Del Olaleye: If you do not like what athletes have to say, ignore them

Lebron James stirred things up. NBA.com

Do we want our sports favorites to have an opinion? You’re never supposed to ask a question you already have an answer for but I just did it. We don’t want their opinions. At least not ones that don’t agree with our own. I’m not sure where that comes from. We go through life talking to people who don’t agree with everything we say. We don’t immediately respond with a shut up and do your job to the offending party. Athletes and coaches appear to be held to a different standard. When we want their opinions we’ll give it to them. Just ball. Don’t talk.

Sports are most often pointed to as an escape from the real world. There are times when sports truly is an escape. Houston fans rallied around the Astros in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. That World Series run could truly have been something to take people’s minds away from their lives being completely changed by a natural disaster. That “escape from the real world” phrase is often used in less dire circumstances as well.

For transparency’s sake, I rarely listen to athletes speak. I care about the games being played and very little else. That extends to sports talk shows on the major networks like FS1 and ESPN. Miss me with all the opinions.  Once the final score is decided it is time for Netflix. Not everyone is like me and some people like to hear what players actually think. That is until they have an opinion that strikes the wrong chord.

Players have been the targets of fan ire for a quite a bit. Recently Lebron James and Kevin Durant’s comments on a video podcast went viral because of a Fox News host. That host is playing to her audience. I can barely take what she said seriously. When you’re on Fox News and you tell “entitled athletes” who are critical of a Republican president to shut up you’re just doing your job. Laura Ingraham probably could have been fired for negligence if she hadn’t said what she said. Players are not the only people speaking out. Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich are the two most high profile coaches in the NBA right now and also the most outspoken. Popovich and Kerr have both taken their shots at the president and faced some backlash because they’re both supposed to be just basketball coaches.

I can’t think of a logical reason why people in sports are expected to stay silent on social issues. Is it because they play a game for living? Are they any different than your coworker you’re more than happy to get into a lengthy discussion with? Some of us, myself included, avoid discussing certain topics because we know a good number of people just will not be moved off their platform. They’re like a roided up American Gladiator in the Joust. You may get a shot or two in but you’re fighting a losing battle.

We’re willing to listen to opinions from radio hosts and TV personalities from the start of our day to the 11 pm Sportscenter but the coaches and players being discussed would be better served acting like extremely life-like robots. Some players take that approach. It might be more healthy to be seen and not heard. Those twitter streets can get ugly. If we were given the option to control their movements and words with controllers we just might. Maybe players would be better off simply serving as a representative of the hometown team and nothing more. Wear the jersey, play hard and talk about nothing but the game. All they need to do is make sure they’re available for that three hour block of time that we’re in front of the TV or at the stadium/arena and then go recharge at their docking station until the next time they’re needed.

Before anything else athletes are just people and people tend to speak their mind from time to time. In this case these people happen to have an elevated platform and every now and then they might choose to voice their opinion. An opinion you can take in and assess or completely ignore.

If you actually ever get offended by what an athlete says it really is your fault. You could always be watching Everything Sucks! on Netflix instead.


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Rockets get another much-needed win. Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets went on a redemption tour by beating the Detroit Pistons and Dallas Mavericks. But the most pivotal win was against the Mavericks as the Rockets finally showed their true potential. John Wall finally made his return from his injury hiatus and played with a lot of energy. DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Gordon combined for 61 points. It was great to see Stephan Silas crack a smile as he was able to beat his former team.

The Rockets clearly missed Wall during his eight-game absense. This season, the Rockets are a .500 team with Wall on the court. Wall is the Rockets' floor general that leads, constructs, and also pushes his teammates to become better.

Wall only played 21 minutes in the 133-108 win over the Mavericks but still had eight assists. Even though Wall only had 7 points, his presence was still felt by finding his teammates for open looks beyond the perimeter. Wall made sure Cousins and Gordon got a plethora of touches. He called multiple actions, so they got open looks from three, which was mainly Gordon. Gordon and Cousins' struggles have been similar but with Wall on the court, they were successful against the Mavericks. According to NBA Stats, Wall posted a 111 offensive rating with the starters versus the Mavericks, which included Gordon and Cousins.

"He's the engine to this team. He gets everybody going. He makes the game easy," Cousins told a reporter after the game. "The pressure that he constantly puts on the defense is a tough thing to deal with."

Gordon has struggled all season long with three-point shooting and relied on his slashing abilities. Saturday night, Gordon made six three pointers against the Mavericks, which was 66 percent from beyond the perimeter. Gordon increased his three-point percentage from 31 percent to 34.5 percent after Saturday night's game. Gordon's 33 points came from being able to attack the entire Mavericks' defense. Willy Cauley-Stein didn't stand a chance against Gordon as he was burned multiple times. Gordon's been a lifesaver for the Rockets in the last two games, and hopefully he maintains his play.

Cousins played fantastic against the Mavericks scoring 28 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. This is Cousins' first double-double with the Rockets this season. Cousins became the vintage player from the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings. It was extremely fun watching Cousins push the ball up the court and aggressively snatch rebounds. Boogie shot 50 percent from behind the arc by making four three-pointers. He was dominant inside the paint as Cousins went 7/8 from the restricted area versus the Mavericks. This was the game Cousins needed after having a poor performance against the Pistons Friday night.

"It was really, really good. He did it all. He's a physical presence on both ends of the floor," as Silas said on Cousins' performance.

David Nwaba and Mason Jones were big factors off the Rockets' bench by having a combined total of 34 points together. Nwaba has been great in transition for the Rockets the entire season. Keep in mind that Nwaba is returning from an Achilles injury he suffered with his former team, the Brooklyn Nets. Nwaba has became a great defender, slasher, and is averaging a career-high nine points per game with the Rockets. He finished with 18 points on Saturday night versus the Mavericks.

Mason Jones has become a fan favorite of the Rockets because of his confidence. Silas is loving the usage of Jones off the bench but wants to find more minutes for him. Jones had a breakout performance versus the San Antonio Spurs with 24 points off 66 percent shooting from the field. He continues to get better with his reads from the point guard position. Jones' knowledge of running the offense has helped his efficiency on the court. He is never afraid to take clutch shots in pivotal moments of the game.

"To have a young kid who can come in and not be afraid of the moment, that's big. That's a tough position to be in as an undrafted rookie. I trust him. It's a good problem to have," Silas mentioned after the game. "He's showing me he's ready. He's a confident kid, and he should be. That's why he's good. He's not afraid of the moment, at all. He can get us organized, run plays, and score the basketball."

Hopefully, the Rockets can sustain their level of play when Victor Oladipo returns against the Washington Wizards, Tuesday. It will be interesting to watch Oladipo and Wall play in the same backcourt.

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