The term “out indefinitely” is quite en vogue in the NBA of late. It was Warriors center Andrew Bogut who received the designation last Thursday, following the 76ers’ applying it to their center, Andrew Bynum, on Nov. 24. Out indefinitely has so many consequences; it’s a way of removing hope, of telling a team to move on without its missing piece, of admitting a looming uncertainty.
And in the case of the Warriors, it revealed a glaring lie.
Sure, the Bynum situation had the strange novelty of the bowling story and was tainted by the center’s blasé attitude, but by comparison, it’s nothing. Bogut, the other Andrew B, was rendered out indefinitely after a series of bold-faced lies. Nothing he did triggered the status change – at least nothing physically. Rather than the admission of a rehab setback, it was the admission of guilt.
On Tuesday, the Warriors announced that the center had undergone microfracture surgery, not the arthroscopic procedure they’d originally claimed, in April. The difference is that arthroscopy can involve missing just a few weeks, whereas microfracture surgeries can be career-altering.
So what that Warriors general manager Bob Myers shouldered the blame. So what that he admitted mishandling the whole thing. This is a case of blatant institutional lying, of being untruthful to fans, players, even the league itself.
It doesn’t matter that the Warriors have started the season 10-6 without Bogut, that they’ve been terrible in recent years, that they don’t have a large national following. The rules, however unwritten, still apply, and even if teams get away with obfuscating information about injuries, they shouldn’t be able to tell such complete and utter lies.
We’ve spent the past few days hearing about the Spurs resting their players, about how bad that is for the NBA and its product, about how it ruins the integrity of the game. We’ve listened to David Stern chirp about coach Gregg Popovich doing a disservice to fans, watched as he fined the team $250,000. And yet the Warriors get by with a tepid apology?
At least Pop was upfront with what he was doing, and the only message I’m getting when looking at these events is that doing “a disservice to the league and (its) fans” – Stern’s words – is only punishable when it’s on national television and done by a coach the commissioner despises.
I’m not quite sold on that.
And so it ends
Call it what you will: a fight, a brawl, a misunderstanding, a scratch-fest. We’re almost a week removed from the Celtics-Nets incident, and the suspensions have been handed down. Things got out of hand, a rivalry may have been born, the Celtics looked like chumps – and it’s long been time to move on.
Except wait. There’s one silver lining to the clawing, the technicals and the ejections: Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo was tossed from the game with just three assists to his name, ending his consecutive double-digit assists streak at 37 games, tied for second-longest all-time.
The fact is, this will probably be good for both Rondo and the Celtics. The streak was getting ridiculous, taking on more weight than an obscure statistic ever should. Rondo was giving up good, open shots for passes in hopes of logging assists. He was playing for those assists more than he was for his team or even to be the best version of himself as a player, and for him to be taken seriously, for him to live up to the lofty expectations set for him, that needed to end.
Want your money back?
The Suns announced this week that if fans who attend their Dec. 6 home game against the Mavericks aren’t pleased with the quality of play, they can return their ticket stubs for a refund.
Yes. A refund. Full money back, equal to the purchase price of the ticket if a game between the ragtag Suns and gimpy Mavericks doesn’t meet a fan’s standards. It sounds ridiculous, like the team is just asking for a night of zero revenue. At least, it sounds that way until you think a bit deeper.
What the Suns just did is this: They made us talk about the Suns, and that in itself is an accomplishment. They’re not very good, Alvin Gentry’s bunch, but they’re not bad enough to be lumped in with the Wizards, Pistons or even Raptors. As the season progresses, maybe they will be bad enough for that kind of attention, but for now, the Suns aren’t doing much to warrant chatter.
Until this little gimmick, at least. I hope it works. It’s clever. Plus, the whole thing is pegged to the team being entertaining, and really, when has Michael Beasley failed to entertain?
The Nets, who mounted a five-game winning streak between Nov. 23 and Nov. 30 before losing to the Heat on Saturday. They’ve had a winning record since Nov. 11, but they’re now finally proving able to beat winning teams, with recent victories over the Clippers and Knicks. They’re now a game behind the Knicks in the Atlantic Division, quietly chipping away at their cross-town rivals.
