Thursday, May 31, 2012

Conspiracy Weary.

Mere seconds after the New Orleans Hornets won the NBA Draft Lottery -- and, of course, the right to select presumptive franchise fortune-changer Anthony Davis with the number one pick -- my Facebook mini-feed came alive with accusations of conspiracy.  Joe Bernardo and John Reyes-Nguyen, dedicated Diss-cussants and lifelong Lakers fans, began to grumble about the outcome of the lottery.  "Sternball at its finest!"  Bernardo exclaimed.  Reyes-Nguyen agreed, and added his opinions.  "I believe Bill Simmons' suggestion that Stern offered the No. 1 pick to [new Hornets owner Tom] Benson to entice him to buy.  Stern has hit a new low.  I might not watch the NBA ever again."  But he quickly added, "I changed my mind, I'm watching again."  Good to know.

I have no interest in leveling accusations of tomfoolery at David Stern, or anyone else in the NBA's headquarters.  I've made my peace with Boss Stern, the gatekeeper of the NBA.  My anger at Stern, and all members of the NBA's brass, burned brightest during the 2011 Lockout, and has waned considerably since then.  That fight is over, and we are winding down one of the more entertaining NBA seasons in recent memory.  David Stern was the roadblock that nearly prevented the season from happening in the first place, but also the key that finally unlocked labor peace and allowed for 66 games of basketball to occur.  I'm not ready to invite him to my wedding or anything, but I'm also not particularly compelled to put a slab of pork in his matzo ball soup. No one will ever prove (or disprove) any of the accusations that Bill Simmons throws out there to stay at the top of the pile. My fight isn't with him.

However, I do feel like I need to stand up for the New Orleans Hornets, who now are seeing perhaps the greatest day in their franchise's history marred by accusations of a league-orchestrated conspiracy.  The suspicions aren't surprising.  Yes, the Hornets were owned by the league (not David Stern; he is not the owner of the NBA, simply its commissioner) for about two years after the franchise failed to find a majority owner to take over George Shinn's majority stake in the team.  Yes, the Hornets lost their star player, Chris Paul, who was going to follow in the footsteps of LeBron James and Chris Bosh, and leave the team that drafted him with nothing in return.  Yes, Stern played a key role in Paul's departure when he nixed a potential trade with the Lakers and instead approved a trade with the Clippers.  And yes, Stern just worked overtime to complete a sale of the team to Tom Benson, the sole owner of the Saints, for a sum that was surprisingly close to the original asking price.  David Stern's finger prints are all over the Hornets. But rest assured: no team deserved to win the lottery more than the New Orleans Hornets.

This franchise fulfilled all the requirements for a team that should benefit from a number one pick in the draft.  No baseless accusation of conspiracy changes that very simple fact.  They were bad this year. 21-45. The worst in the Western Conference.  They have a roster in transition, with Chris Kaman and Eric Gordon, the team's best two players, both facing free agency in a matter of weeks.  They are a small market team with a new owner who seems ready and willing to spend the money necessary to build a contender.  They have a great coach in Monty Williams, and a highly-regarded general manager in Dell Demps.  And most importantly: they didn't tank.  They didn't do what the Bobcats, Warriors, Pistons or Nets did to try and get Anthony Davis.  No way.  They played hard every night, and as a result, developed gritty players who would round out a very solid team now, or at the very least, become valuable assets for transactions in the future.  Gustavo Ayon, Jarrett Jack, Grevis Vasquez, and Trevor Ariza would look great next to Eric Gordon (provided he resigns), Chris Kaman (provided he resigns, too) and Anthony Davis (provided he plays the four).  This is a team worthy of praise, not suspicion.

David Stern once called the draft "the rite of spring", and I am inclined to agree.  The Hornets getting Anthony Davis is cause for celebration, not distrust.  Tonight -- unless evidence ever emerges to the contrary, and it won't -- the best team won.  So get over it, Joe.  You too, John.

And better luck next year, Michael.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wild Speculation & Outlandish Guesses: A New Hope Edition.

It's Wednesday, which all ardent Diss. readers can tell you is the day for Wild Speculation & Outlandish Guesses! The Diss-cussants got sidetracked this morning by a conspiracy theory that says that the lottery is rigged and the Cavs got the number one pick. We don't actually believe it...unless it happens, in which case we broke the story!

But onto the draft lottery or, as Warriors fans know it as: Christmas! You see, when your team is terrible, you trade in what Michael Rapaport called the "single greatest commodity known to man: hope." Hope that you will inexplicably get the number one pick, and will subsequently draft...Fred Hetzel? Joe Barry Carroll? Joe Smith? Sigh.

Should the NBA have a lottery, or just award the top pick to the worst team?

Jairo Martinez: There should be a mechanism in place to deter teams from flat out tanking. The worst team does usually get a Top 3 pick.

Jacob Greenberg: Yes, the NBA should have a lottery, for reasons I wrote about in an earlier WSOG. Simply awarding the top pick to a team that has a terrible statistical season just asks for bad behavior. A lottery keeps everyone honest, but allows for some handicaps for bad teams. Plus, it keeps things exciting. Again, I don't really have a problem with tanking. It is a tool a front office can use to ensure better draft picks (or at the very least better statistical chances at a better draft pick), with the understanding that (1) it guarantees nothing, and (2) it carries the risk of damaging your relationship with your fan base. Keep in mind: the only reason the Warriors have a 72% chance of keeping their pick is by tanking.

John Reyes-Nguyen: The NBA should have a lottery. I think it's a pretty interesting way of getting a top pick. The worst team getting the number one pick doesn't make them that much better the next year. But when a team that barely misses the playoffs gets a number one, two, or three pick, it could turn that franchise around for the next 10 years.

Andrew Snyder: Franklin, you know there's other teams in the lottery this year besides the Warriors right? Yes, I realize that doesn't answer the question, lets move on.

Franklin Mieuli: IF some sort of solution to tanking can be agreed upon, I think the worst team should get the top pick. I mean, are you really going to argue that the Bobcats shouldn't get Anthony Davis (besides the fact that they will probably ruin him)?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Gripe Juice.

This week, I've been a bit grumpy while watching playoffs.  It had nothing to do with the on-court product (though the Pacers-Heat series did end rather anti-climatically and I'm not really excited about a "LeBron versus the Celtics" storyline for a third postseason in a row).  Instead, it had everything to do with the superfluous crap that comes with watching the playoffs, especially if you don't have cable.  I've been bombarded with commercials for shows I will never watch, shoes I will never afford, ad campaigns I will never understand, and other ridiculous oddities that could only be thought of in our heavy-haunched country.

So while I'm angry I have to watch LeBron carve up the Celtics yet again, I'm more angry that I gotta deal with this crap.  Join me for a tall, chilly glass of Gripe Juice.

1.  A "Big" Failure of an Ad Campaign.

In my opinion, the NBA, historically, has had the best ad campaigns, at least in comparison to the other major sports leagues in America.  Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that NBA athletes, moreso than their counterparts in the National Football League and Major League Baseball, are recognizable by face, and play the most aesthetically pleasing game to the casual eye.  But in most cases, the NBA's ad campaigns, which use dramatic buildup and have almost a cinematic quality to them, have been a resounding success.

The famous 2007 "Where Amazing Happens" commercial was the prototypical ad campaign, and most other NBA campaigns have been a variant of that successful model.  "Where Amazing Happens," which utilized Carly Commando's iconic "Everyday" piano score, launched a number of successful adversisements for the NBA which, for the most part, created an atmosphere that balanced the beauty of the game with the drama of the performance.  Rarely ever does a commercial actually reflect the nature of a given product, but I assert that "Where Amazing Happens" actually did present the NBA as it exists for enthusiastic fans -- the place where the greatest athletes in the world do things that none of us can even approach.

Since then, however, the ad campaigns have not had the same magic that "Where Amazing Happens" did. Most have actually riffed off the "Amazing" theme -- brilliant crossovers and mesmerizing dunks, done in really slow motion, with a grandiose music theme in the background.  But this season, the NBA unveiled the "BIG" campaign.  And since then, everything's gone downhill.

