Associated Press

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.

Kyle Korver says the copier Nets bought with cash from his trade is broken

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Kyle Korver was taken by the New Jersey Nets with the 51st pick in the 2003 NBA Draft. At 38 years old, Korver is one of the oldest players in the NBA. Of course, that trade came some 16 years ago.

The Nets famously — or infamously — used the cash from that trade to purchase an office copier. More than a decade and a half later, it appears that Korver has an update on the status of that copier.

Via Twitter:

Kyle Korver does not have a depreciation expense method. He is timeless.

Draymond Green says idea that Warriors don’t need Kevin Durant is ‘bulls—t’

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The Golden State Warriors are headed to the NBA Finals for the fifth season in a row. Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson beat Damian Lillard in the Portland Trail Blazers in a series sweep on Monday night, ending a fairytale run to the Western Conference playoffs for the Blazers.

But there’s some real concern about the Warriors moving forward, particularly because they still don’t have Kevin Durant. The superstar wing did not play against Portland thanks to a calf injury, and the team is hoping he will be back in time for the start of the 2019 NBA Finals.

To that end, Green said that it’s ridiculous that anybody could think the Warriors are a better team without Durant. Speaking to ESPN, Green said that he thinks Durant makes what’s already an incredible team absolutely unbeatable.

Via ESPN:

“There’s been so much talk about how, ‘Oh, they’re the Warriors. Before Kevin got there they were great.’ Bulls—,” Green told ESPN. “We was damn good. I think we were a very good team who was tough to beat. I think when Kevin came here, he made us unbeatable. When DeMarcus [Cousins] came here, it made people scratch their head even more. And so we need those guys. The next series is going to be tough, and I hope and pray that we can get him back.”

I’m not sure if Green actually thinks this or not. There seems to be some debate around the NBA about whether Golden State is better off without Durant. At its core, this argument is more about whether people even want to watch the Warriors with Durant on their roster. The team is obviously better with Durant on it, but it’s more fun to watch Golden State without him. Their offense flows better. Plus, it’s hard to root against a team that drafted all its superstars. Durant joining the best team in the NBA was, at its core, completely wack.

This is, at the very least, some kind of posturing by Green to try and assuage Durant’s oft-injured ego. Durant has the ability to leave in free agency this summer, and rumors have him headed elsewhere.

Green was absolutely incredible in the Western Conference finals against the Blazers, and he and Durant have had their spats over the course of the season. But he is probably right in that Durant makes the Warriors completely unbeatable, even for whoever comes out of the East.

I don’t know if Golden State needs Durant, but they sure would like to have him — in June and beyond.

Frank Vogel not worried Jason Kidd will undermine him as coach

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What else was he going to say?

In a “welcome to the Lakers” press conference that was hijacked by the sideshow of Magic Johnson torching the organization — is there better prep for what a Laker coach deals with than that? — Frank Vogel was relentlessly optimistic. He had nothing but praise for the organization, the people, the players, heck he probably would have said he loved the Game of Thrones ending.

And when asked about having Jason Kidd pushed on him as an assistant coach — one of the reasons Tyronn Lue walked away from the table, he didn’t want a guy who could replace him and had lobbied for the Lakers job before in the seat next to him — Vogel said he was not worried about that, either. Via Ohm Youngmisuk and Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“I have been around this business a long time. I really don’t give that a second thought. You can say that about every coach in the league about their assistant coaches. It happens from time to time. I believe if you treat people with the right respect and do the job at the highest level, build an environment of positivity and collaboration, you can’t worry about that stuff.

“You can’t worry about looking over your shoulder. You got to worry about getting good damn coaches, and that is how I feel about this hire.”

Vogel also said he sat down with Kidd and they are on the same page in terms of coaching philosophy.

“I had a great, lengthy interview process with Jason where we talked about every topic you can imagine, and came away thinking he’s going to be an incredible asset to our program.”

Again, what else was he going to say?

Kidd has a history of angling for the Lakers job, even when it was filled, and Vogel knows it. But Vogel accepted the terms of a three-year contract (lining up with LeBron James‘ deal) and Kidd as his assistant, things that a coach with options would not have taken. Lue didn’t. Vogel has to make the best of the situation, and whatever he may think privately, he has to be optimistic and positive in public. Especially on his first day.

Vogel may have been the Lakers third or fourth option as a coach, but they backed into a good one — if they give him the talent to win and don’t undercut him. Vogel has coached the Pacers to the Eastern Conference Finals, where he always lost to LeBron (there are a lot of coaches in the East who had that problem). He’s a strong defensive coach. Vogel has a lot of fans in the coaching ranks, and a lot of those people think the Lakers have set Vogel up to fail. We’ll see, that’s more about the Lakers’ offseason.

But at the start, Vogel is saying all the right things. Even if that was the only thing to say.

John Beilein ready to undertake “renaissance” with Cavaliers

Associated Press
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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — John Beilein has coached at every level in college but says the Cleveland Cavaliers are his dream job.

The 66-year-old Beilein, who turned Michigan into a perennial power during a 12-year run, was introduced Tuesday by the Cavaliers. Even before taking the podium, Beilein got to work with one of his new players, peeling off his suit jacket to rebound shots for forward Larry Nance Jr.

Beilein doesn’t view Cleveland’s situation as a rebuild but rather a renaissance. At one point during his remarks, Beilein pointed to the 2016 NBA championship banner and others hanging along one wall at the Cavs’ facility and said, “it’s been done before, it can be done again.”

Beilein drew a large laugh when he was reminded he has never been fired by saying, “That’s right.”

Beilein knows he has work to do with the Cavaliers, who went 19-63 last season.