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Fan in Westbrook incident banned from Jazz arena; Donovan Mitchell makes statement

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During last season, I reached out and asked a couple NBA league officials about the seeming growing volume and line-crossing nature of things being yelled at players on the court, and how the league is quick to punish players who come back at fans but the gate doesn’t really swing both ways. The response was along the line of “you don’t know how many people do get thrown out” but that it wasn’t that big an issue.

It is now — Russell Westbrook yelled profanity at a Jazz fan and his wife after their comments that completely crossed the line. The incident went viral and became the talk of the sports world.

The Utah Jazz organization was swift to act, investigating the matter and deciding to ban the fan from the arena for life. Here is a statement from the Jazz:

The Utah Jazz and Larry H. Miller Group announced today a permanent ban of the fan who engaged in the inappropriate interaction with the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook last night at Vivint Smart Home Arena. The ban is effective immediately and includes all arena events.

The organization conducted an investigation through video review and eyewitness accounts. The ban is based on excessive and derogatory verbal abuse directed at a player during the game that violated the NBA Code of Conduct. The Utah Jazz will not tolerate fans who act inappropriately. There is no place in our game for personal attacks or disrespect.

“Everyone deserves the opportunity to enjoy and play the game in a safe, positive and inclusive environment,” said Steve Starks, president of the Utah Jazz. “Offensive and abusive behavior does not reflect the values of the Miller family, our organization and the community. We all have a responsibility to respect the game of basketball and, more importantly, each other as human beings. This has always been a hallmark of our incredible fan base and should forever be our standard moving forward.”

The league also fined Russell Westbrook $25,000 for sticking up for himself “directing profanity and threatening language to a fan.” Of course, if Westbrook hadn’t gone back at the fan then said fan would have gotten off with a warning and this entire incident would have been ignored (or swept under the rug, if you prefer). Just like happens most of the time fans cross the lines with players around the league.

Jazz star Donovan Mitchell — the face and future of the franchise — stepped forward with this wise statement.

Players’ union Executive Director Michelle Roberts came down on the league to step up enforcement.

She’s right. There is no consistency on this issue and, as of last year, the league office didn’t seem terribly concerned about it. Throwing fans out of the building is a decision made by arena security, and in some buildings the bar is much higher and things have to progress much farther than others. These are paying fans yelling at the opponent, and that has some security staff giving fans a lot of leeway. There need to be better guidelines and those need to be enforced consistently across the league. If a fan wants to taunt a player after an airball or because of something on the court, fine (Pacers fans have been very creative lately), but comments about wives and children, and racist comments, should not be tolerated.

Jazz players, by and large, have said they felt accepted and welcomed in predominately white Salt Lake City (75 percent white and two percent black in the last census). However, ask visiting players what city they hear the most — and most virulent — trash talk during a game and Utah is always near the top of the list.

This is not just an NBA thing — hate speech and hate crimes have been on the rise nationally. While this may be reflected in NBA arenas, the league has to do more to squelch it. Whether it’s Salt Lake City or Memphis or Portland or Miami, there needs to be guidelines and fans who cross the line should be tossed the same way players who cross the line should be ejected and fined.

Harden on fit with Westbrook: ‘When you have talent like that, it works itself out’

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It was the question everybody asked about 30 seconds after they heard Russell Westbrook had been traded to the Houston Rockets for Chris Paul (after the initial shock of the deal wore off):

Do Westbrook and Harden, two of the most ball-dominant, isolation heavy players in the NBA, actually fit together?

Harden says yes. Of course, what else is he going to say, but he was earnest about it in comments to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle at the Adidas and James Harden ProCamp event last Friday.

“When you have talent like that, it works itself out. You communicate. You go out there and compete possession by possession. You figure things out. Throughout the course of the season, you figure things out. That’s just what it is. When you have talent, you have guys with IQ, you have guys willing to sacrifice, it always works itself out.”…

“It works,” Harden said. “It’s that trust factor. I trust him; he trusts me. And with the group that we already have and the things we already accomplished, it should be an easy transition for him to be incorporated right in and things are going to go.”

That is essentially is what Mike D’Antoni said, and what Rockets GM Daryl Morey is betting on.

Will Westbrook, and to a lesser degree Harden, be willing to make sacrifices and adjust their games? It is the question that will define the Rockets’ season.

My prediction: The duo works it out on offense and becomes one of the hardest teams to stop in the NBA. They will work it out. However, having to play Harden and Westbrook together on defense for extended stretches will cost Houston in the playoffs earlier than they planned.

George King, Suns two-way player last season, signs to play in Italy

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For players on the fringe of the NBA, there is a choice to be made at some point:

Keep the NBA dream alive and close by making less money (the base salary for most is $35,000 a year) and play in the domestic G-League, where teams have ties to NBA organizations and scouts are watching. Or…

Go overseas, where the money gets better (six figures for most, seven figures for the best) and they will be one of the best players on a team, putting up big numbers and playing a starring role.

George King, who spent last season on a two-way contract with Phoenix — but played just six total minutes with the Suns — has chosen overseas.

George spent most of last season in the G-League with Northern Arizona, where he averaged 15.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 2.6 assists a game. He was on the wrong end of a numbers game on the wing with the Suns at the start of the season, but when injuries hit he had not earned enough trust with the coaches to get a real opportunity.

So he went where there is an opportunity.

Same with former NBA player Tyler Cavanaugh, who spent most of last season with the Salt Lake G-League team and is now headed to Berlin.

Plenty of players spend time overseas then come back and are ready for the NBA — Patrick Beverley was in the Ukraine and Greece before coming to the NBA, for example — while others find a very good career playing overseas.

James Harden broke one of his youth camper’s ankles (VIDEO)

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It’s around the time of summer when NBA players (and coaches, and college coaches, and a whole lot of other people) are holding youth basketball camps.

I went to them as a kid (John Wooden’s was the best) and like me, these youth will have the memories of a lifetime, even if they move away from playing hoops someday. Especially this boy, who will forever be able to look back at this video from camp of James Harden breaking his ankles. (Via Houston Rockets Instagram)

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Meanwhile at @jharden13’s camp…😅

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Meanwhile, over at Dwyane Wade‘s camp, he was reminding some young children he is the best shot blocking guard of all time.

 

Could Anthony Davis someday play for hometown Bulls? ‘I’d definitely consider it’

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Not every player wants to go home.

LeBron James returned to Cleveland (for a while). Kawhi Leonard and Paul George pushed to get back to Southern California. However, plenty of players see the return to their home town as more curse than blessing — it takes a maturity to be the face of the city, to not let hanging with your old buddies get in the way of off-season workouts, to handle everyone you went to high school with asking you for tickets to the game. A player has to be ready for a lot to go home.

Would Anthony Davis consider a return to Chicago to lead the Bulls?

He wouldn’t rule it out. Someday. Here’s what Davis said to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.

“I mean, (this is) definitely hometown,” he said. “If the opportunity ever presents itself and when that time comes, I’d definitely consider it.”

That does not mean next summer. Technically Davis is a free agent next summer, however, he is all but certain to re-sign with the Lakers (it’s possible things go Dwight Howard/Steve Nash bad in Los Angeles and Davis wants out, but it’s highly unlikely). Davis pushed his way to Los Angeles to win and lead the biggest brand in basketball down the line, to have his name in the rafters with legendary big men (Wilt, Kareem, Shaq). He’s not bolting that after one season.

Could he finish his career in Chicago? Maybe. I’d say the same thing about Stephen Curry with Charlotte, but we are too many years from that to make any kind of prediction.

However, Davis didn’t slam the door shut. Maybe someday that will be good news for Bulls fans.