GAMES OF THE WEEK 1/22-1/28

It’s Christmas! Holidaytimes! You know what that means, THE HILLS ARE ALIVE WITH THE SOUND OF MUSIC, holiday music, the music of Christmas and other beloved holidays, beloved standards and creeping obscurities! This week, I have taken it upon myself to match all of this week’s recommended games with a CHRISTMAS song of my choosing, as a sommelier might do at your table, with wine, a grape based drink people drink with food that has the power to unleash a whole rainbow of flavors on your tongue, including wood flavors and motor oil flavors.

MONDAY: CLIPPERS AT SPURS 8:30 EAST, 5:30 WEST

THE SPURS HAVE LOST ONE TWO THREE FOUR GAMES IN A ROW. They are in deep shit. Need something to get the career going again. They need to get like 1973 Elvis, deep in debt, bloated like a big ass frog, searching for some money to rebuild his shit, and sign on for a good old fashioned CHRISTMAS ALBUM! The Clippers have been a little flat coming out this year. The Spurs might even be able to really phone it in, like big Elv does in his rendition of “Silver Bells.”

(This implies that in three years, the Spurs will die on the toilet somehow.)

TUESDAY:  PORTLAND AT OKC, 8PM EAST, 5PM WEST

A classic Christmastime Street Brawl between blood enemies. Look, PORTLAND can hate Seattle, but the rest of these animals need to respect family. The only music you need for when blood starts to clog suburban gutters is Kenny G’s rendition of “Winder Wonderland.” There is a violence in that performance that runs deeper than anything you can possibly imagine. You only truly understand it faintly plays in the background as you witness a nail go into a man’s head outside of an Olive Garden as the clock strikes 12 on Christmas Eve.

WEDNESDAY:

Listen to Britten’s “Ceremony of Carols.” No reason, it’s just good and I couldn’t really work it into anything else. Not everything is a joke.

THURSDAY: CLIPPERS AT WARRIORS 7:30 WEST 10:30 EAST

This should probably be Clippers at Grizz, as a way of ENTIRELY emulating and exhuming everyone’s family related anger and stress, but I suppose Warriors/Clippers will do for a cathartic hatematch. Pair it with The Ramones’ “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight), the all-time-great anthem of Holiday exhaustion.

FRIDAY: BUCKS AT HAWKS 7:30 EAST, 4:30 WEST

Giannis is kind of like the little drummer boy, right? He’s young, his arrive symbolized a profound sea change in the world (The Beginning of the Third Era of the Pink Crystal, according to Corbin’s Crystal Calendar.) , he has an unconventional sense of rhythm. Play the game at half-speed and listen to Low’s CLASSIC version of “Little Drummer Boy” on a loop. You will be hypnotised, and in your visions you will see the pink crystal who will tell you tales of a more peaceful future, (I hope.)

SATURDAY: PHOENIX AT SACRAMENTO 7PM WEST, 10PM EAST

You have a hangover. Phoenix has a hangover. Sacramento has a hangover. Everyone feels terrible. You’re all starring the new year in the face, with only a trail of disappointments behind you. You cannot muster optimism. Unite together, under the star of Luther Vandross’s “Every Year, Every Christmas” and hope for your lost love, or the playoffs, to come back to you.

SUNDAY: TORONTO AT CLIPPERS 12:30 WEST, 3:30 EAST

A thought experiment of a game, with the East’s finest team matching up against the disappoint dilettantes of the West. How good is the West really? Does the Easy have ANY hope, or has it become broken to the point where it will need to be repaired? Pair it with my musical thought experiment, where I play Jingle Bells with only the sound of my singular clapping hands.

Posted in Games of the Week, General | Leave a comment

Why is it so hard to admit you suck?

One of the NBA’s most foundational qualities is how frequently the better team wins. While most American sports leagues—including the NBA to a lesser extent than the others—have chased parity as a way to keep fans of all teams engaged (and spending money), it isn’t all that possible to achieve in the NBA. With only five players on the court, who have to play both offense and defense, a single player can have a much greater impact on the result of the game than they can in any other team sport. Over the course of the 100 possessions an average game has, the team with the better players usually wins.

We see this in the playoffs, where the 1994-95 Houston Rockets are the lowest seeded team (6th) to ever win the NBA Finals. No other team seeded lower than 3rd has done it. Meanwhile, for example, in baseball, the latest World Series was contested between the two winners of the Wild Card play-in game. This relative scarcity of upsets means that when they do happen—think Nuggets over Sonics in 1994 or Warriors over Mavericks in 2007—they’re all the more exciting.

