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#IMHO: Injuries, rookies and the silver screen

by Lang Whitaker | Grizz Gaming GM

Grind City Media’s Lang Whitaker and Michael Wallace have been covering the NBA since shorts were short and socks were long, but their opinions about the League don’t always mesh. #IMHO is their weekly chance to weigh in on the most pertinent news from around the NBA. What’s lit? What’s lame? Find out each week right here.

From: Lang Whitaker
Sent: Tuesday, March 26, 2019 10:09 AM
To: Michael Wallace
Subject: #IMHO


The other night the Portland Trailblazers beat the Brooklyn Nets in double overtime to clinch a Western Conference playoff berth. Meanwhile, their developing center, Jusuf Nurkic, continued his strong play of late, tallying 32 points, 16 rebounds and 5 assists.

And then Nurkic suffered a gruesome leg injury. I am having to take this injury news at the word of those who have seen the injury, because I refuse to watch the play. As a kid I saw Joe Theismann’s ankle shatter on a hit by Lawrence Taylor, and I still remember watching that and thinking, “I don’t think an ankle is supposed to bend that direction.” And I just happened to be watching a late night midsummer USA Basketball scrimmage on ESPN a few years ago when Paul George’s leg turned into an acute angle.

In no way has my life been made better by watching these injuries. It’s one thing for Steven Seagal to flip someone’s elbow inside-out in a movie, with an accompanying comical sound effect, but for me, seeing a professional athlete’s life changed forever isn’t fun or edifying in any way.

Which brings me to my first question for you today: What NBA injury left the most unanswered questions of what might have been?

Jusuf Nurkic is attended to after an apparent broken leg

From: Michael Wallace
Sent: Tuesday, March 26, 2019 11:33 AM
To: Lang Whitaker
Subject: RE: #IMHO

Lang, so many names instantly popped into my mind as I first digested your question. There’s Brandon Roy. There’s Greg Oden. There’s Grant Hill. There’s Penny Hardaway. There’s Shaun Livingston. Roy was on the verge of being a top-3 shooting guard in the league before the knee injuries shut down the blossoming All-Star. Same knee issues in the same city toppled Oden in Portland before he could really get started on the path to being a once-in-a-generation big man.

With Grant and Penny, at least we still saw them sustain some level of greatness for a while before the foot and knee ailments ultimately slowed them down. But Livingston, in my mind, had every bit as much talent, athleticism and will as any young player I’ve seen enter the league in a long time. The gruesome spill he took in 2007 with the Clippers that dislocated and shattered every ligament and structure in and around his knee derailed what could have been – no, SHOULD have been – a Hall of Fame career. So the fact that Livingston worked his tail off to resurrect his career as a key role player on the perennial champion Warriors is a testament to his fortitude.

Lang, I’ve got a confession to make. Call me prisoner of the moment, but Trae Young has me strongly wanting to change my Rookie of the Year vote. Luka was the run-away favorite for the first half of the season. But Trae has not just been the best rookie since the All-Star break; he’s been one of the league’s best players over the second half of the season.

Am I going a bit too far to believe Young has Usain Bolt-ed Luka for Rookie of the Year?

Trae Young is showered by teammates after victory

From: Lang Whitaker
Sent: Wednesday, March 27, 2019 8:35 PM
To: Michael Wallace
Subject: RE: #IMHO

Mike, as a former active participant in Hawks Twitter, I smile to myself every time I see a Tweet heralding a play from Doncic, because almost immediately following it will be a tweet from Hawks Twitter saying something like, “Yeah, but have you seen Trae Young’s passing ability?” I get it that Young has been really good, and he’s sustained his play to a degree I don’t think anyone else saw coming, but the truth is that Luka’s been great from the jump. The Hawks traded away the chance to get him. Long term, it may not matter -- we’ll see what that first round pick they got from Dallas turns into, and it ultimately might make Atlanta the better team. But for now, I think we can admit that Trae Young is a terrific young player. But Luka’s the best rookie.

On Wednesday night, I sat courtside at FedExForum watching the Grizz and Warriors play, and recent signee Andrew Bogut checked in for Golden State. If Bogut is able to play at a level anything close to the way he used to play in the NBA, it could be quite a late-season pickup for an already stacked team.

Which got me thinking, let’s play a little fantasy GM: If you’re the GM of one of the three other big-time contenders (Houston, Milwaukee and Toronto), who is a bench player you would pluck off another roster to add for the stretch run?

Andrew Bogut checks in

From: Michael Wallace
Sent: Thursday, March 28, 2019 12:27 AM
To: Lang Whitaker
Subject: RE: #IMHO

Assuming you’re asking which player I’d take, if allowed, off the bench of a team that is not in the playoff hunt, then I’ll focus only on Milwaukee. Given the Bucks’ recent injury issues, they could use a boost in depth at just about every position.

But I’d snag Vince Carter, a veteran who has played in every role and has the experience and leadership to help guide the Bucks through a postseason run. Vince is averaging double figures in his last 10 games and is shooting better than 40 percent from 3-point range. So he could create space for Giannis and also be a mentor for that team along the way.

Mainly, I just don’t want to see Carter, 42, spend what’s left of his remarkable career on the outside looking in when meaningful games are played later this spring. For sentimental reasons, Vince would also be my choice for the Raptors, so he can perhaps finish up where he started it all.

We’ll end on this. Lang, I saw a lot of folks respond to this on social media, so I figured we’d debate this here. White Men Can’t Jump came out 27 years ago this week. I actually remember exactly which theater I saw it in when it came out. Where does it rank among all-time basketball movies? If it isn’t your favorite, which one was? My top three are Blue Chips, The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh and Glory Road – in no particular order.

Vince Carter and Giannis Antetokounmpo

From: Lang Whitaker
Sent: Thursday, March 28, 2019 9:33 AM
To: Michael Wallace
Subject: RE: #IMHO

Well, you’ve come to an expert with this question. I’ve seen every basketball movie made – well, except Uncle Drew -- and I have strong feelings about many of them. (Hot take: Space Jam is overrated.) I like the three you mentioned, particularly The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh, because that is such a weird movie. Like, they really spent millions of dollars to make a movie that starred Dr. J, and is about a basketball team that gets their season turned around by utilizing astrology! I’m not sure who green-lit this idea but I’m glad they did.

Another movie I really liked was Hoosiers, because Gene Hackman is always fun to watch and because I think we’ve all had a coach like that at some point in our lives. He Got Game is a classic, with an all-time performance from Denzel Washington – also, I loved how Spike Lee used so much Aaron Copland orchestral music in the score. Hoop Dreams is unbelievably believable. And don’t forget Semi-Pro, which co-starred Andre 3000 as Clarence Withers.

For one of my earliest birthday parties, I went with a group of friends to see Teen Wolf, which is essentially a basketball movie. But I rewatched it recently and, oh man, does the basketball not hold up. If I was playing against him I’d rip that ball.

Picking the best out of all of that is like picking an All-NBA team. They all are great and fun, but for different reasons. I can’t pick just one. I’ll take them all.

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Memphis Grizzlies. All opinions expressed by Lang Whitaker and Michael Wallace are solely their own and do not reflect the opinions of the Memphis Grizzlies or its Basketball Operations staff, owners, parent companies, partners or sponsors. Their sources are not known to the Memphis Grizzlies and they have no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

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