at least it’s a style the Lakers did use at that time. The Celtics broke out their new forest-green City Edition uniform. That clash of colors looked like a bunch of boogers jumping around on the court.

I know those jerseys were designed to honor Bill Russell. However, if the NBA really wanted to honor him, how about having the two teams wear the jerseys that they wore when his squad upset Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, and Jerry West in 1969? The league makes the decision on which jerseys the players wear for every game, so it should keep this in mind when its most storied teams are playing against each other.

Advertisement

One of the charms about the NBA is that it’s a newer league than the NFL, NHL, and MLB, and also very different. With less equipment and no barrier between the fans and the players, the feel is more intimate, and it carries over outside of the arena. You can’t walk around school in Air Rickey baseball spikes, but a fresh pair of Air Jordans could make someone the coolest kid in the building.

Dare to be different

The NBA has always been willing to dare to be different to better market the product, but there is a point when it can deviate too far from its roots. I can deal with the coaches in quarter zips. Some think it looks amateurish, but if Bill Belichick can dress the way he does on the sidelines then Doc Rivers shouldn’t be forced to sweat for two hours in a suit.

Advertisement

An alternate jersey — perhaps even two — is fine. I loved the cerulean (shout out to you Miranda) Orlando Magic jersey of the early 1990s, and even some of the Christmas Day uniforms. That being said, there is some tradition in the NBA.

I wasn’t alive for Magic vs. Larry, but I know the significance of it. Sure the Knicks don’t make the playoffs much anymore, but Madison Square Garden is the Mecca of basketball. Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, and white Ford Broncos — those are memories attached to that building and the Knicks that I’ll never forget.

Advertisement

So feel free NBA to play around with the uniforms in other matchups. When the Lakers play the Dallas Mavericks, or the Memphis Grizzlies on national TV put the teams’ City vs. Statement edition uniforms or whatever, but show some reverence to the history of the league.

It may be shorter than the other leagues, but the history that exists means a great deal to those of us who were hypnotized by the NBA a long time ago, and the spell was never broken. When classic matchups — especially the out-of-conference ones — take place, go with a classic atmosphere. Leave Batman and boogers for another day.

When it comes to load management, Steph Curry says it’s not the players who want it

Image for article titled When it comes to load management, Steph Curry says it's not the players who want it

The gentrifiers of Brooklyn caught a raw deal on Monday night. The Los Angeles Lakers are in New York on a back-to-back, meaning that LeBron James and Anthony Davis were only going to play one game. People who purchased tickets for the Brooklyn Nets game received the short end of the load management stick. It’s the same end of the stick attendees of the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers’ most recent matchup were stuck with on Jan. 20, when Stephen Curry and several other Warriors’ starters did not play.

Load management is a bummer for the fans, especially when they want to see players on teams that only visit once per year. All NBA teams take road trips, and a back-to-back will likely be on the schedule during that period. Most star players do not dress for both of those games. Following the Warriors’ 128-120 win against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Curry reminded those who have a problem with players resting that the people in the jerseys and shorts don’t make the decision on when they’re out of the lineup.

Steph Curry on load management

“I campaign to play every game,” Curry told the media. “That’s the misconception about load management. It’s never the player that’s saying, ‘Hey, I wanna sit.’”

Advertisement

That is most certainly a message that Charles Barkley, Stephen A. Smith, Chris Mad Dog” Russo, Mike Greenberg, or anyone who has an issue with players missing a few games in which they might be healthy enough to play should hear. Barkley has recently been the most outspoken when he said on Sirius XM Radio’s NBA Today that he wants the owners to “put their foot in [the players’] asses in this next CBA.”

Advertisement

Sir Charles’ ire shouldn’t be directed at Curry or anyone else. The person who makes that call for the Warriors is Health and Performance Director David Taylor.

Draymond Green’s thoughts

“We have the best science guy in the game in Dave Taylor. Why would we ignore him?” Draymond Green said to Fox Sports’ Ric Buecher. “There are guys who played in this league who tried to play all 82 games who can’t walk anymore. So, toughness is what you make of it.”

Advertisement

Do people really believe that four Warriors starters met privately and decided not to play in Cleveland, or that Davis and James did the same on the flight to New York, or that Manu Ginobli, Tony Parker, and Tim Duncan all elected not to play on a TNT Thursday night in 2013?

