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Richard Jefferson goes on rant about shortening NBA season

Richard Jefferson
Photo: Getty Images

Professional sports is not the easiest way to earn a living. That was part of what Richard Jefferson was trying to get at during his viral rant after Adam Silver dained to consider the idea of shortening the NBA season. Jefferson was drafted in 2001 and to his credit, the first 10 seasons of his 17 in the NBA he played 80 or more regular season games six times, 79 once.

However, his career completely changed after his seventh season. In season eight his field goal percentage dropped from 46.6 percent from the field to 43.9, and his scoring average fell by three points. From then on, he would be a role player in the NBA after once being a dependable 20 point scorer on an Eastern Conference champion, because while recovery and nutrition weren’t quite in 2005 what they are in 2022, the NBA grind is still a beast.

That grind does, as Jefferson explained, does help separate the pros from the joes, but it also grinds away at the product of NBA basketball. Sure cryotherapy and normatecs make recovery easier, but players are still flying all over the country, landing in the middle of the night to play NBA games on quick turnarounds. Harvard University Medical director of sleep medicine Dr. Charles Czeisler told Tom Haberstroh that the NBA is sleep depriving its players with the crazy schedule, even with the reduced number of back to backs and extended all star break. He compared it to asking the players to play drunk.

Czeisler said:

“It makes no sense to me. These guys are so extraordinarily talented, and it’s a shame that they’re being impaired. It’d be like the NBA saying, ‘OK, let’s see how they do if we starve the players. OK, let’s see how they do if we make them all drunk before they play, so everybody has to do six shots before they do the game.’ Would anyone in their right minds consider that?”

When Jefferson castigated the players on television, it came off portraying the players as entitled and coddled — he actually said coddled twice. Stephen A. Smith much less so. He was talking more so about how a handful of players taking rest days when they’re not injured can come back to hurt the players during collective bargaining, but he still placed the onus for change on the players. NBPA president — and New Orleans Pelicans guard — CJ McCollum has been on First Take all week. He argued that it’s not always the players who pull themselves. Many times management schedules the off-days. Never forget, the San Antonio Spurs made this practice famous, back when Gregg Popovich would regularly sit Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli, and Tony Parker during nationally televised games.

Take a look at the Milwaukee Bucks final game of the 2021-22 regular season. They had a chance to clinch the No. 2 seed in the East with a win. The Bucks went with a starting lineup of Jordan Nwora, Sandro Mamukelashvili, Thanais Antetokounmpo, Jevon Carter and Jrue Holiday. Either most of the starters and key reserves decided individually or as a group to not play in that game, or more likely the coaches and/or management made the call to keep nearly any player who might contribute in the postseason out of the game.

It’s always easier to yell and scream at the entitled basketball player. It makes for better television, and sometimes it’s the instinctive move. Jefferson isn’t the young high-flyer out of Arizona anymore. He’s 41 years old. Smith has plenty of blame to dish out for anyone at any time, so maybe he should be more intentional in lobbing that criticism towards NBA upper management. Shortening the season could make the folks out of uniform more willing to play their best players all year round. And for the handful of Kyrie Irving, Ben Simmons, and 2018 Kawhi Leonard situations that occur, those can be handled individually.

If the NBA believes that a lack of star power on random nights is why national television ratings aren’t where the league feels they should be, then shortening the schedule could be a meaningful step. The giant 82-game regular season slate, much like the 162 game schedule in baseball, is hard to hold interest through six months of play with endless streaming options available on television. Knocking some games off the schedule in either league could make them feel more important and therefore potentially generate more viewership per contest which could make more money in the long run. If leagues believe this to truly be a problem.

MLB just redid their national television contracts and received record numbers just like the NFL did. The NBA is up next and with ESPN and Turner leaning harder and harder into live events — TNT and TBS are doing away with scripted programming — it shouldn’t be hard for the league achieve its goal of tripling the price by maintaining the status quo.

Silver might be worried about the 10-year contract after that because who knows literally what the world will look like at that point. If he can present some data that shows more advertising revenue will reach more eyeballs with a 65-72 game schedule than go for it. That’s still a lot of games to expect people to watch.

Financially, the move is to stay mostly with the status quo, but make little tweaks like the play-in tournament. But for the pundits on television, there’s a reason Isiah Thomas didn’t play nearly as long as Chris Paul and Michael Jordan — after two retirements — still couldn’t produce for as many seasons as LeBron James. The 82 games and four playoff rounds are brutal. Guys play longer now because medicine has improved, but the grind is the grind. Players will need breaks to get through their sleep deprived lives in the most optimal way possible. So don’t get all riled up at them for doing what they need to do to have the longest, most effective career possible, or for what management is mandating that they do.

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Mavs owner Mark Cuban vs. the NBA, a rivalry back in action

Who could have seen this coming, other than everyone?

