In an ideal world, the NBA (and basketball) is a meritocracy — how well you do as a player or coach or executive is based solely on how well you do your job. Skin color, religion, who you choose to sleep with, none of that should matter.
But we know better — organized professional sports remains one of the places left where there is a homophobic subtext. Sometimes not even a subtext, which is what got Kobe Bryant in trouble.
Rick Welts is trying to change that. Welts is the president and chief executive of the Phoenix Suns and he came out to the New York Times in an interview published Sunday. That came after he met with those around him to tell them what was happening, and that includes David Stern, Steve Nash and (Welts mentor) Bill Russell.
In these meetings and in interviews with The New York Times, Mr. Welts explained that he wants to pierce the silence that envelops the subject of homosexuality in men’s team sports. He wants to be a mentor to gay people who harbor doubts about a sports career, whether on the court or in the front office. Most of all, he wants to feel whole, authentic.
“This is one of the last industries where the subject is off limits,” said Mr. Welts, who stands now as a true rarity, a man prominently employed in professional men’s team sports, willing to declare his homosexuality. “Nobody’s comfortable in engaging in a conversation.”
Welts as had a long and storied career around the NBA — back in the 80s he helped revive the idea of All-Star Weekend with a slam dunk contest and more. He has risen from a ball boy to a guy in charge of an NBA team.
He got there in merit.
We all look forward to the day when this isn’t a story. Right now, it still is. But maybe this starts to change it a little.
Derrick Favors, Mason Plumlee ejected after scuffle during Jazz, Nuggets game (VIDEO)
The most pressing question out of this is not even the fight itself.
In the first quarter of Utah’s eventual win over Denver, Jazz big man Derrick Favors got tangled up with Denver’s center Mason Plumlee. Favors pulled Plumlee’s arm, at which point Plumlee came back and got in his face, then Favors shoves Plumlee and a little scuffle breaks out.
Both Favors and Plumlee were ejected for the incident. Utah’s Royce O’Neale and Denver’s Will Barton picked up technicals.
None of that is what people are talking about.
Watch the video again: Denver’s Nikola Jokic leaves the bench during the fight and heads down the baseline — by the rule that should lead to a suspension. Jokic never steps on to the court (he stays along the baseline) and never engages with the combatants. Still, guys have been suspended for less.
Jokic went on to score 28 points, grab 21 rebounds, and he dished out 6 assists. It wasn’t enough as Rudy Gobert had 15 points and three blocks, and Donovan Mitchell had 35 points in a 114-108 Jazz win, one of their best in the season in what was a highly entertaining game.
James Harden scores 61, ties Kobe Bryant’s Madison Square Garden visitor’s record (VIDEO)
James Harden has been on a Wilt Chamberlain-level streak the past few weeks, it’s unlike anything we have seen in the modern NBA.
Wednesday night he topped himself.
James Harden scored 61 points against the Knicks. That would be:
• Harden’s career high.
• Tied with Kobe Bryant for most points scored by an opponent in Madison Square Garden (Carmelo Anthony holds the overall record at 62).
• A Rockets’ franchise record.
• His 21st consecutive 30-point game, tying Chamberlain for fourth-longest such streak in league history.
Oh, and Harden had the seal and dunk that sealed the win.
The Washington Wizards have won 7-of-10 and have climbed up to the nine seed, just a couple of games out of the playoffs in the East. Without John Wall, the Wizards are making a push to get into the postseason.
Which impacts whether they are willing to trade players at the deadline.
Wizards star guard Bradley Beal is not going anywhere, which Washington has made adamantly clear, league sources told The Athletic. Depending on how the next week to two weeks shape up, the Wizards could look more aggressively toward moving Otto Porter. The Utah Jazz have been an interested suitor for Porter, league sources said.
History suggests the Wizards will not be sellers. The pattern for owner Ted Leonsis and GM Ernie Grunfeld has always been to think short term and make the playoff push, even when it was not the smart thing to do. We should expect that again. Maybe Washington crawls into one of the final playoff slots in the East, but is that the smart play?
Don’t expect the Wizards to move Porter, even if they wanted to finding a team to take on his $26 million for 13 points a game this season would be difficult (although Utah would be a good fit), plus Porter is owed $27.3 million next season and has a player option he very likely will pick up for $28.5 million two seasons from now.
Pacers’ Victor Oladipo stretchered off court after scary knee injury (VIDEO)
Pacers’ All-NBA, All-Star guard Victor Oladipo was trying to defend a length-of-the-court pass to Pascal Siakam when Oladipo went down with a brutal knee injury were his kneecap was clearly not in the right place. Oladipo had to be taken off the court on a stretcher. The video is below, but be warned this is not pretty.
Let's really, really, really, really hope that Vic is alright. Oladipo goes down with an apparent knee injury and it didn't look good. #Pacerspic.twitter.com/CA6LacMo87
Oladipo is the Pacers’ best player and was a lock to be an All-Star reserve averaging 19.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 5.2 assists a game this season in Indiana. His efficiency had dropped his season as teams game planned more for him. Beyond that, you’d be hard pressed to find a kinder, more genuine person around the NBA than Oladipo.
Quickly the NBA community rallied on social media to Oladipo.