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The NBA's biggest turkeys in 2021

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November 25th, 2021

With Thanksgiving finally upon us, it’s time for an annual tradition: handing out our awards for the NBA’s biggest turkeys. So here are the top five players, teams, and committees that have made fools of themselves this year.

5. JAY WILLIAMS

This one is short and sweet to get us started, but it’s still one of the more boneheaded moments from the last year in the NBA. Upon the Boston Celtics hiring head coach Ime Udoka, Williams sent out a tweet congratulating the franchise for "hiring their first head coach of color."

It doesn’t get much more wrong than that, not only because the Celtics have had several such coaches (including Doc Rivers who is still an active NBA coach) but also because they were the team with the first Black coach in NBA history in Bill Russell, who had just recently been inducted into the Hall of Fame as a coach when Williams made the tweet.

But Williams didn’t stop there, he doubled down and had the audacity to retreat to the "I was hacked" defense. The icing on the cake was his ESPN co-host Jalen Rose openly ridiculing this obvious falsehood during a live playoffs broadcast.

Turkey indeed.

4. DAVID GRIFFIN

Though it’s only Thanksgiving, it may be time to take the New Orleans Pelicans off life support.

The Pels are just 4-16 and have been mired in self-made misery since the start of David Griffin’s tenure. Now, Griffin can’t control injuries, and his inclusion on this list isn’t because Zion Williamson has yet to play a single minute of basketball this season.

But Griffin has only made things worse for the franchise with his asinine behavior. Not only did he keep Zion’s broken foot a secret, he lied and said he’d be back in time for the regular season, and then had the gall to suggest that his obvious lie was instead a misunderstanding. There have also been grumblings about Griffin’s two-faced nature among his staff. Add in an alleged fistfight with former Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry and Griffin has more than earned a spot on our list.

3. THE NBA COMPETITION COMMITTEE

Now credit where credit’s due, the new rules on unnatural shooting motions and on non-basketball plays have been an enormous success. No matter how many players complain, it is universally agreed that the product on the court this year is substantially better in terms of flow. But that is what makes the omission to do anything about the take foul so utterly jarring.

An NBA fast break is arguably the most exciting moment in sports, and yet the NBA continues to incentivize the elimination of it. And because it is so often the "right" decision from a tactical standpoint, you can’t blame players and teams for using it more and more. 

Instead, the blame lies with the NBA.

2. KYRIE IRVING

It’s truly depressing what has happened to Kyrie Irving. Not only is he one of the most dynamic guards in the NBA with one of the best handles of all-time, he finished last season playing arguably the finest basketball of his career. And now because he won’t take the COVID-19 vaccine, he isn’t playing for the Brooklyn Nets, who were pegged as title favorites entering the season. 

On top of all the (much more important) social and moral implications, there are few greater basketball joys than watching Kyrie take his man to the hoop and lay it in off the glass. The loss of that alone would be enough to earn this spot.

1. THE SACRAMENTO KINGS

Sometimes life gives you a visual metaphor too powerful to ignore. So it was last week when a fan sitting courtside at a home game for the Sacramento Kings, puked all over himself and the court, aligning himself perfectly with the dejected performance of the franchise this year.

The Kings have since fired Luke Walton after another uninspired start, and De'Aaron Fox, typically a font of basketball joy, seems worn down by the dysfunction in Sacramento.

While the decision to fire Walton was the right one, the process was terrible. If he didn't have the confidence of ownership to survive 20 games, then they should have fired him in the offseason. Apparently the team also seriously considered making Doug Christie interim head coach, despite his total lack of experience for the job. It just shows that the root problems of the franchise go all the way to the top.

Oh, and the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 draft, Marvin Bagley III, had all but been scrubbed from Walton’s rotation while the players taken just ahead of him or behind him are cruising to veteran extensions and All-NBA appearances. For all this and more, the Kings are the top NBA turkey of the year.

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