NBA takes it too easy on Sarver, shouldn’t to prevent this from happening again


In 2004, Suns owner Robert Sarver used the N-word during a meeting to recruit a free agent player. In 2021, Sarver talked about learning what a “blow job” was during a Suns’ business meeting.

For the 17 years in between, Sarver was often a bully, the man who oversaw a Suns organization with racist and misogynistic overtones that flowed directly from the top. All of that and more is detailed in a 36-page report flowing out of an NBA investigation into the franchise by the law firm of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz.

The report found more than 100 employees who said Sarver “violated applicable standards” of business conduct, but that legalese sells short what employees were dealing with. For example, he “told a pregnant employee that she would be unable to do her job upon becoming a mother,” he “made a comment to a female employee about his genitalia” (that happened more than once), he emailed pornographic material to some other male colleagues, Sarver used the N-word at least five times (despite being told multiple times by staff that was not acceptable), he swore often, and “over 50 current and former employees reported that Sarver frequently engaged in demeaning and harsh treatment of employees.”

All that is just the tip of a very disturbing iceberg in the report. Nearly every detailed incident was something that would get nearly everybody reading this fired on the spot.

Yet Sarver will still be the owner, be working out of the offices of the Phoenix Suns a year from now and sitting courtside at their 2023-24 games.

Sarver was suspended by the NBA for a year for creating a hostile work environment, and he was fined $10 million — with that money being directed to organizations focused on racial and gender-based issues in and out of the workplace — but he will not lose control of the team.

The most shocking part report was this paragraph:

“Taking the evidence in totality, including witness testimony and documents reviewed by investigators, the investigation makes no finding that Sarver’s conduct was motivated by racial or gender-based animus.”

Are they kidding? How could nearly two decades of this consistent behavior not be motivated by racial or gender-based animus? Just because Sarver doesn’t recognize it as animus and thinks his sophomoric humor is just misunderstood, doesn’t make it any less horrible, demeaning, or racist. Ask the women in the office he berated if they felt there was animus.

The NBA chose to take it easy on Sarver. Adam Silver chose to avoid confrontation. The punishments should have been more severe, maybe including losing the team. One year is a slap on the wrist.

Why wasn’t Sarver forced to sell his team the way Donald Sterling was with the Clippers eight years ago? Why did Sarver get basically the same punishment the Mavericks got for troubling issues on their business side, but ones not linked to owner Mark Cuban and not stretching anywhere near decades?

In Sterling’s case there was audio (leaked by his mistress to TMZ) — actually hearing the vile, racist comments from Sterling himself made it more visceral. There is no audio or video of Sarver, no smoking gun of the same degree, despite the volume of complaints in the report.

Those Sterling tapes also came out during the playoffs, leading to strong reactions from players — including almost boycotting a game — and a very public show against the then Clippers owner.

Numerous NBA sponsors — State Farm, Carmax, Kia, Red Bull, and many others — also pulled away from the Clippers and the league after the Sterling tapes came out. The second the scandal hit the league’s bottom line, Adam Silver acted quickly and decisively.

The Sarver scandal dropped in the deadest part of the NBA offseason and has not seen the same level of player involvement and public anger as the Sterling case. There has not been a sponsor backlash to this point. Sarver also “took responsibility” for his actions, which was not a genuine apology but was more contrite than Sterling.

Also, don’t forget NBA Commissioner Adam Silver works for — and at the pleasure of — the NBA owners. Plenty of them live in glass houses and don’t want to start throwing stones.

If the NBA is not going to step up with a punishment that is a true deterrent (and reflection of the offense), it needs to at least find a way to keep this from happening at other NBA (and WNBA) franchises. Silver sent a memo to teams in the wake of the Mavericks scandal telling them to clean up their own houses, but that didn’t happen everywhere, as evidenced by this report.

If the NBA is going to champion its progressive policies and credentials — if it’s going to claim to stand for diversity, inclusion, and equality — it has to start living up to those ideals within teams. Those can’t simply be words.

What can be done? Sam Amick at The Athletic wisely suggests the NBA find a way for team employees to make a complaint to them about working conditions/situations and have them investigated, rather than going to team human resources. In Phoenix, people didn’t come forward because they feared reprisals from HR, which was seen as an extension of Sarver’s will and not something there to protect the workers. It may be that way with other teams, the NBA needs an anonymous complaint of.

