Everything is All Love With Kool Bob: My Run at the Full Court 21 NYC

You don’t have to be a basketball aficionado to have heard of the renaissance man Bobbito Garcia, AKA Kool Bob Love, AKA Bobbito the Barber. Sneakerhead, hip hop journalist and Radio DJ, the man has starred in many a documentary, and by the way, was also a B-Boy in the Rock Steady Crew.

Bobbito is a New York legend, whose imprint is on many things, but the basketball world was where I had first heard of him. I first did my Googles on him about ten years ago, after watching the Gunnin’ For that No.1 Spot documentary where he emceed the first “Elite24” basketball game at Rucker Park. 

Earlier this year I came across the Stretch and Bobbito: Radio That Changed Lives documentary and it blew my mind to learn that Garcia played a pivotal role in breaking many of the hip hop acts that I still listen to today. Not too long after that I find out that he is DJ Cucumber Slice from the NBA Streets video games. Basically every hobby I’ve ever thought of having, this guy has been paid to do professionally.

Needless to say I rock with him and DJ Stretch Armstrong pretty heavy. I spent a great deal of time digging up old uploaded You Tube audio recordings of their WKCR show  from back in the day (one of the best is an episode from June of 1994 where they say that “Rockets fans can feel balls”), and of course I follow them both on Twitter.

I’d heard good things about Bobbito’s latest basketball documentary, Doin’ It in the Park and watching it got me so gassed up about hooping, that I signed myself up for his annual Full Court 21 tournament– even though I’ve been threatening to retire from playground ball for the last year or so. The dates of the tournament lined up perfectly with my visit to New York City, and though I doubted my chances of winning, I knew I had to at least compete in it. 

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2017-2018 NBA Season Preview: A to the K

“A to the K?” 

 

“A to tha mutha*%$king Z”

 

~Hold up scene from the movie Wild Style

 

 

I love NBA basketball, but I find it unfortunate the off the court news is more entertaining than the majority of what happens on the court . We’ve had a lot of players changing jerseys to bridge the gap between the top four teams (Golden State, Boston, San Antonio, and the Lebrons). Some teams got better (Minnesota, Houston, Boston, Los Angeles, Golden State,Oklahoma City). Some teams got worse (Toronto, Utah, Memphis, Chicago and the Clippers) and some teams stayed the same (Detroit, Portland, Washington, San Antonio, and Dallas).

Although this season will undoubtedly be more competitive (at least out West),–all things being equal— I don’t see how a Warriors-Cavs finals is anything but inevitable. Luckily for me,  I’m a hard-core hoops fan, and NBA minutiae fulfills the geek in me. There is a lot more to a basketball season than who wins and who loses. It is a long season and if all you care about is your favorite team winning a championship, then outside of the four cities I mentioned earlier; there are going to be a lot of dissatisfied people. There is a lot to look forward to this year: new players in the league who look to be exciting, and older players looking to leave their mark on the league before their career is over. Personally, I’m looking forward to the various basketball threads I have running in my email and text message inboxes.  And with that, I’m happy to bring back for you: Bobby Mickey’s 26 most compelling NBA story lines: A-Z.

 

Adjusted schedules

Shout out to Adam Silver and staff on this one. Despite the national anthem edict, the man is such a breath of fresh air compared to that old Fuddy-Duddy–ass fun ruiner, David Stern. Silver saw a problem that was ruining the product and he wasn’t afraid to fix it. There will be no more stretches of four games in five nights for the players, and back–to–back games have been reduced for all the teams, with no team having more than 16, and no team having fewer than 13. And guess what else? Marquee games will no longer fall in the midst of those back to back or five games in seven nights scenarios. Let’s get it!

 

Beware: Deer Crossing

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Sacramento Kings

Like Bambi, we’ve had the privilege to watch Giannis Antetokounmpo grow up before our very eyes. My Nigerian brethren even thinks he can make a run at the MVP this year–which typically scares me away from a player– but in Giannis’ case, his swag level may be justified. Other than Khris Middleton, and an injured (expected back at the second half) Jabari Parker, the Bucks are a team filled with role players. I expect their backcourt to be better with the return of Rookie Of the Year winner Malcolm Brogdon, and the vets Brandon Rush, Jason Terry, and Gerald Green can help out on the court in addition to being good locker room guys. Don’t be surprised if they get a second seed in this year’s Eastern Conference playoffs.

