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.
Mike Brown fired. Total panic move. Idiotic.— mike freeman (@realfreemancbs) November 9, 2012
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.
Former Magic coach Stan Van Gundy called the Lakers' firing of Mike Brown, "the most ridiculous firing in the history of the NBA."— Brian K. Schmitz (@MagicInsider) November 9, 2012
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.
Feel bad for Coach Mike Brown, who's a great guy, but don't think he was the right guy for the job in the first place.— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) November 9, 2012
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.
Feel bad for Brown. Said last year there was no way to survive this. No one survives coming in after a legend.— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) November 9, 2012
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.
Lakers fire Mike Brown after 5 games then hire Mike D'Antoni. Really?— chris palmer (@ESPNChrisPalmer) November 12, 2012
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.
Most important thing about the D'Antoni hire is that the Lakers' players are seemingly all on board. That wasn't always the case with Brown.— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) November 12, 2012
Kobe Bryant's quote on Mike D'Antoni after Friday's game: "I love D’Antoni and what he brings." Loves Phil, but D'Antoni, too.— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) November 12, 2012
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.
The mamba vs d12 !! It's on lol twitter.com/kobebryant/sta…— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) January 7, 2013
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.
Charles Barkley said he's "calling a technical foul" on Kobe Bryant for questioning Dwight Howard's injury.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) February 8, 2013
Howard's dad felt compelled to make a statement in his son's defense.
Dwight Howard's dad says Mike D'Antoni needs to do more to keep Kobe Bryant from criticizing Dwight: es.pn/Y1OpM4— The NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) February 9, 2013
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.
I Wish That Dude @highway_30 (Royce White) Would Stop BITCHIN' And Shut Up And Play. This Dude Need More "Accommodations" Than A Diva!!!— Scholarly Genuis™ (@NickFolarin) November 14, 2012
@highway_30 You sound like a whining ;ittle bitch....disappear please...SMH— KVProductions (@KVProductions) November 14, 2012
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.
Sorry Tweeps, I know today was suppose to be positive, but @wojyahoonba pushed the start time back with his IRRESPONSIBLE JOURNALISM.— Royce White (@Highway_30) November 24, 2012
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.
Worst part of tonight is not Melo's thuggish behavior. It's not thinking about his team or teammates. Just himself.— Marc Berman (@NYPost_Berman) January 8, 2013
Just watched last night's game on TV. Boy you can tell Carmelo Anthony instigated & escalated the altercation with Kevin Garnett.— Nate Taylor (@ByNateTaylor) January 8, 2013
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.
People killing Melo... Let's remember that KG called Charlie Villanueva a "cancer patient," no clue what he said to Melo.— Moke Hamilton (@MokeHamilton) January 8, 2013
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.
Derrick Rose one of the toughest players in the league. I give him the benefit of the doubt. His style of play earns him that.— Imam (@GodOfMilfs) March 28, 2013
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.
The only way Derrick Rose can take the next step in rehab is by playing in actual games.If he's been medically cleared, he needs to play.— Mark Schanowski (@MarkSchanowski) March 8, 2013
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.