Warrior Worries; WNBA's Shame; Gambling Goes Mainstream
The Warriors have been in a tailspin of late and even the eternally optimistic Steve Kerr is showing signs of concern. The problem is, unless Draymond Green returns to the lineup soon, Golden State will not challenge for the NBA championship.
With all due respect to Steph Curry, regarded by many as the greatest shooter in the history of the game, the most valuable player on the Warriors is Draymond Green.
Green averages about eight points, eight rebounds and eight assists per game, but the stats don't tell the story.
While Curry is the face of the franchise, Green is the glue that holds it together. He is the heart and soul of the team. The core of the Warriors' defense. The leader of the fast break. The best passer. The best screener. The undisputed team leader.
When Green is on the floor, he facilitates open shots for Curry. He conducts the Warriors' defense. He keeps everyone in line. If someone is dogging it or not rotating properly, he'll hear from Green.
The other night, the Warriors lost to the struggling LA Lakers, with LeBron James scoring 56 points. No way that happens if Green is playing.
Klay Thompson is back, but at this point, he's not the defensive player he was before his injuries. He can no longer effectively guard the opposing team’s best offensive player.
Which makes the absence of Green all the more damaging. Green routinely defends forwards and centers several inches taller. And he routinely shuts them down or holds them in check.
The Warriors were 33-6 before Green was sidelined. They are 10-15 without him.
WNBA's Shame: Lost in all the hubbub about WNBA star Brittney Griner's arrest in Russia is the fact that the league's top players still need to play overseas during the off-season to earn a decent wage. If an all-star like Griner, a former WNBA MVP, has to supplement her income by playing on the courts of America's greatest enemy, that is not only a shame, it's a disgrace.
Gambling Gets Respect: It wasn’t that long ago that the NCAA refused to allow conference championships or NCAA tournaments to be held in Las Vegas. Everyone knew there was a lot of betting going on, but the idea of holding major events in the betting capital of the world seemed inappropriate. Casinos and betting organizations weren’t allowed to sponsor college teams, tournaments or bowls. Even the NFL, where betting is a lifeblood of the sport, kept it in the background whenever possible.
No more. Since 2018, when the Supreme Court struck down the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act—which had limited legal sports betting primarily to Las Vegas—gambling has gone mainstream.
To be sure, Americans had been betting billions of dollars on sports before the Supreme Court ruling, but the high court’s decision gave it respectability. Historically, because of ties to the mob and decades of sandals, gambling was often seen as a threat to the integrity of college and professional sports. It's why Pete Rose isn't in the Hall of Fame.
But over the past several years, the public acceptance of sports betting has increased dramatically. Fantasy leagues, media coverage of point spreads, and commissioners anxious to milk any revenue opportunity softened the stigma even before the Supreme Court ruling.
In recent years, DraftKings and FanDuel became major sponsors of football telecasts. Conference championships moved to Las Vegas, en masse. And, in all likelihood, it’s only a matter of time before the Pac-12 office relocates to Sin City.
I bring all this up because SportRadar, a company that describes itself as “the world’s leading provider of sports betting products and services,” today became a major sponsor of Bowl Season.
According to the release, the new collaboration will enable the Swiss-based company "to support the Bowl Season as it seeks to enter the sports betting space in a thoughtful and responsible manner.”
In addition, SportRadar will train bowl personnel on “entering engaging with sports betting.”
I guess I’m old fashioned, but as a former bowl executive, that makes me want to throw up.
Note: The Inside Track will be on vacation for a week starting Wednesday. We'll return with a post late next week or on Monday, March 21. Aloha.