Clicks to Pick Week of 11/20/17

Monday

 

Los Angeles Clippers at New York    League Pass

Anytime you can catch a marquee game at Madison Square Garden with the Knicks feed, I suggest you do it. The commentary duo of Mike Breen and Clyde Frazier is unmatched.

Washington at Milwaukee                     League Pass

John Wall vs the Nigerian Natural #getsome

Oklahoma City at New Orleans            League Pass

New Orleans has been an entertaining team to watch, and they just got Rondo back. Ojo!!!!!!

Cleveland at Detroit                               League Pass

Detroit may be the biggest surprise of the season. I didn’t even have them making the playoffs, but they are off to a good start. They don’t have a single superstar on that team, but they are doing their thing. Stan Van Gundy might get Coach of the Year for his efforts with this squad. This feels like a trap game for the Lebrons.

Tuesday

No Good Ass Games Scheduled

 

Wednesday

Golden State at Oklahoma City (Good Ass Game of the Week)  ESPN

Great read by Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher about Seattle losing the Sonics and how that shaped Kevin Durant’s decision to eventually leave Oklahoma City.

San Antonio at New Orleans   

If you like watching big men who pass well, then this is the game for you.

Thursday

No Good Ass Games Scheduled

Friday

No Good Ass Games Scheduled

Saturday

 

New Orleans  at Golden State      League Pass

New Orleans will keep this close, but the Warriors offense is like a dormant herpes colony: You don’t know when it will erupt, but its an explosive display whenever it happens. Don’t get gassed up on last week’s game against Boston. They’d be lucky to win two games in a first to seven series.

Sunday

No Good Ass Games Scheduled

 

 

profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at Fullsass Studios. Follow him on twitter @goodassgame. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com. 

 

Clicks to Pick Week of 10/30/17

Monday

San Antonio at Boston   NBATV

Everyone wants on the Dejounte Murray bandwagon now. No sweat. Just as long as I get credit for being a day one Dejounte Stan. Murray gets to match up against Kyrie. Should be fun for that alone.

Golden State at Los Angeles Clippers  NBATV (Good Ass Game of The Week)

Going to be lots of trash talk in this one. It won’t be close, but it still feels like a rivalry because Golden State loves beating the Clippers.

Tuesday

Oklahoma City at Milwaukee NBATV

Star studded affair as the OK3 go up against the longest team in the NBA.

 

Wednesday

Minnesota at New Orleans (VIP BOX?)

Timberwolves have not disappointed in being one the most watchable teams in the west. This is basically a Kentucky Wildcat alumni game, with three of the best big men to ever come out of UK playing.

 

Thursday

Golden State at San Antonio TNT

Deja vu.

Los Angeles at Portland TNT

If Lavar Ball pops off before this game, Damian Lillard might go for 60.

 

Friday

Cleveland at Washington ESPN

Must watch for the Jae Crowder/John Wall beef alone.

Boston at Oklahoma City ESPN

Push your date night to Saturday if you can.

Saturday

Memphis at Los Angeles Clippers  (VIPBOX?)

I’m still not ready to pencil Memphis in as a playoff team, but Chandler Parsons and Mario Chalmers aren’t quite as washed as I thought they would be…….yet

 

 

Sunday

Oklahoma City at Portland (VIPBOX?)

Who is going to guard Melo and Paul George? Russ vs. Dame should be fun too.

 

profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at Fullsass Studios. Follow him on twitter @goodassgame. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com. 

Book Review: John Feinstein’s A Season Inside

Growing up, I used to see John Feinstein on ESPN’s The Sports Reporters and think that he looked like the dude that Demi Moore married for his monies in the Dead Right episode of “Tales From the Crypt.”

I first ran across one of his books in college when a hoops junkie friend of mine kept A Season Inside on the base of his toilet. I’d check it out on the occasions I needed his restroom to poop. I knew Feinstein was a writer, but had no idea he wasted a whole season following around that jerkfaced, bigoted bully of man, Bobby Knight, his subject for the book, A Season on the Brink. I’d give it a review, but that would mean I had to read it first. No thank you! #Hardpass

Feinstein’s writing in A Season Inside embodies every corny white sportswriter from the 1980’s as he travels across the country following various programs during the 1988 college basketball season. Every trite basketball cliche that you could possibly list makes the cut in this book. If I took a shot of Patron for every time Feinstein uses the adjective “articulate” to describe a black athlete, I’d still be too drunk to write this post.

