1. Tracy McGrady keeps it real
James Harden’s last game for the Brooklyn Nets was a forgettable one. He shot 2-of-11 and finished with more turnovers (6) than points (4) against the Kings on Feb. 2. He would miss the Nets’ next four games prior to the trade deadline due to a purported hamstring injury, but many felt that he had just checked out on the skidding Nets—just like he did with Houston a year before.
After footage of Harden’s first practice with the Sixers emerged, NBA legend Tracy McGrady was quick to call ‘bullshit!’ on the 2018 MVP’s hamstring injury.
“He shut it down,” McGrady said on the NBA on TNT pregame show last Tuesday. “He wasn’t hurt. He wasn’t hurt. He shut it down. Y’all think he’s hurt right now?”
Dwyane Wade chimed in by saying: “No, you saw those stepbacks?”
“My point exactly,” McGrady replied. “You don’t rehab a hammy by doing stepbacks.”
T-Mac making his case for the Keepin’ It Real All-Stars!
2. Copy ninja Joel
While Harden is yet to make his Philly debut (it would be a bad look for him if he played right away), he has made an immediate impact on the team’s MVP. During their first practice together, Joel Embiid could be seen taking some pointers from Harden on how to do the patented Harden stepback:
Embiid busted out his version in their blowout loss to the Celtics, but it ended up as a Shaqtin’-worthy lowlight.
Oof, that’s rough! He travelled AND got rejected.
But Embiid has proven once again that he is a quick learner (don’t forget, he only learned to play basketball at age 15). He was back at it the very next game against the defending champs, this time with a much different result:
“That’s me, I like to learn new things and do them,” Embiid said after the Bucks game. “Obviously having him kind of reminded me I have more stuff in my game… Whatever helps me get some separation to get the shot off, I’m going to use it all.”
And that, my friends, was when the 2022 MVP race was decided.
Here’s a secret clip of Embiid copying Harden’s move in practice:
3. Silver calls out hypocrisy of NYC’s vaccine mandate
Kyrie Irving still cannot play in home games for the Brooklyn Nets due to New York City’s vaccine mandate, and NBA commissioner Adam Silver was candid about his feelings about it. (Finally!)
“The oddity of it to me is that it only applies to home players,” Silver said during an appearance on ESPN’s Get Up! “If ultimately that rule is about protecting people who are in the arena, it just doesn’t quite make sense to me that an away who is unvaccinated player can play in (the Barclays Center) but the home player can’t. To me, that’s a reason they should take a look at that ordinance.”
Spot on from Silver. It’s absurd that Irving can’t play at home games while an unvaccinated visiting player can. NY’s city government knows that the virus doesn’t distinguish between home and away players, right?
NYC Mayor Eric Adams agrees with Silver’s sentiments and admitted that the rule is “unfair.” But he also cautioned that changing the rule might send “the wrong message.” In politician speak, that means ‘yeah, we know it’s a stupid rule but we don’t feel like changing it.’
Just so we’re clear, the solution is not to ban unvaccinated visiting players. It’s time to live again, folks!
4. The GOAT celebrates his 59th birthday by topping another GOAT list
Michael Jordan was named the greatest player of all-time by The Athletic just as he celebrated his 59th birthday last Feb. 17.
Not that it’s any news, of course. Jordan is the one true GOAT and those who say otherwise are the sports equivalent of flat-earthers (I’d @ Shannon Sharpe, Nick Wright, Robin Lundberg, et al., but I don’t watch/read/follow any of these dumbasses).
Here’s an excerpt from The Athletic piece by Jon Greenberg:
“Physically, Jordan was a marvel. But the reason he’s incomparable to anyone, even the greats, goes beyond the shots he made.
“’I mean, he is the greatest player of all time, so there’s a reason that most people agree on that,’ Kerr said. ‘It goes beyond the shotmaking, it’s the totality of everything. He just had this incredible package of skill and knowledge and experience and it all added up to this aura he was just better than everyone by far.’
“Everyone remembers the dunks, the fadeaway, the steals. But there was more to it.
“‘I think the most underrated aspect of Michael’s game was his emotional dominance in the arena every night,’ Kerr said. ‘And I still have not seen that from anybody.’
“Chicago native Kendall Gill, who entered the NBA in 1990, and played against Jordan before that in the local summer leagues, called it ‘the Mike Tyson effect.’
“’Mike Tyson used to have his opponent beat before he got to the arena,’ Gill said. ‘That’s how MJ used to have a lot of these guys.’
“Kerr has shared the floor with Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. He saw how his Warriors spooked everyone with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson firing 3s.
“But Jordan’s mystique was more primal.
“’There was just this sense from everybody in the gym, the opponent, the other coaching staff, the officials, fans, there was just a sense that he was better than everybody and he was going to dominate the game,’ Kerr said. ‘And he was kind of invincible. So it went beyond his skill set and his competitiveness and his size and speed and footwork. It just went beyond all that because he was so dominant emotionally. It was like he cast a spell over every game.’
5. Throwback video of the week
20 years ago, at the 2002 All-Star Game in Philadelphia, T-Mac gave us one of the most spectacular plays in All-Star Game history: the off-the-backboard alley-oop to himself.
And, yes, that was Jordan being interviewed at the sideline by Jim Gray.