Friday, August 31, 2012

Diss Guys Miss Guys, Volume 8

Diss Guy: Isiah Thomas

I guess somehow I glossed over the whole "Hall of Famer" part, because my first thought was "I guess he is in the Bay Area during the offseason...I wouldn't want to spend a summer in Sacramento either." And then I remembered that he spells his name Isaiah, not Isiah, and that, oh yeah, he's not in the damn Hall of Fame.

So this story is about the other Isiah Thomas, trying to move on to the next act of his adult life. In the first act, where he played the role of basketball star, Thomas was a phenomenally successful player. Unfortunately, the second act of the play transitioned Thomas to basketball executive, where fans of the CBA, New York Knicks and Florida International University will tell you he did a pretty poor job. We have yet to see the third act, but good for Isiah, ducking out of the spotlight for a while and continuing his education. With that Master's in Education, maybe he'll be the unlikely one to fix California's public school system.

Miss Guy: Transit

This video has been bouncing around the blogosphere for the last week. I saw it on Reddit, but have also noticed it on a few blogs, and I believe Mike Bibby has tweeted about it. I'm all about musical tributes to sports teams, and I believe that there are a lot of Vancouverans (Vancouverites?) that were truly heartbroken when the Grizzlies left for Memphis: Sonics fans don't have a monopoly on relocation pain. Nonetheless, this song is just bad, and throwback Grizzlies gear immediately passed through cool on its way to trying too hard.

They drafted him for marketting & demographics
They coulda had Ratliff with that draft pick
They chose Big Country & we got our ass kicked

Besides the fact that drafting Theo Ratliff instead of Big Country wouldn't have made the team any better (fun fact: Bryant Reeves was actually good at basketball. In his third year he dropped 16 points, 8 rebounds and 1 block a game. He then got fat.), those lyrics are just bad. To prove that sports raps can be done well, check out below.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Perils of the Tactical Man

For all of the shit that David Stern gets as commissioner of the NBA, he is more responsible for the NBA becoming a globally popular league than anybody else, except for maybe that Michael Jordan fellow. You only need to read stories about the NBA Finals being showed on tape delay in the late-1970s to realize how massively the league was wasting its potential. Today the NBA is the second most popular American sports league, it draws the best players from around the world, and with the exception of some soccer stars, has the most marketable athletes in the world. David Stern has truly shown that he possesses a keen sense of how to shape the league for the future. But you only had to hear the words “Virginia Beach Kings” uttered to be reminded of Stern’s failings in regards to relocation and stadium issues.

Don’t worry, this isn’t another story about the Sonics moving to Oklahoma City. This is a story about demographics. If you were building the NBA from the ground up today, where would you locate the 30 teams? A pretty smart bet would be to locate them in the largest metro areas of the country. Doing so gives each team a large fanbase to draw from, and the hopes of a lucrative television contract. Assuming you want two teams in both New York and Los Angeles, that puts teams in the 28 largest markets in the US (and for this exercise we will count Canada too). So how many of those 28 largest markets are missing a team? Go on, guess.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Wildish Speculation & Outlandish Guesses: We Talk Dynasties.

As the interminably long offseason drags on, The Diss decided to take up the topic of Dynasties.

In the last 20 years we have only had 8 teams win championships (Pistons, Bulls, Rockets, Spurs, Lakers, Heat, Mavericks, Celtics). Would you prefer that number to be higher? Are dynasties good for the sport of basketball?

Jacob Greenberg: In other words: is parity good for the league? Sure. It would be nice if every team had an equal chance to win the championship. But if you look at that list of teams, only three teams that have a NBA-based history before the 1976 merger (the Philadelphia 76ers, Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks) don't have a place on that list. The other teams are mostly former ABA franchises and post 1989 expansion teams. I'd like to think that the NBA will continue for another few years, and some lower profile teams will have their day.

John Reyes-Nguyen: Dynasties are a good thing because they create great rivalries. Lakers/Celtic, Piston/Bulls, Lakers/Spurs, Heat/Knicks (not technically dynasties because they didn't win championships, but you get the idea). Then again, would it be cool if the Clippers or Bobcats win the title? Yeah. Will it happen? Probably not in my lifetime.

Joe Bernardo: For the basketball purist, sure. I think the last lockout was a step in creating the environment of parity throughout the league...that is unless idiot owners don't keep screwing it up by building lousy teams. That being said however, I don't think NBA necessarily needs more parity in order to survive. Basketball is a funny sport. Because it's more of a "naked" sport compared to the NFL, NHL, and MLB, fans (both diehard and casual) gravitate towards the NBA because they are (for better or worse) attached to players' on-court as well as off-court personalities. It is no wonder that historically NBA ratings was at its peak during the Jordan era because of MJ's immense popularity and took a ratings dip in 1994 and 1995 when those playoffs were generally more wide-open.

Franklin Mieuli: I think in theory parody sounds nice, maybe something to do with America's democratic ideals, but in actuality I don't think I'd like it in the NBA. You just have to look to the NFL, where teams regularly go from 5 wins to 10 wins back down to 5 wins, where the last seed in the playoffs wins the Super Bowl. Sure, there are a few very well run teams that are consistently good (Patriots, Steelers, Ravens, Eagles), but to me it's no fun at the start of the football season with no clue who will even be good.

Recently we've had Jacob get pissed at the D12 trade and Joe Bernardo arguing that we are focusing on the wrong thing. Disregarding the fact that Dwight Howard is an unprofessional fool, is his move from the Magic to the Lakers ultimately beneficial for the NBA?

Jacob Greenberg: It makes a more compelling story, and given TV ratings over the past few seasons, people enjoy a good story. Regardless of my feelings on the trade, I am excited to watch the Lakers play, and excited to watch other teams play the Lakers.

John Reyes-Nguyen: Yes, because we all hate the Heat. And now we have a team that can beat them.

Joe Bernardo: For a first seven or so years of a superstar's career, they have no say of where they get to play. Plus, for the first three or so years of that span, because of the rookie-scale salaries they are grossly underpaid while owners reap the benefits of their popularity. If the team that drafted him can't assemble, at the very least, a contending team towards the end of their contract, I see no reason why that superstar shouldn't be able to opt out and test free agency to pursue a title. Of course, there are more "professional" ways to go about doing it, but as we've seen with the Charles Barkley in 1992, Shaq in 1996, and KG and Ray Allen in 2007, teams that lose the superstar just have to move on. I see no other way around it other than what they already did with this new CBA (create financial incentives for a player to stay with the current team) or get rid of free agency altogether (which will be grossly unfair to labor)

Franklin Mieuli: Yeah, I think it is beneficial, but only insofar as it ends the stupid soap opera in Orlando and allows everybody to move on. His move gives the Lakers a little bit more visibility (like they needed it) and a compelling Heat/Lakers narrative, but I think it was also good from 2007-2010 to have Dwight and his band of characters as another basketball power.

All other things being equal, what kind of team do you like to root for? Is it fun to root for the Laker/Yankees/Steelers where greatness is all but guaranteed? Would you rather root for an upstart, or maybe a young team?

