Sunday, September 30, 2012

Your Annotated Smartphone Bathroom Reader for Sunday, September 30, 2012.

Unfortunately, despite exhaustive searching on Google Images, I was not able to find a picture of Daryl Morey pooping.

When Do We Stop Caring?
Sactown Royalty

Those who survived the Sonics' last season in Seattle detail a sorry scene: where fans, for the first time, felt uncomfortable cheering for something that seemed destined to leave, and before long, stopped attending games and protesting a potential relocation as a means both to cope with the inevitable and also too not give too much financial support for an ownership group that seemed hellbent on screwing them over. Sadly, if this well written piece from Sactown Royalty is any indication, it seems that that moment has arrived for fans of the Sacramento Kings. The author of this piece, "rbiegler", seems openly anxious for the start of this Kings season, when support for keeping the Kings in town, and essentially rewarding the Brothers Maloof and their bad behavior, seems destined to come to an ugly end. Rbiegler does a good job listing off all the things that come with a professional sports team -- radio shows, bars, local commercials, and a different way to structure your year -- and how the Kings' presumed departure will take this away from them forever. It's a heartbreaking piece.

How Does a King's Fan Root For This Team?
Sactown Royalty

In the above cited piece, also from Sactown Royalty, the author looks at the ramifications of whether the Kings leave or stay. This piece takes a closer look at a small piece of that pie: how do King's fans continue to root for their team? Author "section214" ultimately takes a pluralistic approach, arguing that there is no "right" or "wrong" way for fans to act in this unfortunate season. The piece ends with two lines that I thought were striking:

Go Kings.

Go Kings Fans.

Teams and there fans are often spoken of as if they are one entity. After all, what is a sports team without its fans? Thanks to the Maloof Brothers, we might just find out.

League's Answer to Floppers Might Run Afoul Upon Further Review
Ken Berger
CBS Sports

Ken Berger reports from the league's annual NBA referee camp, where the refs are apparently in a great mood, given the NFL's recent presentation of how truly difficult it is to properly officiate a professional sports game. Berger notes that one issue not discussed was flopping, which has officially fallen under the league office. Berger explains the trickiness of officiating the game from NBA headquarters in New York, where fines will send messages about the legitimacy of wins, and thus the product on the court (as well as the referees who oversee the product). Berger's comparison of the referees and league office to local police and the FBI, and flopping as a federal offense, is very interesting.

For Brooklyn's New Arena, Day 1 Brings Hip-Hop Fans and Protests
N.R. Kleinfield
New York Times

The New Jersey Brooklyn Nets media team has done a fantastic job dominating the offseason. It seems like every other day I am reading a story about how the new Barlclays center will make it easier to use public transportation, or about how it is eschewing Aramark and other large concessions companies and inviting local business to provide concessions. But, as any frequent reader of this blog knows, stadium construction is rarely sunshine and roses. In the Barclays Center case, in exchange for taxpayers heavily subsidizing the project, developer Bruce Ratner has promised to build gobs of housing. While the Barclays Center has opened with a Jay-Z concert, groundbreaking on the housing has yet to begin. Kleinfield spends a day outside of the Barclays Center, interacting with protesters, developers, concertgoers, residents and local businesses. In the end, Kleinfield is unable to answer the underlying question: is the Barclays Center good for Brooklyn? Only time will tell.

IAm the Houston Rockets GM, AMA
Daryl Morey

Not an article per se, but you can read it on your smartphone in the bathroom right? Daryl Morey, the Houston Rockets GM, went on Reddit recently and answered a ton of questions (including one of mine!) So many people do AMAs on Reddit now that it is essentially another stop on the publicity tour. While I'm sure that factor didn't hurt, Morey seems to have just wanted to answer a bunch of questions, and that's what he did. He gets a lot of credit for answering all top-ranked questions, including one about why he donated money to Mitt Romney, and when he couldn't answer a question he gave legitimate reasons why not (I am prohibited by the NBA from talking about that, I can't answer that because of competitive reasons). This will only further Morey's reputation as the Bill Simmons-proclaimed Dork Elvis.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Diss Guy Miss Guy, Volume 12

Diss Guy: Kenyon Dooling

Because what they do is glamorized by society (including this lovely publication), it's sometimes hard to remember that NBA players are just regular dudes that happen to be really good at throwing a spherical object into a cylindrical object. Not coincidentally, my favorite stories are often those that remind us that NBA stardom, let alone NBA off-the-benchdom, is no ticket to a worry-free life.

Enter Kenyon Dooling who, to be honest, hasn't flashed across my consciousness very often. I have vague memories of him being apart of those exciting early 2000's Clippers teams with Lamar Odom, Elton Brand and Quentin Richardson, and know him as one of Dwight Howard's sidekicks in Orlando, but when he announced his retirement a week ago I barely blinked. I didn't stop and ask why a guy who signed a free agent contract a few months before was retiring, or why a guy who was 31 and still in demand was retiring. I just let it pass me by.

So why did Dooling retire? Plain and simple, he didn't want to ball anymore. He's done. His body hurts, he hasn't spent enough time with his family, and he is dealing with some heavy emotional issues leftover from a childhood filled with abuse. He has earned close to $30 million in his career, and he was ready to walk away. As he says, “The average career is 4 1/2 years and I tripled that, almost." Yes you did Kenyon, yes you did.

Miss Guys: Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen

On the heels of Kenyon Dooling's emotional retirement comes the ridiculous story that Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen had a dance-off to Trey Songz and Fabulous' "Say Ahh" at Pippen's 47th birthday party. What?

There are so many ridiculous parts of this story. First, the guest list included Jordan, Bulls President Michael Reinsdorf and his wife, Amad Rashad, Nazr Mohammed, ANTOINE WALKER and Worldwide Wes. That's about as bizarre of a collection of people loosely affiliated with the NBA as I can imagine.

Second, what are a bunch of people in their late 40's doing at a club? Admittedly, I have zero percent expertise on the Chicago club scene, but wouldn't they prefer sitting around a living room drinking wine, or perhaps a group trip to Hawaii or something?

Finally, what the fuck are Jordan and Pippen doing have a dance contest? What were the rules of this contest? Was it friendly (yeah right, Michael Jordan was involved) or competitive? Was Jordan wearing his usual pair of hilariously large and distressed in all the right places jeans? Why did they choose to dance to "Say Ahh"? Did Jordan hog the dance floor? Does ANYBODY, for the love of god, have video of this?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Michael Beasley, it's Time to Get Started.

Michael Beasley became a Diss player three years before the Diss was even born, and about five months before he played a game in the league.

It was July 2008. He had just been drafted second overall by the Miami Heat, who were ready to take whomever was the "loser" in the "who should Chicago draft, Michael Beasley or Derrick Rose?" question that bogged down the airwaves and blogrolls in the late spring and early summer of 2008.  Now he was poised to team up with Dwayne Wade and lead the Heat back to the playoffs, and eventually, an NBA title.

