In an era during which the best the NBA has to offer have an inherent inability to avoid the scrutiny of social media (See: Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving), the superstar who appears to have never once changed his breathing patterns is a breathe of fresh air. Not in the sense that he's happy to offer extremely enlightening answers in postgame interviews, mind you, but rather in the sense those answers will never, ever be the least bit influenced by what's being said about him on the internet. Honestly, that line of questioning made me feel like a kid again. Not because it reminded me of a pure and innocent love of basketball, mind you, but rather because it brought me back to the glory days of AIM during which late nights would be wasted trying (and failing) to get the SmarterChild bot to respond to in a way that wasn't ludicrously literal. Analysis be damned, because Kawhi Leonard cannot and will not give you any situational insight that hasn't already been auto-saved to his memory card by way of first-hand experience.
That back and forth was so unapologetically poker-faced that you'd think that its subject was being obnoxiously aloof and calculatedly condescending had it been anyone other than the NBA's resident bionic man. In that sense, it was such a perfect portrayal of Kawhi Leonard's personality that its transcript would read just as overly robotic as a Kawhi Leonard parody. Luckily, if there's one thing we can count on Kawhi Leonard for, other than 35+ points and the type of overwhelmingly impenetrable defense of the final boss on the world's most difficult video game, it's to be self-unaware in a way that could prove Westworld fictional to even the biggest skeptic of artificial intelligence. Simply put, in that it was so matter of factly unhumored, that interview was unintentional comedy at its absolute driest.
Now, that's not the type of thing we typically appreciate from star players who are one win way from competing for championships, but look no further than his refusal to shine anywhere other than on the hardwood that Kawhi Leonard is hardly your average star. Plus, he serves as the perfectly modest yin to the insufferable yang of the flagrant front-runner who is passing out billboard material as if he's actually the one carrying the Raptors through the playoffs on 1.5 legs as opposed to just shamelessly begging for camera time at every turn...
Watching Klay Thompson Find Out He Lost Tens of Millions By Not Making an All-NBA Team Was Rather Humanizing, Though Not Entirely Unexpected
On one hand, you really have to sympathize with Klay Thompson's futile attempt to prove he's, like, not even mad. He is undoubtedly an elite two-way guard who serves as one half of the most lethal backcourt in the entire NBA. He certainly has a pretty compelling argument that he deserves an honor that would have guaranteed him a raise worth tens of millions of dollars when it came time to talk contract, if not an argument that it's asinine that potentially partisan writers are those that denied him of it. Short of Kawhi Leonard, who is entirely unfamiliar with facial expressions, there is not a person on this planet that would have better kept their emotions in check than Klay Thompson did when receiving relatively devastating news with a camera in his face. I actually appreciated him tossing his head back like he was trying to draw a lawsuit and rolling his eyes up past his hairline when he heard the name Kemba Walker, because it humanized the hell out of a guy who is so often humble in being oddly calm, cool, and collected.
On the other hand, for lack of a more appropriate response, I must say...well...too fucking bad. With rewards come risks, and I think it's fair to say that Klay Thompson has reaped no shortage of rewards since Kevin Durant came on board and pushed his value to 4th highest on his own damn team. As a defensive stopper and dead-eye shooter he's pretty easily an All-NBA caliber talent, but you can just as easily craft a case that he doesn't have an All-NBA impact when the Golden State Warriors are at full strength. I'm not even sure I'd agree with said case, because those that took his spot aren't better than him and merely posted largely empty stats from largely dependent (also see: bad) rosters. Still, everyone accepting less credit comes part and parcel with putting together far and away the best basketball team on the planet. I totally understand his frustrations (almost wish he were more fiery in letting them out, to be honest), but - much like journalists having far too significant an impact on the salaries of the cream of the NBA's crop - that's just how this shit works.
Vlad Guerrero Jr. Made All Big Men Proud In Throwing Out a Runner With His Ass Placed Firmly in the Infield
You know, there's just something so beautiful about a 250 pound third baseman doing his best work in the field while plopped comfortably on it. I don't say that as a fat joke, as the lumber-endangering legacy that is Vlad Guerrero Jr. averages more talent and athleticism per pound than has been blossomed throughout my entire family tree. Rather, I say it as a description of a play that probably could have been made from his feet if he cared enough to stay on them.
