Hot takes for May 19-25 included ones on NBA players vs. coaches, Kevin Durant, and NFL celebrations.

Welcome to another edition of This Week In Hot Takes! This time around, we’re examining the hottest takes from sports media members from May 19-25.

5. Tony Massarotti said Isaiah Thomas and the Celtics quit, after Thomas was hurt and a day before they won a game: There have been plenty of complaints about the lack of parity and the short series lengths in these NBA playoffs, and many of those are somewhat justified, but accusing a team of quitting entirely? That’s something different, and it’s just what Massarotti (a host for Boston’s 98.5 The Sports Hub) did after the first two games of the Celtics’ series against the Cleveland Cavaliers:

To be fair to Massarotti, this was coming after an incredibly lopsided 130-86 Cleveland win in Game Two extended the Cavs’ series lead to 2-0. However, suggesting that Thomas in particular had quit was bizarre, as he hurt his hip during that second game, didn’t play in the second half, and would actually be declared out for the rest of the postseason shortly before Massarotti posted this scorching take. And saying “it’s impossible to conclude that they have not quit” is ridiculous (especially following “I know we’re going to fight about this”; that shows he’s quite aware that there are plenty of other possible conclusions).

Best of all, a day after this Massarotti take, Boston beat the Cavs in Cleveland 111-108. The Cavs would wind up closing out the series 112-99 and 135-102, but that had much more to do with the Celtics being outgunned (especially after the injury to Thomas) than quitting, and the effort they showed in Game Three in particular bodes well for their long-term future. So yeah, it wasn’t impossible to conclude that they had not quit.

It should be noted that this is far from the first Massarotti take that has not held up. Here’s one previous gem:

And he also wrote “Is LeBron James A Winner?” during last year’s NBA Finals. Well, James won, and Bryant was not overrated. That’s just more evidence that Massarotti is dropping more hot takes than serious analysis.

Rating: ???

4. Skip Bayless ranted about LeBron James’ missed dunk: Speaking of that Cavs-Celtics series, Game Four saw James miss on an open dunk attempt, and that provided an opportunity for noted LeBron trasher Bayless to chime in:

This then further led to Bayless bashing James on Undisputed the next day, giving all the credit for the Cavs’ eventual 112-99 win to Kyrie Irving (who had 42 points, but LeBron had 34) and saying he “saved LeBron’s legacy”:

Look, that was an embarrassing miss, but missed dunks happen. In fact, a very similar one happened to Michael Jordan in the 1992 playoffs, which Skip might not want to recognize given his constant insistence that Jordan and James aren’t on the same planet. (It should be noted that James passed Jordan as the all-time postseason scoring leader in Game Five; in more games, but that’s still impressive and speaks to what James has done in the playoffs, even if Skip doesn’t think so.) This miss didn’t wind up affecting anything, and while James’ Game 4 performance wasn’t as strong as Irving’s, it was still important overall to Cleveland’s win. But it’s hard for Skip to see that through the LeBron-hating goggles and desire to crank out controversial takes. In any case, these two points certainly weren’t as important as he claimed.

Rating: ???

3. Stephen A. Smith calls Kevin Durant “more arrogant” and “flagrantly disrespectful”, says “he hasn’t gotten smarter”: The base concept of the self-proclaimed omniscient Stephen A. Smith calling anyone else “arrogant and disrespectful” is hilarious, but it gets even better when it’s about Kevin Durant, who Smith has possibly been more arrogant about and disrespectful to than anyone else. Here’s the clip in question, which came after Durant saying that if fans didn’t like playoff blowouts, they shouldn’t watch them. That led to Smith going off on First Take and saying Durant was getting “more arrogant” and “more disrespectful”, and adding “And to be quite honest with you, he hasn’t gotten smarter:

“He’s aged. And along the process of aging, he’s gotten more arrogant, he’s gotten more disrespectful, he’s gotten more dismissive — particularly of the fans. And to be quite honest with you, he hasn’t gotten smarter. And the reason why he hasn’t gotten smarter is because the younger Durant would’ve never said something so flagrantly disrespectful towards fans.