This is true during the regular season as well. Relatively early on, we know how the regular season will end. It is part of the reason I think the NBA should adopt a shorter schedule: way too many games are rendered meaningless because playoff positioning is already settled. As the graph below demonstrates, on this date last season, the good teams were already good and the bad teams were already bad. That R2 number on the chart means that (this is a bit simplified) 63% of a team’s final regular season record is determined by its record on December 18th. Good teams are good early, bad teams are bad early, and there just aren’t too many surprises in the NBA.

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 9.29.02 AM

But don’t tell that to the people that run its crappiest franchises.

Ramona Shelburne had a great interview with Jim and Jeanie Buss, who run the Lakers, which included this head-scratching exchange with Jeanie:

What kind of hit do you take if you miss the playoffs again this year?

Jeanie: That’s not how we anticipate this season to go. We’ve never, in over 30 years of ownership, missed making the playoffs two consecutive years, so I can’t really tell you what the hit will be. Our fans understand that it’s a process. We renewed over 90 percent on season tickets. Our ratings went down last year when Kobe went out. Clearly. When he came back for those six games, they went right back up.

If Jeanie doesn’t anticipate the Lakers missing the playoffs, then she is sure going to be surprised come April. While not quite as bad as they started the season, the Lakers are still really bad! They are four-and-a-half games out of the final playoff spot, and they’d have to pass Denver, Sacramento, Oklahoma City, Phoenix, and New Orleans to make it. According to Basketball-Reference’s formula, they’re the sixth-worst team in the NBA. I feel comfortable unequivocally stating that the Lakers have no chance at making the playoffs.

And neither do the Knicks. While the East is a charitable conference to be in for bad teams, it’s not THAT charitable. The Knicks have the second-worst record in basketball, which might as well be the worst because the abominable 76ers aren’t even trying. I mean, the Knicks have a .185 winning percentage. They aren’t making the playoffs.

This offseason Phil Jackson, the president of the Knicks, said they’d make the playoffs. Carmelo Anthony—who was an unrestricted free agent this offseason and could have signed with any team in the NBA, but chose to stay with the Knicks—is reportedly so unhappy with the losing that he is willing to be traded away from the team he just signed a five-year deal to play for. Derek Fisher pulled all of his starters in the first quarter a few nights back because they weren’t playing “hard enough” against the Mavericks, when maybe the Mavericks are just waaaaay better than the Knicks.

This isn’t just hindsight cherry picking. In the offseason ESPN polled their 200 basketball writers about each team’s record, offering a good representation of the consensus opinion of a team prior to the season. The Lakers were expected to finish 30-52 while the Knicks were expected to finish 37-45, and neither were expected to make the playoffs.

To a lesser extent, this played a part in Mike Malone’s firing earlier this week. He was 9-6 with DeMarcus Cousins this season and 11-13 overall. They were expected to finish 29-53. Yet that wasn’t good enough for owner Vivek Ranadivé, who thinks Tyrone Corbin(!) is the solution (to a non-existent problem). Malone’s relationship with the front office and other factors played a role in his firing as well, but basing an argument for his firing on how he didn’t lift the Kings to proper playoff positioning is holding him to an absurdly unfair expectation.

It isn’t that people should abandon all hope, just that hope in basketball is constrained by the structure of the sport. On a scale that ranges from chess (winner determined almost entirely by skill) to Candyland (winner determined entirely by luck), basketball is closer to the chess end of the spectrum. That’s not a good thing or a bad thing, just a descriptive thing.

Ranadivé, Carmelo, and Buss don’t seem to understand this, or more likely, wish they didn’t understand this. Unfortunately for them, this attitude leads to poor decisions. It leads to firing your coach because he didn’t meet expectations that nobody could meet. It leads to panicked trading of the future for the present. Fans can dream of a worst-to-first turnaround, of all the analysts being wrong, but for an executive to indulge is dangerous.

Posted in General | Leave a comment

GAMES OF THE WEEK 12/15-12/21

Right before I started writing tonight’s column, the Kings fired Mike Malone out of absolutely nowhere. I cannot figure, for the life of me, why this happened. My operating assumption, at this time, is that a private investigation has revealed that Malone intentionally gave Cousins viral meningitis as a way of getting his best friend Rudy Gay some more buckets.

rudygay

Rudy Gay kills another team. When will we finally listen to Kendrick!?

