Thursday, December 29, 2011

Wild Speculation and Outlandish Guesses: Early Season Edition

In the first roundtable discussion of the 2011-2012 season, The Diss is happy to welcome Lucas Sokol-Oxman.  Lucas is a lifelong Portland Trailblazers fan and returned Peace Corps Volunteer, having served over two years in Mali in Western Africa. The Diss also welcomes back longtime discussants Kevin Draper, Joe Bernardo, Jordan Durlester, and Alex Maki.

On tap for today: one last lockout question, assessing the reigning chumps, and the required "who will win it all?" question.  Let's get to it, shall we?

1.  Be honest.  Do you forgive the NBA for the lockout?

Alex Maki: No, I still hold complete contempt for both sides.  I think the league office acted like a bunch of jerks, indicated no intention to compromise or discuss in good faith.  Nearly all of the players get paid too much money for me to have empathy for them.  The little people still got screwed.  And I fear that the new deal fails to address issues that should be of concern, such as superstars forcing their way out of their cities.  But, that all being said, I am gearing up to attend more T-Wolves games this season than ever before.  So at the end of the day my beliefs will not be aligned with my behavior.  And the NBA is only going to care about my money giving behavior, as they should.

Kevin Draper: I can't bring myself to care.  I love basketball, and basketball is back.  Great.

Joe Bernardo: Yes and no.  Am I pissed that it took missed games to resolve issues that could have been resolved a couple of years ago?  Yes.  Will I still watch the NBA?  Of course...but not without reservations.  The lockout revealed to me the inherent flaws in the current state of the NBA.  I realized that David Stern no longer commands the respect of the owners and cannot think out of the box any longer.  I realized many of the small-market owners aren't the best businessmen...and will whine and bitch to get what they want, as exemplified by Dan Gilbert and Michael Jordan.  I realized the players still don't quite understand that they're pampered and spoiled.  And, above all, I realized that the 2011 Lockout was not about parity between teams, but rather a way to cripple the Lakers. (A subject I will tackle in a later article!)  Yes, I will always watch the NBA, but I don't have as much faith in the League as I did prior to the lockout.

(Editor's note: Leave it to a Lakers fan to think that his 2-2 team is crippled and conspired against.)

Jordan Durlester: I forgave and forgot all about the lockout shenanigans the minute I read that glorious tweet from Adrian Wojnarowski.  I'm sure it's a naive and juvenile outlook but frankly I couldn't care less -- Basketball is back.  That's the bottom line and it's what I'm choosing to focus on.  In fact, I'd argue the lockout made me more excited for the season to begin (I mean, how fun/weird was free agency this year?).  Ponder this, bitter NBA-defenctors: No lockout, no We Believe vs Dubs...and did you even see Durantula's flag football team!?

Lucas Sokol Oxman: The lockout was inevitable.  Hopefully, the next one comes later rather than sooner.  It comes with the territory.  Coming from a small market town (Portland), I do like some of the changes that have been advantageous for those teams from similar markets.

2. Which team is best suited for success in an abbreviated season?

Alex Maki: I hear some people claim that young teams will do well, and some folks state that established teams will do better.  If we have a 2 (young versus old) x 2 (a lot of experience vesus a little bit of experience) table, I am going to have to go with teams that fall in the young and experienced cell. These teams will have the legs to produce great efforts on back-to-back nights, and also will not need a ton of practices to hone their craft.  Teams in that cell include Oklahoma City, Chicago, Denver and Memphis.

Kevin Draper: Traditional wisdom in the NBA says that you need to go eight-deep to be competitive. The teams I think are going to do well are the ones that go ten-deep, at least.  It's not only that older players are going to need fewer minutes and more off days, but we are going to see more injures across the board, and teams will have to deal with long stretches without their best lineups.  So, I think the Pacers, Nuggets and Bulls will perform well.

Joe Bernardo: OKC.  They're young, athletic, have a relatively deep bench, and hungry after getting ousted in the Western Conference Finals last season.  Plus, Kendrick Perkins' lockout diet puts Sir Charles' Weight Watchers diet to shame!  If the team's "slowest" guy can get that fit, think about the rest of the team.  With that said, however, I wouldn't put too much stock into regular season success.  Most of these teams, especially the older ones, will play just well enough to make the playoffs.  They'll really make their run in the post-season, a la the New York Knicks in 1999.

Jordan Durlester: Ugh.  I'm trying so hard NOT to say OKC because it's so expected -- they're young, hungry, deep, blah, blah, blah.  However, I truly can't find a single compelling reason to choose anyone else.  WAIT.  The Knickerbockers just claimed Jeremy Lin off waivers, instantly making them the team best suited for success in this abbreviated 66-game regular season.

Lucas Sokol Oxman: Duh, OKC.  Unless they impulsively trade Westbrook, which would be arguably the dumbest idea of all time.  OMG, a 23 year old has emotional outbursts, gimme a break people.  I wanna throw in a crazy team into this mix: Denver.  Sure, they aren't the most defensively minded quad, but they usually score enough to keep themselves in games, and have a super deep roster.  Just sayin'...

3. Who has a greater chance of missing the playoffs in 2012, the Dallas Mavericks (0-3) or the Los Angeles Lakers (2-2)?

Alex Maki: The Mavs.  Just like question 5, this is going way beyond the data contained in a sample size of two.  But they were crushed in their first two games (both at home).  They lost a lot of pieces, and replaced them with veterans who have questionable motivation and declining skills.  And they lost a center that, although perhaps a bit overrated, was a defensive leader.  The Mavs didn't play defense before Chandler, and they ain't gonna play defense after his departure.  The Lakers will also take a step back, but as of right now they still have a dominant center and power forward, and a slightly over-the-hill but nevertheless still-amazing Kobe Bryant.

Kevin Draper: The Dallas Mavericks.  If that team loses Dirk Nowitzki, I think there is no question that they miss the playoffs.  Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, Shawn Marion, Lamar Odom and Brendan Haywood doesn't get it done out West.  The Lakers can survive a Kobe injury because they have Gasol and Bynum.  The Mavs do not have that luxury.

Joe Bernardo:  The Mavs.  I think they put every ounce of energy into last year's championship run and are still hungover from the celebration.  They lost too many key players and are really waiting to sign big-time free agents next year.  Plus, Lamar Kardashian is proving that he's truly a basket case.  The Lakers, on the other hand, are motivated to prove all those naysayers wrong.  They'll make another roster move before the trade deadline (hopefully, a point guard!) and be good enough to make the playoffs (though they'll get bounced in the first or second round).  Most importantly, the Lakers already won two games!

