Chris Bosh

Who takes the last shot for the Oklahoma City Thunder?

5 Comments

Last season, it wasn’t even a question worth asking.

This season, things are going to be different in Oklahoma City. Picture the situation: Thunder down one, :12 seconds left in the fourth quarter, and the ball is being inbounded on the side. Who gets the shot? Russell Westbrook took them all last year, and he knows how to close out games with the best of them. Last season in Indiana Paul George was ticked when he didn’t get the last shot even though it was the right basketball playCarmelo Anthony has hit more than his share of game-winners, too.

So who takes that shot?

Royce Young explored this at ESPN, and that included asking coach Billy Donovan, who said exactly what you expect a coach to say.

“Carmelo’s been a closeout guy the places he’s been, the same thing with Paul. But any time you have a team you have to do it by finding the open man,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “Clearly for us last year, somebody creating and generating a shot for himself or someone else, it was Russell. But obviously now with Carmelo and Paul being here, I think it’s about making the right play and right decision.”

This gets into the central question about the Thunder, the one that will define just how good they are this season — are Westbrook, George, and Anthony really willing to make the sacrifices to their games needed to push for a title? Of course, the guys are saying all the right things.

“All three of us are comfortable with whoever has that shot,” George said a couple of weeks ago. “… I trust Russ, I trust Carmelo, that they are going to do whatever is best for the team. I trust they are going to knock that shot down. Really I have no concern when it comes to that. I know with those guys, they are going to give us a chance to win. That’s ultimately what we want.”

“Whoever’s open. It’s simple,” Anthony said. “We’ll run the play, and whoever gets open will take the shot. It’s not like I’m coming and saying, ‘I want the last shot,’ or Russ is saying he wants the last shot, or Paul. Whoever’s open will take the shot. We all feel comfortable in those situations and those moments, so no need for any one of us to demand it at that point.”

Part of the challenge is that all three of them — Westbrook, George, and Anthony — get a lot of buckets out of isolation sets. They are all comfortable in that spot. Last season Westbrook isolations were the go-to end of game call for OKC (and first quarter call, and second quarter, and…) but now does Donovan call another number? Does he want a pick-and-roll action between George and Westbrook, with Anthony spacing the floor on the weakside?

ABC/ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy was on Zach Lowe’s podcast recently and had a great line (which I paraphrase here): Stars always say the right thing about sacrificing for the team, but they don’t think that applies to them. I’d say that changes over time, but look at how much Chris Bosh and then Kevin Love had to change their games to fit with LeBron James, and it took both more than a season to do it.

Westbrook had the ultimate green light last season, will be comfortable doing more playmaking for others and not taking those key shots? Will we see Olympic ‘Melo or Knicks’ ‘Melo? Will George be good with fewer touches and points heading into a contract year (not that it impacts his value much) for the betterment of the team?

I think eventually OKC’s big three will figure it out — I predicted Oklahoma City will reach the conference finals — but not until after some bumps at the start of the season. How the stars will handle end-of-game situations is a fair question to ask. Much like the Warriors last season, where Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry took a while to figure clutch situations, the Thunder have some hard questions to answer that will take some time.

And in the end, my money is still on Westbrook creating, he’s just got better passing options now.

Draymond Green: Everybody panicking, knows they don’t have a chance against Warriors

AP Photo/Danny Moloshok
21 Comments

Draymond Green is outspoken.

That’s on full display in Clay Skipper’s GQ profile of the Warriors star. Green’s groin kicks, arrest and comfort in his role are all discussed. Green is nothing if not unapologetically Green throughout.

A sample:

Ten days after beating the Cleveland Cavaliers to win his second NBA title, 27-year-old Draymond Green still has some shit to talk. He’s in the brick-walled New York offices of Maverick Carter, LeBron James’ longtime business partner, here to film a promo video for a celebrity soccer game in which he’ll coach a team opposite Drake.

“They didn’t stand a fucking chance,” he says of the Cavs, who lost in five games. “It pissed me off we didn’t sweep them, though.”

Hours after I talk to Green, the Bulls will trade Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Six days later, Chris Paul will join James Harden in Houston. The rest of the summer plays out like a very athletic game of Red Rover: Paul George and Melo head to Oklahoma City; Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward join the Boston Celtics; Isaiah Thomas and Dwyane Wade link up with LeBron in Cleveland. Eight marquee players—who have combined for forty-five total all-star selections—switch homes, the very landscape of the league changing in the shadow of the growing juggernaut in the Bay Area.