Jacob Greenberg: Generally speaking, I like to watch teams that share the ball. Whether they win or not doesn't really matter to me, but I like watching the ball move. That means I watch a lot of Warriors, Mavs, Grizzlies, Nuggets and Wolves games. And I'm a Warriors fan, for better or worse. The 2008-09 Warriors won 29 games, based mostly on the free throws of Corey Maggette. I hated watching them; hated everything about them. Now, the 2009-10 Warriors won only 26 games, but shared the ball a lot more. I liked that team. I have fickle tastes.

John Reyes-Nguyen: I like to root for my local teams. Since I'm from LA, I'm a die hard Lakers fan so I can't use the NBA as an example. However, we don't have an NFL team and to me that's kinda nice. I find myself more of the anti-fan, hating certain teams more than liking others. For instance, I hate the Patriots, with a passion.

Joe Bernardo: As a Laker fan, I can't help but say that it's more fun to root for a winning team. However, I will love them through thick and thin. I can say with a straight face that my favorite all-time Lakers team to watch was the 1994-95 squad led by Nick Van Exel, Eddie Jones, and Cedric Ceballos. There were zero expectations of this team, so it was great watching these young players gel and make some noise in the playoffs. Sure they didn't win, but you couldn't help but love them and the way they played. I don't was like watching your kids grow up and mature in front of you. don't get barraged with hate messages from Laker-haters (ahem...the Diss staff) for every little misfortune. But whatever "type" of team you have, just don't be a bandwagon fan. I can't tell you how much it annoyed me growing up with so many Chicago Bulls fanatics who are neither from nor have any connection to Chicago whatsoever.

Franklin Mieuli: I just want to see good teams. I've never really rooted for a dynasty, as my 49ers fandom came about right as they won their fifth Super Bowl nearly twenty years ago, but the last few years of watching the success of the San Francisco Giants and 49ers has helped me realize how fun it is to root for a good team. I mean, I love the Golden State Warriors, but how much more might I love them if they weren't the Washington Generals of the NBA?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Bad Poetry about Unsigned Free Agents.

When the Brazilian Bomber Went Silent.

When the Brazilian Bomber went silent
There was no mourning
It was a logical conclusion to a career that
While stylistically poignant
Failed to leave permanent impacts

Speed that seemed illusionary (was he really there?)
And offensive skills that baffled
Eyes open wide, tunneling through the lane
No pass, just hoop.
No dime, just shoot.
Chewing a mouthguard like it was damn gum.

It's not like he was nothing
Surely he was something
He picked up some hardware, became a household name
Just like Rodney Rogers and Bobby Jackson before him.

But fifteen minutes is fleeting
And 7 seconds, even less.
Dynasties are difficult to construct
False kingdoms easily destruct
Alas; Phoenix's fleeting moment with the Suns
Was the Brazilian Bomber's as well.

So there will be no 21 gun salute in Toronto
And Indianapolis will focus on their wild Luck
Phoenix has long moved on
And we will too.
The Brazilian Bomber's day has come
And gone.


If I were GM.

If I were GM; the boss for a day
You'd bet I'd have everything my way
The owner wouldn't need to check my plans
He'd know his money was in very safe hands.

I'd immediately get to spending some tender
And tell all the haters: "I build contenders"
I'd be showered with praise and sheer adulation
I'd be the town's new managerial sensation

The team that I'd build wouldn't be all that good
It wouldn't play like a normal team norm'ly should
You see, my team would play with panache
Since every single player would have a moustache.

Marcus Camby's stache would be supremely fine
And Coach Mike's nose-y hair?  Simply divine.
Adam Morrison's comeback would start in my city
With his shot, and his 'stache, looking oh-so-pretty

But the power forward on my stacked-ass team
To help realize my impossible dream
Would be the one I'd choose to dominate the ball:
The Anthony Tolliver, the 'stachiest of them all.

How much can I pay him?  7 years, $40 billion?
An autographed copy of Tolkien's Silmarillion?
We gotta get this guy's stache on my squad.
No way anyone now thinks I'm a fraud.

Sure he can't play; I don't really care
Do you see his nose?  The corresponding hair?
Dude can play a variety of roles.
Porn star.  Crooked cop.  Violator of paroles.

He'd be on every billboard, on TVs galore
His reality show would rival Jersey Shore
And again, I don't care about his skills
I'd sign him purely to provide 'stachy thrills.

So c'mon Mark Cuban, holla at me J-Dolan
Guys, you really don't know what it'd mean
If you'd hire me to create your All-Moustache Team.


A Throwaway Limerick about Derek Fisher.

But now he's mostly just old
Though it's end of the line
As important as Horry?  Sold.


Doin' What He Did.

The worst part about dreaming about T-Mac
Is that it can't ever be happy.
Whether old or young, you're disappointed in the end.
You see young Tracy doin' what he did
Silky smooth J, finger-roll like Iceman
Losing every time it really mattered.
Then after that, it's just street clothes,
Hefty bricks from just inside the arc
And a hefty belly protruding through his jersey.
Why can't they age gracefully?
Why can't it ever just work out?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Diss Guys Miss Guys, Volume 7

Editor's Note: There's nothing going on.  Nothing!  These are a stretch.

Diss Guy: Derrick Rose

Next year is going to be a long one for Da Bulls.  The club, whose ceiling seemed so high mere months ago, will go through some hard times next season.  We argued that the only question for the Bulls was whether they were a contender or not, and their recent signings don't inspire much confidence.  Wary of the luxury tax, and concerned about their financial flexibility for the longterm (sadly, an informed concern), the Bulls went all bargain bin on us this offseason.  Kyle Korver, Omer Asik, Ronnie Brewer, and John Lucas III became Marco Bellinelli, Marquis Teague, Nate Robinson and Nazr Mohammed.  Not exactly "over the top" signings, and given that the Magic and Hawks will be playing down next season, the Bulls can still expect to make the playoffs, and net themselves a low teens draft pick.  Not ideal.  Still, with Thibs barking orders, and prideful veterans like Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, Rip Hamilton and Luol Deng leading the charge, I have a feeling that the city -- and the nation -- will rally around this new breed of UnflappaBulls.  And in the middle of it all will be the slowly but surely rehabbing Derrick Rose, whose surprisingly personal video entitled "The Return" provides insight not only into the rehab process for a catastrophic knee injury, but the thoughtful, quiet side of Derrick Rose that we all miss so much.  His muted intensity will be sorely missed next season, but videos like these give me, and you, a bit of hope.  Keep working hard, D-Rose.  Go Bulls.

