Gordon Monson's take on Gordon Hayward was the hottest one this week.

Welcome to another edition of This Week In Hot Takes. This time around, we’re looking at the hottest takes from sports media members from June 30-July 6. 

5. Mitch Lawrence says Kevin Durant saw Russell Westbrook as “a reason to leave”: The Oklahoma City Thunder’s acquisition of Paul George led to plenty of takes, and Lawrence dropped one of the hottest over at Forbes. In a piece titled “Paul George Is On His Side, But Did Russell Westbrook Learn From His Mistakes With Kevin Durant?”, Lawrence wrote that Westbrook was a reason Durant left for the Golden State Warriors last summer:

This is a chance for Westbrook to become the player and teammate that he wasn’t always for Kevin Durant.

Maybe Westbrook can give Paul George a reason to stay after Kevin Durant saw Westbrook as a reason to leave.

We’re not about to say that Westbrook’s desire to shoot more than he should have and try to take over games when Durant needed to were the primary reasons Durant picked up and left Oklahoma City for Golden State, where he’s found happiness, his first title and a Finals MVP trophy. But there’s little doubt that Durant saw how Stephen Curry and the Warriors played, with their unselfish approach to the game, as opposed to sometimes having to put up with Westbrook’s bull-headed approach, and that made his decision to bolt a lot simpler.

Sure, that was a problem at points for Durant during his eight seasons with Westbrook, as he referenced only 10 days after agreeing last July 4 to leave for the Warriors.

“We don’t have any selfish players on the team,” Durant said. “That’s the thing: I think everybody expects us to play selfish, but guys want to go out there and win and just play the right way. That’s what they’ve been doing. It’s on me to come in there and adapt to what they’ve been doing. It’s going to take me some time, but I’m going to get used to it pretty quick.”

Reading Durant praising his new team as a direct shot at Westbrook is a bit much (although Lawrence is far from the first person to do that), but it’s saying that Westbrook was “a reason to leave” that’s really the hot take here. Yes, an all-NBA level talent is someone you just run away from. Durant’s actual comments (before all the tea-leaf reading) suggested he didn’t really have much of a problem with Westbrook, he just saw a better opportunity and a better roster with Golden State. (And hey, that might not have been the case if the Thunder didn’t trade away another eventual MVP candidate in James Harden back in 2012 after not offering him a max deal, so maybe the bigger issue here was Oklahoma City’s ownership not being willing to spend as much as other teams.)

Rating: ??

4. Stephen A. Smith wants mugshots of the judges: Jeff Horn’s surprising win over Manny Pacquiao in last Saturday’s WBO welterweight championship bout drew plenty of criticism for the judges, and rightfully so. However, Smith did his typical Screamin’ A. act and took legitimate criticism to another level of hot-takery on ESPN’s post-fight show:

“It was a bogus decision. The thing that I’m most depressed about right now is that I don’t have the three names and a mugshot of each official for the crime that they committed by robbing Manny Pacquiao tonight.”

Steve Levy’s face when Smith says “mugshot” is fantastic:

Steve Levy reacts to Stephen A. Smith wanting judges' mugshots.

Oh, and Smith also questioned a judge’s gender and mocked her name, for some reason:

You keep on screaming, Screamin’ A.

Rating: ???

3. Rick Morrissey says baseball “isn’t exactly taxing,” wonders why players need rest: Chicago Sun-Times columnist and noted hot-taker Morrissey is at it again, this time arguing that baseball isn’t a strenuous sport and its players don’t deserve rest:

Cubs manager Joe Maddon likes to rest players periodically in the earlier months of a season, hoping they’ll be fresher because of it when August and September roll around. It’s the attitude of a man who is sure his team will be playing meaningful games when the trees start changing colors.

We can have a conversation another time about the likelihood of the Cubs suddenly succeeding after three months of sustained mediocrity. For now, let’s concentrate on the idea that major-league ballplayers need rest.

Rest from what? Running to first base?

…If there’s a physically less demanding major sport than baseball (catchers excluded!), I don’t know what it would be. An NHL season is 82 games, and it’s filled with all-out effort and high-speed collisions. Just try telling your typical hockey player, a bone sticking through his skin, that he needs a night off.

Oh, good, we’ve already hit “please like my sport” and “hockey tough,” and we’re barely even into this column. Each sport is physically demanding and challenging in its own way; constantly swinging a bat, throwing a ball, or running into a fence takes its own toll on a body.  It gets even better when Morrissey does the time-honored terrible sports columnist move of comparing professional athletes to those who work “real jobs”:

What Maddon likely is getting at, even if he’s not saying it, is that baseball is tedious. Players do the same thing day after day. Some get to the ballpark four hours before a game. They stretch, they hit in the cage, they take grounders. They might lift weights. They play the game. They go home, sleep and do the same thing the next day.

