By Matthew Ajaj
Rims are red, basketballs are orange and the Philadelphia 76ers still stink. Some things never change, but the first half of the ’15-’16 NBA season has brought plenty of action and surprises to be excited about — for better or worse. Here are the Good, the Bad and the Ugly heading into the All-Star Break.
The Golden State Warriors are good. Real good.
At 48-4, the Warriors are on pace to have the best regular season record in NBA history, surpassing Michael Jordan’s legendary 72-10 ’95-’96 Chicago Bulls team. Golden State’s championship defense season has been commandeered by their three All-Stars, who are putting up some outstanding numbers:
• Stephen Curry, who has 29.8 points per game (PPG), 6.6 assists per game (APG) and 5.3 rebounds per game (RPG), is poised to break the single-season record for three-pointers made (a record he currently holds) while still shooting a mind-boggling 45 percent from beyond the arc. The Splash Brother will likely be named the MVP for the second year in a row.
• Draymond Green (14.2 PPG/ 7.2 APG / 9.5 RPG) leads the league in triple-doubles with 10 and, in conjunction with his outstanding play on defense, he is a dark horse candidate for MVP.
• Klay Thompson (21.3 PPG/ 2.2 APG / 3.7 RPG), the other Splash Bro, is perhaps the second best three-point shooter that the league has to offer. When he gets hot, the Warriors are unbeatable.
What’s an NBA season without a little off-the-court controversy?
DeMarcus Cousins single-handedly stopped a Lunar New Year (commonly categorized as Chinese New Year) celebration at the Sacramento Kings Sleep Train Arena due to his own sensitivities. The promotion was scheduled to provide fans with a Lunar New Year T-shirt, which depicted a monkey in accordance to 2016 being the Year of the Monkey. However, Cousins — who is black — felt that the shirts were offensive to people of color, given that the Year of the Monkey shirt giveaway fell on Monday, Feb. 1, which is coincidentally the first day of Black History Month. The T-shirts were taken out of the stands before game time solely because of Cousins’s complaint (as he was the only one to complain), thus ruining a fine cultural celebration for the sake of one man’s misguided ego. The Sacramento Kings also share much of the blame here for shamelessly appeasing their infamously unstable superstar to keep him on their good side.
A somewhat relevant fun fact: Sacramento has more Asian people (18.3 percent) than African American people (14.6 percent) as of 2010, according to the United States Census Bureau. I am sure many of the Asian fans in attendance were disappointed to see their ancient cultural celebration hindered by Cousins’s oversensitivity.
Los Angeles Clippers superstar forward Blake Griffin also made headlines after punching the team’s equipment manager outside a restaurant this past January, according to CBSSports.com. The incident resulted in a broken hand for Griffin. The Clippers’s forward had already been sidelined for a month because of a torn quad, but his fractured punching hand is going to keep him out for at least another month. As a cherry on top, the Clippers suspended Griffin for an additional four games for his actions.
Where, oh where have the coaches gone?
Five NBA coaches have already been fired before the All-Star Break. Houston Rockets coach Kevin McHale was the first to get the boot after a 4-7 start, despite navigating his team to three straight playoff performances in the rocky Western Conference. The Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks would send Lionel Hollins and Derek Fisher packing during just their second seasons. Jeff Hornacek was shown the door in Phoenix after a miserable showing from an equally miserable Suns roster. The most shocking coaching dismissal was that of Cleveland Cavaliers head man David Blatt, who was fired in late January despite his team holding the first place position in the Eastern Conference and coming off an NBA Finals appearance last season.
The life of an NBA coach is a fleeting one these days. Hollins, Fisher and Hornacek were provided with awful personnel, but were all forced out of town despite having less than three full seasons to work with their players. McHale and Blatt are both good coaches with recent success, but apparently, that was not enough either. Coaches’ leashes are shorter than ever, with NBA front offices leaving their lead dogs muzzled with little sense of security. These coaches can’t even settle in and get comfortable anymore, which creates an unhealthy, unstable environment for the whole team.
Alas, no matter how bad NBA front offices may mishandle their teams, all coaches, players and fans can take solace in the fact that they are not part of the Cleveland Browns organization. It doesn’t get much uglier than them.