Jordan Durlester: Dirk can go ahead and book his Bavarian holiday tonight.  They exhausted their maximum amount of effort last year bringing home the ship and I feel like it aged that team 39 years.  Losing JJ was big...losing Chandler was bigger.  If they don't figure out how to fill those voids quickly we might be looking at a lottery team.

Lucas Sokol Oxman: Definitely Dallas.  They've had a tough schedule so far, but there are just too many structural issues.  Dirk can't do it alone, and it might sound insane, but I think Chandler and Barea were way more important than people might've known at the time.

4. True or False: The 2011-2012 Minnesota Timberwolves are this year's version of the 2008-2009 Oklahoma City Thunder (finished with 23 wins).

Alex Maki: (sigh).  False.  Maybe I am just too deflated after our loss to the Bucks on Tuesday.  Though I forgot that the 2008-2009 Thunder only won 23 games, they had two legitimate superstars in the making on their team, both of whom could make the important baskets with the game on the line.  They also had some very nice supporting-pieces-to-be.  On my most optimistic days I feel the Wolves have one superstar in Love (as of right now, incapable of hitting the game-winning shots), two potential stars in the making (Rubio and Williams), and a bunch of other random stuff (Beasley, Barea).  My gut tells me that Love is going to walk in the next year or two.  Even if Rubio and Williams both develop, they won't be as good as Durant and Westbrook.  And I do not have confidence that the supporting cast will be good enough.  We need 2-3 solid free agent signings in the next two years, and then maybe we would have a chance.  But even then our game will look completely different than the Thunder's.

Kevin Draper: True.  Kevin Love is already a top 10 (maybe even top 5) player, and Rubio and Derrick Williams have a chance to be special.  If either one of them turns out and they pick up a decent center than yeah, they have a chance to be great.  Though Kevin Love would have to sign a long term contract...

Joe Bernardo: True.  I like Derrick Williams and Ricky Rubio together.  They just need true NBA experience to improve their games.  Kevin Love is AMAZING and one of the best power forwards in the league today.  J.J. BayArea ("they set hella screens"), Bonzi Wells, and Brad Miller should provide veteran guidance for those youngsters.  Rick Adelman will always squeeze every ounce of basketball juice out of his players.  I see them as one or two pieces away from being a playoff team...much like those 2008-2009 OKC Thunder.

Jordan Durlester: True.  I love this team so hard.  Kevin Love is a superstar who just continues to improve his game, Anthony "Potential" Randolph still has me captivated, Rubio and D-Will are gangbusters, and they play with such energy it makes me want to shout-out insanely knee-jerk statements like "this team will be the greatest team in NBA history!" Eat your hearts out, Mankato.

Lucas Sokol Oxman: False.  Even though the new-look T-wolves could beat the Heat on NBA 2K12, I just don't see them living up to the huge expectations the first year out.  If Love is anything like his UCLA teammate Westbrook, soon enough the emotions will surge over, and the will to win will lead him elsewhere.  In the meantime, I will enjoy watching that Rubio guy pass the rock.

5. Two games is clearly a big enough sample size.  Who will win it all this year?

Alex Maki: I hate picking the bastards, but I have to go with the Miami Heat.  The Big 2.5 should all be on the same page this year.  Battier is going to make an already stalwart defense that much more legit.  Haslem looks to be healthy at the beginning of the season.  All of that makes them disgustingly tough to beat.  And, if Norris Cole's coming-out party actually went down on Tuesday night, that does not bode well for the rest of the league.

Kevin Draper: OKC and Miami in the finals.  Miami probably pulls it out.

Joe Bernardo: Miami.  They were UP in the finals last year, but choked after they got overzealous and the Mavs played zone, D-Wade ran out of gas, and LeBron played hot potato.  They don't have as much pressure on them this year and added some nice talent that will help them rest their Big 3.  Shane Battier will now be assigned to be their #1 defensive stopper against superstar wing players.  Eddy Curry could, if he focused long enough, be a solid bench contributor.  Finally, if the way Norris Cole played against Boston the other night was any indication of filling the hole of a clutch point guard, then we might as well crown them Champions now.  Plus, the Celtics, Lakers, Mavs and Spurs are too old.  The Grizzlies, Clippers, and Thunder (though not for long) are still too young.  And the Knicks and Magic still have holes to fill in order to really compete.  I think the only other real contender is the Bulls, which I think Miami will beat.  Of course, they still have to play the season and be lucky enough to stay injury-free, but at the end of the day, it's hard to go against Miami.

Jordan Durlester: Miami.  TALENT TALENT TALENT TALENT.  If I was a betting man, and if I had any money, I'd bet all of that money on LBJ hoisting the Larry O'Brien trophy at a gaudy South Beach nightclub.

Lucas Sokol Oxman: Is it ironic that the Big 3 in Miami will have an asterisk next to their first championship together?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Twas the Night Before Tip-Off: The Diss Previews the 2011-2012 NBA Season.

Twas the night before tip off, and it's about fucking time!
For too damn long I listened to the 1% whine.
But the lockout is over, and I'm giddy beyond belief!
This has been a long offseason, filled with boredom and grief.

With sixteen less games on the season to be played
Health, talent and consistency will matter much, I'm afraid.
Some teams will have it, but others will not.
To those teams, Harrison Barnes will represent the Jackpot.

But there will be stalwarts -- aye, more than a few.
And they aren't just located in Miami and Los Angeles, too.
Small markets have retooled, and they're ready to fight!
Playoff seeds will be murky until the very last night.

So bough up your holly, and jingle all the way?
I'm a Jew, Jim, not an expert at Christmas, okay?
Just hang around for a minute, and listen to this:
A season preview poem, written (drunk) by The Diss.

The balance of power has shifted to the East
With two legit contenders, and several competitive beasts.
While many teams will claim to have a fair shot
Only two are legitimate.  The others are not.

The Atlantic Division's franchises are the NBA's most storied
With teams like the Celtics and Knicks considered most gloried
There are other basketball teams in the division; yes, this is true.
But in terms of relevant ones, we should only consider two.

The Celtics are one, for behind the Big Three
The Celtics have built a new modern day legacy.
They'll still have their scowls, but here's a prediction not-so-bold:
Their contending days are over.  They're just too old.

This year, in the Atlantic, I love New York.
Because it won't just be Amare and Melo doin' work.
The Knicks picked up Tyson to be the man in the middle.
For rivals, beating New York's frontline will be a riddle.

However, lest we forget, 'cross the Hudson
The soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets will hustlin'
To resign D-Will, their Superstar-elect
His long-term contract will finally bring that team respect.

As for Toronto and Philly, there's not much to say.
Philly should be good enough to make the playoffs.  Hooray!
Toronto will suck, but no one's gonna hate.
The Maple Leafs are playing hockey this season, and they're great!