Which, come to think about it, is what 98 percent of jobs are like.

No one worries about the tedium of your job, do they? No one says: ‘‘Wiggins, you’ve got to be tired from licking all those envelopes. Give yourself a four-day weekend.’’ What the boss usually says is: ‘‘There’s no such thing as a strained tongue muscle. Get back to work.’’ Then you walk back to your work station, dreaming of the stamp collection awaiting you at home.

…There’s no doubt baseball can be tiring mentally. But let’s not mistake it for the rigors of a real job.

The “it’s not a real job because it’s a game” argument is so hackneyed and tired at this point, and conveniently ignores the often-brutal conditions athletes face on the way to the big leagues, plus the challenges (constant travel, serious injuries, diet restrictions, loss of privacy, restrictions on where you can work) they face while there. Yes, major-leaguers are well-paid, much more so than those doing a “real job” (something which will come up again in the next take), but that’s because they’re generating huge revenue, have an incredibly specialized set of skills, and are far from easily replaceable.

And whether these players “deserve” days off isn’t really the point. As Kris Bryant even says in Morrissey’s piece, players often aren’t asking for them. The idea is trying to keep players fresh and able to perform at the highest possible level in the postseason, the games that matter, and that’s maximizing the team’s chances to win (which is the manager’s job). It’s not about lazy (which pro athletes generally aren’t) players not wanting to do their job.

Moreover, does this apply to sports columnists too? Should Morrissey be questioned every time he asks for a day off, considering that he’s just writing about sports, not going through “the rigors of a real job”? He probably doesn’t want that, so it’s funny that he wants that standard to apply to athletes. We’ve seen lots of hot takes on resting players, including Tony Kornheiser calling it “a disgrace” in the NBA, but Morrissey’s stance that players don’t deserve it because they don’t have “real jobs” might be the hottest yet.

Rating: ????

2. Scott Fowler argues Steph Curry is overpaid because he makes more than teachers: Another great example of a columnist poorly comparing sports and “real jobs” comes from Scott Fowler of The Charlotte Observer, who says that no one deserves the $201 million contract Steph Curry signed:

Let’s start with this: No human being on the planet needs to be making a guaranteed $201 million over five years, including Steph Curry.

When some public school teachers are fortunate to make $40,000 a year, no athlete needs to average $40 million (which, at that rate, would fund 1,000 school teachers a year). No CEO needs $40 million a year, either. OK, if a scientist comes up with a flat-out cure for cancer, sure, she deserves it. Otherwise, nobody.

…No, he shouldn’t be paid more than 1,000 school teachers put together.

Public school teachers have their salaries funded by the government, Scott, and they’re not expected to generate revenue. NBA players generate a tremendous amount of revenue, and they get a very small part of that. (Overall, the players make about half of the league’s “basketball-related revenue,” which conveniently ignores a bunch of revenue streams.) And that overall revenue isn’t changing regardless of what percentage goes to the players; so, if the players don’t deserve it, all of that should just stick with the owners? What exactly are they doing to deserve that, especially considering that they’re already pulling in way more than any player?

Beyond that, there’s a strong argument that players like Curry are massively underpaid compared to their actual market value, because of the NBA’s max contracts and (to a lesser degree) its salary cap. But sure, let’s pull the apples-to-oranges move of comparing their salaries to what teachers make. At least Fowler later says “if anyone in the NBA deserves this megadeal, it’s Steph Curry,” but he makes it pretty clear he doesn’t think anyone deserves that. So, yeah, keep arguing that owners should reap even more of the NBA’s profits and that superstars whose values are already artificially constrained should get even less.

Rating: ?????

1. Gordon Monson accuses Gordon Hayward of “ducking out down a back alley”: There have been plenty of bad takes on Gordon Hayward leaving the Utah Jazz for the Boston Celtics in free agency, including one that seemingly got a SB Nation editor fired, but the Gordon-on-Gordon crime from Salt Lake Tribune columnist Monson stands out. It throws out all the tired cliches you can imagine on how Hayward (who, let’s not forget, is finally getting the chance to choose where to play heading into his eighth year in the league; he was a restricted free agent in 2014, but the Jazz matched the offer sheet, ensuring they kept him) is “taking the easy way out” and being cowardly by not staying with the team that drafted him:

Goodbye, Gordon Hayward, we hardly knew you.

