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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  • NBA Heat Check: Embiid makes MVP run as Drummond drops off NBA Heat Check: Embiid makes MVP run as Drummond drops off

    An intriguing NBA season continued to take shape last week with more shock results in the East.

    The Philadelphia 76ers are at the summit as the teams below them trade wins in a far more balanced conference than the Los Angeles-led West.

    Therefore, the big increases and decreases in production across the NBA were centred on the East, including big displays from one Sixers star while another tailed off.

    We take a look at the best and worst performers of the week with the help of Stats Perform data.

     

    RUNNING HOT...

    Joel Embiid

    Knee and back issues, along with the Philadelphia 76ers' coronavirus crisis, have impacted Embiid's time on the floor already this season, but he is now moving through the gears. The center had scored 45 points against the Miami Heat on January 12, only to then contribute just nine against the same team two days later. But there since looks to be consistency to Embiid's play as he tallied 42, 38 and 33 points in three Sixers wins last week, recording a double-double on each occasion. This weekly average of 37.7 improved the 26-year-old's season scoring from 25.0 points per game to 27.7 and appeared to lift the big man into the early MVP conversation.

    Gordon Hayward

    Staying fit is always likely to be the key for Hayward, given his awful injury record. He has played in 15 of the Charlotte Hornets' 16 games so far, though, and is averaging a career-high 24.1 points for the season. That mark was boosted from 22.2 points per game over the past week as Hayward turned in a pair of big performances against the Chicago Bulls and the Orlando Magic. His 34 points in the first game were not enough for a win, but 39 points at Orlando, along with nine rebounds, helped lift the Hornets to a competitive 7-9. Hayward's big contract has been justified to this point.

    Clint Capela

    The Atlanta Hawks recovered to a .500 record last week and Capela had a huge impact on both ends of the floor. The former Houston Rockets center averaged 21.0 points across three Hawks wins before sitting out the defeat to the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday, but scoring is just one facet of his game; Capela also contributed 20.0 rebounds per game - the biggest increase on a seasonal average across the whole league. Perhaps most notable of all, though, was the 10-block triple-double that saw Atlanta past the Minnesota Timberwolves. His 2.3 blocks per game rank third in the NBA.

    Kendrick Nunn

    COVID-19 protocol kept Nunn on the sidelines for a stretch earlier this month, but the second-year point guard is back in the groove - even if the Miami Heat are still struggling to rediscover their playoff form from last season. Nunn started all 67 of his regular season appearances in 2019-20, only to lose his place in the starting five for the run to the NBA Finals. He is being utilised from the bench again this year but provided a huge scoring boost last week. The 25-year-old averaged 21.5 points across the Heat's four games, his increase of 16.0 from his prior mark of 5.5 per game the biggest such improvement in the league.

    GOING COLD...

    Terry Rozier

    While Hayward stepped up in Charlotte, it was not a vintage week for team-mate Rozier. With 42-point and 35-point games to his name this season, the former Boston Celtics point guard was way off the pace in averaging 8.5 points across two games in which he played 38 minutes on both occasions. That knocked Rozier's season average down from 19.9 to 18.5, with a clear decline in his three-point shooting the obvious cause for concern. He shot 2-of-12 from beyond the arc, making 1.0 threes per game, down from 3.4.

    Andre Drummond

    The Cleveland Cavaliers stole the show last week with a sweep of the Brooklyn Nets in their double-header, but Drummond did not match the standard he had set previously in a monster game against the New York Knicks. Drummond had season-highs of 33 points and 23 rebounds as the Knicks visited Cleveland, yet he then fell short of a double-double for the first time all year in the first Nets game. Sunday's trip to the Celtics then saw Drummond play just 18 minutes, scoring a meagre 11 points, and he finished the week with 9.3 rebounds per game - solid enough but well down on his prior average of 15.8.

    Tyrese Maxey

    The Sixers' COVID-19 issues might have slowed the team's early momentum, but rookie Maxey was flying heading into last week. Outstanding with 39 points in a seven-man rotation against the Denver Nuggets on January 9, the 20-year-old kept his place and was averaging 11.4 points per game prior to Wednesday's meeting with Boston. But Maxey did not score a single point in that win and duly lost his place for the second Celtics matchup. He finished the week with just four points from three games, shooting 2-of-9 from the field.

    LaMelo Ball

    Rookie seasons tend to be rollercoaster affairs and Ball is certainly finding that. He is yet to start for the Hornets this season but was steadily contributing double-figures at the turn of the year, including an outstanding triple-double against Atlanta on January 9. Last week, Ball averaged just 9.0 points and 3.0 rebounds across Charlotte's two games, although he did contribute eight assists in the win over the Magic.