It really isn't that "BIG" is a terrible idea.  It's just that in the seven months since the campaign started, we still don't know what "BIG" refers to.  At the start of the season, "BIG" just seemed to be new name for the oversized head guys, which had been the (underwhelming) focus of the 2010-2011 ad campaign.  But then, mercifully, the heads died, and were replaced by these commercials.  You've certainly seen them  --  lots of words flashing on a screen with music playing in the background, talking melodramatically about a certain aspect of a team, until the word "BIG" appears at the end.  Some have been good, but most have been forgettable.  And as far as I know, these commercials are the coup de gras of the "BIG" campaign.

Seriously, it's driving me nuts.  What is "BIG"?  Is it referring to the length of the season?  Can't be; the season was 16 games shorter than usual because the millionaires and billionaires couldn't work their shit out in time over the summer.  Is it the players?  Maybe, but what's the point in talking about their height?  Is it their salaries?  Perhaps, but that's not really a smart thing to talk about.  Is it Adam Silver's ears?  That's not very nice.  So just tell me: what is so "BIG"?!

No more "BIG" commercials until you explain what the hell is so "BIG" right now.  I mean it.  This is dumb.

2.  You're Dead To Me, Danny Masterson.

Each year in the playoffs, there is one commercial that is designed specifically for the demographic the NBA is hungriest for -- the 18-to-32 cohort.  As a member of this cohort, I can easily spot this thinly veiled plea for my hard earned dollars.  Two years ago, the NBA, ESPN and KFC implored me to give the Double Down a try.  As the guy in the commercial exclaimed excitedly as the fried chicken bread burned greasily in his hands, "somebody was listening!"  Listening to what?  The palpitations in their heart?  Point is you can't get much past me these days, nor can anything designed for the infamous 18-to-32 demographic really impress me.

So what chance did TNT (and their sister station TBS) think they'd have when they rolled out "Men at Work"?  In this new comedy from TNT, Danny Masterson and three other dudes are just some single bros, trying to score some hot chicks in spite of the fact that blah blah blah blah blah BLAH.  Come for the laugh track, stay for the PG-rated sexual innuendo.  You, too, will wonder where the strangest place you made whoopee in your entire life was.

NBA, TNT, anyone listening, really -- here's a list of things that do not impress the 18-to-32 demographic:

1.  Danny Masterson.
2.  Shows on TBS.
3.  Shows that depict men failing in the same way that they fail on the regular.  We watch TV to escape our lives, not watch people richer than us do bad impressions of it.

And the only thing that makes me more angry than being forced to see what I'm not going to watch...  

3.  Blistering Blue Barnacles! seeing what I can't buy do strange things in front of my eyes.

Those who watch the NBA on the internet -- either through ESPN3, TNT Overtime, or even the illegal streams that, I wager, most NBA enthusiasts view games through -- know that commercials are tricky business.  There are ad spots during game breaks, but it tends to be the same commercials over and over.  When you watch something enough times, strange things happen.

This year, the commercial being repeated ad nauseum is this commercial for some Adidas shoes.  The commercial itself is pretty standard fare: shoes floating through the sky while some electronic beat plays mindlessly in the background.  The shoes themselves are different colors -- pretty ones, at that.  The entire affair reminds one of a Skittles commercial from back in the day, or maybe one of the old iMac commercials from the late 1990s.

But then, you really start to watch this stuff, and things get weird.  After I had seen this commercial for the fourth time in a row (and probably, for the hundredth time since the game started) the shoes had become barnacles, hanging strangely from uneven surfaces, gathering algae around them to eat.  Before too long, they were those asshole aliens from Half-Life.  You know, the ones that latch onto you, drag you up, suck your brains and eat your body before spitting your bones and tendons out onto the floor.

What, didn't play Half-Life?  Your loss.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Series of the Week: San Antonio Spurs (1) versus Oklahoma City Thunder (2).

Some analysts have erroneously billed the Western Conference Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder as "Wisdom versus Athleticism."  This statement could not be further from the truth, given the way these two teams have played in the lead-up to this potentially epic series.

The San Antonio Spurs are wise sages who have vastly improved their athleticism.  In most peoples' minds, the Spurs remain are defensively-minded club, with an offense based on Tim Duncan's post game.  This, of course, is the role they maintained for a decade, and the system which netted the team four championships in a seven year span.  As such, they have unfairly maintained a reputation as "boring" and "old."  Yet, this weekend, folks who haven't watched much Spurs basketball this season were introduced to the 2012 Spurs, who have fully transitioned to an offense built around point guard Tony Parker, and the high pick-and-roll early in the shot clock. The Spurs offense, which was fourth in the league in total assists during the regular season and first overall in offensive rating, looks nearly unstoppable. No Spur holds onto the ball for more than three or four seconds; the ball swings around the key, traveling through moving parts faster than the Thunder could adjust.  Manu Ginobili, in particular, threw the Thunder's defensive game plan asunder, as neither Harden, nor big men Kendrick Perkins (or Serge Ibaka, who sat for most of the second half) could figure out how to prevent Ginobili from getting to the hoop for a few signature finishes.  In general, the Spurs outscored the Thunder in the paint 50-26 -- staggering considering that the Thunder are among the league leader's in points allowed in the paint.  As a team, the Spurs hung 101 points on the Thunder, who up to that point in the playoffs had allowed 100 points just once (in a win against the Lakers, no less).  If this is wisdom, it is wisdom with afterburners.  

Meanwhile, the Oklahoma City Thunder, type-casted as galloping stallions that focus solely on individual offensive brilliance, have shown themselves to be athletes that are becoming wiser by the day.  Indeed, the Thunder won most of their games during the regular season with an offense that focused on un-assisted pick-and-roll or isolation plays in the high post.  As John Schuhmann points out in this excellent late-season analysis, the Thunder's lack of assists doesn't necessarily mean they're playing selfishly.  Rather, they simply possess players that can create their own shot in completely different ways, and in the playoffs they've relied on that model more than ever.  But yesterday's game showed that they've learned a thing or two on defense, as well.  The Thunder's wing players used their long arms and quick hands to fluster the Spurs ball handlers.  They forced the Spurs into committing 14 first half turnovers alone -- an impressive statistic considering that the Spurs had, at their playoff worst, committed 18 turnovers for the entire game.  Furthermore, the Spurs were held to about 29% shooting in the third quarter, which was, by far, their worst shooting quarter of the playoffs.  It was that defensive stand, coupled with the Thunder's crippling three-pronged attack of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and (to a lesser degree, at least in this game) James Harden, that prompted Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to gather his team for a huddle that will likely be portrayed as a watershed moment for these unflappable Spurs; when he pleaded for them to give him a bit of "nasty", and reminded them that the playoffs "[weren't] supposed to be easy." It was the Thunder that popped the Spurs in the nose, that finally woke up a dozing giant that had been hitting the "snooze" button for eight straight games.

This is a series where we, as NBA enthusiasts, can actually pick our poison, and see if it kills faster than the other.  Both teams, cut from the same cloth in terms of management, have fortified themselves around systems that seem poised to produce wins for the foreseeable future.  Moreover, these are systems that aren't going anywhere anytime soon.  From 2008 to 2012, the Spurs have somehow rebuilt while winning 55 games a season.  Duncan and Ginobili are advanced in age, but Popovich has made rest and recovery the primary focus of his organization, and Parker, along with Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Tiago Splitter, Gary Neal, and even fat ol' Boris Diaw, have mastered the system to the point where they truly represent interchangeable parts in a machine whose owners will pay to ensure that it remains properly tuned up.  The Thunder, on the other hand, have signed Durant and Westbrook for the longterm, and presumably will lock up Harden as well.  The Thunder's low-assist but fast-paced offense will not be slowing down anytime soon.  At 24.3 years, the Thunder are the league's second youngest team.  Indeed, barring a balance-shifting transaction (Dwight to the Lakers?), we may be looking at the West's next great rivalry over the next six or seven seasons.  These are teams -- systems, really -- that we will be getting very, very familiar with.

Rejoice: this is a series that is wide open.  Hell, this is a future that is wide open.  We are lucky to be witnesses to professional basketball in its ideal form: unselfish, hard-nosed, and diverse in both its theory and execution.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Is Scott Brooks a Good Coach?