MONDAY: San Antonio At Portland? 7PM West, 10 PM EAST

The Spurs are entering the hot beef of the schedule, the big hot beef. This week the play the Blazers twice, the Grizz, and the Mavs, THEN they play the Clippers on Monday. Look at all that big hot beef. How will the Spurs react to the big plate of beef? Will they slice through the beef, like hot teeth into a wall of butter, then spend the rest of the year destroying everyone on their march to the finals, or will the stall out, need to rejigger, slide on down into the mid-teir of the West? WE MIGHT FIND OUT, THIS WEEK

TUESDAY: GOLDEN STATE AT MEMPHIS 8PM East, 5PM West

This is probably THE BIGGEST GAME OF THE YEAR SO FAR. Warriors have been absolutely mauling everyone, but the Grizzlies have generally had their number. Can they overcome!? Will their path the the title be set ON THIS VERY NIGHT!? WHAT DOES DESTINY HAVE FOR THE WARRIORS!? Or will will THE NOBLE GRIZZ BATTLE THROUGH, and put GOLDEN HATE back in their place!?

WEDNESDAY: ATLANTA AT CLEVELAND 7PM EAST, 4PM WEST

There has been so much talk about how terrible the dregs of the East are, that no one is thinking about how kookyweird the top is. Weren’t the Cavs and Bulls supposed to be unstoppable juggernauts who whipped their opponents to death with actual lightning? Why are solid layoff contending-type constructions Toronto, Washington, and Atlanta riding in the top seeds? Was it a witch, did a witch do something? Is a witch’s curse hanging over the Cavs? The witch who makes the opponent’s rim .5 inches bigger?

Is Kevin Love the witch? Or is it…

Spoooookkkyyyyy.

THURSDAY: MILWAUKEE AT SACRAMENTO 7PM WEST, 10PM EAST

I picked this game before the Kings fired Malone (I just watch the Bucks now, I would probably pick all their games if Jacob would let me.), which, the Kings fired Malone, what the hell, man. There are so many reasons not to do that, including:

  1. Cousins seemed to like him, and he hasn’t seemed to like anyone else. Then again, what do I know. Maybe Boogie pulled the trigger.

  2. Basically every member of the team was outperforming expectations. Darren Collison was playing well, and you want to mess with that!?

  3. Ty Corbin is his replacement, Ty Corbin is probably not a very good coach.

  4. Why!? Everything was going fine, then Cousins got sick, THEN you fire Malone? This seems like such a bad idea!

Cuckoo, Cuckoo! 4-on-5 basketball, here we come!

FRIDAY: GO TO A CHRISTMAS PAGEANT

All of these games stink except Portland/San Antonio, and I already wrote about that matchup. Get out of your house! It’s the holidays! GO be in a room with other people, reveling in some form of joy. May I PERSONALLY recommend:

SATURDAY: SAN ANTONIO AT DALLAS 5:30 WEST

Dirk and Duncan walk up to you at the bar. Dirk “Hey, what’s up, I’m Dirk. Me and this guy,” he points at Duncan. who is wearing jeans and a loose fitting polo shirt, “We have a rivalry going on tonight. We think it’s a pretty good rivalry, and we think you should check it out.” He hands you the flier. You wonder why there old dudes walked all the way down the street, to the young person bar to promote their show. Maybe the crowds are thinning out. You check it out. It’s pretty good. But it’s hard to divorce yourself from preconceived ideas about “Old Guys.” Isn’t beauty about youth? You think. You go home and wrestle with what you have seen all night.

SUNDAY: KNICKS TORONTO 12:30 WEST 3:30 EAST

Not QUITE a Knicks morning game, but still a lot of potential for listlessness in this one. My dream, my ultimate dream, is that one day a kid just walks onto the court during a Sunday Knicks game, and everyone in the stadium, in the hazy, hungover or ParentStressed, realizes that life is bigger than competitive basketball, and they spend the next two hours just playing pickup games on the court until they get kicked out five hours later. The game goes into the NBA record as a “Win for everyone who was present, but also for the Raptors, because the Knicks couldn’t control their crowd. Get it together, Knicks.”

 

Posted in Games of the Week | Leave a comment

Let’s Stop Talking About Mark Jackson

The Mark Jackson debate is over, and there should be no more beating of this dead horse.

Speaking at some boring venture capitalist meeting last week, Joe Lacob decided to finally dish on Jackson:

I think [Kerr] will be great. And he did the one big thing that I wanted more than anything else from Mark Jackson (that) he just wouldn’t do, in all honesty, which is hire the very best.

Carte blanche. Take my wallet. Do whatever it is to get the best assistants that are in the world. Period. End of story. Don’t want to hear it. And (Jackson’s) answer … was, ‘Well, I have the best staff.’ No you don’t. And so with Steve, very, very different.

You can’t have a staff underneath you that isn’t that good. And if you’re going to get better, you’ve got to have really good assistants. You’ve got to have people that can be there to replace you. We all know this from all of our companies. It’s … Management 101. A lot of people on the outside couldn’t understand it when we (fired Jackson).

