Thursday, March 29, 2012

Fortunate Moments for Unfortunate Franchises: The Charlotte Bobcats and the Traveling Con Man.

The Traveling Con Man never announces his arrival, but you feel his impact immediately.  He sweeps over everything, a totalizing and usurping force.  Once he arrives in your hamlet, things are never the same.  Lives are ruined, futures are compromised.  And in the end, you never see him again.

Though his reputation is well known, no one seems to heed the call.  His trail of ruin is long, yet he continues to accumulate victims.  The Traveling Con Man tells a pretty tale, and carries himself with a soothing calm that befits his appearance.  Short, and almost impish, he infiltrates conference rooms and practice floors, urging his new customers to listen to his advice, and play the right way.  And for a time, they do.  Things seem fantastic for all parties involved.

But the Traveling Con Man cannot stay in one place for too long, lest his pyramid scheme be discovered. So loudly, abruptly, he leaves. No one knows why, but he's gone almost overnight.  His work is left uncompleted.  His promises are left unfulfilled.  And the conned begin to cry foul.  They realize the scale of the damage done, and hurl vitriol at the Traveling Con Man.  He promised us the world.  He left us with nothing.

Yet, every con takes two, doesn't it?  One has to be trusting enough to be conned. One has to be stupid enough to let a person have access to the very assets that define a business, or a reputation.  And as these unfortunate victims clean up the mess that another made, they are forced to search their souls, and make safeguards to ensure that what just happened never happens again.

From 2009-2011, Larry Brown, the Traveling Con Man made a killing in Charlotte, North Carolina, while working with Michael Jordan.  And the Charlotte Bobcats -- and perhaps the city of Charlotte -- would never be the same.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wild Speculation and Outlandish Guesses: Oh Shit, a Serious Topic Edition

The Trayvon Martin situation heated up (I just did that) this week when LeBron & the Ronettes Heat released a photo in solidarity with Trayvon Martin. The NBPA and the Miami Heat organization eventually waded (!) into the situation. What's your take?

Jacob Greenberg: Of the three, I found the National Basketball Player's Association (NBPA) statement the most interesting. Unions are supposed to be political organizations that stand in solidarity with other individuals or groups. Though unions only typically mobilize against injustices against other workers, they will offer statements of solidarity for a specific cause or individual. One can look to labor unions' early support for the Occupy movement, or immigration reform, as examples of this. Now, in my view, the NBPA has been a union only in the sense that it is the primary negotiating body for the players. It rarely offers political statements of any kind, and its members never stand on picket lines with other workers in solidarity. It operates more like a trade association (which is what it voted to become as a bargaining tactic during the 2011 Lockout). That the NBPA offered any sort of political statement -- let alone one that has, ostensibly, nothing to do with professional basketball except that it involves the race of the vast majority of its membership, and that a number of its members put forth an impromptu political gesture in the form of a Tweeted picture -- is somewhat remarkable. Though a statement hardly constitutes as a sit-in, or even a rally, I wonder if the Lockout emboldened the NBPA to become more like a multi-faceted political union, and less like a negotiating body for the players.

Symbol Lai: At first, I was impressed at the Heat's decision to take a stand on the Trayvon Martin. Sending out a statement about how the state condones and perpetrate racialized violence is not always a well-received stance in either the NBA, an organization that has gone to great lengths to rid itself of its associations with poor communities of color with dress codes and stringent rules, or an American public that values "balanced," "objective" perspectives. Given the fact that the players probably had no idea how people would react, I thought it was brave. They put themselves out there and took a stance.

Then, there was the out pour of support for the case from more official mouthpieces and I'm more on the fence about things. While I think it's great that a bunch of these major organizations are coming out very strong in support of this issue, I find it interesting in that the answer proposed by the NBPA calls on the criminal justice system--the same institution that is very much responsible for the racialization of young black men as violent gangsters--to basically exercise its power more harshly. It's certainly one way to talk about the issue--and I'm glad that there is dialogue around it--but the sentiment behind the NBPA statement seems to have a different tone. It's more official. Maybe a little more calculated even at first glance. I don't know.

Whatever it is, I hope the dialogue continues. I hope this is the starting point for many of the players who connected with this case. And, I hope that folks use this as a starting point for larger discussions that look for answers beyond addressing stereotyping and more police enforcement.

Franklin Mieuli: I've already written some thoughts on the matter so I won't write too much here, but in the five days since last Friday I have been impressed by LeBron, and unimpressed by the rest of the NBA. As far as I know LeBron hasn't said much more about the photo. He hasn't come off like he is the second coming of Moses, and doesn't seem like he is planning a line of Trayvon Martin Memorial Underwear.

The response from the rest of the NBA, however, is underwhelming. Carmelo, Amar'e Stoudemire, Carmelo and Wade changing their Twitter pictures? C'mon.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Jeremy Lin Crowned: Super Lintendo

Our Linsanity Nickname Bracket is finally over, having succumbed to a slow death over the last few weeks.

Early on, our spirits were buoyed by being smack dab in the middle of Linsanity, and so were the rest of you if vote totals are any judge. But just like the Knicks, who ran into the toughest part of their schedule and killed Lin-fever, we here at The Diss. hit a wall. #Linsanity just wasn’t interesting to us anymore. We moved on to college basketball, We Boolieve and the rest of the season.

You see, here is where I would normally write a few paragraphs incorporating buzzwords like Twitter, shortened attention spans, the current generation, 24-hour news media cycle etc. But fortunately, Forbes has already done so for me! So go read that, pontificate about what #Linsanity “really means”. What it means here at The Diss. is that we got bored of our own bracket. But get excited, because the NBA Facial Hair Bracket is coming soon!

Oh yeah, Super Lintendo won. Jeremy Lin’s new nickname is Super Lintendo. For those hoping to get on TV, I’d go with:

Super Lintendo

Games of the Week: March 26 - April 1, 2012.

For those who doubt my entertaining game picking abilities, I've got two words for you: step off, asshole.

Okay, that's three words.  But I will have you know that of the 64 total games I have chosen for your perusal, those games have been settled by an average margin of only 8.9 points per contest.  Moreover, of those 64 games, 39 were decided by 9 points or less.  Of those 39 games, 30 were decided by 5 points or less.  And finally, I chose 5 overtime games, including this weekend's 149-140 overtime epic between the Thunder and the Wolves.  Just sayin'.

So will my entertaining game streak continue?  Only time will tell.  Let's get to it.

Monday: Milwaukee Bucks at New York Knicks (4:00 PM PST)

The battle for eighth place in the East is on!  In one corner, the Milwaukee Bucks, who have gone 7-3 in their last 10, and had won 7 straight before dropping a game this weekend.  And in the other corner, the New York Knickerbockers, who have won 6 out of 7 since Mike Woodson took over the head coaching job.   To the winner goes a surefire first round defeat at the hands of either the Miami Heat or the Chicago Bulls, and a worse pick in the deep 2012 draft.  Milwaukee is currently a game and a half back on the Knicks, but have a far easier schedule than New York the for the remainder of the season. Knicks took care of all their easy games during that Linsanity nonsense. To the victor goes the spoils!

Tuesday: Minnesota Timberwolves at Memphis Grizzlies (5:00 PM PST)

Minnesotans will remember how viciously Kevin McHale was criticized in 2008 when he traded O.J. Mayo, a dynamic guard out of USC, for Kevin Love, a pudgy forward out of UCLA.  Most people thought Mayo as a surefire star, and Wolves fans were delighted when he was still available at number four.  The Grizzlies took Love at five, and then four hours later, the two teams made a blockbuster trade, swapping bad contracts, useless veterans, and most importantly, rookie lottery picks.  McHale was roundly criticized for making the trade; a grumble that rose to a roar when Mayo averaged 20 points per game his rookie season.  And, before too long, McHale was gone, replaced by current GM David Kahn.  And now?  O.J. Mayo is the sixth man on a playoff team.  Not too bad.  Kevin Love, however, is Kevin Love.  Perhaps Minnesota should send McHale an apology hot dish.  And maybe a thank you one, as well.  Make 'em tater tot.

