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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I am perpetually behind on watching the shit people are talking about. I still haven’t seen the Pistons play. I have been given the impression that they are good now, because they got rid of Josh Smith. I am hurt for Josh Smith, who I have enjoyed from time to time. Now I understand that everyone else has turned on Josh Completely, but, like I said, I am behind. For instance, I still think the Heat seem like a solid team and I think Cleveland is pretty scary. Richard Nixon seems like a guy you could have a beer with. Napoleon is a warrior for democracy. This Jesus guy seems like a kook, this shit will never catch on. Food? I will take moisture and sunlight, thanks. Uhh, my particles forming into a planet, NO THANKS.

Another sign of my genuine retrogradery is that I will probably watch the College Football Final instead of basketball. Foortball is a nightmare, I guess, but, man, you get to talking to me about a championship, I will watch whatever you stick in front of me. If we could get sports to a place where there is a title game every single day, I will eat that shit up like a big silly duck in a stale bread factory.

Also, I guess I am an Oregon partisan? It is probably the Pac-12 school that most resembles my Alma Matter, The Evergreen State College. And I like Kazemi. Them or Berkley. I would root for Berkley, I guess. Go Bears. Or Ducks. Or, uh, Raccoons. The Saint Magnus Fightnin’ Raccoons.


Which member of the Spurs would make the best President? Baynes, Marco, Boris, Manu, Parker, Patty, Cory Joseph and Tiago were all born outside of the United States, so they’re straight up disqualified. Matt Bonner tried to become a Canadian citizen, the highest form of treason possible, so hell no to that guy. Duncan and Kawhai and Danny green don’t talk much, which is the currency of a politician, so they’re out.

It’s down to Kyle Anderson, Jeff Ayres, and Austin Daye. Ayres went to ASU, so absolutely not. Austin Daye played in the D-League, and if you can name a D-League president, I will say “Okay” and give it to him, but we haven’t elected one yet and there’s no reason to think anyone can overcome that stigma. Kyle Anderson went to UCLA, good college, he seems nice, and he isn’t too tall. I declare him President Spur.



Why not!? You like bad feelings, and Dwight and Harden flopping their way to a victory against a bunch of young guys out there trying their hardest to compete, in front of a north Florida crowd that is angry and resentful and sweaty and salty and sad, this thing could really curdle into something unpleasant that you don’t want to miss. It’s like you walking down the street and someone says, hey, buddy, a guy is gonna chop off his own hand, you can watch for five bucks, you pony up, right? 3211285023_ff2782611b_z


You know what? I won’t pick. They’re all kind of interesting. Miluakee/Knicks is fun because you get to the the Bucks just WAIL on someone, Giannis leakouts, Kendall Marshall career games, pretty much everything you could want:from a basketball contest. Houston/OKC is an actual game between two teams who are natural rivals for reasons so obvious I will not review them here. Cavs/Lakers will answer the question that BURNS in your mind: “The Cavs can beat the Lakers, right? I mean, they lost to the Knicks, so who knows what the hell is going on with this thing. Will the train just COMPLETELY fall off the tracks tonight, and wipe out the entire NBA in its wake?” Watch the, all, they’re all masterpieces!


This is a game between the first and second seeds in the East. The Hawks have taken the heart and spirit of the Spurs and are using it to flog everyone. The Raptors have been slumping. They both play team ball. It’s fun. I like these quality undetermined East teams, man, they’re funky. Offbeat. Interesting. Like a painting of a bottle of milk or something.



Every time Memhpis plays Portland, I root for Memphis. I try not to, I swear, I feel like I am disappointed my family and my community when I pump my fist for roving pirates who throw the Blazers into the ocean every time they play, but they’re just so cool. Once, when the Blazers were bad, I went to a game and openly cheered for the Grizzlies, like a weirdo. At least I didn’t have a Battier jersey, like the dude who was sitting courtside.


There are three games on, probably to avoid conflict with football. This is, by far, the best one. Anthony Davis will compete against Amir Johnson. It should be really great. I am looking at the word counter right now and trying to get to to 1000. I am at 866 right now. Okay, now I am at 874. What can I write 130 words about? I read a Lucy Kinsley travelogue book recently and I really enjoyed it. She went to Europe and kept a journal that resembled a very rough comic book. I am looking at another Lucy Kinsey book right now, that is why I thought about it. She uses drawings as a way of processing and organizing her thought and objectifying single moments, it’s really interesting. I am at 948. Man, this is surprisingly hard. I get why these horrible old columnists make up beef to grind into column space.  They’re at work, too, they just want to get out and get home to their families like everyone else. Just potshot a famous athlete, who gives a shit, he makes a lot of money, my daughter has a ballet recital and I need to get there in like half an hour.