Kevin Durant did not have a great game tonight, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at the box score. 27 points, 10 rebounds, and a handful of blocks, assists and steals is a pretty good line. But in the fourth quarter Durant went 0-2 (though he did hit six free throws) as San Antonio took control of the game. Durant was taken out of his comfort zone by Stephen Jackson, who harassed Durant above the three-point line and fought extremely hard through screens. On the occasions where Jackson was beat, he was able to effectively funnel Durant to his help defense.

Though it was a different defensive tactic, it reminded me a lot of the LeBron James v. Carmelo Anthony matchup from the first round of the playoffs. For a lot of that series, especially in the beginning, the Heat fronted Carmelo Anthony, forcing the Knicks to waste ten seconds off the shot clock trying to make an entry pass. I criticized Mike Woodson for his inability to counter this relatively simple defensive tactic. The Knicks didn’t really try running Anthony off ball screens, using him as the primary ball handler, using him as the five in a small ball lineup, or anything else that could potentially free him up. I want to go on the record right now that I think the Mike Woodson era is going to be a disaster.

Which brings me back to my question: is Scott Brooks a good coach? On the face of it, this is an absurd question. He won the coach of the year award in 2009-10 and has led the Thunder to a better winning percentage every year he has been in charge, as well as back-to-back Conference Finals. But I’m still not sure if he is a great coach.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Short Poem About Game Seven.

"Game Seven" spells finality and closure
Indicates drama and gravitas
Elimination!  Legacy-definition.
Must see TV.  History happens now.

"Game Seven" spells deception and banality
Two teams slugging it out on the medium stage
Fox Sports Net quality ball on ABC
Thirty-nine percent shooting in a deceptively close game.

"Game Seven" spells decisions and conundrums.
Do I follow things that fail to pique?
Do I really care about geriatrics and unknowns?
Do I really want to waste another beautiful day?

"Game Seven" says: "look outside your window."
Feel the serotonin course through thawing veins
Too often do you hear the squeaks of Nikes shoes
Broadcasted through meek laptop speakers.

"Game Seven" says: apologize to Bill Russell
Hit up Billy Cunningham and Dr. J as well
Hondo, Rondo, The Truth and Jrue
Just tell them you're not going to make it.

"Game Seven" presents a decision.
And my decision is made.
Today will be for barbecues and abandoned friends.
I accept that I may miss history today. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Good Tidings on Blackout Day.

Today is a significant day in the NBA.  It is Blackout Day.

What is Blackout Day?  Why, it's the first day of the NBA season when there are no games scheduled, yet rumors and transactions continue amongst the league's front offices.  Yes, true, there are a few days off during the All-Star Break, as well as a few days in between the end of the regular season and the beginning of the postseason where no games are played.  But today is a distinctly different type of down day.  You see, every day after this, there will be less basketball.  Games will occur less frequently -- there will be no more playoff doubleheaders, and now we will see no more than one game per day.  In a few days, we will only see a game every other day.  After that, perhaps a game every two days. And then, after that, there will be no more basketball until the week of Halloween (unless you count the NBA's summer leagues).

Blackout Day's greatest significance on the NBA calendar rests in its singular message that winter is coming.  In many ways, it forecasts the dog days of the NBA offseason, when the courts are dark and silent, and the biggest news in the NBA is that Quincy Douby is getting an invite to the Sacramento King's summer league team.  It projects the long days of August, when summer leagues are over, and NBA front offices busy themselves with the work that doesn't appear on ESPN's news wire.  The hiring and firing of scouting staffs.  The subtle restructuring of contracts and the crunching of salary cap numbers.  General managers looking over the free agent pool for the umpteenth time, wondering if they really want to guarantee some dollars to have Earl Boykins, Cartier Martin or Salim Stoudamire fill out a training camp roster.  This is a dark day for most casual NBA fans -- the realization that the fun is almost over, and a long, dark NBA winter sits ominously on the horizon.

The offseason is a bizarre time of year for a NBA fans of all makes and models.  Though people may like a different team, a different style of play, a different conference, or whatever, we are all unified by our enjoyment of watching the players play.  It is the game, after all, that causes us to watch TV, locate illegal streams, and consume NBA knowledge on the internet (such as this humble little blog).  It's a pretty simple thing, really.  Two teams play each other, and an infinite number of outcomes are produced.  One team wins, the other loses, but anyone can get injured, anyone can score 30, anyone can haul of and deck another dude in the face.  We can hash out the correlations and causations from any number of events that occurred in the game, but the most important thing is that a game was played, and we were able to watch the pieces of this wildly intricate machine operate.   Whether they operated correctly or not is the most interesting thing to discuss -- and discuss it, we do.

But during the offseason, when the games are taken away from us, we are left with a dream machine that we can't really drive.  There are no players on the court, no way to prove or disprove theories.  Players become real human beings; they concentrate on other interests and projects, spend time with their families, and do everything they can to escape the spotlight a little bit.  The focus turns to the executives -- largely faceless former players and front office yes-men who are proficient at the buying and selling of assets, and who (purportedly) understand what it takes for a team to succeed.  For some of us, these individuals are just as interesting (if not more so) than the players, because it is they who create the new structures that the players will operate in, and write (or rewrite) the codes of conduct that will lead to success.  If the regular season (and postseason, for that matter) is the time to watch your dream machine fly around the track, the offseason is the time to get under the hood and really get to know and understand what actually makes your team run in the first place.  It is the time to study and prepare, rather than observe and analyze.

Blackout Day allows NBA fans to test drive their offseason routines.  So on this day, I encourage you to try out yours.  Today is the day you can watch hockey (yuck), baseball (double yuck) or soccer (doubly double yuck) without feeling guilty that you're missing a playoff game that you don't really have any interest in seeing (I can't believe I have to care about the Sixers-Celtics series still).  Perhaps you want to watch something different on television altogether (I haven't watched TV that wasn't basketball-related in quite some time, so I'll leave it to you to pick a program to view).  Hell, maybe you want to leave your house altogether, and interact with people who aren't professional athletes and/or handsomely paid analysts that live inside your television.  All of these are acceptable activities to participate in on Blackout Day.

But before you do something irrational, like separate yourself from the NBA while its not actively being played and discussed in any real or meaningful way, perhaps you want to try out rabid fanhood this offseason.  This offseason, we can simply look forward to the fact that there will be an offseason in the first place.  Last summer we were all locked out, but now we got some really intriguing stuff to look forward to.  The draft lottery is next week, and the draft takes place about two weeks after the conclusion of the NBA finals.  Draft day also marks the beginning of Summer Trade Season, where we can expect to see some big names, such as Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and perhaps even Steve Nash, find new homes.  NBA free agency opens shortly after that, where over the course of a few months, a group of talented, if not overly celebrated players will help a number teams get over the hump (or damage the job securities of misguided general managers and hapless coaches).  And then, after that, the creme de la creme of offseason NBA ephemera: the 2012 London Olympics.  The 2008 Olympics marked the beginning of the Superteam era, so we'll see what happens this year with a new crop of players.  These are exciting times, to say the least -- if for no other reason than they will end, and we are guaranteed a season in 2012-2013.  This, of course, was a luxury that was anything but assured last summer.

So there's little to fear.  This is the normal passing of the season into the offseason.  Good tidings on Blackout Day.  Prepare thineselves for a dark, but manageable winter.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Fortunate Moments for Unfortunate Franchises: A Fictional Obituary for Donald Tokowitz, aka Donald T. Sterling

Thursday June 1, 2017
Los Angeles Times

Donald Sterling, real estate mogul, Los Angeles Clippers owner, and unrelenting racist passed away Monday at the age of 84. Sterling began life in Chicago, Illinois in 1933 as Donald Tokowitz, before his family moved to Los Angeles when he was two. In 1960 he graduated from law school, and began to build his fortune in real estate. Sterling bought the then-San Diego Clippers in 1981 at the ominous suggestion of LA Lakers owner Jerry Buss, and moved them to Los Angeles.

To put it lightly, controversy, usually of his own making, has followed Sterling every step of his life. He settled a lawsuit accusing him of driving black and Latino tenants out of his apartments in what Judge Dale Fisher called “one of the largest ever [settlements] obtained in this type of case.” At the time of his death he was being sued by the US Department of Justice for housing discrimination, and was alleged to have said “black tenants smell and attract vermin.” Despite a pledge in 2006 to build a $50 million homeless center, as of his death construction hadn’t even been planned, let alone started.

