The Blazers have an… unfortunate history, when it comes to injuries. (That’s like saying the Titanic had an unfortunate problem with icebergs.) It’s not just Sam Bowie or Greg Oden. It’s Brandon Roy and even rookies and second-year men who have fallen. Have any sort of negative pattern and the word “curse” starts popping up in sports. We’re a superstitious group, like the people in “The Wicker Man” or gamblers. But surely the players don’t buy into that stuff, right? Well-reasoned, stable people that they are?
Marcus Camby, traded at the deadline to Houston, was asked about the idea of the “Blazers Curse” and his answer was surprisingly honest. From ESPN’s Marc Stein:
Q: You know those of us in the media throw around words like “curse.” But what about the players on that team? In the Blazers’ locker room, are guys asking: What next?
A: They might not want to admit it, but when I was there, my goodness, people were saying, “Are we really snake-bit? Are we really cursed?” Doubts and talks like that came about. Everybody just tried to brush it to one side and remain positive, but it was hard to escape because everybody was talking about it. It’s hard to argue when it keeps happening year after year after year.
via Weekend Dime — Season-ending awards – ESPN.
Portland should have absolutely no problems signing free agents with that kind of press.
Maybe they should perform an exorcism. Or, you know, they could outsource their medical staff for a year.
That’s who I actually feel the worst for in this situation. There’s no indication that how the training staff treated the players had any impact on their injuries. But when you have that many, there are going to be questions. It’s like if you ran a McDonalds and it kept getting hit by a meteor, then re-opening, then wiped away in a flood, then re-opening, then getting hit by a tornado. At some point, people are going to look sideways at the manager even if he didn’t do anything.
Hype for rival North Carolina visiting Duke on Wednesday night was near an all-time high — secondary ticket prices were pushing Super Bowl prices. It was on national television. A lot of people were making money off of this, starting with the two universities.
Then Duke star and lock No. 1 pick Zion Williamson had to leave the game with a knee injury (later described as a knee sprain).
Utah Jazz wing Donovan Mitchell wanted to remind everyone Williamson was not among the people making money.
Luka Doncic then reminded everyone there is another path.
The NCAA makes its money off the archaic notion of amateurism, that myth fuels the profits major universities rake in off their revenue sports. Keeping that myth alive creates the underground market where players are bribed with shoe money or by boosters (or coaches) to come play at specific universities. It’s that myth that needs to die for the system to change. The issue of paying players is not a simple one — college softball players spend just as much time perfecting their sport and face the same restrictions, shouldn’t they be compensated as well? That said, there’s enough money for everyone if done right. A first step might be to allow Williamson and other stars to be able to profit from their name and likeness while in college without losing their eligibility.
Or, more basketball players may just start choosing Europe or other paths.
Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons.
A few recent 76ers first-round picks missed their entire first professional season due to injury. Smith, the No. 16 pick in last year’s draft could join them.
Smith has missed the entire season so far with a broken foot then allergic reaction. He just returned to practicing with the 76ers, but maybe not in time to play for them this season.
Keith Pompey of The Inquirer:
If the 76ers clinch their playoff seed before the regular season ends, I wouldn’t be surprised if Smith plays for them. But meaningful minutes seem unlikely.
Philadelphia is trying to win now, and a rookie who entered the NBA relatively raw then missed so much time is unlikely to help.
That said, backup wings James Ennis and Jonathon Simmons aren’t exactly reliable options. If everything breaks right for Smith – essentially the opposite of his season to date – maybe, just maybe, he plays for the 76ers this season.
Who will we see in the NBA Finals come June?
The West looks cut and dried — if the Warriors are healthy, it’s hard to imagine any other team in that conference giving them too much trouble.
The East? That’s wide open. A good case can be made for Boston, Toronto, Philadelphia, or Milwaukee finding their way in. (For a more detailed breakdown, listen to the latest PBT Podcast where Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports and myself break down the East in more detail.)
The bookmakers over at BetOnline put together these odds on potential Finals matchups, and after the first four options the odds get pretty long.
Milwaukee Bucks vs Golden State Warriors 9/2
Toronto Raptors vs Golden State Warriors 9/2
Boston Celtics vs Golden State Warriors 5/1
Philadelphia 76ers vs Golden State Warriors 5/1
Indiana Pacers vs Golden State Warriors 28/1
Brooklyn Nets vs Golden State Warriors 33/1
Boston Celtics vs Houston Rockets 40/1
Milwaukee Bucks vs Houston Rockets 40/1
Philadelphia 76ers vs Houston Rockets 40/1
Toronto Raptors vs Houston Rockets 40/1
Charlotte Hornets vs Golden State Warriors 50/1
Detroit Pistons vs Golden State Warriors 50/1
Miami Heat vs Golden State Warriors 50/1
Orlando Magic vs Golden State Warriors 66/1
Washington Wizards vs Golden State Warriors 66/1
Boston Celtics vs Oklahoma City Thunder 80/1
Milwaukee Bucks vs Oklahoma City Thunder 80/1
Philadelphia 76ers vs Oklahoma City Thunder 80/1
Toronto Raptors vs Oklahoma City Thunder 80/1
A few quick thoughts on that list:
• Interesting that the Sixers and Celtics are just a little behind the Bucks and Raptors in the minds of the bookmakers.
• I don’t know that I’d have Houston in front of Oklahoma City as the second-best option in the West. Not this season. The Thunder have the defense and star power to do playoff damage.
• If you’re thinking about putting money on Washington or Orlando to make the Finals — against anyone — just donate that money to charity instead. That way it will do some good.
Zion Williamson will probably be the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft.
He’s a generationally good prospect. The rest of this draft also looks relatively weak.
In fact, Williamson has such a stranglehold on the top pick, some have suggested he sit out the rest of his freshman season.
His injury during Duke’s game against North Carolina tonight will only heighten those calls.
Hopefully, Williamson is OK.
And hopefully, the system changes. The NCAA is a cartel in which schools conspire to cap compensation for athletes at a scholarship plus some expenses. In a free market, Williamson would earn far more.
Unfortunately, it probably can’t be both. If Williamson escapes this without major injury, the status quo will likely endure.
But, if this injury even allows him to play again this season, it might be a warning shot that causes him to sit until he can enter the NBA draft.
Again, I hope he’s healthy enough to make that decision for himself.