The Central Division is a one horse race
With the most intriguing question being: who'll win second place?
It'll be interesting to watch these teams jockey around
While Chicago holds a fifteen game lead over these clowns.

Da Bulls will creme de la creme once again.
Lead by D-Rose, Coach Thibs, and their band of friends.
They'll try to avenge their loss to Miami from last year
With more experience, and Rip Hamilton, they'll have less to fear.

After that, the Central drops off quick.
For second place, I guess Indy's a safe pick.
David West and George Hill were nice acquisitions.
They'll allow Hibbert, Collison and Granger to excel at their natural positions.

But after that, it's sort of anyone's guess
Milwaukee making the playoffs?  Don't hold your breath.
Cleveland continues to go nowhere fast.
And it's been some time since Detroit ran out of gas.

And finally we turn to the Southeast's best.
Another division featuring one star and all the rest.
The Southeast used to be a competitive affair
But shifting balances of power will produce some compelling fare.

Just like last year, here's a point I'll re-teach:
The division's best team is located in South Beach.
Love 'em or hate 'em, it really matters not.
Miami has more talent than anyone else has got.

With Wade fully healthy and LeBron mentally tough
And Chris Bosh, with new muscles, definitely looking buff
I fear the second-year power of the Miami Heat
In the Eastern Conference, they are undoubtedly the team to beat.

After that, there's some question about Number Two.
Orlando has an argument, and Atlanta does too.
Atlanta gets the razor's edge, though not because they're that good.
It's mostly because Dwight Howard really wants out of his old hood.

So Atlanta will finish second, and the Magic a close third,
Though that prediction may honestly be for the birds.
For if Dwight's talents go to another state,
The Magic are a lottery team.  Please make no mistake.

Washington and Charlotte won't make much noise.
MJ would love if Harrison Barnes joined his boys.
John Wall will have a nice sophomore season in DC
But they suck, so you'll never see them on TV.

And now we turn our attention to the West.
Where many good teams play -- but are they the best?
With as many as three contenders to consider here,
Let me pause for a moment so I can open a beer.

Let's start with the Northwest Division, because you see,
The Northwest Division is as compelling as can be.
Young up-and-comers in small market settings
With individual talent so good, it'll surely cause bed wettings.

This crazy division will be lead by the Zombie Sonics
Who were not distracted by Durant-Westbrook alpha-dog histrionics
There's a unity of purpose in O.K.C.:
NBA Championship, or bust.  No other possibility.

The chances of them winning are solid as gold.
Ibaka, Harden and KP -- none of those guys are old.
The rise of OKC will be happening very soon
And my money's on Miami versus OKC come June.

There's additional competition to consider in the Northwest
Though OKC's much better than the rest
Denver had a chance, but due to lockout-related-causes
Most of their good players went overseas sans opt-out-clauses.

Utah is still reeling from the loss of Coach Sloan.
They'll compete but miss the playoffs (listen to Jazz fans groan).
And Portland's small ball will give teams the fits
Indeed, let's hope no one else's knees explode into bits.

And as my friend Alex pointed out, there's reason for cheer
In Minnesota, as the Wolves may have a good year.
The playoffs are still probably a year or two off
And perhaps a few transactions (**cough** TRADE BEASLEY! **cough**)

The reality of the Pacific Division has been thrown asunder
With all attention on David Stern's public relations blunder
CP3, briefly a Laker, is now a happy Clipper.
And Kobe, more than ever, is looking none too chipper.

For the first time in forever, there's a rivalry in LA!
Imagine the media storm each time these teams play!
Jack Nicholson will support the Lakers for sure.
The Clippers need a celebrity.  Perhaps Christiane Amanpour?

As for the standings -- bandwagon jumping is shitty
But I'm betting my money on the team in Lob City.
CP3 and Blake are a match made in heaven.
And the Clips will compete in playoff rounds to seven.

The Lakers are #2, and I fear the implications.
Kobe's unhappiness has caused spasms in the NBA nation.
Pau came in 2008, and now four seasons later
Kupchak may land Dwight, a prize that's certifiably greater.

The other members of the Pacific are not playoff clubs,
Which is very sad, especially for the Golden State Dubs.
My hometown team is slowly en route to a better place
But this year won't compete in the playoff race.

With the team finally sold, and new owners at the helm
It shouldn't be too long before we reach a brand new realm
Of respectability and large market renown!
(By that time, our starting center won't be Kwame Brown).

Phoenix and Sacto are in dire straits
Lead by owners who struggle to sell tickets at the gate.
Hey, Robert Sarver, quit thinkin' 'bout your cash.
Do the right thing, and FREE STEVE NASH!

Finally, we discuss the clubs of the Southwest
Many fine specimens, including last year's best.
The Dallas Mavericks, they who unseated the Heat.
Will now enter the season as the Team to Beat.

Indeed, Dallas gave up some important parts.
Stevenson, Chandler, Barea and Butler are starts.
However, Dirk won't quit; this we now know.
It'll be interesting to watch this championship team grow.

But Dallas is not alone in the Southwest division.
Memphis lurks in waiting, their players on a mission
To unseat the traditional powerhouses of the region
And play meaningful basketball late into the season.

Z-Bo, Gasol and Gay are certifiable bosses.
Yet Battier, Arthur and Vasquez are damaging losses.
But if O.J. Mayo steps up, and Conley too
The sky's the limit for the boys in blue.

Houston and New Orleans will be gritty and fight
But they don't have the talent to compete every single night.
New Orleans may compete for a low seed -- maybe 7 or 8?
But they won't have the finishers to truly be great.

So our analysis ends with the Spurs, and forgive the crass rhyme,
But the Men in Black have finally caught up with Father Time.
I expect a fine season, but when games matter in June
A lack of athleticism will begin the rebuilding process not a moment too soon.

And that's the preview!  It's over at last!
The lockout is kaput, it's a thing of the past!
We can now focus on the issues that matter:
Iso plays, box-and-one, rumors and trade chatter.

On Kobe!  On Boozer! On Bosh and D-Wade!
On Melo!  On KG!  On Steph and Monta!
So this Christmas Eve, let me say to you all:
Happy fucking holidays.  Let's watch some ball.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Into Western Conference Relevance: The Return of the Timberwolves

There is just something oh-so-perfect about the Timberwolves calling Minnesota home. The history of the Wolves has mostly been a comedy of errors, from drafting atrocious players to hiring terrible coaches and front office staff. Hopes have been traded along with lottery picks for horrendous wastes of space. Not to mention illegal player signings. We have never really had a chance to win anything of NBA importance in this state. The gloom and doom of the Timberwolves fits in nicely with the people that have traditionally populated much of Minnesota. After “settlers” came and stole the land from American Indian tribes, people from the Nordic countries of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark came to call this place home. We tend to be a cheerless bunch. Not much for excitement or passion. I am sure you have had to deal with us before. We don’t clap. We sure as hell don’t sing or go along with crowd chants. My own people, the Finns, drink four times as much coffee as the average American, and it seems reasonable to assume that they need all of this caffeine just to present themselves as being alive during the day.