Sterling has shown a similar lack of judgment and empathy for human beings in his dealings with Clippers personnel. He was sued by longtime general manager Elgin Baylor, widely-regarded as one of the nicest men in the NBA, for employment discrimination. In 2004 his head coach Kim Hughes was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and Sterling refused to pay $70,000 for an out-of-network procedure. A group of former Clippers eventually paid for the procedure. It was also revealed that Sterling often heckled his own players from courtside seats.

Sterling’s success in the real estate market did not translate into a modicum of expertise in managing an NBA franchise. Before former commissioner David Stern gave all-star point guard Chris Paul to the Clippers, they had only made the playoffs four times in Sterling’s thirty years of ownership, advancing past the first round just once. Until 2008 the team’s practices were often cut short by the El Segundo Scorpion’s, a 55-and-over rec league team, because the Clippers’ “practice facility” was a local health club. When Sterling did shake his penchant for thriftiness, he displayed an utter inability to identify talent. For some inexplicable reason it took seven years for Sterling to recognize that Mike Dunleavy Sr. was a poor choice for a coach, and he similarly stuck with Vinny Del Negro for four years, leading to Chris Paul signing as a free agent with the Philadelphia 76ers. He needlessly splashed out money for Cory Maggette, Cuttino Mobley, Tim Thomas, Baron Davis, Chris Kaman, and DeAndre Jordan, with only Elton Brand and Blake Griffin coming anywhere close to justifying their big money deals.

Sterling is survived by his wife of 60 years, Shelly Stein, and three children. While initial reports state that, to the dismay of most NBA observers, ownership of the Clippers will stay within the family, there are also rumors that an ownership group headlined by Magic Johnson and the recently retired Paul Pierce are interested in purchasing the team. The Sterling family will likely be pressured to sell the team by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver who, unlike his predecessor David Stern, has seemed uncomfortable with the fact that an NBA franchise, in one of the premier NBA cities, was owned by a racist.

Outpourings of grief across the NBA have been muted, with Miami Heat owner Mickey Dolan saying “it is always sad when people pass” and Blake Griffin, who was widely assumed to be heading to his hometown Oklahoma City Thunder as a free agent, remarking “maybe there is a future for me in Los Angeles after all.”

Memorial services were originally slated to be held Saturday at the Staples Center, but the Disney on Ice: Princess Classics show refused to push back their start time, so services will be held at Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary at 2 PM.

If it was not abundantly clear, the above piece is satire, and not an actual prediction of what the future will hold, nor an intention to cause any of the above actions to occur. While The Diss. feels that Donald's Sterling's history shows him to be a horrible person, we do not actually wish death upon him, only this stupid 76ers-Celtics series.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Wild Speculation and Outlandish Guesses: Waiting Around for the East Edition

Hello 40-18-9. How you feeling about LeBron these days?

Long Bui: I pray for mercy because when Lebron wins his first championship it's all over, nobody else is going to win for a long time. Best 1-4 in the league. Maybe even the best five.

John Reyes-Nguyen: LeBron is so easy to hate on. But he's fucking good. There's no one that big, fast, and skilled. I might rub some people the wrong way, but he's the modern day Magic on the court. He's the only player who can get D. Wade traded from the Heat. That's if they don't win it all.

Joe Bernardo: People already know he's the best all around player in the league. These last two games impressed the hell out of me and he might have turned the corner. BUT there's no way he can do it by himself.

Jairo Martinez: Don't mean a thing if you don't get a ring....

Symbol Lai: That stat line tells me that Lebron wants to win in the worst way. He wants this championship so badly that he's going to throw the entire Heat team on his back, kicking and screaming, and drag them to the finals. It's admirable and I hope he gets that championship because he sure has piped down and put his nose to the grindstone this year. But, as this series with the Pacers demonstrates, the Heat are not unbeatable. In fact, without this tremendous effort from Lebron, they can actually be quite helpless.

Andrew Snyder: I'm looking forward to a possible LeBron run where he blows through all the ghosts of LeBron past, much like A Christmas Carol.

In the conference finals, he'll get a chance to vanquish the Celtics Big 3 who before last year, handled his very good Cleveland teams, and in the finals? A chance to avenge his first Finals appearance, when the Spurs dominated the Cavs for their last title. Is it going to happen? Hopefully not - I'd love to see another year of LeBron haterade before he inevitably wins at least a few rings down in Miami.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

"How far we all come. How far we all come away from ourselves. You can never go home again."

On the off chance that this post survives for ten years, it is best that I start with an explanation. In 2012, one of the many memes to sweep the Internet was the Shit Girls Say video. The video consists of a man dressed like a woman saying a bunch of “hilarious” things that girls say like “I had such a good sleep” and “listen to this e-mail.” Remember, these were the halcyon days of the Internet where anybody could become famous for no good reason and Facebook was “worth” $81 billion. This meme spawned copycat videos like Shit Indian Mother’s Say, Shit Blonde Girls Say, and Shit Nobody Says.

In 2012, just like from 1988-1995, I lived in Oakland. Unlike 1988-1995, I didn’t live with my parents and two brothers but rather my girlfriend and three other friends from college. None of them were from Oakland. One housemate in particular was fond of quoting a line from Shit Nobody Says and then laughing: “We should move to Oakland!”

You see, while I live in Oakland, I spend the majority of my time with friends from college who aren’t from the area. They have moved here to work or attend Grad School at Cal, and while I think the majority of them have come to enjoy living in Oakland, they have a very different Oakland experience then I do. They have the white, twenties, college graduate experience, which involves living in Temescal or Rockridge (neighborhoods encompassed by North Oakland and Northwest Hills in this map) and enjoying how much cheaper it is than San Francisco.

I now too have that experience, but I also have the experience of growing up in a family of five, living in a two-bedroom house in Fruitvale. I remember my dad taking me to a hardware store to meet Vida Blue, watching my older brother endlessly attempt the East Bay Funk Dunk with a mini-basketball, and trying to convince myself that it was worth getting a Chris Mullin flattop to score free Warriors tickets (what a brilliant promotion). Now, I recognize the privilege of my station in life. I had two parents who gave a damn and drove my brothers and me across Oakland every day so that we didn’t have to attend Fruitvale Elementary, and eventually attended an elite liberal arts college, surrounded by the rich and upper middle class. This is by no means a woe-is-me or look-how-I-escaped-poverty story. This is a story about my understanding and love of the city, and how it breaks my heart that the Golden State Warriors will soon be moving to San Francisco.

I am not blind to the economic realities of basketball. I understand that the Warriors play in the oldest arena in the NBA, in the most desolate part of the city. I know that free agents don’t particularly want to ply their trade in East Oakland. I too have wanted to go to a bar after the game before remembering that I am surrounded by train tracks in an industrial wasteland. I see the abysmal attendance that the A’s and Raiders get in the same location, and wonder when, not if, the fanatically loyal Warriors fans will stop coming to games.

But dammit, I’m proud of being from Oakland, and I’m proud of being a Warriors fan. They always suck, and yet the fans always return to Oracle. There are dudes that have been season ticket holders for twenty years and have only seen a measly couple playoff games. Before every season fan forums are filled with optimistic projections about how if everything breaks juuuuust right, this is going to be the Warriors year. When I step inside the arena I don’t give a shit about anything other than attempting to scream the Dubs to victory. My girlfriend has been explicitly instructed that if our house is burning down, she is to save my folder of important documents, my teddy bear, and my Golden State Warriors hockey jersey. Everything else can burn.

If you catch me on another day, I’ll probably agree that, given the long-term, this is the best move for the Warriors. But my mom brought me to the Jack London Square Barnes & Noble when I was seven, and I sat on the floor as Latrell Sprewell read a children’s book to me (and a ton of other kids) before I shyly asked him for his autograph. No matter where I go in life, my heart will always be in Oakland, and the Warriors are a big part of that.

It is gut wrenching to watch them leave me.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Series of the Week: Miami Heat (2) versus Indiana Pacers (4).

The Heat/Pacers semifinal series is more than just seven games to determine who will go to the Eastern Conference finals.  It is also a battle between the two premier teambuilding models employed by NBA front offices today: Superteam versus Draft and Develop.