…“That guy who was crying during his MVP speech, dedicating so much to his mother. And the affection he garnered because of it and the manner in which he’s conducted himself as a basketball ambassador and all of that other stuff, it’s to be commended. It’s just not the Kevin Durant that we’ve been seeing over the last couple of years.”

Smith trying to light up Durant here is quite funny, considering that he threatened Durant with “You do not want to make an enemy out of me” after Durant disputed what he reported (about Durant considering the Lakers) last summer and that he’s previously said Durant “ruined the regular season” and was “riding the coattails” of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. Who’s arrogant, disrespectful and not smart now? Oh, and Durant saying that fans don’t have to watch blowouts if they don’t like them brings back memories of Stephen A. himself ranting about how hard it is for him to be paid millions to watch blowouts, which landed in this column back in January. If there’s anything that’s “flagrantly disrespectful of the fans,” that qualifies much more than what Durant said.

Rating: ?????

2. Phil Mushnick loses his mind over the NFL relaxing celebration rules: The NFL’s decision to stop penalizing many celebrations was rightly praised in many quarters, as those celebration penalties had proven so unnecessary and put a damper on the game. They were one of the worst examples of “THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE” taking itself much more seriously than it needed to, and even commissioner Roger Goodell admitted that the league had taken criticism from players and fans into account in deciding to end this. But someone else who takes himself far too seriously is New York Post columnist/troll Phil Mushnick, who’s long been at war with any kind of on-field exuberance.

For example, last fall Mushnick wrote that Antonio Brown’s end-zone twerking was “performing a vulgar groin-thrusting TD dance that mimed copulation” and “a repugnant act.” (Repugnant! Repugnant!). More recently, he’s taken aim at Yoenis Cespedes for celebrating hits and not hustling enough, complained about Yadier Molina celebrating throwing out a runner in the World Baseball Classic, and complained about Dylan Ennis’ NCAA tournament layup celebration (in a piece that also saw him saying Ennis and Michigan’s Moritz Wagner couldn’t possibly be legitimate student-athletes thanks to their ages and birthplaces). And Mushnick perhaps managed to top himself with this unhinged jeremiad from Thursday night about the celebration rule changes, titled “Roger Goodell has thrown up white flag on NFL behavior.” Here are some lowlights:

The statue of Roger Goodell won’t be like the one of Ray Lewis, outside the Ravens’ stadium.

That statue depicts Lewis performing his blood dance, the contorted one he would enact after he knocked opponents senseless by illegally smashing them in their heads, brutality for which the NFL both fined him and hired him to endorse merchandise.

…The pedestal will carry an inscription honoring Goodell as the man who, in 2017, emancipated the clowns, the man who officially devalued class, dignity and modesty as incompatible with the NFL under his leadership.

But Goodell’s Tuesday announcement, that the NFL will no longer flag players who make self-smitten jerks of themselves while diminishing the sport, wasn’t as much a decree as a capitulation. Goodell, the pandering quisling, went over to the other side.

…Goodell essentially declared that class is dismissed — exhibiting dignity and professionalism has been reduced to a dull, unappreciated option.

The whole thing is worth a read, and a laugh at how anyone can be so deluded. Are we sure this column isn’t an elaborate prank to see how many times he can use “class” in one piece? Oh, and it’s somewhat interesting that all the athletes Mushnick criticizes for celebrations happen to not be white, isn’t it? It’s not like he has a history of terrible racist comments or anything…

Rating: ?????

1. David Jones calls NBA playoffs “a sick joke” because players “run” the league: Amazingly, Mushnick’s column wasn’t even the worst column this week, or the worst column with vaguely-racist overtones. Step right up, David Jones of The Harrisburg (PA) Patriot-News, and tell us how “NBA Playoffs are becoming a sick joke because star players, not coaches, run American basketball“:

At every level, the players control the game in America. They call the shots in AAU ball and hop from team to team on a whim, sometimes barely considering their high school teams and coaches. In college, though the head coaches still reign, the best players have the one- (or two-) n-done option and control the continuity of a program. And the NBA is almost completely controlled by stars and their agents. The league itself is part and parcel of the philosophy, marketing individual names more than teams.