Who could have seen this coming, other than everyone?
Image: Getty Images

It’s nice to have the Dallas Mavericks in the postseason for an extended period of time. They have a good crowd and one of the best young players in the league. But regardless of whether it’s Dirk Nowitzki, Michael Finley, or Luka Dončić leading the team on the floor, since the turn of the millennium the constant guiding force for the Mavericks on the sidelines is Mark Cuban.

He’s not cut from the Jerry Reindsorf and Mickey Arison cloth of team owners. Cuban ushered in a new group that was more visible and not afraid to show you their enthusiasm for their team on the sidelines or when talking about them.

Cuban has been more well-known in recent years for Shark Tank than for his Mavericks being a perennial NBA contender, but that all changed this season. This team had expectations after consecutive first-round losses to the Los Angeles Clippers. The season started rough, but they would end up winning more than 50 games for the first time since 2015, and are in the Western Conference Finals after not advancing past the first round of the playoffs since 2011, when they won the NBA Championship.

Not only are the Mavericks players and coaches in postseason form, but so is Cuban. His team has been fined, and unlike in 2005, he can hop on social media and go straight to the people with his displeasure. He did so after the team was fined for its bench decorum for the third time this postseason. He tweeted out a video of Brooklyn Nets — from three years ago — with only one word, “pedigree.” Then he sent out a video of Draymond Green throwing a temper tantrum and sarcastically wrote, “our bench is out of control.”

For everything I don’t like about Cuban, I do enjoy his me-against-the-league attitude. Him yelling at referees and taking digs at David Stern was sometimes more entertaining than watching his perennial playoff contender play basketball games. I’m not about to go as far as saying this particular billionaire was somehow taking the elites to task. It was just fun watching him irritate Stern and people with old NBA sensibilities.

Mavericks players on the sidelines are always standing, which is against the rules. Players are allowed to be humans and react to big plays, but this is not football, or baseball. In basketball, players are extremely close to the action. Simply standing during play can create a distraction for opposing players, or at worst they could actually do something distracting. That is what really ticked the NBA off, according to USA Today’s Jeff Zilgitt.

During Game 2, Stephen Curry committed a turnover – not highly out of the ordinary — but this one was not him failing at his best Pistol Pete Maravich impersonation. He threw a pass toward the sideline, but it was to Theo Pinson of the Mavericks who was not only standing, but wearing a white and blue sweater. The Warriors were wearing their white uniforms with blue in that game.

The Mavericks got fined $100,000 this last time, and I personally would’ve had no problem with the NBA fining them $1 million and banning Pinson from the sidelines for the rest of the series. Anything that could dissuade teams from wearing white at home — the way that they should instead of alternate jersey No. 7 with colors not even in the team logo — should result in maximum punishment for disturbing my viewership experience. No more color rush playoff games.

The teams have been better at sticking to their home whites during this postseason, especially in this second round. So as much as I support Cuban’s reactions both on and off the court when he believes that his team has been wronged — and are happy to see them in the playoffs again — you all need to sit down. Because if I see a Game 6 in this series with the Warriors in black and the Mavericks in green I’m going to lose it.

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Free agent Tarik Cohen injures Achilles, family tragedies

Tarik Cohen is dealing with a devastating injury and terrible personal news at the same time.
Image: Getty Images

What happened to Tarik Cohen is part of the game. Whatever you might consider the game to be. Whether it’s just professional athletes — especially football players — being more susceptible to bodily injury than those who don’t move at 99 miles per hour aiming for each others’ chests to earn a living, or any person assuming the risks that come with an occupation. When a person signs the paperwork to provide labor for a company in exchange for a wage, that person is assuming the risk of whatever reasonable harm can come as a result of that labor.

There is no requirement for you, the NFL consuming public, to feel sorry for Cohen, who injured his Achilles live Tuesday on Instagram. He was training to return from an ACL injury that he suffered early in 2020. The team that drafted him to be a major contributor to their offense, the Chicago Bears, decided after the 2021 season that it was time to part ways with Cohen. This was 18 months after they signed him to a 3-year contract, worth nearly $10 million guaranteed.

The one-time special teams Pro Bowler for the Bears averaged 6.9 yards per offensive touch in best season — 2018. He was supposed to be the shifty back with the athleticism to score from anywhere, and goodness was Cohen athletic. Before the draft, video went viral of him training that included Cohen catching one football in each hand while doing a backflip. Who cares if North Carolina A&T isn’t a College Football Playoff program, Cohen was clearly an athlete that as a fourth-round pick the Bears had no problem making a part of their offense.

What happened to him injury wise is sad, but on top of what he revealed to the public last week, the whole situation is heartbreaking.

Cohen had an article published in the Player’s Tribune that was titled “Letter to my Younger Self.” While the title wasn’t unique, the story absolutely is. He moved a lot as a child, and prior to his senior year of high school his mother wanted to move him and his siblings again, away from the stability he had established with his current school and team. He convinced his mother to let him stay with a relative for his senior year, and be able to pursue his football goals in the best way possible.