Wednesday: Utah Jazz at Boston Celtics (4:30 PM PST)

A homecoming, of sorts, for Al Jefferson, who is having a solid season for his seventh place Jazz team.  You remember, of course, that Big Al was the featured piece in the 2007 Kevin Garnett swap, which sent the Big Ticket to Boston.  Big Al had just averaged 17 points and 12 rebounds for the Celtics, who had won 26 games in 2007 and flirted heavily with trading Paul Pierce the entire season.  Big Al's promise was enough for former teammates-turned-GMs Kevin McHale and Danny Ainge to pull off the swap that changed both team's fortunes forever.  Since then, Big Al's upped his points (he's averaging 21 and 10 this season), and looks ready to go to the playoffs for the first time in his eight season career.  These two seventh place teams both play a similar game.  This could be a fun one.  

Thursday: Dallas Mavericks at Miami Heat (5:00 PM PST)

A finals rematch in name only.  The Mavs look nothing like the champions they once were.  It's a good thing that Lamar Odom is taking up most of the Mavericks time, otherwise we'd have to talk about that paltry, twenty-first best offense in the league stuff.  And that wouldn't be interesting on reality television.

Friday: Boston Celtics at Minnesota Timberwolves (5:00 PM PST)

So, Kevin Garnett is a free agent this summer.  Most people seem to think that the Big Three will be broken up so Ainge can start rebuilding the team around Rajon Rondo in earnest. Doc Rivers seems to think that KG will resign with the Celtics this summer, and has noted that the 36 year old veteran has felt "re-energized" since he switched from power forward to center.  You know who needs a starting-quality center, who could also come off the bench?  The Minnesota Timberwolves.  You know who already has a championship-quality coach in Rick Adelman?  The Minnesota Timberwolves.  You know who already has an amazingly talented (and increasingly mean) power forward, who could be the focus of the defense, and allow Garnett probably more opportunities to produce from all over the court?  The Minnesota Timberwolves.  You know where Kevin Garnett was the franchise player from 1995 to 2007?  You get the idea.  Make this happen.

Saturday: Cleveland Cavaliers at New York Knicks (4:30 PM PST)

Honestly, just the most entertaining game on a sort of slow Saturday slate.  Kyrie Irving's always worth watching, and every game counts for the Knicks from here on out.  They've got to win these games at home.

Sunday: Chicago Bulls at Oklahoma City Thunder (12:00 PM PST)

The big kahuna.  Another potential finals preview. Oklahoma City dismantled Miami yesterday.  Their Big Three of Durant, Westbrook and Harden were supported beautifully by Perkins (16 points and 6 rebounds) and Ibaka (19 points and 10 rebounds).  Chicago can try many different sets against the Thunder.  But man, the Thunder look really, really good. And if Rose's groin's still messed up, I'm pretty sure the final score of this game will throw off my cumulative Games of the Week prediction point differential.  But we'll see. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Week That Was: March 19-25, 2012.

It is generally assumed that these two-to-three weeks in the NBA season, during which most people are focused either on March Madness, MLB spring training and/or NFL free agency, constitute something like a "seventh inning stretch" for both NBA players, coaches, executives and fans alike.  With the All-Star break and trade deadline complete, yet the playoffs still about six weeks away, the Association enters a sort of no-man's land where early season dreams are squashed (or at the very least, reassessed), and teams begin to focus on the realities of their particular situations.  Whether that's tightening your rotation to assess which guys are in for the playoff run, or shutting down your chronically injured guys for the rest of the season and beginning an unabashed Tank-A-Palooza in preparation for the deep college draft, most teams are definitely doing some soul searching.

So with that in mind: lauding a true professional, welcoming back a not-so-true professional, and giving the double deuce to a truly out-of-touch-ex-professional.  Let's get to it.

1. Feeling Good for Antawn Jamison.

Cavs forward Antawn Jamison probably won't win a championship.  And he's okay with that.

Jamison is 35 years old, and though he's still putting up more than respectable numbers after 14 seasons in the pros (over 18 points and 6 rebounds on 42%, he's definitely approaching the end of his career.  Jamison's contract expires at the end of this season (he's getting $15 million), and he's considering his options.  The prevailing narrative implies that Jamison should accept whatever the Heat, Bulls, Mavs, Thunder or Lakers want to give him to join their bench units in a quest to add a ring to his already respectable resume. Yet, as The Morning Journal of Northern Ohio reports, Jamison has expressed an interest in returning to the Cavs next season.  And, apparently, the Cavs would happily welcome him back.  He'd back up rising power forward Tristan Thompson, and would still be an important piece on a team that's very close to becoming a perennial playoff contender.

Why would Jamison do such a thing?  Even if Jamison suffers a drastic decline next season -- say, 5 points and 3 rebounds per game -- he's still be a 13 and 3 player.  Every single contender in the league would love to add him to their locker room.  He is both a solid player and a solid citizen would would provide leadership, and perhaps the most unorthodox post game in the league.  I can think of two reasons why Jamison would choose the Cavs over other teams.  First, Jamison has already been part of a "win now!" bid.  He came to the Cavs in 2010 as a last ditch effort to get LeBron James to resign with the club, and has stuck around long after King James took his talents to South Beach.  He of all people can appreciate the flawed nature of hastily-constructed win-or-bust team building, and could be wary about going down that path again.  Secondly -- and this is pure butt-talking -- perhaps Jamison realizes that winning a championship really proves nothing, reputation-wise.  Indeed, many players with similar career averages who also played important roles on championship teams will not have as sterling of a reputation as Jamison.  Antoine Walker (17.7 ppg and 7.7 rpg) comes to mind.  Stephen Jackson (16.1 ppg and 4.0 rpg) as well (though his story has yet to be fully written).  One could even make an argument for Shawn Marion (16.6 ppg and 9.2 rpg).  I could say Jamison has a greater chance of getting into the Hall of Fame than any of those guys at this point, although admittedly, none of these guys have a really great shot at it.

Players like Antawn Jamison raise a question for me: why do we, as fans, value championships so much when we assess the relative greatness of players?  What is it about the image of hoisting the Larry O'Brien trophy while wearing oversized championship t-shirts?  Players like Jamison, Grant Hill and Steve Nash make the traditional NBA fan feel uncomfortable.  NBA players are supposed to be competitive -- it's the model Magic and Larry presented, Michael perfected, and LeBron and company perverted.  To have a guy who sticks around a lesser team (in a lesser market) because he enjoys the professional fit seems bizarre.  But perhaps it's time for us to get used to their line of thinking.  I mean, if it ain't broke, why fix it?  Why uproot and start over?

For me, these days, that somehow seems more noble than joining a superteam to get an easy ring.  Hats off to you, Antawn, and go Cavs.

Friday, March 23, 2012

"Sunday" Discussion: An Interview with Dossie Bee Greenberg, Chicago Bulls Fan and Awesome Mom.

Editor's Note: It is my absolute pleasure to present an interview with Dossie Bee Greenberg, my mother.  She and her four sisters grew up on the West side of Chicago in the 1950s and 1960s.  Her life journey has taken her from the inner city of Chicago to Santa Rosa, California, where she moved after marrying her husband (my father) in 1980.  She is now a classroom aide and math tutor, as well as a wife, daughter, mother, grandmother, and best friend.  I hope you enjoy this interview about basketball, and its greater meanings in her unbelievably eventful and interesting life.  