The Indiana Pacers used the Draft and Develop model to build a gritty team of talented but unheralded players, and this past Friday, they took a 2-1 lead on the mighty Miami Heat in their Eastern conference semifinal series.  Their performance personified Pacers basketball.  Their talented guards, Paul George, George Hill and Darren Collison, were stroking their outside shots and bearing down on defense, rendering Mario Chalmers and -- surprisingly -- Dwayne Wade useless.  Meanwhile, Indiana's bigs were exposing Chris Bosh's absence, as well as Joel Anthony and Ronny Turiaf's inadequacies as limited offensive players.  Roy Hibbert's 19 points and 18 boards led the way, while David West outmuscled LeBron for rebounds and kept his men focused on the task at hand.  The final score told a sordid tale -- 95-74 in favor of Indiana -- and critics of the superteam raised their glasses in celebration.  Ding dong, the witches were dead.  All hail the Draft and Develop model, which produced tough, durable teams that were built to last.

But then Sunday happened, and suddenly all those "Built to Last" people were sitting on their hands, chewing their bottom lips self-consciously.  The Pacers, who in the first half of the game, looked strong enough to take a two game lead against a wounded Heat team, were reminded of what a Superteam can do when their backs are against the wall.   LeBron delivered a performance for the ages, pouring in 40 points, 18 rebounds and 9 assists.  D-Wade contributed 30 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists.  And the team that Larry Bird built could neither stop them, nor produce enough points in the second half to make the game competitive.  The Pacers shot 39% from the field, and were unable to find anyone to either slow LeBron and/or D-Wade down, or score the ball down the stretch to keep the Pacers in the game -- despite the fact that the only points that he Heat scored during the half came from LeBron, D-Wade or Udonis Haslem.  In the end, the Heat prevailed, and the Pacers were left to nurse their wounds, and prepare for a pivotal game five in Miami.  Nothing was answered definitely, and we, as fans, were left with more questions about the series than answers -- an unsettling feeling in this high-tech, unlimited-information-at-the-tip-of-our-fingers age.

Indeed, people look to playoff series like the Heat versus the Pacers to answer questions that probably cannot -- and likely will not -- be definitively resolved.  Questions like: are constructing Superteams composed of 2-3 top shelf all stars and middling role players the best way to compete for a championship?  Or are the best teams composed of  high-quality players most of whom who played four full years of college (Darren Collison, George Hill, David West, Tyler Hansbrough, Roy Hibbert), and who all commit to building something fantastic for the future?  But still other questions remain.  Can a team that has two-to-three elite scorers really survive when the rest of the team provides roughly 25 points total.  Or conversely, can a without a single elite scorer win on heart and pride, if not superior skill and acumen?

It is frustrating this series will not provide us with an answer that will truly satisfy our hearts and minds.  In all likelihood this series will go a full seven games, and the victor will triumph by the slimmest of margins.  And when someone does win this series, the events that transpired will not provide the definitive data we need to put the Superteam model to bed, or alternatively, crown Draft and Develop as the new king.  On the contrary, we will be forced to reconcile that we don't have enough data to either prove or disprove that teams like the Miami Heat, New York Knicks, or, to an extent, the Chicago Bulls are the future of the NBA, or whether teams like the Thunder, Grizzlies or Spurs will rise to the top.  In fact, we may be forced to come to a more dire conclusion: that the 2011 lockout, in many ways, helped to create that mythical parity between large market Superteams, and smaller, traditional Draft and Developers.  This is a fantastic series, not just because of what's taking place on the court, but also what it took to get these very teams on the court in the first place.

And in the end, it probably won't even matter, because no one's going to beat the Spurs. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Week That Was: May 14-20, 2012.

Lakers point guard Ramon Sessions let it be known earlier this week that his pregame meal is a Snickers.  He eats it because "it's a small meal".  Are Snickers bars meals?  I'm not sure it's even a snack.  

Anyways.  This week in the world of non-playoff teams (and non-NBA players): high hopes in Brooklyn, some somber thoughts about one of my favorite players of all time, and something made by the Pepsi corporation that I enjoy.  I hate myself.  Let's get to it.

1.  Home, Where My Thoughts Escape Me.

This offseason's biggest prize -- Nets' free agent point guard Deron Williams -- is looking more and more like a guy who's trying to find reasons to stay with the soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets, rather than pack his bags and move elsewhere.  For the past two weeks, Deron Williams and his family have been traveling around Europe and Central Asia making stops in Turkey to watch the Euroleague finals and Moscow to -- you guessed it -- hang out with Nets owner/oligarch Mikhail Prokorhov.  Williams and his wife reportedly spent some time with CSKA Moscow forward Andrei Kirilenko, who of course teamed up with Williams on the Utah Jazz for many years, and whose services has recently been linked to the Nets, should he wish to return to the NBA.  He also reportedly met with Nets GM Billy King, even watching the Euroleague Final Four with him.  But that's not all.  He's even wearing new Nets gear while practicing at the Nets revamped practice facility in East Rutherford, NJ.  All of these things have to be viewed as positive signs that Williams is at least seriously entertaining the notion of resigning with the Nets, given how cool and nonplussed superstar free agents of the past have been when it comes to outwardly associating with a lame duck employer.  Williams seems genuinely interested in being a part -- really, the face -- of the birth of the Brooklyn Nets.  It's hard to blame him.

Yet, some do.  Some people assumed that Williams would quickly leave the Nets to join Dirk Nowitzki, Mark Cuban and Rick Carlisle with his hometown Dallas Mavericks.  The Mavericks (as well as, say, 27 other teams in the league), are in need of a top five NBA point guard to run the show, and help shoulder the load that 34 year old Dirk Nowitzki currently bears.  While Deron Williams would certainly help the cause in Dallas, the Mavericks need more than just D-Will to properly rebuild the aging and somewhat embattled franchise.  But, he'd certainly be a step in the right direction.  And most people assume that he'll make that move because Dallas is home (or the close enough; he's actually from some place called The Colony.  What a bizarre name).

So I am about a year younger than Deron Williams.  I have neither a wife and kids, nor a high profile job that pays millions of dollars.  But as a person in my early-late twenties, I understand Williams' reluctance to move back home.  I'm only now starting to feel somewhat secure in my skin, and eager to take on new challenges in new places.  There's something exciting about facing these changes in a previously foreign place, rather than a familiar, comfortable location.  This isn't to say I don't love home, or all the people there.  I do.  But I'm fine not living there right now.

I think people often forget that professional athletes are (1) people who are nowhere near grown up, and (2) are just as impressed by the unlikely circumstances of their lives as we are. Williams lived in The Colony, Texas, before moving to Urbana, Illinois for college, and then to Salt Lake City, Utah for the first several years of his career.  He then ended up in New Jersey, but lived in Manhattan.  That must've been a trip for Deron.  So think about this: is it possible that Deron Williams simply never expected to have a chance to live in Brooklyn, let alone as the franchise player of the burrough's first professional team since the Dodgers?  What a unique opportunity, one that doesn't happen very often for .  Home will always be there.  That's why it's home.  But playing in a brand new arena, with a team run by a Russian oligarch and hip hop mogul, whose gear is currently number one in sales?  That doesn't happen often.  And maybe Deron figures it's worth playing on a losing team for a season or two, because of the novelty of it all.  I wouldn't blame him.  Few of us would.

And remember: going home isn't always the best thing for NBA players.  Just ask Stephon Marbury.

2.  Tragedy without Sympathy.

This weekend, ESPN's Outside the Lines interviewed NBA Hall of Fame forward Dennis Rodman.  The end product leaves you feeling sad, but also a bit angry, and frankly confused about everything going on with The Worm these days.

The video can be seen here.  It's worth seeing -- it's a really frank and telling look into the apparent downfall of Dennis Rodman.  Rodman agreed to the interview to conduct damage control after reports came out that he was $800,000 behind in child support payments, and that a judge had reduced monthly payments from $50,000 to $5,000 because lawyers successfully convinced her that he was "too sick and broke" to make child support payments.  OTL uses interviews with Rodman, as well as his agent, to portray Rodman as a person who is still capable of pulling in around $1 million dollar a year, but also a person with tons of personal issues to resolve.  In particular, his agent points to Rodman's drinking -- he goes as far as to call him an alcoholic -- as the main reason Rodman has failed to maintain steady work since he retired twelve seasons ago.  Yet, we see Rodman out on the town, drinking constantly.  When asked which is more important rather be a better father or live the lifestyle he's cultivated for himself (and is having an increasingly difficult time maintaining), Rodman answers that he can't answer that question, because "he doesn't want to change."  He then breaks down when he thinks about a daughter that he's seen "maybe five days" her entire life.  It's honestly pretty hard to watch, but not because it makes you particularly sad.  Mostly, it makes you mad.