These are decisions made by the coaches, player personnel, and training staff. People who are familiar with Larry Bird’s back going out on him before he played 10 NBA seasons. They remember Barkley’s knee problems in the mid-1990s. Isiah Thomas ruptured an Achilles tendon in 1994 and retired after 13 seasons. Kevin Durant ruptured an Achilles in his 12th season and averaged a shade under 30 points per game in his 14th.

Advertisement

Extending careers

Players’ careers are being extended and championship windows are staying open longer. The Warriors won their first title with Curry in 2015, and fifth championship in 2022. Hell, the San Antonio Spurs won their first championship in 1999, and their fifth title in 2014. Celtics’ fans loved watching Bird dive into the stands for loose balls every night, but they probably would have preferred him to be healthy in the early 1990s, and the Celtics competing against the Chicago Bulls for NBA Championships.

Advertisement

The NBA is a grind and it’s getting more and more physically taxing every year. Players are coming in with significant mileage on their bodies from rigorous AAU and foreign professional league schedules. Now they fly to 29 other cities and have to guard Nikola Jokić on the break and in the paint.

For those who buy individual game tickets to NBA games, yes it will continue to be a letdown when management sits the best players down but things could be worse. You could be a Denver Nuggets fan in Colorado. Your favorite team has the best record in the Western Conference, but like most cable subscribers in the state, you are an Xfinity customer and therefore have no access to the channel in which the games are aired.

Advertisement

Success for the business will always be prioritized over day-to-day consumer satisfaction. So those of you who buy tickets on a load management day, feel free to be upset. Just make sure you’re angry at the correct people. The same decision-makers in other industries are enjoying record profits while your egg prices are rising.

The New York Knicks are stuck in a Thibs time loop

Tom Thibodeau

The phrase “Knicks for clicks” is relatively unknown outside of New York Knickerbocker fan circles. It’s a pejorative term to describe mainstream media’s calculated dissemination of anti-Knicks content for the sake of traffic and views. When the Knicks are mentioned in any segment on ESPN or FS1, it’s usually to scoff at their 20-year ineptitude under James Dolan, even if things have been relatively competent since Leon Rose took over as president of Basketball Operations in 2020.

But to those who live and breathe New York basketball, those who bleed orange and blue, the highs and lows of the current Knicks team are debated daily in every possible area. The most polarizing and contentious topic is the head coaching job of Tom Thibodeau, who is the 31st head coach in franchise history, the 20202021 Coach of the Year, and the 11th all-time winningest Knicks coach. Thibodeau’s job on the sidelines has split Knicks fans down the middle, initiating verbal fisticuffs between brothers, life-long friends, podcast hosts, and complete strangers.

What Thibs has done well

First, the good: Thibodeau is without question the best Knicks coach in the last 20 years. He is elite at establishing identity, culture, and habits. He has the Knicks playing ferocious defense, as he’s known to be dedicated to coaching, spending countless sleepless nights calculating his pre-game preparation. As a result, the Knicks — through 51 games — rank fifth in opponent field goals made (40.4), third in opponent’s field goal percentage (45.3), and fifth in opponent three-point percentage (34.9).

Advertisement

He’s also an underrated developer. This trait can be traced back to his time in Chicago, where he developed Derrick Rose to the youngest-ever MVP, as well as developing Joakim Noah into an elite defensive stopper and expanding the games of Loul Deng, Carlos Boozer, and Taj Gibson.

He’s continued that in New York, where he has contributed to the growth of RJ Barrett, Quentin Grimes, Immanuel Quickley, Miles McBride, Jericho Sims, and especially Mitchell Robinson. He has also unlocked “star” level abilities in free agent acquisitions Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson. The Knicks are back in the playoff hunt — currently seventh in the East through 51 games — after a disappointing season that saw the team rise and fall under the mental fragility of Randle. They’ve exhibited powerhouse defensive performances in stretches, winning eight games in a row in December, behind the preparation and motivation from Thibodeau.

Advertisement

Thibodeau has maximized the potential from his eight-man rotation and gotten them back to playing competitive basketball in 2023. Unfortunately, that’s where this story’s positive trajectory ends.

Where Thibs fails

“Thibs,” as he is known to fans of all three franchises he’s coached, has an expiration date. Usually, it arrives around Year 3, when he has fully maximized the positives he brings to a formerly downtrodden franchise. That’s the case with the Knicks. He took the team from the depths of NBA hell and made them respectable again. But he has never been known as a competent in-game adjuster, a skill more pivotal than ever in a head coach. He’s also the most rigid head coach in the Association. He’s arrogant when it comes to minute distribution, rotations, game planning, and offensive playcalling. These faults usually lead him to burn out his starters, with the best players on the last three teams he’s coached routinely leading the league in minutes played. Thibs apologists will point to only Randle being in the top 20 minutes per game. But when you look at the metrics from the point in December when Thibs shortened the roster to a nine-man rotation, Barrett, Brunson, and Randle all skyrocketed up the list.