Joe Lacob also talked about Jackson’s personality:

Part of it was that he couldn’t get along with anybody else in the organization. And look, he did a great job, and I’ll always compliment him in many respects, but you can’t have 200 people in the organization not like you.

During a sermon at his church on Sunday, Jackson fired back:

[Lacob] said I was good for nothing, an owner that knew me for three years and spent a couple of minutes around me, an owner that had the audacity to say that 200 folks don’t like me in the business.

Unless Adrian Wojnarowski or Tim Kawakami write the tell-all of the Mark Jackson Era, everything that we need to know has already come out. Perhaps surprisingly, it turns out that all basic assumptions were correct.

Mark Jackson was hired in 2011 alongside Mike Malone, who was described by Joe Lacob in an interview with Tim Kawakami at the time as a tremendously important hire:

I could go on and on and on… Only one thing [Jackson] didn’t possess, your X’s and O’s, and frankly, we got another guy that was a helluva candidate, Michael Malone, very, very impressive guy… After I interviewed Malone on I think it was Sunday, I sat there I said, ‘I love this guy, wow he’s better than I even was led to believe.’

I sat there, and I had it even in the back of my mind, but it came to me, I said, ‘what we’ve got to do, let’s get both of ‘em. Let’s get Mark Jackson and let’s get this guy, who’s frankly the second-best candidate out there. If we can.’

When Mike Malone left after just a year to become the Sacramento Kings head coach, Jackson did not replace him with a well-regarded, or even regarded, assistant. It is quite telling that Malone and Jackson would supposedly go weeks without speaking, or that the only assistant from last year that currently has a job is Darren Erman, who was fired after he got caught secretly recorded coaches meetings. The assistants Jackson had conflicts with still have important NBA roles, while the ones who did not challenge him do not.

In contrast, Steve Kerr hired Alvin Genry and Ron Adams, two of the five best assistants in the league, and their impact on the players has been notable. Andrew Bogut—who never liked Jackson—has been effusive in his praise of the changes on offense. Harrison Barnes—who frustratingly barely developed (something good assistant coaches really help young players with!) his first two years in the league—has said he was put in terrible positions on offense last year. Even Steph Curry has waxed poetic about the help he is getting on defense from assistant Ron Adams, as he’s finally trusted to defend his own position.

Jackson always seemed to rub people the wrong way. Besides Malone and Erman, he also reassigned assistant coach Brian Scalabrine to the D-League team. While conflict between assistant and head coaches in the NBA isn’t unheard of, firing two assistants weeks before the playoffs is quite strange.

There’s also the little matter of Jackson being a black, conservative Christian, former player, while Joe Lacob is a fairly liberal Jew from the Silicon Valley world. Jackson’s views were shared by much of the team last season, but it was always unclear how much of it was true and how much of it was because who their boss was. Somehow I doubt that the entire team is going to pregame chapel this season, and we’ve certainly heard fewer references to God teamwide. Even if Jackson and his players were in lockstep, their views ran counter to the rest of the Bay Area’s…and the rest of the Warriors 200 employees.

I could write 1,000 more words of summary, but what’s important is that I could have written almost all of this last May. Maybe without as much certainty, but I could’ve told the same tale. Each subsequent round of leaks, even non-anonymous ones attached to the names “Joe Lacob” and “Mark Jackson,” even ones that result in an apology, only tell us things we already knew, or things that were widely assumed to be true. There wasn’t an untold story here, but simply what we all pieced together from what we saw and what leaked out over the course of three seasons.

No, the true story was in front of us all along. Mark Jackson was a talented motivator who was the right coach for the time, a coach whose self-belief was necessary before Joe Lacob and Warriors management could develop their own. But his limited tactical knowledge, refusal to hire competent assistant coaches, and alienation of the decision-makers within the Warriors organization meant his ability to make the Warriors better ran into a ceiling after the 2012-13 season. We knew it at the time, and we know it now.

So let’s stop talking about it.

Posted in General | Leave a comment

Discomforting Blackness.

In October 2001, roughly six weeks after the September 11 attacks claimed nearly 3,000 lives, NBA players took the floor appearing in the same fashion they usually did — a uniform, nice sneakers, some flair — but with slight modifications to the jersey. On each jersey there was a patch depicting a USA flag splayed across a red, white, and blue cause ribbon. It was called the “unity patch”, and it was worn by a variety of teams, across a number of sports, to commemorate what was being shorthanded as the greatest national tragedy since Pearl Harbor. As the season started off, the various entities of the NBA — players, coaches, teams — were tasked with memorializing the dead of 9/11 in their own ways. Teams had moments of silence, raised commemorative banners, honored first responders before the game began, and so on; a collective effort to remember, memorialize, and process the event. According to Rare Vintage Wear, this was the only time in league history that an entire sports league commemorated something on their clothing, aside from a league or team anniversary. The message that year, for better or worse, was “united, we play ball.” It was the message every sport maintained, after the moments of silence ended and the giant American flags were rolled up, and placed in storage for the next earth-shaking tragedy: enough crying, let’s get to it.

