O'Donnell: NBA coaches and players can craft a compelling response to current China crisis

  • Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr took the high road after being insulted by President Donald Trump.

    Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr took the high road after being insulted by President Donald Trump. Associated Press

  • Gregg Popovich, here coaching the United States in the FIBA Basketball World Cup in China last month, came under criticism from President Trump for his stance on China.

    Gregg Popovich, here coaching the United States in the FIBA Basketball World Cup in China last month, came under criticism from President Trump for his stance on China. Associated Press

Updated 10/12/2019 6:31 PM

FREE SPEECH AND EXPANDING CAPITALISM have collided at the intersection of NBA Highway and China Grove.

All because goofball Houston general manager Daryl Morey apparently had too much social media time on his hands last week.


(Note: Morey's not a goofus because of his Hong Kong tweet; his backstage ego has transformed the Rockets from a legitimate title contender into a band of gypsies merely waiting for official drippage that their competitive levee has been breached.)

Now the residual radiation radius continues to snag unlikelies, none more prominent in recent days than Naismith Hall-bound coaches Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich.

Calling into question the "Americanism" of either is bizarre because both hold noteworthy distinctions in that category.

The internationally-schooled Kerr has fought and flourished through life with dignity, intelligence and empathy after losing his father Malcolm Kerr -- the president of American University of Beirut -- to the bullets of extremist assassins in 1984.

Kerr was age 18 when his father was targeted because he was an American.

Popovich is an Air Force Academy grad (Class of '70) who followed five years of active duty with four more as an assistant coach with the Falcons.

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He acknowledges he gave serious consideration to a career with the CIA.

Some suspect he had an apprenticeship that went a bit farther than merely watching old reruns of "I Spy."

In an era of astounding American polarization and high-level obfuscation, both are perfectly positioned to push for an action statement by NBA coaches and players.

Very simply, petition Commissioner Adam Silver than no NBA games be played next season on Nov. 2 and 3, 2020.

That would cover both election eve and the date of the next U.S. presidential election.

Frame it as NBA "Civic Awareness Days" to underscore the focus and knowledge that the citizenry should bring to any election.

In advance, encourage ongoing substantive and credible debate, discovery and consideration in all elections forward.


It would not in any way be a statement of political partisanship or preference.

It would be a statement about attempting to return a battered America to a nation where rationality trumps rage, coherency trumps confusion and civil civic discourse trumps thermonuclear toxicity.

As for Morey, maybe Silver and Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta can take his electronica away until the storm passes.

Teddy Roosevelt once borrowed from Napoleon Bonaparte when he said: "Let China sleep for when she awakens, she will shake the world."

Morey apparently missed history class that day.

STREET-BEATIN': After Zion Williamson's first visit to the United Center with the New Orleans Pelicans this week, quick assessment on 1984 NBA startup Michael Jordan v Baby Z: Williamson clearly is transcendentally gifted but Jordan's raw energy and all-court intensity were more theatrical. (As ad guy Dennis O'Donnell put it after an early M.J. game, "Jordan's like a puppy chasing one of those unbalanced rubber balls. His head just keeps bouncing above everybody else.") … A long, long NFL Sunday begins with Carolina-Tampa Bay from London on the NFL Network at 8:30 a.m. (That will include an overpopulated booth stuffed with Rich Eisen, Kurt Warner, Michael Irvin, Steve Mariucci and quite possibly the skull of poor Yorick.) … CBS then really jams its Fisheye at Chicago with the HOU-KC nooner featuring star young QBs Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. (Both of whom, of course, were drafted after Mitch Trubisky in 2017.) … Credible report that all alcohol has been banned on Bears charters. (Even Virginia McCaskey has to stow the elderberry in her purse.) … The Astros opened as -180 faves over New York (+160) in the ALCS (Game 2, Sunday, 7 p.m., FS1). To win, Aaron Boone's bats have to get out of Houston no worse than 1-1 and close the series in five games. … Resilient Chicago sportsman Kenny McReynolds made his third cameo on a "Law & Order: SVU" in the show's 2019-20 season premiere. That episode made the program the longest-running prime-time drama in the history of American TV with 21 seasons, passing both "Gunsmoke" and Dick Wolf's original "Law & Order."… Slumping NBCSCH presented a predictably ragged Blackhawks "Red Carpet" before Jeremy Colliton's swerving marionettes painfully lost their home opener to San Jose. Kevin Cross's inconsistent Peacock toaster was very fortunate to have Eddie Olczyk and Patrick Sharp. … The Score's David Schuster and Cheryl Raye-Stout of WBEZ-FM (91.5) are now the senior radio reporters around the Bulls. (Both can remember when John Paxson could actually look happy.) … Every Flub Ever, Mr. David Ross: Since 1958, the Cubs have hired only two managers during an off-season with no previous MLB managing experience -- Lee Elia (1982) and Rick Renteria (2014). Neither made it through a full second season; Renteria was one and screwed. … The Boston Globe asked tailgaters in the parking lots of Gillette Stadium for the Patriots-Giants game Thursday night if they'd leave their significant others for Tom Brady. ("Survey says: 'Abso-freakin-lutely,'" columnist Teresa Hanafin wrote. "By the way, both men and women have crushes.") … And Fox's David Ortiz, on how best to hit against Houston's dominating Gerrit Cole: "Choke, poke and hope."

• Jim O'Donnell's Sports & Media column appears Thursday and Sunday. Reach him at jimodonnelldh@yahoo.com.

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