There are moments in the book where I can’t tell if I’m reading non-fiction or one of those sports novels I would get as a middle schooler from the Scholastic Book Club. Feinstein was so intent on setting up a scene that he even purports to know what everyone is thinking in real time. Fortunately the book doesn’t always read this way (imagine reading four hundred plus pages of this type of nonsense), and it wasn’t complete shit. But I heavily skimmed through this one stopping only to read about the Duke, Kansas, UNC and Arizona chapters. It is easy to forget that Villanova was once a Big East powerhouse back when Rollie Massimino was pulling the reins as the head coach. Other notable cameos through the book are:

  • Navy’s David Robinson waiting out his obligation to Uncle Sam so that he can suit up for the San Antonio Spurs.
  • Larry “pound for pound” Brown yelling at senior All American Danny Manning on their way to a championship season. At one point Larry Brown is found contemplating if it is even possible to compete for a national title in a town like Lawrence. Also of note, KU teammates Kevin Pritchard and Milt Newton go on to become NBA general managers, as well as assistant coach R.C. Buford. Also on the KU coaching staff at this time, the infamous Alvin Gentry.
  • Current Jazz head coach Quin Snyder reportedly getting abused throughout the 1988 campaign, further enhancing his legacy as a basketball buster. Teammate Billy King would become THE Billy King who would go on to become the Brooklyn Nets GM, and we all know how that will turn out.
  • The late Dean Smith somehow getting through the brutal ACC league without a legit point guard and his best players being J.R. Reid, future Bulls forward Scott Williams and Rick Fox (of Party Down fame).
  • Rookie underachieving head coach Rick Barnes in his first year at George Mason
  • Late NC State Jim Valvano only a few years away from giving his infamous “Never Give Up” ESPY speech, and subsequent death.
  • The beginning of Lute Olson’s peak coaching years at the University of Arizona, with many juicy Steve Kerr and Sean Elliott anecdotes (anyone else Judd Buechler and Tom Tolbert?).
  • The infamous Billy Tubbs making his coaching bones at the University of Oklahoma with a solid crew of Mookie Blaylock, Stacy King, and Harvey Grant.

 

John Feinstein is a cornball, but I appreciate his attention to detail. His game notes must’ve been impeccable because he was able to recall various moments and sequences throughout multiple runs in the games he attended. Although this book is way too long (again; over four hundred pages), it is worth a good skim through–especially if you are a University of Kansas fan.

The amount of time Feinstein spends on teams in conferences no one gives a fuck about really bogs the reading down. But I think if you are a fan of the game (especially the NBA), it is interesting reading to go back and revisit the college careers of guys whose careers were washed ages ago, but continue to act as ambassadors of basketball as we know today.

 

BM

 

profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at Fullsass Studios. Follow him on twitter @clickpicka79. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com. 

 

 

 

Delayed Gratification

Before we get into this year’s highly anticipated NBA Finals. I’d like to give a shout out to the Boston Celtics and San Antonio for having successful seasons. Although I think the Celtics didn’t work hard enough to get Demarcus Cousins or Jimmy Butler on the team this year, I’m not so sure that would have been worth two more wins in this year’s conference finals. I am curious if they are going to run it back with the addition of another young lottery pick are trade their number one pick for some vet pieces to help Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say they overachieved this year with their current roster. Whatever Danny Ainge decides to do this off-season, it will be tough to mess this off-season up for the Celtics. They have a lot of good options.

The Spurs will have a challenging off-season themselves, as there are a few questions that must be answered for them to sustain their run of excellence for the next few seasons. Though it seems like Dejounte Murray is poised to be the point guard of the future, I think it would behoove the Spurs to sign a veteran to serve as a bridge for Murray era. There are a number of free agent point guards the Spurs could sign on the cheap who could help mentor the young prodigy as he grows into his role as a floor leader. I personally am rooting for a George Hill/Gregg Popovich reunion next season.

