An NBA season like no other

By Mariah Ramharack October 11, 2020

On many a Sunday, I realize that people have looked at the stories they've seen throughout the week with different lenses. I have my own personal take on some of these issues and I will share them with you. Welcome to #INCASEYOUMISSEDIT

  1. NBA FINALS 2020- ONE FOR THE BOOKS!

Despite which team emerges as the 2019/2020 NBA champion, this final series has been one for the books It is the first of its kind, being played amidst the coronavirus pandemic in a bio-secure bubble in a socially and politically charged environment. The players, coaches and organizers are true heroes for completing the season.

The 2020 NBA bubble which cost $170 million, was created to protect players from the Covid-19 virus for the final eight games of the regular season and the entirety of NBA playoffs. Simply put, players have been away from their families since July.

There were cases when some players spoke out about how the bubble took a toll on their mental health. Cleveland Cavaliers Kevin Love shared his own challenges with mental health.

LA Clippers forward Paul George was quoted saying, “I underestimated mental health. I had anxiety, a little bit of depression, us being locked in here. I just wasn’t here. I checked out.”

The issue became so pertinent, the NBA made provisions to allow players to invite some guests into the Orlando bubble. Again, credit must be given to those who put everything aside to play the sport they love in such uncertain times and under challenging circumstances.

Then, as if playing in a bio-secure bubble without loved ones around was not enough, the players were asked to give their best in a highly politically and socially charged environment. Basketball was being played at a time when a young black woman, Breonna Taylor, was shot to death by police her at home. Afterwards, in Minneapolis, George Floyd died at the hands of a police officer, who kneeled on his neck for almost nine minutes.

 NBA players and management did what they could to stand up for social justice. The Milwaukee Bucks boycotted a game against the Orlando Magic. The Houston Rockets and the OKC Thunder also boycotted games forcing the NBA to postpone their remaining playoffs for the day.  

In response, the NBA spent a great amount of time spreading messages against social injustice while the players did the best to provide entertainment for their millions of fans. Despite which team is crowned 2019/2020 NBA champions, this is one that will go down in history.

 

  1. Rashford continues to use his political capital to assist those in need.

Manchester United and England striker Marcus Rashford is set to be awarded the Member of the British Empire (MBE). It is a well-deserved honour that highlights the importance of sporting personalities using their platform to give voice for the voiceless.

 

The 22-year-old championed the fight for 1.3 million children to claim free school meal vouchers in England during the Summer holidays. He did so by writing a powerful open letter to lawmakers that was supported by his more than 12 million followers on social media.

The England international subsequently formed a child food poverty task force, linking up with some of the nation's biggest supermarkets and food brands. During September, Rashford received the Professional Footballers' Association merit award for his efforts.

Rashford’s 22 goals in the interrupted campaign helped Manchester United to third place in the Premier League. Manchester United said they were "delighted" to see his work off the pitch had been recognized.

"Everyone at Manchester United is hugely proud of Marcus for the work he has been doing to tackle food poverty among vulnerable children," a club statement read.

"His campaigning has raised awareness of a crucial issue and made a positive difference, and we are delighted to see his efforts being recognized with this honor."

It is about time other sporting personalities used their power to assist the vulnerable. Keep up the good work Marcus Rashford, on and off the field!

 

 

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  • West Indies captaincy in good hands West Indies captaincy in good hands

    On many a Sunday, I realize that people have looked at the stories they've seen throughout the week with different lenses. I have my own personal take on some of these issues and I will share them with you. Welcome to #INCASEYOUMISSEDIT

     

    1. Windies captaincy in good hands. Time for the rest of the team to rally.

    West Indies named the Test and T20 squads on Friday that will face New Zealand in three T20 Internationals and two Test matches from November 27 to December 15. The captaincy of both the Windies squads is in good hands. It is now up to supporting cast to do their part and contribute.

    Jason Holder continues as Test captain having grown as a leader since making his debut against New Zealand in 2014 in Bridgetown.  New Zealand won that match by 53 runs and Holder bagged two wickets and scored a total of 76 runs.

    The 28-year-old going into this match will be confident having performed well against the Black Caps in the past. 