But first he had to get through his pre-rookie year summer, and that turned out to be tougher than we thought.  Of course, he got busted for smoking weed  (alongside Mario Chalmers and Darrell Arthur) and bringing girls up to his hotel room at the Rookie symposium, but the first "red flag" that was raised above B-Easy's head happened during his summer league debut.  Despite the fact that Beasley scored 23 points in 28 minutes (while nursing a cracked sternum), and according to John Denton, looked like the much better draft pick compared to a "jittery and shockingly unsure" Derrick Rose, most observers were shocked and concerned that Beasley scored all of his points while singing aloud.  This seemed to confirm certain misgivings that some teams and journalists had about B-Easy's work ethic and mindset.  At the time, Beasley disagreed.  "It's just basketball, man.  Played it in college, high school and middle school.  The same game, same concepts, the same rules.  I was just out there having fun."

As we enter Beasley's fifth season in the league, it's striking how much has changed, yet how much has remained the same.  Derrick Rose is no longer described as "shockingly unsure", and there are few doubts that the Bulls chose wisely in the Rose-Beasley debate.  Beasley is no longer a member of the Heat, and is now on his way to his third team.  His game, overall, has changed as well; he no longer "drives to the rim with reckless abandon", settling instead for long range jumpers.  But many things have remained frustratingly stagnant.  While B-Easy is still "just out there having fun" and continues to just "go and play", that has not translated to wins, or really even individual success.  And he's continued to deal with injuries.  Lots of them, in fact; he missed 8 games in 2011, and 19 games in 2012.  All of this has produced the player we get today: a player with career averages 15.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, but who has quickly become disposable due to his inefficiencies, unreached potential, and frustratingly inaccessible talents.

His last season in Minnesota highlighted the problems with B-Easy's current evolution into whatever he's turning into -- something less than a full-fledged bust, but certainly a career that looks strikingly different than the multiple All Star appearances that we all imagined for him.  Most of his numbers were career lows due to three reasons: injury, imbalance and instability.  His scoring fell to 11.5 per game as he settled on contested jump shots (from just inside the three point line; low-percentage attempts that yielded less payoff in the end).  His distance from the hoop didn't allow him to crash the boards with the gusto he had in his first two seasons (and his 5.7 average as a full-time starter put him in the lower half of the league compared to his fellow starting small forwards).  Much of this had to do with the fact that he never established a role with either of the coaching staffs he worked with in Minnesota.  He started as a full-time small forward with former coach Kurt Rambis, but mostly came off the bench as a three-four for standing coach Rick Adelman.  His efficiency indicies were troubling, as his PER (13.0), Win Share (0.5) and Offensive Rating (95) all fell from slightly above league average to below league average.  It was a nadir in a career that overall is trending downwards.

Yet, for all of his struggles, B-Easy did not lose friends. Why would he? By all accounts, B-Easy showed up for work on time, stayed out of trouble, and was a positive, outgoing presence in the locker room.  His famously bizarre personality may have rubbed some the wrong way while the ship sank in the second part of the season, but as he might say: "I felt like me."  His coping mechanism seemed to be the fact that litte has changed since his first summer league game against Derrick Rose way back in 2008. For him now, just like then, "it's just basketball, man."  This isn't to say he doesn't care.  Far from it.  But it's just basketball, man.  Why get too worked up?  It's just basketball, man.

And he's right.  It is just basketball.  Which is good that he's on his way to Phoenix, where the desert winds seem to cry: "it's just basketball, man".


In July, Michael Beasley sold his Minnetonka home (as well as his book of Ingmar Bergman screenplays) and moved to a new city: Phoenix, Arizona, where he had just signed a three year, $18 million dollar contract to play for Alvin Gentry's Phoenix Suns.

The Suns exist as something as a NBA Mayo Clinic for troubled souls.  The Suns high octane offense, lauded training staff, and ability to consistently compete (and occasionally contend) have established themselves as a generally positive landing spot.  Many players have rejuvenated their bodies, minds, and careers while playing for the Suns.  Folks know the big names like Steve Nash, Grant Hill, Shaquille O'Neal.  Some might even know the lesser figures like Jared Dudley, Jason Richardson and Marcin Gortat.

But many might not remember Tim Thomas at this point .  Thomas, of course, was the famously talented forward who, according to most pundits, did not "get it" in his ten season career.   Many teams  (either teams, though he was traded nine times) signed him, intrigued by the unique skill set he presented. As a 6'10' swingman who could reasonably defend all three forward positions, and whose long arms, ability to bang down low, employ a bit of finesse, rebound, and most usefully stretch the floor and hit deep threes, he was in many ways America's answer to the Euro-forward who was in vogue at the time.  But, as always, a questionable work ethic, poor conditioning and the always damning "locker room cancer" label followed him everywhere he went.  Tim Thomas was never going to "get it".

But in one spot -- Phoenix, in 2006 -- Tim Thomas got it.


The thing was, in Phoenix, Tim Thomas was good essentially because he could be himself.  In all of his stops prior to Phoenix, Thomas was tasked with becoming whatever the narrative stated he needed to be to be valued in the public's eye.  In Philly, it was to be Allen Iverson's running mate, and a presence in the paint.  Fat chance.  In Milwaukee, it was to be the fourth member of the Big Three of Cassell, Big Dog and Ray Ray, and again, mostly muscle down low (all three of those guys were jump shooters).  Okay, maybe for awhile, but not with George Karl, and not in Milwaukee.  After that, in New York and Chicago, it was to stay out of trouble while playing for mercurial hard asses like Larry Brown and Scott Skiles, while playing inconsistently.  Nope, not a chance.  Thomas seemed unmotivated to become what others wanted him to be, especially when he never had a choice in the matter.

What we see is when Thomas got a choice, he made the most of it, and succeeded at being himself -- at least his basketball playing self.  When he arrived in Phoenix in early March, claimed off the waiver wires after almost four months on the shelf, he became a part-time starter, and full time shooter.  Phoenix used him, and implored him to do what he did best: score.  Mike D'Antoni's famous "Seven Seconds or Less" offense, a high-tempo, shot-happy system that relied upon jump shooters who weren't afraid to let it fly, was perfect for Tim Thomas.  He played the four and the five (Amar'e Stoudemire was out for that season recovering from microfracture surgery), and was taked with creating space and shooting when he was open.  He spent the regular season getting back into shape, and by the playoffs he was ready.

Though he didn't get a lot of time late in the regular season, he stepped up in the playoffs.  Big.  The offensive numbers tell a brilliant story: 20 games, zero starts, but averages of 15 points and 6 rebounds on 50% shooting.  His threes are amazing across the board: 48 threes on 108 attempts, good for 44%.  His advanced stats are wonderful as well: a player efficiency rating of 16.4, a stupendous offensive rating of 119, and a career high win share of 1.9.  It was a banner year for Tim Thomas.  By every metric, he was a highly efficient offensive player, and a contributing member on a team that went deep into the playoffs.