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On Ghosting Greatness.

There is no set protocol for celebrating aging — or more appropriately, having aged — in the NBA. If anything, there’s a standard set of practices for decrying the aging process; an intricate cocktail of denial, anger, grief and, hopefully, acceptance of what cannot be changed; what can only be delayed, never fully avoided. This feeling exists for every participant in the NBA, from the players to the coaches; from the owners to the fans. One needs to only look at Kobe Bryant’s historically stubborn season to get an idea of how aging is viciously battled, with everyone — the player, the coach, the owners and the fans — holding on to the ideas of what things were more than the reality of how things are. Of course, this makes an incredible amount of sense, that aging is seen as an enemy rather than a friend one makes later in life, after the physical damage to the body has been done, and the mind has moved on to different things. No pregame celebration filled with dazzling highlights will replace the thrill of creating the plays being highlighted, no jersey in the rafters or touching video tribute will match the sheer, soaring elation of seeing the players play. The players are here to perform, and once the act is done, and the final bows have been made, the player fades from our minds. There is little to like about aging, in the NBA; in professional sport.

In this regard, the current case of Steve Nash presents an interesting conundrum. To their credit, the individuals who have brought you this exquisitely abhorrent version of the Los Angeles Lakers have been very civil about the Nash “issue,” as much as it exists as an issue in a season full of damn issues for a sour milk team like the Lakers. Naturally, there are certain rules and about discussing the absence of the former two-time MVP. After all, facts are facts: Nash has played 65 games over the course of two seasons, and in those games, either limped about the court, or failed to resemble even the most diluted version of the dynamic, debonair hardwood marshal who, arguably, was the most dominant point guard over the last decade. Head Coach Byron Scott — he of blank stares and vapid post-game pressers, who loves watching his team languish for interminable minutes on end while the other team runs up the score like an arcade game — has balanced his puzzlement with politeness when discussing the AWOL point guard, stating as recently as Monday that Nash would have a place on the team, if and when he decides to show up. Jeanie Buss, who has truly become her brother’s keeper, has answered “I don’t know,” when asked on the radio where, exactly, Steve Nash is, but also has been gracious and kind when discussing the politics of paying a man who seems to have no intentions of playing again, at least as a Los Angeles Laker. There are far more pressing matters in Lakerland these days than a sidelined great who never was all that great, at least as a member of the home team.

Aside from a small, unsurprisingly-humorous commercial — likely filmed before the season started, when it seemed like Nash was going to be, at least, a part-time NBA player this year — the ol’ boy Steve is gone. Like the Lakers, we, as fans of the NBA, have no idea where he is, and if he’ll ever be back. This is not the case for most former greats, who we can still vaguely place a finger on, even if their sneakers stopped squeaking for us ages ago. Nash has ghosted his NBA career; grabbed his coat, called Uber, and left the party without saying goodbye. The standard protocol for saying “so long” to a beloved player who also produced amply during his career — a celebration tour throughout the league, video tributes and campy jersey retirements, wistful recollections of brilliant Suns teams and a bento box of “what if?” moments — is going by the wayside, in this case. It seems as if Steve Nash will not submit to anyone’s emotions, and grant them a final chance to show their love. He will not play the role of Derek Jeter, waving appreciatively to crowds in foreign cities, standing and clapping, essentially, for memories, and not for individuals. He will not be Mariano Rivera, snapping shots with arena staff, and using his last days as a professional athlete to thank those who made him who he is. He is done, finished, wrapped up. Whatever emotions you have must be swallowed harshly, choked down like a wad of chewing gum. The chance for public remembrance is over, and frankly, we never had a chance to begin with.

In such a crowded league, where attention spans are short, and careers are even shorter, it is sometimes easy to forget that scores of players retire each year, and fade into the dusk completely. Many have led long, fruitful careers. Others barely had a chance to get going. For many of these players, these departures from the game are by design, and not by choice, and the endgame, of course, did not play out as seamlessly as was originally planned. In most cases, there is no celebration of aging; the player is not offered a contract, and so they do not return, to either the team they previously played for, or to the league that kept them handsomely employed for a period of time. In Steve Nash, however, we have a different scenario: a player who cannot perform on the court, but is still cherished by both the team with whom he currently holds a financial contract, and beloved by the fans with whom he holds countless emotional contracts. The accolades made by the player, as well as the memories generated from the accolades, seem worthy of some sort of recognition; a final curtain call, a hearty round of applause, a seat on the bench next to the coaches. But seemingly, for Nash, that doesn’t seem necessary; not on an awful team, not when the stakes are so very low. There need be neither a celebration against aging, or a last stand to try and fight it, and lace up the sneakers one last time. It seems as if the mind has moved on; to a place where the Lakers, NBA, or basketball can not reach him, and he can move on with his life.

