Golden State Warriors 2017 Finals MVP Kevin Durant was a guest on the Bill Simmons podcast. During their lengthy discussion, KD opened up about several topics, including his thoughts on why the best DMV high school area hoops players don’t stay home and play college ball at Maryland. KD believes it’s an Under Armour thing, saying:
I think a lot of kids, to be honest, they don’t choose Maryland unless they play in an Under Armour system coming up. Shoe companies have a real, real, big influence on where these kids go. Nobody wants to play in Under Armours, I’m sorry. Like the top kids don’t, because they all play in Nike. Everybody knows that, they just don’t want to say anything.
Interesting take from KD. Now, let’s of course remember that KD is a NIKE athlete and their #2 basketball guy behind LeBron. This could just be shilling for the brand that pays him handsomely. But he does have a point.
Nike is the established brand in the NBA. The Oregon shoe giant has its tentacles in every level of basketball worldwide. Young kids coming up dreaming of playing in the NBA mimic everything their favorite players do. Most kids’ favorite players are Nike guys, those are just the facts. Durant did say if the kids play in a Under Armour system coming up, the likelihood of playing at Maryland is greater. Plus with the emergence of Steph Curry as a superstar over the past few years, it will certainly aid in Under Armour’s gain and hopefully help UA schools land more top recruits. But ultimately, Nike is king and will be for the foreseeable future.
Last Monday, ESPN decided to air a live NFL fantasy auction draft segment. Presumably because fantasy football is a huge part of the network’s NFL coverage and this is content millions of fans tune in for. The segment made the rounds on the internet and ESPN caught severe backlash for airing a segment that too closely resembled a slave auction. The segment was complete with an auctioneer, auction chant, and bidding attendees whom were all white. Auction drafts are a commonly employed method for distributing players to individuals’ teams, and both black and white players were part of the segment. However, it was completely tone deaf and highlights the longstanding societal acceptance of the buying and selling of black bodies for white consumption.
Odell Beckham Jr Auction
An auction is a process of buying and selling goods or services by offering them up for bid, taking bids, and then selling the item to the highest bidder. Language is so important, and words often get thrown around without true meaning and context. The “buying and selling of goods or services” is an interesting phrase. Are players in a fantasy auction draft goods or services? Or both? They are neither. NFL players, contrary to what many fans may think, are human beings with rights and dignity. But many fans don’t see them as such. Instead they are objects that trade on their own body and physical prowess for fans’ personal enjoyment and potentially financial gain.
Because these human beings trade on their bodies for salaries in the multimillions, many scoff and dismiss the analogy or likeness to slavery. But, that’s only because many people are incapable of seeing systems in their totality. The NFL stages an annual combine where hundreds of players, hopeful of getting a shot at being drafted into the league are put through a battery of tests. It’s quite frankly a meat market, where players are often in only their underwear being measured, poked, prodded, and weighed. Team representatives are physically examining, by and large, young black studs with detailed reports given to majority white owners. The optics on this is terrible, yet it goes on year after year. Sure, some of these players may end up making millions, many won’t. But all the owners get to make their profits regardless. Why can’t fans see the immense socioeconomic disparity and gap in this depiction, which drives the NFL system?
For too long the link between chattel slavery and professional sports has been apparent and not nearly enough has been done about it. As a society we have all been complicit in accepting it for what it is. When the most powerful sports network can air a segment like this, it means we’ve gone way too far down the rabbit hole. You can argue, we’ve long been down this rabbit hole and we’re only getting deeper with seemingly no way to escape. When the decision was made to air this segment, nobody thought this would look bad because it’s what we have collectively allowed to exist in this country. The reduction and dehumanization of people is a problem. Yes, we’re talking about fantasy football and this is sport and we have worse instances of this type of behavior that exists. But sports are a microcosm of society, the same things that exist outside of sports exists within it. It might be presented differently and give the appearance of something else, but it’s two sides of the same coin. When you can yell out a price for a human being at an auction, whether it’s for entertainment or not, suggests something inhuman.
All of this is to say, while you may think comparing the NFL or professional sports to slavery is ridiculous and has no merit, largely based off of the salaries involved, I would encourage you to think again. I’ll leave you with a quote from philosopher and psychologist William James, “A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.”
