TORONTO — The Golden State Warriors and superstar Kevin Durant were faced with one of the toughest decisions in sports: helplessly watch and heal or risk injury and millions chasing an NBA title?
We saw a similar scenario play out in Boston in two seasons ago with Isaiah Thomas’ hip injury.
Thomas initially suffered the injury in March, sat out two games, and then played through the pain until he re-injured the hip in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Thomas eventually required surgery, leaving us to wonder whether he’ll ever be the same player again.
The player health vs. championship aspirations dilemma happens across pro sports.
In 2012, the Washington Nationals shut down pitcher Stephen Strasburg a month before the playoffs, choosing to protect their young ace, who was two years removed from elbow surgery. Washington deemed his long-term health was more important than their chances at a World Series title.
Durant was questionable to return in Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals after being out for over a month with a calf injury. The two-time Finals MVP would be returning to a crucial showdown with his team down 3-1. The prospect of Durant playing in this series may have had Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry and Raptors fans losing sleep at night. A healthy Durant returning was the biggest threat aimed at Toronto and Canada enjoying its first-ever NBA title.
The Warriors’ dynasty was built for Durant. If Durant is healthy and at the top of his game, the Warriors could enter the conversation of greatest sports team ever by winning a third straight title. That’s what made this decision so extremely difficult for Durant, the Warriors and NBA fans. It is a moral dilemma that begs to question: Is an athlete simply a means to an end?
In Game 6 of the 1988 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers, I played on a severely sprained right ankle for the Detroit Pistons, running the risk of a career-ending injury. I was willing to be a means to a championship end for my team and for the city of Detroit.
Some of the most iconic moments in sports have been accomplished while players were injured. We will never forget Willis Reed of the New York Knicks putting it all on the line. Reed inspired the Knicks and their fans as he limped out of the tunnel In Madison Square Garden in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals. And the Knicks would be champs afterward.
Is it ever acceptable for an athlete to protect himself and not risk it all? Should an athlete reserve their years of earning capacity and health? People should always be treated with respect and dignity. They can be treated as an ends and as a means. But no one should ever be treated only as a means.
We might look to philosophy when determining right from wrong and what is in the individual’s and the team’s best interests. In his “Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals,” German philosopher Immanuel Kant describes people as rational beings who have value and dignity which should not be used by others for the benefit of others.
Let’s apply that philosophy to players, coaches and management. They all find themselves in a dilemma, at every level of play. We have seen players undervaluing their value to themselves by taking “magic” potions to become winners, knowing well the damage that they’re doing to their internal organs and taking the risk of potentially shortening their careers and perhaps their lives. These athletes treat their bodies as a means to an end.
Fans want to see Durant perform, to see him risk it all, to become the full means to an end. But even then, there is no guarantee of winning the championship. Are we OK with using the athletes for their ends or helping them to develop into “ends?” Are we OK with using “mind games” to convince or coerce a player to make the sacrifice of himself for the greater good — a championship?
Kant and most philosophers would see this as immoral. But in sports, this dilemma is played out daily and was on full display in Game 5 of the 2019 Finals. What would you do? What could you lose? Is the risk worth the reward?
* * *
Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas , a 6-foot-1 guard from Indiana University, was the second pick in the 1981 NBA Draft. He is a 12-time All-Star who played his entire 13-year NBA career with the Detroit Pistons, leading them to back-to-back championships in 1989 and ’90. He won two All-Star Game MVPs and was the NBA Finals MVP in ’90. Thomas also has been a part owner, executive and coach in the NBA.
He’s now an analyst for NBA TV and has contributed to NBA.com.
NBA Offseason 2019: June 25 roundup
The NBA offseason is in full swing, with talk of trades and other player movement starting to bubble up. As well, free agency is set to open at 6 p.m. on June 30. Keep up on all the latest news, talks and more as the offseason takes flight:
* Ujiri wants to keep roster in tact
* Mitchell, Conley build some early chemistry
* Warriors to talk future with Thompson, Durant this week
* Beal: Wizards’ brass says I won’t be moved
* Morey: Rockets could add ‘top-level mid-level’ player
* Iguodala thinks Durant, Thompson will re-sign
* * *
* * *
Life is pretty great for the Toronto Raptors, who are not even two weeks removed from winning their first NBA championship. GM Masai Ujiri was the mastermind behind the building of the Raptors’ championship roster and some key player decisions lie ahead this summer.