In 2014, as a national tragedy of a different sort enters the collective consciousness of the average American — the murder of people of color at the hands of unchecked law enforcement, a state-sanctioned genocide that has killed exponentially more people over the years than 9/11 — we see very few of the same practices being employed by the NBA. Rather than an organized movement, NBA players like Derrick Rose and LeBron James are taking matters into their own hands, outside of the purview of their teams and their league, crafting hand-made “I Can’t Breathe” shirts, and wearing them openly during shootarounds, but removing them once the game begins. Teams do not parade victims of police brutality to be honored by players at midcourt, as the crowds rise as one in reverence and respect. No moments of silence are offered for individuals like Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Tamir Rice or Eric Garner. No, this is a movement that is inspiring tepid support, and highly conditional encouragement. In regards to the shirts being donned by athletes across multiple sports, NBA commissioner Adam Silver has officially offered a wan take:

I respect Derrick Rose and all of our players voicing their personal views on important issues but my preference would be for players to abide by our on-court attire rules.

And after Derrick Rose donned his “I Can’t Breathe” shirt, several white members of the Chicago media seemed very, very offended. Dan Berstein took to Twitter, lamenting that “I hope he truly understands the important position he’s taken, and what comes with it. Alas, I doubt he does.” Cody Westerlund, a white sports writer based in Chicago, not only questioned Rose’s actions, but asserted that Rose not speaking to the media brings into question the very existence of police brutality itself, as well as the ability for a black man to express an opinion without giving a series of justifications why to the white people who need answers and explanations:

While it’s news for any prominent athlete to take such a stand, Rose’s bold move was especially noteworthy. He’s long raised awareness for and preached the need to address inner-city violence and poverty, but this was different. We all acknowledge violence and poverty are problems that exist. The same can’t be said for racially charged police brutality, which makes the problem worse.

Regardless of whether we agree with it or not, sports serves as a primary lens for Americans to better understand the completely-fucked-up world around them, and immerse themselves in social issues that they would not engage in otherwise, especially as predominantly couch-bound individuals. This makes sense: sports are the most watched program on television at any given time, and watching television is, in many ways, the one thing that unites us all; our true national past-time. Millions of Americans had their first protracted thought about domestic violence because they watched the NFL, and millions more were forced to think about equal marriage rights because they watched the NBA. Sports are the method of escape we most greatly prefer, but which frustrate us because we have very little control of the proceedings. Because we cannot control the actions of the players, we choose to control our understanding of the actions; a myriad of conscious and unconscious acts to put on the right size of horse blinders, and maintain a comfortable, carefree life. In this way, sports operates as both an entry and exit point; an ambivalent place to gain new understanding, yet at the same time, shut out images and opinions that go against the grain, however we, as individuals, define “the grain” itself.

As such, it is not surprising that, in sports discourse, blackness is seen but not heard; discerned but rarely discussed. Blackness is not touched; feared by the readership, avoided by the wordsmiths. Most of this is a product of the industry: the 1.3 percent problem is real, no matter how stringently and purposefully white readers, writers and editors want to ignore this fact. Blackness is simply not discussed because there are no black people writing about sports. As a result, the current racial atmosphere in America is being largely ignored in work related to the NBA, the world’s blackest league, comprised of individuals who have lived through, and against, police brutality since they arrived on this rotting Earth. While many writers are happy to provide platforms for players to discuss their improved 3-point range, their trials-and-tribulations growing up, and their personal preferences and peeves off-the-court, the same practice is not replicated when issues of race or politics rise to the forefront. This is a problem of experience and postionality; an inability for predominantly white, male writers, readers and fans to properly understand, respect and explicate what black men have to endure on a daily basis. It is this reason that white writers shorthand Jason Whitlock’s forthcoming project as “Black Grantland” with a snort, or hone-in stupidly on the Comic Sans font on the “I Can’t Breathe” shirts, rather than use the opportunity to understand why an NBA player would do such an act. Both a lack of blackness in sports writing, and a predominance of whiteness in the very same occupational spaces, do everyone a major disservice, and perpetuate an ongoing production of empty, shallow or/and misinformed work.

