Social media has allowed basketball insiders to express their opinions to a wide audience and enabled fans to connect with one another, as well as the athletes themselves, in a way they never could before. Twitter, in particular, has become a hotbed for debate about the most compelling stories in the NBA.
Los Angeles Lakers Coaching
The Lakers were considered among the favorites to the win the NBA Championship after acquiring Dwight Howard and Steve Nash in the offseason. However, the purple and gold got off to a disappointing 1-4 start and their coach, Mike Brown, was fired after just five games.
Mike Freeman of CBSSports.com represented the view of many journalists that the Lakers panicked by relieving Brown of his duties so early in the season.
Several coaches were appalled by the move and came to Brown's defense. According to Brian K. Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel, former Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy had some harsh words for the Lakers.
Others in the basketball world, including Lakers legend Magic Johnson, believed that Brown was never a good fit for the team and had to be let go.
Matt Moore of Hardwood Paroxysms took it step further, suggesting that Brown never had a chance to succeed coaching in the shadow of Phil Jackson.
Brown's firing led to speculation that Jackson would return to the team he coached to five championships. Ultimately, Mike D'Antoni was offered the job instead, which set Twitter ablaze.
Chris Palmer of ESPN was among those who could not believe the Lakers' decision.
ESPNLosAngeles' Arash Markazi and Mike Trudell of NBA.com pointed out that D'Antoni had the support of the Lakers' star players, especially Kobe Bryant.
Dwight Howard v. Kobe Bryant
Howard and Bryant have contrasting personalities. Howard is playful and sensitive to public opinion. Kobe is all business and motivates his teammates through tough love.
Stefan Bondy of nydailynews.com reported on January 7 that Howard and Bryant got into a heated exchange after the Lakers' New Year's Day loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, and Howard had to be restrained.
Magic Johnson called out Howard and Bryant, as well as Pau Gasol and Steve Nash.
Kobe attempted to diffuse the situation by making light of the alleged feud via Twitter. The Black Mamba posted a photograph of the two Lakers pretending to fight, with D'Antoni attempting to break it up.
One month later Howard and Bryant began verbally sparring through the media. Kobe criticized Howard for missing three games with a torn labrum (via ESPN.com.) The Lakers center dismissed Kobe's remarks. "That's his opinion, that's it," Howard said. "He's not a doctor, I'm not a doctor. That's his opinion." (via Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com)
The media sided with Kobe, a proven winner, over Howard, who had lost credibility because of the way he handled his departure from Orlando. Jalen Rose was one of several members of the media to suggest that the Lakers should trade Howard.
TNT analyst Charles Barkley took a different point of view. He believed that Kobe crossed the line by calling out Dwight publicly.
Howard's dad felt compelled to make a statement in his son's defense.
Royce White's Standoff With the Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets knew that Royce White had an anxiety disorder when they selected him with the 16th pick in the 2012 draft, though they thought they had a plan in place to accommodate his condition.
White refused to play until he and the Rockets agreed on a protocol, which among other things, would allow an independent mental health expert to determine when he is well enough to play. The standoff continued until late January, sparking a heated debate among basketball fans.
Several sportswriters and fans believed that the Rockets would be setting a dangerous precedent by catering to the needs of an individual player. They argued that if White is unable to meet the basic requirements of playing in the NBA, such as flying, then he cannot play in the league.
Fans expressed their anger over White's stance through hateful tweets, which were routinely re-tweeted by White.
There were also countless fans who expressed compassion towards White's situation. The forward became a hero to thousands of people suffering with mental illness.
Sportswriters tended to reserve their opinions on White for full-length columns. White occasionally spiced up the debate on Twitter by firing back at sportswriters who had criticized him, like Yahoo.com's Adrian Wojnarowski.
KG, a notorious trash-talker, said something to set off Carmelo Anthony when their teams met on January 7. An irate Antony had to be separated from KG by teammates and waited for Garnett outside the Celtics' team bus after the game.
Melo hurt his team by allowing KG to get into his head—he shot 6-of-26 and was suspended a game for escalating the confrontation after the game—and members of the media, including Nate Taylor of the New York Times and Marc Berman of the New York Post, were quick to criticize the Knicks forward.
Other reporters and fans expressed the opinion that KG should be the one to blame if his comments to Melo crossed the line. Moke Hamilton of SNYTV pointed out that Garnett has been accused of saying awful things to opponents in the past.
The Return of Derrick Rose
Chicago Bulls superstar Derrick Rose tore his left ACL in a playoff game against the Philadelphia 76ers on April 28, 2012. According to Melissa Isaacson of ESPNChicago.com, Rose has been medically cleared to play, but the point guard has said repeatedly that he will not return until he feels ready, even if that means sitting out the entire season.
Most fans and journalists have given Rose the benefit of the doubt and believe that he should not play until he feels comfortable.
However, there are those in the media who are losing patience with Rose. They believe that since he was medically cleared to play, he should be on the court helping his team. Mark Schanowski of Comcast Sportsnet Chicago is one of those people who thinks it is time for Rose to suit up.
A third point of view is that Rose should not return this season under any circumstances. The Bulls likely will not have the firepower to beat the Miami Heat even with a healthy Rose, so the star point guard should not risk re-injuring himself.
NBA legend Tim Hardaway and Washington Wizards guard John Wall both think Rose should sit out the season.