Miss Guy: Mark Cuban

Generally speaking, I like Mark Cuban.  He's a prominent owner who clearly is passionate about his investment, and whose wild spending has enabled the Mavericks to remain a contender (or close to a contender) for over a decade now.  I will freely admit I have some ownership envy -- Chris Cohan ruined my childhood, and Joe Lacob sure has a lot of pride and glory riding on his surgically repaired franchise centerpieces.  Mavs fans should thank their lucky stars that Mark Cuban is so gracious with his money.  But this week we learned that Cuban still likes that money, and will hold a serious grudge if you turn some of those bucks down.  While on the "Ben and Skin Show" (what an awful name for a show), Mark Cuban ripped apart Jason Kidd for the Knicks' money, and issued an ultimatum that his #2 jersey wouldn't be retired.  Really?  If Mark Cuban wants to hold a grudge about loyalty, he should look at his own track record.  Tyson Chandler, whose defense and leadership played perhaps the biggest role in the Mavs somewhat improbable run the the championship, was offered a two year deal to return in 2011.  Two years?!  After anchoring a championship defense?  No wonder he took a maxxie from the 'Bockers. I'll tell you this, Mark: Dirk didn't do it alone.  Players want to be compensated for their labor, and workers want flexibility to choose their workplace.  The fact that Jason Kidd won't get his jersey retired because Mark Cuban is a child who refuses to see that the players are full-grown men is pretty stupid.  Jason Kidd was the Mavs' most important point guard ever, and without his 3pt shooting and defense against D-Wade, they'd never have a championship banner.  But whatever -- the Mavs are on their way to irrelevancy, and fast.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Your Annotated Smartphone Bathroom Reader for Thursday, August 23, 2012.

I'll be gone this weekend.  Enjoy this special midweek version of the Reader.

What Happened To Him?  Basketball Star Jonathan Hargett's Promising Career Derailed
Pete Thamel
The New York Times

No major news outlet crafts a long-form basketball melodrama quite like The New York Times.  From the seminal piece on advanced stats that canonized the abilities of Shane Battier, to the delightful piece that explored the city's streets, neighborhoods and people through the lens of pickup basketball (a piece that still makes me want to move to New York), the Paper of Record really knows how to tell a tale about the roundball and the prisoners it takes.  This is the latest entry to that lauded field.  Pete Thamel tells the sad, yet predictable, tale of Jonathan Hargett, a talented guard who was high school teammates with Amar'e Stoudemire, Marquis Daniels and Jarrett Jack before a life of drug dealing, womanizing and bribe-accepting finally caught up with him.  He's finishing up a five year sentence for possession with intent to sell, and with no chance of resuming a basketball career, has authorized this eulogy in hopes that others will heed the warnings.  Of course The New York Times was happy to oblige.  This is an oft-told tale about failed basketball glory, as well as the challenges of growing up black and poor in America, but a well-written one.  Definitely worth a look.

- JG

What It's Like to Play Basketball with Obama
Tucker Max
Huffington Post

The big event of the Obama campaign this week was the "Obama Classic", which gave a lucky donor a chance to play some ball with the POTUS, as well as a few Dream Team and Cream Team members.  However, before it took donated money and an extensive background check to share the court with Barack Obama, you could find him playing pickup ball with undergrads at the University of Chicago, where he was teaching.  One of the guys who got to play regularly with Obama was Tucker Max, who is now a successful author.  In this very entertaining piece, Max describes the nuances of Obama's game as a man in his mid-30s.  According to Max, Obama wasn't good, but he wasn't bad either.  Max remembers Obama as a guy who "knew the basics and could execute them, but his performance wasn't anything beyond that."  He stood out as a professor who could play a little bit, and a person who, when things got heated (as they are wont to do; everyone who plays pickup ball knows this) "was always an adult."  It's up to you if want to project his basketball game onto his White House game, but this piece from HuffPo is definitely worth a read.

- JG
New NCAA Standards Too Late
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Yep.  That's him.  Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, arguably the greatest center to ever play the game, and the NBA's leading scorer by far, weighs in on new academic requirements for the NCAA that requires a 2.3 GPA for "core classes" in high school in order to be eligible to play intercollegiate sports.  While Kareem lauds the NCAA for adding some academic requirements, he asserts that the timing is off, considering what the NCAA has become.  In Kareem's view, the NCAA season is essentially "a tryout for the NBA", where talented players show off their skills in order to get a spot in the first or second round of the draft, while the lesser talented players remain in college.  Kareem argues that this is a condition created by the NBA with their age requirement provisions, and sees these new academic requirements as a hindrance for players to succeed in the NBA/NCAA one-and-done system.  Moreover, college players are coming out of school very raw, and NBA teams must waste time teaching high picks basic fundamentals.  Kareem makes a number of good points in this short piece.

- JG

You Either Smoke or Get Smoked: An Oral History of White Men Can't Jump
Thomas Golianopolous

Though the basketball movie pecking order usually features some combination of He Got Game (phenomenal), Space Jam (also phenomenal) and Hoosiers (good, but I prefer Love & Basketball or Blue Chips), there's a soft spot in my heart for White Men Can't Jump.  The movie features Woody Harrelson, Wesley Snipes, Rosie Perez and an army of streetballers, D-I ballers and former NBA players.  Though the film often is written off as a tongue-and-cheek commentary on an awkwardly accurate stereotype, it is funny, well-written, and very immersive when it comes to actual basketball.  In this innovative article, author Thomas Golianopolous interviews a number of individuals involved with the production of White Men Can't Jump to record memories and broach some surprising subjects.  Through the memories of White Men Can't Jump's cast and crew, we are able to see how the movie provided insight into the multiple stereotypes held by White and Black players alike, as well as exposure to street ball and the politics of pickup basketball.  We also learn from multiple people that Wesley Snipes was an excellent athlete, but a very poor basketball player.  Somehow I'm not surprised.

- JG
Cavaliers Creating Their Own Thunder
Stephen Brotherston

For every team that can't boast a major market to appeal to a Top 25 player's leisurely side -- so, every city that's not Los Angeles, New York or Miami -- the singular hope seems to be what is now known as "The Thunder Model".  In the Thunder model, a general manager builds a contender by doing three things: stockpiling good draft pics, nailing all of the used draft picks, and freely exchanging the unused ones for valuable assets.  Of course, it is much easier said than done to exchange Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis for picks that became Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, and then use other picks (and some players) to get useful contributing players, but now that it's happened, everyone's drinking the Oklahoma City Kool Aid.  According to Stephen Brotherston, only one team is actually doing the Thunder thing properly: the Cleveland Cavaliers.  Brotherston shows how some out-of-favor veterans, favorable contracts and ample spending (both Dan Gilbert and Clay Bennett/Aubrey McClendon have deep pockets) have allowed the Cavaliers to put together a core that includes Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, while still retaining the services of Andy Varejao (Nick Collison, anyone?) and Alonzo Gee.  While the Cavaliers probably won't be coming out of the East at any point soon, they are well on their way thanks mostly to the draft, savvy front office work, and an owner who is willing and eager to spend.

- JG

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Wildish Speculation & Outlandish Guesses: The Dog Days of Summer Edition.

We've reached the dog days of summer here at The Diss, and sometimes it's hard to keep our focus on basketball. So we decided not to!

What is the biggest non-basketball related sports story at the moment?

