The Last Day of the Rest of Your Life

Over the last few weeks, this picture, and others like it, have become strangely unnerving. Perhaps I’m the only one who feels it, but it’s there, tugging on my pants, whining like a hungry puppy. One doesn’t really need a caption to explain the image, and certainly any Warriors fan over the age of 16 should be able to immediately contextualize what they’re seeing: Baron Davis, the conquering hero of the 2006-07 Golden State Warriors; a 42-40 squad that managed to unseat the mighty Dallas Mavericks, who themselves had finished 67-15 that year, based mostly on the efforts of then-MVP Dirk Nowitzki. Until recently, this picture — and other pictures from that emotionally intense playoff run — were instant endorphin-rushes; a surefire smile on an otherwise gloomy day. But now, to current fans of the Golden State Warriors, this picture, and really, any mention of that team — perhaps the only .500 squad to be awarded a nickname, We Believe, that has endured for years past its projected shelf-life for relevance — elicits pointed stares, pursed lips, and self-conscious throat-clearing. During the closing seconds of what was the team’s 65th win, color commentator Jim Barnett commented that he was trying not to become anxious that this team could potentially finish with the same record as that ill-fated Mavericks team. “I’m trying to let it go,” he said with nervous laughter on his lips, but darker thoughts on his mind. And after his team secured their 67th win — and, thus, matching that potentially inauspicious record — head coach Steve Kerr pointedly extinguished a question wondering if he talked much about the We Believe team with his current group, and whether that history had any affect on the team. “No,” Kerr said firmly, “[that team] has nothing to do with anything.”

And Kerr is correct: a Warriors team from 2007 doesn’t have much to say to a Warriors team from 2015. Eight years is an eternity in the NBA; the only individuals who stay connected to a team more than eight years typically are the fans themselves. But Kerr’s terseness speaks to another point: perhaps more so than any other “new money” team in recent memory, the Warriors have a history that is marked by a serious dearth of regal memories to draw from, or relevant experiences to lean on. The teams that are now brushed-off as “the old Warriors” were, until quite recently, just the Warriors. Stephen Curry, not only the most valued player on the team, but likely the most valued player in the entire league, is also the only current member of the Warriors to have ever been draped in the colors and garments of a regime that had neither the skill nor the luck of the current administration. In many ways, he is the only meaningful relic from that torturous era of Warriors history, an era that saw only five winning teams over 21 seasons of play, a period that could only boast four all-star selections, three all-NBA selections, three postseason berths, and, until this season, a single division championship. Indeed, when looking at a professional history that is equal parts bleak and barren, that 2007 team appears as a faded jewel on a tarnished crown, perched firmly upon the head of an uneasy king.

Kerr is correct. Each moment stands unique in time; connected to events in the past, and pivotal for events to occur in the future. But the moment that Kerr and his team are living in — 67-15, the top seed in the tournament, and facing the New Orleans Pelicans Saturday afternoon — is a unique one, previously unknown to the franchise, and all the individuals connected to it. This season has been an exercise in identity-building; on constructing a history that has never existed. There has been heavy focus on the 1975 championship team, the only title-winning team since the Warriors moved to the Bay Area in the mid-60′s. And though there is healthy respect for that team, they are not a known commodity among Warriors fans, at least those under the age of 50. Certainly Al Attles is highly regarded, at least among those who have been schooled in his importance to the game. But Rick Barry, that team’s greatest player, is a reviled figure among younger fans, a cocky, racist relic from a clunky past. Names like Clifford Ray, Jeff Mullins, Jamaal Wilkes and Butch Beard do not have the brand recognition of later Warriors like Chris Mullin, Tim Hardaway, Latrell Sprewell and Baron Davis, players who never won championships, and made their NBA finals appearances with different teams. No, Warriors fans today, light on experience with meaningful basketball, had their teeth cut on the Run-TMC, We Believe, and until this year, the Mark Jackson-led squads of 2013 and 2014: exciting, competitive outfits that, even though they found themselves lucky on occasion, were never meant to win anything, and for the most part, never ever did. Those were the teams that became canonized among the countless other seasons of forgettable basketball; 48 minutes of hell, in a much different context. But now, on the eve of what most say has become a championship-or-bust season, those teams have fallen back, ready to be forgotten.

