Everyone knows that parenting can be a pain in the butt, but it can also be a pain in the neck if you're unlucky enough. Unfortunately for New York Knicks forward Marcus Morris, he didn't have much luck last week.
Morris has missed the last few games with the Knicks due to a neck injury, though it wasn't known until this week how he suffered the Injury. Ahead of his return to action on Thursday, Morris revealed the cause of the neck issue: His one-year-old son.
According to Morris, he first suffered the injury last week when his young son jumped on him in bed to wake him up. The 30-year-old Morris said he knew something had been tweaked that morning but he attempted to play through the pain. Ultimately, the ailment got worse after a physical game against the Philadelphia 76ers and Morris was forced to shut it down.
Something parents of young kids can probably relate to: Marcus Morris said he hurt his neck prior to the PHI game last week when his 1-year-old son jumped on him. He played in the Knicks’ loss to PHI & the injury worsened. After 2 games out, he’s expected to play Thursday vs. DEN
Now that he's feeling good enough to play, Morris is able to joke about the weirdness of his injury.
"He's very big for a 1-year-old. He's huge man," Morris said, via Newsday. "Every morning he comes in the room and jumps on me and that stuff. I just got a bad batch of it that morning."
We've seen plenty of weird sports injuries over the years and this one probably isn't even close to being near the top -- in fact, it's probably something most fathers of young children can relate to. But still, there's something very funny about a guy as big and imposing as Morris (6-foot-9, 235 pounds) being beaten up by a one-year-old child.
There's also something funny about the fact that the power forward wears "Morris Sr." on the back of his jersey in a display of proud fatherhood while his children are body slamming him in his sleep as they attempt to sabotage his career.
I suppose we can officially consider this Morris' true introduction to life with the Knicks.
NBA coaches confused, frustrated over challenge rules
"I hate the rule!" Rivers said after the game. "Nobody wants to be wrong."
Less than two weeks later, a dramatic Clippers victory against the Oklahoma City Thunder was saved by a successful replay challenge that eliminated OKC free throws.
"I think the challenge is good for the league, after all," Rivers said with a smile.
In Anthony Davis' return to New Orleans last month, Los Angeles Lakers coach Frank Vogel lost a challenge on a foul call in the fourth quarter of a tight game. LeBron James approached ESPN commentators Mark Jones and Jeff Van Gundy with his own analysis, spoken loudly enough for the national TV microphones.
"When the ref makes that call, he don't never want to be wrong," James said. "They're never going to overturn it. Ever. Ever."
LeBron voices displeasure with refs to broadcast booth
After the referees uphold a call on the floor, LeBron James walks over to the ESPN broadcast booth and shares his thoughts on the call.
After Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens lost a challenge Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden -- one of several he's been on the wrong side of recently -- the mild-mannered Stevens was caught on television cameras giving his frank assessment of the challenge system.
"I'm done with these f---ing challenges," Stevens said. "This is unbelievable."
Welcome to the opening weeks of the NBA's coach's challenge. ESPN asked head coaches from almost half the league's 30 teams for their input on the challenge system. The views ranged from hostile to constructive, but there wasn't an endorsement to be found.
But for all the frustration and bewilderment the new rule has created across the league, don't expect it to go the way of the NBA's synthetic basketball.
"We're very pleased with how a very difficult concept and rule has been implemented," said Monty McCutchen, the NBA's vice president of referee development and training.
"There have been some growing pains, but overall we're very happy."
Translation: Get used to it, coaches.
One reason the league office is pleased is that the challenge system -- which was tried in the G League before the competition committee approved it for the NBA this past offseason -- appears to lead to a greater number of correct calls. In other words, it's working, by the NBA's standards.
Through Nov. 30, coaches had made 174 challenges, and 75 resulted in overturned calls, according to research by ESPN Stats and Information -- a 43% success rate for challenges.
Those 75 corrections have not prevented coaches and teams from being annoyed by the way the rule has played out. On Tuesday, a fresh issue surfaced when the Houston Rockets quarreled with the refs after a James Harden dunk was incorrectly ruled a missed shot. After the game, officiating crew chief James Capers said no legal challenge by D'Antoni was made, and therefore the call stood. Coaches have 30 seconds to challenge a call, according to Capers.
A number of coaches went on the record with ESPN regarding their opinions on the rule and its implementation.
"I tend not to do it, because I don't understand it," said San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who was the last of the 30 coaches to attempt a challenge, which he won. "I don't get it, so I don't try."
"My preference is to let [the referees] do their job, and I'll do mine," Sacramento Kings coach Luke Walton said.