The Nuggets, who haven’t won a game in more than a week and have dropped three straight to the Jazz, Warriors and Lakers. Denver hadn’t given up more than 100 points since Nov. 17 against San Antonio, but on this losing streak it has allowed an average of 111.
Best of the week
Team: The Thunder, who have won five straight by an average margin of 21.4 points. Their 45-point win against the Bobcats on Monday went a long way toward creating that average separation, but it should be noted that six of their last eight wins have been by double-digit margins.
Player: Cavaliers center Anderson Varejao has been playing great all season, and on Tuesday he became the first player to finish with 10-plus points, 15-plus rebounds and five-plus offensive rebounds in six straight games since Charles Barkley did it in 1990. He’s now carried that streak to eight games; only Moses Malone has had a longer such streak (12 games).
Announcement: That Timberwolves’ point guard Ricky Rubio was cleared for full-contact practice with no restrictions on Wednesday. There’s no timeline for his return to games, but it’ll now be a matter of just days or weeks.
Worst of the week
Team: The Kings, who lost all three of their games last week, capped off by Saturday’s 35-point beatdown by the Clippers.
Player: Cavaliers guard Dion Waiters, who shot 31.9 percent from the field and 19 percent from long range on the week. His accuracy has fallen off since early November, but he’s shooting more and more, and the fourth pick in June’s draft needs to get back to his early-season form. The ankle sprain he suffered Saturday isn’t going to help.
Sanctions: Stern’s $250,000 fine on the Spurs after Popovich chose to send Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Danny Green back to San Antonio rather than play them during Thursday’s game in Miami. Regardless of whether you agree with the coach’s decision, resting players is part of Popovich’s strategy and always has been, and he should be allowed to manage his team how he sees fit. It’s not like fans didn’t get a good game, and you can’t argue that Pop’s motives are anything other than geared toward winning a championship.
Telling stats of the week
23 points, 13 rebounds, 8 assists, 7 steals: Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook became the first player to record such a stat line Friday night, leaving him two assists and three steals shy of a quadruple double. (Steals were first recorded in the 1973-74 season.)
10 blocks: Milwaukee power forward Larry Sanders finished Friday night with a triple-double, logging 10 blocks along with 12 rebounds and 10 points. With those 10 blocks, Sanders tied a Bucks franchise record set by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1973.
3-for-3: Heat shooting guard Ray Allen is 3-for-3 on go-ahead or game-tying shots in the final 24 seconds this season. His most recent was a 3-point jump shot with 23 seconds remaining Thursday against the Spurs, putting the Heat up 100-98. They never relinquished the lead.
What we heard
@KrisHumphries: “Anyone know where I can get a quick Tetanus shot in Boston?”
— Kris Humphries, tweeting a picture of some nasty cuts on his left shoulder, the result of a fight with Rajon Rondo after the Celtics guard fouled him in the first quarter of Wednesday’s 95-93 Brooklyn win. Humphries, Rondo and Gerald Wallace were ejected.
“We are definitely an underdog. We’re definitely looked at as the losers of the league, but that’s okay. We believe in each other.”
— Martell Webster, after his Wizards won their first game, 84-82, over Portland on Wednesday, pushing their record to 1-12.
“I’ve always been scared of historic stuff like that. If I see statues of Jesus, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr. – all that stuff kind of gives me a funny feeling,”
— Damian Lillard, on his fear of statues that was exacerbated by the Trail Blazers’ trip to Washington, D.C. and the city’s many monuments.
Lakers at Thunder, 9:30 p.m. ET Friday: This will be the Lakers’ toughest game so far this season and a good barometer of where they stand on the spectrum of legitimate contender to doomed to dysfunction. It’ll be far from the final statement on this Lakers team, but to see it tested by an upper-echelon team with its new system at least somewhat in place will no doubt be intriguing.