First and foremost is that of Finals MVP and star forward Kawhi Leonard. He is reportedly declining his option for 2019-20 and will enter free agency, with plenty of suitors from the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks to the LA Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers on his tail. Aside from Leonard, swingman Danny Green (an unrestricted free agent) and center Marc Gasol (who has a player option) are among the names Toronto must make decisions on.
Ujiri met with the media in Toronto on Tuesday and said Leonard is the top free-agent priority for the Raptors, but he isn’t about to overlook Toronto’s other players from the 2019 title run. He also plans to meet with Pascal Siakam’s agent this summer to discuss a potential contract extension. Siakam is fresh off winning the Kia Most Improved Player Award and was critical in the Raptors’ playoff and regular-season success.
Masai’s spoken to Danny Green (UFA) and Marc Gasol (PO), said they understand that Kawhi is the first domino, but they all want to run it back. “We’re really approaching it like we want to bring everybody back. That’s a priority for us.”
— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) June 25, 2019
“We’re approaching (the offseason) like we want everybody back.”
— Blake Murphy (@BlakeMurphyODC) June 25, 2019
Veteran swingman Vince Carter spent the first 6 1/2 seasons of his career with Toronto (1998-2004) and he and the team have mended fences after a bitter split between them years ago. Carter, who just completed his 20th season, is an unrestricted free agent this summer and Ujiri did not rule out Monday a potential place for Carter with the franchise.
Masai, asked if they have interest in signing Vince Carter: “Let me deal with the No. 1 free agent first, the big one, then we’ll deal with the rest.”
“There’s a place for him here in history, there’s no doubt about that. There’s nobody that’s going to stop that.”
— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) June 25, 2019
Ujiri also commented on his future with the Raptors, as talk of him pursuing a front-office job with the Washington Wizards bubbled up shortly after the Finals clincher. In short, he sees himself staying in Toronto as long as they will have him.
Masai, asked if he has a long-term future with the Raptors: “Yes. For me it’s always been about Toronto. I love it here. My family loves it here. My wife loves it here, which is important. My kids are Canadian. I want to win more… In my mind, I’m here.”
— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) June 25, 2019
— 12:12 p.m.
The Utah Jazz pulled off the most recent trade of the summer, reaching a reported agreement with the Memphis Grizzlies for star point guard Mike Conley. That trade isn’t expected to be officially given the NBA’s OK until July 6.
While Conley isn’t officially a member of the Jazz (yet), he has apparently gotten in a workout with Utah’s other star guard, Donovan Mitchell. Thanks to video from Twitter users @ChrisJHoops (Chris Johnson) and @swishcultures, Jazz fans got an early look at their new backcourt.
(And as eagle-eyed observers will note, he’s also wearing a Jazz “note”-style logo t-shirt during the workout, too.)
Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley Jr. are already building that teammate chemistry 🏀
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 25, 2019
If you missed it at last night’s NBA Awards red carpet show, Conley also talked about the pending deal to Utah and how he learned about it — while also atoning for a Twitter gaffe he made shortly after the deal was reported …
— 11:25 a.m.
Free agency doesn’t officially open until 6 p.m. on July 30, but the day beforehand, teams can begin scheduling meetings with free agents starting at 6 p.m. The Golden State Warriors have two of the prime free-agent targets of the summer on their roster and won’t be wasting time getting a meeting in with them.
Warriors GM Bob Myers told reporters on Monday that the team plans to schedule meetings with forward Kevin Durant and guard Klay Thompson. Per The Mercury News, the Warriors have held to Durant’s wishes to not have recruiting tactics, such as putting up billboards in the Bay Area. As for Thompson, The Mercury News reports he is expected to agree to a deal provided it is a five-year, $190 million one the Warriors have said they will offer.