Even Brooklyn Nets coach Kenny Atkinson -- who won his first five challenges -- isn't happy with it.
"I would check the 'No' box," Atkinson said.
Over the last few years, coaches and players have routinely expressed annoyance with the NBA's Last Two Minute Reports, which review the officiating at the end of close games. The reports include both correct and incorrect calls, but the coaches have remained frustrated because acknowledgement of the incorrect calls provided little satisfaction after the fact.
"This never-ending quest to get everything perfect, we're just chasing our tail."
Warriors coach Steve Kerr
The challenge system is a response to that concern, giving coaches, once per game, a way to have calls reviewed and overturned in real time. Yet, the coaches seem even more frustrated by the fix.
"I appreciate the NBA's willingness to try things and appreciate the fact that we don't stand still in this league," Stevens said. "I think the challenge is good in theory, but we just all have to realize that there's still a lot of judgment in those, too."
Stevens saw recently how a challenge could go wrong. In a celebrated matchup with the Clippers on Nov. 20, Celtics forward Jaylen Brown was called for a foul on a Paul George drive to the basket, infuriating the Boston bench. Stevens challenged the call. The national television audience could see that George had shoved Celtics center Daniel Theis -- committing an offensive foul -- as he began his drive. But the refs, by rule, were forced to ignore that part of the play because it occurred before the gather, which referees define as the start of a basketball move into a shot.
As with Harden's dunk, the result was not to get the whole call right, nor was that the goal. For now, the league has opted to keep the scope of the rule narrow to ensure the challenge system is implemented as consistently as possible.
"For this to be successful, referees have to have a demarcation line," McCutchen said. "What is tied to the play, and what is not tied to the play. Gathering the ball is tied to the play. ... Once we have a year's worth of data, then we can look at refining it and calibrating it."
One of the calibration points could be finding ways to reduce the amount of time spent looking at plays. The league says the challenge reviews are not taking longer than regular replay reviews (which are initiated by officials). Regardless, the challenge rule allows for two additional reviews per game, bringing the action to a halt at potentially its most exciting moments.
Several coaches mentioned they felt the games were dragging. In addition to frustration over how the rules are applied, delays are one of the first things coaches point out when asked about the new rule.
"I just think the length of time it is taking right now, it's lengthening the game," said Charlotte Hornets coach James Borrego.
"It slows the game down, that's what I think it does," New York Knicks coach David Fizdale said. "There's times you think you're right, and you're still wrong."
"There's way too many stoppages in play," Kerr said. "The challenges themselves are very confusing."
When and how to use the challenge rule have added to the many things that can keep coaches awake at night. Should it be used to prevent a star from landing in early foul trouble? Does it make sense to save it for a potential game-deciding call in the final moments? Which kinds of challenges are most valuable and likely to succeed?
With the rule comes new data to study. The price of a challenge is a timeout, requiring a new set of risk/reward calculations based on the score, the clock and the likelihood of a successful challenge.
"Those are all kinds of things that people are thinking out," said Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder, who is on the competition committee that recommended the system be tried out. "It gets pretty complicated. The game moves pretty fast."
"I've been looking around the league, and it seems like everyone has a different philosophy," Minnesota Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders said. "I think we're all learning."
Holding on to challenges until the end of the game is common, with half of challenges coming in the fourth quarter, according to the NBA -- and 15% of them coming inside the final two minutes.
Some calls are being overturned far more often than others. In five cases when defensive goaltending was called, the original call was overturned four times. In 22 challenges involving the ball going out of bounds, 15 calls were overturned, giving the ball to the team making the challenge.
Meanwhile, just eight of 27 offensive fouls were overturned, as well as 12 of 28 personal fouls and 33 of 84 shooting fouls. In other words, it appears harder for coaches to get satisfaction on more debatable judgment calls.
Coaches, armed with more data and experience, will adapt. In big moments, they'll use every legal tool to win, including the challenge rule. But that might not change the other concern expressed by coaches: that the challenge system is not good for the game.
"I don't think it's adding to the game," Kerr said. "This never-ending quest to get everything perfect, we're just chasing our tail. The fact is the referees have an enormously difficult job. You can watch a replay and two rational people can argue. I think we're trying for the impossible."
"We want perfection as fans, and I kind of like the imperfections," Atkinson said. "Maybe I'm different in that way, but that's just my thought."
"It's just another thing to focus on that's distracting," Spoelstra said. "We're all focusing on the wrong thing, I think. This is a beautiful game."