From every arena, and nearly every analyst, there has been an intense focus on the newness of this team, a team that seems to represent modernism in professional basketball. The Warriors themselves play a game fortified by the armor of modern analytics, with a group of players and coaches perfectly built to implement a radically new system. Within the fan base — and, like any fan base suddenly bestowed with relevance — there is a quasi-fascist movement to weed out those who are labeled as “bandwagoners”, more discerning consumers who only recently started spending money on the team, and expose them as Johnny-come-lately’s to the cause (as if choosing not to support a vastly inferior product is an act deserving of shame). All of it speaks to the moment the team, and those connected to it, finds itself in. There has not been a time when the Warriors were favored to win a single series, let alone four consecutive series. There has not been a time when match-ups in the second and third rounds mattered, simply because the Warriors were not expected to be participating in those rounds. There has not been a point in getting excited for a player on the team, because that player certainly was going to get injured, or get traded to a new team, where he would start to perform on a larger stage. Every inclination is to find something knowable, understandable, and predictable. But the lexicon doesn’t have a term for how the Warriors –and by extension, their fans — are feeling; an emotion that can appear as anxiety, smugness, insufferability, doubt, and, most often, happiness; pure unbridled happiness that what is happening is happening while we’re watching; while we’re present and engaged.

If everything goes right, by the end of June, the We Believe team will no longer have relevance. Their accomplishment will be rendered minor, nearly meaningless. The names from that team — Baron, Captain Jack, J-Rich, Al and Nellie — will inspire small smiles, and nothing more. If those names are still meaningful come the end of the playoffs, something went wrong; the team that all assume are best positioned to win the entire thing failed to do so. Whether that will happen or not really can’t be ascertained yet. But simply looking at Baron, waving his hands as a crowd that didn’t know they had it in them rages mightily in the background, is enough to make me feel as nervous as I do excited for whatever might come tomorrow.

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Your Annotated Smartphone Bathroom Reader for Sunday, February 1st, 2014.

Been awhile since I’ve done one of these. Hope you enjoyed the big game.

Signing Pau Gasol Was a Mistake
Kevin Ferrigan
Blog-a-Bull

I have always been an interested observer of the Chicago Bulls, and this season has frankly been more interesting than the two seasons preceding this one. Most of that interest has centered around the return of Derrick Rose to nightly action, but several other storylines have taken center stage over the past few weeks. The vast majority of these narratives have revolved around the Bulls’ strange inconsistencies this season: a defensive decline, rumblings about Thibs’ long-term future, and the inability to resemble the same team from one game to the next. One individual, and aspect, that hasn’t been focused on is the team’s vaunted offseason signing: Pau Gasol. Kevin Ferrigan takes something of a radical stand, and makes a convincing argument that the signing of Gasol — just voted as the Eastern conference starter at center — has been the root of most of the team’s evils. Ferrigan’s argument hones in on Gasol’s defensive inadequacies, as well as the fact that his presence has forced previous anchors like Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson to redefine his role. Although I don’t watch enough Bulls basketball to agree one way or another, Ferrigan provides a compelling argument that’s worth thinking about, at the very least. Rest assured, I’ll be watching the Bulls’ big man with keen interest for the rest of the season.

The Golden State Warriors, Contenders or Pretenders: The “Meet the Press” Roundtable
Alex Siquig
The Classical

There isn’t really a proper way to annotate this satirical piece by Alex Siquig, a friend of the program and fellow Warriors fan living on the East Coast. It transcends just about anything that’s been written about either the Warriors or NBA basketball this season; a romping, panoply on 24-hour news culture and the inane storylines that pepper both sports and political journalism. I could dive deep into how Siquig’s tongue-in-cheek turns of phrase — comparing the Warriors past history to “the global South” made me laugh and cry at the same time — but instead, I will let Siquig’s fictional words of a fictional Frances McDormand summarize everything that needs to be said:

If you were to put a small gun with a silencer to my head my ultimate answer would be contender. Certainly there are caveats, many and more in fact. It’s a fool’s whimsy to peer into the future, except in the most superficial and insincere ways, which is not to say I condemn such excercises out of hand, just that we should understand in the midst of this debate that whatever we say will have absolutely no permanence, indeed no meaning, as early as tomorrow. The future is not a straight line. I see all sorts of alternate timelines, devastating catastrophic nightmare worlds, featuring apocalyptic circumstances; I can see a demoralizing losing streak culminating in a panic trade. David Lee could very well be the sacrificial lamb in the vein of Danny Granger, and end up cast off into some dark starless night for cap relief. But who’s to say he wasn’t the super-sub glue that held the whole mess together. Do you recall our roundtable on the Indiana Pacers last season? All of you said contender without breaking a sweat, except for Nancy, who mostly talked about the golf-cart fatality she was on about at that time. Now look at you. Back at this futile guessing game, this target practice against the fates. Contender or pretender? Before the trade deadline, before even the All-Star break? You’ve truly called us all here to ask if the Golden State Warriors, a basketball team, can win a championship this very season and expect us to answer? Might as well ask us to describe the nape of a cloud’s neck, or the particular and peculiar violence of a kind man. But that’s the beauty of this thing isn’t it? This thing we all love so much we can hardly fucking stand it. This caring is a prison, but like a Norwegian prison, one of comfort and dignity, made for quiet reflection and the tension of deeper truths. Are the Warriors contenders? Hell if I know, my friends, and hell if I care. But I’ll tell you this. They are beautiful. They are just beautiful.

This piece is beautiful, too. Very, very beautiful.

On Basketball Fundamentalism
Seth Partnow
Hardwood Paroxysm

I enjoyed this somewhat open-ended piece by Seth Partnow on what he terms “fundamentalism,” defined as “the ability to perform basic tasks competently, shooting, passing, pivoting, screening and to do so quickly in sequence.” In the piece, Partnow points us to the interesting balance that makes NBA basketball so unique: the ability for those with the soundest fundamental skills to improvise, and “color outside the lines.” Partnow is correct: the most marketable parts of NBA basketball are more focused on aesthetic brilliance than sound fundamentalism. Yet, it is only when these fundamentals are mastered that individual brilliance can rise to the surface; those who fail are suddenly living life too dangerously. “For players in good grace, the misses, turnovers and lapses are ignored,” writes Partnow. “For those on the other side of the ledger, all that is noted is the wildness, with no consideration over whether that Westbrookian mad dash to the basket is not much different than Manu Ginobili whizzing a seemingly impossible pass into the 4th row.” These are interesting thoughts, and worth your time.

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GAMES OF THE WEEK, 1/26-2/1

(Good afternoon! My name is Corbin. I write Games of the Week. That’s my name right there. This week, so I could spend as much time as I can watching and blogging about precious, precious basketball, I am mashing up Games of the Week with a liveblogging of the Celtics-Warriors game from 1/25/14.)

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MONDAY: ORLANDO at MEMPHIS 8PM EAST, 5PM WEST

Brandon Bass, a Celtic of note, catches the ball at the foul line after a pick and roll doesn’t go anywhere. He drives on Harrison Barnes, gets to the rim, Igoudola comes to double, he rises to shoot, gets stripped by Iggy, yells “OHHWEE!” as if to say “Oh, wee! Ref, do you not hear my oh wee, I am trying to tell you that I have bean fouled!” If you are looking for this kind of stunted frustration in the form of a whole game, watch Orlando spend 48 minutes trying to score on Memphis. It will be a rough game.

TUESDAY: BULLS AT WARRIORS 7:30 WEST, 10:30 EAST

Klay Thompson gets the ball with Evan Turner in front of him above the three point line. He drives right past him and lays it in at the rim. Brad Stevens, a coach who is technically in pursuit of the playoffs (Look it up!) who encourages his team to play a grinding, slow style to reduce possessions and increase the chance that they will luck into wins, calls a timeout, because he is disgusted with the defense or something. Disgust is bad word. He doesn’t seem like a man who is overtaken by disgust very often. If he found a worm in Peanut Butter, he would probably say “Oh, this is not good I better not finish this peanut butter. Thankfully, I have a garbage can, and throw this jar into that can will help me remember not to eat it.” A man with his possessed self confidence would probably watch Warriors vs. Bulls: no frills, nothing fancy, just a solid basketball matchup that should provide for a good game. It’s probably on a little late for him. He tries to have a glass of warm milk at around nine, nine-thirty, and he is going to need to lay off to stay awake.