If Steve Nash never showed his face again, not much would change. The focus of the average fan has firmly shifted to different players; younger stars who are starting to enter their primes and shifting the balances of power throughout the association. On a base level, this seems fine. Nash himself seems fine with it; a mutual parting of ways, peace made between two parties who used to have something special, but over time, have grown older; have grown apart. But to not go through the motions, and at least offer a chance to celebrate his accomplishments undoubtedly leaves a bad taste in the mouth of the average fan. It is not the expected outcome for anyone who once looked at his flowing hair, youthful exuberance, and blur of a body, and felt that the fun could last forever, or at the very least, for seven brilliant seconds.

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If it seem like I only recommended weird games, it’s because there were not any normal games on this week.


Has anyone floated the idea that the East is secretly more functional than the West? Teams with young stars shouldn’t have to face a gauntlet of trails that threaten to tear their testicles off year after year. Your team should be allowed to fail a little, the you get competent, then you get good, then you get better than good! Unfortunate, competition and weather have gathered in the west and build a spiked marble wall that a team must climb. Why is the East dysfunctional? The Bucks SHOULD be able to compete! They have good young players! The West and its inequitable world where the rich get richer and the poor suck lemons is the immoral one!



There are only two games on Tuesday’s slate. This is the better of those two games. I am kind of into it, because I am down with the deer, but if you’re not, this is an excellent night to do something else. May I recommend a movie? I watched Cries and Whispers the other night, and it was a devious construction and an emotionally wrenching affair all in one. Bergman also does fascinating things with camera movements and close ups. The movement, the co-dependency, the emotional horror and the European-ness make it a very Spurs-y movie. You like pop culture equivalencies, right? It’s good sportswriting, right?


Atlanta has won a lot of game against Western competition lately. Maybe they are very good. Maybe the West is overrated. Maybe everything living in a fixed position in our minds is more unknowable than we know, and we should embrace that uncertainty and let it take us to new and exciting places.


If you come over to my house IN Vancouver, Washington, while this game is on, I will probably be watching it. I will let you into the house. “Do you want anything to eat, while we watch this game, the one on television?” No thank you, Corbin. “Oh. Do you want some special blanket, or sleeping bag, or pillow, to make yourself more comfortable while watching this game?” I am fine, thank you. “Drugs? I have some drugs, different kinds of drugs, you can take them and it might make the game better? Uppers? Downers? Pot? Holla-genics?” Uhh, not now. Maybe if the game isn’t very good, I will take drugs but I think I will just watch for now.



Halfway through this game, Kevin Love, who was NEARLY traded to Golden State, will have been thoroughly beaten and bruised by the team who spurned him. His teammates have abandoned him, subcumbed to injury, disease, and death (A Cav will die this week, yes.). Dion is floating around, clapping and doing things. He will stand at center court. The cheers will surround him. He will close his eyes and realize that the cheers aren’t really an upper, a pump that runs adrenaline into his blood and makes him run up and down and compete. The are a blanket, a gentle wave made from warm liquid cotton. He will lie down in the middle of the arena and sleep. He will sleep until the final buzzer sounds. When he wakes, the judgmental eyes of the words affixed to himself, the only self that ever gave him and peace, he will weep, for he now knows that happiness and comfort can never for him, that he can only chase and fail forever and ever.




ONE: Paint both teams’ starting fives on your fingers. Chris Paul and Chandler parsons are the thumbs.

TWO: Oceans on one hand, for Clippers, and Horses for the other, because the Mavericks are spiritually attached to horses.


FOUR: A tiny little ten-panel comic about Donald Sterling.

FIVE: Matted red and blue, paint it with house paint instead of traditional shiny polish.

SIX: Dump both of your hands into giant buckets of hot wax, then hold it to your face until it sticks.At the end of the game, scrape the wax from your face and hands. Make it into a candle. Mail the candle to the winning team as tribute. Paint your nails purple.