Carmelo Finally gets a Mulligan

 

Let the Hoodie Melo-era begin. As rough as Melo’s season was last year, it was tough to feel sorry for the guy knowing that he chose to sign a huge contract extension–with a no-trade clause. Who knows how much that had to do with his family dynamic, but he took James Dolan’s money– which is like doing a deal with the devil. But Melo is free now, and he finally has some teammates in which to share the burden with Russell Westbrook and Paul George. It took me a minute to process it, but when you look at the collective star power of the three, and the incoming role players, it is hard to not to get excited about this lineup.

Oklahoma City might be pretty nasty (at least in the regular season). Presti may have finally got some players whose playing styles blend with Westbrook. Russ might average a triple double again this season with an increase in rebounds and assists and a decline in points. Paul George doesn’t have to be the man, and can just concentrate on spot up three pointers and playing defense. Andre Roberson just has to shoot a better free throw percentage to justify his playing time. Raymond Felton  (by the way, OKC finally got a decent backup point guard) can just feed Melo when Russ is taking a breather, and now the Thunder have one more lethal offensive option in endgame scenarios. Teams can’t just key in on Russ anymore and the most immediate beneficiary for that is Carmelo Anthony.

Dejounte’s Big Audition

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Tony Parker’s torn quadricep may end up being a blessing in disguise. Parker stands to be a little extra rested come April (and we saw what a rested Parker was looking like before he had that season ending injury last spring). Which brings us to the precocious point guard out of Seattle, Dejounte Murray. It isn’t his time yet, but this is a pivotal opportunity for him to develop.

Murray showed flashes of a very dynamic skill set last season. He is tall, quick, a decent ball handler, and can finish around the rim. We should see an overall improvement in his game. He has had a year to see what it is like running an NBA offense, and with Kawhi Leonard handling the ball at such a high user rate, Murray won’t be asked to do more than he is capable of at this point in his career. I think he’ll show flashes of brilliance that will become more frequent as he develops into the player that we suspect he is.

Eastern Conference Still Doo-Doo

 

While 50 wins may not even be enough to get into the Western Conference Playoffs, we may only see four teams out east that get to 50 wins. You know Boston and Cleveland will hit their 50, but would you put money on Washington or Toronto hitting the half century mark? If you are just aching to bet on someone other than the Celtics or Cavs, I’d suggest the Bucks, which may be asking much to see an 8 game increase in win expectancy. I doubt I will be watching much basketball before 6 pm this season and that is probably a good thing. As busy as I am for the next 12 months it will be hella difficult to justify watching any scrub teams–east or western conference– this season. Life is too short.

Feels like 1996 Again

 

Remember when the 1996 Chicago Bulls won 72 games and they were immediately hailed as the greatest team of all time? Do you remember the very next year when they brought back almost exactly the same team except they added Robert Parish (well past his prime) and Bison Dele (RIP)? We bout to have some De Ja Vu up in this mofo (shout out to Co-founder of Steely Dan, Walter Becker who died last month).

The Warriors have managed to get better this season with the additions of (don’t laugh) Nick Young and Omri Casspi. They managed to snag a couple of bigs from Oregon out of the draft in Chris Boucher and Jordan Bell (possibly the biggest steal of the entire draft). Both players could make great pupils under the tutelage of Draymond Green and David West. Somehow Iguodala had everyone convinced that he was washed before last season started, but then he managed to stay healthy for the entire year with no major injuries. Was it luck, or conditioning and diet? His health is still the key, but what is great about the Nick Young acquisition for the Dubs is that they added yet another 6’5 ball handler to come off the bench.