Although the Kevin Garnett era was exciting, it really was the antithesis to how Nordic Minnesotans approach life. Way too thrilling and competitive. You could almost hear us release a sigh of relief after the Wolves lost in the Western Conference finals to the Lakers in 2004, proceeding to miss the playoffs the next year. The decay occurred rapidly after that. And it felt good to be home.

So imagine my shock as I arrived to the Target Center last Saturday night for the Timberwolves’ preseason opener against the Milwaukee Bucks, only to find a relatively well-attended arena filled with an overflowing optimism and exhilaration. And it wasn’t the standard Lake Wobegon line that in Minnesota “all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the professional sports teams are above average.” The crowd was into the game from the beginning, and absolutely erupted when Rubio made his first appearance. You could feel the energy in the Target Center surge to life, carried overtly by the screams of countless pairs of lungs, and secretly tapped out like Morse code along the anxious knees of over 15,000 fans. At one point in the game, Rubio lobbed a spectacular alley-oop to a wide-open Derrick Williams for a resounding slam. I couldn’t help myself. My arms shot up instantly as if in rollercoaster mode!

My Finnish great-grandfather would have been turning in his grave at the sight of my emotional response. But, this post isn't about him. This post is about how the Timberwolves franchise has been dead ever since Garnett left, and how we are on the brink of a beautiful rebirth:

Alright, enough prose. Let me offer relatively concise thoughts and predictions for the season.

It was an atypical offseason for the entire NBA, but particularly for the Timberwolves. We fired the most sorry excuse of a head coach the NBA has ever seen. We went out and hired a legitimately great coach in Rick Adelman, someone that knows how to work with spare parts.

-------------------------------(jacked from

After two years of courting our point guard querido (I just google translated that, hopefully it doesn’t mean anything offensive), the Spanish Savior has finally arrived on the shores of Lake Minnetonka. We made the correct decision in selecting Derrick Williams, and we even kept him! Not to mention random events like Kevin Love losing 120 pounds and Michael Beasley at least trying to play the straight man. Here are some quick notes on expectations for individual players.

Kevin Love: Looking slim and ready to rock-n-roll. His ridiculous rebounding skills are intact, as is his shooting touch. His post game has even improved. Hopefully his defense can take a step forward. Look for him to play a fair amount of center and to represent on the All-Star Team for the second year in a row.

Michael Beasley: This is a big year for him. He needs to show he can pass the ball when it is needed, can play a little bit of defense, and is willing to QUIT TAKING JUMPERS FROM TWO FEET INSIDE THE THREE-POINT LINE. I think he will have a good year, but not sure good enough to warrant keeping him around next season.

Ricky Rubio: The crowd had a collective orgasm every time he touched the ball in the first preseason game. His ability to not only see the court, but also control the spacing and flow of the offense cannot be overstated. His shot will continue to struggle, but it won't really matter. Rubio will be a godsend this year.

Derrick Williams: He has a lot of learning to do, and may not be as NBA-ready as scouts predicted. I expect him to have a relatively slow start, mostly coming off the bench at first, and only playing power forward. But, he has already shown some terrific flashes in limited minutes, and I expect him to be a reliable contributor by the 20 game mark. Perhaps a stud by the end of the year.

J.J. Barea: I enjoyed watching Barea in the playoffs last year, and figured some team would overpay for his services. I really didn’t expect that the overpaying team would be us. However, after watching the first preseason game it is evident that he is the second-best ball handler on a team that is in desperate need of them. I am excited to see him with Rubio on the court together, creating a lot of problems for the opposing defense. And he should be able to tie the team together nicely in a number of ways. He can speak some Spanish with Rubio. And he should be able to commiserate with Michael Beasley over the stupidity of Andrew Bynum. Asshole.

Darko: As long as Adelman doesn’t try to run the offense through him, he should be a serviceable big man that can play pretty solid defense and score the occasional bucket. Adelman should not let him be any more than that. And he won’t (sigh of relief).

Malcolm Lee: The second round pick has been a pleasant surprise for the team thus far. Look for him to be a solid backup shooting guard in his first year, and he will relegate Wes Johnson’s only minutes to small forward.

Anthony Randolph: Goodbye. Brutal preseason.

Once the season has settled in, I am hoping for a lineup of Rubio (PG), Barea (SG), Beasley (SF), Williams (PF), and Love (C), with Darko starting when real centers present themselves (and Williams sliding to the bench). Look for Lee to get some real playing time, perhaps at both PG and SG, and Anthony Tolliver to play some PF and C. Ridnour might also get some burn at PG (hopefully not much), and they will find some time for Wes to make it abundantly clear that he does not have a place on this team.

The Wolves will undoubtedly start out slow from the blocks, as they play Oklahoma City, Miami, Dallas, San Antonio, and Memphis in five of their first six games. But look for them to make some headway after that slate.

As much as I want to predict a playoff birth for my beloved Timberwolves, it probably isn’t in the cards this season. But with real guards, an intelligent coach, as well as adding solid talent in Derrick Williams, look for substantial improvement. My prediction for the Timberwolves season record is 30-36 (last year we won 21% of our games, this record would be 44% of the schedule), equaling eleventh in the Western Conference and fourth in the Northwest division.

Oh, and Rubio wins Rookie of the Year. Haters gonna hate.

That is right Minnesotans, we are traveling into a new realm. We are heading into Western Conference relevance. Be brave! Be bold!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Lockout Beard, Concluded.

On November 28, my roommate Dulce learned that my words, for a long time, had been mostly hollow. I could sense the incredulousness in her stare as I nervously fingered the empty red Swisher Sweet wrapper, an herby haze settling around the room.  The cherry burned brightly, a thin line of smoke rising lazily from blissfully hot embers.

"So that's that, then?" Dulce asked me, her voice rising with scorn, her eyes meeting mine in an accusatory stare.  I reflexively averted my eyes.

"Yep.  That's that."

She took another long hit, and laughed knowingly.

"Well, ain't that some shit," she said, and chuckled to herself.  "You did all that complaining for so long. So long.  And for what?  To forgive them all as soon as it was over?"

I took the Swisher from her hand, and let the end of the workday fill my lungs.