Of course, gunning a guy out at first while making the most impactful of impressions in the dirt is also a credit to his freakish physical abilities. Still, not passing up a single chance to take a load off while doing so is the type of dedication to the thicc life that will have bootylicious big boys everywhere proudly sinking their cheeks into their seat and looking up to the throne on which Vlad Guerrero Jr. would prefer to be sitting in between uproarious at-bats...
James Harden and Chris Paul Had an Animated Dispute Over "Ball Distribution" After Game 6, And I Couldn't Be Prouder of Them For Holding Off That Long
TheAthletic- There was something of a clash of styles brewing throughout the Rockets season, with members of the team — most notably Paul — having spirited discussions with Mike D’Antoni about the offense and pushing for more movement, league sources told The Athletic. That type of fast-paced, ball-moving offense is what D’Antoni thrived with in Phoenix, and to the two-time Coach of the Year’s credit, he has adapted it in Houston to allow Harden to succeed in his game.
But Harden and Paul had tense moments with one another throughout Game 6, culminating in a verbal back-and-forth postgame that went into the locker room, sources with knowledge of the situation told The Athletic. Sources said the verbal exchange between Harden and Paul was regarding the ball distribution throughout Game 6. By the time the remainder of the locker room was ready to talk, Paul and Harden had gone their separate ways, with Paul swiftly making his way to the postgame podium. The Rockets dispensed with exit interviews this year, so the media hasn’t been able to ask Paul or Harden about the disappointment.
I'll tell you what, while I would love to sit here and pat myself on the ass for suggesting the James Harden and Chris Paul would eventually bitch and moan their way into a power struggle over dribbles per possession, I think the statue of limitations has run out on that take.
I definitely do enjoy being right, but we're talking about...::checks calendar::...two full seasons played together prior to a publicized spat over who gets to pound more air pressure out of the basketball. I hardly thought two of the most enigmatic, ball-dominant players in the entire NBA would make it more than two quarters without killing each other, so I can't imagine anyone else had the Spring of 2019 in the prediction pool for their first pissing contest.
The Rockets, as infuriatingly Harden-centric as their offense might be, have actually been impressively understanding in being asked to largely stand around during the execution of that strategy. That, of course, hasn't cured the perennial postseason woes of their two most insatiable egos, but at least those egos have remained in check enough for them to continue finding new ways of coming up short in competing with the Warriors.
That might rightfully read somewhat sarcastic. However, look no further than the annual implosions of the Clippers for proof that the alternative outcome of their attitudes clashing could have been a hell of a lot worse than being the ultimate bridesmaid as the consensus runner-up for best team in the Western Conference every year.
After Ubering Through Traffic Well Into the 3rd Inning, Mets' Call-Up Rajai Davis Put the Game Away With an 8th Inning Homer in His First At-Bat
This just feels like far too positive a development. A player on the Mets showed up extraordinarily late only to make an immediate impact on the game that he was stuck listening to in traffic throughout the first three innings? Like, the New York Mets? That seems very off-brand for a team who somehow made on-brand a slugger fracturing his ankle falling off an undisclosed animal while already on the 60-day IL...
On second thought, I suppose it is quite fitting that it took someone traveling up from the minors, by any desperate means necessary, as an unexpected injury replacement to make a major impact for a team that can barely walk without finding themselves wounded. The player who has spent the least amount of time surrounded by what is both figuratively and literally a long suffering organization that has every right to be suspicious of the sky falling actually makes for the most likely subject for a five-star feel good story. The Mets might be cursed by terrible luck and a worse training staff but even they need to give a guy a proper warm-up and more than a couple innings spent in their jersey to brush the bloom from his rose or break a bone from his body.
The mental image of Rajai Davis' sucking down free waters and anxiously looking at the clock from the backseat of someone else's car as his driver stopped and started his way through New York City traffic is relatable for Queens' natives. The type of random and rare moment that makes you smile, shake your head, and appreciate the silliness of sports, well, not so much.
A Bunch of Restaurants are Collaborating To Offer Kawhi Leonard Free Meals in an Effort To Keep Him In Toronto, As if Attention is What He Desires
I want to say it's the thought that counts, but is anyone really, truly thinking if they believe there's even a small possibility that Kawhi Leonard is the type of guy to be out taking advantage of the local foodie scene enough for free dinners to make a difference in his long-term decision making?