Good and Terrible: The Phoenix Suns

 

Poor Tyson Chandler and Jared Dudley must feel like they got sent down to the junior varsity team. The Suns are a young team, which makes this the perfect place for Earl Watson to start his head coaching career. He has a chance to kick some real game to those youngsters down in Phoenix, and this is a great opportunity for him to springboard his career. No one expects Phoenix to win 40 games (at least no one sane), so what Watson will ultimately be judged on his how the players developed individually and as a team.

Under the stewardship of Robert Sarver, this franchise (from the front office to the players) has become a great farm system for the rest of the NBA.  Watson eventually leaving for a better situation is an inevitable reality, once the young studs in Phoenix play themselves into situations where they control their next NBA destination–while the Suns franchise revolve into their perpetual rebuild. I think Devin Booker will continue to get buckets, and Josh Jackson will give us a glimpse of what Andrew Wiggins would be like had he grown up in America. Also, don’t be surprised if Eric Bledsoe (reunion with Doc in L.A.?) finally gets traded this season; as Tyler Ulis and Brandon Knight’s (geezus they’ve got FOUR  Kentucky guards) combined salaries equal what Bledsoe is due to make. I’d go to a Suns game, but not for anything higher than 28 bucks (after fees).

Houston Remains Annoying

 

I was worried the Spurs would acquire one of my least favorite NBA players, Chris Paul, and was so relieved when Houston signed him. He is a great player and the best point guard in the league, but I’m not trying to root for that guy. Plus, Houston is such a great fit for him and his cantankerous on court personality. I thought there could be no more of an annoying scenario than watching the Chris Paul-era Clippers play the Harden-era Rockets. I was wrong.

The fascinating part of this trade is that neither the Clippers nor the Rockets got any less annoying for this season. Add Patrick Beverly to a team that already has Austin Rivers and Blake Griffin, then subtract Jamal Crawford, and voila! The Clippers got MORE annoying. For the Rockets, you’ve just put one of the biggest crybabies in the NBA and paired him up with the biggest flopper in the NBA. Good luck watching that for 82 games a year Rockets fans.

The good news for NBA fans is that Rockets are coached by Mike D’Antoni. We finally have a coach that can use Chris Paul the way God intended Paul to play basketball. Harden says he wants to just spot up and shoot, but watching the both of them run a fast break will be–at times– a thing of beauty. Also, don’t sleep on the Tarik Black and P.J. Tucker signings. The Rockets front line just quietly got bigger and meaner. Rebounding, while always important, is even more integral in a D’ANtoni  run offense, where so many shots are taken during the course of a 48 minute game. Also, is Isaiah Taylor going to get some tick playing for D’Antoni? Or is he Daniel Gibson 2.0?

Indiana is NBA Siberia

 

Unlike places like New York, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Miami,  Atlanta, or D.C. where a player can take solace that they are a millionaire in a premier city, Pacers players have only basketball and road  *ahem* attractions to keep their minds off the fact they play for a floundering franchise. A guy can even drown his sorrows in some delicious fried chicken in places like Charlotte and Chicago. But I can’t imagine an NBA reality worst than playing for a midwest franchise that has no chance of competing for a title.

I took a peek at the prospective depth chart of the Pacers and my first thought was, “maybe they aren’t as bad as I thought they’d be.” But then I saw that their strongest locker room personality is Lance Stephenson and that Nate McMillan is their head coach (No disrespect). They have some good young players. but I’m not sure they have enough veterans to push them through the tough times and into the playoffs. I think they’ll come close though and it will be a dogfight for that 8th seed between *YAWN* Indiana, Miami, and Charlotte. 

 

Jokic Might Be The Real Deal

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Every time I look at the Nugget roster, I want so badly to plug them in as an eighth seed but there is no way to do it without envisioning an injury to someone in the Portland Trailblazers’ backcourt.  While Jokic may not be enough for the Nugs to be playing a home game on April 20th, I think this is the year that he turns the mainstream media’s heads–and maybe even make the All Star Team. He averaged six more points last season than he did his rookie year, and he should average 20 points a game in this one. In addition to being a decent ball handler, the young Serbian is an avid passer, averaging 4.9 assists last season and he gobbled up 9.8 rebounds a game. Jokic is in line for a monster year if he can stay healthy. If there is any slippage with Portland at all, then I think Denver will take that eighth seed for the West.

