Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
Now, in the interest of balance, I’ve been asked by our editors to explain what they got wrong. I am the Top 100 Ombudsman. This is a complicated job, because I love Ben and Rob dearly and I genuinely respect how much time and thought they put into this project. They are dead serious about the integrity of the ranking process and unapologetic about its amazing dorkiness. It’s the best. Nevertheless, I take my responsibilities seriously, so here are 25 petty criticisms of the SI Top 100.
23. No Rajon Rondo, no Marcus Smart. The top 100 brain trust would probably explain this by saying that Rondo and Smart need the right situation to be effective, their skills won’t always translate, and therefore they’re not quite as valuable in a vacuum as they sometimes appear. That’s a disappointing explanation. At least there are documented scenarios where Rondo and Smart contribute to high-level winning. Kent Bazemore (91) is Kent Bazemore regardless of his teammates. Same with Evan Fournier (92). Same with Derrick Favors (51!). Rondo and Smart should be on this list somewhere. If nothing else, both would’ve been better choices than Lonzo at 100 (and just as polarizing).
Sports Illustrated: 25 Notes and Nitpicks of SI’s Top 100 NBA Players of 2019
Andrew Sharp, a staff writer for Sports Illustrated, has righted a wrong (sort of) by overriding his colleagues on the topic of Smart’s value. While Smart is a love-him-or-hate-him player among Celtics fans, almost everyone would agree that he’s better and more accomplished than, as noted, the likes of Lonzo and Bazemore.
Although Smart’s game isn’t pretty, is there another 6-foot-4 dude who can effectively defend virtually any player in the league? Who can produce a highlight reel like this? Absolutely not. And that’s why Smart deserves to be in the top 100.
Sharp’s other opinions about the Celtics included that Jaylen was ranked too high, Hayward was not high enough, and this:
11. Jayson Tatum at 39. This might be too low. Tatum would fit and thrive on basically every playoff team in the NBA, and where Jaylen may not fare as well if he were asked to shoulder more creation responsibilities, Tatum seems like he’ll be up to the task. Related: The Celtics are going to be so good this season. They are already making me miserable.
Finally, Sharp weighed in on Al Horford, and let’s just say Lou Merloni wouldn’t like it.
6. KAT (19) vs. Jokic (18) vs. Horford (16). It’s a good debate: Is Jokic’s passing worth to a team more than KAT’s scoring? In reality, it should probably be a tie until one of them learns how to play defense or take over on offense at the end of games. Nevertheless, I appreciate Ben and Rob for leaning into the take here and choosing Jokic outright. As for Horford … You might say that both Towns and Jokic belong above Horford on this list, but after watching him simultaneously punk both Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid in last year’s playoffs, I’m not doubting Horford again.
Related: Celtics Wire/USA Today: SI’s Ben Golliver discusses why Al Horford was their highest-ranked Celtics player in the Top 100
On Page 2: What happens next with Jabari Bird?
If there’s truth to the allegations, Bird is a bad guy. The faster he’s gone the better. He didn’t make a mistake, these were the actions of a monster. Get him off the team and out of the league.
That’s the most common reaction and a well-intentioned one. A person who would do what Bird allegedly did doesn’t deserve to be a professional athlete and all the money and perks that come with it. Certainly cutting him sends the message to other athletes: If you act like that, everything you worked for athletically will be taken away.
However, domestic violence experts say what sounds like an easy, straightforward call – punishing a bad guy feels righteous – it might not be the right thing to do and often puts the victim at even greater risk.
Losing an athletic career certainly is not too harsh a price to pay for a crime that despicable. But that often hurts the victim and, depending on the situation, their children, too.
This article presents a nuanced look at how complex domestic violence situations involving athletes can be. The main priority should always be for the victim’s welfare, but it’s complicated.
Katie Hnida was the first woman to play Division I college football as a kicker at New Mexico. That triumph happened after she transferred out of the University of Colorado, where she’d been raped by a teammate. She now works as an anti-violence trainer working with teams and leagues in hopes of preventing domestic violence.
“It can be so dangerous for the woman. We don’t want zero tolerance because it can end up putting a woman in danger,” Hnida said late last month. “If suddenly their husband could lose his million-dollar-paying job, you might not have women who are willing to come forward. They’re already worried about getting them in trouble.”
Fortunately, marriage is not part of the Bird situation, but what’s he’s accused of is especially heinous.
Without the financial intertwining of marriage and children – Bird and his girlfriend do not live together – this situation is different. But the nature of what he is accused of increased Southworth’s concerns.
“Strangulation increases the risk of homicide by 10 times. Strangling a victim for hours on end is horrifying and very lethal. You can suffer brain damage. Often victims don’t know how badly their bodies were impacted from the episode. We encourage victims to get medical treatment and get checked out,” she said. “I’m still opposed to zero tolerance, but I would encourage the league to sanction this player with far more serious sanctions than they would for someone who punched or slapped a victim one time. Multiple strangulation is very different than a shove.”
It’s my legally uninformed opinion that, regardless of what happens in the courtroom, Bird’s NBA career is over. This is not the NFL, where management often looks the other way when off-field crimes are alleged and even committed.
Meanwhile, although the Celtics may want to take their time deciding Bird’s future with the team, training camp is less than two weeks away. For basketball reasons, they’ll probably need to take action soon. Based on how well the franchise is run overall, I trust Celtics leadership will handle this situation properly and continue to place the victim’s well-being first.
If the Celtics cut Bird tomorrow, they’d be lauded for it, praised as a franchise that won’t be associated with something like that. But waiting gives them options.
See what happens in court. It’s possible Bird will get jail time which takes some of the decision out of Boston’s hands. While the Celtics will make their own decision whether to cut him, the NBA handles all discipline for players deemed to be in violation of the league’s domestic violence policy. The league has already said it’s investigating. See what the court finds. See what the league finds.
It’s worth getting every bit of information they can to make a decision that includes consideration for the long term safety of the victim. Based on the public statement the Celtics made already, they’ve set themselves up to do exactly that.
And, finally… Game recognizes game
As evidenced by the jersey she’s wearing, Breanna Stewart is a Kyrie Irving fan. Stewart was MVP for both the WNBA regular season and Finals, and sent this tweet to celebrate after leading the Seattle Storm to the league title this week.
The Rest of the Links:
ESPN: Pierce expects ‘solid’ year from Hayward (video clip)
Celtics Wire/USA Today: Gordon Hayward says experience young Celtics got in playoffs ‘will help us moving forward’