5. Nikola Jokić’s monstrous numbers:
Four months ago in the NBA bubble, the Denver Nuggets made history. They became the first team to come back from a 3-1 deficit in multiple series after defeating the Jazz 4-3 and the Clippers 4-3. One of the main reasons for those two comebacks was Nikola Jokic. After trailing 3-1 against the Jazz, Jokic averaged 28/8/6 on 54/57/100 splits in Game 5-7 in route to advancing to the second round for the second consecutive year. After Game 4 against the Clippers, Jokic averaged 24/17/8 on 52/38/80 splits in Game 5-7 as the Nuggets advanced to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in almost a decade. This season, despite the Nuggets slow start, it’s hard to ignore what Jokic has been doing. He’s averaging 24/11/11 on 58/41/82 splits (66% TS%, 62% eFG%). He would become the 3rd player to average a triple double in a season after Oscar Roberton and Russell Westbrook (3x). He’d be the most efficient to do so.
This past fall, the Denver Nuggets fell to the Lakers in five games in the WCF. A key detail the Nuggets were paying attention to when the off-season started was Jerami Grant. Grant decided to decline his player-option and enter free agency. After defending the likes of Paul George, LeBron James, Donovan Mitchell, Kawhi Leonard, and Anthony Davis throughout the postseason, Grant decided to bet on himself and it paid off. He landed himself a three year deal worth 60 million in a Sign and Trade with the Detroit Pistons. In the 2020-21 season he’s averaging a career high in PPG (24.8), REB (6.0), FT% (86%) and PER (19.7). Overall he’s averaging 25/6/2 on 46/39/86 splits.
Going into the bubble, the Trail Blazers weren’t a playoff team. They trailed the Grizzlies by 3.5 games and had eight games to prove they belonged with the 16 teams remaining that were playing for the Larry O’ Brien trophy. The bubble wasn’t good to CJ McCollum as he averaged 18/6/5 on 39/35/79 splits. The Blazers finished with a 35-39 record and an opportunity to reach the playoffs through the play-in game. In the play-in game, CJ delivered. He finished the game with 29 Points, scoring 14 in the fourth quarter as the Blazers punched their ticket for the playoffs for the seventh consecutive year (second longest active streak in the NBA). It was reported by Dwight Jaynes of NBC Sports West that McCollum “has been playing with a L3 vertebral transverse process fracture”. At 100 percent this season, CJ is averaging a career high in PPG (27.6), REB (4.3), AST (5.3), STL (1.4), 3P% (43%), 2P% (51%), eFG% (59%) and TS% (62%). Overall, he’s averaging 28/4/5 on 47/43/84 splits (62% TS%). Lastly, CJ ranks first in 3PM (59).
The Philadelphia 76ers were swept by the Celtics in the first round of the 2020 Playoffs. After a seven year tenure, the Sixers decided it was time to move on from Brett Brown. Under Brown, they made the playoffs in the previous three years. They also decided to move on from Elton Brand as the President of Basketball Operations (he is now the general manager). They hired Doc Rivers as their new head coach and Daryl Morey as the President of Basketball operations who has done an excellent job thus far. He traded Josh Richardson for Seth Curry, and signed Dwight Howard as a backup center who won the championship with the Lakers this past October. They also drafted Tyrese Maxey, Isaiah Joe and Paul Reed. All of this has led to the Sixers starting at 9-4 as well as Joel Embiid’s impressive play, who, if the season ended tomorrow, should be awarded the Most Valuable Player award. Embiid is averaging 25/12/3 on 54/39/85 splits (65% TS%, 57% eFG%). In his fifth year he’s been the most efficient in his career and it’s been reflected in his performances. Another reason why the Sixers are 9-4 is due to Tobias Harris’s play and Curry’s efficiency from 3. Harris is averaging 19/8/3 on 51/45/84 splits (61% TS%). Curry is averaging 17PPG shooting 60% from 3 on 5 3PA (leads league).