And, here in Tribeca, before any of it happens, Draymond Green knows it’s coming.

“It’s so funny sitting back and watching this shit,” he starts, before pausing to pull his phone out of his jeans, looking through the Golden State Warriors’ group chat. (The team has one, and the Hampton Five—Green, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, and Kevin Durant, the five guys that were in the Hamptons in the summer of 2016 to recruit KD—has another.) He wants to relay something that Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey had said in an interview, reacting to the Warriors’ title. The team had texted it to each other: “They are not unbeatable. There have been bigger upsets in sports history. We are going to keep improving our roster. We are used to long odds. If Golden State makes the odds longer, we might up our risk profile and get even more aggressive. We have something up our sleeve.”

Then he pauses, scoffing at Morey’s comments.

“What the fuck are you talking about?” he says to me. “They are really trying to rethink their whole strategy”—here he bumps a table repeatedly with his hand for emphasis, getting excited—“because teams know they don’t have a fucking clue.”

On a roll now, he remembers the Warriors’ lone playoff loss, in Game 4 of the Finals, when the Cavs sank twenty-four three-pointers, an NBA Finals record.

“That’d never been done!” Green exclaims. “They don’t come out and hit twenty-four threes and they’re swept. And that’s the second best team in the world. It’s pretty fucking sick to see how everybody is just in a fucking panic about what to do. You sit back and think, like, these motherfuckers, they know. That’s the fun part about it: They know they don’t stand a chance.”

Post-title gloat aside, Green is not about to do what LeBron did seven years ago, after his talents arrived in South Beach to join Chris Bosh, D-Wade, and set this NBA arms race into motion. He’s not going to say that he and his super bros won’t be happy with just one ring (or four, or five, or six).

“At the end of the day, it’s hard as hell to win a championship,” says Green. “To say, ‘Yeah, if we don’t do this, we failed?’ No the fuck [we] didn’t. We won a championship. We are champions forever. If I never win another championship, I will forever be called: Draymond Green, NBA fucking champion.”

The Warriors have an odd problem: They want to gloat about their dominance, but everyone accepts their inevitability – and blames them for it! Since signing Kevin Durant, Golden State is treated like an invincible villain.

I argued assuming the Warriors would win last year’s title was ignoring history. Overwhelming favorites tend not to live up to the hype. Winning a champion is hard as hell. But the way Golden State dominated, those pleas – even if they were correct – will fall on deaf ears.

So, Green is trying to play both sides – bragging about winning a league that everyone believes is stacked in the Warriors’ favor. If he figures out how to do that, I’ll truly be impressed by his gabbing ability.

Russell Westbrook wins union’s Players Voice MVP

AP Photo/Chris Szagola
Leave a comment

The players union released its long-anticipated long-overdue awards, and there are some doozies. First of all, I still can’t figure out what Chris Bosh – who was announced as the “host” of the Twitter-released awards – has to do with this. But let’s get to the actual winners.

Here are the major awards, with the traditional award/Players Voice equivalent:

No surprise Westbrook won both MVPs. He deserved them. Still, James Harden could’ve hoped for a split result like in 2015, when Stephen Curry won actual MVP and Harden won the players’ version.

There’s obviously slight differences in the other categories. I think Green had the best defensive season and deservedly won Defensive Player of the Year, but I also think Leonard is the NBA’s best defender and therefore deserved this honor. I would’ve picked Andre Iguodala for Best off the Bench (and Sixth Man of the Year, for what it’s worth), though that’s a minor quibble. But how on earth did Joel Embiid not win Best Rookie? He was the best rookie in years, let alone this season. I picked Brogdon for Rookie of the Year based on his overall contributions in far more playing time, but there should have been no question about the best rookie.

The union also released several awards without a corresponding NBA honor:

  • Comeback Player of the Year: Joel Embiid
  • Hardest to Guard: Russell Westbrook
  • Clutch Performer: Isaiah Thomas
  • Global Impact: LeBron James
  • Player You Secretly Wish Was On Your Team: LeBron James
  • Most Influential Veteran: Vince Carter
  • Best Dressed: Russell Westbrook
  • Best Social Media Follow: Joel Embiid
  • Coach You’d Most Like to Play For: Gregg Popovich
  • Best Home Court Advantage: Warriors

LeBron winning Player You Secretly Wish Was On Your Team has to be an implicit slap in the face to Kyrie Irving. I’m glad to see Thomas and Carter deservedly recognized.

