If you get the chance ESPN Films’ Unguarded, the story of Chris Herren and how he battled drug use throughout his college and brief NBA career. It’s compelling.
But among the stories lost in the waves drugs can be how, during Herren’s time with the Nuggets veterans Antonio McDyess and Nick Van Exel went farther to stop his use and turn him around than any coach or family member had before.
Tom Ziller describes it well at SBN:
Other than those who ran the treatment center that helped Herren turn his life around, the only people mentioned in Unguarded who actually kept Herren from destroying himself were Antonio McDyess and Nick Van Exel, veterans on the Nuggets team that drafted the guard. During training camp, McDyess and Van Exel pulled Herren aside and told him that they knew all about his struggles with addiction, and that he wouldn’t be partying at all that season. Every night, he would be checking in with them, and when the Nuggets were on the road, he would be joining them for dinner instead of going out drinking.
And it apparently worked. McDyess and Van Exel did what no coach, no family member, no friend, no mentor had been able to do for Herren: they held him accountable. When the Nuggets sent Herren to the Celtics, that support system was gone and Herren reverted.
That is veteran leadership. We often oversell what that leadership can mean on the court, especially because it’s not something you can easily quantify. But it does matter. On the court, and sometimes more importantly off. And if Herren had run into guys like McDyess and Van Exel earlier or more often, this might have been a very different story.
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul – the banana-boat buddies – comprise the NBA’s most famous friendship group.
With Anthony nearing his end with the Rockets, that puts Houston teammate Paul in an awkward place. But Wade and LeBron are speaking up. So are the Trail Blazers’ Evan Turner and Damian Lillard.
It’s unclear whether Wade is scolding the Rockets or fans/media. That comment is far more loaded if he’s referring directly to the organization. I wonder what he sees at the “real problem” in Houston.
A struggling team waiving a minimum-salary player is rarely viewed as making that player the scapegoat. But Anthony has an outsized reputation due to his long, star-level career. With that in mind, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tried to defend Anthony.
But Anthony is a part of Houston’s problems. He’s awful defensively and shooting poorly. There is mounting evidence he’s washed up. Downgrading his role, whether or not that includes waiving him, is a step in the right direction for the Rockets.
It won’t solve everything, and Anthony – after all that he has done in the NBA – should be treated with respect. But there’s no way around his substandard current level of play.
According to one narrative, the Timberwolves decided after Friday’s loss to the Kings to trade Jimmy Butler.
But he might have forced their hand, resulting in his trade to the 76ers.
Jon Krawczynski and Shams Charania of The Athletic:
Butler decided he would play on Friday night, but he viewed it as the fork in the road. If the Timberwolves didn’t find a deal to fulfill his long-simmering trade request after that, he would begin to sit indefinitely, league sources told The Athletic.
The Kings defeated Minnesota 121-110 to push the Timberwolves to 4-9 and a winless road trip; Butler had 13 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in 41 minutes. He had played almost 124 minutes in the last three games, all losses, and at halftime of the final one, the Wolves were informed that this was it for Butler, sources said.
Butler reportedly held out for a game a couple weeks ago, though he and Minnesota both denied it. It’s quite believable he would’ve held out again if not traded. Still, informing the team during a game he’s playing would have been quite bold.
I’m not sure who actually blinked first. This could be an I-quit, no-you’re-fired (or vice versa) scenario. Both Butler and Timberwolves president-coach Tom Thibodeau are stubborn.
But the most important thing is Butler is gone and both sides can move on – whatever ugliness preceded the trade.
Jimmy Butler is officially a member of the 76ers.
His plane landed in Philly Monday and a camera crew from NBC Sports Philadelphia was there to get his first words on being a member of the Sixers. (You can see the video above.)
“I’m ready to get started, we got a little ways to go, we got some things to figure out. But all-in-all, I look forward to it,” Butler said out the window of the car that picked him up.
What should Sixers fans expect?
“Hard playing. A guy that wants to win. We got some things we want to get done here, we want to win a championship. I think the core group of guys we have, we’ll figure out a way to get it done.”
After that he rolled up the window and drove off… and we assume cranked up the country music.
Karl-Anthony Towns and Jimmy Butler did not mesh. Off the court in particular, although this season on it the Timberwolves were -7.1 points per 100 possessions when they were paired (a sharp change from a year ago when the pair were +10.2). Butler wanted out and started trying to burn down the franchise and lob grenades at practice. It took Tom Thibodeau longer than anyone else to see this was never going to work, but once he did the move was made and Butler was traded to Philadelphia.
Towns, who some around the league felt was too timid through this drama and should have stood up to Butler, took the high road after the trade and had nothing but kind words about Butler. Andrew Wiggins took the same path. From Malika Andrews of ESPN.
“He’s one hell of a player,” Towns said Sunday. “I don’t know how many Jimmy Butlers there are in the world, so I think he’ll be missed.”
“I learned a lot of things from him,” Wiggins said of Butler. “We made the playoffs, something we haven’t done in a long, long time. So I think it was a positive either way you put it.”
We’ll see how that plays out Jan. 15 when Butler and the Sixers host Towns and the Timberwolves.