Kawhi’s MVP Campaign

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My alter ego, formerly over at Fansided, predicted the jump Kawhi Leonard would make right before the beginning of last season, by midseason, NBA nerds were wide open to the San Antonio phenom. Kawhi’s metamorphosis has been nothing short of beautiful and spectacular and now that he has everyone’s attention, his game will take yet another leap. People are high on the Thunder, Rockets, and Timberwolves, but the Spurs will still win their 60 games, and it will be because Kawhi Leonard put the team on his back. He just might be Jordan 2.0, but if that is the case, then he still needs his Scottie Pippen 2.0.  Which is why he will win MVP, because of all the superstars left on title contending teams, Kawhi is the only one without a superstar to step onto the court with him.

 

To Be Continued…….

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 @goodassgame. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com. 

 

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. 

On the Legacy of LeBron James, the Future for Kevin Durant and the Zenith of Busterism

 

Kevin Durant should be celebrated. He is a fantastically gifted scorer who possesses the skills of an elite guard, but has the wingspan of a center.The University of Texas product is certainly on the way to the Hall of Fame, if not the top of the Association’s all-time scoring register. He can shoot, he can create, and as this year’s Western Conference Finals showed, he can actually play some defense.

Yet public opinion on Durant has been waning for years, long before his aptly-timed Independence Day heel turn that saw fans – and sportswriters – roll their eyes in disgust and revolt from his side en masse. The timeline of how this happened, or more accurately, how Durant let this happen, is a complicated one.

Because of his prodigious talents and the timing of his league entrance, KD will always (probably unfairly) be compared to LeBron James. Although both players are nominally small forwards, with the blurring of positions and roles in the modern NBA, the two couldn’t be any more different.

“Bron-Bron” has never been a deadly spot-up shooter like KD, just as Durant has never possessed the world-class court vision and passing ability of James. LeBron thrives on creating for others in the Magic Johnson point forward role; KD is at heart; a volume shooter (albeit a brilliant one). Their respective games are markedly different, a fact that’s always been understated in comparing the two.

But those die have been cast. James and Durant are both super-duper-megastars, they’re of a similar age, they play the same position; therefore, they have to be measured against each other. This is product of fan culture, of media culture and of the pressure former players put on current stars. Durant is not to blame for that.

He’s far from blameless, though. When LeBron signed with Miami following the infamous “The Decision” special in 2010, the public opinion of him plummeted. Never mind that the Cleveland team(s) he left had embarrassingly weak supporting casts (more on this later). He was abandoning his hometown (more or less) team to create a super team and was roundly derided for it.

In that first season in Miami, James tried to double down. Tired of being the calm, collected superstar, he attempted to play the bad guy on the Heat. It didn’t work. It was forced, and later, he admitted that he was mentally exhausted by the act. Notably, the next season, Leron returned to his normal personality en route to his first title. This is where Durant should have been better.

Writers have said for some time that Durant is impressionable and emotional, that “he sometimes makes decisions rashly” and, more alarmingly, “with the intent of choosing the course of action that will please others.” In that context, it is easy to see how a marketing team in KD’s ear could have watched James’ struggles over the first year in Miami and seen an opportunity – one that Durant was all too quick to embrace.

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With LeBron as the league’s new villain, KD tried to position himself as the NBA’s new golden boy. Aided by sycophantic writers eager to buy into the idea of Durant as the humble superstar, public opinion of KD soared. He bought into his own mythos, signing a contract extension with the Thunder in a clear attempt to make himself the anti-LeBron: soft spoken, nice, loyal, and team-first.

LeBron gained some supporters back by defeating Durant soundly in the 2012 Finals, but with the Thunder positioned as the West’s team of the future, the loss didn’t seem particularly significant. A group as talented and as young as OKC would surely be back.