There may be other steps as well. The owners may not want more league oversight of their business, but if they can’t police themselves than the NBA has no choice. Not that the NBA itself is blameless here — both the Sarver and Sterling situations went on for decades before there was action. That is not acceptable.

The league has to do more. It may take real pressure from the players and league sponsors to make that happen — players shouldn’t be the ones having to hold the league to its own standards, but here we are.

The NBA fined and suspended Sarver, but did not take the steps that would put the fear of god (or Adam Silver) in other owners. It went easy on him despite decades of evidence.

It’s time for the NBA to live up to its words and ideals.



Clippers’ Paul George out at least 2-3 weeks with sprained knee

Oklahoma City Thunder v Los Angeles Clippers
Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images

Clippers’ All-Star forward Paul George will be re-evaluated in 2-3 weeks after an MRI confined a sprained knee, the team announced on Wednesday. That likely means George is out for the rest of the regular season.

It looked a lot worse when it happened (and it is possible George will be out longer than a few weeks). George was injured with 4:38 left in the Thunder’s win over the Clippers Tuesday night. George had after a collision with Lu Dort when both were for a rebound, Dort was called for a foul on the play.

George is critical for the Clippers, who sit as the No.5 seed in the West, just a game back of Phoenix at No.4 but also 2.5 games from falling out of the playoffs entirely in a crowded bottom half of the bracket. George is averaging 23.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists a game this season, and the Clippers are 6.8 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court.

The most likely outcome is the Clippers sit George for the rest of the regular season and if, if they can hold on to a top-six seed, that would mean he would have until April 15-16 before the Clippers would have their first postseason game. The question is will that be enough time to get George back on the court?

Karl-Anthony Towns set to make return to Timberwolves Wednesday

Washington Wizards v Minnesota Timberwolves
David Berding/Getty Images

It was Nov. 28 — 51 games ago — the last time Karl-Anthony Towns stepped on the court for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

That changes tonight against the Hawks, according to multiple reports, plus Towns himself said he will make his return to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

“I’m super excited to get back out on the court and help my team because these next nine games are super important,” Towns said…

“I’m just trying to pick up where I left off,” Towns said. “I was telling my dad right before I got hurt, I felt the most complete as a player in my career. From defensive end, from offensive end, from a mental aspect, leadership aspect … I felt very complete.”

The Timberwolves sit ninth in the West, in the middle of a crowded bottom of the conference where they are just a game out of the No.6 seed but also half a game away from falling out of the play-in and missing the postseason entirely. The Timberwolves need wins, and adding an elite offensive player such as Towns should help with that (as would getting Anthony Edwards back from his sprained ankle, which could happen tonight but, if not, is expected soon).

Towns suffered a calf injury just after Thanksgiving that was expected to keep him out for 4-6 weeks. However, a January setback extended that recovery to 51 games. Towns averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game this season before the injury.

However, his fit in those early games with Rudy Gobert (acquired over the summer), Edwards and D'Angelo Russell was clunky. Town’s efficiency was down (32.8% from 3) and the offense had a “your turn then my turn” feel. That offense has started to find a better groove recently with Edwards taking on a larger ball-handling role, then Russell being for Mike Conley (more of a traditional, floor general point guard) — the Minnesota offense in March was 4.8 points per 100 possessions better than it was in November.

How will injecting Towns back into that mix help the offense? How will it impact the defense? Unfortunately, coach Chris Finch and company don’t have time to experiment much and play around with lineup combinations, they need wins and they need them now to make the postseason.

Still, it’s good to have Towns back on the court.


Three things to Know: Win over Clippers shows Thunder future may be now


Three Things To Know is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks that make the NBA must-watch.

1) Win over Clippers shows Thunder’s future may be now

If the playoffs started today, the Oklahoma City Thunder would be the No.7 seed in the West, only needing to win one of two play-in games — at home — to advance to the playoffs. They are only half a game back of the defending champion Golden State Warriors for the No.6 seed and not having to worry about the play-in.

The basketball world has talked about anything but the Thunder: When will those Warriors flip the switch? What happens when Dallas gets Luka Dončić back (or if the Mavs defend a little)? What will the Timberwolves look like when whole? When will LeBron James return and how big a threat are the Lakers?