I get it. It's a nice, cutesy thing for local businesses to rally around in showing support for an impending free agent that is currently rewriting the franchise's history books. However, would you even be half surprised if you were told that the only places that the NBA's most anomalous introvert had visited within Toronto's city limits were the arena, his apartment, and the shortest possible route in between?
Never mind Ka'Wine & Dine. If there actually were an initiative that could (not as literally) cater to his personal convenience and make the slightest of dents during the recruitment process it would be the "Kawhi the hell not try leaving him alone?" pact. As someone who is set to become obnoxiously rich, I genuinely believe he'd gladly pay triple the market value of his meals so long as there was a citywide promise to ignore his presence while he was ordering them, eating them, or carrying them out. Showing gratitude by acknowledging and awarding accomplishments might persuade most professional athletes, but Kawhi Leonard is the one superstar who appears to enjoy anonymity enough to prefer his face slapped on the side of a milk carton as opposed to attached to the window front of every eatery within a 10 mile radius.
Josh Hart Went on a Podcast and Trashed Unathletic 45-Year Olds Who Maintain an Interest in Analytics, Ya Know, Like His Brand New Head Coach
As far as the incessantly ongoing analytics argument is concerned, you're either ignorant or just an asshole if you choose to place yourself at either polar end of the spectrum. It's not at all surprising that someone sitting across from Gilbert Arenas would be led to sound like an ignorant asshole, as I imagine his podcast has a way of goading its guests into talking reckless, but still. To think a high variance professional sport can be entirely explained through equations is only as idiotic as thinking that there is nothing to take away from an increased understanding of percentage points when playing a game of which the winner is more often than not decided by efficiency. Analytics, no matter the age or the athleticism of the fingers doing the calculations, have a place in sports, even if that place isn't the first or only place I'd look in determining how to improve a team.
Now, the fact that Josh Hart trashed the exact age and vaguely accurate lack of athleticism of the head coach who is bringing along an analytics background in taking over his team is probably purely coincidental in being a sign of how laughably two-left-footed the Lakers have been in getting in their own way. However, it's the type of unfortunate and awkward coincidence that is more likely to make you sound stubborn and stupid when you refuse to accept something as undeniably helpful as the adoption of analytics....or when you let an obnoxious antagonist like Gilbert Arenas kickstart a nuanced conversation.
I say the following as someone who appreciates an international celebrity maintaining close ties to his hometown and its sports' teams...
Enough already. I mean, this is simply getting ridiculous.
When Drake's not in attendance he's patting himself on the ass as if his attempt to reverse his own jinx by wearing the other team's shorts is even mildly responsible for one of the most ridiculously awesome buzzer-beaters in NBA history...
...but when he is in attendance he has no problem literally rubbing all of that admittedly bad juju on the already jam-packed shoulders of the Raptors' head coach during an Eastern Conference Finals game?
The only thing those two acts have in common from an inspirational standpoint is that they draw more attention to Drake than they do to the team whose results he lives and dies with. So, while I appreciate some of the courtside trolling, a mid-game massage of Nick Nurse that screams "LOOK AT ME!!!" in a shameless enough pitch to make Kevin Hart blush in embarrassment is a level of thirst that could only be precedented by an Instagram model stranded in the Sahara.
In large part it is the organization's fault for giving him the official title of "global ambassador" and encouraging him to run clear around the court with it by presenting him a jacket that cost three quarters of a million dollars as a 'thank you' for...well...stealing their spotlight, I suppose?
However, he's entirely guilty of abusing that power in demanding an amount of camera time that would have you thinking he's had as big of an impact on the Toronto Raptors run to within two games of the NBA Finals as Kawhi Leonard when all he's really done is enough self-promotion for the both of them.
I'm all aboard the Bucks' bandwagon, and it has nowhere near as much to do with the likability of the Raptors as it does someone who has made Spike Lee seem introverted in taking almost as much attention away from his favorite team as Giannis has.
Lakers' Backup Plan Frank Vogel Was Reminded of His Role as Such During His Introductory Press Conference
Being that it was rooted entirely in truth, I don't have a problem with a reporter putting the man who has helped turn dysfunctional a once proud organization on the spot while his newest hire sat next to him eagerly awaiting the end of the question. That said, with that truth being so hurtful, I think it might have behooved said reporter to ask it in a less painful way.
