The NBA's 10 Biggest Headaches
The 10 biggest story lines and personality headaches in the NBA are a result of quite a few different reasons.
For players, the headaches can be caused because of the media coverage, perceived character or on- and off-court troubles. Owners can be the worst headache for a sports fan because there's nothing you can do about them. They own the team, you're a fan, and that's that.
Story lines created by the media and rules in free agency can cause headaches as well. Overall, it's the same mumbo jumbo in sports that have been annoying us for years.
10. Russell Westbrook
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The one NBA player no one can seem to agree on is Russell Westbrook.
Does Westbrook shoot too much? Is Westbrook a black hole? Why doesn't Westbrook defer to Kevin Durant more often?
These are all questions about Westbrook that are debated regularly. Everyone has an opinion on Westbrook, but no one seems to agree on one.
One thing clear about Westbrook is the way he plays: He's an aggressive offensive player who takes care of most of the Thunder's ball-handling duties. The decisions Westbrook makes from time to time can create serious headaches for a rooting fan.
Whether you believe Westbrook is a headache for the Thunder or an actual problem, remember the team just made it to the 2012 NBA Finals. A reason the Thunder reached that point in the NBA season was Westbrook's play. They didn't reach that point in spite of him. The Thunder were the second-best team in the NBA last season. The roster wasn't the issue for the Thunder; it was a lack of experience.
Westbrook will continue to improve, but there's still a good chance he will continue to give NBA fans headaches. No matter how good Westbrook does, people will always be ready to point out his mistakes.
9. Andray Blatche
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Andray Blatche exemplifies the problems of the Washington Wizards the past few seasons.
With a large list of recent bonehead Wizards' players, Blatche stands atop. He's been arrested on sexual solicitation charges and reckless driving charges. Blatche is also no stranger to fines for his antics.
Blatche's problems follow him on the court as well. He slacks off on defense and doesn't move around much on offense. These antics have earned him boos from the home crowd.
The worst part is, Blatche is actually a talented basketball player. He's not a lost cause by any means. For as long as Blatche is in the NBA, he'll always be the guy people say will be good once he gets his head on straight.
Players like Blatche, who have the talent to be good but sometimes have lapse of judgment, can be huge franchise headaches. Ask the NBA coaches and general managers who have had Metta World Peace in the past.
Blatche was waived in July, as the Wizards continued to clean house from the old regime. Blatche signed with the Brooklyn Nets in September. Knowing how these breakups tend to work, Blatche will probably play great for the Nets, giving Wizards' fans headaches for a whole different reason.
8. Carmelo Anthony
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No player gives his fan base a bigger headache because of his on-court production than Carmelo Anthony.
The disappointment towards Anthony in New York is understandable. He hasn't been as good with the New York Knicks as he was with the Denver Nuggets. To make matters worse, playing in New York has magnified every move he makes. If Anthony misses time due to injury and an obscure backup point guard leads the team to some exciting victories during a weak stretch in the schedule, people tend to notice.
Anthony will never win with his current playing style. He's a ball dominator, and although he's a great individual talent, has only been past the first round of the playoffs once. Anthony's playing style hasn't necessarily paid off.
Until Anthony learns to utilize his teammates better, he'll be a headache for Knicks fans.
7. Restricted Free Agency
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Restricted free agency has become a game of its own.
When a player is a restricted free agent, it means he can be signed to an offer sheet by another team, but his current team owns the right to match the offer and keep him.
Both the Toronto Raptors and the New York Knicks pushed hard for Steve Nash in the off-season. The Raptors, knowing Landry Fields was a restricted free agent and key sign-and-trade piece to acquire Nash, offered Fields a steep three-year, $20 million deal. The Knicks weren't going to pay that kind of money to re-sign Fields, and essentially lost out on Nash.
Restricted free agency can be a strategy to pry a player away from his team. How badly do you want to pay to keep your guy? The Portland Trailblazers and Indiana Pacers were willing to pay a lot in order to keep their guys. The Knicks? Not so much.
While restricted free agency led to a portion of the off-season's roster moves, it has become a serious headache for general mangers trying to keep a roster together.
6. Lamar Odom
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He may not be the most annoying player in the NBA, but he's up there.
Lamar Odom did everything humanly possible to quit on the Dallas Mavericks last season. He clashed with owner Mark Cuban, had off-court issues, was late to team functions and was a disaster on the court.
Odom was a migraine for his teammates, coaches, owner and fan base. He acted like a child who didn't get the toy he or she wanted.
It wasn't long ago when Odom was a deadly weapon off the bench for the Lakers. He was the Sixth Man of the Year as recent as two years ago.
When a player becomes more newsworthy for what they do off the court instead of what they do on it, they become annoying. This will be an important season for Odom. If he flames out for the Los Angeles Clippers, most people will only remember Odom for the headache he was in Dallas.
5. James Dolan
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Terrible sports owners are the worst. Dolan is on the Mount Rushmore.