Advertisement

He also depends on two schemes phased out of the NBA by modernity — drop defense by the center position, and isolation offense. Even with the NBA evolving into a product where the three is king, Thibs consistently emphasizes protecting the paint. It’s led to role players from almost every team in the league getting hot on the Knicks, torching them from the perimeter because Thibs demands his center hedges toward the paint against the pick and roll while his guards pack the paint, leaving the perimeter wide-open. It’s even worse on offense, where Thibs leaves the playcalling up to his best player. For the last two years, that’s been Randle, a power forward. This season it’s been Randle and Brunson, both of whom shoot first and prefer to over-dribble on an island before heaving difficult isolation shots. Under Thibs, the Knicks are third worst in assists per game (22.4), second worst in assist ratio, and fourth worst in pace. This reveals Thibs’ antiquated half-course offense, predicated on isolation players and guys standing idle in the corner.

Far too often, under Thibs, the offense breaks down in the fourth quarter. The Knicks typically move the ball much better in the first half. For some reason, when the pressure tightens up in the fourth, Thibs allows Brunson and Randle to go iso as much as they want, with zero change in scheme or benching either of them when it’s out of hand.

Advertisement

What makes it all the more insufferable is we’ve seen it all before. If anyone knows this, it should be Rose, who was Thibs’ agent before he was his boss with the Knicks. He was there in Chicago and then Minnesota. He watched as Derrick Rose’s knees turned to dust. Thibs has lost playoff series after playoff series from a lack of offensive creativity and under-utilizing his bench. He left Chicago with a .402 winning playoff percentage, just .001 better than his overall playoff record. Things got worse in Minny and New York, where he made the playoffs just once with both teams, winning just one game in both first-round trouncings.

Thibs supporters continue to shake ass for mediocre benchmarks like effort, team defense, and making the Play-In, metrics Thibs excels at as a head coach. But for the Knicks to take advantage of their high-upside young core, they will need to hire someone better than Thibs at adjusting to the modern game. To take the next step, they need someone who is an elite in-game adjuster and willing to divert from their game plan when it stops working. Thibodeau’s biggest enemy is himself. Unfortunately, with his best friend and former agent, Rose, his boss with the Knicks, it’s unlikely to happen. Thibs will play out his five-year contract — not because he deserves it, but because Rose likely doesn’t want to deal with the optics of firing his splashiest hire, a clear admission he chose the wrong guy. It’s been almost 25 years since James Dolan was handed the Knicks on a silver spoon, and still today, cronyism continues to rot MSG from the inside out. 

Phoenix Suns need to get Jae Crowder deal done as NBA trade deadline approaches

Jae Crowder

Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder hasn’t participated in an NBA game since last postseason. He’s yet to suit up for the Suns this season and likely won’t, ever again. It was decided early on that it was in the best interest of all parties that he stay away from the team. Trade rumors have floated around all year about Crowder, and Shams Charania recently reported on the leading candidate to land Crowder by the association’s trade deadline of Thursday, Feb 9. The Milwaukee Bucks are leading the field for Crowder, according to Shams.

The deal Charania lays out certainly benefits the Bucks in their quest to win a second championship in three years. Phoenix would receive Jordan Nwora, Serge Ibaka, and George Hill second-round draft compensation, as Shams phrased it. He also mentions that a third team getting involved could be a possibility.

Advertisement

If this is the trade that happens, it won’t do much for the Suns this season. Two of the players involved are past their prime, and the third is young but could end up being a factor down the line. Some feel the Suns’ championship window of the last couple of years has already closed, and this deal won’t do much to help wedge it back open. But it can’t get much worse with Crowder not suiting up all year. At the least, you’d have Nwora on the roster and contributing minutes.

Everyone knows the cliché about availability. Well, that’s where the Suns and Crowder have been for months. He can’t help them on the court, and it seems like the communication broke down a while ago, so Phoenix might as well get the best deal they can in place by next week. Crowder is a great role player, one of the best in the NBA at what he does. But he is still a secondary piece, so they aren’t going to get the greatest haul in return.

