Stick a fork in OKC, and Noah’s fine vs. Kobe’s. Plus, the latest of Jerry West and Brian Shaw.By Michael Brown, Sentinel Sports WriterThunder Choke; Await Final Nail in the Coffin
Tyson Chandler (Dominguez HS) and the Dallas Mavericks are ready to give the Oklahoma City Thunder the knockout punch. Photo by Sue Ogrocki (AP)
When a team blows a 15-point lead with five minutes to play, and falls behind 3-1 in a series after dropping back-to-back games at home, I’d say it’s safe to assume they’re done.That’s the dilemma Oklahoma City faces after Monday night’s 112-105 overtime loss to Dallas.The fact that the Thunder lost the game isn’t the story, but the way they lost will go down as one of the biggest choke jobs in NBA playoff history. Game 4 was an illustration as to why the Thunder isn’t quite ready to compete for a title. Championship teams finish that kind of game off. Teams almost good enough to win titles are capable of losing in a variety of ways.Part of the reason Oklahoma City lost was due to unlikely sources: Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.As much as the two young all-stars giveth, they taketh away.Both look unnerved and shrunk when their team needed them most. Durant and Westbrook failed to protect the ball during pivotal moments.Durant had nine of the Thunder’s 26 turnovers, and Westbrook wasn’t much better with six. Until both learn to take better shots and protect the ball, they’ll be relegated to the same status of recent teams such as Phoenix, Seattle and Sacramento of the ‘90s who were good, but never got over the hump.And the man who may administer that final nail could be Dirk Nowitzki. So far, he’s torched the Thunder for 34 points a game through four, and has practically lived at the foul line, going 50-for-52.Nowitzki’s star has risen due to his willingness to attack the basket. In years past, that wasn’t always the case, earning him the “soft European” label.If Durant wants to join the elite players, he must put the ball on the floor more and dare opponents to defend him. That way, a loss like Game 4 won’t happen again.Did Noah’s Fine fit the Punishment?Joakim Noah’s $50,000 fine versus Kobe Bryant’s $100,000 is the debate.The NBA fined Noah Monday after he was caught directing a gay slur towards a fan during the Bulls-Heat Game 3. Of course Bryant was fined last month after directing an expletive and slur towards a referee.An NBA spokesman said Bryant’s fine was higher because it was “verbal abuse of a game official.”Writers and fans alike are arguing that Noah’s fine should be equal to Bryant’s. Some are advocating for a harsher penalty because it was directed at a fan.I can buy that argument, especially as it pertains to the NBA. Let’s face it; the league has still been petrified of potential player versus fan flare ups due to the brawl at the Palace in Detroit several years ago.However, whether the NBA front office admits it or not, name recognition has everything to do with the fine discrepancies.The ever image conscious NBA is hyperaware about these issues and it would be a bad look if they turned a blind-eye toward Bryant, a marquee player, using a gay slur.Noah’s a really good player, but let’s be honest; kids aren’t paying more than $150 to buy his sneakers. Bryant garners more accolades and notoriety as one of the “faces” of the league, and more is expected of him. That’s not an OK to excuse anyone’s behavior, particularly when it comes to intolerance. I applaud the NBA for stepping up and holding their players accountable when they make bigoted and hurtful remarks.Society at-large could take a lesson from this episode. When people randomly make bigoted remarks, you never know who may be present.This issue is especially relevant to the NBA after Phoenix Suns President and CEO Rick Welts announced he was gay last week. Welts’ admission just proves again that sports aren’t insulated from society, but that they are a microcosm.Jerry West Heads to the Bay Area, Brian Shaw to Follow?
Brian Shaw might be out of the running for the Lakers head coaching job. Now that Jerry West has been hired by the Golden State Warriors, his close relationship with Shaw may lead to a hiring of the Lakers assistant coach. Photo by Jeff LewisYep, the 72-year-old legendary player-executive is quite the basketball junkie. He just can’t stay way.This past weekend, Jerry West was named an adviser to the Golden State Warriors front office. The Warriors, who have new ownership, just brought-in instant credibility.Aside from being a Hall of Fame player and the NBA’s logo, West was equally impressive as a general manager building several Lakers championship teams, and having an eye for talent that’s unmatched.I’m not sure what this advisory role entails, but if Golden State’s ownership is smart, West should have a prominent role. Current GM Larry Riley would be smart as well to bring a pen and a notepad when West enters the room.Heck, West even made the Memphis Grizzlies respectable a few years back after that franchise was in the doldrums for so long.Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw, according to multiple sources, traveled to the Bay Area and interviewed for the head coaching spot. I wrote last week that if Shaw wants the Lakers job, “patience will be his ally.”But, Shaw’s patience could be waning, especially after the Lakers expressed interest in interviewing former Cavaliers coach Mike Brown.With West now in the fold, coupled with Shaw being an Oakland native, now may be the time for him to seize the opportunity if Golden State offers the job.
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