She's also the best mother and the strongest woman in the world.  But I may be biased.  Let's get to it.

Latinos Buy Sneakers Too

Michael Jordan was an amazingly talented basketball player, and to suggest otherwise is ludicrous. Besides being paid very well for playing basketball, he created a mini-empire associated with his image. The Jordan Brand is now a subsidiary of Nike, and Jordan has lucrative deals hawking underwear, hot dogs, batteries and more. Despite a well-publicized penchant for gambling huge sums, he has earned enough money to become the majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats. Even today, almost ten years after retiring, he is estimated to earn $40 million a year from endorsements.

And yet, outside of basketball, he hasn’t made a significant statement his entire life. The most famous example is when, in 1990, he was asked why he wouldn’t endorse Black Democratic Senate Candidate Harvey Gantt in his race against the notoriously racist asshole Jessie Helms, and Jordan replied “Republicans buy sneakers too”. During the lockout, Jordan was one of the most hardline owners deadest on lowering players’ share of Basketball Related Income, leading Jason Whitlock to write a vicious, angry column where he repeatedly called Jordan a sellout.

But this post isn’t about Michael Jordan, it is about LeBron James. The popular perception is that James (along with Tiger Woods, who, like Jordan and James, is a Nike athlete) is just as apolitical as Jordan, which was reinforced when he refused to sign a petition criticizing China’s role in Darfur. Granted, a year later he did lightly condemn human rights abuses, as well as donated money to Barack Obama’s election campaign, but neither of those are particularly strong statements.

This morning, however, he shattered those sentiments when he Tweeted a picture of the entire Miami Heat team wearing hoodies to support Trayvon Martin:

This was particularly good timing, coming at the same time as Geraldo Rivera essentially blaming Trayvon for having the audacity to wear a hoodie that night:

You see, Latinos buy sneakers too, and while I don’t have my finger on the pulse of Florida politics, there is a good chance that LeBron is pissing off a pretty sizeable demographic in Miami. Zimmerman, the shooter, is Latino (possibly Cuban, it is unclear), and a full 35% percent of Miami is made up of mostly Republican Cubans. It isn't quite there yet, but this incident certainly has all of the ingredients to turn into a massive trigger point between races. This is no "We're talking about people's lives being lost and that means a lot more to me than some money or a contract" from LeBron, which was previously the strongest stance he had taken on anything important.

Here at The Diss., we’ve been working on a site redesign, which will include a banner picture. I asked a graphically-inclined friend to help me out, with the simple instructions that “it should look sweet, and say 'The Diss.' ” He gave me back a nice image of LeBron doing his powder routine thing. I sent it to blog founder Jacob Greenberg and his response was, and I quote from Gchat: “no fucking way LeBron is on my blog”. I don’t know if this is will change his mind, but I do know that there is no fucking way Michael Jordan will be on this blog.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wild Speculation and Outlandish Guesses: Trade Deadline Carnage Edition

Now that the trade deadline has passed, what was the most interesting move that did or did not happen?

Brian Benjamin: In a wide open lockout shortened season where's my all-star trade? I was surprised to not see any trades for big name players to try to push a contender over the edge. Although the most interesting trade to me was Denver giving up Nene after signing him to a big deal over the summer. JaVale "Blooper Reel" McGee isn't a game-changer for this team. The real purpose might be to free up more minutes for rookie Kenneth Faried.

Luke Hasskamp: Well, since I live in L.A., and have to put up with insufferable Lakers fans on a daily basis, I'll go with the Ramon Sessions trade. People out here love talking about how this is the move the Lakers needed to make for a legitimate playoff run. (They also love those flying those little Lakers flags from their cars.) Lakers fans are very excited about the two games Sessions has played with the Lakers. "Perfect fit!" God damn it, I am so sick of hearing about the Lakers.

What I do find interesting is how many people seem to actually miss Derek Fisher. Some folks out here were legitimately pissed about losing him, which is kind of hilarious because he was pretty shitty this year, and left-handed. And seeing Fisher demand a buyout from Houston is pretty classic. I hate the effing Lakers

Jacob Greenberg: I mean, sorry, but it's the Monta trade, and what that transaction has meant for the overall culture and direction of the franchise under new(ish) owner Joe Lacob. The fans have spoken, and the honeymoon phase with new owner Joe Lacob has officially ended. While it's true that Lacob has only owned the team for 18 months, Warriors fans have watched this debacle for 18 years, and only gotten one playoff berth to show for it. Lacob is right: winning solves everything. So he'd better win, because though this my be his first tabula rasa trade, it's my...well, I've seen them wipe the slate clean too many times. This is a make or break moment for Joe Lacob, and I have no idea how things are going to turn out.

Omar Bagnied: As a DC native I was happy to see blooper savants Javale McGee and Nick Young get shipped out. I feel bad for Nene. Nobody thrives in DC.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Why the Chicago Bulls Will Be 2012 NBA Champions: A Guest Post by Omar Bagnied.

Editor's Note: The Diss is proud to present a guest piece by Omar Bagnied.  Though Omar is a frequent participant in our weekly roundtable discussions, this is Omar's first submission.


There are three reasons why the Bulls will be NBA champions this year.

1.  They lead the league in offensive rebounding and allow under 90 points per game (PPG).
2.  They win, with or without their stars.
3.  Each player knows his role.


The statistic most telling of a team's effort is offensive rebounding.  No matter a team's scoring prowess, off-shooting nights are inevitable.  Offensive rebounding gives you a second chance, two shots for one possession.  The Bulls snag 13.7 offensive boards a game, more than any other team in the league.  With their adjusted field goal percentage at .497, they make just about every other shot they take.  So almost 14 times a game, they can guarantee a basket.

The Outcry at Oracle

Wow. I have never been a part of anything like that. It felt 100x more awkward than I'm sure you feel watching the video, though I unfortunately didn't get a close-up of Joe Lacob's face during the incident.

I'm sure the reverberations from Occupy Oracle will be felt for months (and years?) to come, but I don't really know what is going to happen, or what to think. I guess 5 hours isn't enough perspective to digest 36 years of history (since the last Warriors title).

I was composing a compilation of Tweets that I thought were interesting, but then Truehoop went and did the same damn thing. Great blogs think alike? Regardless, here's what I've been thinking:

And, lest you think what we are practicing here is "journalism" and "objectivity", must I once again remind you that I am the author of a post titled "Dwight Howard, Stop Being a Dick". No matter how Warriors fans act, no matter what you or the national media thinks about what just happened, I will always love the Warriors AND Warriors fans. There is a reason that the Oracle faithful embrace angry, disrespected players like Stephen Jackson, Baron Davis and Monta Ellis, and love them more than any other NBA market. Within this fan-base runs an angry undercurrent. This can be channeled positively, like when Baron viciously dunked in Andrei Kirilenko's face. Tonight we saw the negative side of that anger, but I can't say I blame the fans after seeing the franchise once again trade our favorite player (see: Richardson, Jason) after the owner talked about the playoffs at the beginning of the season. These fans have the most passion of any in the NBA, and it is Lacob's job to channel that constructively.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Games of the Week: March 19-25, 2012.

I know we're all focused on the Ronny Turiaf sweepstakes.  We all want to know where the Frenetic(ally cheering from the bench) Frenchman will be.  But there are other pressing matters in the Association to attend to.  Such as these seven games.

And lo, I shall call them the Games of the Week.  Let's get to it.