But they only tell part of the story.  Throughout that 2006 playoff run, Tim Thomas was a big game player; the Suns' version of Robert Horry.  When the Suns trailed 3-2 in their first round series against the Lakers, and facing elimination, it was Tim Thomas who hit the big three as time expired to force overtime, and hit another big three in the extra period to beat the Lakers.  The Suns would win Game 7 by 31 points, and overcome a 3-1 deficit.  In the next series against the Clippers, he would move to a starters role, and continue to pour in the points.  He hit big shots against the Clippers, and played a key role in the Game 7 thriller which sunk the other team from LA, doing what he did best: hitting shots.  Though the Suns would flame out against the Mavs in a six game Western Conference Finals, Tim Thomas stayed hot, averaging 20 points in the series, and putting up big shots until the very end.  For once, he got it.

And, unsurprisingly, as a free agent that summer, he got his: a 4 year, $24 million deal with the Clips.


I think you know where I'm going with this by now.  I think Michael Beasley could learn much from Tim Thomas' success as a Sun.

The first is that Phoenix is the place for multi-talented offensive forwards to roam.  Tim Thomas was one of several offensively gifted forwards who have found salvation in the SSOL offense, a variant of which coach Alvin Gentry still utilizes.  As the team's presumptive starting small forward (though positionality still remains a suggestion, and not an all out requirement), Beasley will be asked to do many of the same things Tim Thomas was tasked with doing in 2006.  Already a gifted scorer from the wings, Beasley will have ample opportunities to launch jumpers from either of the corners, or drive to the hoop and attempt to get points at the charity stripe.  Defense -- never a priority for B-Easy -- will be put on the backburner while the Suns attempt to run every team out of the gym.  If he can stay healthy, and continue to hoist shots with the abandon that he's showed in his first four years, we may see a different, more valuable side of B-Easy.

The second is that Phoenix is the place for pro ballers who would sum up their job performances with an unapologetic "it's just basketball, man" -- that is, that there's far more to life than 48 minutes of pick and rolls -- to call home.  The Phoenix program was never just about basketball.  Rather, there was something subtly holistic about the Suns franchise; not only would playing there revitalize your stats, but it would also revitalize your body, mind and soul.  The Suns training staff doesn't just tape ankles and prepare ice baths.  It also changes body shapes through diet changes, increases muscle and memory through yoga and meditation, and provides players with a front office that clearly works in their best interests.  Players who spend time in Phoenix all gush about the camraderie of the team, and the time everyone spends together.  For a highly social guy like B-Easy, who seems to play basketball for social reasons as much as financial ones, this will be a welcoming environment.

The third thing that Tim Thomas could teach B-Easy -- and this may be the most important in both the short and long term -- is that when nothing is expected of you, the best thing to be is yourself, and let the pieces fall into whatever places they're intended to rest.  Thomas arrived in Phoenix as a castaway; a guy who lasted three regular season games before getting waived by the Bulls, and who had to sit on his butt for four months before someone gave him a chance.  He responded by turning his strengths into valuable, tangible assets; skills that could win games in the present, and determine a payday in the future.   And he succeeded.  The Suns went deep into the playoffs because he did what he knew he could do best: score, stretch the floor, start the break, and provide a fourth or fifth trailer option when a fast break fell apart.  And his efforts paid off.  True, he did not remain with the Suns, but he maximized his earnings, given the relatively hopeless state his career was in when he arrived in Phoenix.  He did everything he was supposed to do, and it paid off.

Beasley is not in as desperate of a situation.  He's young -- only 24 years old -- and he just got paid.  But little is expected of this Phoenix team, which is just starting its journey out of the Nash era into some sort of strange beyond.  This is a period of talent evaluation, where assets are judged, and either added permanently to the program, or sent elsewhere.

If SSOL remains the mantra by which the Suns live or die (and it shows no sign of being abandoned soon), Beasley stands a chance to be one of its newest success stories.  He will be the most talented, multi-faceted scorer on the team, flanked by equally dynamic offensive forces in Marcin Gortat, Luis Scola and Goran Dragic.  He will not have to come off the bench, and instead will be told to do one thing: shoot, early and often.  And get back on D.

Before he left Minnesota for Phoenix, Michael Beasley said that his offseason workout routine would be grueling. "Shoot a zillion jump shots a day.  Dribble a million minutes a day.  Just work on being an all-around player, from rebounding to defending to blocking shots to stealing basketballs to scoring to playmaking.  Just being an all-around great player."

This is a good goal.  And this is exactly the player -- a multi-faceted offensive force that can dribble, shoot, pass, and get offensive boards -- that will help the Suns stay afloat this season.

And frankly, he should be working on this anyways.  It's time to get started.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wild Speculation and Outlandish Guesses: Time to Get Started Edition.

In light of debuting Time to Get Started, today we're talking expectations.

Who is your favorite "failed to live up to expectations" player?

Franklin Mieuli: Ike Diogu. In small sample sizes this guy was great, snagging offensive rebounds and playing a decidedly effective under the basket offensive game. He was only the number 9 pick out of Arizona State, not a traditional basketball powerhouse, so it's not like he was expected to set the world on fire, but his inability to figure out how to defender quicker, taller 4's killed him.

Jacob Greenberg: Larry Hughes. The Warriors traded for him in 2000, and for awhile, he was marketed as the future face of the franchise. And for good reason, too; he was a high draft pick who was thought of as AI's potential running mate in Philly, but like most potential running mates for AI, didn't work out. The Warriors seemed like a perfect place to blossom. But developing young players in Golden State is like planting flowers in concrete. Sure, Hughes put up solid numbers, had an All-Star year in Washington, and set himself apart as an elite defender for a couple of years. He was even thought of as a major free agent coup when he left the Wizards for the Cavs. But injuries, questionable attitude, and really, just a bevy of swingmen who could do what he did, better, and less injured, hastened his departure from the league.

Kenji Spielman: The Stache, Adam Morrison. (Favorite to enjoy that they are somewhat in the league, not that they were really any good at basketball and the entirety of their expectations seem to have been based upon their whiteness)

Andrew Snyder: Well after the Celtics signed Darko maybe I should change my mind, but for now I'm going to have to go with Wes Johnson. I have never seen a top 5 pick with less confidence in himself, and while I hope a change of scenery does him well... KKKAAAAHHHNNNNN!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Time to Get Started: An Introduction.

While doing some blog brainstorming the other day, Franklin (who, mercifully, will be losing his penname sometime in the very near future) and I realized that we never came up with a concrete definition of what constitutes a "Diss player".

You see, there is a certain pressure to carve an analytical niche for yourself if you are attempting to write about basketball on the internet.  There are many armchair basketball "experts" out there, and if you want to be included in their ranks, you need to find a way to talk about the game and produce analyses that will eventually set you apart from the rest of the herd.  The best blogs have done so by either using two separate but equally important (and intrinsically intertwined) methodologies: statistical analysis or discourse analysis.  Some great blogs do both, but by and large, the blogs (and bloggers) who have set themselves above the rest have used some sort of analytical talent to generate excellent content and provide different ways of looking at the game, and the players who play the game.