WEDNESDAY: WIZARDS AT SUNS: 7:30 WEST, 10:30 EAST

Steph Curry has the ball at half court. He throws a one-handed desperation heave. “The quarter is over,” you think, “It is time for halftime, when the men on TV with natural hair, that is their original hair, will talk about the matchup.” But then: a shock and a surprise! He was fouled! Three free throws! If you’re looking for some more surprises, they will come to you in a box with a boy when you watch Washington at Phoenix. Johnny Wall, dribbling one way, SWITCHES, and dribbles the other way, he gets to the rim, so fast, I never saw it coming, he dunks the ball, oh my, I wasn’t sure a man could dunk a ball like that, I am shocked, please, hand me my fan.

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THURSDAY: BUCKS at MAGIC: 7:00 EAST, 4:00 WEST

Oh, look, the Third Quarter has started. I was away from the game, watching the end of Bucks-Spurs. The Score Was Tight, But It Turned Out The Foul Game Was Just Starting. I was very disappointed. I wanted to see the Bucks do some damage, bag themselves a big one, a big “Deer,” if you will. Evan Turner gets the ball. Draymond Green has switched onto him. “Turnover city,” I think. “We are in a car, and it is driving to turnover city, and I am not talking about the world capital of pastry production, I am talking about a basketball turnover, because if Evan Turner tries to do something right here, he will absolutely turn the ball over.” But, then, he bails, and throws a high arcing and risky pass to Brandon Bass, who is underneath the rim and flanked by Klay Thompson and Steph Curry. He manages to get the ball. He rises up. He yells again. But this time, he gets the foul. Klay Thompson, with his third of the evening. If you’re looking to take a risk, I recommend you gamble your time on Milwaukee and Orlando’s matchup. Sure, Orlando is not very good. BUT, Miluakee has the amazing power to make pretty much any game compelling. If it’s not “Too Close,” it’s “A weirdly entertaining performance from Bayless” or “Giannis, showing a new power, a hidden power, an unknown power that, if it comes out completely, will threatening to break basketball forever.” When it comes up red, which is the good result of gambling, it pays 300 to 1.

FRIDAY: ROCKETS at CELTICS: 7:30 EAST, 4:30 WEST

“Draymond is having a tough three-point shooting night. He is one-of-six.” So say the Warriors’ announcers, when Draymond Green bricks an open three pointer after a pass from Andrew Bogut. Houston at Boston will be this front rimmed jumper, manifested into a whole game. The Celtics’ customary slow pace meets James Harden, The Foul Hunter (A television series about James Harden poaching in National Parks.) will make for a start and stop affair that will bore anyone who watches it to tears, thud, right against the rim of your mind. At least Stevens, a numbers man, probably won’t go in for hacking Dwight.

SATURDAY: THUNDER AT GRIZZLIES: 8:00 EAST, 5:00 WEST

Steph Curry cuts down the lane, sheds Phil Pressy, gets the ball from David Lee, and two hand dunks on a wide open rim. Tyler Zeller could have made it a contest, but he was slow to rotate off Lee after the pass. You could see Zeller’s who body seize and jump into action when he realize what happened, like Juliet opening her eyes and seeing Romeo drinking poison. For another matchup of star-crossed lovers that will certainly end with one or two of them committing suicide, OKC and Memhpis is the only game to watch.

SUNDAY:

Sullinger charges into Bogut. A turnover is, in a way, a refusal to take a shot. Much in the same way, I refuse to recommend either of the games that are on today. MAYBE there is a scenario where Wade scores 35 and makes Celtics fans angry, and that could be a lot of fun. But I am not going to bank on that.

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Bullying, Blake.

When I was entering the 9th grade the school district I attended shifted the boundaries of which school students would attend. I lived right on the boundary of both, so I had a choice (sort of): go to the new school on the bus, or stay at the school I attended the last two years and find my own way there. Bad as it was being in junior high, this was a doomsday scenario. The new school was different; it was more… rural. I found that out the first day as a group of the largest 9th graders I had ever scene, clad in wranglers and cowboy boots, locked arms and yelled “STAMPEDE!,” before they began barreling down the hall,  trampling anything in their path. I survived by barely slinking into the alcove of a classroom doorway.

A little young, and very underdeveloped for my grade, I had always had to survive on the outskirts of junior high school. When I moved to the new school, I couldn’t do that. I was one of the new kids that had invaded their school, and I suffered through half a year of humiliation at the hands of bullies in my choir class (taking that class was my first mistake). Every time the teacher turned her back, they would start in. Punching me in the face just hard enough to make my head ring, but not enough to cause an outburst; just overt enough so that everyone above me (I sat in the front row, by assignment) could see it. I took the half-year break to get out of the class, and was able to avoid those kids for the rest of the year, but the damage was done.