History played out differently. Trading James Harden was a massive mistake, yes, and injuries derailed the Thunder at various points. But as this past season showed, the team has copious talent and is still a championship contender. The excuses started to wear thin, and public perception of the team slowly pivoted from “celebrated young upstarts” to “brash loudmouths without a ring.”

This was helped in no small part by the team’s behavior, from publicly claiming things would have been different with a healthy squad, to the actions of individual players. Serge Ibaka plateaued, and fans got tired of being told he was an elite defender. OKC kept bringing in unlikable, or overrated role players (Caron Butler, Dion Waiters, Kendrick Perkins). And as the lack of ultimate success continued, the team’s constant complaining – which manifested in the form of three consecutive top-two finishes in team technical fouls – got old (a Thunder player led the league in T’s in three of the past five seasons).

There’s a word for this kind of stuff: buster. OKC saw the public gradually turn on it because a team can’t be unlikable AND unsuccessful. If you’re going to be loud and defiant and claim you deserve respect as one of the league’s best teams, you’d better back it up. Failing to do so qualifies you as posers. Durant, as the team’s leader, was deservedly the face of that failure.

From an individual perspective, KD didn’t do himself any favors. As LeBron reestablished himself as (unquestionably) the best player in the world, and Durant continued to promote himself at the expense of another player, fans became less receptive. His impressionable, eager-to-please nature likely made it easy for his handlers to convince him this was the best course. He didn’t make that decision in a vacuum.

However, he did choose to tweet “Now everybody wanna play for the Heat and the Lakers? Let’s go back to being competitive and going at these peoples!” just days after “The Decision”. He chose to sign that big extension, knowing how it would look. And in the absolute nadir of blatant nice-guy pandering, he told Bill Simmons he wanted his nickname to be “The Servant” because he made his teammates better.

It was phony, it was obvious, and it was widely rejected. People don’t want to be told how humble you are. A move that transparent, combined with the rest of the Thunder’s collective busterism, soured fans tremendously. This brings us to KD’s decision to leave OKC and sign with Golden State.

To be clear from the outset: Durant has every right to leave. OKC management drafted well and was reportedly player-friendly, but it also made several questionable personnel decisions– headlined by the Harden trade and the curiously long tenure of one Scott Brooks. Without a doubt, the media-and-fan-created stigma of retiring without a championship loomed large in his mind.

It’s the destination he chose that solidifies Durant as a first-team All-Time Buster. Had he left for San Antonio, his hometown Wizards, or some other team with a decent roster, it would be understandable. Moving on for a better chance at a ring is a respectable business decision. What isn’t respectable is leaving for the team that broke the regular-season wins record, just beat you in a thrilling seven-game conference finals and was likely the best collection of talent the NBA has ever seen (if not the greatest basketball team of all time).

It is the ultimate cop-out, the ultimate admission of defeat and disinterest in carrying a team. This isn’t LeBron leaving for Miami. Look at the roster Bron was playing with his final season in Cleveland. Look at the list of corpses he dragged to the 2007 Finals against the Spurs. No wonder he couldn’t get it done before he went to Miami.

By contrast, this year’s OKC team featured a great young center in Steven Adams, a halfway decent bench and another one of the top five players in the world in Russell Westbrook. The Thunder just made a fantastic trade for Serge Ibaka that landed them Victor Oladipo as well as a pair of bigs to add depth in Ersan Illysova and (rookie) Domantas Sabonis. With KD, that team was possibly going to be as good as the Warriors next year, and the Thunder knew they really should have knocked off the Dubs this season.

When LeBron went to Miami, the Heat’s Big Three had never played together. They had spacing issues and chemistry issues and no real center on the roster. It was a remarkable collection of stars, but there’s a reason it took time for the team to learn how to play together.

Golden State will face far less of a challenge in adding Durant. The Warriors have already won a championship and should have won a second. They were, despite the end result of these playoffs, probably the best team of all time. All they’re doing is replacing a good player in Harrison Barnes with an elite one in Durant. It’s a significantly smaller obstacle that will in turn make winning a title significantly less meaningful for KD.