Monday: Minnesota Timberwolves at Golden State Warriors (7:30 PM PST)

Diss-cussant Kevin "Frankin" Draper will be at this game. He originally bought the ticket as a chance to see two teams fighting for the eighth seed.  However, since he purchased his tickets, both teams have headed in the wrong directions as they cope with life without their lead guards.  The Timberwolves have gone 1-3 since losing Ricky Rubio for the season to a torn ACL.  The Warriors have gone 0-3 since they traded guard Monta Ellis to the Milwaukee Bucks (and since Steph Curry went down with yet another ankle injury).  So now, he's going to get to see the much hyped Nate Robinson versus Luke Ridnour matchup.  Where amazing happens.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Week That Was: March 12-18, 2012.

With the trade deadline complete, we can now turn our attention to the last stretch of the regular season, and what promises to be a historically close finish in the Western conference.  How competitive, you ask?  Well, if the Clips, who are currently in 4th place, lose a game, they'll drop to ninth.  Yep.  It's that competitive.  Feeling the heat, Vinny of the Black?

But I don't feel like talking about the Clips (as much as I like the Nick Young acquisition and hating on Vinny Del Negro).  Instead, on tap for this week: getting pumped about the Blazers, getting grumpy about Dwight, and getting weepy about the Hornets good fortune.  Let's get to it!

1. The Darkest Day in Trailblazers History?

The trade deadline marked the offical end of the championship dream in Portland, Oregon.  Gerald Wallace and Marcus Camby, two starters, were shipped off for a mix of young players and draft picks.  Greg Oden, the top pick in the 2007 draft, was waived, a move that had been predicted since the Blazers announced that his season would end (or, never begin) due to another microfracture surgery.  And, most importantly, Nate McMillan, whose coaching and mentorship had transformed the team from inglorious Jailblazers to respectable players, was let go.  The reins were handed to 34 year old Kaleb Canales, an assistant on McMillan's staff.  The Blazers unstable front office is no longer focused on winning games to keep playing into April, but instead looking ahead to June, and securing the best position they can in the reportedly deep 2012 NBA draft.

Many eulogies have already been written about the Blazers.  Too many, in fact.  This is an undeniably sad story that has claimed many victims in its wake.  But, those lamentations are growing stale.  Yes, Brandon Roy and Greg Oden seemed like great players and people.  Nate McMillan was an icon of northwest basketball, who fittingly coached both the Sonics and the Blazers.  There could have been deep playoff runs.  Championships, even.  But that won't happen now.  At least not immediately.  But again, we've talked about this for a few years now.  It's time to move on, like the Blazers did this past Thursday.

What does the future hold?  The Blazers seemingly are blowing this operation up at the right time.  They are still equipped with a quality players in LaMarcus Aldrige and Nic Batum that could be conceivably be built around.  Their new coach, Kaleb Canales, has been praised for his work ethic, and is drawing early positive reviews, from his player.  And perhaps most significantly, the Blazers now have a variety of options in terms of rebuilding their team.  They picked up some young (though not terribly promising) players from Houston in Jonny Flynn and Hasheem Thabeet.  And they did grab a second round pick from Houston and a top-three protected first round pick from New Jersey, which could be used, or packaged with current assets.  For a front office that is reportedly lacking leadership, these were some gutsy moves.

So hard as it may be, it's time to bid farewell to the Blazers dynasty that never was, and look forward to whatever evolves over the next several years.

2. The Circus Never Ends.

So, after months of buildup and hype, nothing happened with Dwight Howard, the Magic, or anyone else.  Dude decided to sign an early termination offer waiver, and offically opt-in to the final year of his deal.  This, of course, means that we can look forward to the same empty analysis from our overlords at ESPN for the next 18 months.  Dave D'Alessandro of the Newark Star-Ledger said it best earlier this weekend: "This is still the only league that makes its biggest news when absolutely nothing happens, which is a recurring hype-over-substance lesson that most of us never seem to tire from or even anticipate."

Well, D'Alessandro may be right about the anticipate part.  While I didn't anticipate Dwight getting traded, I also didn't anticipate him opting in for another year.  But I am certainly tired of the circus. I think most folks are, fans and pundits alike. In fact,  of all of the Superstar-Drafting Franchise divorces I've witnessed over the past two seasons or so, I think Dwight's is, by far, the most obnoxious of them all.  I've got a few baseless theories as to why this might be the case.

1. Dwight Howard is the best center in the league due to circumstance, not skill, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out.  It is really hard to visualize Dwight dominating in the 1990s, when Shaq, Dream, Ewing, and even lesser guys like Rik Smits, Alonzo Mourning, and Dikembe Mutombo were more than holding their own.  Dwight's post game still seems unimaginitve, and far less developed than most of the guys I listed above.  He has developed no game outside of 10 feet, and does most of his work from the free throw line (and not terribly efficiently, either).  Dwight Howard has ascended to the place of "Most Dominant Big Man" because his competition was weak.

2. This entire saga, which has already gone on too long, and now figures to go on even longer, has already had it's fair share of, "Are you fucking serious, Dwight?" moments.  Like the time he said that he didn't want to play with Kobe because he wouldn't be the alpha dog.  Are you fucking serious, Dwight?  Or, the time that he basically said that his point guard wasn't good enough to win a championship.  Are you fucking serious, Dwight?  Or the time he said he wouldn't consider a trade to the already-great-and-likely-unstoppable-if-he-joined-them Chicago Bulls because it was already Derrick Rose's team, and he wouldn't get the fair share of the spotlight.  Are you fucking serious, Dwight?  Or, my new personal favorite, when he told each teammate individually what they needed to do to win a title, and then told the team he currently plays for to "roll the dice" on him leaving over the summer, and not trade him now.  Are you fucking serious, Dwight?!?!

3.  No one really likes Dwight Howard, or the Orlando Magic, anyways.  Their superstar is an overgrown child, their coach is an occasionally hilarious but consistently negative bridge troll, and their GM seems to have little clue about how to do his job.  Who the hell cares what happens to the Magic?

But I guess I should just shut up and get used to it.  Are you fucking serious, Dwight?

3. Sorry, Seattle.

First, the Kings.  Now, the Hornets.  Seattle's chances of getting a team seem to be diminishing by the day.

This Friday, Louisiana Governor/Probable Anti-Christ Bobby Jindal announced a new lease agreement between the State of Louisiana and the New Orleans Hornets that will keep the team in New Orleans until at least 2024, provided the sale of the team goes forward as planned.  According to the press release from Jindal's office, the agreement will "include funding for upgrades to the New Orleans Arena and eliminate all exit options, attendance benchmarks, and financial inducements."  Jindal and the State of Louisiana project that the new lease agreement will "save the state at least $72 million in operating subsidies," and will not require any new taxes "to fund any aspect of the proposed agreement."  It is thought that this agreement between Louisiana and the Hornets represents the final requirement for the NBA to approve the sale of the team to an out-of-state buyer -- the elimination of exit options and attendance benchmarks all but keeps the team in New Orleans, even if the owner lives and works out of state.

Well, what about the Grizzlies, who according to owner Michael Heisley, have always been for sale? Some interesting news about them came out over the weekend, but it's not looking too good for Seattle, either.  Reportedly, Heisley and Larry Ellison, the third richest man in the USA, have been talking dollars and cents about the Grizzlies.  Heisley has always preferred to sell the team to a Memphian, but no one has stepped up to the plate thus far.  Problem is that if Ellison buys the team, he'd likely move them to San Jose, or another location in the South Bay.  Heisley said that it was "a long shot" that the sale was completed, but if Ellison can meet Heisley's asking price of $350 million, who knows?  But in any case, it doesn't seem likely that the Grizz will be coming to our brand new arena, whenever it gets built.

If you're hungry for gold and green basketball in the Emerald City, your sights should be on Charlotte, North Carolina, and the 7-36 Bobcats.  If anyone's coming here, it's going to be them.