We offer out a fair amount of sympathy here at The Diss.  Greg Oden's been a recipient, as has Ron Artest.  Even Andrew Luck got a bit of TLC from me a few months ago.  But I'm not writing an open letter to Dennis Rodman.  He doesn't need one.  He knows exactly what he needs to do.  He needs to deal with his drinking and he needs to pay his child support.  He's been allowed to behave the way he has because there aren't enough people around to challenge him.  He needs a new support network -- one that will help him open his eyes before it's too late for him, his family, and those that rely on him.

Some people need to hit rock bottom so they can learn what it takes to pull themselves back up.  Rodman is one of those people.

3. Youngblood.

That last video made me depressed.  So we won't end with that.  Instead, let's end this week with "Uncle Drew", a stellar short video made by noted filmmaker...Pepsi Max.  Hat tip to Dave Ohls.

It never makes me happy to post stuff created by the capitalist dogs.  But it's so, so good.  Not as good as this Summer 2009 jam, however.  Thanks, Phil Knight.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Wild Speculation and Outlandish Guesses: Back to the Basics Edition.

We've been talking playoffs for a few weeks now.  Time to get back to the basics.  Favorites and least-favorites.  Pure emotion.  No objectivity.  Nothing but wild speculation and outlandish guesses.

Who's your favorite player ever?  

Andrew Snyder:  My favorite player ever is Antoine Walker.  Why?  Three words: The Walker Wiggle.

Joe Bernardo: Earvin "Magic" Johnson.  Nobody played team ball better than him.  Nobody.  

Jairo Martinez: I have a few, but it has to come down to Michael Jeffery Jordan.  Plain and simple, this man epitomized basketball and changed the game.  Everyone makes comparisons to him (such as "heir apparent" Kobe Bryant), and because of him, try to quantify the weight of individual accomplishments versus championships.

Omar Bagnied:  Anfernee Hardaway.  Why?  This is why.  In college he was shot in the foot.  Injuries kept him from becoming one of the greatest that ever played the game.

John Reyes-Nguyen: Derek Fisher.  He's never been an all-star or even the second-best player on his team.  But he always seems to come through in the clutch and always played hard no matter what.  He brought it every night.  He barely, I mean barely beat out James Worthy.

Who's your least favorite player ever?

Snyder:  Growing up a Celtics fan, I've always hated the Lakers, so it's gotta be Kobe.  He's always gotten the star treatment from refs that he doesn't deserve, and he doesn't pass.  Oh, and 6-24 = Finals MVP.

Bernardo:  Danny Ainge.  You think Manu Ginobili, Anderson Varejao, Sasha Vujacic, John Stockton and Dennis Rodman were annoying NBA pests?  Danny Ainge was their father.

Martinez:  Karl Malone and Lebron James.  Both tie on the sheer basis that both are overrated, selfish and questionable human beings.  Malone and James are sure hall of famers, but their inabilities to come through in pivotal points of the game (aka choke) is unfathomable considering their "talent".

Bagnied:  Kobe, because he was automatic in the clutch against Phoenix and I hated it.  Especially this.  Nobody wants to see you pound your chest like a primal idiot, Kobe.

Reyes-Nguyen:  Laimbeer.  I couldn't stand him when he would play the Showtime Lakers.  I always felt he was a dirty player and classless.

What's your happiest moment as an NBA fan, ever?


Bernardo:  Game 7, 2010 NBA Finals.  I've dreamt of a Lakers-Celtics Game 7 since 1984.  I was drunk as hell when the Lake Show pulled it off then immediately ran into the middle of the street with my Laker flag wrapped around me.  Say what you will about Perk's injury and 6-for-24.  All that matters is that banner is up at Staples.

Martinez: A tie between Dirk Nowitzki's 2011 championship run and the 1996 NBA Finals.  Dirk single-handedly out-dueled the Miami Heat, by far the most hated team ever assembled.  Just as it seemed the Heat were going to seize control of the series in Game 2, ego and ignorance prematurely ruined any chance of the Heat winning.  In Sonics versus Bulls, we had Jordan and Pippen versus Payton and Kemp.  This by far was the only team that truly gave the Bulls fits during their 1996 championship run.  In the end, and on Father's Day, MJ delivered one more performance that would've made his father proud.

Bagnied:  Stephon Marbury's game-winner against San Antonio in the first round of the 2003 playoffs. Was watching this with a big group of friends as the only Suns fan.  Chaos ensued.

Reyes-Nguyen: Ron Artest's (not MWP) interviews after the Lakers won the title in 2010.  His interview right after the game and the news conference was some of the best TV I've ever watched.  It was pure honesty and awesomeness.

What's your most bitter moment as an NBA fan, ever?

Snyder:  2010.  Kendrick Perkins ACL tear and subsequent Game 7 loss without Perk.  That starting five never lost a playoff series from 2008-2010.  Just sayin'.

Bernardo:  November 7, 1991.  The day I learned what H.I.V. was.

Martinez:  Lakers versus Kings.  2002, Game 6.  The bogus charge called on Bibby.  No calls on Shaq.  I can go on and on.  In the end the best team was screwed.

Bagnied:  Ron Artest awkwardly catching and banking Kobe's airball to beat Phoenix game 5 of the 2010 conference finals.  Series tied 2-2, I was confident Phoenix would take it in overtime and close it out at home.  And then they would've beaten Boston for the title.  Everyone thought that ball went up at the buzzer.  How the hell did Artest make that shot?

Reyes-Nguyen: When the Lakers lost by like 40,000 points in Game 6 of the 2008 Finals.  We got beat bad, really bad, by our arch rival.  I was so disappointed.  Plus Paul Pierce is from LA, played for Inglewood H.S. (same league as my H.S.), and he's celebrating his killing of the Lakers.  I felt like he was a traitor.  It's crazy how sports can give you such irrational feelings.

Is basketball your favorite sport?  Why or why not?

Snyder:  Basketball is absolutely my favorite sport, for three reasons.
1.  It is the most aesthetically pleasing out of the four major sports.
2.  I'm 6'4'' -- people have been asking (and will be asking) if I play basketball "from cradle 2 tha grave."
3.  It's like jazz, or so said every esoteric sportswriter ever.

Bernardo:  Of course.  I wouldn't be a Diss contributor (albeit limited) if it wasn't.  My father and uncles ingrained it in my head since I was 4 years old.  Perhaps if I was an English dude in Manchester, or a Brazilian dude in Rio, I would love soccer, but since I'm a Filipino American in LA, I see no other sport that would have influenced me like basketball.

Martinez: I grew up playing basketball in middle and high school.  I follow the NBA semi-religiously.

Bagnied:  When the game flows without foul calls and stoppages I zen out on basketball.  I'm intrigued by baseball strategy and might be one of the few that goes to games to watch every at-bat.  With football I like the seamless display of agility amidst violence.  I enjoy playing all sports for these reasons, but none more than soccer.  Soccer is the transcendent sport.  It's our global commonality, more than food or art or values.

Reyes-Nguyen: Basketball is my favorite sport.  It's really the only actual sport where I contribute to a blog.  It's also the only sport where I analyze all the stats.  Football is a close second.  Beach volleyball is third.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Seattle Sonics Optimism Guide, Volume Two.

Today, fans of the franchise formerly known as the Seattle SuperSonics were given something they hadn't received in a long time: a piece of good news.  

