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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Stories by Darryn Albert:

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: NBA has surpassed NFL as league of future

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has seen the future, and he thinks that it belongs to the National Basketball Association.

The retired big man great recently wrote a piece for The Guardian entitled “The NBA, and not the NFL, is the league of America’s future.” In it, Abdul-Jabbar says that, while football is still by far the nation’s most popular sport, the bubble may be about to burst in favor of basketball.

Per Abdul-Jabbar:

America has changed and with that change we are seeing a shifting away from hoisting football on our collective shoulders. Although football remains our most popular professional sport, that popularity has been declining over the past five years, from 67% saying they were fans in 2012, to 57% in 2017. Professional baseball has also fallen 2% during that time. However, professional basketball has risen 3%. Before anyone starts blaming Colin Kaepernick, let’s remember that he first took a knee in 2016 and that the fan base erosion had already been strong several years before that.

The Hall of Famer cites an awakening to the dangers of football, a decrease in its popularity among American youth, and the idea that the sport no longer seems to represent the spirit of the country as reasons why football may soon be knocked off its perch. Conversely, Abdul-Jabbar argues that the NBA’s better tolerance of its players’ freedom of speech and its ability to connect with the younger generation will help it seize the torch of America’s sport.

Of course, Abdul-Jabbar may have a predisposition towards the NBA as a former player. But he raises several good points in his piece, and he definitely isn’t the only prominent basketball figure who feels that way about the respective futures of the two sports.

Joel Embiid thinks fans will eventually turn on him

Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid is one of the most beloved basketball figures of the modern era, but even he knows that fame is fleeting.

In a feature by ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne that ran Tuesday, the Philadelphia 76ers center said that he is anticipating the fans eventually turning on him.

“People love you at the beginning,” said Embiid. “But at some point they’re gonna start hating you. LeBron [James]. Russell Westbrook. All the superstars. Even Steph [Curry]. He’s so likable. He does nothing wrong, but some people still hate him. It just comes with the nature of it. I’ve seen it.

“I feel like I’m about to go through it,” he continued. “I think it’s coming. People always want something new.”

It’s hard not to love the 23-year-old big man — he’s a social media superstar who captivates audiences with an unparalleled sense of humor on top of his generational talents on the hardwood. But it sounds like the celebrity process is one that not even Embiid trusts.

Report: Lakers had meeting with LaVar Ball asking him to tone criticisms down

LaVar Ball Lakers

The LA Lakers apparently had to stage something of a Big Baller intervention.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN reported on Tuesday that the Lakers front office recently held a meeting with LaVar Ball asking him to tone down his criticisms of head coach Luke Walton over his handling of Ball’s son Lonzo. The meeting was said to have been called by president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka.

More from Shelburne:

Johnson and Pelinka declined to comment when asked about the meeting. A Lakers insider said the main message to Ball was that they’ve tried to keep their relationship positive, while still allowing him to speak his mind, and they’d prefer he did the same.

Ball himself confirmed that the meeting took place as well.

“It was the best thing, man,” the outspoken father was quoted as saying in the report. “Everybody’s going to try to make it an ego thing, like I’m trying to tell them what to do or they’re trying to tell me to tone it down. It’s not about that. It’s about coming together and to get a solution to this problem.

“It may sound crazy to other people, but I really just want the best for Lonzo, and the best for Lonzo is going to be what’s best for the organization,” LaVar continued. “Because if everybody winning, we good.”

When you read some of LaVar’s recent criticisms, it’s easy to see why the team might have been concerned. Such comments threaten to undermine Lonzo’s relationship with his coaches (something that could be especially problematic in his rookie season), so it looks like the Lakers are hoping to nip this issue in the bud while they still can.

Josh McCown may be considering retirement after broken hand

Josh McCown

Veteran New York Jets quarterback Josh McCown may be calling it quits after 15 seasons in the NFL.

In an appearance Tuesday on NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football,” Matt Forte, one of McCown’s teammates on the Jets, revealed that McCown hinted at retirement after suffering a season-ending broken hand in Week 14.

“In the locker room, I had talked to Josh when I first came in the locker room,” said Forte, according to Rich Cimini of ESPN. “I was like, ‘How bad is it?’ and he told me obviously his hand was broken.

“He didn’t even know that when he threw the ball, he threw it to me and I caught it,” Forte continued. “He told me like, ‘That might be my last pass.’ I was like, ‘Of the season or …?’ Because you never know. I mean, this is Josh’s 15th year in the league.”