"Yep," I said, somewhat defensively.  "And that's how it was always gonna be."

"I guess.  But damn, dude," she muttered, and took the Swisher back.  She inhaled deeply, and slowly let the smoke waft out of her nostrils.  She ashed the Swisher, handed it back to me, and smiled wanly.

"That's some weak shit."


I typically think of myself as a person who stands firmly by their convictions.  Never one to sugarcoat strongly held opinions, I am quick to share my thoughts, and often do in a rather bombastic and exuberant fashion.  While this has sometimes worked to my benefit, there have also been times that my style of delivery polarizes potential allies, and hinders my ability to develop trust and rapport amongst others.  Nevertheless, I am rarely accused of flip-flopping, and people tend to know where I stand on a healthy variety of issues.  And generally speaking, I take pride in this character trait.

It should come as no surprise, then, that throughout the NBA's 161-day labor stoppage, I relentlessly hated on the NBA.  I discussed my current feelings on professional basketball much like one woudl describe the unexpected end of a romantic relationship, bitterly lamenting the transgressions of an ex-lover whom emotionally you wish was anything but an ex.  Vitriol flew out of my mouth, and fire burned in in my eyes as I lambasted the owners, the players, and the league that couldn't figure out a way to split up the last 3 billion dollars out of nearly 300 billion dollars of revenue.  I couldn't believe the actions of the 1%.  There were no sides to take in the argument, and don't try to fucking reason with me. Everyone was wrong.

But then, just like that, it was over.  On November 26, as I was just settling in for an exciting Saturday night watching Seinfeld reruns and combining the bottoms of various breakfast cereals to create an ubercereal, I checked HoopsHype and read the words I had been longing to read for long: tentative settlement reached.  I screamed like I had just been crowned prom queen, and texted and Facebooked (now a verb) the same refrain to tens of friends, family members, and NBA fans I've maintained contact with over the years: THE LOCKOUT IS OVER.  Ultimately, the agreement itself was not a ton different than the one the player's union rejected in dramatic fashion on November 14th -- the players will get 52.5% of the BRI within six years, and owners got a variety of new tools to erase their own dumb contractual decisions -- but that's not what's important.  What's important is that the lockout is over, baby.  Everything's gonna be okay now.

But, wait.  That's not what's important.  Or, at least, that's not what I had claimed earlier.  Instead, I had [link] argued [/link] just a few weeks prior that it didn't matter whether the season was abbreviated or cancelled altogether, because my lasting sense of fanhood in the NBA was becoming irreparably broken.  But we see how that turned out.  Despite my insistence that the lockout had changed me; had let me turn to matters of greater political and personal importance, I cannot describe to you the happiness I felt when I learned that the season was going to be preserved.  Sure, I had talked a big game about how I would cope in the event that the season was canceled.  I developed a passing interest in [link] Euroleague [/link], threatened to grow a beard (I did, and still have it, though have mostly stopped taking pictures of it), and even thought about following college basketball (oy gevalt).  

But isn't that how it always works?  There's something so utterly bittersweet about getting back together with an ex-love.  It takes many different forms, but nearly all of us have reunited with a long, lost, and perhaps even forbidden person, place, or thing.  Be it the amazingly sinful cheeseburger sneakily eaten while slogging through yet another failed diet, or the really great fiction novel read while you're supposed to be working on a paper for school.  When we return to our old loves, we also return to old memories, old comforts, and old motivations.  We can, if only for a moment, escape back to a period where times were simpler, and true happiness could be found solely on this item, idea, or individual.  It's a moment of zen; the world falls from around you and everything blurs into a warm haze.  It's love, pure and simple. 

Yet, the entire affair, regardless of what that affair is with, seems melancholic.  In your journey back to this moment of bliss, inevitably something was compromised to get there again.  The forbidden kiss with an ex-love comes at the expense of a lot of work "getting over it," vain as it may have been.  Likewise, consumption of the cheeseburger, as wonderfully melty and cheesy as it is, comes at the expense of your previously disciplined diet.  Reading fiction broadens your mind, and enlivens your spirit, but doesn't help you get your homework done.  Unfortunately, once the pure bliss of reuniting with a lost love recedes, one is left with a few harsh realities: that there was a reason, or maybe even reasons, that this person, place, or thing left your life (or was pushed out of your life) in the first place.  Whether that was for good reasons or not doesn't really matter -- you had moved on to a different place.  Perhaps even a better one.

As hard as the lockout was to bear, and as painful as the prospect of a canceled season was to face, I was prepared to broaden my horizons beyond that of your average NBA fan.  I had started watching Euroleague, and was starting to appreciate the unique atmosphere international basketball presented to the average NBA fan. Seeing NBA role players, many in their home countries, playing against quality competition in front of rabid crowds was an interesting change of pace.  I was even playing basketball instead of just watching it -- something I hadn't done consistently since 2002.  I'm still terrible; I can't shoot, can't dribble, can't drive or make a layup to my left.  Still, it's nice to relive moments of my youth, pretending to be boring-ass players like Tim Duncan, Nate McMillan and Mark Jackson while everyone else tried to be like Iverson.  And now I'm playing more than I did when I was 15 years old.  Sure, the NBA was gone, but I was getting by.  I was moving on to a different place, where I didn't come home from work, crank up League Pass, and just watch basketball and forget about everything that had happened that day.  And, despite my misgivings, I was starting realize that this new life wasn't so bad.

Or, so I thought.  As soon as the billionaires and millionaires figured their shit out, I came crawling back.  

Guys, I said I would.  Every time.  Come Christmas Day, this giddy Black Jew will get all nasty with Amar'e's goggles, KG's scowl, Dirk's fallaways and Chris Bosh's new muscles.  I'll stare lovingly into Derrick Rose's equally loveless 1000-yard stare, and will carefully consider Kobe's deep frown as both his marriage and his team fall apart.  And, in the finale, with my two nephews and older brother by my side, I will watch my beloved Golden State Warriors take on the Los Angeles Clippers, aka Lob City, the most revamped team post-lockout.  What's not to love?  Really, what's not to love about getting back together with your ex-love?

Well, I guess the griping between a cross-section of the richest 1% of the population isn't so becoming.  And the image of players taking extended vacations, or playing flag football, or playing beach volleyball,  or modeling their Blipster fashion styles, on the the millions they saved while they argued that they "getting screwed" by the owners kind of got my goat.  And reports that the lockout served as an excuse to lay off over 400 NBA employees with no chance of rehire really seems -- what's the word I'm looking for?  Oh yeah, fucked up.  And even with Stern and Hunter championing their compromise while sitting in their best business casual, we shouldn't be so surprised to see some of those old shortcomings that everyone sort of found obnoxious, not just the billionaire owners who locked out the players.  Like, a superstar forcing their way out of a small market for a larger market. Or, owners signing role players who overachieved in contract years to large, multi-year deals. I've even picked up on some ugly new habits, like the proclivity towards heavy handedness from the league office, even if it yields better results in the long run.  Yeah, some people never change.  Some things just seem to remain the same.