    In the last Test match he played in Manchester in July 2020, England won by eight wickets. Holder got two wickets and made 58 runs. On current form, Holder has attained the highest points tally by any West Indies bowler in 20 years, reaching a career-best second place in the Test Rankings after playing a crucial role in his side's four-wicket victory over England in Southampton that helped take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.

               In the limited overs format, Kieron Pollard leads from the front with his all-round performances.  He has been very impactful for the Mumbai Indians in the ongoing Indian Premier League. In eight matches he has picked up two wickets and scored 174 runs, with a top score of 60 at an average of 174.  In the recently concluded Caribbean Premier League he was named Player of the Tournament. The 33-year-old blasted a total of 207 runs with a top score of 72 at an average of 51.8.  His best bowling figures for CPL 2020 was 4/30. 

    With both Pollard and Holder at the helm, the Windies are a force. However, cricket is a team sport and it is up to the rest of team to contribute with bat and ball and ensure they support those leading the charge. 

     2. Can Liverpool win the Premier League without two key players?

     Liverpool departed Goodison Park disappointed by the 2-2 draw against Everton on Saturday.

    The real tragedy, however, is that the Reds will be without two key members for some time due to injuries sustained during the match.  Though defender Virgil Van Dijk and midfielder Thiago Alcantara suffered serious injuries it is not over yet for the Premier League champions. However, Jurgen Klopp and the rest of the team have some work to do to cover for the absence of their two world class players.

    Van Dijk’s leadership, organizational skill and passing range will be missed as his ACL injury will see him out for more than six months. The 29-year-old Dutchman was a key figure in Liverpool’s dominance having played every minute of the team’s 74 Premier league matches since his move from Southampton in 2018.

    In the 2019/2020 Premier League season, the towering centre-back played all 38 matches, scored five goals and had an assist for his club. More importantly, he helped Liverpool’s defence evolve into one of the stingiest in all of Europe.

     The season before, he also helped Liverpool become the best defensive team in England.

    His prolonged absence this season is a major blow to Liverpool’s chances of successfully defending the league title and to also make another run at the Champions League title they won in 2018.

    Thiago Alcantara also suffered a knee injury against Everton in what was his first start for his new club. He also faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines as a result of a reckless tackle from Everton forward Richarlison.

    Despite these injuries to key players, it would be foolhardy to rule the Premier League champions out. However, a lot will depend on Jurgen Klopp to get his players to fill the massive void created by the absence of these two stars.

  • Opinion: Rowley was right - TTFA win was loss for country's football Opinion: Rowley was right - TTFA win was loss for country's football

    In light of the devastating impact the recent Trinidad and Tobago High Court ruling could have on the country’s national program, it’s hard to not agree with Prime Minister Keith Rowley's assessment of the victory being a pyrrhic one.

    The term itself comes from the example of Pyrrhus of Epirus, whose triumph against the Romans in the Battle of Asculum destroyed much of his forces, but while it was a famous tactical win, it eventually forced the end of his campaign.  If that metaphorical allusion is too complex, one could consider a tree with 211 branches; William Wallace and his executive have climbed to the edge of one of the highest ones, cut it off and celebrated while falling to the floor.

    The ruling was declared as a victory of significant proportions for global football, but it really strains credulity to see how.  Last month, the majority of the TTFA members had voted to withdraw the case.  Rowley’s post might not signal the official position of the government, FIFA’s usual opposition in such matters, but it clearly seems that they do not support the action either.  Neither, does it seem, did a vast majority of fans of the sport across the country.  Perhaps the victory, framed as many things these often are these days, in disingenuous displays of fervent nationality, was only for a few disgruntled executives and their egos.

    Believe it or not, the rest of global football has continued on as usual, in many cases oblivious to the ruling of the court or even suspension of the TTFA.  Qualifiers have continue as planned, and those of us who compete in the region will have the Gold Cup and World Cup qualifiers to look forward to in short order. 