At a news conference in downtown Seattle, Mayor Mike McGinn, County Executive Dow Constantine, and Hedge Fund Manager/Knight in Shining Armor Chris Hansen announced a "memorandum of understanding" regarding a new arena to be built in the south downtown ("SoDo") area.   In the memorandum, Chris Hansen and his private investment firm ArenaCo pledged to contribute up to $290 million for the construction of an arena, as well as $500 million to purchase and relocate an NBA franchise.  In return, the city promised to buy the land on which the arena would be built, mostly to give Hansen a bit of a financial break.  Indeed, there are a number of vocal critics of the deal, including a number of city council members and the Mariners organization.  There are legitimate concerns about traffic and disruption of shipping and maritime industry in SoDo.  But frankly, the memorandum contains everything that both a sports fan and a politically minded person would want to hear.  There will be no additional taxes levied by the city or the county, and all existing social programs will remain intact.  The $800 million Hansen is promising ranks as one of the highest private investment agreements in American sports history.  Any professional team that plays in the arena would have to agree to a 30-year lease.  And, most importantly, ground will not be broken until Hansen secures a team.  This is, by far, the clearest signal that Seattle, King County, and a really rich guy are serious about bringing the Sonics back. It's a good feeling.

So while this is all awesome, there's just one problem: Hansen doesn't own a team.  What's more is that there aren't really any teams for sale at the moment.  But that doesn't mean we can't speculate on which team Hansen might make a play for, or which current owners might offer their teams in order to turn a profit.  So with that in mind, here's another edition of the Seattle Sonics Optimism Guide.  

So if hearts need to be broken, let's try to break these ones.  To the Optimism Guide!

Best Chance to Break Another City's Heart: Sacramento Kings

Ironically, the Seattle Sonics Optimism Guide was first created when the City of Sacramento and the Maloof brothers had arrived at a $500 million dollar arena deal that seemingly secured the Kings' future in California's central valley for the next 25 years.  However, that deal has completely fallen apart, and the Kings' future in Sacramento has been compromised.  Emails recently leaked to news blog ranSACked media indicate that the Maloofs showed concern about many elements of the arena deal that were clearly spelled out in negotiations.  They didn't want to put down collateral in case their loan defaulted, they didn't want to pay game day expenses, and most troublingly, they wanted to reduce their lease agreement from 30 years to 15.  These concerns seem to indicate both a lack of capital to actually build an arena (or to properly own an NBA team), as well as a lack of sincerity to negotiate in good faith with the city and the NBA.  Given that Hansen seems willing to pay any price to get a team in his possession, and that the Maloofs, by all indication, are as broke as a joke, this seems to be a good match.

Optimism Level: 6 (out of 10)

Our Next Best Shot: Charlotte Bobcats

The Bobcats just had the worst season in NBA history, but luckily, no one paid any money to see it.  According to, the Bobcats were 25th in home attendance, and 27th in road attendance.  Though profit margins are never announced (unless the owner releases the information himself), it seems fair to say that the Bobcats ran at a huge loss this season.  Though the Bobcats' owner Michael Jordan has said a number of times that the Bobcats are not -- nor will be -- for sale, we will see how long the Worst Owner of All Time can stand losing both games and money in a small market that already let its original franchise leave.  There is certainly a chance.  

Optimism Level: 3 (out of 10)

Essentially Out of the Running: New Orleans Hornets

Let's hear it for the Hornets!  Things were looking bad for awhile.  The NBA, who had purchased the team from George Shinn, was unable to find a local owner for a long time.  Meanwhile, attendance at Hornets' games dwindled and Chris Paul, the team's franchise player, left for a larger market.  The future seemed insecure and bleak.  But then Tom Benson, the sole owner of the Saints, stepped up to become the sole owner of the Hornets.  Now everything's hunky-dory; there's plans for a new practice facility, and even a new name and logo.  The Hornets have a new lease on life.  Hat's off to them.

Optimism Level: 0 (out of 10)

The Dark Horse: Portland Trailblazers

As we discussed late last week, the Blazers, according to Oregonian columnist John Canzano, are for sale.  Paul Allen, who owns the Blazers, disagrees vehemently, and stated as such in an open letter to the fans.  The Blazers are entering some dangerous territory; not quite bad enough to totally blow up, not good enough to build around with confidence.  Their young players are not promising, and their team lacks true veteran leadership.  The front office remains a mess, and ownership (the shadowy and evil-sounding group Vulcan Inc., headquartered in Seattle) is as secretive as they've ever been.  So we don't really know what's going on.  It's hard to envision the Blazers -- Portland's only real professional team (sorry Timbers, you'll never convince me that the MLS is real) -- leaving the city and its famously loyal fans.  Moreover, the Blazers are second in the league in attendance, so local interest in the club remains high.  But in a world where the Sonics can leave?  Anything's possible, including this.  But granted, it's not probable by any stretch.

Optimism Level: 0.5 (out of 10)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Series of the Week: San Antonio Spurs (1) vs Los Angeles Clippers (5).

Being a fan of a bad team, I have always dreaded the playoffs, since they forced me to become a "fan" of a team that I didn't really know or like.  Even worse, I would be-fan (think "befriend"; we're gonna roll with it) this team not because I actually liked their players, coaches, front office or city, but because they had the best chance of beating the team that I hated.  Over the course of my life, teams from both the "hate" and "tolerate" columns have changed, and even switched sides.  But the one constant -- the singular holdout, my tried and true playoff team -- has been the San Antonio Spurs.

Let me explain.  I grew up in the North Bay, where there were few out-of-state transplants, but plenty of people who grew up in other parts of California.  As such, sports allegiances were often split not just between Bay Area franchises, but also Northern Californian and Southern Californian franchises.  Take my high school, for example.  I would estimate that one-third of the school's NBA fans supported the Warriors, one-third supported some other NBA team, and the final third supported the Los Angeles Lakers.  But given that the Lakers were good, and on TV a lot, they represented the most visible and vocal presence on campus.  And my god, did it destroy me.

For most of those desperate years, I stood firmly behind the San Antonio Spurs.  In 2002 I briefly flirted with the Sacramento Kings, but in 2000, 2001 and 2003, I bled black and silver from April until about May.  It wasn't that I really liked those Spurs teams, or even was that interested in them.  Tim Duncan was in his boringly brilliant prime, and David Robinson seemed like a really nice, if declining, guy.  Tony and Manu were exciting young players (at the time), but never cracked into my "Top 10" or even "Top 20" list of favorite players.  The supporting cast -- household names like Mario Elie, Bruce Bowen, Antonio Daniels, Derek Anderson, Jerome Kersey and Avery Johnson -- was never sexy or marketable.  But year after year they trotted out excellent regular season teams that looked like they could compete -- and perhaps even defeat -- the hated Lakers.  That in itself was enough to make me a fan, at least during the playoffs.  I would cheer on the Spurs, pumping my fist when Tim Duncan hit a wildly exciting bank shot, shouting "yeah!" when Bruce Bowen sunk a corner three.  I was not motivated to see them enjoy success, however.  Nay, my point was to see the Lakers experience defeat, preferably at the hands of the Spurs.

Too bad the Spurs could never really do it while I really cared deeply about them.  They were eliminated in 2000, 2001 and 2002 -- the 2001 and 2002 series coming at the hands of the Lakers.  It was always painful to watch; the Spurs leaving the court with their heads down, the Lakers celebrating yet again.  By 2003 though -- the year I graduated, and the year the Spurs won their second championship  -- I wasn't watching a lot of basketball, and had generally become more comfortable with the fact that I was a fan of a bad team, and that didn't mean I had to fall in love with a playoff team to enjoy the tournament.  But I do remember how happy I was to see Derek Fisher crying on the bench as his Lakers team fell to the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals.  In many ways, the Spurs had saved the playoffs for me.  I'm not sure I would be as big of a fan of the NBA as I am today had the Lakers won four championships in a row.   

Nine years later, in 2012, I'm calling on the Spurs to save the playoffs for me yet again.  After watching the Los Angeles Clippers dispatch the Memphis Grizzlies -- a team I actually would consider myself to be a fan of -- I have developed nothing but detest for that club.  I haven't appreciated the leadership skills of their star players, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.  The organization seems to ooze smugness and entitlement, despite the fact that up until this year, they were THE CLIPPERS, aka, the worst franchise in sports.  Granted, my hatred of the Clippers could really just a big bowl of sour grapes provided by a guy who's sad that his playoff team is out, and jealous that his non-playoff team didn't luck themselves into Blake Griffin, or have Chris Paul gifted by David Stern.  But at the moment, they are my new Lakers.  They are the team I feel passionately about in the NBA's Elite Eight -- passionate hatred.