But maybe that's why I'm meant for the NBA, and it's meant for me.  Our shortcomings are mutual, and we happily settle for less, together.  Over these 161 days, I saw aspects of the NBA that made me cringe; elements of capitalism-driven greed and pathetic displays of elitism and wealth.  But it was not enough to get me to quit it.  It wasn't enough to make me change myself permanently, or my values, because I knew I would come crawling back.  And I think in a few days, when I'm sitting in my home in Santa Rosa, with my entire family around me, watching basketball all day long, I'm going to feel good about my decision to go back to my flawed, yet truly fantastic love.

And I'll finally get to shave this stupid beard.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Across 110th Street

In general, I don't like posting videos to this blog. It feels like a lazy way of driving page views. Also, in other blogs I read, I often skip over the videos and solely read the content.

This video however, is wonderful. A combination of one of my favorite players (Baron Davis), fitting music and an interesting story. Could a video make Baron look even more like a 70's throwback?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Committing Basketball Blasphemy: Is MJ the G.O.A.T.?

Author’s note: Since there is a slim chance this I will be watching basketball before 2012, there are no on-the-court issues to discuss. So for this Diss article, I will be tackle an issue that’s been on my mind since I was 10 years old.

Editor’s note: I sat on this article for about a month. It is only now being published. Mea culpa.

Over the course of the weekend of November 5-6, the New York Times revealed Charlotte Bobcat owner, Michael Jordan, to be the reported ringleader of a faction of about 10-14 NBA owners who were adamant about keeping the players’ share of basketball related income (BRI) at less than 50 percent. While many NBA fans reacted with much rancor towards the crowned King of Basketball, this news came to no surprise to me. You see, Michael Jordan only looks out for Michael Jordan.

I thought the world understood he was a big d-bag when he gave his Hall of Fame speech, and that the New York Times report would only validate this fact. But after reading some of the comments below the article, it appeared that there was still a large and significant legion of Jordan loyalists who would defend his actions – even as a hawkish small market owner – to no end. To these loyalists, MJ could do no wrong, even off the basketball court. Which gets me to the crux of this article.

Arguments are essential to sports. It’s what keeps debate skills from deteriorating, friendships from getting boring, and black barbershops from closing. John Elway or Dan Marino? Agassi or Sampras? Derrick Rose for MVP or Lebron James for MVP? Or my personal fave, Joe Lewis or Rocky Marciano? Arguing about sports is as old as sports itself. In sports, unlike politics, economics, or religion, there are very few taboo subjects. The debate is free, by and large, and the opinions are unfiltered.

Yet, there is one argument that few brave souls ever dare to bring up for fear of being excommunicated from the Holy Roman Basketball Church: that __________ is greater than Michael Jordan.

MJ loyalists, those same ones who defend him and his hard-line BRI stance, would immediately call my question blasphemous, as if I’m Galileo trying to prove that the earth revolves around the sun. Many basketball “experts” are quickly converted to the infallibility of Jordanism, regardless of the fact they cannot determine the proper criteria for choosing an MVP. This is baffling. Why is he so above and beyond everyone else, that he doesn’t even warrant any critiques, ever? Why is there no room to even ARGUE against Jordan as G.O.A.T.?

Media hype has a lot to do with it. When I was a kid, it was always about team basketball. Larry and Magic made it cool to pass the ball. But as I grew older, Michael Jordan shoes, commercials, and posters proliferated pop culture so much that it was impossible to not see Jordan’s face everywhere. Everyone wanted to “Be like Mike.” By the 90s, the NBA, NBC, and ESPN found it VERY profitable to highlight Jordan as the greatest to ever play the game. But how much of this assertion was hype and how much was it reality?

I know, I know: Statistics, awards, rings, all point Jordan’s way. But Wilt Chamberlain had more mind-boggling stats, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has just as many awards, and Bill Russell has almost twice as many rings. Granted, Wilt and Russell played when there only 10 teams in the league, and Kareem played part of his career in the pre-ABA era. But it’s not like Jordan didn’t have a favorable environment to play in. MJ played in a watered-down league during his prime. The 80s was dominated by the Lakers and Celtics, two amazingly talented teams laden with star players , while the 90s, due to three instances of NBA expansion, marked an era where teams were comprised of one or two superheroes and a bunch of limited role players. Think about who the Bulls’ competition was. The Knicks (Ewing and role players), the Blazers (Drexler [who is more of a 2nd banana anyway] and role players), the Suns (Barkley, KJ [great player, but certainly not elite] and role players), the Magic (pre-Lakers Shaq, Penny [worth about that much] and role players), the Pacers (Reggie and role players), the Sonics (Kemp, the Glove, and role players), the Heat (Zo, a declining Tim Hardaway, and role players), and the Jazz (Stockton, Malone, and role players). All of these were great teams, but can you compare them to the Sixers, Lakers, and Celtics of the 80s? I’m not saying that Jordan’s Bulls teams wouldn’t have won titles in the ‘80s. But I doubt they would have won six, let alone four or five.

In 1986, after watching MJ hang 63 points on his Celtics in the Boston Garden, Larry Bird said that Jordan was God in disguise. And, he’s not incorrect: I think Jordan is the best and most clutch individual player, from top to bottom, offensively and defensively, ever. But basketball is a team sport. And to me, team basketball is the essence of the sport, which has been co-opted in the “pass it to Will” era. In a game of one-on-one, Jordan’s the greatest. Hell, even in a game of three-on-three, Jordan’s likely the G.O.A.T. But real basketball is five-on-five, with 2-3 quality role players coming off of the bench. As history has shown repeatedly, you won’t win a championship otherwise.

So, if I had to choose a player to start my NBA franchise with, it would be Magic Johnson. If we pitted Magic and 7 Jacob Greenbergs against Jordan and 7 Jacob Greenbergs, my money’s on Magic. Why? Because nobody extracted more talent, energy, and will from their teammates than Magic. In this day and age, basketball greatness is always emphasized by how many points one scores as opposed to how to get the ball at the right place and time to score. No one lauds Jordan for his ability to make his teammates better, or be a good teammate himself. Just ask Kwame Brown.

