The OKC Thunder snapped a four game winning streak last night courtesy of the Memphis Grizzlies. But, that wasn’t the most memorable part of the game. Thunder superstar and early season MVP front runner Russell Westbrook was ejected after receiving two technical fouls in the third quarter. Following the game, Russ expressed his frustration with the officiating and what he sees as unfair treatment. In comments to the AP, Russ said:
Honestly, it’s crazy, man, especially to be ejected when I didn’t do nothing. It was just crazy, especially for me because I don’t feel I get the benefit of the doubt most of the time, especially throughout the game, with the refs.
Players griping over calls is nothing new in the NBA. Though Russ may hear from Adam Silver on this. What’s interesting is Russ’ belief that he does not get the benefit of the doubt. A quick review of Russ’ per game stats say he attempts just under 11 free throws per game (10.8). That’s number one in the league. He does initiate a lot of contact and the refs could call a foul on every play. But by and large I am a believer that the contact players like he, Harden, and LeBron initiate balances out between the amount of times they are actually fouled. More often than not, the star players get the benefit of the doubt.
Russ continued his comments on the way he is officiated:
I get so many techs just for talking. I can’t even say nothing when I’m getting hammered every time I go to the damn basket through the games and previous games. Not tonight, but every night. I just don’t get reffed the same way as other people, and I don’t appreciate it.
Here is where Russ went wrong. Superstar players are given more leeway than the average player to gripe and get animated with the officials on bad calls. But in this instance Russ wasn’t just talking. He belabored the point and there were continued obscenities directed at the official. That is usually where they tend to draw the line. Officials will let some expletives go, but if you continue on them, they will react.
See video of Russ getting ejected and his postgame comments, courtesy of Fred Katz of the Norman Transcript.
Mike Tomlin has responded to criticism from Steelers legend Terry Bradshaw. He was not pleased with Bradshaw’s characterization of him as a “cheerleader guy” and invoked a former Cowboys player to take a subtle jab at the Hall of Fame quarterback.
In a session today with the media, picked up by Larry Brown Sports, Tomlin said the following:
Terms like cheerleader guy, to me, maybe fall outside of bounds of critique or criticism. They probably fall more toward the area of disrespect and unprofessional. But what do I know? I grew up a Dallas fan. Particularly a (Thomas) ‘Hollywood’ Henderson fan.
Well played by Tomlin, remains above the fray while also getting in a little dig. For those unaware, Hollywood Henderson once said Terry Bradshaw “couldn’t spell ‘cat’ if you spotted him the ‘c’ and the ‘a.'”
Tomlin also said, when responding to Bradshaw’s criticism:
I appreciate the support. But criticism and critique are very much a part of our business. It’s an element of our business that as a competitor I embrace. The term ‘great,’ that’s something I have a great deal of respect for. I certainly don’t think that my resume to this point reads as great. But very few coaches’ resumes read as that at this point. Guys like Bill in New England probably can say that, Pop down in San Antonio. I think the rest of us are just working stiffs to be quite honest with you.
If you’re paying attention, the comments made by Bradshaw is another example of coded language. By invoking the term “cheerleader guy” it implies that Tomlin is not involved in the tactical elements of what happens on the field. Or worse, that he’s not intelligent enough to be involved. I’ve stated before, in the modern NFL, the head coach is a CEO. Tomlin oversees all aspects of the team, and has people he trusts managing each component. Much like what former Steeler head coach coach Bill Cowher did.
Tomlin is a very self aware man and has accomplished a few things in his tenure as Steelers head coach. A Super Bowl title, another appearance, five division crowns, and seven playoff trips in ten years. Not too bad, and he is still going.
Leonard Fournette’s career at LSU is over. The star running back has decided to skip the team’s Citrus Bowl game versus Louisville, to focus on the 2017 NFL Draft. CBS Sports is reporting that Fournette has already informed his coaches and teammates.
"This is one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make, not playing in the bowl, but it’s best for me and my future. It was hard telling the guys. I love them dearly. You grow so close together through this. I’ll forever thank them and support them."
Fournette has missed five games this season due to an ankle injury and while he says the ankle is about 85-90 percent, there is more work to do.
I can already hear the college football purists. You know, those good old “salt of the earth” types who believe these athletes owe it to their school’s to play. Words like “selfish” “entitled” “spoiled” will start flowing. Stop it.
Fournette is making the right move here. This is a young man, who if things go well, has the opportunity to change the economic fortunes for himself and his family. If the ankle is not all the way healed, playing in a bowl game won’t help that process and could hurt his draft stock. By all accounts he is a first round talent and a potential star at the next level. No sense in potentially risking that so LSU can win the Citrus Bowl.
Like it or not, athletics at all levels is a business. As an athlete your body is your most precious asset. You must do what is necessary to ensure that asset can leverage all it can.
We’re about a quarter of the way through this NBA season and the league’s number one team is about to embark on an important road trip. KD and the Golden State Warriors will begin a 5 game road with two sets of back to backs beginning tonight in LA versus the Clippers. The early season has gone well for KD, he is shooting a career high 56.5 percent from the field and his showcasing his all around game. Something he has been saying he’s had all along, dating back to his OKC days. KD recently sat down with ESPN.com to share his thoughts on his play thus far this season.