Dolan is spiteful, made evident after he chose to not re-sign Jeremy Lin because of his negotiations with the Houston Rockets. After years of shelling out money, all of a sudden Lin was too pricey. It wasn't Jerome James or Stephon Marbury that were too much money for Dolan, it was fan favorite Lin.
Of course, passing on Lin is only a small portion of the headache Dolan gives Knicks fans. His obsession with Isiah Thomas and the firing of Anucha Browne Sanders are among the top of the list. The worst thing about Dolan, though, is how often he takes basketball matters into his own hands, despite a lack of evidence he knows anything about basketball.
As long as Dolan owns the Knicks, headaches will be plentiful in New York.
4. Dwight Howard
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Dwight Howard has mastered the art of being hated because he's annoying.
Free agency has become a soap opera. For the past year, Howard went down the same road as Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and LeBron James of wanting to join a new team. The indecision and flip-flopping of Howard led to months of repeatedly recycled stories.
It wasn't long ago when Howard appeared to be a funny, charming superstar. Unlike Kobe Bryant, he was goofy and playful. When you're winning, the act is great. Ask Chad Johnson and James. That act only works for so long until the love turns into backlash. Then you better start producing.
When Howard was unable to get the Orlando Magic over the hunch, he wanted out. A new beginning in Brooklyn would have been great in his mind.
In the end, Howard ended up not in Brooklyn, but in Los Angeles where he was expected to end up all along. Howard may be in a new uniform, but the headache he caused for sports fans will hang around until he returns to the court.
At the moment, who knows when that will be.
3. The Maloof Brothers
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Have you heard of ESPN's annual Ultimate Standings? It ranks sports franchises in every major sport (baseball, football, basketball, hockey), based on a variety of criteria analyzed by sports marketing experts and fan surveys, incorporated with team performance and ownership. There are 122 franchises in total in the study.
The Sacramento Kings rank No. 121. In 2003, the Kings were No. 4 on the same list. Oh how they have fallen.
In August, CBS pointed out that the Kings have not had a working team store website since June 15. From CBS:
“We had a company that was helping us with our website and these are lean times in the economy,” Kings spokesman Chris Clark said. “They’re in business one day, the next day they’re gone.”
What's crazier: The fact the Kings don't have a team store website and it's 2012 or the fact that the Maloof brothers are still allowed to own an NBA team after repeated signs of incompetency?
In the large scheme of things, the lack of a store website isn't that big of an issue. It's just another totem on a large one full of the Maloof's issues as owners. They continually came up with reasons why not to do the arena deal in Sacramento last spring, and essentially, want to sell a piece of the team to someone who gives them a new arena, while keeping controlling interest. That's not going to happen.
The fans of the Kings have been great for years, but there's only so much a fan base can do when ownership is terrible. Stern can't do much to help the Kings. He can't force the Maloofs to sell the franchise. The Maloofs are theoretically his boss. As much as Sacramento wants to believe the franchise is theirs, it's not. It's the Maloofs. Until someone pries the franchise away from their hands, the Kings and the Maloofs will continue to be huge headaches across the league.
2. LeBron James
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LeBron James is both the greatest part of the NBA and the worst.
First of all, he's a joy to watch. No player has ever blended so much rhythm, power, size and skill into his game.
The reason James can be such a headache is for everything he doesn't do, which is not a lot.
For Westbrook, he's criticized for essentially not being Durant. Westbrook shoots too much! He needs to pass to Durant! You get the picture.
For James, he's criticized for essentially not being Michael Jordan, only the best basketball player of all time. Its a ridiculously tough standard, but James does a pretty good job of living up to it. If Jordan didn't exist, James would certainly be more appreciated.
James doesn't do himself any favors either. Often times his antics are the root of the headaches he gives sports fans and media members. You don't have to go much further than "The Decision" to see that.
Leading the Heat to the 2012 NBA Championship will quiet some doubters for the immediate future, but the first time James appears human again after a loss, the hounds will be back. James' failures and triumphs will continue to be held to an unfair standard, which is sure to cause headaches for the next 10 years.
1. Michael Jordan Comparisons
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Arguably the most annoying part of sports today is the constant comparisons.
Any time any athlete in any sport delivers a great performance, automatically the discussion becomes where it ranks in history. Our favorite one to do in basketball is how player X compares to the best basketball player ever, Michael Jordan.
If Kobe Bryant wins six NBA championships, does that make him better than Jordan? Is LeBron James the most dominant player since Jordan?
Stop it. Stop it. Stop it.
No player will ever be Jordan. He was on a level of his own. James and Bryant are both great, future Hall of Fame players, so let's enjoy them for what they are.
By constantly comparing current NBA players to the best player of all time, we're holding our current stars to an impossible standard. We're also setting ourselves up for disappointment whenever one of the current stars lets us down. If James and the Miami Heat would have lost to the Thunder in the 2012 NBA Finals, guarantee people would have said, "Michael Jordan would not have allowed his team to lose."
That's just not fair. It's an unnecessary headache in a sport that causes many.