To this day, bullying makes my blood boil. So, it was when I woke up to see what Blake Griffin had done to a member of his training staff. The Vine has made its rounds. The staffer dutifully attends to the giant athlete, kneeling in front of him on the Clippers bench to wrap his war-torn leg. Then the hulking Griffin takes the opportunity to exploit the precarious position of the therapist by palming the back of his head, like a basketball, and forcefully guide it toward his crotch, as if to guide the physio to fellate the star athlete.  As the physio pulls away Griffin turns and laughs jovially, then points to another player and says “Did you see that?” The most lenient description would call it bullying, at its worst, sexual harassment.

The reaction on Twitter was what you would expect; a mix of horror and the minimizing crowd of “oh, it was just a joke.” I expect that one could only take the latter view if one had never experienced that kind of “joking” before. I understood it completely. The domineering Griffin humiliated the physio ON NATIONAL TELEVISION, and it’s nothing new for him. There’s a reason he is such a polarizing figure in the NBA. Loved for his soaring exhibitions of athleticism, but reviled for his petulant attitude and constant bullying. Whether it’s in his nature or if he’s a product of the constant headlines of yet another player “destroyed,” “killed,” or “posterized,” by one of his thunderous dunks, it has become a part of his public persona.

I doubt anyone reading this knows what type of relationship Griffin has with the member of his team’s training staff. I would hope it is a very good one, for Griffin’s sake. If it’s a bond of friendship then Griffin should be ashamed of himself, and go out of his way to make amends publicly and privately. If it’s more of a professional one, than he needs to make the same amends and re-evaluate his interactions with other human beings.  In the age of Vine, Twitter, Instagram, and every other method of recording video we all have to be a little warier of what we do in the public arena. Especially if said public arena is an NBA arena filled with 40,000 people, and many hundreds of thousands more watching on television. There is simply no excuse for this behavior.

For those of us who have dealt with these types of situations, seeing something like this over and over induces cringes, and feelings of sympathy. Perhaps it was as innocent as some claim it to be, but the fact of the matter is that a man in a position of power took advantage of a man performing a job that already appears submissive, and that is an extreme breach of trust. Hopefully Griffin does the truly manly thing and apologizes for his conduct, and learns a lesson for the future.

Editor’s Note: Dustin LaMarr’s work appears at SLC Dunk. This is his first contribution to The Diss.

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Everyday is Perfect, Everything is Wrong.

It’s January in the Bay Area, and every day is perfect; nearly an exact replica of the day that immediately preceded it. The month doesn’t matter. The day is irrelevant, since the proceedings are roughly uniform across the spectrum. The muffled screams and yelps from the three children in the adjacent apartment — and the headache-inducing shouts from their over-matched, under-prepared parents, both of whom are younger than me, and who forget that the walls that separate our units are much thinner than they think — finally rouse me from my slumber. My eyes, still heavy with sleep, wander to my bedroom window, where I always pray to see grey, leaden skies and small rivulets of water falling down the pane. Instead, each day, I see brilliant blue skies, cloudless and carefree. As I rise from bed, yawning, stretching, scratching, and cussing to myself about absolutely nothing in particular, I shield my body from the sun, invading all the rooms in my house, warming the environment with deadly, ultraviolet rays. This is what it’s like in drought-affected California. Every day is July 4th. Every day is summer break.

By the time I’m strapped into my car and careening to work — continually in a rush to help treat a disability that cannot be cured — and the caffeine is fully incorporated into my bloodstream, I have calmed down a bit. My car windows are down, my elbow is propped up and protruding out, and Bay Area sports radio blares loudly. There always seems to be a lot to discuss on the 50,000 watt flamethrower; the status of the infield for the Giants following the departure of Pablo Sandoval, the status of the Santa Clara 49ers after a season that was more interesting off-the-field than on it. What doesn’t get discussed, even now, are the Warriors. All the hosts on KNBR offer jokes about how to nitpick the team, but even those are offered half-heartedly; more of a sports radio courtesy than anything else. What is there to say? The team is 32-6; one of the 10 best starts in NBA history. Every Warrior is having their best season as a professional, from the headlining stars to the end-of-bench stalwarts. Every single individual award is in play, from MVP (Steph), to Sixth Man (Mo Speights), to Most Improved Player (Klay Thompson), to Defensive Player of the Year (Andrew Bogut) to Coach of the Year (Steve Kerr). There has been a single overtime game (a win), and in the 38 games played thus far, only eight have been decided by three possessions or less (and the Warriors are 6-2 in said games). The negative headlines of previous seasons are absent. For Warriors fans, every day is sunny. Every day is perfect.

