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You Can Kill Him Now

Apologies for this late late posting! We did a podcast over the weekend before Christmas, where we one of our key segments was the annual Top 5 Ladies of Social Media. Here is what we learned:


1. Eric Bienemy, offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs, might get the Falcons job next season.

2. James Harden is going to be a hard trade for the Rockets.

3. Keep Taylormade (friend of the show) in my Top 5.

4. Our kids have been resilient & self-efficient during this pandemic.

5. Kobe’s passing doesn’t feel like it was this year.

6. Developing the stroke is key in the NBA & in life.


******


At the time of this podcast, the Atlanta Falcons found another way to lose against the Buccaneers. They followed it up with yet another heartbreaking missed field goal in the final minute to tie the game against the Chiefs the following Sunday. The Falcons owner, Arthur Blank, is ready to blow up the organization and if Eric Bienemy can get in the interview and convince him how he would go about running the football team and develop players, the job should be his for the taking.


Bienemy already has an impressive resume’. He was Adrian Peterson’s running backs coach when he came into the league with the Minnesota Vikings. Under Bienemy’s tutelage, many people in football circles believe this was the foundation for Peterson’s work ethic as a professional which led to his success as an all-time great running back. Although I hate the Falcons, that is the only place I can see him having a real chance at success.


The Falcons losses this season weren’t from lack of effort, but more from a systemic ailment that has plagued them since their infamous Super Bowl loss to the Patriots in 2017. They simply cannot close out close games, Matt Ryan has developed an uncurable allergy to the Red Zone, and the coaches put in place have not lived up to their resume’.


*****


The first week of the NBA season gave us some impressive debuts. The Brooklyn Nets’ Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving were a lethal combination against the Warriors and Steph Curry. The Lakers did not look impressive in their debut against the Clippers. But my Pelicans looked like I thought they would look. Stan Van Gundy had those guys, despite their youth, playing tough on defense. So much so, that after the Raptors put up 57 in the first half, the Pels held them to 42 points in the second half.


The Pelicans are young, tough, and deep. From what I’ve seen from them so far since their debut, their opponents will have to play a highly competitive game against them or get hot early and fight off any and all comeback attempts. It’s good to see them being more competitive this season so far. I thought for sure that Lonzo would be half-assing his play, but he is clearly auditioning for another big contract with another team next season since he didn’t sign his rookie extension.


*****


Before the NBA season started, James Harden of the Houston Rockets had all types of drama and turmoil surrounding him. He reported late to training camp, after Russell Westbrook was traded to the Washington Wizards, Harden wanted to be traded as well. With all of the Front Office theatrics, his sports media perturbation was imminent.


The sports media was right on cue with an article on James Harden and his off the court antics. As a result, photos surfaced of Harden at a party where he was potentially violating COVID-19 protocol. The NBA brass investigated the situation and found that he violated the protocol. Harden was fined $50k for the infraction.


Now I am not a fan of James Harden as a basketball player. I think he is superiorly gifted at this game, but you can tell his lackluster effort easily puts him in the Top 10 players in this league. The only problem is that his blasé attitude rears its ugly head in the playoffs, and it becomes evident that he doesn’t have another gear to elevate to in those critical moments. However, I hate to see a player all of sudden get torn apart for things unrelated to their play on the court.


It reminds me of a scene from the groundbreaking TV show The Sopranos. One of the characters, Johnny “Sack” Sacramoni, was in jail telling a story about his old mafia boss, Carmine Lupertazzi. One of Carmine’s captains in the family had an extreme grievance that needed to be settled. Another captain was fucking the grieving captain’s wife. In that life, that is a big no-no, usually punished by death. Of course, the afflicted captain wanted his shitty comrade dead. Carmine said no, the other captain was too good of an earner.


Eight years go by, Carmine comes back to the afflicted captain, he says, “you know that guy that was fucking your wife? You can kill him now.” The other captain wasn’t making money like he used to. With James Harden’s trade request, I can only speculate that this was a slap in the face for Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta. To the Rockets credit, under GM Daryl Morey, they did not sit idly by and not put together a team around Harden. It’s just the way Harden plays is not a championship winning style of play.


Harden’s $40+ million contract would be impossible to move. The Rockets are going to want a sweet deal on their end if they are going give him up and no team is willing to make that trade at this time. Perhaps there will be more fireworks closer to the trade deadline for Harden. Yet we’ve seen time and time again unfortunately, Ownership and Front Office killing a player’s image when he no longer fits “their” narrative, or the revenue he generates is no longer worth it.


We saw this with Michael Thomas of the New Orleans Saints at the beginning of the season. For four years, Saints fans and the rest of the NFL had never heard anything bad about him until he got into a fight with fellow teammate C.J. Gardner-Johnson. There were claims of him having an ego since signing his enormous contract extension and possibly landing on the trading block. Thomas got the hint and issued an apology for his behavior.


I wish sports fans had more of an understanding of how a player’s image works. You want to see the real fake news? The Harden drama is where it’s at. We are weeks passed from when this all escalated, and of course, Harden hasn’t pushed for a trade as vocally as he used to, and the Rockets are still claiming that they are looking for the best deal that satisfy all parties.


The player’s image is at the whim of Ownership, Front Office, and the Media. All 3 are complicit on how they will elevate a player and how they will bury them if they have too. No player is allowed to become bigger than the game anymore. They can no longer become too essential where their career is worth more alive than it is dead. Gone are the days of Allen Iverson, Rasheed Wallace, and Dennis Rodman. Who is truly the Peoples’ Champ in the Sports Stratosphere? Who is the player today that is so beloved, that if their career ended today, regardless of its arc and infamy, the fans would have a Hall of Fame type admiration for them for years to come? That player is long gone. When they can kill you at their leisure, these players conform to the business of the game.


Tony Love

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