Lastly, the union awarded a Teammate of the Year on each team:

Dirk Nowitzki won the NBA’s Teammate of the Year – which is voted on by current players after a panel of former players selects nominees – then didn’t even win for his own team here? That’s just weird.

Chris Bosh to ‘host’ players-union awards revealed via tweets

AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee
1 Comment

The NBA didn’t reveal its major regular-season awards until after the playoffs and draft – until most fans had turned the page toward the offseason. But at least the league got a revenue-drawing nationally televised award show out of the delay.

What is the players union doing, and how does Chris Bosh come into play?

National Basketball Players Association release:

CHRIS BOSH TO HOST NBPA “PLAYERS VOICE AWARDS”

11-Time All-Star to Reveal Awards Via Social Media

The National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) announced today that 2017 Players Voice Awards will be revealed exclusively via social media tomorrow beginning at 11:00 a.m. ET.

The Players Voice Awards are voted on solely by NBA players

The awards and videos will be revealed via @theNBPA on Twitter, and NBPA.com will curate all of the content throughout the day.

Voting took place at the end of the regular season and did not consider postseason performances.

The full list of Players Voice Awards includes:

  • Best Rookie
  • Comeback Player of the Year
  • Best Off the Bench
  • Best Defender
  • Hardest to Guard
  • Player You Secretly Wish Was On Your Team
  • Best Dressed
  • Home Court Advantage
  • Coach You’d Most Like to Play For
  • Clutch Performer
  • Best Social Media Follow
  • Most Influential Veteran
  • Global Impact
  • Most Valuable Player
  • Best Teammate (one per team)

I’m still not sure how Bosh is hosting tweets or what took so long for the union to get to this. The players-union awards, which debuted two years ago, haven’t gained much steam. I don’t think this will help.

On the other hand, not much is happening this time of year. Diehard basketball fans are thirsting for activity, and this provides some.

But they’d care at any time. I don’t think this moves the needle at all for casual fans.

As a hardcore basketball follower, though, I am curious who wins – and how Bosh fits into all of this.

Chauncey Billups literally had to teach Darko Milicic how to shower

Brian Bahr/Getty Images
7 Comments

Darko Milicic – drafted between LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane – is one of the biggest busts in NBA history.

An 18-year-old Darko clearly wasn’t ready to join the Pistons, who got the No. 2 pick in 2003 due to a trade years prior and were already thinking championship by the time they drafted him. That’s a big “what if?” of Darko’s career: What if he were drafted by a bad team better-suited to developing him?

But it would have taken a lot for any team to acclimate Darko to the NBA.

Sam Borden of ESPN:

By the time scouts started coming around, Darko saw the NBA as a way out — of financial insecurity, of persistent tumult, of Serbia — more than any kind of childhood fantasy coming true. He liked the game enough. Everyone he met was rooting for him to go. It was all right there in front of him. And who hasn’t walked through a door simply because it was open?

The problem is that wasn’t the narrative we expect from foreign basketball players. We expect them to love the NBA, to have grown up watching it on choppy internet streams or satellite television, to cherish its players and aspire to its trappings. When Yao Ming came to the NBA from China, he made no secret of his longtime adoration of Arvydas Sabonis and Hakeem Olajuwon; more recently, Kristaps Porzingis, a Latvian, made it clear that Dirk Nowitzki was his inspiration, and everyone nodded.

So, as soon as Darko began to get some attention in the U.S., the expected questions began: “Who was your idol? Who did you love to watch?

Kevin Garnett, Darko answered. He told everyone that Garnett, a tall power forward with a wingspan wider than a school bus, was his muse. He told local television stations he liked Garnett. He told USA Today he liked Garnett. He told ESPN he liked Garnett.

Except he had barely seen Garnett play. “I just sort of found him and decided he’s the one,” Darko says now. “It seemed like the player I was supposed to like.”

Darko would go home to shower after practices or games instead of staying in the locker room to clean up; he didn’t realize that in America, the players all showered together.

“So I had to teach Darko,” says Chauncey Billups, who played in Detroit from 2002-08, “like, no, when we’re done playing, when we’re done practicing, you put your towel on and you go get in the shower. That’s what we do here.”

There was wall punching. There was also drinking, and Darko began showing up to practice still tipsy after an overnight bender. “I just wouldn’t sleep,” he says.

It didn’t get much better from there – Darko burning through the Magic, Grizzlies, Knicks, Timberwolves and Celtics before retiring.

How has Darko coped with his failed (failed?) career? I highly suggest reading Borden’s article in full for a compelling accounting of the tale.