Jacob Greenberg: LITTLE LEAGUE WORLD SERIES. Editor's Note: If anybody ever asks when The Diss. jumped the shark, point them to this comment. No seriously, the Little League World Series. For years I have lambasted this event as a shameless marketing ploy for ESPN, Riddell, and everything else that little league is associated with. And you know, I still basically feel the same way. But this year, a team from Petaluma, California is in it, which is in my home county. And they're exciting as hell! They hit a walk-off home run to beat New Jersey yesterday. I have no shame when cheering for 12 year olds.

Andrew Snyder: Football. Football. Football. It's coming, and I just shelled out for Sunday Ticket. It's going to be a good fall. Also, Tom Brady has a photo spread with a dog. NBD. Hopefully Giselle didn't get jealous.

Jordan Durlester: If I'm forced to continue to pontificate about the whole Melky situation I'm going to break into tears, so I'll choose to go positive and remind you all to get ready for the RichRod era to begin in Tucson. Bear Down!

Franklin Mieuli: Soccer is back! The English Premier League started up last weekend, the Italian, Spanish and German leagues are all going, and Europa League and Championship League football is here for the next nine glorious months.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

If It Ain't Broke, Break It.

One of the most compelling aspects of the NBA offseason -- especially for the die-hard fan -- is watching non-contending franchises "blow it up".

Colloquially speaking, "blowing it up" refers to the moment when a team's central leadership core -- typically, an owner, and a general manager (if that general manager is still in the ownership's good graces) -- decides that wholesale changes need to be made in nearly every single aspect of a franchise, from the players on the court, to coaches on the sidelines, the executives and assistants who work in the front office.  "Blowing it up" is distinctly different than a team that adds a few, or perhaps even several players to an existing core group in an attempt either continue or complete a rebuilding project.  The majority of the NBA falls into this category, with teams like the Minnesota Timberwolves, Golden State Warriors, the Washington Wizards serving as the best examples.  While these teams made a series of moves that drastically altered the face of their rosters, none of these teams certifiably blew it up this offseason.  Similarly, "blowing it up" is subtly different than a team that makes series of high-profile transactions to drastically alter the on-court product, and recast stale or misused assets in a different light.  The Los Angeles Lakers, of course, did this with Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, and to a lesser extent, the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks have followed suit (though their moves will not get them very close to a ring any time soon).  But those teams did not "blow it up."

You see, "blowing it up" means exactly what it looks like: blowing it all up.  In its truest sense, "blowing it up" doesn't mean just changing the on-court product.  The Lakers didn't blow it up, since Mitch Kupchak and Mike Brown are still in place.  The same goes for the Mavericks, who are stil led by Donnie Nelson and Rick Carlisle, or the Knicks who will rely on Ernie Grunfeld to Mike Woodson to direct the women and children to the lifeboats.  No, "blowing it up" almost necessarily means that the off-court product must change as well.  In a best case scenario, this only affects the strategy that a team employs to run a team and manage a roster.  However, in the worst case scenario (depending on what "worst case scenario" means to you), everything about the off-court product must be revised.  This goes for the general manager, the assistant general manager, and everyone else that the GM employs to help implement a failed system.  In the end, the bottom line must be met, both in terms of wins on the box score and in the box office.  And if the bottom line hasn't been met, all you need to do is look up, and watch the ceiling fall on your head.  That, my friends, is blowing it up.

Each offseason, a number of teams clearly blow it up.  This offseason, in some respects, is no different; we can clearly point to some teams that bought the farm, went for broke, and did every other team-building euphemism that I can't think of at 11o'clock on a work night.  However, what does seem different -- or at the very least, distinct -- about this very busy offseason is that a number of teams that most casual and dedicated fans would prohibitively call "good" decided to blow it up as well.  Sure, plenty of bad teams blew it up, yet again.  The Houston Rockets and Phoenix Suns -- two .500-ish teams that have been mired in mediocrity for some time, stuck hopelessly between competitive eras -- unloaded most of their rosters, sent their quality veterans to contenders, and assembled younger, cap-friendly teams in an effort to be players in the modern NBA, where value is bought and sold at a rate akin to the New York Stock Exchange.  Each year we see a few teams like these -- teams that never reached their lofty goals, and now must officially change their directions.  The Suns and Rockets have joined teams like Utah, Memphis, Cleveland, Detroit and Minnesota, and must now hope for the best.

But again, what has piqued my attention is the number of "good" teams that decided essentially to blow it up and start anew.  Perhaps this is a condition of the new collective bargaining agreement, and the stringent financial constraints that franchise front offices must adhere to lest they pay the sinister luxury tax (take a bow, Gar and John).  But in my view, good teams that are choosing to rebuild at this time are emblematic not just of the way the NBA operates today, but perhaps are reflective of the way we, as humans, are wired, and behave in a dynamic, constantly changing landscape where opportunity is fleeting, and stability -- boring, old stability -- is questioned more than celebrated.

The other two teams that certifiably blew it up this offseason -- the Orlando Magic and the Atlanta Hawks -- stand as examples of teams that purposefully chose to put an end to a seemingly good thing in favor of the great unknown, and what might possibly be in store there.  Orlando's sad tale has been told a number of times now; the latest team to suffer the totalizing embarrassment of not being cool enough for a star player.  They looked self-consciously at their feet and pretended not to care when Shaq left for Los Angeles in 1996, and did the same for (a diminished) Penny Hardaway in 1999.  Tracy McGrady followed suit in 2004, and, unsurprisingly, Dwight Howard took Shaq's path to LA this past summer (but as a dumb-sighted ninny, and not as an unrestricted free agent).  Despite the fact that the team won 37 games, and delivered a spirited performance in the opening round of the playoffs, the DeVos family and CEO Alex Martins decided to clean house.  Dwight's gone, as well as former head-men Otis Smith and Stan Van Gundy.  In place of the latter two men is Rob Hennigan and Jacque Vaughn, and in place of the former, Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Nik Vucevic, Moe Harkless, Christian Eyenga, a few jettisoned albatrosses, and five future draft picks.  The team now lays in pieces on the ground, and it will take several seasons for Hennigan, Vaughn and a core group of players who have yet to be identified (and probably have yet to play a game of NCAA basketball, let alone professional basketball) to put them all back together again.

The Atlanta Hawks, on the other hand, stand as an interesting example of a team that eschewed calm, quiet stability in order to take a chance on something bigger than themselves (as previously constructed).  We have discussed teams where quiet consistency became a sublime misfortune, and the Hawks were certainly treading that dangerous line.  They had settled, seemingly, on a core of Joe Johnson, Al Horford and Josh Smith, with supporting help from Jeff Teague, Marvin Williams and Zaza Pachulia.  They had settled, seemingly, on the system constructed by Rick Sund, which employed Mike Woodson, then his lesser-paid clone Larry Drew, for eight seasons.  They had settled, seemingly, on the fourth or fifth seed every season, and a second-round exit.  But underwhelming results in the playoffs, and a commuter-esque arena that consistently featured as many transplanted fans of other teams than Hawks fans themselves, certainly necessitated a change.  And change came in a big way.  Rick Sund was retained, but basketball operations were handed off to Danny Ferry, the former general manager in Cleveland during the majority of the LeBron era, and who had been working as an assistant GM in San Antonio.  Ferry quickly made his opinion on the Hawks known: they had settled for too long.  Joe Johnson's ridiculous contract was jettisoned for four cap-friendly contracts, and Marvin Williams was sent to Utah for combo guard (at least while he was a Mav) Devin Harris.  Sure, Drew and Sund were sticking around, but what was once $105 million in committed salary became roughly $24 million -- $75 million dollars worth of cap space necessary for any team that hopes to be a player in free agency.  Indeed, a new reality was needed, and if that reality involved (presumably) a lot of losing, well, that was preferable to a life of sustained mediocrity.