I mean, goodness gracious. If that was his attempt at ripping the bandaid off in getting at what wounded the Los Angeles Lakers' ability to hire the head coach of their choosing in an effort to satisfy a noted coach-killer in LeBron James then that bandaid was made of duct tape and wrapped repeatedly around the hairiest of situation. I can't imagine it was easy to happen upon such a sore subject, but my man beat around the bush with such a cringeworthy lack of subtlety that I'm surprised the actual point didn't leap out of the leaves due to second-hand embarrassment. Magic Johnson up and quit publicly without even notifying his boss first, and even that interview went smoother than the one in which Frank Vogel's professional pride was the collateral damage in suffering a death by a thousand cuts in the flow of questioning. I have to imagine the Lakers' backup plan would have preferred he just spit it out, even if "it" was basically a loogie to a hat that probably still smelled a bit like Tyronn Lue, as the alternative route sent him slamming into about a dozen curbs of enthusiasm...
Three overwhelmingly accomplished seasons. Two postseasons that culminated in championships with a third that, prior to a non-contact leg injury, was perhaps even more impressive than those that eventually earned him back-to-back Finals MVP honors. That's how much time and effort Kevin Durant has put into crafting the thesis that he is an absolutely necessary part of the dynasty he attached himself to. Yet somehow, in approximately five and one quarter games, it got all-but-erased as if it were unsuccessfully saved on the at-risk Hewlett-Packard of a graduate student with a porn addiction.
To be clear, Golden State is a better team with a much higher margin for error when the most unstoppable offensive player on the planet is healthy. What they aren't, however, is a team that's anywhere close to a full Kevin Durant better when they have the services of Kevin Durant, as evidenced by their increased execution and flawless playoff record without him. They definitely took advantage of a Rockets' team that has the tendency to cough up its own Kool-Aid when it matters most and a Blazers' team whose roster was as depleted as it was banged up. However, you wouldn't have to sell yourself too hard to buy the idea of the KD-less iteration of the Warriors beating the impending Eastern Conference champion with him watching from the sidelines.
Of course, chances are they won't have to, as it certainly sounds like he'll be back for the Finals. However, there's no way the last week and a half hasn't felt like a gut punch to the ego of someone whose insecurities have made for no shortage of social media stupidity. "Worst nightmare" might be a stretch as we're talking about a guy that could have three rings in as many seasons in short order, but what's played out since his injury is undeniably an unideal endorsement of the same opinion that had him anonymously talking shit with teenage trolls on Twitter...
Steph Curry and Draymond Green have looked happier than pigs in shit while living their best basketball lives without Kevin Durant taking away touches. That would probably bother me if I were in his shoes, and I'm not the guy who has found himself bothered by absolutely everything over the last couple years. If he didn't spend the last season whining about every little bump on the easy road then I might even feel bad for him, and that's not something I ever envisioned myself saying about someone who made comical the competitive balance of the NBA while not even significantly improving the roster he joined because he couldn't beat. KD has done everything in his transcendentally talented power to silence the critics he brought on himself, but in what's basically guaranteed to be his final chapter in the book on the Warriors' dynasty it has proven too self-sustaining to truly let him.
If You Happen to Have $10,000 to Burn Then Ted Ginn Jr. Will Gladly Kick Up Loose Asphalt Into Your Face
When you take into account that Ted Ginn Jr. is 34 years old, it becomes pretty bold of him to offer a challenge that upwards of 100 of his much younger peers would probably feel pretty confident in accepting. That being said, of those 100 peers, I'm not sure there's too many you'd trust more than a guy that's survived 12 seasons almost solely on speed.
The Saints' offensive struggles with Ted Ginn Jr. out of the lineup last season, despite the arm of Drew Brees also having a relatable inability to keep up with his legs, speak to him being something more than a one trick thoroughbred. Still, as a deep threat with suspect hands he's probably the closest thing that the NFL has to one. The guy has been sprinting past his potential replacements for years now and he hasn't exactly been doing so with a dearth of deception, so I don't see why anyone would feel particularly good about betting their finances against his forte. I'm sure there are a few people faster, but I can't imagine that it's more than a handful that should feel five figures worth of self-assurance in their ability to go light pole to light pole quicker than someone who has almost strictly been going for broke against the most finely tuned physical specimens on the planet for well over a decade.