When asked Monday of his level of optimism in keeping both players with Golden State, Myers simply shrugged his shoulders and said, “We’ll see.”
Coach Steve Kerr recently told ESPN’s Nick Friedell that there will be no formal recruiting pitch to either player.
“There’s no recruiting,” Kerr said. “We’re not doing any videos and tours of the city. Basically it’s a ‘We want you back and we hope you decide to come back and see what happens,’ but we’re at a different place now,” Kerr said. “But any time you’re trying to retain your own players, I think the song and dance, the pomp and circumstance is unnecessary and I actually think it’s unnecessary even for other players. You just got to do what you got to do, but with our group it’s just — conversation.”
— 11:02 a.m.
As difficult as the 2018-19 season was for the Washington Wizards at large, it was a solid one individually for guard Bradley Beal. He posted career highs in scoring (25.6 points per game), rebounding (5.0 per game), assists (5.5 per game), steals (1.5 per game) and minutes played (3,028). Washington, however, was not as successful as injuries to John Wall, Dwight Howard and others left the team with a 32-50 record.
Beal was in Santa Monica, Calif., last night for the 2019 NBA Awards, where he claimed the NBA Cares Community Assist award. He just missed out on qualifying for a supermax contract extension after not making one of the 2019 All-NBA teams. Beal told The Washington Post last night he was “definitely” open to discussing a contract extension with the team.
“I have thought about it but I haven’t really full-out processed it,” he said, in an interview at the Barker Hangar following his award presentation on Monday. “I still have two years left. We just drafted Rui [Hachimura] and I want to see what we do in free agency before I make the ultimate decision. I haven’t even been offered it officially. Until that happens, I’ll wait and think about it. I’ll have an ample amount of time to process everything and make a decision when the time is right.
“I’d be naive to say I wouldn’t be [interested in extension talks]. Washington is where I’ve been the last seven years, going on eight. It would be great to play in one place forever. But at the same time, you want to win and make sure you’re in a position to do so. I’m definitely going to evaluate who we hire as the GM and who we pick up on the team. All that plays a factor.”
After such a rough season overall, trade rumors swirled about the Wizards and Beal’s name came up in some rumors. Beal said Monday that he has been assured by Washington’s owner (Ted Leonsis), its interim GM (Tommy Sheppard) and his coach (Scott Brooks) that he will not be traded.
“They’ve been very transparent and that’s been great,” Beal told The Washington Post. “They’re not keeping me in the dark about anything, even about the trade rumors. … It’s great having that peace of mind.”
— 10:42 a.m.
Over the last 12 years, the Houston Rockets have proven they are not a team to stand pat under general manager Daryl Morey’s watch. After falling short of their stated dream — a trip to The Finals — for a second straight season, Morey doesn’t think his team is about to fall back in the Western Conference.
Quite the contrary, actually. Morey spoke at the 2019 NBA Awards last night in Santa Monica, Calif., and made it clear he still believes his team is among the best of the best in the NBA. Per Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, Morey sounded confident that not only would his core players from last season be back come 2019-20, but more talent could join their mix.
“I think we’re going to have our starting five, plus a top-level mid-level. Maybe we’ll do better than that,” Morey said. “We’re going to be the favorites in the West, for sure. We were the best team down the stretch with that group and that’s without adding one more quality player like we’re going to do. Most teams are scrambling to keep their starting unit together. We got ours next year.”
Morey said the free agent competition for the top players appears unusually wide open. But he strongly indicated that his free agency game plan is built around winning the recruiting battle for a free agent that would play for a mid-level exception, to be worth $5.7 million in the first season.
“I don’t like the moves to open up cap room,” Morey said. “Makes it harder for me. I like the moves that make it harder to get people. All the moves have been cap-related. That probably worked against us the past couple days. But hey, it’s a competition. There’s going to be a competition.
“There are a couple real top guys, but it seems wide open. It seems more wide open. There’s a couple of guys you pretty much know where they are going. The rest are a mystery. They keep their circle real tight.”