If the New York Knicks end up being the trade partner with the Cavaliers for star point guard Kyrie Irving, it won’t include Kristaps Porzingis. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski wrote an article that detailed several young assets the Cavaliers were targeting in a potential Kyrie trade, including the 7’3″ Knicks unicorn. Today, a source told Newsday that the Knicks are not remotely interested in moving Porzingis in a Kyrie trade. That says an awful lot.
The future ceiling for Porzingis looks incredible. A big man with 3 point range is where the NBA is now. See KD, Anthony Davis, Karl Towns, et al. Though KD is on another level than Davis and Towns. But I digress. Shooting and spacing are what the league is now. If you have a big man that can give you space on offense and rebounding and shot blocking on defense, you’re in great shape. However, with the Knicks making Porzingis off limits, they are underselling how good Kyrie is right now.
Kyrie is 25, only 3 years older than Porzingis, and a proven player on the NBA Finals stage. Is there a better shot maker in the NBA than Kyrie Irving? His ability to get into the lane and finish is second to none. He’s got the league’s best handles and 1 on 1 is virtually unguardable. Plus Irving isn’t in his prime yet. Which means he could get better. With the league being about point guards, wings and versatile bigs, how do you choose which is more valuable?
The Knicks only see one franchise player between Kyrie and Porzingis, and it’s clear whom they think it is. Not so sure the potential upside of Porzingis is more franchise worthy than a proven Kyrie Irving.
The New York Giants played their first preseason game on Friday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The final score was 20-12 in favor of the Steelers, but it’s preseason and the final score is not nearly as important as the quality of play during the game. After watching last night’s game, and talking with some of the players postgame, it would appear at this juncture that the defense is ahead of the offense. To be fair, Eli Manning, Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard didn’t play. But most of the defensive starters, sans DRC ad JPP, played and picked up where they left off last season.
Landon Collins and B.J. Goodson stood out in particular. Goodson played middle linebacker and was in charge of calling the defense and getting guys lined up in proper positions. He looked comfortable in the role and has been preparing for quite some time. Collins, the starting strong safety, was around the football seemingly on every play. Head coach Ben McAdoo pointed out his two young players, saying:
"The first unit had a couple of three-and-outs, which was encouraging to see. We had some young guys show up and shine. [Safety] Landon Collins was around the ball a bunch, [linebacker] B.J. Goodson made a nice play, but we played good team defense in the first half."
Again, we didn’t see the full offense operate so it is not quite a fair comparison. But the starting offensive line played, and in comparing them to the defensive line, advantage defense.
B.J. Goodson took snaps last year as the middle linebacker but he is taking on a lot more responsibility and sees himself as a leader on this defense. Operating as the “Mike” makes him the man in charge of getting the plays in and ensuring his defensive teammates are in the right spot.
In the few times I’ve spoken to B.J., he seems to have the right temperament and mindset to be a good middle linebacker in this league. After the game I asked B.J. about remaining on schedule in his development as a player.
Rainy day today at Giants training camp so we were inside the field house at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, NJ. The Giants practiced for just under two hours and covered all facets of the game.
After practice several players and head coach Ben McAdoo addressed the media. Besides the routine questions about the intricacies of the game; CTE was the topic du jour. Recently, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was asked about his own head injury history and said:
"I don’t want to get into things that happened in my past, certainly medical history and so forth, I really don’t think that’s anybody’s business."
This is a hot button issue in the NFL, as a recent study of 111 brains of NFL players revealed 110 of the 111 were found to have CTE. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a degenerative disease believed to be caused by repeated blows to the head.
Giants quarterback Eli Manning was asked about revealing injury history and more specifically about CTE. Eli answered the way you’d expect him to. He said guys don’t like to talk about injuries or worry about them too much, which makes perfect sense. Football is a game that requires appropriate fear. If you’re hesitant, or worried about injury, you’re in trouble. It requires a singular, laser sharp focus. Its gladiator nature and the “warrior” mentality it breeds are lauded and celebrated every week during the fall and winter seasons. It was very telling that Eli never said the term CTE. Always referred to as head injury or that situation.
But, Eli couldn’t escape the obvious reality that the game does cause long term health issues for many players. He expressed sympathy for those former players and their families and also said he understood why some current players are retiring early. For his own part, Eli said he’s been fortunate and hasn’t had any head injuries, and he hopes for the best in regards to head trauma.
Hoping for the best is not exclusive to football players, that’s how human beings make it through life. Optimism and hope are essential to your day to day existence. It provides the strength and resolve to continue on when things seem bleak. However, there is the other side. Luck plays a huge role in injury, and there are so many factors and variables at play in the game of football that are outside of a player’s control. Even if players do hope for the best, they’d be best served to also make sure they’re prepared for the worst.