That new reality -- best enjoyed with dust and rubble swirling about you -- only seems to come with a difficult rationalization: that sometimes we all must "blow it up", even if things don't seem all that bad.  This takes many forms that have nothing to do with professional sports, amateur sports, or really, sports in general.  We blow up jobs, we blow up relationships, we blow up domestic situations, and we blow up the figurative bridges that link us with one group, sometimes in favor of another.  The key, however, is that we work to rebuild what we have blown up, either with new pieces altogether, or with some of the old pieces that just weren't working out the way that you (or others) had intended for them.

Hope plays an important role in that process of rebuilding what we've destroyed, because, simply put, that's all we have.  We hope for patience from others, and forgiveness from ourselves.  We hope for luck that things will work out for the better, and not for the worse.  We hope that our best laid plans remain horizontal, and in the event that they go vertical, well, we hope that we've prepared the best that we can to roll with the punches and set a new course of action.  And there's something wonderfully enticing about an exciting, if uncertain future.  It's something I've learned as an NBA fan, and frankly, as a person just trying to live their life.

So with that in mind, I wish all of those who are "blowing it up" -- pro-team or otherwise -- best of luck.  Stay strong, stay the course, and don't forget your hard hat.

Monday, August 20, 2012

A Different Path: The WNBA and the Future of Sport.

Editor's Note:  We are proud to present a guest post from Alex Maki.  Alex is a Ph.D. candidate in Psychology at the University of Minnesota.  This is his fourth submission to The Diss.


My father loves to tell tales about his years as a star point guard in high school.  Growing up in a small town in rural Minnesota, my father was one of those basketball players that could go from hero to goat in the span of a quarter.  Before the three-point line was even implemented he was chucking up long shot after long shot, often refusing to pass the ball.  Games were won and lost according to whether or not he fell asleep in class before the game at an odd angle on his shooting wrist.

Though his stories of playing sports in Esko (here is the Esko Wikipedia article, in case you have interest; don't worry, it doesn't take long to read) generally revolve around his own successes and occasional failures, the second most common theme woven throughout his adventures are the extreme depths to which his coaches were willing to go in order to win.  Football coaches teaching players how to grab opposing players' crotches in the bottoms of piles.  Baseball coaches instructing teenagers to take fastballs in the jaw so the team could have a base runner.  Basketball coaches informing defenders that the referees' eyes are rarely watching a jump shooter below the belt, so make sure to get in as many low blows as possible during the game.  This was testosterone-fueled competitiveness that placed winning as the highest good, and overall health and happiness as a distant second.  Jesse Ventura captured this era of sports best when referring to professional wrestling, "Win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat."

Now I love my father dearly, but I cannot help but be taken aback when he recounts these stories with equal parts disbelief at the things coaches and players could get away with back in the day, but also a sort or lament at how sports seem to have taken a different path.  As he says, and he is not alone, "there were no flagrant fouls back in the day, only good, hard ones."  Although we can all think of current examples of cheating and egregious violence in sports (e.g., Saintly bounties and the Malice in the Palace), no longer is it the norm for these activities to be openly encouraged or tolerated.  And I think this is a good thing.  Perhaps the philosopher and psychologist Steven Pinker is right, humans are currently the least violent and aggressive that they have ever been in their history.

And yet, our current sports models still perpetuate a number of harmful lessons within our culture every single day.  Unnecessary violence and intimidation are a useful means to an end.  Sports are about competition, dominance, and justified humiliation.  Concussions are serious, but it is honorable to encourage athletes to play through them and even incentive against the system toward downplaying them (as in the NFL policy to not require independent neurologists at NFL games).

However, these are not the only sports models available.  The WNBA, for example, has done a much better job of creating a space where there is a balance between competition and respectful fun.  The WNBA has gone out of their way to make LGBT families and individuals welcome (here, as well as the fact that the first ever openly gay professional athlete in the United States was a WNBA player, and the tradition of openness continues).  They encourage gender equality and fight against gender norms that make girls and women feel like they have to be cheerleaders to get attention in the sports world.  The WNBA also partners with schools to offer at least one basketball game in the middle of a school day where classes can attend together and take in a game.  And WNBA players don't take themselves too seriously.  If it had to be one, I know which sports model I would prefer my niece to imitate.

I had the pleasure of seeing the world champion Minnesota Lynx play in a number of terrific home games last season.  It is not often that Minnesota sports fans get to say "world champion" and a team from their home state together in the same sentence.  My experience at those games was better than I could have hoped for.  Here people were friendly to all and yet loyal to their team.  I saw gay and lesbian couples that felt comfortable and safe expressing their love in public.  I saw daughters with fathers and daughters with mothers.  I even got a number of friends to come along with me to games.  Friends that never even had interest in coming to a Timberwolves game.  Something about the WNBA environment felt welcoming to them.  There wasn't the embarrassment or shame sometimes heaped upon people that fail to remember every single rule or star from a given sport.  In total, it feels less like we are there to use their bodies for our own ends.  Rather, we are there to take part in their community.

The fact is that life is political.  Burying your head in the sand does not change the fact that we support  horrible politicians and corporations by the votes we cast through the ballot and the wallet.  Supporting the NFL at least indirectly supports the shirking of medical opinion and the downplaying of the severity of concussions.  Supporting the NBA means supporting an organization that largely chooses to maintain the status quo of second-class citizenship of LGBT individuals.  This is the truth of the situation, whether you face the facts or not.

Sports are an apt replacement for art in the classic Oscar Wilde quote: "Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates life."  Although sports are influenced by the culture in which they take place, they have the potential to impact popular opinion and thought at a level almost unrivaled in our world.  The WNBA is an ideal model for how we want our children to act both in their sporting lives and in the rest of their lives.  Hell, it is a great model for how we want ourselves to act.  Consider supporting the WNBA by checking out a game in person or watching one on television.

Or maybe just the next time someone speaks sexist words at the mention of women's sports, let them kindly know that the world will soon be a better place once either their outdated opinions or they, themselves, have passed on.  Whichever happens first.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Your Annotated Smartphone Bathroom Reader for Saturday, August 18, 2012.

Between the Dwight Howard trade and the Melky Cabrera suspension, it's been a long week in the Diss' North Bay office.  Hence, we discuss Vanessa Bryant, Jay-Z, blogging, untimely tragedies, and the NBA age requirement.  And -- sigh -- Dwight Howard, of course.  Many thanks to Symbol Lai and Franklin Mieuli for the labor-share, and a hearty welcome to first-time-bathroom-reader-contributor Andrew Snyder.