He got to the NFL, but he expresses great regret about what happened to his brothers Dante and Tyrell. They didn’t follow in his footsteps, instead they dropped out of school and spent time immersed in less-than-legal activities. Dante would end up getting shot, and paralyzed. Tyrell would eventually get on the right path and have a family, but still ended up shot and killed. Then after Cohen’s story is published in the Player’s Tribune last week, Dante dies in a car accident. Now while Cohen is grieving, his leg crumbles and it goes viral.

That’s sports. It can happen that quickly. A player gets a decent contract and of course, in the NFL, the entire $18 million-plus isn’t fully guaranteed, and before the age of 27 a career is put in a precarious place, all while dealing with real grief.

In the macro, Cohen did everything right. He made the sacrifice that he thought would best help his career as an undersized tailback, and his family in the long run. He then came up through an FCS program and eventually achieved his goals of the NFL and getting the contract to provide for his family.

But sometimes life doesn’t care about decision making. Sometimes it just happens. It happened to Cohen. We can cling to all the hackneyed lessons that are said to comfort us more than Cohen and his family, “Remind the people in your life how much you love them,” and “Don’t take anything for granted.” Of course we should do those things, but hugging a loved one more often won’t dull the pain if the worst should happen.

If anything can be taken from it, it’s this: The game doesn’t feel anything. It’s not here to understand when someone is tired or hurting, it’s here to be played. And sometimes catching two footballs while backflipping isn’t enough to beat it. However, the effort is always admirable, and the most that any of us can do is try as hard as Tarik Cohen did.

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Odell Beckham Jr. spends draft weekend trolling Deebo Samuel

Odell Beckham Jr.

Odell Beckham Jr.
Photo: Getty Images

I’m onto your game here, Odell Beckham Jr. Publicly, annoying your buddy Deebo Samuel during his contract dispute with the San Francisco 49ers, it’s more than simply a joke. You see this wide receiver contract market. You saw the record contracts that were signed by Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill when they were traded by teams that did not want to pay their No. 1 options that type of money. You don’t have to be traded, you’re a free agent that unfortunately tore an ACL in the Super Bowl. You don’t want your name to be forgotten, and I don’t blame you.

All weekend Beckham has been on Twitter acting like he’s an NFL insider whose sole beat is Deebo Samuel. It started on Friday, when Beckham tweeted out that he had some tea from Samuel and asked the world if he should spill it. Samuel asked him to stop stirring up trouble with some laughing emojis. Beckham replied back that he’s having too much fun, but added: “fine bruh I won’t tell them what you just told me [hands covering face emoji] [mouth zipped emoji].”

Samuel laughed it off again and tried to move on. Then Beckham stepped it up a notch on Saturday. He actually tweeted out that Samuel had been traded to the New England Patriots.

The world of NFL insiders rushed to their smartphones to declare this fake news. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, and others said that there was zero truth in Beckham’s report. Samuel didn’t outright deny it, but he made it fairly clear that as of now he is not a part of the Patriot way when, seven minutes later, he subtweeted him, saying, “at this point bruh just bored.” Beckham jokingly apologized for recklessly making up trades, and said he’s just enjoying getting on Samuel’s nerves.

Maybe Beckham is really just being The Joker on social media and enjoying watching the internet burn, but I’m not buying that’s his sole motivation, especially after A.J. Brown got traded to the Philadelphia Eagles and rewarded with a 4-year $100 million extension. He knows that Samuel is next in line no matter how much the 49ers hem and haw, avoiding trades but not wanting to pay him top-receiver money, and Samuel saying he no longer wants to be the team leader in rushing touchdowns.

Beckham wants in on this. Obviously he’s going to be 30 years old next season, and likely not going to be able to play at all after tearing an ACL in February. With his injury history and age, it wouldn’t be the wisest decision to offer him a long-term deal while he’s rehabbing and it’s not known how well he will return from injury. During the NFL playoffs and towards the end of the season, Beckham was just beginning to look like the player who the New York Giants made the highest-paid wide receiver in the NFL in 2018. He caught 9 passes for 113 yards in the NFC Championship Game, and scored the first touchdown of Super Bowl LVI.

He doesn’t believe that his time as a top NFL wide receiver is over, but with all of these younger players either getting paid or causing a ruckus by holding out, we’re forgetting about the player whose first three seasons as an NFL wide receiver can only be compared to Randy Moss and Jerry Rice.

Beckham surely wants another long-term deal even if he doesn’t put on pads again until he turns 31 years old in 2023. So while he’s enjoying messing with his friend on Twitter, I’m fairly certain this Twitter activity was about more than simply boredom on an April weekend with a bad knee.

He wants to make sure that his name is still on people’s lips while the wide receiver contract market is exploding, and it’s actually a good idea on his part. He got his Super Bowl, and hopefully he can cash out one more good time before his career is over.