Jonathan Simmons may have played his last game in a Spurs uniform, as his payday is right down the road waiting for him once the free agency period starts. He is a restricted free agent, but if a team offers him a ton of money to go play for them, San Antonio might let him walk. This would be unfortunate because I’ve been one of Juice Man’s biggest fans and I’d love to see him back on the team. For what’s out there at the wing position, he could turn out to be a good investment.

I would be surprised if Patty Mills plays for the team next year. He is an unrestricted free agent and some marginal team is probably going to be foolish enough to drop some major dough on a player who isn’t good enough to be a starting point guard for a contending team. Kawhi’s injury in Game 1 last round turned the conference finals into a pre season tryouts. Spurs players were just playing for their jobs after it was clear they were not going to advance.

Looking down the road, the Spurs are going to need some young front court players as Lamarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol are clearly on the wrong side of their careers and can’t be depended on to carry a team if Leonard was unavailable for some reason. Kyle Anderson hasn’t improved all that much since he first got into the league three years ago, and it may be time to start looking for Danny Green’s eventual replacement. Green does some things well (like stopping 3-on-1 fast breaks)  and some things not so well (like dribbling). He is like that boyfriend some women have that does just enough to get dumped. She doesn’t break up with him, but she thinks about it seriously at least once every 3 months. 4 years later, both parties are wondering where this thing is going.

Outside of Kawhi and Murray, there are a lot of questions to be answered this off-season. A lot of critics think this is beginning of the end of the Spurs dynasty, but I think this is just a transition period. Either way, this off season will be the critical point we look back on five years from now when accessing the prime of Kawhi Leonard’s career.

 

FINALS PREDICTIONS

You must excuse me if I seem bored with the Cavs-Warriors threematch, but at this point it seems pretty anti-climatic. Besides the first 30 minutes of game 1 of Spurs-Warriors, there has been little doubt who would be in the NBA Finals. Neither team was tested on their way to the final round, and there was a part of me that was disappointed that Cleveland dropped a game against Boston. It would have been cool to see both teams head into the Finals 12-0. Alas, this is the best the 2017 season could give to us fans.

3 Keys to the series:

Draymond Green/ Andre Iguodala vs. Lebron

Lebron is going to get his no matter what, but Green and Iggy are going to have to figure out a way to slow him down, make him work for points, and not get into foul trouble. Refs tend to swallow their whistles when Lebron creates contact by dipping his shoulders into people’s chest and using his off-hand to push into guys. If there is a foul called, it’s usually on the defensive player somehow. Rasheed Wallace put it best when he said, “These guys (Kobe, Shaq, Lebron) are supposed to be the best right? So why do they need more help if they are so good?” That is exactly why I @bucks with Sheed even if he is fibbing about making up the phrase “Ball Don’t Lie”.

Role Players

We haven’t seen this kind of star power on both Finals teams since the 2013 and 2014 Spurs-Heat matchups, and before that, the Celtics-Lakers rivalry in the 80’s. However, anyone who knows anything about NBA basketball knows that its the how role players play that will determine who wins these playoff games.

It isn’t crazy to expect big numbers from Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Steph Curry, but you never know what you are going to get from Kevin Love and Klay Thompson on the offensive end (although both can easily put up 40 points in the blink of the eye). The difference between the two players is that Love is an average defender at best, while Thompson is the best defensive 2 guard in the league. To think that both players are afterthoughts shows you how good both teams are.

Look for the Kardashian curse to rear its ugly head this series as Tristan Thompson should have a big series against this thin front court of Golden State–but he won’t. I can’t ever quantify these suspicions with anything but intuition, but wasn’t I right about James Harden swoon last year because he was dating Khloe? I’m just saying.

Golden State has the better bench of the two teams with guys like Javale McGee, Shaun Livingston, Andre Iguodala all making important contributions with the second unit. Ian Clark and Patrick McCaw can be counted on to steal some minutes at the guard spots. Don’t forget that Mike Brown (?) can always count on David West or Matt Barnes to provide some toughness whenever that is needed.