Bleacher Report and HuffPo: How the Only Two Nine-Figure Blog Exits Used Crowds Wisely
Sarah Lacy

The big news of last week in the sports blogging world was that Bleacher Report (for whom occasional Diss-cussant Kurt Scott writes regularly) was purchased for $200 million by Time Warner.  Bleacher Report, a catch-all sports blog/site started in 2006 by four high school friends, joins the Huffington Post as the only blogs to secure nine-figure price tags when larger corporations looked to secure their creative content and writing staffs.  Sarah Lacy explores these purchases, and the processes by which both sites rose to prominence.  In Lacy's view, both B/R and HuffPo can attribute their success to two important factors.  The first is an investor named Fred Harman, whose investment firm (Oak Investments) backed both sites, and provided the funds necessary to establish a payroll and increase and expand marketing techniques.  The second, of course, is the business models of the sites themselves.  Both sites employ highly paid professional bloggers and amateur writers.  While the professionals write the high-profile articles, and give the sites name-brand credibility, the faceless, unpaid army of writers (who are just happy to have their work on a well-read site and will gladly write for free) drive up the pageviews and pad the site with content.  This is certainly the case with B/R, who have employed Bethlehem Shoals, Ethan Sherwood Strauss and Rob Mahoney, and accepted the volunteered services of thousands of others.  It's almost like a diffuse sportswriting internet sweat shop.  Well played, Bleacher Report, you industrialist dogs!  And in case you're wondering: The Diss is for sale, and only for $10 million dollars.  That's right, just eight easy payments of $999,999.99, plus shipping and handling!  And yes: we accept American Express.

- JG

The London Chronicles, Vol. 6: The Mailbag That Wasn't
Bill Simmons

A week ago, the world besides L.A. ground to a screeching halt and recoiled in collective horror at the latest installment of the Dwightmare.  Because every basketball news outlet rushed to make sense of this blockbuster trade (including The Diss), I'll spare those of us who've dealt with the aftermath through willful forgetting.  Still, this article is worth reading for the following four (4) reasons:

  1. Bill Simmons apparently had the same reaction as Jacob and, I would venture, the rest of the basketball 99%.  In addition to signaling The Diss's relevance in the world of sports blogs (yippee!) that this phenomenon occurred suggests the unquestionable moral authority of non-Laker fans. (Relax, I'm just kidding).
  2. Simmons attempts to think through the ramifications of this power shift for other organizations like the Nets, Rockets, Nuggets, and, believe it or not, Sixers.  That's right folks, in the midst of this furor over how great the Lakers will be, there is an established organization in a little city called Philadelphia that also stands a chance to benefit greatly.
  3. In his analysis of the Sixers, Simmons also gives an incisive run-down of the risks the Sixers run by acquiring Andrew Bynum.  The long and short of Simmons' position seems to be: Pipe down, Philly!  You have finally gotten rid of that underachieving burden Andre Iguodala (a minority opinion I, a Sixers fan, takes), but you're not out of the woods yet.  Check out Simmons' list of fears.  It's like he knows us Philadelphians.
  4. Though this isn't exactly a reason why you should read Simmons' piece, it will make the article more illuminating if you take this step.  Please, after you've read his Fear No. 2, flip back here and insert a Fear 2.5: Not only do the Sixers now have two of the most mercurial players in the NBA on their team in Bynum and Evan Turner, they have undoubtedly, with Doug Collins, the moodiest coach in the NBA.
Someone get the Sixers a good shrink.  I have a feeling this season will be a bundle of feelings.
- SL

With Arena, Rapper Rewrites Celebrity Investors' Playbook
David M. Halbfinger
New York Times

Jay-Z, Beyonce, and now Blue Ivy have mainstream cachet in American pop culture, and despite Jay-Z's ownership of a minuscule percentage of the Brooklyn Nets, he's had an outsize influence on the team, detailed in this NYTimes piece by writer David M. Halbfinger.  I also laughed when I read the words "part-owner," and then realized the writer couldn't use "minority owner" for obvious reasons, despite the pun.  Regardless, it's always fun to read coverage of the NBA by America's "paper of record," despite their Knicks-centric focus, because they usually take unique angles and unearth details like...real journalists.  The subject matter of this Jay-Z/Nets profile is fascinating, but my favorite detail was that, according to Halbfinger, "the rap star pulled back from the Nets as their fortunes faded and they failed to make the playoffs after the 2007-8 season. 'He's very brand-conscious,' a Nets official said."  Good to know that even Jay-Z knows the Nets suck(ed).  Then again, he did say, "The Nets could go 0-82 and I look at you like this shit gravy" on Watch The Throne so maybe he just doesn't give a damn.

- Andrew Snyder (AS)

Teenage Wasteland: Shabazz Muhammad Latest Victim of NBA Minimum Age Requirement
Tom Ziller

One of the most controversial provisions of the 2005 NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement (and an issue so caustic that it was largely ignored by both the players and the League during the 2011 lockout) is the so-called "age requirement".  The age requirement, in short, mandates that a player must be at least 19 years old to be eligible to be drafted.  This rule ended the the high school-to-pro wave that dominated the draft scene in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and instead delivered the nation's top "amateur" prospects to the NCAA (and for a few, overseas clubs).  Tom Ziller explores this rule, specifically as it relates to Shabazz Muhammad, who is projected to be the number two overall pick in the 2013 draft.  Muhammad, who will be a freshman at UCLA, is being investigated for accepting improper benefits (paid trips for campus visits) from some shady-sounding street agents.  In Ziller's view, Muhammad's college season is now jeapordized because of David Stern's "business decision for the NBA".  Ziller points out that the age requirement is an economic condition -- the NCAA wants access to the best young players for at least a year, and Stern is powerful enough to ensure that that happens.  However, as Ziller notes, Stern ignores the fact that the NCAA is actually a pretty seedy place, where many unbecoming individuals profit on the talent and promise of young athletes, and that there are few alternatives for 17 and 18 year olds who aren't interested in attending college but want to continue to play basketball.  While I'm not sure it's David Stern's fault that Shabazz Muhammad, who hasn't even taken a college class yet, let alone played a game in the NBA -- has surrounded himself at a very young age with some poor role models (and Ziller, he certainly is the first child to do so...ever), it is a very interesting and informative discussion on a much-derided rule.

- JG
It Really Is All About the Players
Dave Berri

Dave Berri, the founder of The Wages of Wins Journal, and the author of two successful books about economics and sports, uses advanced statistics to challenge the notion that coaching and systems have been the reason that USA Basketball has returned to its golden form since 2004.  Berri argues that it wasn't the leadership of Jerry Colangelo or Coach K that enabled Team USA to exorcise its demons, but rather -- duh -- the players themselves.  Using the "Wins Produced" stat -- the standard sidearm for a statistical revolutionary -- Berri shows the average WP for each roster, to highlight the idea that efficiency is the primary reason why teams succeed, and not coaching, systems, or culture.  Good stuff from one of the big names in sports analysis.