Advertisement

So, whether this potential Bucks offer is, the best will be determined soon. However, for Milwaukee, Crowder would be another piece to help them make a deep postseason run in the eastern conference. With some of the injuries to key players this year in Milwaukee, Crowder couldn’t come along at a better time.

Difference maker

Adding Crowder to a roster that features Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kris Middleton, Brook Lopez, Jrue Holiday, Pat Connaughton, Bobby Portis, Joe Ingles, and Grayson Allen would make them one of the deeper teams in the east. With Portis on the sideline for at least the next couple of weeks (MCL & ankle), Crowder could slide in seamlessly. Juggling minutes could prove tricky for head coach Mike Budenholzer once everybody is available, but it’s a good problem to have. Anytime you can go 10 players deep that can give you significant minutes on an NBA team, you’re usually looking at a serious contender.

Advertisement

Milwaukee is already a contender just by having Giannis, but when you add the depth and caliber of players around him when healthy, you’ve got a dangerous squad on your hands. Talk surrounding Crowder’s next NBA destination should heat up in the coming days with the deadline approaching. If Crowder is moved by Phoenix, he’d be headed for his eighth team in 10 years in the league. You can definitely say Crowder has led the life of an NBA nomad.

For once, the NFL being America’s most popular sport worked to the NBA’s advantage

Jayson Tatum defends LeBron James in the final shot of regulation play during the fourth quarter at TD Garden on January 28, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts.

The officiating crew from that Saturday night Los Angeles Lakers-Boston Celtics matchup was let off the hook by the NFL playoffs. Chris Jones disrupted the Cincinnati Bengals far more than any mistakes from the officials on Sunday night, but any added difficulty is always burdensome when dealing with the Kansas City Chiefs.

When NBA referee social media sent out that refs make mistakes, too tweet on Sunday afternoon, the post was rightfully clowned. Of course all humans make mistakes. However, when large ones happen at work those shouldn’t be explained away by tweeting out, “John Q. Public, you all screw up too.”

The Chiefs – Bengals refs were worse

Fortunately for the NBA, their Saturday shortcomings were eclipsed during the 6:30 p.m. EST NFL Conference Championship Game. Those referees made a glaring error in front of many more millions of people.

Advertisement

During an early fourth quarter drive there had been some problems with the clock. Lead official Ron Tolbert had already explained a clock issue when one of the strangest moments in NFL history took place. A referee in the secondary was trying to blow a Chiefs third-down play dead before it started. No one noticed and the Chiefs got stopped, but they were eventually allowed to replay the down.

Advertisement

The Chiefs got a whole second-chance at 3rd and 9, and ended up converting. If Patrick Mahomes had two healthy legs and his normal crew of pass catchers the Chiefs probably would have at least scored off of a field-goal attempt.

Instead the Chiefs punted, but their defense was far from done with Joe Burrow and the Bengals’ offense. They intercepted Burrow, giving their offense the ball deep in their own territory. Then, while on defense, the Bengals got hosed again. Mike Hilton was called for a ticky-tac pass interference penalty that extended the Chiefs’ drive.

Advertisement

That penalty was another one that Chiefs weren’t able to take advantage of, but the extra time they had with the ball could have meant a world of difference to the Bengals. With more time, maybe Burrow doesn’t commit that disastrous intentional grounding penalty. Another questionable flag because the ball appeared to be intended for Samaje Perine, but Burrow didn’t get the ball to the line of scrimmage. The referees deserve the benefit of the doubt on that one.

All of these consequential plays in a win-or-go-home NFL playoff game, it can be easily forgotten that NBA referees cost the Lakers a road win that they desperately needed on national television the night before.

Advertisement

Refs cost the Lakers a win, too

Darvin Ham had to use his challenge on a defensive foul that was called against Anthony Davis when Jayson Tatum had clearly initiated the contact. However, with that challenge used up, Davis was called for an unjust foul later that stuck. And then came the big one.

Advertisement

LeBron James got to the basket for a game-winning layup, and missed it because his lead arm was struck by Tatum. If the foul is called, James attempts two free throws with less than one second remaining in the game. The Lakers ended up losing in overtime, and fell to four games under .500 on the season.

Advertisement

That mistake was so bad that the referees were forced to admit it, but most American sports fans have already forgotten about that play. Ask most sports fans with no connection to Southern California about poor officiating, and they’ll respond something along the lines of, “how did the Chiefs get a whole extra play?”