Luckily, I can now back a Spurs team that has evolved and equipped itself for a nasty playoff fight.  Stars Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili were able to rest throughout the regular season, which gave their supporting cast a chance to build cohesion and grow.  GM-Coach (of the Year) tandem R.C. Buford and Gregg Popovich drafted smart (Kawhi Leonard), signed good, cheap free agents (Danny Green), acquired pennies-on-the-dollar stalwarts (Stephen Jackson and Boris Diaw), and invested in the right bench guys (Gary Neal, DeJuan Blair, Tiago Splitter and Matt Bonner).  This is a fantastic team; one that has managed to retool and rebuild while giving their talented but heavily used stars a chance to rest and recoup. I hope that they dispatch the Clippers easily, but I think it will be a harder test than some might think.  But the Spurs seem very good this year.  Championship good, even.

So with the Grizz out, and the Warriors dead on arrival, I'm going for the Spurs, not just to win the series, but to win the whole thing.  Old habits die hard, I guess.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Week That Was: May 7-13, 2012.

Many years back, TNT's Kenny Smith coined and popularized the phrase "Gone Fishin'" to refer to teams that had been eliminated from title contention, either due to regular season results or playoff defeats.  It makes me wonder: which NBA players actually go fishing when they have the opportunity to do so?  My trusty research assistant, Google, put in 0.46 seconds of work, and delivered 6,000,124 results.  I weeded through every single one to offer you the NBA's fishermen: Brad Miller, Chris Kaman, Carmelo Anthony, Jeremy Lin and Monty Williams.  So there you go.

We're still trying to keep up with our non-playoff friends, so on tap for this week: mixed messages in Portland, not-so-mixed messages in Sacramento, and the $4 million dollar job in Charlotte that no one seems to want.  Let's get to it!

1. Stirring the Pot (in spite of the Soup).

Oregonian sports columnist John Canzano and Portland Trailblazers owner Paul Allen have something of a contentious relationship.  This isn't surprising; Canzano is the lead writer covering the Blazers, and Allen is the franchise's chief benefactor and primary decision maker.  The two have come to loggerheads several times, including a kerfuffle this season which saw Allen attempt to use some recent vacation pictures to construct a Reddit-esque diss meme after Canzano wrote a pointed article asking Allen if he "was in or out".  Most people gave Allen a solid "B" for effort.

This weekend, the Oregonian published another pointed critique of Allen, written by -- who else? -- Canzano.  In this edition of their deepening internet war (since the occasionally reclusive Paul Allen rarely grants face-to-face interviews with any media members), Canzano details a shady business meeting he was invited to attend.  At the meeting, Canzano shared the table with "people so influential and well placed they're typically busy getting initiatives passed and politicians elected" (well, then!).  These Portland elites let it be known that they believe Paul Allen has secretly put the Blazers up for sale.  Moreover, these Portland elites seem to think that the next owner is going to be Merritt Paulson, the popular current owner of the Portland Timbers (the city's MLS team), a former underling of David Stern, and the son of a former Secretary of the US Treasury.  Canzano brashly issues these assertions, despite the fact that (1) Paul Allen released an open letter earlier this week in which he expressly and clearly states that the team is not for sale, and (2) Merritt Paulson, himself, in the article, denies any interest in wanting to purchase a majority stake in the Blazers, either now or in the future.  Nevertheless, Canzano sticks to his guns, and asserts that the Blazers will be going on the market, and that Paul Allen has had enough of the NBA.  Neither Allen, nor his for-hire band of internet-tough-octopuses (octopi?) have commented on the story.

Stuff like this makes me wonder what Canzano (and other "Me Versus the Owner" columnists like the San Jose Mercury's Tim Kawakami) actually get out of this. Do the leading sports columnists for major media outlets actually think about their assignments critically, or just try to write something that will get a rise out of their readers.  Yes, the Blazers had a disappointing season.  They have not lived up to the lofty expectations others had for them.  But Paul Allen did not take baseball bats to the knees of his former franchise players.  And true, he has yet to hire a general manager, and has let his former GMs go under shady circumstances.  But a number of inalienable truths remain.  Truths like this: Paul Allen still has billions of dollars in the bank and that he's currently involved in the hiring of a new general manager.  The Blazers have both cap space and draft picks to use.  And in the end, they finished 28-38, were in playoff contention for most of the season, and have a roster needs tweaks rather than wholesale changes Canzano insists upon.  And included in those superfluous wholesale changes?  That's right.  Selling the team to a popular owner in the Portland era.  Paul Allen's got his issues.  But owning the team isn't one of them.

So John?  Take it from someone who had to endure two decades of Chris Cohan: it could be worse.  Much worse.

2. So You're Saying the Deal's Off?

While we're on the subject of embattled owners, we should check in on the mess in Sacramento, where the city of Sacramento continues to battle with Kings' owners, Joe and Gavin Maloof.  Hey, friends!  How you guys doing down there?  Getting your stuff worked out with that pesky arena-and-not relocating-to-Anaheim-or-Seattle thing?

Oh, City of Sacramento, I see you've gathered all the influential business leaders in the arena, and written a letter to David Stern!  That's thoughtful of you, I'm sure he loves getting letters.  What's it say?  Oh.  It says that you think "it is time for the Maloofs to sell their ownership of the franchise, for the good of the city and in the interest of advancing Sacramento's effort to build a downtown arena."  You add that "the city, the fans and the NBA deserve and require an ownership group that is fully committed to being a good-faith constructive participant in the arena process," and that "the Sacramento community has lost faith in the Maloof family's ability to deliver on the many promises it has made."  And you all signed it with a nice looking ball point pen.  Okay then!

Well, Joe and Gavin, what do you gotta say?  This must seem a little hostile, but you guys are businessmen.  I'm sure you'll handle this professionally; work with these guys.  After all, if you actually want to stay in Sacramento, you'll have to keep these businessmen somewhat on your good side, right? Can't bite the hand that feeds you, y'know?

Oh.  You've hired a private eye to see if any of these signatures were forged.  And this guy's making home calls?  Like, invading privacy and shit?  Waiting outside in his car, binoculars in hand?

Okay!  Good luck, guys.  Looks like you're all making good progress.

3. Don't Call Me, I'll Call You.

Last week we bid farewell to Paul Silas, whose suffered through a 7-59 season as the head coach of the Charlotte Bobcats.  Since then, Bobcats owner Michael Jordan, president Rod Thorn and general manager Rich Cho have been sifting through resumes, attempting to locate the man who will take Gerald Henderson, Byron Mullens and Kemba Walker to the promised land.  But -- surprise, surprise! -- no one seems that interested in coaching a team bereft of talent and marketability.

A few interesting names have popped up -- younger faces who haven't been interviewed for many head coaching positions.  Most reports indicate that the Bobcats would prefer to hire Mike Malone, who served as rookie head coach Mark Jackson's lead assistant in Golden State.  Malone was moderately sought after last season, interviewing for head coaching vacancies in Houston and Detroit, as well as an assistant position with the Lakers.  According to Tim Kawakami, Malone chose the Warriors job because he felt it represented his best chance to land a top-shelf coaching position later on.  TK makes an excellent point when he asserts that Malone will be in a better position to choose a position next season, when the Warriors are either winners (thanks, presumably, to his coaching of the players, and his mentoring of Mark Jackson), or something, at some point, goes horribly awry, and he suddenly finds himself in a position to be promoted to head coach.  As such, Malone has been reluctant to express too much interest over a job that might be best served for a less marketable candidate?

So who are these candidates?  A number of largely unknown assistants have been mentioned -- some guy named David Joerger in Memphis, a certain Nate Tibbitts in Cleveland, and, of course, Stephen Silas, the lead assistant in Charlotte this season, and son of former coach Paul Silas.  A few favorites, like Pacers associate head coach Brian Shaw, have made appearances.  But the flavor of the week pick is Patrick Ewing, Hall of Fame player and longtime assistant coach who has been credited with the developments of Yao Ming and Dwight Howard (though don't you dare typecast him as a big man's coach, he doesn't appreciate your shortsightedness).  Ewing has openly campaigned for a head coaching job for quite a few seasons now, and perhaps it's time to give him a shot, especially if the Bobs land big man Anthony Davis with the first pick.

My money's on Stephen Silas getting the job, but I'd love to see Patrick get a shot at it.