I don't think it was too long after the New York Giants scoffed at every single draft board within a 1,000 mile radius to draft an especially non-special passer whose personality was both proudly and profoundly a lack thereof before we all realized their enduring obsession with having Eli Manning under center had resulted in them ending their stubborn search for a successor by seeking out his kindred spirit. The similarities were just far too striking for those on the outside looking in not to notice that a franchise who moved heaven, earth, and Odell Beckham Jr. just to offer more job security to an aging, below average QB only brought in some competition when it possessed the closest possibly thing to a familiarly flabbergasted face. For that reason, I find the above picture more hilarious than I do shocking.
That said, I do wonder what type of reaction David Gettleman and the gang had when they stumbled across it. Like, did it provide them a sense of comfort in knowing that change was no longer imminent in regards to the organization's absence of emotional expression under center, or was it something closer to Rachel having the haunting realization that the only real difference between Ross and Russ was a single letter?
In outlasting the tenures of multiple GM's and head coaches, New York's flat out refusal to completely cut the cord and move on from Eli Manning has basically gone from bizarre to bizarro world, so it would be interesting to find out whether taking it to the extent of finding his unofficial clone was a voluntarily one. You'd think it would be with how continually confused the two otherwise nondescript white men look, but love makes you overlook the obvious to the point of lunacy and there's nothing the Giants love more than the most mystifying two-time Super Bowl MVP in NFL history.
Zion Williamson Will Be Playing Basketball in New Orleans Next Year, And You'd Have to Be an Absolute Imbecile to Even Consider Otherwise
Thankfully, an objectively dumb and entirely unrealistic "option" that was disingenuously brought to light in shamelessly pandering to the innumerable whiney bitches that root for high-profile dumpster fires like the Knicks and Lakers has already been put to sleep. You might want to sit down for this, but the idea that the consensus top prospect in the NBA Draft was going to pass up tens of millions of dollars in contracts and endorsements to return to the place where one shitty sneaker almost cost him his ankle while he was playing for free was proved asinine by....::audible gasp::...actually fucking speaking to him...
That being said, the fact that it even had legs, be they short and stumpy or not, in the first place made me want to check the map to make sure I wasn't thinking of Old Orleans when I envisioned Zion Williamson playing in the destination city that hosts nationally attended sporting events on a bi-annual basis. I get that the Pelicans, who come in thee most distant of second in the race for most popular pro sports team in NOLA, don't have the most reassuring history of filling the building for generation talents. However, the thought that it would be difficult for someone who was a larger-than-life household name when he was dunking on and over the next generation of accountants in high school to profit greatly off playing in a city as loud and proud as New Orleans is nothing short of stupid.
Let's be real for a second, winning is what cures everything. What's being lost in all this big market manufactured hoopla is that the organization in question has put themselves in a position of which their first lucky lottery ball is unfamiliar, and said position is one of on-court promise. Whether it be in a revamped front office that's ripe with experience, throughout the gold standard of NBA training staffs, or up and down a roster that (at least currently) reads absolutely unguardable, the Pelicans are suddenly a hell of a lot further along than just about any team you'd expect to luck into the first overall pick next year. If they make anywhere near close to good on their potential then the arena, stupid name and all, will be packed with people who are more than eager to celebrate success. The same holds true for the vast majority of sports' cities, and the vast majority of sports' cities don't even offer you the opportunity to legally get loaded on the eventful walk over to potentially watch two of basketball's biggest biological anomalies play off one another in a way that's all but guaranteed to get your ass to leave your seat solely for the right reasons.
While it is not a basketball hotbed, New Orleans is neither Siberia nor a place that often turns down the chance to enthusiastically embrace their own so long as they are worth embracing and are quick to embrace them in return. Contrary to reports that come across as the wishful thinking of regionalists, it doesn't appear as though the latter should be much of an issue so maybe we can stop going desperately far out of our way to make it one...
Another Day, Another Stanley Cup Playoff Game Ruined by Bad Referees and a Ridiculous Use (Or Lack Thereof) of Replay
While it absolutely sucks to feel robbed of yet another legitimate ending to what was an otherwise awesome overtime playoff game and once again be forced to discuss suspect officiating as opposed to the quality of hockey being played, at least we can all rest easy knowing that absolutely nothing could possibly be done to right such an obvious wrong.