Despite such protestations, we should not expect the coach's challenge to go away. "We get the apprehension," NBA president of league operations Byron Spruell said. "We're working through it. The engagement and feedback have been good. We haven't been surprised that we're getting such feedback, and we've welcomed it. ... It's not perfect, we know that."
Atkinson, for one, is willing to reserve final judgment, even if he's skeptical now.
"Check with me in April," Atkinson said, "and see if that changes."
The NBA will be hoping that it does.
Lakers prove they can beat good teams by crushing Jazz, doubters are running out of material
The goalposts just keep moving for the Los Angeles Lakers. Minds were made up on this team the moment it lost its opening night showdown with the Los Angeles Clippers, and as such, nothing ever seems to be good enough. Follow up that Clippers loss with a three-game winning streak? Prove you can do it on the road. Sweep the road trip that follows? Doesn't matter if the offense keeps struggling. Score 115 points per 100 possessions over their last 13 games (third-best mark in the NBA during that span)? Prove that you can do it against good teams.
Of course, they already had. Even entering Wednesday, the Lakers carried an impressive portfolio of wins. Road wins against the Mavericks and Nuggets are about as impressive as it gets. They held the Miami Heat to 80 points. As baseless as the criticism was, it was persistent.
In that sense, Wednesday's 121-96 shellacking of the Utah Jazz reads like a Mad Lib. "Go beat a Finals contender," a doubter may have challenged. "By 25 points... on the road... on the second night of a back-to-back... without Avery Bradley... while half of your roster deals with a flu outbreak." Challenge accepted. Challenge completed. And at this point, few challenges are left to be issued.
The Lakers do not have a perfect roster, but through 22 games, finding a discernible flaw in their on-court performance is practically impossible. They have the No. 4 defense and No. 6 offense in basketball. They lead the NBA in blocks and are a top-ten team in terms of rebounding rate and assist-to-turnover ratio. They are 20th in the NBA in pace, but still third in the league in terms of fast-break points per game. They haven't lost outside of the city of Los Angeles.
The less favorable numbers are circumstantially explainable. They don't draw many fouls? Wait until LeBron James shifts his focus from passing to scoring. They don't shoot enough 3-pointers? That changes when Anthony Davis moves to center, which figures to be his primary position in the postseason.
Even the palace intrigue has hit marvelous new lows. Jason Kidd's seemingly inevitable coup has surely been delayed by Frank Vogel's 19-3 start. Months have passed since an anonymous source touted the front-office influence of a seemingly underqualified executive.
With a quarter of the season in the books, there have been no controversies, no subtweets and no panics. They haven't fallen victim LeBron's traditional slow start with a new team, nor have they given him a reason to say a single negative word about the on-court product. Through 22 games, the Lakers have been nothing less than a juggernaut, and one that has immunized itself from the criticism that has dogged both past Lakers teams and James' own former squads.
None of this makes the Lakers' bulletproof. They aren't going to maintain their 71-win pace. The cracks in the roster will become real weaknesses. They'll probably lose to the Clippers again at some point.
But it is a testament to what a strong team this is from top to bottom. It hasn't mattered who they've played, what they've been faced with or whose been absent. The Lakers just keep winning, and even if the pace with which they are doing so is unsustainable, the general trend appears immutable. With no more asterisks or conditions, the Lakers are championship contenders. It's time the broader basketball world treats them as such.
Lakers' Anthony Davis is making his case for Defensive Player of the Year
SALT LAKE CITY - Ask Anthony Davis about the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year award and the first thing he brings up is failure.
"A couple of years ago, I feel like I should have won it," Davis told ESPN, looking back on his third-place finish in the 2017-18 season behind Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz, who's now earned the honors two seasons in a row.
It was the second top-five finish of his career - he also lost out to Kawhi Leonard a couple of years prior. Now, in his first season with the Los Angeles Lakers, the eight-year veteran could very well be in the driver's seat to take home the hardware for the first time.
"I think he can and will win Defensive Player of the Year this year," Lakers coach Frank Vogel said this week. "I think there's no one in the league like him defensively in terms of being able to guard all positions, protect the rim the way he does and deflect the basketball, contain the basketball. There really isn't anyone in the league like him and if our team defense continues to play at a high level throughout the year, I think he'll win it going away."
The Lakers came into Wednesday's game against Gobert and the Jazz ranked fifth in the league in defensive rating, third in points allowed per game and seventh in opponent's field goal percentage, with Davis coming off perhaps his most impressive individual defensive showing of the season.