For example, a brilliant blog that has used statistical analysis to separate itself from others is the Wages of Wins Journal.  The Journal, founded and edited by economist/author Dave Berri and former Mavs' stats analyst Wayne Winston, has put invaluable work into assessing which statistics are most important when it comes to winning basketball games, and which players are the best at providing those valuable assets for winning ball clubs.  Statistics such as wins produced, win share, and adjusted plus/minus have illuminated the usefulness of a number of different skill-sets, and have glorified the efforts of players who heretofore were seen as little else members of a supporting cast.  Shane Battier's rise to prominence, at least in the world of analysis, is largely due to Dave Berri and The Wages of Wins.  And while they've doled out respect to the standard cast of All-Stars, they've also shown us why Landry Fields, Ronnie Brewer and Chuck Hayes deserve our praise as well.  I would argue that a Wages of Wins Player is a player who produces things that help teams win games (and more often than not, those things tend to be rebounds).

An equally brilliant blog -- and one that has gotten love from us before -- is the now-defunct FreeDarko. As Franklin asserted in his review of The Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History, FreeDarko focused on players whose careers told a good story, and who, through their play on the court, and their actions off the court, crafted a particular relationship between themselves and their fans.  Crafting an "emotional connection" with the game was of the utmost importance, and it seemed to help if the player's stylistic skillset made them valuable warriors in the positional revolution, a term coined by Bethlehem Shoals which referred to players who eschewed the traditional boundaries of positionality and did things on the court that made them unique, awe-inspiring, and above all, entertaining.  So while FreeDarko (who did their old fans a solid and released FreeDarko Player Rankings on Shoals' latest project, The Classical) loves stars like Rajon Rondo, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, they also lust over guys like Ty Lawson, JaVale McGee and Paul George.  FreeDarko found brilliance in Gerald Green, Gilbert Arenas and Rashad McCants -- players whose skills disturbed traditionalists but delighted fans across the board.

With these towering monoliths of homegrown basketball analysis in mind, it seemed incumbent upon us, as small fish in a very big pond, to attempt to create an archetype that would define what a "Diss player" is.  Moreover, it seemed necessary that such a creation represent an "original" contribution to the larger field of basketball analysis, and would differ from the players preferred by other blogs.  Now, Voltaire was correct when he said that, "originality is but judicious imitation, and that "the most original writers borrowed one from another."  As such, it was inevitable that many of the criteria that defined favorite players of the blogs we admire will naturally be ours as well.  Our task, then, was to attempt to explain what exactly we liked about the players we liked, why we seemed to like it.  Additionally, it seemed important to tie statistical analysis into such a definition, in an attempt to provide a fuller picture into what makes a Diss player a Diss player in the first place.

A "Diss player", of course, is different from a "Diss guy".  Diss guys don't have to be current players, and if they are, it is not mandatory that we enjoy their style of play. In fact, Diss guys, by and large, have been defined by what they do off the court, rather than what they produce on the stat sheet, or on television.  Diss guys are simply meant to be celebrated for the things they do as basketball players and human-beings.  There is a certain glory in being a Diss guy, but it isn't permanent, and certainly not a defining trait.

Instead, a "Diss player", in its ideal form, refers to someone or something that apparently is a bit more complicated than a Diss guy (hence our inability to define it).  A Diss player can be analyzed broadly, but in fact, is beloved (and investigated) because he represents more esoteric, specific parts of the game that don't always appear on the stat sheet, or in articles describing what the player brings do his team or the league.  Diss players do not necessarily have to be "good" -- that is, they do not have to necessarily affect the game in a positive way, or really have a skill-set that dazzles the fans, or makes them feel emotional about anything in particular.  Their contributions don't have to come on the court, and they don't have to be lauded for efficiency, professionalism, candor, or any of the things that normal talking heads judge quality pros judge their players by.  None of these things are held in especially high regard.

Instead, I would argue that most important trait of a Diss player is that they are outspoken in some aspect of their professional or personal life. This does not necessarily have to be on the court, nor does it have to be to the media.  Instead, this "outspoken" quality must present itself in some way that distinguishes himself from the rest of his peers. The Diss has organically developed a distrust towards "quiet consistency" -- that is, players and organizations that do things too professionally, and simply become the sum of their stats.  We appreciate unapologetic performances of individuality; nay, we demand it from the players who we enjoy watching.  So in that vein, it seems necessary that a Diss player portrays himself -- both to his teammates, his fans, and the larger viewing audience who may or may not give a shit -- as a living, breathing human being. They are in many ways the anti-FreeDarko player, who are often compared to Greek gods or inanimate objects in their analysis.  Instead, a Diss player oftentimes seems too human: their shortcomings and failings as professionals, as well as their mistakes and quirks as a human, make them more relatable, and in many cases, more beloved.  And in the end, this, really, is how we like them best.

So for example, LeBron James, for all his faults, is clearly a Diss player.  His outspoken-ness takes many forms, most of it positive.  He is outspoken in his brilliance as one of the best players in the game, and is unafraid to use the full bevy of his talents to enable his team to win.  He has remained confident about his decision to leave his home state and the team that drafted him to join his friends and pursue excellence in Miami, and has altered his personality to become a better teammate, and in turn, a winner.  We saw his game mature as well -- gone were the lower percentage jump shots, replaced instead by trips to the post (according to Synergy sports, 120 times over), and free throw attempts.  And for the first time in recent memory, we saw LeBron publicly concerned about issues beyond his brand, such as the murder of Trayvon Martin.  This unapologetic performance clearly cemented LeBron as a Diss player.

But then again, Andris Biedrins, who is LeBron James' opposite in nearly every single way, is a Diss player as well.  If you go by Wins Produced, LeBron James is the most valuable player in league.  Andris Biedrins is among the league's worst.  No one's PER has taken as big of a drop as Andris Biedrins over the last three seasons, and he's increasingly found his name besmirched due to sexual and financial transgressions.  Yet, it is his failure to launch that makes him so beloved, in a strange, esoteric way.  One can't help but pity someone who can't seem to catch a break, or who has clearly been affected by some sort of mental trauma that affects their professional life.  Biedrins clearly isn't lazy (though given his proclivity towards missing games, one wonders about his conditioning), but something has happened that changed him, as a professional basketball player, forever.  It is that precipitous fall, and the unknown of what's to come, that makes him a Diss player, and one we are happy to give our attention and generate analysis.

Perhaps the best way to point out who are Diss players is to focus on players who have the skillset that we, as Diss-cussants, look for, but for whatever reason, have not found the professional or personal inspiration to put them all together.  This doesn't necessarily mean the player is a bust -- far from it -- but it does mean that the player could become more Diss-friendly, and enter the pantheon of Diss players (as it is an honor bestowed to so very few), if they became outspoken in some aspect of their game, or life.  If that's unapologetic scoring, great.  If that's untapped potential, fine.  If it's steady contributions, and a staunch, outspoken unwillingness to be anything but themselves, right on.  But now is the time to show us.

