Feelings Are Our Friends
Here's a question for you: what's so wrong with a player being upset?
Obviously, it depends on context, and degree. But on some basic level, an upset level is an engaged one. Arguing a non-call isn't always a sign of egoism, or a lack of self-control. Sometimes, it just shows that the player really, really wanted that bucket.
The same goes for mixing it up with the coach. Insubordination, and self-serving demands, are bad. Letting emotions run high in a tight game? That's exactly the kind of spirit we idealize in athletes the world over.
As usual, though, things are different with the NBA.
Earlier this week, Monta Ellis sat on the bench with five fouls as the Detroit Pistons stormed their way out of a big, dark hole. Coach Keith Smart reasoned that, given how quickly Ellis had picked up his fifth, it wasn't worth risking his go-to scorer until absolutely necessary. Ellis, however, didn't see it that way. He was ... upset. And he said so. At the time, Ellis told reporters that "I don't like it, at all." This made all the papers; there was no outright condemnation, but it was thrown out there, as news.
Monta Ellis got upset.
Given Ellis's up-and-down history with the team, his being peeved, or questioning a coach, was a sneaky way of spicing up the news cycle. We were now left to speculate as to the exact nature of Monta's feelings. Was he upset with Smart? Would tensions mount? Was this the breach in the New Monta that so many had been waiting for? A guy who scores a lot of points must have ulterior motives. Maybe he just wants to get in as much as possible, to pile up stats.
And that's how Keith Smart ended up in front of microphones, clarifying the situation:
Here's the tricky part: Monta wasn't just upset that the team blew the lead. He was upset because he wasn't in there to do anything about it. Does that make him selfish, or unable to trust his teammates? Or is he an uber-competitor who can't stand to sit there helpless and watch the Warriors pull a close game out of thin air? Minutes are a constant source of division -- at least when it comes to interpretation -- because really, there is an "I" in team. Being on a team, being invested in it, means wanting to be a part of it."If we would have lost, I probably would question it, but we won, so let's move on," Smart said. "He was disappointed that we lost a big lead. He wasn't disappointed in his minutes ... That's my son. There's nothing bad that can come from that (relationship). That's my son."
Sitting on the bench and fuming when things are going fine shows a lack of trust in one's teammates. For Monta to want in while the lead is dwindling down before his very eyes, well, trust isn't unequivocal. There are limits to trust. And trust is a two-way street. If a house is burning down, you don't leave your friends inside because you respect their autonomy. It's a team problem, one that you -- standing outside of the house -- want to act on because of the bonds you share.
To put it more simply, losing isn't fun. It makes athletes upset. Raw feelings in the context of needless failure should be applauded, not dangled suspiciously. Kudos to Keith Smart to going out of his way to clear this one up.
Speaking of minutes, remember the other day, when LeBron James got blasted for maybe possibly having hinted that he was playing too much? Let's suspend, for a second, the disbelief that comes when you realize that somehow, players can be selfish for wanting to play more or wanting to play less. This incident underscored just how sensitive the matter of playing time -- and any feelings associated with it -- are. In fact, when it comes to playing time as covered in the media, it's covered purely as an emotional issue, not a basketball one.
Might it have helped the Warriors to bring Ellis back in? Probably. Did he realized this? Yup, and that's why he was frustrated. Does LeBron asking to come out remind us what a prima donna he is? Or maybe, just maybe, it's part of the Heat's larger plan and picture. Certainly, the coach has the final say about who plays and who doesn't. And yet James could also be worried about the good of the team. Let him take a knee so he'll be fresh for the final stretch.
I don't know what's in anyone's heart. I just think that, when it comes to players getting upset, we shouldn't be so quick to raise hackles. It's also entirely possibly that, underneath it all, there's some real consideration of the basketball matters at hand. After all, it's not a freaking clinic. Fans care; why can't players? (BS)
Scott Raab has been barred from receiving a credential in Miami, or, one assumes, anywhere the Heat play. A native Clevelander who has contributed to Esquire for 13 years, Raab is working on a book on LeBron James' decision to leave the Cavaliers; while he's at it, Raab is chronicling James' season in Miami. Or he was supposed to, before the Heat shut down access.
