Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Hoop & The Harm: Notes from the Hardcourt

Presidential Pickup

It’s not every day you get to shoot hoops with the President of the United States (like I am clearly doing in this picture) – but one day in early August, a group of the NBA’s finest got that chance.

Barack Obama capped off his 49th birthday celebrations with a basketball game at Fort McNair that featured an all-star lineup for a group of soldiers who were wounded in combat. We’re talking the likes of Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony, among others.

One name that wasn’t on that list? The league’s reigning scoring champion and MVP runner-up; a guy by the name of Kevin Durant.

While some people thought that Durant had been “snubbed” by the Prez, Oklahoma City’s NewsOK tells us that Durant didn’t seem to feel that way, writing on Twitter that there was always Obama’s 50th birthday bash to look forward to…

What we didn’t know is that later that month, the D.C. native got his invite. Instead of a star-studded exhibition though, Durant’s was for a one-on-one game of pickup with Mr. Obama in mid-September.

Apparently Durant told his agents that he would like to shoot some hoops with the Commander in Chief and they used a contact they had, a former Duke player who now works in the White House, to make it happen. Durant brought along his grandmother and two of his teammates for the action as well, says NewsOK.

I wonder if all of the other Presidents did stuff like this – obviously Obama likes basketball, so he uses his power to invite the best NBA ballers to come shoot hoops at his home court. How cool is that?

What would you do if all of a sudden you were the President of the United States and you could get anyone you wanted to come hang?

Melo Out

Until Carmelo Anthony signs an extension with the Denver Nuggets or gets traded elsewhere, it seems we’ll have to listen to the same line of questioning night in, night out – especially when he’s playing in places like Chicago.

The Bulls, who feature a strong mix of youth and talent, were one of the teams that Melo was rumored to be heading to before the season started. For whatever reason the trade didn’t happen, but Bulls fans are still thinking about what could have been and guess who was in town on Monday?

Before the game Anthony was asked over and over again about the prospect of playing in Chicago, what he thinks of the Bulls, if he would want to move to the Windy City and those types of questions. To his credit, he didn’t say anything controversial and even started one answer with “I don’t want this taken the wrong way…”

Basically he said Chicago is a great city, top three in his books, and he praised guys like Derrick Rose, saying “who wouldn’t want to play with a young point guard like [Rose].” He also pledged his allegiance to his current team when asked if he ever thought about being a Bull, saying “I have to focus on being a Nugget and basketball. It wouldn’t be right if I let my mind wander…”

I guess that’s his punishment for being in the middle of all the off-season speculation over his future – this story is going to follow him around until he’s got a new contract somewhere!

By the way, Melo had 32 points in a 94-92 Bulls win that saw each of the Chicago starters put up double digits. I’m sure it got him thinking…

Big Brother Is Watching

Remember the time you had a rough day at the office and as you were leaving work, you were mumbling to yourself about what a crummy day it was…and then your boss slapped you with a $50,000 fine for talking smack?

It sounds crazy, but that’s pretty much what happened to Charlotte Bobcats guard Stephen Jackson this week.

Officially, Jackson was fined for “verbally abusing the referees” after a loss to the Detroit Pistons on Friday night. He was given a technical foul late in the third quarter, but the league was very clear that the fine was for something that he said after the game.

Here’s where it gets interesting:

Jackson says he was upset when he walked off the court, but that he didn’t say anything to the refs – instead, he claims the referees read his lips after the fact.

“I guess they had a camera following me all the way to the tunnel and I wasn’t even in sight of the referees and [they] read my lips. I guess I can’t talk to myself. I got fined for talking to myself.”

If you think he’s crazy, you’ll be interested to know that his coach, Larry Brown, seconds his account of the events:

“It blows me away. For me to say, ‘Wow,’ and a (referee) to go, ‘I gotcha,’ there is no recourse. They were lip-reading as he was walking 50-feet away. I just don’t know.”

I know the NBA is trying to clean up the way players act around referees, what with the new technical foul rules where you basically aren’t allowed to argue a call anymore, but you’ve got to draw the line somewhere.

Let’s not forget, an NBA ref recently served jail time for fixing games. I’ll be honest, that is enough to make me at least a little bit more skeptical about what is going on out on that court. I’m not necessarily saying that I think that sort of thing is still going on, but it happened once and I doubt Tim Donaghy was the only guy doing it.

With that in mind, doesn’t it seem funny that the NBA is doing stuff like allegedly using cameras to lip-read and make sure players are respecting the referees even as they talk to themselves while walking off the court?

Other stuff…

Washington Wizards coach Flip Saunders apparently walked off the court and cancelled practice this week because his players were crying about how a pickup game was being refereed…

Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose was supposed to make a cameo on a show called “The Good Wife” last week…but he slept in and missed his flight.

The Answer arrives in Turkey – basketball fans there give thanks and say they can’t wait to see his stuff(ing).

First they go out and get LeBron James and Chris Bosh…now the Miami Heat are after Manny Pacquiao?!

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