The Cavaliers have a lot of washed dudes coming off the bench, like old ass Kyle Korver, Deron Williams, Richard Jefferson, and Derrick Williams.

Defense

For all the talk about their offense, Warriors had one of the best defenses in the NBA this year. The Cavaliers? Not so much. There was even a time period where their defensive rating was 30th in the league. They haven’t exactly faced any offensive juggernauts this post season, so people have been tricked into thinking that they “flipped that switch.”

The Warriors are phenomenal at finding the “mouse in the house” and exposing it again and again. Outside of Tristan Thompson, Lebron James, and sometimes Iman Shumpert, is there anyone on that Cleveland roster that will scare the Warriors? J.R. Smith can bring it on  occasion, but he can just as easily space out at anytime. The rest of the team is compiled of average defenders. The Spurs were a top 5 team in defense and you saw what happened to them, and before you say “but Kawhi Leonard was hurt” please realize that it would have taken EVERYTHING to go right for the Spurs to even have a chance at winning last round.

People tend to think this has the makings of a classic, but I don’t see it. Star power aside for Cleveland, they are ill-equipped to deal with one of the best offenses in NBA history. Warriors in five, and the only reason I’m not predicting a sweep is out of respect to Lebron. I may sound as crazy as I did when I said the Spurs would beat Golden State last round, but you saw what happened that first 30 minutes before Kawhi got hurt (like what I did right there?). There could have been a number of reasons why San Antonio was dominating before that take down by Zaza, but before that infamous play, I wasn’t looking so crazy now was I? If both teams remain healthy the entire series, the Warriors will clinch it five games and it may not even be that close. And oh yeah, Draymond Green is going to win the Finals MVP, just like I predicted in the season preview.

Have a good week.

 

BM

 

profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at Fullsass Studios. Follow him on twitter @clickpicka79. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com. 

 

Knapp Time: Alex’s Picks To Click For the Week of Nov.14th-20th

This A Good Ass Game will be run by carefully chosen special guests while Bobby Mickey is on vacation in Bermuda. This Week’s Clicks to Pick are brought to you by Alex Knapp. You can also check out Alex Knapp’s Weekly Hot Take Roundup here. #fullsasstakeover

 

 

MONDAY

Thunder @ Pistons 7:30pm EST

Record wise this is the best game of the night, and somehow the Pistons got off to a decent start despite missing their all-star PG, Reggie Jackson. I could see Westbrook going for 45 but the Pistons still wining this game. Should be fun to watch.
Mavs @ Knicks 7:30pm EST
Old man Dirk vs Young man Zinger. Worth a click.
Magic @ Pacers 7:00pm EST
Here are two young and fun east coast teams battling for a playoff spot. Each team needs to win this to prove to they belong in the playoffs.
Indiana is better but I think Orlando gets the win.

TUESDAY

Bulls @ Blazers 10:00 pm EST (NBA TV)
The jury is still out on the new-look Bulls. After a hot start they’ve stalled with 3 straight losses (can’t score sometimes).
When they shoot above 40% from 3pt land they win. When they shoot below 36% from 3pt land they lose. There is very little in-between.
Dame vs Rondo, C.J. vs Wade/Butler, Myers Leonard vs Doug McBuckets?!?!?!
Toronto @ Cleveland 7:30pm EST (NBA TV)
Oh you that lame kind of NBA fan who only watches “the best” teams play? That is sooooooo cool LAME.

WEDNESDAY

Golden State vs Toronto 7:00 pm & Memphis vs Los Angeles Clippers 9:30 pm
Both the ESPN matchups will likely be more blah then exciting. I can’t stand watching Toronto or Memphis. I hope KD and Curry go for 80 combined and Blake Griffin ends somebody career with an earth shattering dunk.
Rockets @ Thunder 8:00 pm EST
Harden vs Russ. Gonna be high scoring!!!
Bucks @ Hawks 7:30pm EST
If the ESPN games don’t hold your attention, then watch the Greek Freak play a squad with an actual good team defense. They will be a good test of his skill level. NBA nerds will get off watching how many different defensive looks coach Bud throws at him.

