NBA

Jackson failed to connect with the Knicks on any level

Jay Asser 29/06/2017
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Phil Jackson

New York’s long-standing nightmare is finally over. One of the most storied franchises in the NBA is no longer held hostage by someone who managed to improbably char what was already a tender reputation to a full crisp.

While irreparable harm has already been done, Knicks owner James Dolan, who apparently found time in between his band’s gigs, made one of the few sensible moves in his tenure by getting rid of team president Phil Jackson before he could further damage the team’s prospects, as well as the Hall of Fame coach’s own legacy.

How’s it goink? Not great, Phil. Not great. Franchise prestige alone no longer buys as much as it used to, at least in terms of luring stars.

Before Jackson joined in 2014, the Knicks were already struggling to get meetings with star players. Fast forward three years and the team is now the punchline of the league, with players reportedly avoiding it like the plague. And no one was more responsible for the mess than Jackson.

Whether it was his insistence on strictly running an out-of-date offence in the triangle, or his inability to get along with the two most important members of the franchise, Jackson botched his time in charge.

No one is saying he should have turned the Knicks into title contenders. As much of a winner as Jackson is, and his 11 rings as coach serve plenty of evidence, the expectations were never at the level of a championship.

The wins and playoff appearances weren’t there either, but it’s the way Jackson went about his reign that really incensed the fan base. Everything had to be done his way and if it wasn’t, he had no problem wielding his power to prove a point – as he did by dangling phenom Kristaps Porzingis in trades just because the 21-year-old Latvian skipped his exit meeting.

Ironically, Jackson’s inability to connect with his players is maybe the funniest part of this whole saga. It’s impossible to coach teams to 11 titles without having some Xs and Os knowledge, but having dealt with complex, larger-than-life personalities in Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, Jackson received more credit for people management and ego-stroking.

Yet he couldn’t get Carmelo Anthony or Porzingis on his side and that, in the end, cost him. Maybe the Zen Master was never cut out for any of it, or maybe he’s lost touch. Whatever the case, fortunately for New York, it’s no longer their headache.

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NBA

Bad timing causes NBA awards show to be late to its own party

Jay Asser 27/06/2017
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MVP: Russell Westbrook. Picture: Getty Images.

There’s a lot that the NBA gets right, more so than almost every other sport. Their freshly minted awards show, however, is not one of them.

The league’s bloated, long-overdue night to announce the winners of its major individual honours wasn’t the tension-filled, entertainment spectacle it was billed as, but rather an inevitable snoozefest.

The issue with the show has less to do with its concept and more to do with its timing.

Interactions and style are strong suits of the NBA, so bringing together the league’s best and most recognisable players and allowing their personalities to shine should theoretically be a slam dunk.

It’s difficult to feign interest though when no one cares – from the fans to the players themselves.

While it was certainly cool to see Russell Westbrook give a teary and heartfelt thanks to his family, Bill Russell direct some friendly trash talk towards fellow legends and James Harden lustily gaze at Nicki Minaj during her performance, but the general vibe felt simultaneously try-hard and indifferent.

That’s going to happen when you announce regular season awards in late June, weeks after the Finals concluded and sandwiched between the draft and free agency. Everyone has moved on to the offseason, so it’s hard to get up for awards that we stopped debating nearly two months ago.

In the inaugural edition, the NBA also avoided what could end up being an awkward situation in future shows, particularly when it comes to the MVP: a player accepting an award either after being trading (unlikely) or days before sending shockwaves by switching teams in free agency (possible).

Who knows how long the NBA will keep the production going, but considering the reception to it and how woke the league is, it’ll eventually be axed. Not even Drake can give this show more life.

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NBA Awards: Russell Westbrook picks up MVP title as Draymond Green is named Defensive Player of the Year

Sport360 staff 27/06/2017

Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook, who became only the second player in NBA history to average a triple double for an entire season, was named the NBA Most Valuable Player at the inaugural NBA Awards show.

Westbrook defeated fellow finalists James Harden of Houston and Kawhi Leonard of San Antonio to claim the season MVP award for the first time in ceremonies at New York.

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The 28-year-old guard who helped the Americans win 2012 London Olympic gold averaged a league-high 31.6 points plus 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists a game, matching Oscar Robertson from 1962 with double digits in three statistical categories for a full season. "To everybody in Oklahoma City who helped me go out every night and compete at a high level, I thank you for that," said Westbrook, who invited teammates on stage with him. "It was an amazing season for me but without these guys none of it would have been possible. This award is not for me. It's for all of us." Westbrook thanked "all my fans all across the world who appreciate me" and cried as he thanked his wife and parents. "I couldn't do none of this without you guys," he said. "I can't say thank you enough." Westbrook also won awards for best style and from fans for the game winner of the year. Greek star Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks won the Most Improved Player award, beating out Gobert and Serbian forward Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets. Another Bucks standout, Milwaukee guard Malcolm Brogdon, won Rookie of the Year honors and thanked his teammates. "They believe in me," he said. "They have given me tremendous opportunity... This is a testament to guys who get overlooked. You can always achieve your dreams if you have faith and you sacrifice." Cameroon center Joel Embiid and Croatia's Dario Saric, both with Philadelphia, were losing finalists for the top newcomer award. Golden State forward Draymond Green was voted the Defensive Player of the Year, defeating co-finalists Leonard and French center Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz. "This isn't an individual award," Green said. "There are five guys on the floor every time. I can't do this all by myself so I appreciate them." Golden State's Bob Myers was named Executive of the Year. Houston Rockets guard Eric Gordon was named the NBA's top reserve player, taking the Sixth Man Award. "We just had an unbelievable year," Gordon said. "I would like to thank my teammates and my coaches for making my job easy this year." Houston's Mike D'Antoni was named Coach of the Year over San Antonio's Gregg Popovich and Miami's Erik Spoelstra. "This is the ultimate team award," D'Antoni said. "You do not win this alone." German star Dirk Nowitzki of Dallas was named Teammate of the Year in voting by players, the 39-year-old forward expected to be back with the Mavericks next season. "My teammates are there to support me and push me and motivate me," said Nowitzki. "I still enjoy to compete. Hopefully, I'll be around a couple more years." Other fan-voted awards went to Leonard for block of the year, Golden State's Klay Thompson for performance of the year in a 60-point effort, Golden State's Kevin Durant for best playoff moment for a 3-pointer in game three of the NBA Finals, Golden State's Stephen Curry and Green for assist of the year and Oklahoma City's Victor Oladipo for dunk of the year.
Provided by AFP Sport

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