Tag Archives: basketball

Victor Oladipo is the Finesser of the Year

Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo is the Finesser of the Year. A man of many talents, he just added another to the list. Not only is he former All-NBA,  a two-time All-Star, All-Defense, and steals champ, but he also sings (well!). That’s not why we’re here though. Oladipo just added to his ever-growing resume.

Finesser of the Year Goes to Victor Oladipo

A Little Background

Oladipo ruptured his quad back in 2018 after 36 games. He was averaging 18.8/5.6/5.2 at the time and was third in clutch points. The Pacers were 21-15 and a darkhorse candidate to reach the Eastern Conference Finals. They finished 48-34, good enough for fifth in the East, and got swept in the first round by the Kyrie Irving Boston Celtics.

The loss of Oladipo was felt instantly. Indiana hadn’t lost more than two games in a row before he went down. They lost the next four following the game he got injured versus the Toronto Raptors. He had missed time earlier with knee soreness and the Pacers went 7-4.

Oladipo wouldn’t return to the floor until January of this year; over a year removed from his surgery. Playing a career-low 25.9 minutes per game, he’s averaging 13.8/3.2/3 and slashing .391/.304/.780 for a Pacers team that is 13 games over .500 and once again finds itself sitting fifth in the Eastern Conference.

Current Situation

The NBA’s planned restart date is drawing nearer and the conversations around the mechanics of it all are ramping up. Even though the guidelines have been set, many questions remain. Much of the conversation has been about players opting-out of the restart altogether.

Kyrie Irving got a lot of heat but ultimately said he wouldn’t hold it up if the players agreed. But soon, players like Trevor Ariza (family) and Davis Bertans (securing the bag) quickly decided against playing. Avery Bradley and Willie Cauley-Stein would follow. The former was significant given his team, the Los Angeles Lakers, are among the title favorites.

Wilson Chandler, Thabo Sefolosha; other names that dropped out but, for the most part, no one of significance was set to miss the action. Irving was never going to play and even Bradley is a role player; albeit a potentially important one. Then we got news on Friday of Oladipo’s decision.

Victor Oladipo, Finesser of the Year

Up until now, players opting-out of playing were doing so while also not traveling with the team and would forego the remaining portion of their salary for this year. Oladipo announced that he will rehab in Orlando while also being with his team. This will allow him to still get paid.

At 28, coming off a serious leg injury, and facing free agency in 2021 it makes perfect sense for Oladipo to sit out. It’s certainly a blow to the Pacers title hopes to lose a player who averaged 16.8/4.3/4.5 in 27 MPG from February 12th on. Indiana went 6-1 in the games Oladipo played over that span and 2-2 in the four contests he rested.

It’s a huge blow for the Pacers, but an understandable move for Oladipo. The added bonus of not missing out on any cash is (very expensive) icing on the cake. It will be interesting to see if any other players follow suit or if the league finds some method of stopping it.

For now, at least, Victor Oladipo is the Clocker Sports Finesser of the Year.

Kyrie Irving is the NBA’s Broken Clock

“Even a stopped clock is right twice a day”. That quote from Marie von Ebner sticks out as much of the conversation about returning has centered around Brooklyn Nets mercurial point guard, Kyrie Irving. Some peers have responded, but are they even disagreeing? That’s what you would think if you only saw it through the lens of social media.

Tweets get crafted to maximize the impact (see: likes and retweets) all the time. But in this instance, leaving out an entire part of Irving’s comments has led to a backlash that seems fueled more by his reputation than the actual content.

Kyrie Irving, a Broken Clock in the NBA

First, what exactly did Kyrie say?

“I don’t support going into Orlando,” Irving told the players. “I’m not with the systematic racism and the bullshit. … Something smells a little fishy. Whether we want to admit it or not, we are targeted as black men every day we wake up.” – per Shams Charania

His reported words prompted responses from several other players including Los Angeles Clippers guard Patrick Beverley, who said “Hoopers say what y’all want. If @King James said he hooping. We all hooping. Not personal only BUSINESS.” His reference to LeBron James is fair because he regularly practices his activism while playing. But Irving’s comments weren’t really speaking to the ability to do both.