Meanwhile, the Thunder quietly have been winning — 8-of-10 after beating the Clippers on Tuesday night 101-100, behind 31 points from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

The Thunder have been solid all season — top half of the league in offense and defense, and the 10th-best net rating in the league — despite Chet Holmgren missing the year. SGA playing at an All-NBA level is a huge part of it, but Josh Giddey has developed into an impressive secondary shot creator averaging 16.2 points a night, Jalen Williams will be first-team All-Rookie because of his play, guys like Isaiah Joe and Tre Mann have stopped up, and Lu Dort is doing things like locking down Kawhi Leonard on the final play of the game to preserve the win.

OKC’s one-point win over the Clippers was aided by Kawhi Leonard getting a tight technical called on him, and when Terrence Mann complained about that call he got him ejected. Leonard said after the game the referee admitted he missed the foul call on the play where the technicals were handed out.

However, far more frightening for the Clippers than the loss was the injury to Paul George in the final minutes, a fluke collision with Dort that sent George to the ground and having to be helped back to the locker room. There are no details, but it didn’t look good.

It’s all more questions and injuries for the Clippers.

Meanwhile, the Thunder just keep on rolling and look every bit a playoff team ahead of schedule — and with a lot of draft picks coming in the next few years to stockpile that roster.

2) Knicks legend, Hall of Fame Willis Reed dies

Willis Reed is associated with one of the most iconic moments in NBA history — his dramatic entrance in Madison Square Garden minutes before Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals. He scored only four points and was clearly in pain and hobbled, but playing even a little sparked the Knicks to blow out the Lakers and win the franchise’s first title.

Reed passed away at the age of 80.

“Willis Reed was the ultimate team player and consummate leader,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “My earliest and fondest memories of NBA basketball are of watching Willis, who embodied the winning spirit that defined the New York Knicks’ championship teams in the early 1970s. He played the game with remarkable passion and determination, and his inspiring comeback in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals remains one of the most iconic moments in all of sports.

“As a league MVP, two-time NBA Finals MVP and member of the NBA’s 50th and 75th Anniversary Teams, Willis was a decorated player who took great pride in his consistency. Following his playing career, Willis mentored the next generation as a coach, team executive and proud HBCU alumnus. We send our deepest condolences to Willis’ wife, Gale, his family, and many friends and fans.”

Reed won a second ring with the Knicks in 1973 and was a two-time Finals MVP and seven-time All-Star.

Reed averaged 18.7 points and 12.9 rebounds a season over the course of his career, and he had his No.19 retired by the Knicks. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1982.

3) Celtics get Robert Williams back, look like Celtics in win over Kings

Robert Williams was back on the court for the Celtics Tuesday night and the Celtics held the Kings and their best offense in the league to an offensive rating almost seven points below their league average. That is not a coincidence.

With Williams back, the Celtics were back to switching everything, which slowed the motion and passing of the Kings’ offense enough to earn the 132-109 Boston win. The 36 points from Jayson Tatum helped with that.

For the Kings, it was their fifth game in seven nights in four different time zones and it showed. Still, that loss dropped the Kings 1.5 back of the Grizzlies for the two seed in the West (and the Grizzlies may get Ja Morant back Wednesday).

Boston went 4-2 on their recent road trip. While they have slumped in recent weeks, they looked like their contending selves again with Williams back, who had missed the last eight games with a hamstring issue. He played 21 minutes off the bench.

Nobody should have written Boston off after this recent slide, even if those losses did make their path through the East rougher.

Bonus thing to know: Donovan Mitchell threw down a Dunk of the Year candidate in the Cavaliers’ win.

Paul George has to be helped off court after fourth quarter leg injury


UPDATE: The Clippers announced that Paul George will be out 2-3 weeks after an MRI revealed a sprained right knee. That likely keeps him out through the rest of the regular season, but he could return for the playoffs.


Hopefully this is not serious, not something that changes the playoff picture in the West.

The Clippers’ Paul George went down with 4:38 left in the game Tuesday night after a collision with Lu Dort going for a rebound.

George had to be helped back to the locker room and struggled to put any weight on his leg.

After the game, Tyronn Lue said George was still being evaluated and had no update on his status. George was seen exiting the arena on the back of a cart with his right leg extended, according to the AP.

George had 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists before exiting the game. On the season he is playing at an All-NBA level averaging 23.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists a game, and the Clippers are 6.8 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court.

The Thunder went on to win 101-100 in a game filled with drama, including a technical foul for Kawhi Leonard, an ejection of Terrence Mann, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scoring 31 points, and Lou Dort locking up Leonard in the final seconds.