Along the same lines, colorblindness is a disease; a destructive form of racism that masks itself in the language of progress, liberalism and reform. For those who choose to live life without color — ignoring race as much as they can in an effort to carve solutions to racial problems without taking race into account –what is slowly taking shape in the NBA, and by extension, in the United States of America, must be deeply confusing. For the colorblind, any sort of political expression privileging the racial experience goes against what they understand the end goal of the struggle to be, and puts them in an uncomfortable place. As I have written many times, the NBA prefers itself to be seen as colorblind, and creates images of its fanbase as a classical melting pot; a beautiful mosaic of races, religions, and sexualities, all brought together by the common experience of paying for basketball together. In actuality, it is a fanbase much like any and every other pro-sports fanbase in the United States: white, male, and predominantly heterosexual. When purposeful images of blackness emerge from the largely-black player-base — ranging from an All-Star in a shirt with a powerful chant, to a group of players in hoodies after another unchecked murder by a racist white man, to pictures and videos of cops strangling, shooting, and beating black people — we see the true nature of the NBA emerge, as well as their prescriptions for living through a widespread political movement: controlled exposure, tepid offerings of support, and a fervent effort to redirect your attention to what’s happening on the court. Indeed, the NBA would prefer their players look past their own blackness, so that fans can continue to ignore that their favorite players, themselves, are black, and continue paying for basketball without any sense of misgiving or unease.

There is something happening in the world; something old, and something new. There are people of color being murdered every day by a police force who exist not to protect and serve, but to oppress and kill. This is an old practice; a central tenet of law enforcement, and the motivating force for countless forms of structural racism. At the same time, there is a groundswell of anger emerging from our communities; a mass questioning of the function of the police, and the systems which allow them to act with racist impunity throughout the country. This is new; an original movement that is confronting the police on a nightly basis, and incurring physical violence from law enforcement more suited to wage a war on an armed terrorist organization than groups of unarmed, peaceful protesters. And as this happens in the world, there are no moments of silence, no keynote addresses on NBA courts. For them, this is not worthy of recognition; not worth putting together another statement that expresses unity. Those in the NBA who wish to recognize this as a tragedy are left to their own devices; left to wearing shirts in pregame, or protesting outside of arenas during and after the contest. This is how black lives matter right now in the NBA: in an informal, self-conscious way, that is being actively stifled by management, and a fanbase that cannot — and will not — understand.

Every night, the world changes a little bit more. Whether the NBA — our preferred form of escape, yet the sport that most closely identifies to the struggle at hand — chooses to stand up and be a positive part of that change, or chooses the tired old road of silence and consent for racism to continue, unchecked and unabated, is largely up to them. But if we are purposeful in our own actions, we can help the NBA make the decision that’s right. And, if we don’t like what we see, we can choose to leave the NBA behind, and not play a part in a world that chooses to hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil, and as a result, live a life that, in its complicity, basks itself in that same, sinister evil; an evil that remains scared of, and threatened by, images of discomforting blackness.

Source: Gawker

Posted in General | 37 Comments

GAMES OF THE WEEK 12/8-12/14

You might think, “Hey Corbin: you don’t watch all these games! You just pick whatever game you think would be good to write a solid paragraph about, then you watch Blazer games, because you have to, because you write about the Blazers!” But, audience! You’re W-R-O-N-G. I mean, at first, this was the case, but this obsessive planning that goes into this, the feeling of control, my vice grip over my own viewing habits, it has given me amazing power. I have brought this level of planning to every aspect of my life, including my outfits. For this week’s preview, I am going to give the reader a peek into what I will be wearing when I sit down and rapturously consume every important game from this weeks slate.

MONDAY: PHOENIX AT CLIPPERS 7:30 WEST, 10:30 EAST

The only Western playoff team that hasn’t been a wheat thresher that delivers nightly whoopings to its opponents then drink their hot blood straight out of the vein is the Phoenix Suns. They will be matching up with the Clippers, who are starting to round into shape after an underwhelming start. Lots of good guard play in this one, exciting stuff could happen and I may be tempted to do some fist pumping.

IMG_0039

But, I will be watching this game with my wife, Dr. Claudia Richards, a women’s studies professor at St. Martin’s College in Lacey, Wa. I like to keep a facede of cool customerisim around her on some nights, make myself more mysterious and intellectual. So to counteract my excitement, I will be pairing this game with a tasteful mock turtleneck, the official shirt of the relaxing academic.

TUESDAY: DALLAS AT MEMPHIS 8:00 PM EAST, 5:00 PM WEST

IMG_0036

Western Conference playoff teams have been like sentient, moving mountains, traversing the land and crushing cities and towns and people. When they come together to fight, you see their rocky, massive fists collide with one another, showering rock and ice everywhere. It will be cold, is what I am getting at. So I will be wearing a sweater underneath a windbreaker and two (2) scarves, one around my neck and one around my face.