Aside from that, Morey also shot down talk of a rift between star guards James Harden and Chris Paul, with Paul reportedly wanting out of Houston. Paul told the Houston Chronicle on Sunday he is “very happy” to know he will be back with the team next season. Morey added Monday that he had recently spoken with Paul about next season and playing for the Rockets.
“It’s been the strangest part of my career with the media,” Morey said. “There have been times we deserve terrible coverage. It’s not now. The discussion should be we are favorites next year and let people beat that up. That’s been really strange for me. It just started and kept going.
“The lines of communication are good. I just left a meeting with Chris.”
— 10:30 a.m.
Two of the biggest names in free agency this summer — Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson — reside in the Bay Area. As such, the Golden State Warriors are readying for an offseason that, depending on what Durant and Thompson decide, could drastically change their future.
Forward Andre Iguodala was on Monday’s edition of CNBC’s “Power Lunch” to promote his new book, “Andre Iguodala: The Sixth Man.” The topic of Golden State’s free agency came up and specifically, what Durant and Thompson would do this summer. Iguodala had some insight on that — and some ribbing/trolling for New York Knicks fans, who have had eyes on the Golden State duo for a while now.
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) June 24, 2019
“I think they’ll both be back with the Golden State Warriors,” he said. “We’re like brothers, we keep in contact, but regardless of any of that, if both did decide to leave they would still be my brother. I would still keep in contact with them as much as possible. I’m just wishing the best for those guys and they come back full strength.”
After he was told he was crushing the hopes of Knicks fans, Iguodala said: “Nobody is going to the Knicks, sorry.” (It is worth noting, of course, that Iguodala was smiling as he said this and was likely just making a joke.)
The Knicks have long been thought to be among those hot on the trail of Durant, Thompson, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard and other top-level free agents this summer.
— 10:10 a.m.
* * *
Lakers’ Jeanie Buss backs Rob Pelinka, chimes in on Magic Johnson’s exit
The NBA offseason has been one of twists and turns for the Los Angeles Lakers ever since Magic Johnson stepped down as team president at season’s end. Additionally, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka was under fire after Johnson said in late May that Pelinka was the one who was “backstabbing” him while both men worked for the team.
While all of this has been going on, Lakers governor and controlling owner Jeanie Buss has been silent on the events surrounding the franchise. However, she ended her silence on the matter at last night’s 2019 NBA Awards, speaking on the state of her team before the event got rolling. She minced no words, saying she stands behind Pelinka and was decidedly caught off guard by Johnson’s resignation as well.
She said her relationship with Johnson will “be fine” and backed the work Pelinka has done since coming aboard in the spring of 2017.
“I’ve always had confidence in Rob, whatever the speculation is out there,” Buss said, per Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times. “We don’t need outside media to validate the things that we do. I’m very happy and I think we’re on the right path.”
As to why she hadn’t spoken up on the matter of Johnson’s resignation and subsequent accusations against Pelinka, Buss said: “There really wasn’t anything to say,” Buss said, per ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk. “I think that when Magic decided that he didn’t want to be with the organization any longer in an official capacity, that took me off guard. So I needed time to figure out what the process was going to be. That’s all. Just taking care of business and looking out after the organization.”
“It was a surprise when Magic turned in his resignation. I didn’t see that coming. But everything else has been pretty much as any organization moves forward and changes going into a new season. So as much as has been speculated as to what the Lakers are doing, to me, we are in a really good place and we are following our path, and our plan, going into the next season.”
The Lakers hired Frank Vogel as the team’s new coach on May 20, the same day in which Johnson went on ESPN’s “First Take” and lobbed his claims against Pelinka. That day, Pelinka said Johnson’s words were “surprising to hear and disheartening. … They’re just simply not true.” In Johnson’s absence, the Lakers were elevating Pelinka to the Lakers’ lead basketball executive.
“I have 100% confidence in him in running his basketball operations,” Buss said, per the Los Angeles Times. “He’s brought us a great new head coach in Frank Vogel, whose teams have had a lot of success in the playoffs and who have played consistently ranking high in defense, which means not only does he emphasize defense but the players buy into his defensive schemes.”