We implore these players to get started for two reasons.  The first is that, simply put, it's time to get started.  According to statistics from the RAM financial group, the average NBA career lasts about five seasons.  The NBA is a highly competitive field, and it takes a lot of hard work and luck to distinguish yourself above others.  It's important to not waste too many years figuring it out.  Secondly, by finally becoming what we want them, as fans, to be, we can get a better understanding about what statistically and intrinsically constitutes a Diss player, and do a better job cataloging their existences here on the blog.

Selfish?  Perhaps.  But only by understanding them can we better understand ourselves.  And there's no shame in being a Diss player.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Monday Media: A Journey Through My Shameful Past

For the most part, I've always been pretty secure. I know who I am, for the most part I like who I am, and I don't worry too much about what others think of me. I've been like this for as long as I can remember, even during awkward adolescence (read: middle school). I only have a couple of memories about not being "cool" enough.

The most distinct of these is centered upon basketball shoes. In 6th grade, anybody that was cool had either a pair of Reebok Answers or Paytons. Outside of Air Jordans (are they even called that? are they just Jordans?) and Starburys, those are still the only two basketball shoes I can recognize on sight, and man did I want them. Nevermind that my basketball playing career started and ended in a YMCA gym a few years before, or the ridiculous way in which kids would take rolled up pairs of socks and stuff them inbetewen the foot and the tongue of the shoe. I hadn't ever felt, and haven't since, such feelings of inadequacy from not owning a product. I remember the jealously I felt when I saw Jeff Kobernus chasing Brad Amaral (I think the divergence in their respective lives is interesting) around after-school one day in his brand new Paytons. Jeff yelled out for Brad to stop, sat down, took an old pair of Paytons out of his backpack and put them on, and resumed chasing Brad. My mom wouldn't spend more than about $50 on a pair of shoes for me, let alone two pairs.

All of this to say that I know sneaker culture exists and at one point I would've given my left arm for a pair of shoes, but I am certainly not a part of this culture. Like any niche activity (and collecting shoes isn't very niche), there is a part of the internet dedicated to it, in this case Kix And The City, an "online magazine dedicated to sneaker culture". Because, you see, Sneakerheads are just like the rest of us, using the internet to get obscene details about a product before searching for that shady-looking website where you can get it for $4 less than Amazon. Hell, I'm surprised doesn't exist yet.

Not being apart of sneaker culture, or even fully understand it, I'm going to do what humans have been doing for centuries: make fun of something I don't really understand! The video below is hilarious. Never have I felt like my vocabulary was so inadequate as listening to this dude describe a shoe. Why is there an eleven minute shoe review video where we don't even see the shoes for 4 minutes? What the fuck is flywire, and why does this dude known exactly when Nike introduced it? if the "full-length zoom air visible air unit" is a first, what was the inferior technology we had previously? a partial-length zoom air visible air unit? How does Nike+ track my fuel, and what is my fuel?

I just can't get enough of this video. I'm also continually impressed by Nike's marketing, and how they basically have an entire culture based around coveting their products. Well done Nike marketing.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Your Annotated Smartphone Bathroom Reader for Sunday, September 23, 2012.

No one at The Diss is really in love with J.R. Smith (yet), but this edition of the Reader belongs to him.

Dan Devine
Ball Don't Lie

It's a really long title, so it must be a Ball Don't Lie post.  In this piece, Dan Devine looks into a recent quote from Knicks shooting guard J.R. Smith where he claims the Knicks are getting a bargain because he works hard, whether he's playing for "one dollar" or "$20 million dollars".  Devine skillfully agrees and disagrees, and uses some nifty advanced stats to prove his argument.  While Smith is a bargain if you believe in Win Shares, a stat that assess a player's individual contribution to a winning effort, and divides total paid salary by the number of available wins in a given season, he is not a bargain if you go by his defnition of a bargain, which doesn't account for salary.  Indeed, it makes a difference whether a player is being paid a dollar or twenty million of them.  A bit nitpicky, but good weaving of advanced stats and writing by Mr. Devine.

- JG

Benjamin Polk
A Wolf Among Wolves

Author Benjamin Polk says it best: "almost nobody has failed to notice and remark upon the Wolves unconventional racial make-up" this coming season.  He's right; it's somewhat unique that of the twelve players slated to get meaningful time on the 2012-2013 Timberwolves, nine of them are white.  He's also correct that this, for some reason, is a big deal, but we're not really sure why.  Polk asserts that the reasons people (meaning: Wolves fans, which I would consider myself to be a liberated member) are self-conscious about the whitewashed Wolves are two-fold.  Firstly, we, as purveyors of the sport, have not come up with a unified definition of what a "White" player actually is in the modern NBA.  Secondly, because NBA teams have become a "locus of black expression", it is discomforting that this NBA team, at least for this year, will not be one.  As such, there are persisting feelings of anxiety and angst regarding a team that fails to fit neatly into what we conceive as "white" -- indeed, there are elite white scorers (Love) defenders (Kirilenko) and dunkers (Budinger) on the team -- as well as what "not black" in today's NBA.  Polk does a good job looking back into American history, and identifying groups that were not always considered to be white (Slavs, Jews, etc), to show how this confounds us, and our stereotypes, today.  This is one of the smartest articles written this year, and a must-read for those who are interested in the way race and our "cultural imaginations" work to categorize players and styles in the modern NBA.

- JG
Maybe David Stern Isn't That Bad After All
Tom Ziller

A year ago, Tom Ziller (like just everyone else) was spewing vitriol at David Stern, who at the time, was doing the owners' bidding and locking out players (and team and arena employees) until a new collective bargaining agreement was reached between the league and the player's union.  But in September 2012, with the NFL referee lockout showing no sign of resolution, and the NHL staring down another lost season, Ziller is beginning to wonder if The Commish is so bad after all.  Ziller asserts that the chief difference between Stern and Roger Goodell and Gary Bettman (his counterparts in the NFL and the NHL, respectively) is that while Stern acts like he doesn't care about the players and fans, but actually does, Bettman and Goodell actually don't care at all.  He may have a point, considering the Bettman seems ready to lose another full season in order to bust the NHLPA, and Goodell is perfectly willing to use replacement refs for the long haul in order to save some money.  Ziller is correct: for all of his shortcomings, Stern has done his best to do damage control in the face of labor stoppages, and get everyone back to work as soon as possible.  We'll see if this general feeling of goodwill persists into next season.

- JG

Jonathan Abrams

A few years ago, while sitting in an auto body shop waiting for my car to get repaired, I read in a Sports Illustrated article that the player other NBA players would pay to see play was J.R. Smith, who at the time, was coming off the bench for the Denver Nuggets.  That struck me, since, at the time, I hadn't really heard of J.R. Smith.  Since then, he's become a cause celebre for journalists and bloggers to rally behind when crafting retrospectives about the "Prep to Pro" era that produced more Robert Swifts and Qyntel Woods than it did Kobe Bryants and Kevin Garnetts.  The general consensus is that J.R. Smith has all the potential to be an All Star-type player, but has not reached this said potential.  The question is: why?  Jonathan Abrams investigates this question, and attacks the enigma that is Earl "J.R." Smith III from multiple angles.  Using perspectives from a number of people who have worked directly with Smith, including his father, a number of his high school and professional coaches, and J.R. himself, we are given a narrative of Smith that explores his carefree, frustrating personality traits, while at the same time, assesses how his gifts have been used, and how effective they have been over his career.  This is an excellent biopic into one of the league's most compelling players.