WEDNESDAY: PORTLAND AT MINNESOTA 5:00 WEST 8:00 EAST

IMG_0047

I love repping for my team by buying and wearing good merchandise. But when the Blazers lost to the the Grizzlies last Friday I has an “Episode” or whatever where I took all of my sweet Blazers product out to the yard and burned it in a ritual ceremony designed to make the team feel the flames in the sleep and be driven to greater success in the future. They’ve won four in a row since then so I think it worked, but it has left me entirely without sweet gear. No problem, though: I have a pen, I have a mirror, I have some sweet, homemade gear, right on my face! That’s the trademark pinwheel on the right and a crude stenciling of the number 32, Bill Walton’s number, on the right! I love to fan up!

THURSDAY: CLEVELAND AT OKC THUNDER: 8:00 EAST, 5:00 WEST

IMG_0041

FIREWORKS when these two struggling, thought to be contenders match up in Oklahoma! The only shirt I will need is the shirt they gave me when I temped at the Fort Vancouver fireworks display in 2013! Now, I know the shirt says “Volunteer,” but I did get paid, it’s just that I got piad to do stuff that OTHER PEOPLE were doing as volunteer work. It it not the only shirt I own that says “Volunteer” even though I get paid to be at the event! Anyway, I WILL be VOULENTEERING to watch Kevin Durant and Lebron James square off on TNT!

FRIDAY: MIAMI AT UTAH: 6:00 PM WEST, 9:00 PM EAST

IMG_0046

Friday’s slate is the sort that will drive a man to turn to Miami at Utah for his viewing. Confusing, upsetting, will require a zip up hoodie without an undershirt, so the cold zipper can provide me with constant stimulation while I try to parse out the game and invent reasons Trey Burke is interesting.

SATURDAY: WARRIORS AT DALLAS: 2:00 PM EAST 11 AM WEST

IMG_0043

A Saturday matinee between two of the BEASTS OF THE WEST will threaten my Sunday Morning Peace and Quiet Time, when I try to void my head of any and all noise and reset myself for the upcoming week. Thankfully, I have come up with a compromise solution. I am going to blow this whistle into a microphone that will pipe the noise, a wall of unceasing indiscriminate noise, into my headphones, an assault so constant and monotonous that it will basically simulate the experience of the most silent of all silences.

I will also wear my shirt inside out, just because you can get two wears before washing that way.

SUNDAY: CHICAGO AT MIAMI 6:00 EAST, 3:00 WEST

IMG_0045

A lot of questions to sort through with this one. Are the Bulls are real gentlemen of the contest or just a crew of lost boys slowly drifting off a waterfall in the ocean? The Heat: what is this? Is LeBron’s ghost still here? To Help me sort through these questions, I will turn Turtleman the Turtle, a hand puppet I use whenever I  have split my consciousness in two and really break down a basketball issue. I don’t really have any “Real life” friends who like basketball, you see, so unlocking the contradictory architecture of my own mind is the only way to go. As you can see, I am wearing an the same shirt inside-out shirt again. This time, it will just be because I didn’t do laundry.

Posted in Games of the Week | Leave a comment

Diss Guy Miss Guy, Vol. 82

Diss Guy: The Philadelphia 76ers Overcoming Adversity

The Philadelphia 76ers were sitting at a pathetic 0-17 record, one loss away from tying the league’s all-time record for season-opening futility still held by the 2009-10 New Jersey Nets. Sure, it may have taken a fortunate break from the scheduling gods and numerous injuries to their opponents, the Minnesota T’Wolves, but all the same, the 76ers are off the schneid with one ugly bullet dodged. And props to their players and coaches for that.

We’re all-too-familiar with the 76ers current strategy of hitting the most stinky, stanky rock bottom of a South Philly trash can in the height of summer in order to compile a mix of assets and cap space which will, in theory, create an opportunity to build a real life competitive NBA team. General Manager Sam Hinkie is the shrewd mind behind a roster that is the youngest in the league, made up of players lean on NBA experience and even leaner hits on the salary cap. Depending on your source, Philly is paying over 20 different players this season, but any of those players that find their way into a Sixers uniform aren’t there to generate wins, but rather to ensure losses pile up.