-  JG
Vanessa Bryant Would Not Want to be Married to Someone Who Can't Win Championships

Back in December 2011, when the Kobe divorce scandal first unfolded, Diss founder Jacob Greenberg schooled me on Vanessa Bryant's appeal to the average male.  "Ummm, have you seen Vanessa Bryant??", I remembered him asking incredulously.  "Pretty much every one of my friends -- hell, maybe pretty much every red-blooded male -- thinks she's beautiful," he said.  "Nevermind Kobe's not getting a pre-nup," Jacob continued in the heat of the moment, "the more important question is: 'Why on earth would you cheat on someone who looked like Vanessa Bryant?'"  I recall shrugging in half agreement.  If Jacob says so.  Rather than argue, I would uncritically accept this assertion as fact, file this under "Strange Things that Guys Do that I will Never Understand," and try to grasp the import of the Vanessa-Kobe divorce for people all around the world.  That is, lack of pre-nup aside, Vanessa Bryant is single now, and ready to mingle!  But as much as the dreams of many Vanessa Bryant admirers might have soared during that fleeting half year period when the NBA couple seemed ready to split for good, those fragile glimmers of hope wouldn't last for long...mostly because Kobe got her a car, some bling and Vanessa Bryant only likes champions, y'all!!!  Step back average joe, respected figureheads and billionaire playboys!  You got served.

- SL

Thomas Lake
Sports Illustrated

When I think of the NBA I think of Jordan, LeBron, Wilt and Magic.  Men who only need one name.  but the stars are few and far between, sprinkled among teams like their namesakes in the sky.  Most players aren't stars, and some will be out of the league soon while others manage to survive in the NBA for a long time.  Danny Roundfield was one of those players who, while never a star, was able to carve out 12 successful years in the NBA.  I'm sorry to say that before this article I had never heard of him, and I'm even sorrier to say that he was killed last week while saving his wife from drowning.  Lake's piece uses this awful even to introduce Danny Roundfield to a whole new generation, not as a basketball player, but as a baller husband and father.  Roundfield chose not to define his identity by his skill on the court, but by how he treated his family and those around them.  It seems he suffered a tragically fitting death.

- FM

Friday, August 17, 2012

Diss Guys Miss Guys, Volume 6

I was tempted to declare Jason Richardson the Diss Guy of the week and Andrew Bynum the miss guy solely because of their excellent sartorial decisions (or the lack thereof). I mean, c'mon Bynum, you're a 24 year old man that has made somewhere around $70 million in your career, and that's what you wear to your first press conference with a new team? But who can blame him, when travesty's like Russell Westbrook's closet get held up as a shining example of fashion?

Diss Guy - Paul Gasol

I know we're over the Olympics already and looking forward to Sochi in 2014, but Pau Gasol deserves another minute or do in the limelight. Given Spain's tepid play during the rest of the tournament a lot of people (myself included) thought this game wouldn't be all that close, yet the game stayed close through the first half. The third quarter, however, is where the United States thrived this tournament, where they decided to stop toying around with opponents and release the barrage of threes. Going into the third quarter, Spain was destined to fail. Their best point guard (Ricky Rubio) was out of the tournament, and their second best point guard (Jose Calderon) was working on his Beyonce impression rather than, you know, playing basketball. Pau's formerly large brother Marc (I will ALWAYS find an excuse to post that picture) would sit out the third quarter after losing track of how many fouls he had committed.

Pau, as if screaming to his critics "I'm a top twenty NBA player!", responded by going to work. After Calderon and Ibaka miss shots, Spain's third quarter goes like this:

  • Pau makes jumper
  • Pau makes layup and gets the and one
  • Pau dunks
  • Some other guy misses
  • Pau makes layup
  • Pau gets fouled and hits 1 of 2
  • Pau makes jumper and gets the and one
Finally, six minutes after the quarter started, some other guy makes a shot. Credit Spain's other players for feeding Pau the rock, but it was about damn time somebody recognized the fallacy that is Kevin Love and Carmelo Anthony playing "defense" and attacked the middle against the US.

Miss Guy - Jason Terry

By all accounts, Jason Terry has had a pretty successful NBA career. He spent five quality years in Atlanta and eight in Dallas, was an integral part of a Championship winning team and has averaged 16.1 points over his thirteen year career. Hell, he even won a NCAA title with Arizona! Now, reaching the twilight of his career, he has signed with the Boston Celtics to hopefully inject their offense with the same kind of energy he brought to Dallas, and to replace an aging man celebrate. Like many people, to celebrate this new step in his life, he went out and got a tattoo:

What is that? You're having trouble seeing what that's a tattoo of? Here, let me give you a closeup:

Seriously? He got a huge full-color tattoo of a team he has yet to play a game for on his arm? I mean, I know he has done this sort of thing before and it has worked out for him, but I don't think he'll be so lucky this time around.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Little Luigi Lovin'

Admittedly, I’ve never been much of a gamer. My parents bought me a Nintendo 64 about two years after they were cool, and I recall getting a Sega Dreamcast for 50 bucks at an after Christmas sale once, but for the most part my video game knowledge is elementary at best. However, as a product of the 90s, I am more than familiar with the Bowser battling, Yoshi riding, Italian plumbing duo of Mario and Luigi Mario. That’s right. Look it up. Their last name is Mario. Mario and Luigi Mario.

The one game I had a real affinity for was Mario Kart 64. As is the case with most video games, I was terrible, but I did figure out a few shortcuts that allowed me to win a race or two. Or perhaps that’s just a bit of revisionist history. I really should have played a few games with Howard Zinn when I had the chance.

The following is a list of Mario Kart 64 characters ranked by popularity:


Luigi, despite his crucial role in the world of Mario Bros. (Venice?), always got the shaft. Although never completely forgotten, he most certainly never got the credit that his red-hatted brother garnered.

And this got me thinking. Maybe it’s in the name.

Luigi “Geno” Auriemma is undoubtedly one of the greatest basketball coaches of all time. At age 58 his accolades already include an overall record of 804-129, 7 D-1 National Championships, 6 Naismith Coach of the Year Awards, a spot in both the Naismith Hall of Fame and Women’s Basketball Hall of fame, and an insane 90 game winning streak. Ho hum. And now go ahead and add to that already astonishingly impressive resume an Olympic Gold medal, as Coach Geno lead the US women to its 5th consecutive championship at the Olympic level.

Earlier in the week Franklin wrote a piece praising Coach K. The content in the piece was spot on, as he perfectly summarized a career that can only be defined as sublime. What really piqued my interest was the title of the article, “The Smartest Man in the Room.” The case could certainly be made, and was made, that Coach K deserves that title but how and why was no real major attention given to Coach Geno during these 2012 games?

Part of what we do here at The Diss is to critically highlight and explore the external factors associated with the NBA and basketball at large. We have discussed everything from racial issues to mental health in an intelligent and objective manner. I don’t want to come off as preachy, and I have no intention of stirring the pot just for the hell of it, but the only plausible answer to this question is rooted deeply within the idea of how gender roles are defined in basketball. Do you know how many male head coaches Team USA has had in their history?