Los Angeles has been active in the offseason already, reaching a reported trade with the New Orleans Pelicans that will net the Lakers superstar big man Anthony Davis. In exchange, the Lakers will reportedly send guard Lonzo Ball, guard Josh Hart and forward Brandon Ingram to the Pelicans.
Buss was at the awards to support Johnson receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award and to support former Lakers star Shaquille O’Neal, who was serving as emcee of the event. When asked by ESPN about Johnson’s comments about Pelinka betraying him, Buss said: “I can’t really anticipate what he thinks. He has to answer those questions. He’s always full of surprises. Like as surprising as it was, it kind of reminded me of back in 1981 when he asked to be traded after winning a championship with the Lakers because he wasn’t happy with the way the offense had changed. And that led us to getting Pat Riley as our head coach.
“So he’s got good instincts. He’s got to stay true to who he is and do what is right for him. I wish I would’ve had a little bit more notice, but I think we are going to be just fine.”
Once the Davis trade is officially consummated, the Lakers will have plenty of work to do to round out a roster chock full of vacancies and needs. Buss knows that getting back to the top remains priority No. 1 for her and her team.
“There’s the gold standard, and then there’s the purple-and-gold standard,” Buss said, per ESPN. “Certainly, we are going to do everything we can to get the best players possible and to get the Lakers back to consistently be at that level. But we got a ways to go, and I think we are [heading] in the right direction, but at the end of the day, we will be judged by our wins and losses.
“The goal has always been to get back into the playoffs.”
Robin Roberts receives 2019 Sager Strong Award
Be The Match
For the thousands of people diagnosed every year with life-threatening blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma, a cure exists. Over the past 30 years Be The Match, operated by the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP), has managed the largest and most diverse marrow registry in the world, working every day to save lives through transplant.
If you’d like to volunteer to be listed as a potential blood stem-cell donor, ready to save the life of any patient in need of a transplant, please visit Join.bethematch.org/Robin
Sager Strong Award
Broadcasting legend Robin Roberts is the recipient of this year’s Sager Strong Award at the 2019 NBA Awards presented by Kia on TNT. The Sager Strong Award, named for iconic Turner Sports sideline reporter Craig Sager, is presented annually to an individual who has been a trailblazer while exemplifying courage, faith, compassion and grace. The award is bestowed upon the recipient in the form of a colorful suit jacket, a replica of the one worn by Sager during his unforgettable “Time is simply how you live your life” speech in 2016. Past Sager Strong recipients include NBA legends Monty Williams in 2017 and Dikembe Mutombo in 2018.
As anchor for ABC’s Good Morning America, Roberts has been recognized with numerous awards due to her leadership, courage, sustained excellence and contributions to the show including several Daytime Emmy awards. In addition, Roberts is the President of Rock’n Robin Productions which creates original broadcast and digital programming ranging from informational shows and documentaries to live events. Prior to being named co-anchor for ABC’s Good Morning America in May 2005, Roberts’ career thrived at ESPN, where she was well-known for her prominent role as SportsCenter host. Before joining ESPN in 1990, she began her broadcasting career as a sports reporter and anchor in Mississippi before moving on to Nashville and then Atlanta.
Roberts was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 triggering an outpouring of support from across the nation, and again five years later with myelodysplatic syndrome (MDS). She aligned with Be the Match to inform the public about the need for more donors and, since her diagnosis, the bone marrow registry has seen a tremendous increase. Her battle has been recognized with awards and honors from organizations around the country including The Susan G. Komen Foundation and The Congressional Families Cancer Prevention Program.
A 2016 Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame inductee, Roberts has also been honored with the George Foster Peabody Award in 2012 and the Gracie Award in 2019. The recipient of the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism in 2014, she was recognized with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYS in July 2013 for the strength and courage she has displayed throughout her life and career.
Roberts, who graduated cum laude from Southeastern Louisiana University in 1983, where she was a standout performer on the women’s basketball team, received the WNBA Inspiration Award in 2008. In 2012, she was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.
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