Former players-turned-analysts Jay Williams and Kendrick Perkins also spoke against Irving, with the latter going so far to say “He’s not a powerful voice; he’s a popular voice” and that “All he’s doing is ruffling the feathers for no reason. The NBA is going to continue.” That’s tough coming from a retired player and still misses Irving’s message.

All of this is in addition to some prominent commentators like Stephen A. Smith. But it has been Houston Rockets guard (and coach’s son) Austin Rivers’ reply via a lengthy Instagram post that has gotten the most publicity. The well-stated rebuttal spoke of being able to both play and affect social change. It also said that for the majority of the players in the league, sitting out isn’t feasible as “99% of the NBA hasn’t made the money” Kyrie has.

Rivers wasn’t wrong in anything that he said.

But there is a problem: Irving AGREES with him. And any other player that wants to return, for that matter. It’s just that his reputation has preceded him.

The former Cleveland Cavalier and Boston Celtic earlier opined about the freedoms players would have when in the NBA’s “bubble”. Those concerns included spa treatments and were roundly met with virtual side-eyes.

This time was different, though. Yes, Irving said that he would rather focus on social justice reform. But he also said something else that has gone underreported.

“If it’s worth the risk, then let’s go and do it,” Irving said on the call, sources said. “But if you’re not with it, it’s OK, too. We’ve got options for both ways. Let’s just come to a middle ground as a family.” – per Chris Haynes

In Regards to the Money

Irving said, “There’s only 20 guys actually getting paid, and I’m part of that. Let’s not pretend there’s not a tiered system purposely to divide all of us.” Some say Irving has is backward and that the max contract system keeps the disparity in check, but again they are missing the point. Players who have yet to land that contract would logically be less inclined to rock the boat.

See, an important bit of information to remember is that Irving was voted as vice president of the NBPA. That means raising the concerns of the many, no matter how trivial, to the attention of the few most powerful is quite literally his job. So while you may think some of the points were silly, that doesn’t mean they weren’t brought up in private.

That’s the other part that seems be getting swept away. With all the talk of what the stars want (we already know the likes of LeBron, Kawhi Leonard, Chris Paul, and Anthony Davis want to return), the dissenting voices have already been drowned out.

Lakers big Dwight Howard, well-traveled and mercurial in his own right, has voiced support for Irving. He went even further suggesting the NBA needn’t return until “we get things resolved.” Lakers guard Avery Bradley also spoke up on the call in which Irving aired his grievances.

Other Players Spoke Out Too

Donovan Mitchell spoke about the dangers of returning after a layoff and is pushing for insurance for players. CJ McCollum voted ‘no’ to returning but also warned players of potentially contentious negotiations when the CBA expires should players sit out. Kyle Kuzma is also seeking insurance but flat out said, “Some of us want to hoop and compete don’t get that twisted.” He too seems to have only heard part of Irving’s argument.

That’s what is so telling about the backlash Kyrie has received. It is disproportionate to what he said.

He rightfully expressed issues that, as we see, aren’t necessarily his own. This is especially true with the increase in the number of cases in the host-state of Florida. But even more than that, he left the door wide open to continue the season if that is what the majority want.

But because of his history of being me-first and that whole flat-earth thing, people readily dismissed what he said. The best part is that they are all agreeing with Rivers even though he said the exact reason why Irving was speaking out against returning amid all the civil unrest in the country.

“Not saying that basketball is a cure for that but basketball can maybe provide a distraction.”

Bingo

The distraction is the part Irving (and Howard) are trying to avoid. And it’s already happening as we see the push to return ramp up even amid continuing concern over COVID-19 and protests. But all the other stuff is true too and that’s the issue. We are so busy trying to pick a side, that we forgot we are all on the same side. No person has embodied that more than Kyrie, the NBA’s broken clock