Loyal to Rings

Growing up, the one thing I always heard about was players leaving for money. Ben Wallace was one of the first players I remember doing this. He was the first 2004 Champion Starter to depart the team when he signed a four-year contract with the Chicago Bulls for 48 million dollars.

Lots of players were willing to follow paychecks but, unlike today, the top talent seemed to be more prideful and loyal. Players like Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, and Kobe Bryant were some of the most competitive players in the league and they refused to leave their home teams. Even players like Carmelo Anthony and Steve Nash stayed loyal to their teams until ownership decided to move them.

Today we see tons of star players making trade requests and are leaving the free agency to join forces with other stars in pursuit of championships. Kevin Durant may have been the tipping point when he left a championship contending team to join the team that eliminated them in the playoffs. This left lots of fans with a salty taste in their mouths. Unfortunately, this is becoming more common. Some other notable players that have decided to team up with other stars to try and win championships include: Lebron James, Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, and Jimmy Butler.

Now, players aren’t even waiting for their contracts to expire before moving (such as Kyrie Irving and Jimmy Butler). This has really seemed to hurt small market teams and the competitiveness of the league. Players have decided that it is more important to bring in rings so they put themselves in a position to join other stars; teams with only one or two All-Stars don’t seem to have a chance at winning a title.

Requesting trades has become extremely common among top talent NBA players. The latest player to request a trade is New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis. Davis is arguably top five talent in the NBA and is passing up on at 240 million dollar supermax extension to find a new, more competitive home.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Brooklyn Nets
Anthony Davis: Photo Credit usatoday.com

This puts New Orleans in a very sticky situation as the February 7th trade deadline quickly approaches. Next season is his last guaranteed year on contract which hinders New Orleans trade leverage around Davis as it is obvious that he will not be looking to pick up his player option. This means potential trade partners may be more interested in waiting and trying to sign him out of the free agency instead of having to give up the insane amount of assets Davis’ trade value will surely command. If the Pelicans want to get anything out of Davis before losing him to the free agency, they will likely have to let him go cheaper than what he is worth.

Is Hayward Hurting the Celtics?

The 2018-19 season is in full swing and the Boston Celtics’ start has been somewhat underwhelming. The pre-season favorites to win the East are sitting in seventh place with a 2-2 record after losses to the Orlando Magic and Toronto Raptors. With only four games played, it seems a little early to be worried about this team, but they have struggled with some pretty weak competition thus far. In the first four games, they have lost to Orlando and barely beat the New York Knicks in a 2-point win. These performances have left fans a little restless and questioning if Gordan Hayward is to blame for the team’s early struggles.

Gordon Hayward Celtics
Gordon Hayward – Photo Credit: express.co.uk

Taking a look at Hayward’s numbers, the answer is no, he is not to blame. The main stat that concerns Celtics fans is the 11.7 points per game (PPG). Outside of the 5 minutes Hayward played last year, he hasn’t averaged less than 14 PPG since the 2011-12 season and in each of the three seasons preceding his ankle injury, he averaged over 19 PPG. The main reason for change in Hayward’s scoring so far is a result of fewer shot attempts.

In Hayward’s last three full seasons (where he averaged 19.3, 19.7, and 21.9 PPG) he attempted between 14 and 16 shots per game. This season, Hayward is averaging 11 shots per game and is making three-pointers at the second highest rate in his career.

Gordon Hayward Shot Attempts by Points Gray

Another factor we need to look at is who would be playing if Hayward wasn’t. The two players who have seen the biggest drop in minutes since Hayward entered the starting lineup are Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier. Smart, though he is a stellar defensive presence, shot only 36.7 percent from the field last year, and averaged 10.2 points per game. Rozier, had a much more meaningful offensive presence, especially in the post season. He had his best NBA season scoring 11.3 points per game shooting 39.5 percent from the floor.

Even when Rozier was seeing regular minutes last year, he averaged numbers rather similar to what Hayward is putting up right now. It makes a lot more sense for the Celtics to bet on Hayward, a former NBA All-Star, returning to his high production levels than to put their faith in a post season standout who averaged double digit scoring for the first time in his young career. The more playing time Hayward gets, the more likely we are to see how effectively he will bounce back from his season off.

Kyrie Irving Jumpshot
Kyrie Irving Jumpshot – Photo Credit Nandita; Pintrest

One player that I would argue has had a large impact on the Celtics’ early struggles is Kyrie Irving. Last year, the Celtics got used to Irving producing 24.4 points per game shooting at just under a 50 percent from the floor. This year, he has only put up 16.5 points per game with a 39.1 percent field goal percentage. Irving will need to get of his slump soon if the Celtics are going to compete for the top spot in the East this year.

It has been a slow start for Celtics fans but the season isn’t doomed just yet. Hayward and Irving are both former All-Stars with multiple seasons of documented success. Personally, I feel very confident that both players are just in an early season lull and will soon be able to return to producing impressive stat lines at efficient scoring clips. On top of the likely upside Hayward and Irving bring to the team’s offense, Celtics fans can look forward to the development of rising star Jayson Tatum. In the first four games, he has averaged a double-double and twice as many rebounds per game as last year. Tatum is also enjoying increased assist and scoring numbers and should serve as a reliable source of offense until Kyrie and Hayward get back to the level we know they can produce at.

Bandwagon Fan or Basketball Fan?

It’s official, LeBron James is now a Laker and DeMarcus Cousins is heading to the Bay Area as a Warrior. Every year, the NBA’s free agency period seems to send all-star caliber players across the nation followed by a flood of fans. To many, these fans are known as bandwagon fans.

Lebron James Lakers Photo
LeBron James in a Lakers uniform. Photo Credit to clutchpoints.com

Bandwagon fans are commonly viewed as some of the most obnoxious fans in sports. They are known as people who blindly follow good teams or players just because they are successful. The fact is, a lot of bandwagon fans have stronger reasons to back their fandom than the traditional location-based sports fans.

Historically, fans were taught and expected to have pride in the local teams. There is nothing wrong with this, in fact it gives people who know very little about sports the opportunity to associate strongly with an organization. The problem that we see is when fans are scrutinized for choosing to follow teams or players that aren’t local. Just because someone doesn’t live near a team or isn’t able to recite the starting lineup for the last ten years doesn’t mean they aren’t a true fan.

Kyrie Irving Dribbling
Kyrie Irving bringing the ball up the court. Photo Credit to celticslife.com

For example, people who have grown up around the game, like playing or coaching, are more likely to appreciate skill or excellence when they see it. A person who spent hours practicing dribbling when they were younger is much more likely to have an appreciation for a player like Kyrie Irving and his ball handling ability. Someone like this would have every right to be a Kyrie Irving fan because they have an appreciation for basketball and a player who has mastered a skill that they know to be challenging.

I remember the first time I saw Steve Nash play in person. It was February 9th of the 2009-2010 NBA season and Nash led the suns to a win with 21 assists. I was inspired by his fast paced, deceptive playing style and dead eye shooting ability. Though I wasn’t cheering for the Suns at the time, I was able to appreciate the impressive performance that was coming to fruition right in front of me because I knew that a 21-assist game didn’t happen very often. I now realize that if I was fixated on the success of my home team, I would have missed out on appreciating a special moment from one of the best point guards to every play the game.

For all you non-bandwagon fans out there, continue to cheer for the local team (the Kings need fans too). Just remember that there is more than one way to qualify as a true fan and make sure you don’t let hometown pride distract you from appreciating the greatness around you.