 THURSDAY 

Blazers @ Rockets 8:00pm EST
Both the TNT games kind of suck here too (Philadelphia vs. Minnesota; Los Angeles Clippers vs. Sacramento). You can call me a homer but I’d rather  watch Dame and Harden go buck wild on each other (neither of them can play a lick of defense).

FRIDAY (GOOD ASS GAME OF THE WEEK)

Warriors @ Celtics 8:00 pm EST (ESPN)
Celtics always want to beat this team, and coach Brad Stevens usually has a good enough–
creative game plan to make it fun and exciting. My money is on an overtime win by the Celtics.

SATURDAY (Go Do Something Fun)

Warriors @ Bucks 8:30pm EST
Maybe…
Hornets @ Pelicans 7:00pm EST
Watch “The Brow” drop 50 on Kemba and company.
They have no big man to guard him. Cody Zeller, Roy Hibbert, Marvin Williams? Get the fuck outta here with that weak shit.

SUNDAY 

I will be at the Blazers @ Nets game, so I hope it’s a blowout.
Other than that, this looks like a football day (Cowboys-Steelers; Patriots-Seahawks).
f16fe4_33a1706de82a46a9b053723415da08dc      Alex Knapp is a Portlander who has lived in Brooklyn, New York for the past 7 years. He is a filmmaker and actor currently working in HR to pay the bills. Alex is an avid NBA basketball fan who likely has an opinion on every team and every player, seriously – try him. You can check out his podcast with Anthony Levy, PDXPATS on iTunes. 
 

Finally Some Games That Count

Being the hoops junkie that I am, many people are surprised when I tell them that I don’t watch preseason NBA basketball. Sure it’s an early peek at the rookies and NBA retreads who are fighting to make the rosters, but I just (metaphorically) can’t get it up for games that don’t count for anything.

What does surprise me is how little I missed the NBA this off-season. Opinionated hot takes of Kevin Durant’s departure aside, there was little to glean from checking the web everyday for NBA news. I watched nearly 300 games last season, and by the time Golden State choked away the NBA Finals, I needed a break from watching basketball. I thoroughly enjoyed living like a normal person this summer.

I did a little bit of traveling, read a few (basketball) books, moved cities, found a new full-time job, and spent some time with my non-basketball friends and family. But all that shit is over come Tuesday night. The season is starting, and despite the inevitable Dubs-Cavs Finals on the horizon, it will be an enjoyable one to watch. While most people were chomping at the bit, I’m of the belief that the season is starting at EXACTLY the right time. In fact, it was only a couple of days ago that I realized that opening night was on Tuesday–the off-season just flew by.

The reason I watch so much basketball is so that you don’t have to. There are tons of games to comb through, but I’m willing to step on any potential land mines so you can live the normal life that I can only dream about. I could have used maybe one more week to get my life together, but no matter; the time has come for us to admire dunks, emit loud shrieks and weird squeals. So without further exposition, I give you the first Good Ass Games of the 2016-2017 NBA season. Buen Provecho.

          GOOD ASS GAMES OF THE WEEK

Monday

No games scheduled

Tuesday

Utah at Portland (Good Ass Game of The Week)

Expect to see me talk about Utah a lot this season. They have a bunch of interesting players on this year’s roster; including one of my favorites, the infamous Boris Diaw. Portland is already embarking on a Joey Harrington type MVP campaign for Mr. Damien Lillard. This is a late game, but the high I’ll be feeling on Wednesday morning will be worth the lack of sleep. If this don’t turn out to be a Good Ass Game, then my name ain’t Bobby Mickey.

San Antonio at Golden State

This game will be a nice snapshot of what Spurs fans have to look forward to this season. San Antonio will have a great season and will probably grab 50 wins. They will beat the teams they are supposed to, but they will get their asses handed to them by teams with top-tier point guards (they will especially feel the loss of Danny Green in this one). Wins against Cleveland and Golden State will be tough to come by.

Wednesday

Dallas at Indiana

I’m willing to bet any Mavs fan their favorite flavor of Gelato that the Mavs take their first L of the season. Any takers?