Friday, March 16, 2012

"I Knew They Would Do This."

As a Warriors fan, I am accustomed to saying goodbye to my team's best player.

It's really not that hard to do at this point.  Over the years, I've seen tons of great players grimly put on Warriors uniforms, saddled with the impossible task of turning this joke of a franchise around.  I immediately appreciate their talent (most of the time), and quickly begin to feel sorry for them, because, well, they're on the Warriors now.  I know, as they do, that their efforts will be for naught, since we're the Warriors, and nothing they can do will change this franchise.  So while I enjoy their moments of brilliance -- back-to-back 50-point games, signature dunks, undeserved loyalty -- they are always bittersweet for me, due to their fleeting, impermanent nature.  And, eventually the moment comes, and I say goodbye.  For some, like Baron Davis, Jason Richardson and even Chris Mullin, that goodbye is a bit difficult.  For others, such as Stephen Jackson, Latrell Sprewell, and Antawn Jamison, that goodbye is an easier pill to swallow.  But for a very select few players who, at some time, could have been considered the Warriors best player, it is a more complicated matter.

The Ghost of Chris Cohan No Longer Haunts Me

In-between championships, the only thing an NBA team can give a fan is sorrow and hope. If you’re not a fan of the Heat, Bulls, Magic, Thunder, Spurs or Lakers, I hate to break it to you, but you won’t get to see a victory parade. If you’re a fan of the other 24 teams, the only thing I have to offer you is hope, a fleeting commodity.

Since your team won’t win a championship this year, all they can offer you is the hope that they will win a championship in a future season. To that end, there are many signs of hope. If your team can just make the playoffs, any idiot can tell you that a continued upwards progression will inevitably result in a championship! Or if your team is still terrible, a breakout game from a young player means that he just might become that star to lead them to glory. If you have had no shot at a championship or hope for the majority of the last 18 years, congratulations, you are a fan of the Golden State Warriors.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Dwight Howard: Stop Being a Dick


Hopefully somebody had the balls to tell Dwight Howard what he needs to do for the Magic to win a title. Assuming nobody did, I will.
  • Stop being a dick
    • Stop being a dick
  • Stop playing your worst basketball since 2007-08
  • Shoot at least your career average (59%) on free throws–I'm intentionally setting the bar low here Dwight
  • Quit flip-flopping on whether you want to stay or go more often then (insert John Kerry or Mitt Romney depending on your politics)
  • But mainly, stop being a dick. You're a really good basketball player, so just go play basketball and rip down rebounds.

Wild Speculation and Outlandish Guesses: What Gives? Edition

Editor's Note: Most of these responses were written after the Bucks and the Warriors announced their trade, but a few were written before.

Ricky Rubio? Stephen Curry? TJ Ford? What gives with all the Point Guard injuries?

Luke Hasskamp: I could try to fashion an interesting argument about how the bodies of small point guards just can't handle playing in the NBA, the land of very large people. And that may raise an even bigger argument about how profession sports are evolving at a much faster rate than the bodies of individual athletes can - e.g. concussions in the NFL. But, realistically, I just think it was a bad week for a few guys, something not surprising in a condensed season. It's always sad when injuries prematurely end players' careers. T.J. Ford had a lot of potential coming out of Texas.

Andrew Snyder: I haven't eaten in three days. I stopped going to work. I started shaving. Okay, only one of those is actually true (the shaving part), but as a Minneapolis resident and ardent fan of all Rubio mania (and #puppybreathandcinnamon), his ACL tear has put a major damper on my fairweather T-Wolves fanship. At least he's going to miss the Olympics so we can beat Spain. USA!

Symbol Lai: I think the recent onslaught of injuries is probably a consequence of the condensed season. Guys are playing just about every other night so have very little time to recuperate. And because they probably feel some pressure from coaches, teammates, or even their own sense of accountability to continue playing, I can imagine that these guys are working through injuries rather than letting their body rest and heal. The whole situation is kind of ironic in the worst possible way. We get this crazy schedule as a result of a bid by players for more leverage and security against their employers and here they are jeopardizing themselves in order to work at a pace that is probably wrecking havoc on some of their bodies. Hopefully none of the injuries that occur this year will end anyone's careers.

Omar Bagnied: There are more injuries due to the truncated season and back-to-back-to-back games. Fitness is an issue, especially with those more injury-prone. This is the issue with Rubio, Curry and Ford, they're just injury-prone. They're smaller players getting beaten up a little bit. Ford's story is tragic and he just retired due to his spinal injuries. Rubio's been beaten up all season; Timberwolves management actually compiled footage of him getting knocked around and sent it to NBA officials. Curry's smaller frame, again, means he's going to have a tougher time avoiding injury. And I remember this guy carrying GSW on his back when Monta Ellis missed time during the 2009-2010 season. Now that Ellis is gone I can't imagine it's going to get any easier for Curry and the Warriors.

I was watching the LAC-Boston game last night and there were 5 technicals in the first half. It just seems like players are annoyed with how often they're made to play, and they're taking out their frustration out on other players.

Jason Arends: TJ Ford is injured? Stop the presses! I'm not sure the injuries to any of them are that unusual. Two of those players have an injury history, and Ricky Rubio was playing in a ridiculously shortened season. As someone who can't play 40 minutes without the aid of significant pain-killers the next day, I can't imagine it's been a fun season for pro athletes playing 5 games in a week. The league is lucky there haven't been a lot more injuries this year.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

"Sunday" Discussion: An Interview with Ali Khaki, Who is Intelligently Pissed That the Sonics Left.

Editor's Note: The Diss is proud to present a special Sunday discussion (on a Tuesday, we know.  It's not important).  In this edition, The Diss interviews Ali Khaki.  Ali grew up in the Seattle area as a Sonics fan, but unlike Jason, did not maintain an allegiance with the franchise when it moved to Oklahoma City.  We discuss the hows and whys of this situation, and the memories of the team's departure.  Ali is a med student at UC San Diego, and lives with his wife in San Diego, California.

So tell us a little about yourself.

I grew up on the East Side in Sammamish and was an avid sports fan for most of my childhood.  Growing up, my family were first generation Americans so I had to teach myself the major American sports.  This was done largely by playing them in leagues as a kid, reading the newspaper and listening to or watching games.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Games of the Week: March 12-18, 2012.

I would like to begin the week with a limerick about the trade deadline.  Ahem.

I feel for you, Pau Gasol
At this point you're sick of it all
But rest easy my friend
Because in the end
You'll always be really tall.

That was fun.  I think I'll do every game of the week in limerick form.  Let's get to it.

Monday: New York Knicks at Chicago Bulls (5:00 PM PST)

Though Linsanity was a lot of fun
I fear it's already done.
And I'm not tryin' to hate

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Week That Was: March 5-11, 2012.

Ricky Rubio's injury was the biggest news of the week, but I'm actually too sad to think about that yet.  It's just too...Timberwolvesy of a story. So let's just focus on the regular trade deadline schputz, okay?

Anyways, on tap: the requisite Dwight spiel, helping Steve Nash find his voice, and some Kenyan scammers give Diek the double Mutumbo finger.  Let's get to it.

1. The Logic of a Rental.

It seems unlikely that the Magic are going to trade their All-World center Dwight Howard by the March 15th deadline.  Their statement win against the Bulls tonight showed that they have a chance to contend for a championship, or at the very least, a deep run in the playoffs.  Either of those events might be enough to convince Dwight to stick around for the longterm.  However, should Dwight Howard get traded, it won't be to one of his "preferred destinations" of New Jersey, Dallas or Los Angeles, as those teams have nothing to offer.  Instead, Dwight would likely be unceremoniously shipped to a team that Dwight has no interest in signing long-term with.  In effect, Dwight would be used as a rental, .

