Is the “Star Treatment” a real thing? The answer is yes and no where is it more prevalent than in the NBA. This was proved yet again today by the decision not to suspend Draymond Green for his actions Sunday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
During game three of the Western Conference Finals for the NBA there was a moment provided by one Warriors star that had the NBA community up in arms. Draymond Green went up for a layup, however he was stripped of the ball on the way up and then he became the top story of the day. When he reached the top of his jump he kicked out his leg and struck the groin area of Thunder center Stephen Adams. It was enough for the officials to give Green a Flagrant 1 foul for his actions. The next evening the NBA decided that they were upgrading the foul to a Flagrant 2 but they would not suspend the Warriors star for game four of the WCF.
This incident occurred mere hours after the NBA announced they were suspending Cavaliers reserve player Dahntay Jones one game for striking Bismark Biyombo in the groin area the night before in Toronto. Jones did not receive a foul on the play but did draw the attention of Raptors coach Dwane Casey who was fined for his post-game comments about the officials and more specifically about the play that left his big man crumpled on the ground.
Now both of these incidents involved a strike to the groin from one player to another and should therefore be treated the same, right? Wrong, the NBA was too worried about the quality of the WCF game four to let a star like Draymond Green miss the game, but who would notice if a reserve like Dahntay Jones missed game four in the East. However it should not matter how good or popular a player is when determining their punishment for their actions. If one player does something that deserves a suspension and then another player does a similar thing then they should be punished similarly. However on Monday May 23, 2016 the NBA decided that that is not how punishment works. They decided that an actual punishment on the player would result in punishment for the teammates of Green and fans of the Warriors, but what about the teammates and fans of Dahntay Jones and fans of the Cavaliers?
Giving the suspension to Green would force him to think about the consequences of his actions next time he gets mad about being stripped of the ball. He may not realize it but a lot of young players look up to him an idol. Kids are easily impressionable, especially when it comes to watching their idols and seeing him not have to face the punishment for kicking another player in the groin could be an extremely bad example for young kids.
Was giving Dahntay Jones a suspension for his actions warranted, yes. Was Green deserving of a similar penalty for his actions, yes. That is how you prove that stars are just like everyone else.
As the NBA regular season ended last night so did the career of possibly the greatest player of the last generation of players. Kobe Bryant announced before the season that this would be his last in the league. The season had a shaky start leaving many, including myself, wondering if he should have retired last year. In the end, April 13, 2016 is a day many basketball fans will remember for a while. Not only did the Golden State Warriors break the record of the 95-96 Chicago Bulls for most wins in a season, the league recognized the culmination of one of its greatest global ambassadors. Kobe Bryant’s popularity was not just in the United States, it was worldwide. He is known to be a friend with many of the players on one of European soccer’s best teams, FC Barcelona, as well as running camps and exibitions in places in Asia including basketball crazed China. While it would have been great to see Kobe in the playoffs one last time, the ending was certainly done the only way the Black Mamba knows how.
The Lakers finished out their regular season at home against the Utah Jazz. Watching the pregame activities on ESPN had me wondering just how emotional Bryant would be during the game. From Magic Johnson calling him the greatest Laker to ever live, to the video put together from players, both past and present, and the lineup announcer saying many of his great accolades when announcing the lineups it was enough to leave me wondering just how well Bryant would be able to play with all of those emotions. He certainly did not disappoint. For twenty seasons he was most know for one thing on the court, his shooting. Last night, Bryant shot 22-50 for a grand total of 60 points! Even more shocking is that his final recorded stat in the NBA did not come from his own shot, but rather Kobe Bryant actually passed the ball and recorded an assist to close out his career.
Kobe Bryant had a career that was decorated with greatness. His career was actually bookended by two incredible seasons played by another team. His draft year was the year the Chicago Bulls won 72 games and set the record for most wins in the regular season. Now in his final season, the Golden State Warriors finished their season by breaking many records including that record of most wins in a season.
As the All-Star Break draws closer in the NBA there is one thought that keeps coming into my head. Is this season the last time the the three big aging stars for the San Antonio Spurs play together? I believe it will be.
One of those stars, whose decline has been going on longest is Manu Ginobili. The Shooting Guard has spent the past few off seasons enveloped in speculation that he will retire. The 38 year old still has two more years left on his salary, but he has played around 7 minutes per game
(mpg) less this season than his career average. That is really saying something because for the past 8 or so seasons he has been coming off the bench more than starting. One thing that cold keep him going is that he has had a better shooting percentage this season than every season since the 2011-2012 season. However, that could be more of a product of the rest he is getting and the fewer amount of shots that he takes per game. At the end of the season it would not be surprising if he decides that it is time for retirement.
One star whose decline has been a little slower is that of 39 year old Center, Tim Duncan. For 18 years he has been the face of this franchise and has helped lead them to five NBA titles. Many wonder if this could be his final season. He has been averaging 26.2 mpg, which is 8 mpg less than his career average, and is only taking around 7 shots per game. On January 2nd against the Houston Rockets he played a game and for the first time in his career he did not score in that game. As shocking as that sounds he did contribute to the game with 4 rebounds and 2 assists in his 14 minutes on the floor. With potentially another deep playoff run looming for the early summer, I feel this is likely to be his final season in the NBA as well.
The youngest out of the Spurs “Big 3” is 33 year old Point Gaurd Tony Parker. It is more likely that we will see him again for a few more years before he rides off into the sunset. He, like Duncan and Ginobili, has been given less minutes this season in hopes that they will be more fresh when it comes time to make a playoff run. Despite being on the court less, he is holding closer to his career average in assists per game, 5.2 so far this year and 5.9 for his career. Parker is taking around 4 less shots per game, 9.6, than his career average of 13.5, however he is making 53.1% of those shots. If he can continue that shooting throughout the rest of the season he would finish with his second highest shooting percentage of his career. Unlike his two longtime teammates, it would seem that he has more time left in the NBA.