We all know what the biggest surprise of the season has been so far. Even the people that don’t watch basketball know what the biggest story of the season has been so far. James Harden asked to be traded this past November and he finally got granted his wish. Harden was traded to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for Caris Levert, four first-round picks and four draft swaps. They got another team involved as they sent Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince to the Cavaliers. After this, the Rockets traded Levert for Victor Oladipo and acquired Dante Exum and Rodions Kurucs. All four first round picks and all four first-round pick swaps acquired by the Rockets are all unprotected. In his nine year tenure with the Rockets, Harden averaged 30/6/8 on 44/36/86 splits, scoring over 18,000 points. With the Rockets, Harden was named an All-Star in all 8 years and was a 6x All-NBA First team member. Harden currently holds the longest streak of consecutive All-NBA First team appearances at four. He was the NBA Assists leader and a 3x NBA Scoring champion, becoming the first player to average 35PPG in over 10 years. Lastly, Harden was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in the 2017-18 season. With Harden, the Rockets made the playoffs all eight years (longest active streak in the NBA), making the Western Conference Finals on two separate occasions. The Beard will now reunited with Kevin Durant whom he played with for three years on the Oklahoma City Thunder and Kyrie Irving who’s a 6x NBA All-Star and was a fundamental piece in leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to their first NBA title.
What is going on with Kyrie Irving? He decides to leave his team for what reasons? Is Irving even worth all this drama? In the summer of 2019, Irving signed a 4 year, $136 million contract with the Brooklyn Nets, and to say the least, this contract has not gone as planned with Irving only playing 20 games last year and now taking personal time away from his team.
There are absolutely no excuses for these actions by Irving deciding to take time away from his team unless there is a family matter he needs to take care of, the only thing that is more important than basketball is family and that is it! Having the privilege and god given talents to play in the league is a job, that millions of people dream to get an opportunity like that every day of their lives. It is not okay to step away from work just because you feel like it, there are many Americans who work 40+ hours a week who can’t afford to take off one day, a job way less fun, paid way less, and significantly more stressful all to provide and put food on the table for their families.
And now we have athletes who are getting paid hundreds of millions to play the game they love the most and feel they can take off as they please? I don’t think so, it comes off as greedy and unappreciative especially to those who would give up their lives to be in Kyrie’s shoes, being the starting Point Guard for the Brooklyn Nets getting paid over $36 million per year. I am all for players having power in terms of player movement, that is great for basketball and great for business, it is exciting and a reason the NBA is regarded as the most exciting off-season. But the actions of Irving, and any player who decides to take time off because they feel like it, is unacceptable. You get paid to play, not show up as you please.
When Joe Douglas was hired as the GM of the much-maligned New York Jets, he was given the single most difficult task asked of any New York professional sports general manager- turn an NFL laughingstock franchise into legitimate championship contender. A very daunting task- for any GM who has dared to step into the role since its last playoff appearance in 2010; A year in which the Jets were going into their second AFC Championship Game under former head coach Rex Ryan and then, GM Mike Tannenbaum. Since then, the Jets have been an absolute dumpster fire of a franchise. The litany of reasons that could be given for those failures could be an episode of ESPN’s 30 for 30 all by itself! But the time has finally come for a new era of Jets football to emerge from the wreckage of multiple failed experiments from a GM inheriting a head coach that he may not want to both the GM and the HC reporting to the owner on equal footing, with no clear line drawn as to whose responsibility was what within the power hierarchy. The very public firing of Adam Gase and the subsequent press conferences that followed in which interim owner Christopher Johnson finally admitted failure and vowed change would come took Jets fans by surprise, and dare I say it, gave us a small sliver of hope!
Hope! What is that?! What is this ‘hope’ that people speak of?! Is it the hope that the Johnson family will let his football people do football work instead of defaulting to the words of head-hunting firms that have zero skin in the game?! That Joe Douglas will get to do the job that he was hired for?! Well, it sure does look like it the way Douglas is conducting his head coaching search.
Sure, Jets fans (myself included) got excited when news came down of the list of candidates that the Jets had already interviewed. Names that included Chiefs OC Eric Bienemy, 49ers DC Robert Salah, Bills OC Brian Daboll, and Titans OC Arthur Smith. The Jets have had second interviews with Salah and Smith so far and as the days pass, you can bet that they will have more interviews lined up still. Joe Douglas has already set a precedent in his short time as Jets GM- he is not interested in the “sexy” hire. This fact alone should have Jets fans optimistic! Why you may ask? Because past Jets GM’s have always caved to the wants and desires of the Johnsons- who have always sought to dominate the New York sports headlines for all the wrong reasons! Joe Douglas wants a “CEO” type of head coach; a leader of men and someone who commands the respect of his players in the locker room. This type of head coach is someone that Jets fans should also want- a coach who will hold his players accountable, his staff accountable, and himself accountable. And if the Jets intend to find this coach, they must search, they must interview, they must kick over every single stone they find to procure that coveted treasure.
My advice to Jets fans all over the world is based on one word- patience. Be patient with Joe Douglas. Be patient with his process. Trust in the process. And let us finally leave the Same Old Jets moniker behind once and for all.