Yet, as I watch the games, and take in the platitudes that comes with preferring a team that currently rules the NBA, it is impossible to shake the feeling that this isn’t how it’s supposed to be; that something happening here is out of place.  Of course, much of this is due to the fact that no Warriors fan has any context for what’s happening (unless, of course, you are over 50 years old and witnessed the 1975 championship team, or the 1976 team than won 59 games but lost in the Western conference finals), and is learning how to be a fan of a contender on-the-fly.  There isn’t a frame of reference to understand how our team who, for the balance of our lifetimes, has been competitive at best, and crappy at worst, is now treating each opponent like a church youth-league team. Each blowout is like these sinister beautiful days in January, the sun shining brightly, the hills browned and parched. There’s no arguing with a beautiful day, unless something about that day just doesn’t feel right.

Each Warriors fan — and in some ways, each Californian, sun-baked and dried-out from a drought that seems like it will never end — is stuck in a strange place right now. There is nothing wrong with every day being glorious and gilded, sun-kissed serotonin as far as the eye can see. It’s hard to complain about a journey that doesn’t feature much of a struggle. For the first time, a Warriors fan can somewhat impatiently state, to themselves and others around them, yes, this is great, but I wish the playoffs would just get here. I wish it were May. For the first time, the shimmering mirage of a championship parade — something understandable because of the three-peat Giants, but inconceivable due to the general history of the Warriors franchise — seems to be within grasp. But the harsh realities of where we are, and what this is — a long haul in a harsh land, carried out by vulnerable mortals — has never fully gone away, has never fully vacated itself from our minds. This is California, after all: a place where everything is beautiful, and every day is perfect, yet peril seems to be lurking; watching with interested eyes, waiting for the correct moment to strike. Having what typically happens — a losing streak, a shooting slump, an injury, a controversy — would be more comfortable, more knowable, more predictable. Yet the beauty of never-ending perfection — even in January — is hard to critique, and even harder to understand and explain.

It is a strange feeling; longing for the glory of summer, yet at the same time, desperately wishing it would finally rain.

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GAMES OF THE WEEK 1/19-1/25

Good afternoon. My name is DOCTOR Corbin Smith, Adjunct Professor of Psychology here at Diss University, and I have some startling new research to share with you, my loyal readership. In my time writing this column, I have discovered some the relationship between the basketball games people watch and their psychological state. TO test my new system, I solicited game picks on the website Twitter.com and I will share my results with you today:

MONDAY: CAVALIERS AT BULLS,  7:30 EAST 4:30 WEST

What kind of person seeks out disappointment? Neither the Cavs or the Bulls will do anything in this game to inspire you. Either the Bulls looks anemic or the Cavs appear as a nightmare. This young man should be setting his standards higher, seeking new and exciting rushes, but he returns to the well he thought would have the cleanest healing waters in the beginning of the year. I suspect his childhood was a series of disappointments that were completely out of his control, and he has decided that was what he deserved. He will lead a life of never ending disappointments, until death, because he does not aim for higher ground.

TUESDAY: THUNDER AT HEAT: 7:30 EAST, 4:30 WEST

Well, straight out the gate, trying to get me to do two games, a sign of a deep and real greed, a greed that will someday drive this man down the deepest river of despair. Combine this greed with a game that is a Brokedown Palace 2012 Finals Rematch, and we see a man who is unduly nostalgic for a time recently passed, when he was able to exploit people for money. He has been stopped, by the police, or the FTC, or the Securities commission. He sits in him home, bitter and broken, waiting for a day when the money will flow freely again. He is a troubled person and he must learn that he can only find peace in nature.