Last year the New York Giants were 22nd in the league in offensive DVOA and 22nd in weighted offense. Even if you don’t use advanced stats, the team was 26th in ppg last year and 25th in total yards. No matter how you slice it, the offense was not very good. This past offseason GM Jerry Reese and the Giants brass added free agent receiver Brandon Marshall, and drafted rookie TE Evan Engram. Add in all pro WR Odell Beckham Jr, 2X Super Bowl MVP quarterback Eli Manning, and the talented 2nd year WR Sterling Shepard and fans are optimistic about what this offense can do. No doubt Manning will have a collection of weapons at his disposal, but for the offense to be among the league’s top 10, the offensive line and running game will need to improve. Today at training camp there were steps made in the right direction by key members of the offense.
It’s cliche but the game of football is won at the line of scrimmage. The offensive line has to be able to keep the quarterback upright and open holes for the backs. For the Giants, that conversation begins with LT Ereck Flowers and RT Bobby Hart. Reese did not do a ton in the offseason regarding the offensive line, save for bringing in DJ Fluker. Reese and the coaching staff believe in Flowers and Hart, so this camp is critical. Both players stayed in NJ for a lot of the offseason working out together and with position coaches on strength and conditioning and getting better. Head coach Ben McAdoo was complimentary of both players after Saturday’s practice, saying:
"Bobby had a nice day today. He’s bending well and making progress in his technique. He had a couple runs today where he stretched the front side well, which is good to see. Ereck is getting better with his punch and pass protection, he’s working on keeping his hips down and he’s making progress."
From what we saw today, and it’s early, they were among the better players on the line and they will have to continue to improve for the Giants to succeed on offense. Both Ereck and Bobby addressed the media after practice. I asked Ereck about hand speed as an offensive lineman and he stressed its importance. Bobby discussed why he felt it was important to stay and train in NJ at the facility during the offseason and how going against the team’s top pass rushers helps him improve. The competition at Giants camp is intense. Ereck and Bobby have the privilege of going against Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre Paul everyday in practice, which can only help to improve.
The other standout from today’s practice was rookie TE Evan Engram. The Giants conducted several periods in the “green zone.” Engram had an opportunity to get his hands on a lot of passes and he did well. He’s a big target at 6’3″, he along with Marshall should help the Giants this season when they get inside the 20 yard line.
The 2017 New York Giants training camp kicked off and once it went to full pads on Wednesday the intensity ratcheted up and we had our first fight. BSO was on hand Friday for a light workout after two days of heavy hitting. Head coach Ben McAdoo stressed the importance of staying mentally sharp on a light workout day, but also said the team will crank it back up in full pads on Saturday.
Today the players did a light run through, similar to what they would do in a Friday practice during the regular season. We saw the first team offense and defense simulate against one another, special teams work, and positional breakdowns. All with no pads. Second year wide receiver Sterling Shepard updated his injury status. The MRI was negative and he just rolled his ankle. He began therapy and did pool work today and will follow the protocol that will get him ready to return to action. Shepard was non committal on if he would play in the preseason but said he would be back for game one of the regular season.
Injuries are commonplace in football and the Giants had very good injury luck last year, part of the reason they finished 11-5 and made the playoffs for the first time in a few years. Balancing the amount of time in pads engaging in full contact versus a light run through is a difficult tightrope for any head coach to balance. The NFL regulates the amount of padded practices teams are allowed to have during camp, for safety reasons. Of course the entire game itself is unsafe, but that’s a conversation for a different day.
Following Friday’s practice McAdoo answered questions from the media and talked about a light practice versus a heavy one. While the head coach would prefer to have the players in pads, he said physically they need a break and getting mental reps are vital to remain sharp. It really is a catch-22, you need to see how players react in actual physical conditions they will see in a game, but you also want the players to make it to the games that matter. Too much heavy pounding in training camp will certainly create problems down the line. Take a look at the teams that advance deep in the postseason and win the title every year. They are almost always among the most healthy teams in the league. A large part of that is luck, and also knowing when to push during training camp and take your foot off the gas.
The Giants have some injury concerns and a number of key players for them are veterans and need to “manage their minutes” so they are in the best possible position to contribute. It’s supposed to be another hot one in NJ on Saturday. We’ll see how the team responds to their third day in pads and cranked up intensity.