A legend in a way we so rarely see athletes be anymore — a powerful force off the court for his beliefs as well as on it. Today taking a stand might get in the way of endorsement deals, so most players (particularly elite ones) steer clear of controversial topics.
Not Bill Russell. And that’s why President Barack Obama gave him the Medal of Freedom Tuesday. It’s the highest civilian award the president can bestow.
“It’s so well-deserved,” (NBA Commissioner David) Stern told CSNNE.com. “Not just as an athlete, but a fighter for the rights for all in America. It was thrilling to be here.”
“The best I can say is it’s a great honor that they recognize the man that he is,” (NFL legend Jim) Brown told CSNNE.com. “But I already knew. If I had to wait until this day to know that, I’d be in terrible shape.”
“When I think of Russell, I think of transcending,” (Celtic Kevin) Garnett said. “If you take Bill Russell out, the young bigs don’t exist. You know, if you take someone out of history a lot of us are not even here. Not only did he transcend on the court, but off the court. Being pro-righteous in what he believed in and speaking up and standing up for that right. Different times back in the day, you know?”
“He’s so funny and interesting because he’ll tell you a story, and he’s got a lot of stories,” (Celtic Ray) Allen said. “No matter if the story is funny or not, he’s going to laugh and since he laughs you laugh and it ends up being a great story he told. I’ve always enjoyed talking to him because I always walk away with a laugh.”
“Bill Russell, the man, is someone who stood up for the rights and dignity of all men,” said Obama. “He marched with (Dr. Martin Luther) King; he stood by (Muhammed) Ali. When a restaurant refused to serve the black Celtics, he refused to play in the scheduled game. He endured insults and vandalism, but he kept on focusing on making the teammates who he loved better players, and made possible the success of so many who would follow.”
Sixers say injured Markelle Fultz will be re-evaluated in 2-3 weeks
No doubt Sixers fans just want to see him on the court again as quickly as possible. The saga of the imbalanced shoulder has been a strange one, we’ve all got our fingers crossed that it settles normally.
Damian Lillard defends Blazers’ coach Terry Stotts on Instagram
It’s far too early for panic in Portland. This is a team most outside Portland thought would finish a little above .500 and maybe grab one of the back-end playoff spots in the West, and at 9-7 they are on that pace.
But after an ugly Portland loss to Sacramento (just a few games after a loss to Brooklyn where coach Terry Stotts benched center Jusuf Nurkick for most of the fourth), Trail Blazers fans were restless and started to slam coach Stotts on the Trail Blazers’ Instagram page.
I doubt Stotts noticed, but Damian Lillard did and jumped in to defend his coach.
“Because people think they know more about what it takes to get things done at this level … For our team than they actually do,” he said. “We’re in this position for a reason. And coach Stotts had two 50-win seasons here and four straight years in the playoffs for a reason –because he knows what he’s doing. They mention … our record is 8-7 and we’re having breakdowns late in games. Well those breakdowns are a missed shot here, a turnover there, a defensive breakdown here, giving up extra possessions, missed free throws. It’s things that players control. If we were down 30 every game, that’s different. But we’re in position to win games. And when it’s time to win games, that’s the players’ job. “
Lillard is loyal to those around him and has had the back of teammates and his coach before.
Lillard and his teammates went out Saturday night and got some revenge on the Kings, winning 102-90.
Portland’s defense has been surprisingly good this season, second best in the NBA. It should have been better with Nurkic in the paint, but this has been a radical turnaround for a team where that end of the floor held them back in recent years. While that lofty ranking may not stick all season, the Blazers are defending.
Now the Blazers are just having trouble scoring efficiently (18th in the NBA), which is a little about a less-efficient Lillard and a rough start on that end for Nurkic. That end of the court should come around, Lillard and C.J. McCollum are too good for it not to.
Teammate spoke to Lonzo Ball about walking away from “fight”
We see these posturing/shoving matches all the time in the NBA, and they’re pointless. Late in Friday night’s Phoenix win in Los Angeles the Suns called a timeout, then Tyler Ulis and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope got in one a shoving match. As happens, players from both teams raced into the fray to protect their teammate/break it up… except for Lonzo Ball, who looked at it and kept moving along.
I have defended Ball’s actions as mature (he’s right, nothing was going to happen), while others (fans and media) have questioned his leadership for not rushing to stand by teammates, pull guys out of the pile, and having a “band of brothers” attitude.
None of that matters, the only opinions that carry any weight are the ones in the Lakers’ locker room. What did his teammates think? Lakers coach Luke Walton said a teammate did talk to Ball, quote via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.
“Someone on our team talked with him,” Walton said after the Lakers’ practice Saturday, without disclosing who it was. “It’s all part of the learning process.”
If his teammates were bothered, then there’s an issue. It’s more about perception than anything, again nothing was happening in that “fight,” but perception matters. It’s a small issue, but an issue. With young players this gets discussed, and everyone moves on.
Ball’s passing and energy on the court are things teammates love. As his game matures — and he eventually finishes better around the rim and, hopefully for him, finds his jumper — and he grows as a bigger threat on the court, his teammates will forget this ever happened. As will fans. But when you play for the rabid (and not always rational) fan base of the Lakers, and when your father invites publicity and with it scrutiny, things get blown out of proportion. Welcome to Lonzo’s world.
Marc Gasol kicks away Clint Capela’s shoe, earns technical
Capela turned around to go get his shoe, and Memphis’ Marc Gasol showed his soccer skills kicking the shoe away. That earned him a technical foul. Gasol could argue he just wanted to get something he could trip over off the court, but Capela was clearly coming back for it at that point. Gasol earned this one.
Capela retied his shoes and went on to have 17 points and 13 boards in Houston’s 105-83 win over shorthanded Memphis.