Not the real you.

Not the you who was ducking out down a back alley, looking for the easier route.

…He never really warmed to a fan base that wanted to adore him, as much as any fan base could have, given the circumstances. The Jazz mostly lost when Hayward played for them. And when Dennis Lindsey entered his rock-steady formula for rebuilt success and [Quin] Snyder developed a group of young players straight through all kinds of adversity into a 51-win outfit, he decided the winning in Utah wasn’t good enough.

That’s the thing that’s objectionable from the outside in here.

…Still, at some point, a juncture that most definitely will come, sooner or later, Hayward will look back more clearly at his time and his climb in Utah and understand what he had here, how good he had it. While it was imperfect and always would have been, he’ll wonder what might have happened had he stuck around, playing for Snyder, playing with Rudy, finishing what he started, fulfilling every bit of his potential.

What if?

It’s a question with an answer he’ll never find.

A delightful example of “athlete leaves local team, local columnist says he made the wrong move.” Yes, Hayward absolutely owes his unfettered allegiance to a team that drafted him (no choice in that), a team he performed well for for seven years. Sure. And that juncture “most definitely will come,” eh? What about if Hayward wins championships in Boston; will he “wonder what might have happened” then? He’ll definitely regret not sticking with a team that only finished fifth in the West last year and suffered a second-round exit, one that doesn’t seem to have close to the roster of the Celtics. But this is local sports columnist hot-takery 101, and Monson is providing a master class in it.

(Also, it should be noted that my middle name is Gordon, so I’m fully qualified to discuss Gordon-on-Gordon crime.)

Rating: ?????

Notable absences: Skip Bayless, Phil Mushnick.

Hot Take Standings: 

Stephen A. Smith – 105
Skip Bayless – 78
Phil Mushnick – 48
Colin Cowherd – 23
Shannon Sharpe – 20
JT The Brick – 17
Charles Barkley – 13
Don Cherry – 11
Albert Breer – 10
Rick Morrissey – 9
Rob Parker – 9
C.J. Nitkowski – 9
Bill Plaschke – 9
Doug Gottlieb – 8
Jason McIntyre – 8
Bart Hubbuch – 8
Doug Gottlieb – 8
Dan Dakich – 7
Ray Lewis – 7
Michael DeCourcy – 6
Kristine Leahy – 6
Luke Kerr-Dineen – 6
Terry Bradshaw – 6
Greg A. Bedard – 6
Gordon Monson – 5
Scott Fowler – 5
Bob Brookover – 5
Berry Tramel – 5
Mike Bianchi – 5
Terry Frei – 5
David Jones – 5
Sabrina Parr – 5
Abbey Mastracco – 5
Terry Cushman – 5
Rob Rossi – 5
Rick Bozich – 5
Michael O’Doherty – 5
Simon Briggs – 5
Dan Wetzel – 5
Mike Parry – 5
Bob Ryan – 5
Robert Reed – 5
Pete Dougherty – 5
Dan Le Batard – 5
Marcus Hayes – 5
Kyle Turley – 5
Mike Ditka – 5
Erril Laborde – 5
Lowell Cohn – 5
Rosie DiManno – 5
Frank Isola – 5
Andy Gray – 4
David Fleming – 4
The Sporting News – 4
Jeff Pearlman – 4
Tony Grossi – 4
FanSided – 4
Cris Carter – 4
Kirk Herbstreit – 4
Tony Kornheiser – 4
Mike Felger – 4
USA Today op-eds – 4
Nathan Ruiz – 4
Malcolm Gladwell – 3
Mike Milbury – 3
Tony Massarotti – 3
Mac Engel – 3
Nick Kypreos – 3
Jason Smith – 3
Caron Butler – 3
Don Brennan – 3
Robert Tychkowski – 3
Mike Johnston – 3
Mike Francesa – 3
Jeff Mans – 3
Danny Kanell – 3
Chris Broussard – 3
Joe Browne – 3
Mike Harrington – 3
Greg Mitchell – 3
Mitch Lawrence – 2
Nick Wright – 2
Domonique Foxworth – 2
Gary Parrish – 2
Michael Farber – 2
Andy Furman – 2
Donovan McNabb – 2
Seth Davis – 2
Jon Heyman – 2
Jason La Canfora – 2
Dan Wolken – 2
Booger McFarland – 2
Joe Schad – 2
Cork Gaines – 2

Thanks for reading! Tune in next week for more This Week In Hot Takes. As always, you can send submissions to me via e-mail or on Twitter.


About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.