Tom Thibodeau endorses Taj Gibson for Sixth Man of the Year consideration

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Taj Gibson is one of the NBA’s top reserves.

He’s a first-rate defender, solid rebounder and generally effective scorer.

But does he deserve Sixth Man of the Year consideration? Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is obviously biased, but he’s campaigning for his backup big.

Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times:

Lakers swingman Nick Young, who was averaging 16.7 points off the bench, is a leading contender for the Sixth Man Award and didn’t hurt his credentials with 17 points in the first half Monday against the Bulls. But reserve big man Taj Gibson, Young’s former teammate at USC, deserves consideration, coach Tom Thibodeau said.

‘‘Taj, to me, is a starter,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘He’s had a fantastic year. He can score, he defends, can play multiple positions. Whatever you ask him to do, he does.’’

Gibson finished fifth in Sixth Man of the Year voting in 2012, but he definitely won’t win the award this year.

Despite everything he does well – Chicago allows 4.9 fewer points per 100 possessions with Gibson on the floor vs. him off – his contributions are not obvious enough to sway voters.

Gibson averages 11.8 points per game, 13th among players eligible for Sixth Man of the Year – all but eliminating him from winning the award.

Half of all Sixth Man of the Year winners have led eligible players* in scoring. Six of the last seven winners have been the top-scoring reserve, and the lone exception, Lamar Odom in 2011, ranked second (behind Jason Terry).

Gibson would be the lowest-ranking scorer to win the award since Anthony Mason (21st in 1995). Bill Walton (63rd in 1986) and Bobby Jones (33rd in 1983) are the only other players to win while ranking lower in scoring.

*Players who’ve come off the bench in more games than they started

Here’s how each Sixth Man of the Year winner, and Gibson this year, ranked in scoring among eligible players:

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Of course, there’s nothing wrong with leading reserves in scoring, as Jamal Crawford (17.3 points per game) is doing this season. I just think voters should consider other factors, too.

That doesn’t mean Gibson should win the award, either. In fact, Manu Ginobili (ninth at 12.7 points per game) would be my mid-season pick. He’s meshed perfectly with the Spurs, helping them on both ends of the floor.

Hopefully, Thibodeau will open eyes about how to assess sixth men, but that still doesn’t mean Gibson would be the primary beneficiary. This year, it might be Ginobili whose beneath-the-radar contributions are most valuable.

But we’d all be smarter if we listen to at least why Thibodeau is stumping for Gibson.

Arizona State leading scoring Remy Martin declares for 2020 NBA Draft

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Arizona State junior Remy Martin has declared for the 2020 NBA Draft:

The six-foot point guard took on more of scoring role in his third season with the Sun Devils than he had in his first two seasons. Martin averaged 19.1 points per game on 43.2% shooting from the field. Martin also dished out 4.1 assists per game, after averaging 5.0 assists as a sophomore.

Arizona State’s leading scoring may just be testing the waters, as he’s expected to go undrafted. NBA scouts have concerns over Martin’s size at the NBA level. One concern is his ability to hold up defensively, as NBA point guards are trending bigger and bigger in recent years.

As a smaller guard, Martin was one of the players who could have benefited from the traditional pre-draft process. With in-person workouts on hold, and potentially cancelled entirely, players have limited opportunities to improve their draft stock. Teams may be drafting off previous in-person scouting and off of tape.

NBA players reportedly to take part in televised NBA 2K tournament Friday

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If we can’t watch NBA players on the court, at least we can watch them control their digital selves and teammates in a live basketball tournament.

ESPN plans to broadcast an NBA 2K tournament with only NBA players at the controllers, a story broken by Chris Haynes at Yahoo Sports. The hope is to have it air Friday, with the players competing from their homes around the country.

The NBA is planning a players-only NBA 2K tournament that will feature the league’s sharpest video gamers and it will be broadcast on ESPN, league sources told Yahoo Sports…

Players competing against their peers in the comfort of their own homes could offer a distraction for fans who are missing the game and a little competition.

Esports are incredibly popular and growing as a spectator sport, both in person and on Twitch and other platforms. With there being a pent-up demand for sports programming, this seems a smart attempt to draw eyeballs. Even people who are non-esports viewers could tune in just to check it out, because it’s that or rewatching Tiger King.

You can bet that if it works, we will see a lot more of it in the future.

(Inside baseball note: I would love to see the emails/texts flying around ESPN about Yahoo breaking a story about what is coming in their network.)

 

Shaquille O’Neal: I had no idea what was happening with Joe Exotic of Tiger King

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On a recent episode of “The Big Podcast with Shaq” former NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal said that “he had no idea” what was happening at the zoo run by Joe Exotic. Joe Exotic was recently made famous through the popular Netflix documentary “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness”.

Footage of O’Neal appeared in the first episode of the show and was shown taking photographs with the animals.

The documentary also showed a cut of O’Neal on TNT saying “Shoutout to Exotic Joe. I got two more tigers.”

On his podcast, O’Neal explained:

“So we go in there, and it’s a beautiful place, and the character that was there was Exotic Joe. We’re there and I dropped some donations for the tigers’ foods and all that. We take pictures with (the) tigers. We went back a couple times. Then we go back another time and we found out that he’s involved with all the stuff, and then, actually, I stopped going.”

Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as Joe Exotic, was sentenced to 22 years in prison after being found guilty of 19 different charges. Those charges included murder-for-hire plot, illegally selling endangered species and other animal-related offenses.

O’Neal clarified that he never bought any animals, but often donates to charities that help animals. He also made it clear that he’s not friends with Joe Exotic, nor anyone involved in the trade of endangered species.

“I don’t harm tigers,” O’Neal said. “I love tigers. I love white tigers. Do I put donations to these zoos to help these tigers out? I do it all the time. Do I own tigers personally at my house? No. But I love tigers. Listen, people are going to make their own opinions, but, again, I was just a visitor. I met this guy — not my friend. Don’t know him. Never had any business dealings with him, and I had no idea any of that stuff was going on.”

Report: Brooklyn Nets looking to hire a blue-chip head coach

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When the Brooklyn Nets and Kenny Atkinson parted ways in early-March, the team installed Jacque Vaughn as the interim head coach.

According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst that’s a short-term appointment. On his podcast “Brian Windhorst and The Hoop Collective”, the reporter said the Nets are looking to hire a coach with a track record of NBA success.

“One of the things that has been expressed sort of the grapevine, that’s the way I’m going to say it to protect myself from the aggregators, is that Durant and Irving would like a blue-chip coach. I don’t know what this says about the way they thought about Atkinson, but they want a big-name coach.”

Names linked to the Brooklyn opening are Tom Thibodeau, Mark Jackson, and both Jeff and Stan Van Gundy.

Atkinson leaving Brooklyn was a surprise, considering he had led the Nets back to the playoffs in 2019. That success came after a three-year rebuild. That process was kicked off when general manager Sean Marks hired Atkinson to lead the on-court development. Under Marks and Atkinson, the Nets developed several players who had been given up on by other teams.

Brooklyn was 28-34 when Atkinson was let go. The Nets had gone 2-0 under Vaughn before the NBA suspended play in mid-March.