- JG 
Steven Greenhouse
The New York Times

Is it possible that smaller businesses and corporations are learning new union-busting tricks from professional sports leagues?  Steven Greenhouse argues that they are, and reports extensively about a management practice that, once unheard of, has now become a popular tool to gain an advantage at the bargaining table, and marginalize the power of worker's unions.  According to Bloomberg BNA, lockouts have provided a record number of labor stoppages, with 17 employers (and perhaps more) who locked out their regular employees and told them not show up at work until they agreed to concessions at the bargaining table.  Strikes, meanwhile, are falling out of practice as a labor practice, due to declining memberships in unions, and fear of lost positions and wages to replacement workers if regular workers walk out on their jobs.  With unions facing serious challenges to their organizing and bargaining power, it will be interest to see if lockouts become a widespread union-busting technique from employers who want to wrest more bargaining power from workers.

- JG

Friday, September 21, 2012

Diss Guy Miss Guy, Volume 11

Diss Guy: Derrick Rose

We're awash in a new era of basketball where all of the players have known eachother since they were 14, force trades to particular teams to play with their friends, and dance around together. But not Derrick Rose. Like another member of the 2008 draft class, Russell Westbrook, Rose seems to be cut from a different cloth. Whether he is icily standing while everybody around him is dancing, or looking supremely uncomfortable throughout the listing of his accomplishments at a marketing event, Derrick Rose has always been different.

Derrick Rose has always been this way. In high school he chose his jersey number to honor a former player at his high school murdered by a gang in 1988, four years before Rose was even born. And so when Rose is at home in Chicago during the offseason, and sees his city falling apart around him, like his fellow Chicagoan Lupe Fiasco, it affects him deeply.

For a hot second I thought of designating Rose the Miss Guy because, c'mon, he cried at a marketing event. And if this were LeBron James, or Kevin Durant, or practically any other player, I probably would've. But not Derrick Rose.

Miss Guy: Channing Frye

This is a little different than our usual Miss Guy of the week. Frye hasn't done anything hilarious, stupid, or even hilariously stupid: dude has an enlarged heart. Like Jeff Green last year (though he had an aortic aneurysm, a different condition) we aren't likely to see Frye in uniform this year.

I've liked Frye since his University of Arizona days, when he was on a series of entertaining teams that seemed like the perfect blend of Larry Brown "play the right way" and early 1990's UNLV Runnin' Rebels. It has been fun to watch him embrace the fact that he is a 6'11" dude that is most comfortable sitting in the corner hoisting up threes—I really wish we could've seen him on one of the good versions of the SSOL Suns.

So Channing Frye, you are this week's Miss Guy of the week because I'm going to miss you this season. Get well soon.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Minimalism: Not Just a Word Your Art History Friends Use

Apple generates hype like no other company. There are many websites that pay salaries to writers solely to track down rumors about Apple’s upcoming products. There is a market for rumors a day before the damn product will be announced! I bring this up because it seems that NBA marketing teams are taking cues from Apple. The biggest fervor surrounds the uniforms of the newly minted Brooklyn Nets. We have supposed leaks from video games, leaks from figurines, and leaks from “insider” Twitter accounts.

Now, there isn’t nearly the demand for uniform news for there to exist independent outlets covering it (Paul Lukas be damned), so instead NBA marketing teams are creating it as best they can. The Phoenix Suns have been slowly leaking images of their new court on Twitter (maybe I’m just naive, but who cares what the court looks like?) and the Knicks sent Amar’e Stoudemire to a talk show to unveil their new duds. Perhaps this uniform thing is turning into a big business.

Apple’s embargo and media strategy isn’t the only trend that NBA teams are following. All of Apple’s products are exquisitely designed, without a superfluous part. While design is not as applicable to jerseys, which serve a singular purpose, NBA teams have been following Apple's lead in designing minimalist products. Paul Lukas touched upon minimalism in the designs of the new Spurs and Nets jerseys, but the trend runs much deeper than that. One only needs to look at the jerseys of the Bobcats, Knicks, and Suns, and I bet as more jerseys are leaked we will see other teams embracing it.

The reaction to these jerseys hasn’t been uniformly positive, but everybody seems to be glad that teams are moving further and further away from some of the monstrosities of the late 1990s/early 2000s. Before fans breathe a sigh of relief, I would take a moment to check out the history of the evolution of uniforms, because this isn’t the first time minimalism has been in vogue; many of this year’s uniforms seem like they are paying homage to the mid-1980s/early-1990s jerseys.

Detroit Pistons

Golden State Warriors

The sequences of images above show why I would hesitate to say that uniform designers have embraced minimalism because of its own merits, and instead argue that it is simply a reaction to the uniforms that came before. I mean, while I think we would all acknowledge that the Nuggets uniforms in the 1980s were downright amazing, it is no surprise that the uniform that followed was pretty boring.

For insight into the future, go look at college uniforms, where Oregon has long embraced the wacky.  Lest you think this is only a football thing, the Cincinnati Bearcats vehemently disagree. Given the history of uniforms, I would think that in about five years Nike, Reebook, Adidas, or whoever is supplying NBA uniforms in 2017 will hire a new designer who throws around words like "bold" and "cutting edge". This designer will decide that two-tone jerseys with a city name are boring, and what the NBA needs is just a little bit of color. Maybe he grew up in Toronto in the mid-1990s and has a fetish for cartoons mixed with purple, pinstripes and godawful font. Either way, whether you think uniform minimalism is boring or the high-water mark of design, don't expect it to stick around.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wild Speculation and Outlandish Guesses: Let's Play Some Damn Basketball Edition.

Jeremy Lin reentered the news this week when he asked to sleep on new teammate Chandler Parson's couch. That's the only excuse we need to talk about him! How will he fare in Houston?

John Reyes Nguyen: Jeremy Lin is better off in Houston than in New York. As a Knick, the fans will want Linsanity all the time and that's just not going to happen. He's a good point guard but he's not a player who can turn around a franchise, which is what the Knicks need. I think he will be fine in Houston, probably averaging 13pts, 8ast, 3turnovers per game. Unfortunately, Houston's gonna be really terrible for a while so that will hurt his stock too.

Jacob Greenberg: I think he'll put up nice numbers (around 20 and 8?), but Houston will be nowhere near the playoffs. He also stands a decent shot of getting voted into the All-Star Game as a starter by the fans.

Andrew Snyder: Hopefully, Lin will average 20-7-12, carry the Rockets to the #1 record in the Western conference, and proceeds to break internet basketball culture as we know it.