One of the teams that are consistently listed in trade rumors are my beloved Golden State Warriors.  Golden State has the rare combination of pieces to actually make a midseason Dwight Howard trade work.  They could offer a diverse package that would include one to two quasi stars like Steph Curry, Monta Ellis or David Lee, a promising young player like Klay Thompson or Ekpe Udoh, an expiring contract in Kwame Brown, and a second round draft pick in 2012 (or a first round in 2013).  In return, the Warriors would receive Dwight Howard, Hedo Turkoglu (and his albatross contract), and perhaps Jameer Nelson if Otis Smith feels like hooking it up.  Many permutations of this trade have been discussed, so I won't bore you by listing all the possibilities here.  Really, the only thing you need to know is Dwight has repeatedly said (1) he has no interest in being traded to Golden State, and (2) there is a zero-percent chance that he would resign long term.  Yet, the Warriors remain adamant that they would take on Dwight as a rental.  Well, then.

So I know what you're thinking: why the hell would a team agree to dismantle itself for a guy who's going to stick around for six weeks, then bolt to a major market?  Two words: salary dump.  If the Warriors unload their guys, and then Dwight, who will certainly command buku bucks from whichever team signs him, decides to split town, then they have something in the ballpark of $40 millione dollars to spend on free agency.  At that point, it's about drafting wisely and using your money correctly.  In other words: rebuilding.

With the Warriors sitting at a very blah 16-21 -- not bad enough to tank, but not good enough to be consistently competitive -- I think a radical change is probably in order.  No player on the roster is truly "untouchable" (except perhaps Klay Thompson), so I think the Magic should help themselves to as much salary as they want.  It would make sense, with an ownership group that I think is increasingly eager to rid itself of any remnants of the Cohan administration.  But this is probably wishful thinking.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

An Open Letter to Andrew Luck.

March 7, 2012

Dear Andrew Luck,

Hello sir.  My name is Jacob Greenberg.  We have never met.

So I'll be honest -- I don't follow college football all that closely.  The "Good Ol' Boy" aspects of the sport have never appealed to me.  The heavy southern drawls of the commentators makes me cringe, and the plantation overseer quality of some of the coaches gives me great pause.  Honestly, I'd just as soon learn about the best players in the NCAA when they turn professional and get paid legitimately for their labor.  But I've heard of you, for sure.  I watched you a few times this season against the Pac-12, and let me tell you (about you): you're worth the hype.  Your arm is great.  Your field sense is impressive as well.  You display leadership.  And you've got a great beard.  According to the hype, you're "the most complete quarterback since Peyton Manning."

Which is a good thing, because you're taking his job.

Texas Basketball: Better than NBA?

Editor's Note: On the day the Big 12 Tournament really gets started, The Diss. is proud to present a guest article from Amanda Boyle. We have left out all snark about how college ball "features" a lame 35 second shot clock, low scoring, lots of dumb fouls, terrible shot selection, a dramatic dearth of talented players, restrictive officiating and the worst color and play-by-play in all of sports, amateur or professional.

Growing up in Austin, TX, you’d think my sport of choice would be the ever-enticing Longhorn football team. Granted, during my teenage years, I saw Ricky Williams win the Heisman and see Texas win a National Championship. But the football dreams tend to feel like an episode of Friday Night Lights, rather than the sweaty, pre-pubescence of college ball (wink).

Enter Texas Basketball. I know you’re saying to yourself, “This is an f-ing NBA blog. If I wanted to read about college ball, I’d watch the newly-minted Longhorn Network.” But this is the essence of being when you are talking about Austin. Texas does happen to have some of the most elusive pro teams around, with the Mavs, Spurs, and Rockets (I seriously had to Google whether the Rockets were still a team). I mean, we’re f-ing Texas, we deserve as many pro-basketball teams as we can fit. The truth is, college ball always seemed more believable to me, like they were trying for something more than a new fragrance deal. I mean, who actually wants to smell like Lamar Odom?

Chris Mihm
Luckily for me, Rick Barnes (Head Coach for the Longhorns) has one of the best college basketball recruitment this side of the Mississippi. TJ Ford, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Durant, DJ Augustin, Chris Mihm, Royal Ivey, to name a few. What would be the point in going to a pro game when these youthful Longhorns provide more entertainment than a Hakeem and Mutombo sandwich? Durant’s smooth maturity beyond his years, Ford’s agility and forward focus, Aldridge being tall and unyielding, entertainment deluxe.

The only time I came close to seeing a pro team while growing up in Texas was for an Austin Toros game, the developmental league in town that was glimmering hope for the shining ex-Longhorns who had yet to make it big time. My dad and I went because I wanted to see what Brad Buckman was up to, a dreamy tall white dude who graduated from UT in ’06, who tore up the court and tore up my heart. Turns out, he was playing in what seemed/actually was a high school gym to an abysmal crowd of longhorn fans and war heroes. I mean, really, is there no dignity in the half point between college and pro? I suppose in the Euro league you can at least escape American embarrassment of not NBA-ing. Even joining the Harlem Globetrotters seems a better choice.

Sigh, I acquiesced and did attend a pro game, but not in Texas. In my hometown of Seattle. Durant. The fleeting year that he was on Clay Bennett’s Supersonics. But once again, Texas ball seems a gleamingly beautiful orange light next to the dark hopelessness of NBA team owners who have no heart. Hook ‘em for life.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Wild Speculation and Outlandish Guesses: Who's Best Edition

Chris Broussard reported that, in December, the Warriors turned down a Rondo for Curry swap. Putting aside their contracts, who would you rather have for the next five years?

I know I never played above the 4th grade YMCA level, but DAMN Rondo's jumper is ugly.
Alex Maki: The Celtics have got to be one of the dumbest organizations in the land right now. The line-up they trot out there is ready to fall apart at the seams due to age. In fact, most of the team cannot even trot at this point. They literally limp out of the locker room. Rajon Rondo is about the only piece with brighter days ahead. But, he is a great one. One of the top six point guards in the league, and definitely a better find than Curry. Sure, Rondo is not as good of a shooter as Curry, but he is better in practically ever other facet of the game. And Curry has scary lingering injury issues.

Andrew Snyder: Woah woah woah. Quit this hating on the Celtics -- I'm still predicting a 1998-99 lockout season NY Knicks style run from them in the playoffs, led by Rondo messing around and getting more triple doubles. Steph's a nice player, but Rajon's the pick.

Jacob Greenberg: Rondo. No brainer. 18 points, 17 rebounds, 20 assists. Are you kidding me? And since "my team" is the Golden State Warriors, I'm pretty appalled we didn't jump on that deal. We never get stars. Ever. Let's make Rondo our guy.

Luke Hasskamp: Rondo. Easy question. Although his free throw shooting is ludicrous (he's marginally better than Dwight Howard), and he seems to do something really dumb every so often, Rondo has the ability to take over a game. We've seen it time and again. At times, he can be huge. Plus, he's already won a championship, so he knows how to do it.

Long Bui: Rondo, a star?! I mean, he is, and rightly so, but his attitude or something about him keeps fans (and his team?) from completely embracing him so I'm tempted to say Steph. You could posit that Curry would generate more revenue than Rondo and make you more attractive to future free agents, and it'd be hard to argue against. But then again, if you're into winning the ship, with apologies to Steph, ship his ass out.

