Suns rookie Alex Len is the only current Ukrainian on an NBA roster.
Ankle injuries combined with surprisingly good play from the Suns existing front line (Channing Frye, Miles Plumlee, the Morris twins) have kept him on the bench much of the season. However Thursday night he is going to get the start against the Thunder in an important game for the Suns as they fight to get one of the final playoff spots in the West.
But that is far from the most important thing on Len’s mind lately.
For the past several months as the situation in his homeland intensified into an international situation (and proxy battle for the United States and Russia) Len has taken to the court with this message on his shoes:
Len said the situation in his country is a political battle where the common person seems caught in the middle (as it always seems to go in power struggles). Here were his comments to Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic.
“If you watch American news, they say one thing. If you watch Ukrainian news, they say another thing. In my home, I have a Russian channel and they say a totally different thing. It’s politics, so I don’t know what’s really going on. I pray for Ukraine. I want peace.”
The situation in the Ukraine ties back now ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych and his government rejecting a deal with the European Union in favor of strengthening ties with Russia. This led to mass protests that came to the nation’s capital Kiev, clashes with police, battles with protestors dying and an eventual ousting of Yanukovych. However some people in the country, especially in the Crimean region, have pushed for closer ties with Russia.
Len probably sounds like most average Ukrainians — they want peace, not to be caught in the middle of a political power struggle. #prayforukraine
Hat tip to Dan Devine at Ball Don’t Lie.
Russell Westbrook might not want to talk about his supporting cast distinctively, but it’s a real issue for the Thunder, who trail the Rockets 3-1 in their first-round series.
Even Andre Roberson, who has impressively defended James Harden, brings a glaring weakness: free throws. Roberson is 2-for-17 from the line in the playoffs, including 2-for-12 in Game 4 yesterday. Houston even repeatedly intentionally fouled him late.
It was agonizing for all but the most partisan Rockets supporters – though even Houston’s bench, while at least implicitly mocking Roberson, appeared put off that he missed yet again.
Isaiah Thomas previously explained his emotions in a statement, but the Celtics guard spoke publicly yesterday for the first time since the death of his sister in a car crash just before the playoffs.
Thomas, via A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN Northeast:
“Mentally and emotionally I’m not here,” Thomas said after Game 4, the first time he has spoken publicly since his sister’s death. “So I just feed off of what the guys give me. They give me a lot of confidence. I can’t do it without those guys. They believe in me. Being here is what makes me sane and makes me feel somewhat normal through these tough times.”
Thomas has played well for Boston, which won twice in Chicago to even its series with the Bulls, 2-2. It’s remarkable considering the heavy emotional burden and extra travel, going to Seattle for his sister’s funeral then joining the Celtics in Chicago.
His teammates have clearly rallied around him, and that surely helps. But I can’t even imagine how he’s simultaneously handling such a tragic family situation and the biggest games of his career.
Pacers super fan Matt Asen brings his lucky flamingo to each game.
He also annoyed the heck out of Kyrie Irving by trying to hand it, rather than the ball, to the Cavaliers guard.
James Harden didn’t lead the Rockets in scoring in their Game 4 win over the Thunder yesterday.
He didn’t even rank second – or third.
Nene, Eric Gordon and Lou Williams each outscored Harden, who scored 16 points on 5-for-16 shooting, including 0-for-7 on 3-pointers.
What happened to the Houston star?
Calvin Watkins of ESPN:
Houston Rockets star guard James Harden said he has been hobbled by an ankle injury that occurred in Game 3 of this first-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Harden made the revelation to ESPN’s Lisa Salters after the Rockets’ 113-109 Game 4 victory on Sunday afternoon.
“It was pretty tough; we don’t make excuses,” Harden said in a news conference when asked about his health. “We just try to go out there and get the job done. You build trust, and trust in your teammates all year long. When there’s moments like this, guys step up and they did tonight. We have another opportunity in a few days to go out there and win on our home court, and we’re going to have to get off to a really good start.”
Many players are grinding through injuries this time of year. Is Harden’s exceptionally bad? There’s no way of telling from the outside.
But he didn’t look quite right in Game 4, and if he’s hobbled, that opens the door slightly wider for Oklahoma City to come back from its 3-1 deficit.