So with that in mind, I will let you say all you want about the 1991 Finals, when Jordan’s Bulls beat Magic’s Lakers, but I’d also encourage you to think about where they were at that point in their careers. Magic clearly was at the end of his prime, making his 9th trip to the Finals. After 10 straight years of leading a run-and-gun team that put Steve Nash’s 7-seconds-or-less Suns to shame, Magic’s body had started to betray him. He had already begun to play more like a point-forward, replete with with a post up game and a hook-shot second only to Kareem’s. With Coach Dunleavy completely changing their offense, NBC analysts began calling the Lakers’ game “Slowtime.” Magic was still effective, but not the same as he was earlier in his career. Jordan, on the other hand, was beginning his prime and driven to win his first ring.

Besides the age factor, Jordan didn’t beat Magic, as is commonly thought. Rather, the Bulls beat the Lakers. Top to bottom, the Bulls were the better team. The Lakers’ second best player was a declining James Worthy, who by the way was injured throughout that Finals (somehow this gets lost in all of the Jordan adoration). The Bulls’ second in command was of course, Scottie Pippen, who continues to be one of the most underrated players in NBA history (I wonder why??). After Magic retired, the ’92 Lakers, led by a geriatric Worthy, and role players who had been previously built around Magic, had to win the last game of the year in overtime AGAINST THE CLIPPERS just to make it into the playoffs. After Jordan’s first retirement, the ’94 Bulls, led by MVP-candidate Pippen, came one game short of making it to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they would’ve strongly challenged the Indiana Pacers to make it to the Finals. Worthy was never the same without Magic. Pippen was arguably better without Jordan.

Yes, I’m a Laker fan. But before you unfairly accuse me of bias, let’s get one thing straight: although I love my Lakers, I never liked Kobe, the face of the team, and according to some, “the greatest Laker ever.” I don't like him for all the reasons why you should hate him: his arrogance, his ball-hogging on the court, his unnecessary show-boating, his non-existent pre-nup…this list can go on and on. But you can blame the Michael Jordan corporate hype machine for that. After all, he is just trying to “Be Like Mike.”

Ultimately, I would pick Magic over Jordan to start an NBA team. So does this make Magic the G.O.A.T.? No. All I’m saying is automatically choosing the G.O.A.T. to be the face of your hypothetical franchise is very much up for debate. Like the MVP race, there is no way to clearly define the rules for selecting the Greatest Of All Time. It’s nearly impossible to compare different positions, different teams, and different eras, and come up with a singular figure that stands head and heels above the other greats of their time. To say that’s it’s blasphemous to even argue that MJ might not be the G.O.A.T. is short-sighted and indicative of how Nike, Hanes, McDonald’s, and Gatorade really control our thoughts.

(And to all you MJ loyalists out there…he DID push off on Byron Russell! Get over it!!!)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Illegitimate Outrage in These Truly Outrageous Times

On Monday, October 11, 2011, at about 8:30 pm, and after a long day of work at two different jobs, David Stern and Billy Hunter caused me to unfairly yell at my housemate Elissa.

The incident that prompted the yelling is fairly insignificant.  I had been completely in the wrong -- I selfishly went back on a claim I had made earlier in the week, and used passive aggression in a really obnoxious way (as opposed to passive aggression used in a friendly, non-obnoxious way). When Elissa rightfully confronted me about my conduct, I overreacted and snapped back, like an irritable small dog, and sulked away.  Within ten minutes, however, my guilty conscious got the best of me, and I sheepishly apologized for my behavior.  Elissa, always the gracious housemate and individual, quickly forgave my transgressions.  She said to me, sympathetically, "I know you had a long day at work." I sort of nodded my head, smiled weakly, and left the room.  Yeah, work.  That must be it, I thought.  But deep down, I knew exactly what had set me off, and also knew that it probably wasn't as legitimate of an excuse for others as it was for me -- at least at that very moment.

You see, earlier that day, David Stern had announced that the first two weeks of the NBA season would be canceled since neither side had come up with a reasonable collective bargaining agreement.  This, of course, came as no surprise to any fan of the game that had been remotely dialed in to the ongoing labor negotiations.  Even calling these talks "negotiations" is somewhat dubious, as frankly, absolutely nothing has been negotiated yet.  After a summer of fiery rhetoric and infrequently scheduled meetings between the NBA owners and the National Basketball Players Association yielded little progress on a number of issues, including a hard salary cap, more equitable sharing of basketball related income (BRI) and the length and amount of guaranteed contracts, Stern chose to cancel training camps and the preseason. Assumedly, that was supposed to be the wakeup call needed to get both sides back to the bargaining table with the mission to save the NBA season from themselves, and end a bizarre path towards mutually assured destruction.  But instead, little progress was made (despite the presence of a federal mediator appointed by President Obama) and Stern took it upon himself to make the lockout real. This year, I'd actually have to give a shit about Halloween, rather than do what I do each year, and tell folks I have a lot of basketball to watch tonight.  And believe it or not, it was this very thought -- that the NBA season was now officially on hiatus, that perhaps there would be no NBA season whatsoever, and that wouldn't be able to rely on the NBA as a crutch to escape and serve as an alternative to undesirable social interactions and events -- that caused me to snap at Elissa, and generally be an unpleasant grouch for the rest of the night.

As the NBA season slowly decays in front of our eyes, and as we remain completely powerless to stop the madness, I have come to grips with the damage the lockout has done to my personal interest and practical investments in the sport. Earlier in the summer, I argued that despite the length of the lockout, and the vitriol between the two sides, my NBA fanhood would stand the test of time and survive the labor stoppage. As it turns out, though, it's difficult to maintain a level of affection for a non-responsive lover, who apparently you had a one-sided relationship with for most of your waking life.  In general, I have been largely silent throughout the 119 days of the NBA lockout. Each day, I find myself growing increasingly distant from the game, both in terms of interpersonal discussion and somewhat structured analysis. Many friends sent me articles regarding the lockout that I never read, still in denial that the game was gone for a very prolonged period of time. My morning Internet blog roll -- TrueHoop, HoopsHype and The Basketball Jones -- was eventually locked-out as well as it became clear that NBA analysts literally had nothing to write about anymore. Sure, the sites continued to churn out content, but it was rarely worth reading. For example, ESPN's "5-on-5" series hypothesizes about an NBA that has been essentially frozen in carbonite, completely unchanged since Darth Vader got ahold of it at the end of the NBA draft.  The discourse is wildly vague, and the end product often seems unfinished and unsatisfactory.  But, what can you reasonably expect when there's literally nothing to discuss?  You get wild conjectures and baseless criticism, of course.  It's frustrating to read, and probably frustrating to write.