Human error (or professional incompetence, whichever you prefer) is simply an unfortunate and irreparable part of the game, as evidenced by the fact that the NHL never abuses technology in the type of paranoid pursuit of the puck's involvement in potentially illegal activities that would make YouTube conspiracy theorists proud. It's a tough break for the Blues that Timo Meier ever-so-subtly smacked the puck to a wide open teammate, whose hesitancy alone could have told you that a hand pass was afoot, mere feet in front of the net with the grace of someone with a bee sting allergy fighting off a swarm of hornets, but what are we to do? Believe that the striped supervisors predominantly treating their most important piece equipment as purely ornamental when pivotal postseason games hang in the balance can't handle their responsibilities?
In all seriousness, I'm not one of those people that wants every little on-ice infraction brought to replay. That said, if four full-time officials can't be trusted to trust their eyes, nor comprehend that flat out refusing to blow the whistle when the outcome of a game is on the line has the exact same counterproductive effect on it as doing so too often, then it stands to reason that it might be wise to enlist the help of the 6,000 HD cameras swaddling every inch of the ice like a literal security blanket.
I'm going to give the benefit of the doubt to the referees working last night's game by assuming they'd get at least the first three rows of letters right on a routine eye exam. Unfortunately, that leaves cowardice and incompetence as their only explanations for the lack of a painfully obvious call. If a postseason that has been governed by Murphy's Law in attacking every vulnerability and loophole in a rulebook that reads absolutely ridiculous in retrospect with respect to replay has proven anything it's that on-ice officials are either entirely inept or completely overwhelmed. In most cases, I don't necessarily blame them as the players are bigger, faster, and stronger than ever. However, much like pucks previously out of play ending up in the back the net, if we have to worry about blatant hand passes in the slot during sudden death going undetected by eight fully functioning eyeballs then let's just lube up and throw ourselves head-first down the slippery slope of going back and re-governing entire games at 1/100th speed. If the alternative is having half the Stanley Cup storylines be deja-vu inducing cries of injustice then it's the lesser of two evils.
Credit to Sean Payton for doing his side job as an unofficial ambassador for a tightly knit sports' city in finding a lighthearted way to prematurely welcome a larger than life entity who is set to become NOLA's next big thing as his eventual neighbor. A clever co-sign from the Saints' beloved coach certainly won't add to Zion Williamson's alleged skepticism regarding the instantly reinvigorated regional interest in a Pelicans' team with which they share ownership.
That said, while that tweet was clearly in jest, you are beside your mind if you don't think Zion Williamson could be schemed into a Pro Bowl using only the play designs that Sean Payton will involuntarily dream up after posting that photoshop. In every good joke there is a hint of truth, and the truth is that football's most beautiful mind had a hell of a lot more than one thought running around it in when he found out he'd be sharing city limits with an entirely unprecedented athletic specimen that could crunch the mold of every competitor that's come before him in between his thumb and his forefinger.
For a pioneer of a play caller whose fancy appears to be tickled to near orgasmic levels every time Taysom Hill adds yet another stat to his line, you can bet your ass that being within a stone's throw of the lovechild of LeBron James and 'The Incredible Hulk' has him fluffed up off his own fan fiction. What you can't have is always what you want the most. Therefore, you can undoubtedly consider Zion Williamson to be the white whale that has Sean Payton overwhelmed like a toddler in a toy store and salivating over the X's and O's of sketches that are nothing short of sci-fi while laughing maniacally over a growing fascination with what type of godforsaken things he could be capable of on the gridiron in an alternate universe.
Blazers' Coach Terry Stotts Would Very Much Like You to Keep Your Better Ideas for Defending Steph Curry to Your Damn Self
Admittedly, I do feel bad for the reporter. That question regarding the Blazers' big men providing less defensive pressure than a broomstick in a grainy highlight video for an overseas prospect and letting two of the deadliest shooters in NBA history waltz so casually into open dagger threes that they might as well have done so while eating ice cream during a walk on the beach was more than fair.