Recap: We had the premier of the first male head coach in the history of US Women’s Basketball however NBC opted instead to cover the enthralling escapades of Ryan Lochte’s sex life.  

So as I sat in my living room watching Coach Geno and the US Women celebrate I decided that instead of bashing the mainstream media for their ambivalent attitude towards this amazing basketball mind, I would canonize him here on our humble blog. While many will argue his accolades aren’t as impressive because it’s Women’s basketball as opposed to men’s, I’d argue they’re even MORE impressive for that very same reason. How you choose to understand and follow women’s basketball is assuredly up to you, but it’s foolish and unfair not to give Coach Geno the immense credit he deserves.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Wildish Speculation and Outlandish Guesses: Going for the Gold Edition

There has been talk that David Stern & the owners want to change Olympic basketball to a 23 and under tournament (like soccer currently is). Do you like that idea?

Jordan Durlester: Simply put; No. I discussed in a previous post the REAL reasons behind this ridiculous concept and the more I've thought about it the more absurd it becomes. The simple fact is that competing in the Olympics should, for all sports, be the epitome of competition. It should feature the best of the best and determine the true champion of whatever sport is being played. Leave it alone, David.

John Reyes Nguyen: I don't like the idea of an under 23. Every country sends their best in every other sport except soccer, why not basketball. If we send an under 23 team, the other countries will still send all their best pros so they can beat the US. And they probably will.

Jacob Greenberg: You know what? I like it. I do. Think about it: if the USA won, it'd be such a big deal. It would confirm what everyone already knows -- that the USA is the best at basketball -- and it would finally get me pumped up about international sports and Team USA. There are some very good young players under 23 -- Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, Anthony Davis, Kyrie Irving, among others. I am intrigued by the idea of the best college players and young NBA stars together on the same team. At worst, that team wins silver.

Alex Maki: I do not like this idea. I still like the approach to the Olympics that says we are seeing the BEST athletes in a given sport in the entire world. It just so happens that right now most of those basketball athletes come from the USofA. That may not always be the case however. But bottom line is that I want the best.

Dave Gold: I like the Futbol approach of only allowing Olympic basketball teams to be composed of the best under 23 year old players, plus each country could have two 'Veterans' on the roster of any age. The reason I like it is because it would showcase the best young basketball talent globally - which would be great for me since I see international players drafted every year and I just say 'wait, who?' at least if I saw them in the Olympics I would have an idea of how good they were. I am also intrigued with the idea of young NBA players playing with the best college or even best high school players. While we are on the subject, why don't NBA players have to qualify for the Olympics like every other sport? How great would it be to have Olympic qualifying that included skills competitions, 1:1 games, dunk competition, 3pt shooting and you get points for how well you perform in each. Top players make the team....

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Wet Blanket on Kevin Durant's Olympics

If you read a bunch of my articles, you will notice that I criticize the NBA media over, and over and over. If we had the forethought to actually tag our articles, I’d throw some links up here. My basic thesis is that about 90% of the media coverage of the NBA is just worthless. That’s why I think our Annotated Bathroom Smartphone Reader feature is so important—there is so much garbage out there that it is important to separate out the wheat.

My criticism usually falls into two, interrelated, camps: the majority of content is either devoid of original and critical thought, or it exists solely to feed into the NBA echo chamber and hype machine. A perfect example of the former is just about every sideline interview ever conducted with a player or coach actively involved with the game. A typical sideline reporter will slide up to the coach of the losing team at the beginning of the third quarter and ask something bland like, “coach, what does your team have to change to win this game?” and the coach will respond with a non-answer that is obvious to any casual observer of the game, like, “we just need to play better defense and make our open shots.”

With that in mind, rewind to Sunday afternoon (in London). The United States Men’s Basketball Team has just won the gold medal in the Olympics, overcoming a feisty Spain. Kevin Durant has just played an amazing tournament, taking over the United States Olympic scoring record, and was perhaps the best player in London. Spain certainly thought so, as they tried a bit of defensive trickery (a box-and-one) to contain him. Not LeBron. Not Kobe. Kevin Durant.

Craig Sager, who decided his ticket to fame would present itself more easily by wearing garish suits than becoming a good reporter (seriously, since when do REPORTERS need to have a shtick?), interviews the aforementioned trio after the win. I’d embed the video in this post but NBC doesn’t allow it, so check it out here.  Sager starts out the interview by asking each of the three a fairly standard set of interview questions. He then asks LeBron:

“What an incredible few months. NBA championship. NBA MVP. Gold Medal. Can you put it into words for us?”

What. A. Dick. Kevin Durant, the man who lost to LeBron in the NBA Finals, the man who described to reporters a month ago how difficult it was for him to play with LeBron on the Olympic team after that Finals loss, was standing right there. You can see Durant become visibly upset with the question as he first looks up and then away, with an expression of I have to sit here and listen to this shit? on his face.

I have two big problems with his question. The first is that it isn’t, as Sean Connery once explained to us, a soup question. If purpose of a question is to obtain information that is important, this barely even counts as a question. The second is that there is a time and a place for everything, and after winning the Olympic Gold Medal is most definitely not the correct time to rehash painful memories. In fact, it’s one of the few times in which, if you view sports and media through an “Entertain me!” lens, a softball question is appropriate. After watching Team USA triumph, I’m sure there are a lot of people who would’ve appreciated an opportunity for LeBron to wax about his patriotism, how much playing for Team USA meant for him etc. I would’ve preferred something more interesting, but to each their own. We can certainly all agree that what Sager asked was inappropriate.

Sager followed up his doozy of a “question” with another. It began with him still talking to LeBron but trailing off, and directing the end of the "question" to Durant:

“You took away Kevin Durant’s chance for an NBA Championship, but you have been close friends here. How did the chemistry all come together for you guys?” 

Like LeBron, Durant deflected and handled the question well, but I really wish LeBron had interrupted:

Craig, it is difficult to excel in basketball. There are so many good, talented, hardworking players that all want to win as badly as you did. The basketball court is an anxiety-filled place. There are ten players, wearing shorts and a t-shirt, being watched by millions around the world. Unlike you, we don’t have the luxury of hiding our inadequacy behind polyester travesties of nature. Kevin here is hands down one of the basketball players in the world, and was our best player on this Olympic team. He has just achieved something amazing—leading his team to Olympic Gold—while being the focus of every opposing team’s defense. He also led his NBA team through the tough Western Conference to the NBA Finals. He has had an amazing year.

So why do you have to be such a dick? Why do you have to bring up irrelevant shit from the past with the sole purpose of riling somebody up? You’re not learning anything interesting from these question, you’re just making a man feel bad about his amazing accomplishments, which nobody is allowed to do, and especially not a talentless hack like yourself.

I understand that we are all so fortunate to be paid to play a game we love, and that there are a lot of responsibilities and duties, like talking to the media, that comes along with that. It is a trade that we are all happy to make because basketball means so much to us. But just because you have on a little badge that says “journalist” doesn’t give you a right to belittle a man and try to bring him down. C’mon, we’re out of here.

If only.