Jason Arends: Would I rather have the great shooter who's good at everything else or the guy who is great at everything but shooting? I think I would take Rondo, by just a hair. His poor jump shooting is oft mentioned and it is a little frustrating to watch defenders dare him to pull the trigger, but his defense, play-making, scowling, and durability all seem a bit better than Curry's. I suppose it ultimately depends who surrounds them. If my team had solid shooters and finishers, I'd take Rondo. If my team lacked competent shooters, then Curry would probably help more.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Jeremy Lin Nickname Bracketology: Championship Matchup

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - What's that you say, you've heard whispers of real Bracketology lately? Smacketology? Nonsense. Just because you saw Joe Lunardi on SportsCenter yesterday discussing the "Last Four [L]In" doesn't give you any right to ignore the hottest show in the French Quarter -- I speak, of course, of the Diss'es Jeremy Lin Nickname Bracket. You don't even need to be a hoity-toity ESPN [L]Insider (or a Wire fan) to appreciate our bracketology. Here at The Diss, we don't hide our content behind a pay wall... although if you're interested in paying for our content, by all means please leave a missive and your credit card and/or bank account number in the comments. We promise not to sell your information to third parties!
March Madness! Brought to you by Microsoft Paint!

Okay, okay - on to the championship matchup. Both finalist Lin monikers are here for a reason our "millennial" staff somehow failed to predict: good old 1990's nostalgia. Third seeded Super Lintendo out of the Asian Stereotypes Region blew out staff favorite Lindustrial Revolution, proving for once and all that video games are more popular than the black lung

The synergy among the Diss'es bracket voters is frightening

On the left Linderella side of the bracket,  Jeremy finally met its match, and simply couldn't stop "The Big Four." Leo, Raph, Mikey, and Donny came out on top and sent 6-seed Linja Turtle through to the 'ship. The early money line has Super Lintendo at -250, but reportedly Cousin Sal and Bill Barnwell are recommending putting Linja Turtle in a three-team tease with Mitt Romney to win Super Tuesday and Jamal Crawford to be traded to the Timberwolves.  

Click for a larger bracket
The beauty of this Jeremy Lin Nickname Bracket is that it's up to you! Vote with just one click below, and we'll bring you the results before the real bracketology starts on Selection Sunday. 

One final note. Jeremy Lin was born in 1988. I was born in 1988. I'm pretty sure this makes me the foremost expert on 1990's pop-culture reference Jeremy Lin nicknames, and I'm picking Linja Turtle for the upset win. This may or may not have anything to do with the fact I spent hours playing with Donatello's battle bike alone in my room because my parents wouldn't buy me a Super Nintendo. That rumor is unconfirmed by my sources at this time.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Games Of The Week: March 5-11, 2012.

Trade deadline approaches!  Dwight Howard for Andris Biedrins anyone?  Anyone?

Games of the week.  Seven of 'em.  Let's get to it.

Monday: Indiana Pacers at Chicago Bulls (5:00 PM PST)

Just how good are these Pacers?  Larry Bird has built a wonderful team with a very high ceiling.  They play top ten defense (91.9 points allowed), and still beat their opponents by six points per game.  Roy Hibbert looks very much like an All Star big man, and David West, Danny Granger, Paul George and Darren Collison are all solid -- and occasionally spectacular -- players.  At 23-12, they're third in the East, and figure to stay there as long as the Sixers continue to struggle.  The playoffs out East seem very two-horse-racey between the Heat and the Bulls, but the Pacers should take one or two games against either of those teams in the second round.  And after the playoffs?  They'll have the cap space to sign one more impact player, and seemingly have their sights set on hometown hero Eric Gordon.  Let's see where this team goes.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sunday Discussion: An Interview with Adam Smith, Sacramento Resident and Expert on One-Sport Towns.

Editor's Note: In this edition of the Sunday Discussion, we probe the mind of famous non-economist Adam Smith.  Though Adam, as a native Wisconsinite, is more of a fan of professional football than basketball, his academic research and professional work in urban planning and development enable him to discuss the arena deal that will keep the struggling Kings in California's capitol city.  Adam is a project coordinator at an environmental and planning consulting firm, and lives with his fiance in Sacramento.  We hope you enjoy his perspectives on one-sport cities, the importance of quality ownership, and the lessons the city of Sacramento, and the Kings could learn from a city like Green Bay and their Packers.  Let's get to it.


Adam, my friend, I've known you mostly as a Green Bay Packers fan.  Do you have any love for the NBA in your heart?  The Milwaukee Bucks, maybe?

You know, I haven't had too much experience with the NBA.  I don't know, I'd watch Bucks games every so often while growing up.  I don't know if it was just that the team was never really doing anything that spectacular, but I was growing up in the golden era of Brett Favre, and the Super Bowl championships in 1996 and 1997.

So football was dominating.

Yeah.  And it's still that way.  So yeah, I haven't been too much of an NBA fan, despite a few efforts to get into it.

Sure.  I mean, you've had some decent Bucks teams.  In 2001, I think, that Bucks team got a game away from the NBA finals.  But was it just that the Packers were good, or that Wisconsin is more of a football state, with both the Packers and the Badgers?

You know, I think it is more that Wisconsin is a football state.  Certainly in Milwaukee there are die-hard Bucks fans but in terms of the state more may be the tradition the Packers have there, or demographics, or the average quality of the Bucks teams over the year.


I remember there being a lot of excitement around the "Big Three" of Glenn "Big Dog" Robinson, Ray Allen and Sam Cassell.  I know they made the playoffs a few times.  I don't remember being particularly enthralled.

So would you say professional basketball is firmly in third place behind the Pack and the Brewers?

I that's fair to say.  The Brewers have a surprising following.  And I have never really been a huge baseball fan.  They're pretty popular.

Well, they're good now.  And I feel they were always more popular than the Bucks, even when they were a bad team.

I would say they were relevant in the early and mid eighties with Robin Yount and stuff.  And then, well, not for the lion share of my lifetime.

Well now you live in Sacramento, an interesting sports town which was in danger of losing the Kings until very recently.  Did you sense a tangible feeling of anxiety in the city about losing the team?  Where did that stand until pretty recently?

You know, it's interesting, because there's definitely a sizable proportion of people in the city who are Kings fans, and who wanted them very badly to stay, and were very vocal about trying to get them to stay.  But there's as big a group of people, or maybe bigger that are tired of the Maloofs and their antics.  And it's almost a separate issue.  Regardless of their feelings on the Kings, or their feelings on professional sports, they didn't want the city to give the Maloofs one red cent to keep them there.  So, it's interesting, because I think if the ownership issues were absent, there would probably be much more consensus and much greater acceptance of the team, and much more support for any sort of public contribution to a new arena.  So it's kind of a complicated situation.

Absolutely.  So, you talked about a lot of different things there.  You talked about the civic importance of the arena, or lack thereof, and the Maloof ownership and their own financial troubles, and their status as wealthy benefactors to the city, but also individuals who have benefitted from the city, so let's parse that down a little bit.


Let's talk about the arena.  So you studied urban planning in graduate school (at the University of Wisconsin in Madison).  Do you work in urban planning now?

I do.  It's...related.  Yeah.  Related.

Nice!  You got the job related to grad school.

[Laughs] Yeah.

If we could all be so lucky.  So in any case, you studied urban planning, and work in it.  So in your view, does the arena that's going to be built in downtown Sacramento seem like a good fit for the city?

You know, I think in terms of separating it from everything else I think it would be good to have an arena.  So, where they're looking to put the thing is this area called "the Railyards," and its basically this huge area of redevelopment that for years used to be owned and used by the Union Pacific railway.  And it's a massive area; it's really sort of unprecedented in a major American city's downtown to have such a large area be vacant and developable, and so close to the central business district.  So it holds unique opportunity from an urban development standpoint.  And to the extent that an arena could act as a sort of anchor for redeveloping that area, I think it could be beneficial, and certainly from an urban planning theory and standpoint, it's far preferable to have an arena in a denser downtown area, than an arena like Arco, which is a ways away from the downtown area.