    There is a simple reason for the overall lack of interest.  While the case has been framed by many of those involved as a once in a lifetime battle of David vs Goliath, the real fact of the matter is surprise, surprise Trinidad and Tobago is not the only country to take FIFA to court, or even to secure a positive court ruling.  Perhaps many sold themselves the same stories at the start of the chapter, but the tale has always ended in much the same manner in a variety of disputes with FIFA.  If there was a case that was going to turn out differently, forgive the incredulity for not believing it would be an association that has racked up debts of almost $US10m and dogged by years of scandals and mismanagement, that breaks that trend.

    Now don’t get me wrong, FIFA as an institution has gotten a lot wrong, on more than one occasion it has proven to be riddled with corruption and can often come off high handed and dictatorial.  However, for many FIFA members, all sovereign states, the deal is a Faustian bargain.  Like it or not, a lot of the organisation’s massive success has to do with its ability to set aside and solve petty grievances and rivalries that often consume international politics and ensure that, for the most part, whatever the stakes there is a game played on the pitch.  A part of that success then means that for many associations FIFA is able to successfully fund a huge part of the development of the game locally.

    For many in the twin-island republic, it is the latter that would cause significant trepidation regarding the ruling.  In the case of the already cash strapped United TTFA, it surely comes down to things like funding needed to secure the livelihood of thousands of workers that serve the sport across the island.  It could mean blighting potentially bright youth prospects, who will not only lack competitions to showcase their talent, but funding to help develop it.  Depending on how long this impasse lasts an inactive national team could not only miss the upcoming World Cup qualifier, but fall behind in preparations for 2026, which will be held in the CONCACAF region and surely be a massive blow for fans if T&T cannot secure one of four extra places.  All in all, steep prices most are not willing to pay for a declaration of sovereignty. 

    In recent interview with my colleges on the SportsMax Zone, which got quite heated at times, well-respected leading sports attorney Dr. Emir Crowne, who was one of the representatives for the TTFA, struggled to put what was achieved by the body for the overall good of the country’s football in any meaningful context.  Understandably, it was a tough job, I suspect outside of mere theoretical platitudes for those in charge, there is no real concrete benefit for the sport be found.  

    As part of her ruling, the High Court judge found the section Article 8(2) of the FIFA Statutes, which speaks to the establishment of normalisation committees, was incongruous with the country’s municipal laws and was hence invalid.  A win, perhaps, but what is the endgame.  In the end, in all likelihood, the TTFA will have to amend the statues of its own association to completely enable its parent association to govern as set out in the statues.  A move previously taken by all other David’s in this battle, no matter how long it takes.

  • Morey to step down as Rockets GM Morey to step down as Rockets GM

    Daryl Morey is to step down from his position as general manager of the Houston Rockets.

    After 14 years with the franchise, the Rockets confirmed that Morey's departure will be effective from November 1.

    He will continue to offer assistance to owner Tilman Fertitta in the search for a head coach to replace Mike D'Antoni, who left after Houston lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference semifinals.

    The Rockets will promote executive vice-president of basketball operations Rafael Stone to general manager, with Eli Witus working under him.

    "After returning from Orlando and reflecting on what has been an amazing 14 years with the Houston Rockets, and after discussing my thoughts with family and close friends, I've decided I'll be stepping away from the Rockets organisation effective November 1st," said Morey in a statement.

    "Tilman and I have had many conversations since I returned, and his unwavering support and counsel during our time together has been critical to our success.

    "It has been the most gratifying experience of my professional life to lead the Rockets basketball organisation, and I look forward to working with Tilman and the management team on the transition.

    "I am very confident that the future – for the Rockets, and for our incredible fans – is in great hands, and that the Rockets will continue to perform at the highest level."

    Fertitta added: "On behalf of the entire Rockets organisation, I would like to thank Daryl Morey for his hard work and dedication over the past 14 seasons. Daryl is a brilliant innovator who helped the Rockets become a perennial contender.

    "I have truly enjoyed working with Daryl and couldn't have asked for a better general manager to have at the start of my ownership. I wish him and his family all the best."

    Houston have reached the playoffs in each of the past eight seasons – the longest active streak in the NBA.

    In 2017-18 their 65-17 record was the best in the league, but they were beaten in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals by the Golden State Warriors that season.

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