Franklin Mieuli: Depending upon how you feel about Kevin Martin and Omer Asik, Jeremy Lin might just be the Rockets best player. His usage rate will be very high, meaning he will get a bunch of assists, but also a bunch of turnovers. He rose to prominence while Melo was out and his usage rate was off the charts. Therefore, I think that while Lin's advanced stats will show him to be having a decent year, he's going to average something like 20 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists and 5 turnovers a game.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Longing For A More Perfect Imperfection.

There are lots of fascinating stories in this young NFL season.  The dominant 49ers are one.  Greg Schiano's bush leaguery is another.  But the most interesting storyline, without a doubt, is the effect of the replacement referees -- who are being used as scabs in a labor dispute with the regular referees -- on the "integrity" and "watchability" of the game.

Now, much of the hullabaloo has been largely unwarranted.  The replacement referees, who were drawn from the college and semi-professional ranks (if you consider the "Lingerie League" to be a semi-professional league), have generally done a fairly decent job.  Sure, there have been rough patches here and there.  But  there have been no blown calls that had any real ramifications on the outcome of any contest (though the extra timeout for the Seahawks in Week One could've been pretty bad), and there has been far less outcry about the refs performance after Week Two than there was after Week One.  And though I never take kindly to scabs, I must admit that officals' performance this week to the eye of a casual fan, was mostly indistinguishable from the past performances of the regular refs that they have replaced until at least Week Five.  The labor dispute is bad, but the football?  In my opinion, still quite watchable.

Yet, based upon the reviews of a quadrumvirate of fans, players, coaches and broadcasters, who want Goodell bring back the normal referees, I may be in the minority.  Broadcasters have been quick to point out missed calls by the replacement referees, with noticable disdain in their voices.  St. Louis Rams' fans chanted "Referees Suck" in full force this past Sunday.  And even Allison and I (stone caster that I am) incredulously pointed out a slew of missed calls in the 49ers-Packers game, and ridiculed the refs for their timid demeanor around players who they'd probably rather get an autograph from, rather than whistle for roughing the passer.  And the players and coaches haven't been silent either.  Joe Flacco and Ray Lewis eviscerated the refs after the Ravens lost to the Eagles, and Mike Shanahan and Jason Garrett both took exception to some missed calls in their games.  In all of these complaints, a singular issue emerges: the integrity of the game.  The general sentiment amongst the fans, players, coaches and broadcasters who have to interact with the refs, have mostly agreed that the replacement referees, for all the good and bad that they do, have compromised some aspects of integrity in the game of football.

"Integrity" (and it's marketing and advertising equivalent, "watchability") in officiating seems to be very much in the public consciousness of sports consumers, perhaps nowhere more strongly than the National Basketball Association.  This past season, the referees were constantly under fire for "bad calls", from journalists, bloggers, fans, players and coaches alike.  In particular, the issue of "flopping" -- where an defensive player sells contact from a driving player in an effort to draw an offensive foul -- became a major focus for those who spend a lot of time around the game, either in person, or in front of a television, computer, or mobile device.  Jeff Van Gundy has become the movement's informal leader, based upon a rant he made while calling a Knicks game for ABC.  TrueHoop even launched a series that set out to "Stop the Flop" by suggesting innovative ways to penalize players who are known floppers, or punish referees who continually fall for flopping.  While the focus mostly was on the players who got away with flopping, there was a fair amount of hatred directed at the referees who let the floppers flop.  They were the ones who allowed the integrity of the game to be compromised.

In many ways, regardless of sport or situation, referees cannot win.  They are tasked, along with players, coaches, and broadcasters, with keeping the game fair, watchable, and entertaining through their honest efforts.  Aside from the obvious bad apple -- the crooked, mob-connected Tim Donaghy -- we have absolutely no evidence that refs do anything except study the rules, take classes, integrate useful technology, and call games to the best of the human and professional abilities.  Yet players, coaches, fans and broadcasters lambast them regularly for failing to make the proper call after an infraction (which lasts but a millisecond, and is often indistinguishable from a non-infraction) is committed, and usually, after instant replay confirms (or denies, though that is rarely admitted) their assertions.  To protect their officials (or is it to protect themselves?), professional league offices collect fines from players, coaches and owners who criticize the zebras, but that fine money goes to various unlisted charities, and not to the refs themselves.  And then, when it comes down to negotiating a fair contract, so professional sports can maintain their integrity, and remain watchable, leagues can hold out forever, pinching pennies because refs, in the end, can be easily replaced, even for the long haul.

While we are seeing this play out in the NFL, this has happened in the NBA several times in the past.  There have been a number of referee strikes which required the NBA to hire replacement referees to call games.  1995 was the last time a replacement ref officiated a regular season game, and 2009 was the last time a replacement ref officiated a preseason game.  While some strikes have been worse than others, two similarities seemingly emerge from all of them.  Firstly, the replacement referees get better.  As Howard Beck reported in a 2009 article, a number of high profile regular referees -- Joey Crawford, Kenny Mauer, Bill Kennedy, Eddie Rush, Leon Wood and Derrick Stafford are among their ranks -- started off as scabs who learned the job better than the guys who they were being paid to replace.  So the notion that something bad is coming in the NFL because replacement refs are there is ludicrous; they can only get better at their jobs, not worse.  Secondly, when the refs come back -- and they will come back, lest Roger Goodell go all Ronald Reagan on us -- everyone, for a little while, is going to be ecstatic.  Chris Webber famously let out a whoop of joy when he was told the regular refs were coming back to the NBA in 1995, and one can expect Joe Flacco and Ray Lewis to follow suit when their zebras return to the NFL.

Of course, it will be fleeting.  Soon, all of us will be moaning and groaning about blown calls, terrible officiating, and clearly crooked refs.  Soon, all of us will be falling back to our old ways.  When a call is missed, we won't assume that the most obvious conclusion -- that even the refs are human, and at best, must make a 50/50 call on something that happens just once, for a millisecond -- and will instead settle on conspiracy theories, profanity-laced tirades, and preposterous propositions ("Man I could do a better job than these guys.")  These are the tried-and-true plays of a Monday morning quarterback, or an armchair point guard.

But for a minute there, we will all rejoice.  In our eyes, order will be restored, and all will be balanced.  I ask you to remember that moment when Joey Crawford calls another offensive foul on whomever Reggie Evans is guarding, and everything just seems offensive and wrong.  Really folks, it's not that bad.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Stephen A. Smith: Rarely Intentionally Hilarious, Always Unintentionally Hilarious

A few hours ago The Onion, America's favorite fake-news vendor, posted a not very funny article about Stephen A. Smith talking to his nine-year-old son about sex. Ho-hum.

And then Stephen A. Smith read it.

Unfortunately some internet spoil-sports, those same guys that ruined the magic of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, had to tell Stephen A. Smith what was up:

Peeps got jokes, indeed.

Monday Media: The Wages of Wins Videocast, or The Revenge of the Basketball Nerds.

