While the action on the court has been exciting, with game-winning shots and massive upsets, the action off the court during these NBA playoffs has been great too. Let’s look at some of the story lines around the league.
David Fizdale Brought The Receipts
Coaches complaining about officiating is not a new phenomenon. When said coach is representing a lower seed that maybe doesn’t have the star power of their opponent, this is especially more so. But in Memphis Grizzlies coach David Fizdale’s case, he got his money’s worth. In fact, he got $30,000 worth. Fizdale was unhappy with what he thought was a favorable whistle for the San Antonio Spurs. To his credit, he backed up his argument with stats and examples. To Fizdale’s credit, Kawhi Leonard shot 19 free throws in the game. More importantly, he ended his tirade by yelling “Take that for data!” which will not be my new punch line for everything.
Grizz coach David Fizdale unloads on the referees pic.twitter.com/ibPcWvpyc1
— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) April 18, 2017
Summer of George
Paul George again called out specific teammates to raise their game. After saying Indiana Pacers teammate C. J. Miles shouldn’t have taken the last shot in Game 1 against the Cleveland Cavaliers, George said after Game 2 that Lance Stephenson “has to learn to control himself… His body language has to improve.” On young big-man Myles Turner, George said, “He’s got to know at this point we need him to take it to the next level.”
While you don’t often see star players single out their teammates for public critique, seeing Paul George be this vocal is especially surprising. George has been in constant trade rumors over the last year and there have been very loud rumors that he plans to bolt Indiana in free agency next year. With all of that swirling around him, George taking a leadership role is impressive. He could easily have one foot out the door for a team that has very little chance of advancing, but he is instead using the opportunity to teach and coax his teammates. His teammates have all responded in positive ways, showing just how much sway George has on the locker room.
As I’ve mentioned before, if Paul George makes an All-NBA team he stands to make an additional $70 million in a deal with the Indiana Pacers—$70 million he can’t receive from any other team. The Indiana Pacers would be wise to approach Paul George’s impending free agency with as much class and thoughtfulness as George.
Heat Is Off
The Miami Heat have decisions to make this off-season, as Dion Waiters and James Johnson are coming off solid seasons that propelled and under-manned Heat team to nearly make the playoffs. Paying those players is a risky move, as they don’t have a history of much success, leaving the Heat in a tough spot. Do they pay big money for mediocre players? Or do they let those players walk and erase all of the gains they made this past season? Well, there IS another option…
Would JJ consider sitting down with Dion & Pat like the Big 3 did and figure out a way to make the financial math work? "I hope so," he said pic.twitter.com/CSl1dgiwlM
— Manny Navarro (@Manny_Navarro) April 17, 2017
Watch out, Cleveland, there’s a new super team in the East.
Shoot Your Shot
Russell Westbrook took 43 shots in Oklahoma City’s loss to Houston on Wednesday night. He went 4-18 in the fourth quarter alone and had a 54.7 percent usage rate for the game. Holy crap.
Westbrook has often been accused of chasing numbers, but it’s difficult to argue that anyone else on that roster would be better served taking those shots. Westbrook isn’t surrounded by shooting the way his first-round opponent Houston Rockets have given James Harden. Westbrook has to do nearly everything to make the Thunder work, and the line between “everything” and “too much” is razor thing. It’s fair to say he hit the “too much” column on Wednesday. Still, whether you agree with Westbrook’s method or not, his season has been one of the most compelling stories of the season.
The Warriors were without Kevin Durant, Shaun Livingston, and Matt Barnes on Wednesday night. The Warriors won by 29 points. This team is incredible. There’s just so much talent and it fits together so well, even the newly formed super team in Miami doesn’t compare. It’s difficult to see anyone beating them, our beloved Cavaliers included. And yet, as we learned last year, don’t let the Golden State Warriors’ dominance distract you from the fact…
Dennis Schroder is a player I’ve never particularly enjoyed watching. He reminds of Reggie Jackson in that he takes a lot of possessions and controls a lot of the offense in a way that isn’t efficient or pretty or exciting. He just sort of exists. Well, John Wall made watching Dennis Schroder exciting.
Look at that stare-down. Beautiful. Let’s look at it from another angle:
this is when John Wall became my Presidentpic.twitter.com/Ly91gK39Ue
— Danny (@recordsANDradio) April 20, 2017
I can’t read lips, but I’m assuming he’s saying, “Take that for data!”
The Cavaliers look to go up 3-0 on the Pacers tonight as the series moves to Indianapolis. It’s difficult to project their next opponents as Toronto is tied 1-1 with Milwaukee and the top seed Boston Celtics are down 0-2 to the Chicago Bulls. We’ll keep you up-to-date on all the stories and stories behind the stories as the playoffs move forward.