Charlotte at Milwaukee

This one is going to be a low-key Good Ass Game. If you miss it, at least watch the highlights. I bet there will be at least 3 top ten plays from this game alone.

Minnesota at Memphis

OOOOWEEEEEE! Teen Wolves go to the grindhouse. Who else is excited for the first appearance of the vein in Tom Thibodeau’s forehead? To quote the great Marv Albert, “YEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!”

Sacramento at Phoenix 

File this under TAP THAT VEIN GAMES.

Thursday

Boston at Chicago

This game has the potential to be a snoozer, but I gotta know if this has all been an elaborate Machiavellian plan by Rajon Rondo to get close enough to Dwyane Wade for payback for that time Wade dislocated his arm. If you think I’m not hoping that Rondo gets his revenge, then you don’t understand the depths of my pettiness. I hope Rondo makes Wade’s life a living hell for the duration of this season.

San Antonio at Sacramento

One day, we may finally get to see Boogie Cousins play for a stable organization. Sacramento is still a shit show, but they have just enough good players to make you intrigued.

Los Angeles Clippers at Portland 

This is the real pick to click of the evening. It’s a TNT game, and a 9:30 tip-off. I’ll be lucky to  be able to watch any of this game. But you definitely should if you have cable and you like watching beige acrobatic dudes make fake tough guy faces.

Friday

Phoenix at Oklahoma City

Just for funzies, if you have nothing better to do around this time of the evening, I’d suggest watching the first half, hitting the liquor store, calling in a pickup order, and then getting back home in time to watch the 4th quarter.

Charlotte at Miami

There is a faint buzz surrounding the “Me So Hornets” (I’m sorry I had to) this season as they should be the favorites to win the Southeast division with or without a healthy Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Holy Shit! I think I’m starting to get excited about the season starting).

Los Angeles Lakers at Utah

In a first for this site, the Salt Lake City Punks have made the Good Ass Games of the Week three times in a week. What better way to spend a Friday night than ingesting legal substances and watching some west coast basketball.

Houston at Dallas

Let’s be honest Dallas fans. This is the year the bottom finally falls out. After years of post 2011 mediocrity, the Mavericks will finally be bad enough to land a lottery pick. Or will they? They are a difference making point guard away from giving teams trouble in April, but for some reason, people don’t like to come to Dallas. Is it because their genius head coach is an asshole? Or is it because the Mavs owner has been piecing together the kind of rosters that NFL Fantasy owners scramble through during bye weeks. Old man Dirk won’t be there for you forever Mark Cuban, the losses are going to come for you, and when they do, they are going to want some cocktail……….FRUIT!!!!!!

Saturday

Minnesota at Sacramento

I’m pretty sure this is an NBATV game so if there is a party or social function you’re getting pressure to attend, do that instead–especially if you have League Pass. This will be one of those games no one talks about, but then you check your Twitter feed, and there will be four or five GIF’s and Vines documenting sick dunks and crazy highlights.

Sunday

Golden State at Phoenix  

I’m curious about how the Suns will play this season. It is weird to see Earl Watson go balling for the UCLA Bruins to coaching an NBA team. It makes me feel old. This probably be the last time I mention the Phoenix Suns this season, unless it is to discuss trade possibilities. They have some young talent on this team, and may be where Utah was 2 seasons ago, unfortunately for Suns fans, ownership can get out of its own way. By February, you may see half of these players playing significant roles for playoff teams.

San Antonio at Miami 

We are finally going to find out if Erik Spoelstra is a good NBA coach. If the Heat win more than 42 games, he may be a candidate for NBA Coach of the Year.

Milwaukee at Detroit

No Reggie, no problem. This game may not get out of the low 90’s, but it should be competitive (in a Princeton-Boston College second round NIT game kind of way). This may be the earliest playoff preview we get this week.

BM

profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at Fullsass Studios. Follow him on twitter @clickpicka79. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com. 

Book Review: Boys Among Men

Don’t sleep on this guy just because he looks like Eli the Rapper’s older brother. Jonathan Abrams is one of the best NBA writers in the game right now. He asks the questions that somehow escape other writers; creating story angles that provide different player narratives than the ones most mainstream outlets whiff on. Also, did I mention that he is thorough?

