Last Week in Sports (2/19 – 2/25)
James Harden might just be invincible, while the NCAA looks anything but. Let’s recap this controversial last week in sports.
An FBI wiretap investigation has found that several NCAA schools were likely involved in illegally compensating players. On Friday, Yahoo! Sports published documents from that investigation showing violations by over 20 Division I teams. The report includes several major names like Duke, Kentucky, and North Carolina at the forefront of the accusations. Many schools reportedly funneled money to recruits through NBA agent Andy Miller’s ASM Sports company. Five and six-figure payments were handed out to former NCAA players including the Dallas Mavericks’ Dennis Smith Jr., the Heat’s Bam Adebayo, and the Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma. Current NCAA players that were also cited include Duke’s Wendell Carter, Kentucky’s Kevin Knox, and Michigan State’s Miles Bridges. The full implications of the findings are not yet clear but analysts have suggested that a few of these schools may be suspended from competition either this year or next and that certain head coaches may lose their jobs.
And That’s the Way the Mavericks Crumble
Sports Illustrated published a story about the Dallas Mavericks’ shameful culture of sexual assault, harassment, and misogyny. Former team CEO Terdema Ussery is at the center of much of the controversy. He’s accused of making sexual advances on lower level employees and assault that included grabbing one staffer’s inner thigh during a meeting. What’s most disconcerting is that people reportedly knew about the unsafe work culture before this article was published. The Mavericks launched an investigation into Ussery in 1998 that led to the hiring of a new HR manager. Their desk would be positioned within earshot of Ussery’s office, but no further action was taken. Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban denied having any knowledge of Ussery’s behavior, stating, “This is all new to me.” In response, the NBA instituted an anonymous hotline where employees can report workplace misbehavior without fear of being reprimanded or silenced. Other consequences should be following soon.
Over the weekend, Mavericks’ legend and sure fire first ballot Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki chimed in with his thoughts: “It’s heartbreaking. I’m glad it’s all coming out. I was disgusted when I read the article, obviously, as everybody was. I was shocked … that our franchise, my franchise, that stuff like that was going on.”
Winter Olympics Recap
From the Russians hacking the opening ceremony to the North Korean speed skater that was dismissed for trying to trip the competition, the always eventful Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang have come to a fireworks and K-pop laden close. Norway was the big winner this year with 39 medals, including 14 golds. The U.S. came in 4th with 23 medals, 9 gold.
Stoneman Douglas High School Hockey
Just 11 days after a tragic mass shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, FL, their hockey team took home the state title. The 17 members of the team echoed the 17 victims of the shooting that included the athletic director of the school. The team, including a junior varsity member that lost his sister in the shooting, showed resilience and poise in their 7-4 defeat of Tampa Jesuit High School on Sunday.
Take the Rockets Seriously
On this 12-game win streak, their second this season, the scores haven’t even been close. Those games include a 120-88 walloping of the Cavaliers and two 18-point victories over the Timberwolves. The Rockets have won 16 of their last 17 games, even defeating the Warriors by eight, and yet, the NBA community seems to have doubts about whether or not they can compete with Golden State in the playoffs.
It’s true that this is only the regular season, but the Rockets are 2-1 against the Warriors. In games where both Harden and Chris Paul play, the Rockets are 31-3, averaging 117 points per game, and a positive 12 point average differential. These numbers are all better than the 73-win Warriors of 2015-16. At the same time, they have the likely league MVP balling out (Harden dropped 41 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists last night), Chris Paul playing Defensive Player of the Year level defense, and the best record in the NBA. It’s time to call the Rockets what they are: the best team in the NBA.
At least, right now.