Cleveland put a perfect team together and it has congealed into a pile of lumpy cream. Sacramento has been a pile of worse cream that was starting to become cheese, but the guy who ran the dairy-arium decided this cheese was not to his liking so he filled it with arsenic and told the world it was the future of dairy. These teams deserve each other they and they deserve to savage each other like the sisters in Cries and Whispers.


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I was watching John Wall on Christmas and I thought to myself, I thought, “Hey, I have been spending a lot of time with John Wall for the last few years, and I really like what this guy brings to the table, and I have decided that he is one of my favorite players.” I turned to my dog, Doggus, and I said “Doggus, when John Wall slings those passes to the corners, that is really really neat. He has managed to revive Rasual Butler’s entire career!” Then, Doggus speaks to me, through the psychic cloud, “CORBIN, I COMMAND YOU DO MY BIDDING. GO TO THE PIZZA SHOP AND BUY ME A WHOLE PIZZA. I WISH TO CONSUME IT, RIGHT HERE, AND BECOME KING OF THE PIZZA DOGS” Then I says “Doggus, you dummy, you just want to shit all over my carpet!” Then he says, “Aww man, you caught me. Please rub my belly now.”




I am only recommending this game because it is on early. You have to leave your house and go to a party for new year’s. No one likes it. Hell, I was at a party last year and I got overwhelmed and hid in the coat closet. I tried to tell myself it was a joke, like “Someone will open this closet and here I will be and it will be so silly” but after ten minutes I realized that this was about as comfortable as I had ever been, and this was not a joke, but a coping mechanism that was genuinely helping me get through the night. But I still went, because I should have, because I needed to get out and that was as good of an excuse as any.


There are only two games on on New Year’s Day. This one is definitely the best one. I do not remember what the other game is. Something along the lines of Bobcats/Jazz or something else no one really wants to watch. 80% of the audience for that game will be blogger trying to write something about it. “Exum did a good job guarding Walker off the bench, with his length,” or something. Take the stone in your hand. Squeeze it until your fingerbones shatter and cut through your skin. Look at the blood. Convince yourself the blood is actually from the stone. Write about that blood and put it on the internet. Hope someone reads it and decided to let you write for them. Keep doing this until you are Mitch Albom and you can serve up hot piles of moralistic garbage to old people for like 2,000 bucks a pop. Do this until you die. You will have lived the life of a writer. Congratulations.


Also, making the Kings play road games on and after New Year’s Eve is cruel.


This is a confrontation of the top teams in the West and East. The East is pretty bad, so that’s not as hefty as it sometimes is. But Toronto’s pretty good, they could jump out from behind the eastbush and give the Warriors a good mugging. Everyone thinks Kyle Lowry is this super bitter dude who will do anything to destroy the players everyone says are better than he is, and Steph is one of those players, so someone out there is like Oh Man Kyle Is Going To Take It To Steph but he will probably just try as hard as he always does because he wants to win games because he is a basketball player who is accustomed to winning. Maybe they feel like they represent the honor of the east, and they can bring glory to a faded house by delivering a fresh head to the God Of The Atlantic Division as a sacrifice for fertility and plenty. The NBA is riddled with Paganism, after all.


Saturday has a very bad slate without compelling games. This game was the only one I could make compelling by squinting to hard my eyes started to bleed. Dwight played in Florida once, and now he is playing in a different part of Florida! James Harden and Dwyane Wade are both shooting guard who are excellent and hated by people who obsess over the intangibilities of fairness, will their matchup create an outrage portal? Chris Bosh almost played in Houston, will Houston seek revenge, or will Bosh be looking for revenge against, uhh (Checks Houston roster) Josh Smith for, I don’t know, taking too many jump shots? Is that interesting? Is that preview worthy?


This Sunday game is JUST LIKE A SUNDAE!

ONE: It’s happening in the mid afternoon, prime sundae time, the best time for sundaes!

TWO: Lebron James is like sundae ice cream, he is hearty and filling, but also sweet and smooth and beloved by all!

THREE: Kyrie Irving is like hot fudge hot and sweet and occasionally superfluous!

FOUR: Dirk is a lot like peanuts! Lots of protein!

FIVE: Kevin Love is like a plastic bowl, because everyone is dissatisfied with his performance! They wish he was a waffle bowl!

SIX: Tyson Chandler is like a post-sundae tummyache, because he makes people toss up garbage at the rim!

SEVEN: The entire experience is good, but not completely substantial, because there is not defense (Vegetables). Also you worry it’s not really food/basketball because the Cavs make you feel so empty in your deepest heart.


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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.


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.)


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.


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.


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.


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.)


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.


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.

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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.

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