The past week has seen two of the greatest streaks of the year end and by the end there could be a third great streak fall.
The Golden State Warriors lost to the Milwaukee Bucks 108-95 on Saturday night. That ended the Warriors perfect 24-0 start to the season which is absolutely impressive especially with the last six of those wins coming on the road. While everyone knew this was coming it was still nice to wonder how long Steph Curry and co. could keep it going. Now the Warriors can focus on other accomplishments for the season, such as the 72 win mark set by the ’95-’96 Chicago Bulls or to be repeat Larry O’Brian Trophy recipients.
On Wednesday night in Chicago another streak, this one quite possibly more impressive, was ended. No it was not the World Series drought. Chicago Blackhawks star Right Wing Patrick Kane had his 26 game point streak ended with a 3-0 defeat to the Colorado Avalanche. I think this streak was more impressive because in hockey it is still difficult to score goals, so for a player to either score a goal or assist on a teammate’s goal for 26 games straight is amazing. Even more impressive is the American broke the old record for longest point streak all the way back on November 28th with his 19th game with a point in a 2 point outing against the Los Angeles Kings. This streak did help draw interest to the NHL with highlights even showing on SportsCenter.
The end of this week could feature the ending of yet another streak in one of the major sports. In the NFL, the Carolina Panthers take on a team that has ended perfection before, the New York Giants. Do I think that it is possible that this will happen, not a chance. Most of the time there just seems to be a different Eli Manning on the field when the Giants take on an unbeaten team. That being said, with the way that Cam Newton and the rest of this team are playing, and coming off a 38-0 drubbing of the Atlanta Falcons, I think the Carolina Panthers are going to remain undefeated through the rest of the regular season. I think they will end up losing eventually though. I think they will lose their playoff game in the NFC Divisional Round.
As the NBA season finishes its first full month there are a few things that have become obvious. First, the Warriors are really, really good. Second, The 76ers and Lakers are really, really bad. Lastly, Kobe Bryant stayed too long. While many were hoping that Kobe would return to the form that we are used to seeing, we were all disappointed. Instead we have gotten a version of Kobe that is just plain painful to watch. My whole life, up until a couple of years ago when injuries started to take over, Bryant has been a star in the league but now when I see him play it is shocking to think that this is the same person that I grew up watching dominate teams night in and night out.
After last year ended prematurely with a fractured left knee cap I figured he would retire because it would have been best for the team. I am sure he did not want to go out with an injury, but he should have called it a career at that point. However he decided to come back for the final year of his contract. So far this year Kobe has been awful in every aspect of the game. He is shooting .311 so far this year which is way down from his .450 career average. His whole career has been built around his ability to shoot, only 4.4 assists per game, so with him only producing 15 points a game this season he has lost his usefulness to the Lakers.
For Kobe and the Lakers the best option would be for him to request for less minutes so that the young players have a chance to get real game experience. He should stick around to help mentor the young Laker stars like D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle. His experience might just be all that the great Kobe Bryant has left to give to the Lakers.
After winning the league title many pegged the Golden State Warriors to have a relatively slow start to the new NBA season. The Warriors however have had a different idea so far this year. After their comeback win last night against the Los Angeles Clippers 124-117 the Clippers have improved to 13-0 for the first time in franchise history. What has been even more impressive so far this season has been the play of reigning MVP Steph Curry. So far this season Curry has averaged an impressive 34 points per game (ppg) which tops his career average, 21 ppg, by a large amount. In the past year and a half Curry has done so much more than become such a dominate player, he has also become the leader and spark-plug for his entire team.
There has been one major player for the Warriors who has suffered a little bit of a championship hangover. Last year Klay Thompson, who was like the Robin to Curry’s Batman, enjoyed the best year of his career. So far this year he has not been bad, Thompson has just not been playing up to the level that got him the attention last year. He is shooting .445% from the field so far this year, which only stands .018% lower than last year’s .463% however since he is not taking as many shots per game, about 17 per game last year to less than 14 per game this year, he has not score as much this year. Another thing that has fallen has been his accuracy from 3 point range. Last year he was at a career high .439% while this year he has regressed to .380% on three pointers. One area that Thompson has improved on so far this year has been his rebounding. He is above his career averages so far this year in rebounds and defensive rebounds. However I believe that as the season progresses, Klay Thompson will find his shooting rhythm again and be just as productive as he was last year.
When one key player struggles it is usually difficult for a team to win games. However, in a great team someone else will step up and produce in the place of the contributor. This year through Klay Thompson’s early season struggles that player had been 4th year pro Draymond Green. The Small Forward has been having a career year thus far. He is taking about the same amount of shots from inside the arc as last year and making the same as last year. Where the offensive production has come from has been from behind the arc. So far this year Green has taken less shot from three point range than last year, 4.2 to 3.8 per game, the difference is that he is making more of his threes than last season. Green has shot .440% from behind the arc this year as opposed to .337% last season. That is the big way that Green has stepped up for the Warrior s so far this season.
What might be the most surprising thing about this run to start the season is that the Warriors are doing all of this with coach Steve Kerr not on the bench. Luke Walton was given coaching duties at the beginning of October as Kerr was recovering from offseason back surgery slower than was expected. While in the past few days Kerr has been seen in the facilities he is still out indefinitely and Luke Walton will continue to gain valuable experience as a head coach in the NBA.