On Tuesday night, with L.A. clinging to a five-point lead with three and a half minutes remaining in Denver's arduous altitude, Davis found himself in an iso-situation guarding the Nuggets' Nikola Jokic. Davis squared him up as Jokic held the ball on the right wing just inside the 3-point line, unfurling his 7-foot-6 wingspan as his first line of defense. Jokic, seeing his passing lanes were shut off and with little chance to blow by Davis considering the Lakers big man's positioning, put the ball on the floor and his back into Davis, essentially starting his post-up 20 feet from the hoop.
Three pounding dribbles with his left hand warranted Jokic precious little real estate near the hoop, as Davis leveraged his spindly frame into Jokic's much larger body. Jokic spun back, angling towards the paint, but Davis recovered quickly. And when Jokic barreled near the basket to put up a mini hook shot, Davis swatted it away.
As the game wore on, he found himself matched up in single coverage with both Jokic and the 6-foot-4 point guard Jamal Murray, and the results were the same: Miss ... miss.
"I take pride in my defense," Davis said. "Anytime late game when guys feel like they can score on me, I take it personally and try to play without fouling and get stops for my team. In those situations, two of their best players, you want to make sure you want to stay home and do what I do best and play defense and make them take tough shots."
It wasn't a one-night thing either. Coming into Wednesday, opponents were shooting just 37 percent this season with Davis as the closest defender, the second-lowest field goal percentage allowed among all players who defended at least 175 shots this season, according to Second Spectrum.
He had three more blocks Wednesday in Utah, increasing his league-leading average to 2.7 per game, which included an impressive rejection after he flew by Bojan Bogdanovic on the perimeter in the third quarter. Davis bit on the pump fake, recovered quickly and swatted the Bogdanovic's 3-point attempt from behind.
"Look, this is a 3-point shooting league, so that type of play happens all the time when you run at a shooter, and they shot-fake and try to reload it," Vogel said. "A lot of teams, a lot of players, they settle for the first contest. But ... we land, plant, and we get a second contest on your own guy. That's just part of the modern NBA. One of the culture pieces that we're trying to build. That's an extra effort type of play. Usually, you don't get a block on it like AD did, but again, he's a special defender and made an extra-effort play."
Davis has put in as much effort to understand Vogel's concepts in a defensive system that asks him to cover a lot of ground.
"I think the biggest thing for me that was different is the way the game has changed guarding 4s," he said. "A lot of people run the corner action where they put the 4 in the corner, they set a pin-down (screen) and now I'm chasing and being in pick-and-rolls where I'm guarding the ball instead of guarding a screener."
Guarding the ball has never been a soft spot for Davis. According to Second Spectrum, Davis is fifth among 166 players who defended at least 75 drives this season, giving up just 0.753 points per chance. That complete defensive game shows up beyond the box score.
"If you're going to win you got to believe you can win and when you have that type of guy by your side either behind you when you're guarding on the perimeter or having passed him off and switching and he's guarding on the perimeter it gives you a whole new level of confidence that you're going to prevail against even good teams," Vogel said. "So he's not only impacting the direct plays that he's involved with, but the confidence as a group."
LeBron James, who openly admitted during the 2016 Finals that he was "highly upset" he never won DPOY when assessing his career up to that point, is trying to build Davis' confidence so he can then pass it on to the group.
"Having a growth mindset is being able to adapt to whatever the game is presenting itself and now in today's game, the game is adapted where a lot of 4s and 5s are on the perimeter," James said. "It may be different from what you did early in your years. And he's adapted to that and he's been obviously successful you've seen what he's been able to do on that side."
Rajon Rondo says the Pelicans considered him their "Mr. Everything" on defense when they played together in New Orleans. Davis is trying to apply everything he saw from his defensive idols growing up - Dwight Howard and Kevin Garnett - and incorporate it into his game.
"Dwight, just with this shot-blocking ability and the way he is able to control the paint on the defensive end and alter shots and KG, how he just was tenacious on the defensive end," Davis told ESPN. "So, put those two guys together, that's who I try to be."
He has the approval of one of his muses already, who he now shares a locker room with.
"I've watched him grow over the years to blossom into a really great player on both ends of the floor," Howard said. "So, really proud to see him sticking by his word and doing what he has to do every night to make this team better."
With the first quarter of the season in the books and the 19-3 Lakers showing no signs of slowing down thanks to their blockbuster acquisition, why stop there?
"I got him as MVP and Defensive Player of the Year," Rondo said. "So, if he only gets one, I'll be pissed. My expectations are really high for him so we have to continue to win as a team and hopefully, the rest of the world will understand and see that he's a really big part of why we are who we are."