That said, Terry Stotts' snarky deflection was the type of mic dropper for which you simply have to tip your cap and shut your trap. It was a more than a little disingenuous, as his way of limiting a limitless backcourt was 100% the wrong way, if you want to consider it a "way" at all. However, self preservation is a skill and it was on full display in him knowing exactly what angle to take in falling back on the crutch that there really is no right way to defend the indefensible.
When Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are feeling it you might as well just grip your hands tightly in prayer while saving your energy for the offensive end. Of course, you can't say that publicly as the guy tasked with making adjustments from doing absolutely nothing to actually doing something to contain them, but the Warriors have offered opposing coaches no shortage of instances in which each and every attempt at a defensive strategy was a demonstrative failure. Might as well take advantage by referencing them to quickly zip the lip of a reporter whose honesty came off confidently condescending in making an impossible job sound a bit too easy.
Surprising isn't the right word. After all, anyone sadistic enough to heartlessly kill their own precious time in cold blood using the unforgiving stretch run of a lost season as the murder weapon (::shamefully raises hand from the back of Assholes Anonymous::) could tell you that Nico Hischier began oozing the confidence he was forced to build up without the help of Taylor Hall for most of the season. Prime example #1 (of many)...
Instead, we'll go with reassuring, as watching him continue to develop into a dominant presence and a versatile playmaker for a country relying heavily on his production is proof that the increasingly common glimpses of brilliance we saw in New Jersey weren't just hopeful relative to the general hopelessness they occurred amongst.
Whether it be the type of saucy passing that makes you go back for seconds, a stronger desire to shoot combined with a more persistent penchant for scoring, or just his patience and creativity with the puck that is resulting in routine highlights, they are coming more and more frequently for a kid (yes, despite being half dead in comparison to Jack Hughes, he's very much still a kid) whose potential is that of a top-flight two-way center. I would have gladly let the inevitable offensive development of Nico Hischier serve as a surprise to the rest of the league but it sure seems like the Swiss' breakout star is already over being under the radar, as he hasn't been at all shy in doing something, or more accurately, everything about it.
Justin Williams Owes Us All Amends for the Unforgivable Crime of Making Brad Marchand Seem Like He Might Actually Have a Point
First and foremost, let me state that, albeit very mildly, the NHL was complicit in that unrelenting display of undisciplined idiocy. With their continued failure to do so much as stick it in the box for two minutes, the league and its officials basically left it up to those whose legs it kept gnawing at to exterminate the irredeemable rat on the Bruins' roster. Of course, encouraging vigilante justice counterproductively plays right into said rat's trap, because...get this...the same type of shit that Brad Marchand somehow continues to scurry away from scot-free is actually illegal and enforced as such when done to him or his teammates in retaliation.
I promise you that the last thing I am trying to do is justify Justin Williams' mentally unstable transition from consummate captain to unhinged asshole, as repeatedly targeting Torey Krug of all people wasn't even aesthetically satisfying in its abject stupidity. However, the truth of the matter is that what we saw was an indisputable reminder that it's impossible for the players to police themselves in the playoffs without potentially pissing away games when they are of their upmost importance.
Now, that being said, far and away the most guilty party here is the veteran presence who served as the worst possible example to a young team when they needed his leadership the most. As much as I want to point the finger at the referees and scoldingly state "look what you've done" for giving a mile's worth inches to an unsubtle antagonist, Justin Williams deserves to pay the entirety of the security deposit after letting Boston bully their way into his head and under his skin to make an absolute mess of an otherwise experienced hockey mind. There is absolute no excuse for doing what was previously thought impossible by making Brad Marchand look somewhat smart in actively and repeatedly becoming the perfect manifestation of his mockery...
From swallowing a "poop sandwich" during Game 2 (his words) to being left with egg over his damn face during Game 3, Justin Williams has...::chokes back vomit taste::...proved positive the impact of a pest with his inability to feed into anything other than Brad Marchand's bullshit. As much as it pains me to say it, the latter should feel self-satisfied, because he got a high character player to act entirely out of character in focusing on everything other than hockey while his season was slowly being salted away.
I'll wait until his impending offseason for an apology, but - regardless of his team controlling the damage of his repetitive recklessness - Justin Williams owes the entire sport an extensive one after providing the NHL's resident rodent the exact type of power he so shamelessly, dangerously, and incessantly seeks.