Why did the Heat pull the plug?
Raab claims it's because in a game recap for Esquire's website, the writer referenced LeBron as the "whore of Akron." In actuality, the ban stemmed from Raab's unglued Twitter rants targeting James. At right are two such tweets from Sunday, a day before the Heat's dictate came down. Yes, Raab calls LeBron the twelve-letter word, a gutless pink, a "f-----g loser" and tells him to "go f--k" himself. These aren't the first such attacks.
NBA spokesman Tim Frank explained the denial of credentials to The Works: "There is an expectation of professionalism on both sides of the team-media relationship. The posts on Mr. Raab's Twitter account clearly fall short of that standard." Obviously, the Heat or NBA would have been irresponsible to let Raab within 10 feet of James; it'd be like forcing LeBron to break bread four nights a week with Dan Gilbert. There is no right to a free ticket and personal access, and the Heat shouldn't feel any shame for having blocked Raab.
The real question is about the public perception of all this, of whether Raab is seen as Cleveland's freedom fighter or the journalistic equivalent of Gilbert. The Cavs owner was roundly mocked for his absurd screed against the fleeing MVP. Isn't Raab's gimmick similar, minus the Comic Sans? If Gilbert's harrumphing was laughably self-important, how is Raab's different? Is it a matter of style (Melville vs. caps lock), self-awareness or station? Or are we beginning to hold owners to the same standard we hold players -- a standard higher than the media holds itself to? (I'm looking at you Bill Simmons and Colin Cowherd.) (TZ)
Change of Pace
The offseason is always filled with coaches and personnel bosses telling fans what they want to hear: their favorite team will be playing much more up-tempo. Despite the stated intentions, this rarely manifests. Coaches are who they are, largely, and favor certain paces. When Byron Scott told Cleveland he'd have the Cavaliers running this year, everyone who had ever seen the Nets or Hornets play under Scott groaned. "No, coach, you aren't going to have the Cavs running. You run a slow-down offense."
Sure enough, the Cavs are still one of the league's slower teams (though they have sped up a touch over Mike Brown's crawling system). But some teams actually have sped up or slowed down substantially. Take a look.
Team above the trend line are playing slower early this season than they did last year. Teams below the line are playing faster. The Timberwolves played at the league's third-fastest clip last season, but have jumped up to No. 1 this year. So kudos to you, Kurt Rambis, for following through on your promise to make the Wolves an up-tempo, fast-break team. The Knicks, with a new point guard in Raymond Felton and finisher in Amar'e Stoudemire, have jumped from No. 6 to No. 2.
Some previously slow teams have become much faster this season. San Antonio and Philadelphia were 21st and 22nd in pace, respectively, last season. This year, the Spurs currently sit at sixth, and the 76ers -- under notoriously grinding coach Doug Collins -- are up to 10th. (Color me shocked.)
Perhaps most interesting are the teams that went the other way. The Warriors, long the sprinters of the NBA under Don Nelson, have backed off the pedal considerably, going from first to fifth in pace. The Pacers saw no coaching change this offseason. But Jim O'Brien's team has played more deliberately with Darren Collison at the helm, going from No. 2 in pace last year to 11th this year. (For what it's worth, Indiana's offense has gone from 26th to 15th, as well.) (TZ)
Here at FanHouse, we keep a daily message board thread in order to stay on top of news and stories. Usually, we just name the subject line, "NBA 11-17," but the other day the great Sam Amick started one thread: Daily Thread.
Pardon me in advance for any blaspheming, but the subject line inspired the following:
"Our Daily Thread"
Our doctor (Naismith), who art in (hoops) Heaven,
Hallowed be thy game,
TZ's Kings finally won,
D-Will's will be done,
On hardwood as it is in Heaven (Is a Playground).
Give us this day our daily thread,
And forgive us our bad passes,
As we forgive those who lob pass against us
And lead us not into hasty transition,
but deliver us from Donald Sterling.
If you have modifications or other variations, we'd more than welcome them. (RP)
The Works is a daily column written by Bethlehem Shoals (@freedarko) and Tom Ziller (@teamziller). Their Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History is now available.