Introducing "Monday Media", a semi-regular look into stuff that other members of the NBA's literati are producing.

Today's media: The Wages of Wins Videocast, where we learn four things:

  1. The Wages of Wins network is filled with incredible nerds.
  2. 2hose incredible nerds are incredibly intelligent when it comes to understanding professional basketball, and interpreting the stories that stats tell about a game, player or team.
  3. I'm not sure Google+ hangout is quite ready for primetime yet.
  4. They are some of the only bloggers (besides myself) who actually like what the Mavs did this summer, but don't think that it will prevent Dirk from becoming a Laker in 2014.
Oh, wash out your mouth, get that vom-vom gone.  He'll be old at that point.  Thanks for the entertainment, stat nerds!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Your Annotated Smartphone Bathroom Reader for Sunday, September 16, 2012.

There's so little going on in the basketball world, it's frightening.  Enjoy this very football-heavy basketball reader.

A Rough Start?
Charles P. Pierce

This piece is a bit dated, seeing as how things look pretty hunky-dory in Week 2 (which is on in the background as I compile this week's reader).  But Charles P. Pierce's main point -- that Roger Goodell's dictatorial rule of the NFL is producing some unforeseen side effects which seemingly compromise his overall vision for what the league is supposed to represent -- still rings true.  Pierce looks at the bevy of distractions that have marred the start of the new NFL season, ranging from the overturning of the Bountygate suspensions, to the replacement refs, to the growing rancor over the barbarism of football, and its lasting effects on the human body, to Chris Kluwe's brilliant use of the term "lustful cockmonster", to the ham-handed assertion that NFL-funded research will make the military safer.  He concludes that Goodell, who has run the NFL much like a post-colonial gatekeeper, has largely lost control of his of his league, and that the neat narratives that make football attractive to right-leaning individuals and corporations, are no longer so clean-cut.  It honestly makes David Stern look like a fair arbiter of justice, and the NBA fairly free of problems.

- JG

Why the Mariners are the Biggest Opponents of a New NBA Arena in Seattle
Barry Petchesky

For most of their existence, the Seattle Mariners have had to scratch and scrape just to remain in the consciousness of Seattle's fair weather fans.  Though Seattleites are more than willing to spend money on the M's when they're a winning outfit, they are not nearly as generous when the team is playing poorly.  This has been disastrous for the Mariners, who have not made the playoffs since 2002.  In 2011, the M's fell to third place in terms of attendance behind the Seahawks and the Sounders, Seattle's MLS franchise.  Now, they stand to fall to last place, once Chris Hansen builds his new arena right next to the house that Griffey built and moves the reborn Sonics (and eventually an NHL franchise) into said new arena.  Barry Petchesky details the tactics the Mariners have used to try and prevent the construction of a new arena in the South Downtown (SODO) area of the city, and explains why they're so opposed to the arena being built there in the first place.  Unsurprisingly, it has everything to do with competition, but not necessarily competition for fans to fill their own arena.  Petchesky explains that the M's are worried about competition in terms of merchandise sales, season ticket holders, and the various businesses around the arena.  He also asserts that the M's are concerned of the potential of the new Sonics developing a regional sports TV network; something they've been planning on doing once their deal with Root sports expires in a few seasons.  Luckily, the M's are a joke, and the only thing stopping the NBA from returning to Seattle is the fact that no teams are currently for sale.

- JG
Jay Cutler is People
Nick Bond
The Classical

Nick Bond is correct in his assertion that Jay Cutler, the Chicago Bears' quarterback, is perhaps now "America's favorite sports misanthrope" (at least since LeBron James won his ring and all the haters were finally forced to shut up), and that there's a certain pleasure in watching things go poorly for him.    All of us who enjoy ridiculing Cutler had a field day this past Monday night, when Cutler threw four interceptions in a losing effort to the Green Bay Packers.  Bond provides a rundown of Cutler's transgressions (especially the much-analyzed shove he gave to linebacker J'Marcus Webb after Webb spectacularly blew a blocking assignment), but then encourages us to view Cutler in a different light: that Cutler is "like any other kid who grew up insanely competitive and firmly convinced of [his] exceptional abilities," and that when he appears petulant, his perceived whining in instead "an existential whine, not so much a questioning sound as the sound of someone confronting a fate is he sure he doesn't deserve."  I have always appreciated analyses that focus on the Everyman traits that professional athletes display on large stages, and this is a very good one.

- JG

So Unlike Mike
Ryan McGee
ESPN the Magazine

The title of this piece is as clever as it deceptive.  While we have grown accustomed to Jordan-bashing since he became a basketball executive and owner, we have fallen out of practice of Jordan-praising when he attempts to improve his track record.  This article provides more details into the ways Jordan has failed as an owner of a small-market team, but also the ways he's changing his behavior, and attempting to build a winner.  As McGee explains, in the past, Jordan's roster decisions usually were made in the aftermath of the NCAA tournament, when a young player has a Jordan-esque moment that impresses the G.O.A.T., who then drafts that player with a lottery pick.  But of course, none of them work out, because those who are great in college rarely are great in the pros.  This is why high draft picks were wasted on players like Emeka Okafor, Sean May, Adam Morrison and Kemba Walker -- guys who look great in March against other teenagers, but clearly don't have what it takes to be a elite players in a league of men. But according to McGee, Jordan has finally become self-aware, and has realized that there are people who's specific job in the league is to assess talent, manage assets, and build teams.  In other words, Jordan learned that there are people called "general managers" who you can pay to take care of that type of stuff.  Enter Rich Cho, who has received credit for building winners in Seattle/Oklahoma City and Portland, and who is starting the long, arduous process of rebuilding the Bobs from the ground up through the draft and restricted free agency.  While I have no problem with reading Jordan-bashing, it's nice to see that he's changing his ways, and that the media is beginning to take notice.

- JG

The Man, the Mountain and the Bonner
Anath Pandian
Hardwood Paroxysm

One of the stereotypical terms that gets thrown around a lot when discussing basketball, and in partitcular, professional basketball is the "slow, unathletic white guy".  There are a number of guys who have filled that role over the years, including Fred Hoiberg, Brian Scalabrine, Austin Croshere and, of course, Matt Bonner, who serves as the subject of this piece.  Now, I feel perfectly comfortable looking at players like Matt Bonner, and call them "slow", "unathletic", and "white".  But as Anath Pandian learns as he spends a day training with Coach B: even 6'10'' and 235 pound "slow, unathletic white guy(s)" can run up a 3,050 ft. mountain in New Hampshire about thirty minutes, then come down the mountain and do over an hour of cardio and core workouts while standing upstream in a rushing river.  Then, afterwards, they'll gladly buy you a bottle of water at a coffee shop, and make conversation with the people who knew them when they were young, and still go out with their parents now and again.  This is a really entertaining day-in-the-life piece about the work it takes to maintain a rotation spot in the NBA, and how we really throw the term "slow" and "unathletic" around too much. But buying a bottle of water atop a mountain in New England?  Sooooo white.

- JG