McCown was surprisingly effective in 13 games for the Jets this season, throwing for 2,926 yards and 18 touchdowns. But he will turn 39 in July and has battled other significant injuries these last couple of years, so retirement has to be weighing pretty heavily on his mind right about now.

Paul George voices support for Billy Donovan amidst Thunder’s struggles

Paul George

Paul George is trying his best to cool Billy Donovan’s presumptive hot seat.

Speaking with reporters on Tuesday after the Oklahoma City Thunder fell to 12-14 on the season with a double-digit loss to the Charlotte Hornets the night before, George voiced support for his head coach.

“The respect level is high,” George said of Donovan, per Fred Katz of the Norman Transcript. “No one’s going against Billy. He’s given us an incredible gameplan all season long. There’s a high level of respect for his position and what he wants from us. There’s no line of disrespect at all towards the coach.”

At least one of George’s teammates seemed to be frustrated after the Charlotte loss, and that’s not surprising on a highly-talented team that is still currently on the outside of the Western playoff picture looking in. Donovan in particular has been criticized for his inability to develop cohesion for the Thunder on the offensive end, but it sounds like his players still very much have his back.

Six NBA coaches who could be on the hot seat

Billy Donovan

The 2016-17 NBA season was a time of peace on earth and goodwill towards head coaches — not a single one was fired, marking the first time that had happened since at least Millard Fillmore’s presidency. But the same cannot be said about the 2017-18 campaign, as Earl Watson and David Fizdale have already walked the plank less than two months in. Here are six more coaches whose seats are rapidly warming and could be in danger of following suit.

Doc Rivers, LA Clippers

A recent report suggested that Medicial Practicioner Rivers is likely safe for this season, citing the rash of injuries that have crippled his team in recent weeks. But the ice still seems to thinning underneath him with the Clippers relapsing into their futility of decades past. Their lack of effort and creativity made for a difficult watch even when Blake Griffin was still healthy, and Rivers’ rotations have largely resembled a dart throw otherwise. Welcome to the starting lineup, CJ Williams! Jawun Evans, come on down! And what’s more is that there’s hardly been a Clipper who has improved their play this season despite the increased opportunity with all the injuries and the exit of Chris Paul … except for maybe Lou Williams and Doc’s own son Austin. Now to be fair, the loss of the team’s best offensive player in Griffin and their best defensive player in Patrick Beverley will probably move Lord Steve Ballmer to show mercy on Rivers. But enthusiasm is quickly waning as “What’s up, Doc?” becomes more of a cry of exasperation than a Bugs Bunny catchphrase.

Mike Budenholzer, Atlanta Hawks

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Aaron Boone shares story of how he learned Stanton news

Aaron Boone

The New York Yankees acquired four-time All-Star slugger Giancarlo Stanton from the Miami Marlins just one week after hiring Aaron Boone to be their new manager, and the timing of it all made for quite the anecdote.

In an appearance Monday on SiriusXM MLB Network Radio, Boone shared the story of how he learned about the Stanton trade.

“I was at Yankee Stadium,” he said. “We were spending the day interviewing a couple of candidates for coaching positions. So we were getting ready to start one of the interviews, and we’re up in kinda the war room outside of Cash’s [general manager Brian Cashman’s] office, and Cash comes in and calls me into his office and says, ‘I think we just got Giancarlo.’

“I was like, ‘Wow, this job is pretty cool so far,’ Boone continued. “I mean, I was excited before Giancarlo … We feel like we have a great, young team in place, and now you add the National League MVP, a guy that’s obviously in the prime of his career, a guy that’s coming off such an amazing season.”

Boone was far from the only one awestruck by the blockbuster. The good news for Boone should continue, as it sounds like Stanton is planning to smash dingers in the Bronx for a long time to come.

Carmelo Anthony does not speak to media after loss to Hornets

Things may be coming to a head in Oklahoma City.

Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman reported on Monday that Thunder forward Carmelo Anthony left the locker room early without speaking to the media after the team’s 116-103 loss to the Charlotte Hornets.

Anthony was held to just 11 points on 5-of-12 shooting in the loss, which dropped the Thunder to 12-14 on the season. Meanwhile, fellow star forward Paul George did speak to the media but hinted at some frustration and said that the team had to start playing better, per Royce Young of ESPN.

26 games is a long time for a team with hopes of contending in the Western Conference to still be struggling, and it’s becoming obvious that Anthony can’t just simply deflect to stories about his time in New York anymore with regard to the rough sledding in OKC.

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