Wizards

Column: 'This microphone is powerful right now.'

201212182016730125483-p2.jpeg

Column: 'This microphone is powerful right now.'

The game was over, and the postgame interview appeared to be, too, when Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey suddenly decided otherwise.

By then, the sting of his team's 65-55 loss to Ohio State was already an afterthought. Instead, like a lot of us, he was still heartbroken about the school shootings in Newtown, determined to say something about them.

``The last thing I want to say,'' Kelsey began, as reporters scrambled to turn their tape recorders back on Tuesday night, ``is I'm really, really lucky, because I'm going to get on an eight-hour bus ride, and I'm going to arrive in Rock Hill, South Carolina, and I'm going to walk into my house, and I'm going to walk upstairs, and I'm going to walk into two pink rooms with a 5-year-old and a 4-year-old laying in that pink room, with a bunch of teddy bears laying in that room.

``And I'm going to give them the biggest hug and the biggest kiss I've ever given them. And there's 20 families in Newtown, Conn., that are walking into a pink room with a bunch of teddy bears with nobody laying in those beds,'' he said. ``And it's tragic.''

No one in the room knew that was coming, nor the call to action that came next. The only thing that was certain was that Kelsey's voice grew stronger the longer he went on.

``I know this microphone is powerful right now because we're playing the (seventh)-best team in the country. I'm not going to have a microphone like this the rest of the year, maybe the rest of my life. And I'm going to be an agent of change with the 13 young men I get to coach every day and the two little girls that I get to raise. ...

``But,'' he said, ``we've got to change.''

Kelsey is one of dozens of mid-major coaches hoping for a job at a big school like Ohio State someday, but he's a parent first. When he played basketball at Cincinnati, Kelsey was a captain and twice voted the team's most inspirational player. So maybe the most surprising thing about the past few days is that he wasn't the only coach or player to step forward and say what was on his mind.

At Syracuse the other night, coach Jim Boeheim also used the last moments of his postgame interview to make certain the next day's stories weren't focused solely on his career milestone 900th win.

``If we cannot get the people who represent us to do something about firearms, we are a sad, sad society,'' Boeheim said Monday. ``If one person in this world, the NRA president, anybody, can tell me why we need assault weapons with 30 shots - this is our fault if we don't go out there and do something about this. If we can't get this thing done, I don't know what kind of country we have.''

There were plenty of other worthy remarks and measured gestures from the world of sports in the aftermath of Newtown - almost too many to list. A few weeks ago, NBC announcer Bob Costas caught plenty of criticism by calling for saner gun-control laws during a brief halftime essay the night after the tragedy in Kansas City. Chiefs linebacker Javon Belcher shot his live-in girlfriend to death after an argument, then drove to the team's facility and, in view of his coach and general manager, turned the gun on himself.

People are still debating whether Costas overstepped. Never mix sports and politics. But those were the old rules.

For years, many athletes and coaches went out of their way to avoid taking a stand on anything that happened outside the white lines. It was like stepping on the third rail of sports and almost a guarantee that endorsements would dwindle or disappear altogether. It might even cost them a job.

Times have changed, and if the events of the past few weeks are any indication, that corner of the sports world is about to change, too. Athletes and coaches have always had the platform, and now a few of the braver souls have shown them how to use it in a responsible way for something more important than selling tickets.

Here's hoping there's no turning back.

---

Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org and follow him at Twitter.com/JimLitke.

Quick Links

2017-18 Wizards roster review: Mike Scott

2017-18 Wizards roster review: Mike Scott

To wrap up the 2017-18 season, we are looking at each player on the Wizards' roster. Today, we evaluate Mike Scott's season...

Player: Mike Scott

Position: Power forward

Age: 29

2017-18 salary: $1.7 million

2017-18 stats: 76 G, 18.5 mpg, 8.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.1 apg, 0.3 spg, 0.1 bpg, 52.7 FG%, 40.5 3P%, 65.8 FT%, 59.0 eFG%, 109 ORtg, 111 DRtg

Best game: 12/9 at Clippers - 22 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 9-for-11 FG, 3-for-4 3PT, 28 minutes

Season review: The 2017-18 Wizards season was full of unpredictability and the most positive surprise had to be the comeback of Mike Scott.

The Wizards signed Scott to a veteran minimum contract last offseason after a workout at Capital One Arena. This came just months after he had felony drug charges dropped in the state of Georgia, he lost 25 pounds and rehabbed a leg injury. That spring he had wondered, and justifiably, if his NBA career was over.

Scott overcame all of those odds to not only return to the NBA, but re-establish himself as a productive player off the bench. No one was more consistent start-to-finish in the Wizards' second unit than Scott was.

Scott earned a significant role in head coach Scott Brooks' rotation out of the preseason and stayed there. He reached double-figures in 31 of his 76 games, second only to Kelly Oubre, Jr. on the Wizards. 

Scott's primary value was on offense. He scored inside and out and got his points with remarkable efficiency. He led the Wizards and was tied for 11th in the NBA in effective field-goal percentage. He was second on Washington in field goal percentage and third in three-point percentage. 

Scott closed the season strong, reaching double-figures in scoring in seven of the last nine regular season games. He carried that over into the playoffs with 46 points through their first three games against the Raptors. 

Now comes the question of how much money Scott earned himself with his comeback year and whether the Wizards can afford keeping him. Since they are in the luxury tax, they will have little money to spend this summer. 

The way to keep Scott would be to use the remainder of their taxpayer mid-level exception, but that figures to be only about $1.9 million, not much more than what Scott made in 2017-18. Given how well he played this season, it would not be surprising if he earns much more than that.

Potential to improve: Free throw shooting, forcing turnovers, ability to guard bigs

More player season reviews:

John Wall, PG

Bradley Beal, SG

Otto Porter, SF

Markieff Morris, PF

Marcin Gortat, C

Kelly Oubre, Jr., SF

NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Quick Links

Markieff Morris is helping his brother gameplan to defend LeBron James

usatsi_10594300.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Markieff Morris is helping his brother gameplan to defend LeBron James

Wizards forward Markieff Morris is all-in on his brother Marcus and the Boston Celtics beating the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals. Not only is he showing up to games in his twin brother's jersey, he is helping Marcus break down film on LeBron James.

James was held to just 15 points on 31.3 percent shooting with seven turnovers in Game 1 and Marcus got some credit for stopping him. In the two games since, James went off for 42 and 27 points, each time posting 12 assists to complement. Though Cleveland lost Game 2 as well, they punched back with a 30-point win in Game 3.

The Morrises are combining forces to make sure that doesn't happen again, according to Jay King of The Athletic. They stayed up until 2 a.m. on Sunday morning reviewing plays. 

Game 4 between the Cavs and Celtics is on Monday night. If Boston wins, they will take a 3-1 lead in the series, which will be very difficult for the Cavs to overcome. Yes, they mounted the most famous 3-1 comeback in NBA history, but this isn't the same Cavs team that accomplished the feat in 2016.

There is of course some irony in Markieff helping the Celtics, given he was so integral in the rivalry between the Wizards and Boston. But, as he has shown many times over the years, it's family over everything.

NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!