Against this backdrop, Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Henry Sims and Hollis Thompson were joined by Robert Covington and KJ McDaniels in chasing victory in Minneapolis. Three of those players weren’t even drafted. And yet the youngsters from Philly still found a way to overcome their inefficiencies. They shot a subpar 39% from the field, 64% from the free throw line, under 21% from three, were outrebounded by Minnesota, gave up 17 fast break points, and, by most any measure, played a crappy basketball game. And still, they overcame the odds. With 2:16 remaining, Philly was down 75-73. But then rookie hotshot dunk machine KJ McDaniels hit a go-ahead corner three. At 1:21, Minnesota’s stand-in center Gorgui Dieng grabbed an offensive rebound in a mass of bodies and stuck the put back to pull the Wolves to within one. And watching it there was a sense that everyone on the court, while severely lacking in fully realized basketball ability, was fighting with genuine effort. No one wanted to lose and contrary to the senseless arguments from the college hoops set that NBA players are greedy athletes who play for money instead of the love of the game, everyone played with hearts fully exposed. So when Dieng wrestled that ball away from those bodies, I wondered if it was symbolic of Minnesota’s refusal to lose. It wasn’t. The Wolves didn’t score another point the entire game. They missed four shots, turned the ball over twice while the then-winless 76ers were uplifted by the undrafted Covington and lottery pick Noel.

AP Photo/Hannah Foslein

I can’t lie, I was bummed to see Philly win, but my disappointment isn’t directed at the players and it took me a minute to figure that out. The players are out there playing against a stacked deck and are powerless to do anything about it. Even other teams in the league employing a long-term rebuild have what appears to be the decency to field bad teams that at least have shots in hell of winning NBA games. Philly? Philly is a roster of mashed up fringe players alongside kids can barely drink legally. Philly is the rock bottom of that urban trash can. Philly is trying hard, but most nights it doesn’t even matter, Sam Hinkie’s made sure of that.

hinkie

Miss Guy: The Philadelphia 76ers Smearing Feces on the Present

If I had my druthers, the 76ers would’ve started the season something like 0-44. It would’ve been a record so pathetic as to be absurd, so embarrassingly impotent as to stain the record books. But I don’t have any axes to grind with Carter-Williams or Nerlens. They’re just young messengers delivering the gospel of Hinkie. Getting bad to get better isn’t a novel idea in sports or business. New owners and new management come in, make some overhauls with designs on a brighter, more profitable, more competitive future. In the case of Hinkie’s 76ers, we’ve encountered something else that, whether fair or not, feels grimy compared to the NBA futilities with which we’ve become accustomed.

Rebuilding or tanking or whatever you want to call it is part of hacking into an NBA system that rewards crappy performance in an effort to improve overall competitiveness. The early 2000s Bulls did it, the post-Arenas Wizards did it, the Lakers, Jazz, Magic and Wolves are doing it, maybe the Celtics are doing it, but no one has done quite as transparently as this iteration of Philadelphia … and that’s the point. Hinkie’s pretty much removed the veil, destroyed any illusion of fielding a competitive team in the haste to re-imagine the Sixers. And it bears out in the stats in the 100+ games since Hinkie took over:

  • Total margin of defeat is -549.5 – nearly 200 points greater than the next worst team: Utah
  • Simple rating System (SRS) where zero is average: dead last with -10.87
  • Lowest O-rating (Ortg) in the league 98.3 – only team under 100
  • Lowest eFG% at ~47%
  • Highest TOV% at 15%
  • Second worst opponent eFG% – 52%

Philadelphia compares favorably to the worst teams in NBA history: the 1993 Mavs, the 2012 Bobcats, the 1973 Sixers. Through twenty games this season, they’re getting beaten like a drum, currently pacing for the third worst margin of defeat in league history. Their SRS is pacing towards fifth worst all time. With the exception of the 1993 Mavs, a team that was made up primarily of rookies and second-year players, and the 2012 Bobcats, a team that was built on ineptitude as much as anything else, these Sixers are as stinky as it gets – and it’s on purpose.

Before the Sixers became lords of the slums, I never bothered asking myself if NBA teams had an obligation to commit to some minimal level of competitiveness. Do we grant leeway for injuries, bad luck or ineptitude? Are some rebuilds more tank jobs and some tank jobs mistaken as rebuilds? Were the 2014 Bucks with their 17 wins somehow more acceptable than the Sixers with their 19 wins just because their GM unintentionally built a really crappy team and dealt with injuries? I don’t believe there are right or wrong answers, but like so many things, intent matters. Sitting through the flagrantly bad Hinkie regime, I’m not even conflicted, I just know I don’t like it. Maybe I’d rather be humored by Hinkie signing a couple of vets and at least presenting the illusion of front office effort in the here and now.

In a worst case scenario, Hinkie’s strategy is a resounding success and Philadelphia’s planning a championship parade in 2018. In a league where success breeds imitators, the last thing we need are more Sam Hinkies, hinkifying the league with their horrifying pragmatisms. So don’t take it personally Philly fans and players, it’s not you I’m cheering against, it’s the dangerous ideas of your mad scientist GM.

Posted in Diss Guy Miss Guy | Leave a comment