Arco is located, what, 25 miles away?

Not that far, but it's an appreciable distance from downtown Sacramento.  Now, you'll have some people who say that, well, an arena, and in particular, with football stadiums, because they're larger, and they only host like ten events per year, you'll have people say that that's not a great use of urban space, because you're taking up all this room for something that's only used like ten times a year.  It's different with a basketball arena since it's not taking up as much room, and there's more days that it'll be hosting events, and it can also do stuff like concerts and other things aren't sports-related.  And, as nice as it is to have the Railyards, and the potential for a lot of development in the downtown area of Sacramento, you need not just good planning, you need a market.  And the Sacramento region is one of the hardest hit metropolitan areas from the housing downturn.  It's still floundering in those terms.  I wouldn't say it's a strong development market.


If the arena can change that, that's fine, but I think the biggest point is that people should really be upset that they're going to build an arena on this land, when instead, there could be 40-story apartment buildings or condos.  I don't see that type of development getting financing, or being successful in Sacramento right now.  So any sort of development they can get is a good thing.

Well the biggest "plus" in terms of the arena, and this is related to financing, is that no public funds are being used.  The Maloofs are putting up a huge up-front share ($70 million) and the city is leasing out parking garages to existing businesses and corporations in the area, which over time will raise $250 million of revenue to pay off the rest of the arena.  That has to be a good thing, right?  This sounds like something that will provide development opportunities for that downtown area at no cost to the taxpayers.

Yeah...I'd say that's mostly true.  I think what that overlooks is that the revenue that city will gain, and could gain, by leasing out operations of the parking structures is in fact at least potentially public revenue, even if it's not public revenue right now.  So in the sense that its not coming out of the existing general fund for the city, that's true, they're not using the city's money.  But the city is making arrangements to increase their revenue, and they're choosing to spend it on an arena, and I think...well, let's put it this way: there are other needs.  There are many other needs in Sacramento when it comes to funding public programs.

Well, that's a great segway to our next question: what does this arena say about the priorities of the city of Sacramento?  I mean, Mayor KJ (Kevin Johnson), former NBA player, worked tirelessly to get this arena deal done, and his efforts paid off.  But could he have spent his energy on different things besides keeping a money-losing operation like the Kings in town, or bailing out the Maloofs, or really, showing the city's hand when it comes to generating revenue?  Especially when all that revenue is going to go to paying this new arena off?

Yeah.  That's a great question.  I don't know if there's an easy answer.  It's certainly true that there are other priorities.  The city had to layoff police officers last fall, and since then, have hired them back, but it certainly indicates that there are other needs.  That said, something like leasing out parking operations with the understanding that parking fees will go up once they're operated by a private firm is not something that normal Sacramento residents, or city council members would support if it wasn't being earmarked for something that was somewhat flashy or sexy.  I'm not sure you would have the support to do that if the cause was for, say, not closing down a school to save money.  I don't know.  Maybe you could.

Well, let's present a hypothetical.  Say this arena deal had failed, yet, more time was bought by KJ to put forth a last-ditch referendum, that would propose that taxpayers commit public dollars to fund a new arena.  Would that referendum pass?

That's a really good question.  I don't think it would.  At least, not if it was phrased that way.  I don't think it would pass if people thought about it in terms of tax money, or in terms of dollars that could go towards something else, or fewer dollars that they'd have to pay in terms of taxes.  The fact that the arena is being sold as a sort of, "well, it's not really a use of public money, it's not really a tax increase.  We're just privatizing parking operations."  Yeah, on the face, most of that's true, but again, the most important question folks would want to ask themselves, and if it was voiced in a referendum, it probably wouldn't be supported, but they want to ask: "should we use this extra $250 million to help a private entity build an arena with no guarantee that they'll be here in five or ten years, or should we do things like pay off other lease agreements?"

There is a twenty-five year lease agreement, so at a minimum, the Kings will be around until 2037.

Whether we want them or not [laughs].

So what is the narrative of this story?  Is this an emotional victory for the fans, whose outpouring of grief over the team's potential move to Anaheim became a major symbol?  Or is it a story of civic maneuvering at the city government level, where well connected people like Kevin Johnson, who already has a close relationship with David Stern, and guys like the Maloofs, who were kind of the golden sons in terms of NBA ownership, even though by all accounts, they've been financial fuckups for awhile?

[Laughs] Well, I think the overarching narrative that I see coming from this is that something is going right for the city, that something is going right for Sacramento, which regardless of my feelings on the issue, or the related issues, there's kind of this symbolic importance for the city to say, you know, "yes, lots of things have not gone right over the last four or five years, but..."

"But, goddammit, we're not going to lose our team."

Exactly.  "We're staying on the map."  At least, in terms of hosting a professional sports team.  And I think that has symbolic importance for a team that is sort of unsure of what it is, or what it wants to be, and is on uncertain economic footing.  So all things considered, it's a shot in the arm, if only kind of a symbolic one.

Well, another city that has just one professional team that has huge symbolic importance not just for the sport, but for the city and the people in the city is the Green Bay Packers.


So what can a city like Sacramento, which has just one team that is losing both games and money, learn from Green Bay, whose team not only wins, and wins big, but also is valuable.  It's worth $1.01 billion, according to Forbes.  

Well, yeah.  It's tough because it's like comparing apples to small toy boats, in some ways.  It's not even another fruit.  It's a completely different thing.

[Laughs] Right.

I mean, I guess it starts with ownership, which isn't anything that you can learn.  Whereas in this case, there's a contentious relationship between owners and the city, and fans, in Green Bay's case, the ownership is the city, is the fans, in a lot of ways.  So issues of profit, and issues of who's going to pay for facility upgrades, are always going to be second in priority to the success of the team itself, and what the team is going to stand for.


So that makes a huge difference.  I'd say the other thing [that Sacramento could learn] would I guess be about the team, and the team's relationship to the city's identity.  In the Packer's case, no one on a national level, would associate Green Bay to anything besides the Packers.  But Sacramento, for a lot of people at least, is the capital of California, and for good reason.  That's its most consistently important contribution to national discourse.

Agreed.  Especially as a born-and-raised Californian.

So to the extent that the Kings can embody, in the way that they're managed, and the way that they play, the spirit of the city, and the identity of the city, I think the more fans they'll gain, and arguably, the more successful they'll be.

That's an awesome way to put it.  Well, last question: do you watch the Kings now?  Will you?  Maybe even go to a few games?

Well, I would've gone to Kings games before, but haven't gotten around to it.  I would certainly be interested to see a game at Power Balance Pavilion, so a few years down the road, we could compare it to the new place.  But there are never games on network TV.  And I didn't have cable growing up, but a local channel would have Bucks games on.  And here, unless you have cable, or listen to the radio, you aren't going to see games.  There, at least you'd get some sort of exposure to the team.

Same thing in the Bay growing up with the Warriors.  First it was on KOFY 20 (later the WB), but then went to Fox Sports Net, or whatever, in 1999 or 2000.

Right, and before all of this, I probably would've watched more, if I could.

Right.  It's more than a question of the market, it's about the way we consume games in general.  It's a much more specific, wealthy audience.

Sure.  It's an access issue, just like anything else.  I don't know if it's a league-wide thing.  And for those who never grew up in houses that were big into the NBA, they lost the opportunity for people to be flipping channels, say, "oh, there's nothing else on, I'll just watch 'Local NBA Team X'", and someday become a big fan.

Yeah.  True.  Adam, thanks.  That was fun.

Yeah, sure, anytime.