See, in my opinion, what you need to know about the lockout can be thought of in terms of pie. If you ask me, most things can be talked about in terms of pie, but that's probably besides the point. In this particular case, it's not about the size of the pie, but rather how big of a slice your side deserves. Both the players and the owners agree that they have, together, made a really big pie. Neither side really wants to be nice and share, however.  You see, before the last collective bargaining agreement expired, the players, who had essentially provided the ingredients needed to make the pie, were receiving 57% of the total pie, but were splitting it amongst more eaters. On the other hand, the owners, who provided the facilities needed to make the pie, were only getting 43% of the total product. Even though they got less pie, they only had to split it amongst 30 individuals who already had a lot of pie at home, while the players had to split their share between 450 individuals who had far less pie stored up. So, it didn't seem like that big of a deal for awhile. Over time, however, as the pie got bigger and more delicious, the owners began to feel dissatisfaction over their share of the pie, despite the fact their share of the pie was split amongst fewer individuals, and that the owners never really into sharing their pie in the first place.

So, after much discussion and consternation, the owners asserted that unless they got to take more pie from the players -- something along the lines of a 50/50 split -- they wouldn't let the players use their facilities to make the pie anymore. The players, indignant that the owners would offer ultimatums about the pie that worked hard to make, mostly for the benefit of the owners themselves, decided to harden their stance, and reject the 50/50 split outright.  Indeed, there are additional issues regarding the pie, such as which owners deserve the biggest piece from their share, and the fact that often times, owners ruin their own waistlines by overvaluing and overpaying some of their pie cooks. But essentially, the lockout can be summarized in one pie-related sentence: Though both the players and owners like their pie, they can't agree on how to appropriately split it up. And that's where we are today -- the arenas are dark, the stands are empty, and there's no basketball in sight.  And perhaps most infuriatingly, both sides are quick to blame the other about how and why we got to the mess we are in today.

But while both sides have the right to blame the other, I assert that the reality, at least from the perspective of the average American fan, is this: while the owners and the players argue about how much pie they deserve, they forget that they exist in a world where millions of people give up their miniscule amounts of pie to simply watch the two sides eat far more delicious and filling pie.  Furthermore, while both sides argue about massively enormous quantities of pie, they also forget that hundreds of people rely on the NBA to maintain their comparatively modest amounts of pie.  In a report released almost as an afterthought this week, Ken Berger wrote that 400 jobs had been lost as a result of the four-month old lockout, with no plans on re-employment should the lockout end anytime soon. While it may be easy to cordon off this debate to just those who earn millions (or billions) of dollars, it obviously is not that simple.  As fans, we are all consumers of the pie; we create the market that puts these players to work in very well-compensated positions, and fills these owners' stadiums. And believe it or not, this inequity is starting to trickle down to the plebeian level in very real ways.

Now, I realize the importance of maintaining proper perspective in the face of an undesirable personal situation.  In other words: it's important to remember that this is a first world problem.  Sure, there will be basketball, even if the entire season is canceled. For example, OKC Thunder superstar Kevin Durant has been doing a "Basketball Never Stops" campaign/tour around the United States, showcasing his skills in every type of game imaginable to prove that love of the game is enough to keep the people sated and entertained.  A number of other stars have taken Durant's theory, but -- surprise, surprise! -- monetized in into a 5-continent All Star world tour, in which some players will reportedly receive between $500,000 to $1,000,000 per game.  (If you ask me, I would say that earning a salary of roughly $20,000 a minute isn't the best way to garner support for your labor struggle, but hey, that's just me). And those are just the fillers being provided by currently out-of-work NBA players. The other basketball standards will still be around, and probably getting more attention than they've ever gotten before. The NCAA season just started a few nights ago, and here in Seattle, a city that has been locked out from the NBA permanently, there is a fair amount of interest in a stacked University of Washington team featuring local Garfield High School standout (and potential lottery pick) Tony Wroten. And finally, a number of NBA players like Deron Williams, Jordan Farmar, J.R. Smith and Ty Lawson have taken their talents to smoky gyms abroad in Turkey, Israel, China and Lithuania. So yes, there'll be ball to watch. But as fun as it is to see Kevin Durant score 66 points at Rucker Park, or Deron Williams playing in high school gyms halfway across the world, it's not the same. It's simply not the same.

Furthermore, the fact that basketball exists as a fairly insignificant part of the world -- and is not really the world, in and of itself -- has come into sharp relief over the past few months.  In the 119 days since the lockout began, Libya completed its revolution and left its former dictator to rot in a meat locker, Tunisia wrote a brand new constitution and voted in a completely new government, Syria inched closer to an all-out civil war, and the US government totally lost its pants, as well as the confidence of its citizenry. But that's not all.  In the 119 days since the lockout began, we learned that White America mistakenly confused Steve Jobs for Jesus Christ for many years, that Greece is well on its way to becoming Europe's first major casualty to austerity and a terminally sick Euro, and that according to US "intelligence" agencies, you can't trust a Mexican to assassinate a Saudi, even if the Iranian government is backing you up.  And perhaps most importantly, in the 119 days since the lockout began, we realized that despite our myriad of political affiliations and identities, we are the 99%, and we are angry as hell, no matter where you are in the world, and that we're not going to take it anymore.

With the world rapidly changing, and the NBA remaining frustratingly the same, it is now high time to state the obvious about the lockout: there are no sides to take in this argument; no side to truly rally behind.  Instead, we are left with the fact that both players and the owners are part of the privileged, wealthy, and powerful 1% that large populations of the world are now starting to mobilize against, that are finally being taken to task. As the world turns, and the NBA fixed in immobility, it is hard not to move on and focus my attention and energy on more important things. But, as I wrote earlier this summer, old habits die hard. That's why The Diss is back, if only temporarily -- to provide a place where I, as a fan, can vent my frustration, and attempt to understand how an ego-fueled and ego-filled labor struggle that ended the game has so dramatically taken me out of my game.  This will be my outlet to comprehend a world without basketball -- a truly frightening prospect.  Despite this, I refuse to let this project fall apart because millionaires and billionaires cannot agree on how many zeroes they deserve at the end of their paychecks.

So, as I attempt to revive and maintain The Diss in what already has been a long, bitter and frustrating labor stoppage, I promise you, my dear reader, and perhaps casual basketball fan, that this blog will balance an exuberant love of the NBA with the harsh realities of the labor stoppage, and will attempt to explain what it reflects not just about the wealthy and powerful in America, but our role in this operation as well. I am angry that there will be no basketball in three days.  I am angry that there many not be basketball for the next 365 days.  I truly feel dissed.  But since I don't have the power to end the lockout myself, maybe someone will listen to me complain about that powerlessness instead.

(At least, until the season starts, and all is quickly, and shamelessly, forgiven.)