Going off the grid until next week. If LeBron goes back to Cleveland, send a search party so they can alert me.
Sports on Earth
Three years into this basketball writing thing, I’ve finally learned that July is something of a pitfall for basketbloggers. This is the season of wild guesses and outlandish speculation, and as such, grounded pieces of work are few and far between. Part of this is excusable — this is the NBA’s silly season, after all — but it does raise questions about the best way to approach the silly putty nature of the offseason. I found Colin McGowan’s piece in Sports on Earth to be both a refreshing change of pace, and a resource for different perspectives on the draft, free agency, and other minor events of the offseason that create this atmosphere of sponginess. McGowan asserts that imagination is the driving engine of the offseason, and that both NBA teams and NBA fans use the time to let their minds run wild. “Tautologically, the only truly useful report about where LeBron is set to sign will be the one that confirms where he is set to sign. Anything else is noise, but noise fills in the gaps between not knowing and knowing,” writes McGowan, but then he adds an important caveat: “The 24/7 news cycle is supposed to drive us crazy, but if you are single-minded — if you have an imagination like an on-rails shooter — it’s something that tides you over.” Spot on, and the reason I both love-and-hate July with fiery passion.
How NBA Free Agency Became the Most Thrilling Part of the Season
In McGowan’s piece (annotated above), he writes some kind and thoughtful words about Bethlehem Shoals, and how his style of writing could be a positive change in a field of analysis that’s high on imagination, but lacking a cohesive voice:
When a talent like LeBron is on the open market, [Henry] Abbot claims, we all get to use our imaginations. And presumably, an insider stimulates our imaginations. But if it’s imagination fans want, Bethlehem Shoals — who effortfully projects his anxieties and beliefs onto players — would be a more successful writer than Adrian Wojnarowski, who just moves them around like plastic Risk figurines. However, there is no such thing as a DarkoBomb.
Ask and you shall receive, in a sense. Shoals, who contributes to GQ, provides the reader (and keep in mind, these are likely casual fans, at best) with an overview of where the NBA stands at this current moment: waiting to see what LeBron James is going to do. Shoals’s point is not necessarily a new one — that NBA free agency is different because of the sheer power the players hold in making-or-breaking a team for 3-5 seasons — but it is expressed with that trademark elegance that Shoals first started sharing with readers nearly a decade ago. “Next to this kind of watershed, a draft seems positively barbaric, a gimme to the owners who might not be up to the real challenges they face today in their jobs,” Shoals writes. “LeBron may be the standard-bearer—he’s the one who instantly makes a team a contender and can more or less dictate his terms—but this summer, every free agent of note has a little bit of this swagger.” Not only can Shoals educate casual fans, but he can make even the most tired, jaded fans stop scanning The Same Free Agency Piece You’ve Read 1000 Times Prior, and just read. The article provides a strange into basketblogging’s past, in a way, but also a different sort of piece of work for the present, and one that could only be written by Bethlehem Shoals.
I See You, Rasual Butler
DerMarr Johnson’s Socks
Stephen Coston is a favorite around the Diss. He occasionally contributes to our humble little site, and we like that. But we also respect him a lot because he, like ourselves, steadfastly believes in the power of independent blogging. His first site, NBA 24/7 365, was a go-to for NBA fans for years. His new project, DerMarr Johnson’s Socks, provides a soundtrack for what has to be the most eclectic collection of NBA tchotchkes on God’s green Earth. Coston has every single NBA thing ever made, it seems, and a story to tell about all of them. I particularly enjoyed this piece about Rasual Butler. Coston seems to dwell on players that average viewers would gloss over, and as such, his missive on Rasual Butler — a bit player in the NBA who has drifted in-and-out of the league over the last decade — matches his general outlook on the NBA. Coston’s lens for understanding the game is the memorabilia, with an emphasis on memory. I love what Coston brings to the table, and you should too.