  • Clippers coach Lue hails Leonard: We had to ride him pretty hard Clippers coach Lue hails Leonard: We had to ride him pretty hard

    Tyronn Lue hailed Kawhi Leonard's performance against the Oklahoma City Thunder, acknowledging the Los Angeles Clippers had to "ride him pretty hard" to get the win.

    Leonard stepped up with 34 points, nine rebounds and eight assists to drag the Clippers to a 108-100 triumph in Sunday's contest.

    He became the fifth player in the franchise's history to register those numbers and the first since Ron Harper against the Golden State Warriors in March 1994.

    The Clippers have now won seven straight games and hold the joint-best record in the NBA at 13-4.

    With Paul George sitting out the closing minutes due to hamstring tightness, head coach Lue praised Leonard for stepping up.

    "He's been phenomenal for us, tonight we had to ride him," he said.

    "Kawhi had it going so we played through him a lot, especially in the second half. He created points for himself and for the team as well.

    "We had to ride him pretty hard just so we could continue to keep the lead and play through him a lot, I think he did a good job with that."

    George had 11 points from 33 minutes and Lue explained why he was not involved in the final stages.

    "I benched him…I benched him!" Lue joked, before adding: "No, I'm just joking. He had some tightness going into the game tonight.

    "He got loose when he played but had tightness, that last four and a half minutes he tightened up again so it was just a precaution. Just his hamstring."

    The Clippers are flying in the NBA and Leonard offered his thoughts on why the team are firing.

    "I think our three-point percentage, not allowing threes, making sure the other team isn't getting good looks from three-point line is helping us," he said.

    "We're playing team basketball, sharing the ball, staying level-headed, staying positive, making shots right now. We're trying to get better."

  • Giannis ignites Bucks, Celtics' Brown in memorable 33-point performance Giannis ignites Bucks, Celtics' Brown in memorable 33-point performance

    The Milwaukee Bucks snapped a two-game skid thanks to Giannis Antetokounmpo, whose double-double fuelled a 129-115 win over the Atlanta Hawks.

    After the Bucks dropped back-to-back games, two-time reigning NBA MVP Antetokounmpo posted 27 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists on Sunday.

    Antetokounmpo became the sixth Bucks player to record 11,000 career points thanks to his performance in Milwaukee.

    The Hawks – playing without Trae Young – were led by De'Andre Hunter's game-high 33 points and John Collins' 30 points but it was not enough.

    Jaylen Brown produced a scintillating display as the Boston Celtics outlasted the Cleveland Cavaliers 141-103.

    Brown had 33 points in just 19 minutes – the most by any player in fewer than 20 minutes played during the shot-clock era (1954-55), according to NBA.com/Stats.

     

    Kawhi stars

    The Los Angeles Clippers celebrated their seventh consecutive victory behind Kawhi Leonard's 34 points in a 108-100 win against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Clippers improved to 13-4, tying defending champions and city rivals the Los Angeles Lakers for the league's best record.

    Gordon Hayward flexed his muscles with a game-high 39 points to lead the Charlotte Hornets past the Orlando Magic 107-104.

    A season-high 30 points from OG Anunoby saw the Toronto Raptors top the Indiana Pacers 107-102 for a fifth victory in six games.

     

    Westbrook struggles on return

    For the first time in almost two weeks, Russell Westbrook was back on the court for the struggling Washington Wizards. However, the former MVP finished with just nine points in 25 minutes. Westbrook was three-of-11 from the field, while he made just one of three attempts from beyond the arc. He also had four turnovers as the Wizards lost 121-101 to the San Antonio Spurs.

    Paul George has been in good form this season, but he struggled in the Clippers' win. He was four-of-13 from the field and only two-of-eight from three-point range for 11 points and four turnovers in 33 minutes.

     

    Hayward proving his worth

    Michael Jordan and the Hornets opted to give Hayward a big payday to lure him from Boston. The former All-Star has returned to his best with the Hornets, continuing his fine form with the game-winning shot with 0.7 seconds remaining.

    Sunday's results

    Toronto Raptors 107-102 Indiana Pacers
    Los Angeles Clippers 108-100 Oklahoma City Thunder
    Boston Celtics 141-103 Cleveland Cavaliers
    Charlotte Hornets 107-104 Orlando Magic
    San Antonio Spurs 121-101 Washington Wizards
    Milwaukee Bucks 129-115 Atlanta Hawks
    Portland Trail Blazers 116-113 New York Knicks
    Memphis Grizzlies-Sacramento Kings (postponed)

     

    76ers at Pistons

    The in-form Philadelphia 76ers (12-5) – the Eastern Conference leaders – will put their three-game winning streak on the line against the lowly Detroit Pistons (3-13) on Monday.

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