Jonathan Abrams is a USC graduate (boo!) who worked at both the L.A. and New York Times. When he wrote for the now defunct Grantland, he would pop up with a feature on players like Harrison Barnes, Andre Miller, Zach Randolph, J.R. Smith, and Greg Oden, or write about random journeymen like former Jayhawk great Thomas Robinson, Paul Milsap, and other players who find a way to fly under the radar of the national media.

It was always exciting to see his columns pop up on the Grantland homepage because you were guaranteed a quality piece (not always a guarantee on that site) on a player that would make you reexamine the way you originally thought about them. Abrams even had me halfway considering not hating on Austin Rivers, a guy who was a perennial “Buster of the Week” nominee the past 2 NBA seasons. That’s how good of a writer Jonathan Abrams  is.

At least once a month I’d hit someone with the “Abrams has done it again” text after reading one of his “Oral History” columns; the most notable ones being the “Malice at the Palace” and Lakers-Kings Western Conference Finals. Word on the street is that he is currently  working on an oral history of famed television show, The Wire.

“Abrams is the rare reporter who unearths new details about the most famous prep-to-pro stars, like Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant, and tells the complex stories of those who didn’t make it in the NBA. A must read for any basketball fan.

Earlier this year, Abrams blessed the game with his book, Boys Among Men, an examination about the “Prep-to-Pro” phenomenon that started in the 70’s and hit its apex  in the late 90’s and early 2000’s.

Abrams opens this examination with a chapter that reflects on players like Bill Willoughby, Darryl Dawkins, and Moses Malone; players from the 70’s who made the jump when the NBA was operating under a different financial landscape. Rookie contracts weren’t the financial windfall that the 90’s players landed (indirectly leading to an NBA lockout in 1999) and the risk was much greater for these prep pioneers who made the jump for various reasons.

Abrams goes into great detail about the situations that each Prep-to-Pro player faced when making their decision. Whereas Kobe Bryant (who people forget was a late lottery pick who had to prove himself) came from a privileged upbringing, guys like Amare Stoudemire and Lebron James came from impoverished backgrounds.

Abrams interviews general managers and other front office heads who were behind the scenes of these historic drafts. They detail the reasons why players like Kevin Garnett, Tracy McGrady, and Kobe Bryant succeeded in contrast to players like Korleone Young, Kwame Brown, Leon Smith, and Lenny Cooke, who didn’t quite pan out. There are no what if’s in these books, because the why’s are all laid out for the reader.

One of the biggest questions that gets raised (but isn’t quite answered) is if the rules the NBA implemented to keep high school seniors from declaring for the draft are fair. For players experiencing economic hardships, these rules seem harsh–especially for those players who are equipped to handle the process as mature adults. Despite the cautionary tales of the players who should have gone to college (or overseas like Brandon Jennings), it seems to me like the rules were implemented to save the NBA owners from themselves.

After the success of Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant, the pressure to not miss again on young, but high level prospects,  was just as immense as taking a flyer on a high school player and blowing a year’s worth of draft picks. On the surface it seems like an unconstitutional rule that could be fought by the NBA players union (especially considering the league instituted a rookie cap after the first lockout in 1999).

Jonathan Abrams does extensive interviews throughout, with players’ family members, AAU coaches, friends, and agents and gives a behind the scenes look at what happens on draft day for these franchises and the young players they are taking. The book lends a better understanding of the various factors that go into a player’s successes and failures, and sometimes the only thing separating this outcome is a little bit of luck.

Sometimes it is a matter of landing on the right team and getting a support system that isn’t there for some players; whether that be coaches, other players, or “sponsors” who happen to work within the organization. While sometimes it is matter of performing in front of the right people at the right time.

If you’ve ever wondered why a guy like Tyson Chandler is still in the league as a veteran while Eddy Curry was not able to live up to his “potential” then this is the book  for you. Boys Among Men gets an A + . Hiring Jonathan Abrams was a HUGE get for The Bleacher Report .

BM