WEDNESDAY: THUNDER AT WIZARDS: 8 PM EAST, 5 PM WEST

Kevin Durant has semi-openly discussed the idea of coming home to Washington to play for the Wizards. Mr. Bennett’s choice suggests a fascination with cuckolding. If I were to get a look into his dream life, you would be stuck watching complicated soap operas where dinosaurs were cheat on their spouses, then tell them so they can become excited by the grief on their faces. This is a pick of a sick man.

THURSDAY: SPURS AT BULLS: 8PM EAST, 5PM WEST

A battle of two parent figures. Popovich is a stern, orderly man, who keeps a clean house that feel suffocating. Thibadeau is a chaotic, sweaty presence who pushes you to be the best you can but leaves you confused and exhausted. Man’s struggle between comfort and progress is at war in RJ’s heart. Which will bring you to happiness? The answer is neither, because man and womyn are defined by their eternal dissatisfaction. The only way to escape is to be put in the dirt.

FRIDAY: NEW ORLEANS AT MINNESOTA: 8PM EAST 5PM WEST

Both of these teams exemplify a duality. Flip and Monty are two of the last men standing in the mid-range, and they both coach new, dynamic, athletic stars who capture our imaginations and turn out heads to the future. The patient longs for days past and manifests this longing in youth. He needs to realize that the future in inevitable, it is coming, it is necessary, the world is moving, and he can’t put his desire to return to the past on those who will be of the future.

SATURDAY: PISTONS AT MILWAUKEE 7:30 EAST, 4:30 WEST  

Patient has an insatiable craving for novelty. The Bucks were an unwatchable mess until this year, the Piston until this month. Always seeking the new. Will be impossible for the patient to settle down, he lives on the hunt for a new animal to devour. Someday his claws will fail him, and he will starve, emotionally, when he has to watch a Mavs-Spurs playoff series, like the rest of us.

SUNDAY: CLIPPERS AT SUNS 3PM WEST, 6PM EAST

I picked this game myself. What does it reveal in me? I can tell you, with eyes unclouded, because I have come to the place of perfect analysis. The patient wishes to see, if for even a second, Austin Rivers, recently traded to the Clippers, get hounded by Eric Bledsoe. He wants to see Austin humiliated and destroyed on a basketball court. He resents anyone who has a leg up in life. He probably watches tapes, actual VHS tapes, of rives making mistakes and missing shots, so deep does his hatred for nepotists go. It is unhealthy, and it is consuming his life. He has only watched Austin Rivers for three and a half years, trying to mine everything negative he possibly an out of his play. This recent move has made it worse. He has stopped sleeping, and he only eats water with protein powder and vitamins, so he can get nutrients while he prays at the altar of his hatred. His feces are so small and intert that he poos in a bucket in his HateRoom, a small room with only a small TV and VCR and a pillow he takes restless, hour long naps on. He is in big trouble.

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Conflict, Contrition, Correction.

In 2009, during All-Star weekend, the Phoenix Suns fired their head coach Terry Porter, who at that point had been commanding the helm of a ship that had been sinking for 51 games. Though the termination was handed down — personally, at Porter’s home — by Steve Kerr, the general manager of the team, the mandate had been set by all of the important figures in the organization, from Robert Sarver, the owner, to Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire, the franchise players. The team had been predicted to finish second in the Pacific, and at the very least, as a low playoff seed in the West. But as the weekend’s festivities raged in Phoenix, the hosts stood at 28-23; a far-cry from the consistently successful D’Antoni years. Chemistry had been a issue; the team was slow to adopt to Porter’s defensive emphases and offense focused around Shaquille O’Neal. Nash had been openly devastated by a trade which sent Raja Bell and Boris Diaw to Charlotte for Jason Richardson and Jared Dudley, viewed widely as a cost-cutting move, and perhaps a precursor for a blockbuster centered around Amar’e Stoudemire. With the season imploding, Porter was let go, replaced by assistant coach Alvin Gentry. Following Porter’s departure, Kerr expressed dual lamentations: that it hadn’t worked out with a quality professional and personal friend, and that to “save the season” — as they say — he had to try and correct an unforeseen mistake:

I hired Terry because I believed in him. He’s got a ton of integrity and dignity and class, and he’s got a great work ethic. I hired him because I believed he was the best man for the job.In the last month, it became apparent to me that, look, this is not working, what we’re trying is not working. I think we still can make this a very successful season. This was a move I think we had to make in order to give our team the best chance for success.