None of that is true in Europe. And that’s partly why the Old World is producing a better brand of basketball.

…And after watching LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers lose interest, float around the perimeter and take rhythm-less jump shots in the course of blowing a 21-point lead to the overmatched Boston Celtics last night in an unfathomable 111-108 loss, I thought: Would this be happening if the coach really ran the team?

…Maybe it could have happened under someone other than Tyronn Lue. Maybe it could have happened on a team without an ultra alpha dog such as LeBron. Maybe no coach can really direct James and you just sort of manage him.

But I’d sure as hell like to find out.

I’d like to see what would happen if the NBA wasn’t top-heavy with so many coaching patsies, guys who long ago have become resigned to submerging their egos, settling for the paycheck and resigning themselves to the fact that the NBA is run by its stars, not by its coaches.

There are a few who stand out. Gregg Popovich, of course. Steve Kerr. I thought Brad Stevens might become the guy who can really run his own store until that debacle on Friday made me wonder.

Pop’s spawn Brett Brown might have a chance with solid citizen Joel Embiid onboard – that is if the Sixers ever acquire enough players worthy of having outsized egos. And Quin Snider seems to have that gene in him if he gets a couple of breaks, namely somehow hanging onto Gordon Hayward.

But mostly, this league is like a commune of guys who’ve lost their manhood, who shrink and say, “Yes, dear,” when their stars tersely convey their needs.

Hmm. So Jones manages to list off five white NBA coaches he admires and one white player (Hayward), while bashing a black coach (Lue) and a black player (LeBron) who just happened to win a title last year and omitting a black acting coach (Mike Brown) who’s having a lot of success. And he manages to throw in some tired reference to stereotypical masculinity and relationships’ gender roles to boot. Oh, and it gets better with his next bit:

What would happen if a European coach who really has his chops, who knows exactly what he wants, immigrates to the States and starts yelling out orders?

A Euro with the personal capital in his profession of a Bill Belichick.

Uh, the Cavaliers tried that with David Blatt. It didn’t end well. They then replaced him with Lue and won a title. But sure, European coaches like Zeljko Obradovic or Ettore Messina might do just fine in the NBA. That doesn’t mean players have too much power, though, and the arguments Jones trots out to try to make that point are pretty specious, including arguments that past coaches never would have settled for blowouts. There were lots of playoff blowouts before 2017! But sure, keep arguing in favor of rigid authority figures. That’s worked out so well in the past, including with Jones’ columns in praise of Joe Paterno. The real “sick joke” here is that terrible opinions like this are given prominent newspaper space.

Rating: ?????

Honorable mention: Colin Cowherd on Colin Kaepernick and Tim Tebow.

Notable absences: Cowherd, Shannon Sharpe.

Hot Take Standings:

Stephen A. Smith – 90
Skip Bayless – 63
Phil Mushnick – 43
Colin Cowherd – 20
Shannon Sharpe – 20
JT The Brick – 17
Charles Barkley – 13
Don Cherry – 11
Doug Gottlieb – 8
Jason McIntyre – 8
Bart Hubbuch – 8
Doug Gottlieb – 8
Ray Lewis – 7
Kristine Leahy – 6
Luke Kerr-Dineen – 6
Terry Bradshaw – 6
Greg A. Bedard – 6
David Jones – 5
Sabrina Parr – 5
Abbey Mastracco – 5
Terry Cushman – 5
Rob Rossi – 5
Albert Breer – 5
Rick Bozich – 5
Michael O’Doherty – 5
Simon Briggs – 5
Dan Wetzel – 5
Mike Parry – 5
Bob Ryan – 5
Robert Reed – 5
Rick Morrissey – 5
Pete Dougherty – 5
Dan Le Batard – 5
Marcus Hayes – 5
Rob Parker – 5
Kyle Turley – 5
Mike Ditka – 5
Erril Laborde – 5
Lowell Cohn – 5
Rosie DiManno – 5
C.J. Nitkowski – 5
Frank Isola – 5
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
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
Dan Dakich – 3
Michael DeCourcy – 3
Mike Harrington – 3
Greg Mitchell – 3
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 is a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He previously worked at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.