With a Draft Lottery Result That Was a Low-Key Great Look for the NBA, The Pelicans Were Granted an Infallible Head Start on the Road to Zion
M Night Shyamalan, eat your heart out! Seriously, what a plot twist! It might not have made for the show we expected, but it gave us one that was insanely entertaining in its unexpected irony. The NBA has this almost inherent ability to create drama off the court, and I'll be damned if a bunch of chaos-causing ping pong balls didn't prove just that by making for an emotional roller coaster of a Draft Lottery that served as the heart-stopping high to the lullaby-like low of Game 1 of the goddamn Western Conference Finals.
With the Lakers and Knicks finishing in the final four, we had two big market, high-profile franchises whose most recent claims to fame were the amount of rubbernecking they've drawn as dysfunctional dumpster fires. Yet, both basically played nothing more than the roles of the far-too-obvious suspects in an episode of CSI before the Pelicans slipped in the backdoor as the spiteful, shock-value serial killer to the rest of the room's hopes and dreams of acquiring a generational-type talent. As an unbiased observer, I saw it as a poetically just conclusion without being one that was at all inevitable ahead of time, and what more can you ask for from the best soap opera in sports?
Let's face it. No matter how positively you view player empowerment, the third-party sabotaging that the entire Pelicans' organization was forced to suffer through this season was a black eye on basketball, as it was essentially the result of a hit being put out by the sport's most notable name and insatiable athlete. Look no further than Alvin Gentry's reaction for proof of that wrong now being righted and that collusion having successfully been combated...
Seems crazy that it could be good for the NBA that an athletic alien narrowly avoided landing in two cities with which that news would have undoubtedly proved most profitable, but I genuinely believe Adam Silver lucked into an huge upholding of integrity that wiped quite a few distasteful problems from his plate as Commissioner. After merely 6% proved most significant, the loser lottery now comes with unmistakable warning label that reads "tank at your own (high) risk". If there were a way to fix the draft without immediately calling all conspiracy theorists then this was it, so I appreciate the final framing of what was a complete curveball.
As for what this means for a Pelicans' organization that spent months getting dragged for their inability to do right by a former first overall pick? Well, Anthony Davis can continue to speak through others in saying what he wants for now....
However, we're talking about a guy that couldn’t even take a harmlessly light-hearted parting shot on a novelty tee shirt without backtracking and make up some lie about how he's not allowed to tie his own shoes without his stylist's supervision. Therefore, I’m not buying the idea that his decision is set in stone. Anthony Davis is both impressionable (See: being used as a seven foot pawn by 'Team LeBron') and terrible at playing the villain, so I have my doubts that can't be swayed to take substantially more money to write his redemption story on a roster that, with the addition of someone who might be is equal as a genetic anomaly, suddenly seems at talented as any other that might be in the sweepstakes for his services.
Who knows? Maybe AD does end up getting traded for a haul, and New Orleans does end up putting more young talent around the most structurally sound of foundational pieces in Zion Williamson. Whatever the case may be and however they go about trying to construct a contender under management that's now as qualified as it is confident, it will feel like a much more appreciable and karma-satisfying blueprint than a vast majority of the other rebuilds that could have been kickstarted last night.
If Steelers' Fans Wanted to Say Goodbye To Antonio Brown He Could Have Been Found at the Courthouse in Pittsburgh, Because Where Else?
Perfect. Just perfect. Add a little Chef's kiss to that forcibly fake ass smile, because the fact that the only team still pleading for an Antonio Brown appearance in the city of Pittsburgh is his defense team tells you a whole hell of a lot about his exit. The lack of self awareness required to laugh throughout that entirely unnecessary Instagram clip as if the joke he thought he was making wasn't entirely on him is just all too fitting of a guy who is currently operating in his own universe.
There's not one Steelers' fan that is trying to bid adieu to AB, but if there were then said fan wouldn't even have needed that heads-up to find him, as the courthouse would have been the third place checked after his IP address and the front of the largest mirror within city limits. Let his constantly contradictory social media accounts and his list of legal charges serve as proof that Antonio Brown is, without question, an insufferable douchebag. Therefore, you'd think he would try to dispute that unfortunate truth by living his best life somewhere other than on the stand when trying to make it seem as though he pulled one over on the city of Pittsburgh. That is, if you also still think he's at all capable of thinking for some ungodly reason.