While it is analytically lazy to trot out a case study in an attempt to understand what is going on with the underachieving (at best) and imploding (at worst) Cleveland Cavaliers of 2015, there are a serious dearth of tools to explain the inexplicable: that such a good team, at least in the minds of those who think a lot about the NBA, would fall so flat, despite an obvious abundance of incredible individual talent and success. In this case, the aforementioned Phoenix Suns are a useful comparison. Despite obvious differences in both time period and personnel, there are enough broad comparisons to find some important similarities: two small market franchises, saddled with veterans, catering to free-agents-to-be, pushing the limits of the salary cap, self-consciously licking self-inflicted wounds from bad drafts and having liquidated future draft picks in order to assemble the current roster. In both cases, player dissent against the coach has taken public forms, from tangible expressions of concern, to open displays of deviance and doubt. For both the Cavs of today, and the Suns of yesteryear, the midpoint of the season has presented something of a breaking point: a lackluster start, a flurry of seemingly panicked trades, and an uncontrollable stream of negative reportage from credible sources that cannot be tempered by wins, simply because the wins, themselves, do not exist.

In situations where expedient success is placed at a premium, it makes sense that the prevailing question on most interested observers’ minds is: are the Cavaliers doomed? For that to be answered, one must interrogate their own standards, since there is no official benchmark stating what is considered to be success, and what is considered to be failure. By the strictest definition, the Suns, that season, were doomed, and the season was deemed by most to be a failure. Despite going 18-13 in the remaining 31 games, and losing Amar’e Stoudemire for the season shortly after the All-Star break, 46 wins were not enough to crack the top eight. But the next season brought further changes; with Terry Porter off the job, and firing-rod center Shaquille O’Neal shipped off to Cleveland, the Suns evolved under Alvin Gentry. Both Jason Richardson and Jared Dudley, the players received for former franchise stalwarts Diaw and Bell — became key contributors to a Suns team that regained their crowns as offensive champions, played just enough defense to win games, and made an improbable run to the Western Conference championship. An argument can be made that the Suns’ success of 2010 was directly correlated to the “failure” of 2009. With an understanding of the shortcomings of the Suns under Porter, a better product could be created under Gentry; the vaunted “retool, not rebuild” line which success-conscious general managers — pressured by profit-conscious owners — trot out with unsurprising regularity.

However, it must be acknowledged that the perception of what is happening in Cleveland is informed by our own insecurities, our own discomfort around not being able to fully understand or explain what is occurring with the Cavaliers this season. When a team underachieves, it is doing so based largely upon expectations placed by others, and in many cases, those expectations are filtered through our own privately held beliefs. It is not unreasonable to think that a team led by three all-stars, as well as the player many consider to be the greatest to ever play, should at the very least be above .500. Additionally, it is not unreasonable to believe that a group of handsomely-paid adults should be able to “figure it out,” and come to a series of compromises on-and-off the court as a way to make grounds in an Eastern conference that is honestly more top-heavy than its reputation implies. That compromise could easily include firing Blatt and promoting Tyronne Lue, who certainly seems to be the coach the players prefer interacting with; something evident from my couch a thousand miles away. But even then, a pressing fact seems to remain: a general insistence that something is wrong, and that something needs to change remains murky, simply because this was not expected to occur in any shape or form. No one in the NBA, from the teams, to the fans, to the media, expected such a layered-struggle in Cleveland; such a struggle to find an identity, and a search for success that seems to be marred by fractious infighting and high-risk general managing. The removal of the coach would be the quickest way for everyone to get clarity; to understand that there are mistakes that need to be corrected, and not simply ignored. And the Suns of 2009 show that, despite our own definitions of “hastiness”, “fairness” or “competence”, admitting a mistake sooner rather than later can be beneficial.

To me, it isn’t important whether or not David Blatt is fired today, tomorrow, or a decade from now. Nor really is it important to know, at the moment, whether or not the Cavs’ season is over, as our friends over at I Go Hard Now have grimly stated. Instead, what seems important to observe is the manner that the decision-makers in the franchise go about correcting the errors that clearly have been made over the last several months, and the amount of contrition that goes into the way those errors are corrected in an attempt to get this bizarre season on track. No situation is completely beyond repair, but often times, the hardest thing to get over are the beliefs we staunchly hold on to, even to the greater detriment of the group, and without thought of what success could possibly lay ahead.

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