"I look at it like, if I shoot 15-16 shots a night, 13 of ’em gotta be solid, and the rest can be some pull-up 3s or fadeaways that I kind of work on that I wouldn’t mind if I make or miss those. I look at those other shots like heat checks — just trying stuff. "
Durant, long obsessed with being an efficient player has the opportunity in the Warriors offense to not have the responsibility of the entire scoring load on his shoulders and it has allowed the other parts of his game to flourish. To his credit, his teammates and head coach, Steve Kerr have noticed:
"He’s playing more 4 here than he played in OKC, so we’re asking him to anchor the paint at times. It doesn’t come naturally to him. He’s really more of a guard than he is a big. But he’s adapting, and he’s getting better. When he’s locked in, he’s an all-league defender. But it’s an awful lot to ask a guy to score 27, 28 a game and be locked in for 48 minutes."
KD is averaging a career high in rebounds and blocks this season. While in OKC we saw flashes of KD’s all around game, particularly during last year’s Western Conference Finals. His preternatural scoring abilities are what has built an already legendary career but being with the Warriors somehow speaks about a different brand of basketball for KD. A nirvana.
"I know what our offense is. So when I get those shots that I get, I know that I gotta be patient with ’em. And I know I also gotta be … they’re precious. I think, my shots now, I value them a little more than I did before ’cause I might not shoot 30 shots whenever I want. And that’s not a bad thing. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. That’s just how we play here … especially when you got two other guys on the perimeter that can go off and score 30 any night as well.
It’s a different situation. When I won MVP in 2014, I was playing differently. I had the ball in my hands a lot more. I was playing the point forward role, more like how LeBron [James] plays in Cleveland. And it was fun, but it was a lot. I had to do a lot out there on the floor. And I got rewarded for that by winning MVP, but it taught me a lot about the game. That was a huge year for me.
I felt like I made Thabo Sefolosha better. I made Kendrick Perkins better. I made Serge Ibaka better. And it wasn’t because I was just scoring. I think my leadership … we were down. Russell was out most of the year, so I had to step into a different role. I felt like that was one of the better years for me all around. This year, I just feel like I’m trying to fit in but also still be myself. I know that I can’t just run and go grab the ball and clear everybody out. Coach wants me to sometimes, but it’s not going to be like that most of the time."
Durant says a lot in those quotes. This is a 7 foot lethal basketball playing machine. He has a 7’4″ wingspan and has guard skills in a big man’s body. It doesn’t matter what system he plays in, he will put up MVP numbers, because he’s that damn good. The difference in his play this year and the level of basketball nirvana he is enjoying is personal preference.
Durant is a natural pleaser and prefers to be part of a whole. In OKC, it was a two man show and often he was the only good outside shooter. That type of roster and playing style (while good enough for him to win MVP and make a trip to the Finals and be a game away from another) is not what he prefers. The Warriors roster (a 2x MVP and two other all-stars), free flowing, ball sharing, style allows his entire game to be on display. More importantly, it puts him in the right frame of mind, truly loving the game.
Durant is no different than the average person when it comes to the job. If you love what you do, enjoy where you work, and have the opportunity to showcase all your skills, you tend to be happy and produce the best quality work. A happy, productive, all skills on display KD means trouble for the NBA, but might be the reason he and the Warriors are holding the NBA championship come June.
NFL Hall of Fame legend Fran Tarkenton has a message for athletes that say they will not visit a Trump White House. In a video captured by TMZ, Tarkenton says its “stupid” and “disrespectful.” He also stated, “Nobody boycotted Obama ’cause he’s black, did they?” Who said anything about not attending because Trump is white?
Tarkenton is a Trump supporter and a businessman, and frankly his politics are not a concern. As I have mentioned before, the election is over and we are where we are. A nation gets the government it deserves.
What is interesting are the inaccuracies and choice of words Tarkenton uses in this interview. In the video, when asked about championship athletes saying they wont visit the White House, Tarkenton replies those are the basketball guys, football guys don’t go to the White House. That is factually inaccurate. Every championship team from the four major sports is invited to the White House. Tarkenton makes an association based on a number of different factors. Mainly, the heavy media coverage NBA team and players get when interacting with President Obama and his White House. The association being the NBA is black, the President is black so they support him.
Tarkenton also uses the term boycott to refer to players refusing to visit the White House. That word has specific meaning and nuance and is embedded in this country’s Civil Rights Movement. When Tom Brady refused to attend the Obama White House in 2015 was that a boycott? Was his decision not to attend also disrespectful? Brady claimed he had family commitments but was seen stretching at Gillette Stadium and at an Apple store in NYC that same day. By the way Brady happened to attend the White House every time the Pats won the Super Bowl when George W. Bush was President…
If it’s good for one, it has to be good for all. If players don’t want to attend the White House and meet the President, for any reason, that is their prerogative. If it’s an issue of respecting the Office of the President then the visit should be mandatory for all barring extreme family emergency. But, that’s not how things are. Different strokes for different folks.