This move isn’t close to LeBron going to Miami. It’s the equivalent of an alt-history in which Lebron signs with Boston after being eliminated by the Celtics in 2010 (upgrading the position manned by Paul Pierce) and riding the coattails of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to a ring. It’s the equivalent of Michael Jordan throwing up his hands after being eliminated by the Pistons three straight seasons and signing with Detroit in 1990. It’s disappointing, it’s weakness personified and it’s the ultimate endgame of the busterism KD signed on for way back when he agreed to be the foil to LeBron no one needed.

LeBron, on the other hand…

Where did last year’s Finals leave us with Lebron? To start with, it re-solidifies his place among the very best the game has ever seen, and his status as the current top player in the world. It makes the MVP’s of Derrick Rose (2010), Durant (2014) and Steph Curry (2015) look even more ridiculous in retrospect (Curry’s 2016 nod is acceptable). Most importantly, and thankfully, it finally closes the absurd argument that somehow Bron hasn’t done enough in his career to be included in “Greatest Ever” talks.

I get it. It’s natural to be threatened by change. People dislike when something new challenges their preconceived notions of what is and what should be. It’s why aged stars like Oscar Robertson claim players like Steph Curry would get crushed “back in their day.” It fuels the insecurity in Scottie Pippen when he claimed his Bulls would sweep this season’s Warriors. Ex-players don’t want to be forgotten or have younger players rewrite their accomplishments. Fans are no more rational than the players they support. But there seems to be a particular bent on diminishing James’ accomplishments.

That’s undoubtedly because James is the best player we’ve seen since Michael Jordan. He might end up being considered greater than MJ, or he might not, but it’s the mere notion that he COULD be that strikes so much unnecessary fear in the hearts of some fans. Why is this such a big deal? It comes back to insecurity.

If LeBron COULD one day be better than Mike, then what have all these fans been wasting their time with, stanning for a guy who isn’t the best player ever? It’s a particular fetishism of “The Best And Only The Best” that permeates so much of American culture, and when intertwined with personal identity it creates some truly inexplicable results.

LeBron James

You’d think that LeBron dragging a garbage fire to the Finals against San Antonio in 2007 would be a feat worth celebrating, but no, it makes him a choker. Ditto for the crippled six-man team he willed to a 2-1 lead last year against Golden State – one of the best teams of all time in their own right. What matters is that LeBron lost, and MIKE NEVER LOST IN THE FINALS SO Lebron is a fraud!! Apparently he’d have been better off losing in the first round like Jordan.

 

Never mind that LeBron was just 22 years old, and in his fourth season, when he took a bad team to the Finals. Never mind that it took four seasons for Michael Jordan to get out of the first round of the playoffs (and he promptly lost 1-4 in the second round). The sheen of a six-for-six Finals record is rightfully celebrated, but it tends to distract from MJ’s playoff struggles before he got to that point. Do you know how many playoff GAMES Jordan won without Scottie Pippen?

jordan_pippen2_130214

The answer is one. MJ went 1-9 in the first round in his first three seasons, making the playoffs each year despite a losing record. The latter, of course, was a result of a smaller league, featuring talent consolidation on fewer teams and a near-total lack of quality international players (but that’s a discussion for another time). It’s an ugly mark, but Jordan’s later achievements overshadow those early years, as they should.

If it’s down to rings and rings alone, as some fans attempt to use as a trump card, then neither Michael Jordan nor LeBron James is the best player of all time. Bill Russell’s 11 rings are more than MJ and Bron combined. Yet even the most ardent old-guard supporters would likely concede that Russell is not the greatest player ever. Different eras are difficult to compare, even back-to-back ones like Jordan and James’.

All this of course, misses the point. There is not, nor will there ever be, a consensus greatest player ever. The subject is too subjective and emotion-based to have an “answer.” The most a player can do is put himself in the conversation. If a reasonable argument can be made for a player’s inclusion on that short list, he’s in the conversation. Jordan is there. LeBron is too (and by the way, his career is not over).

That’s what makes Durant leaving for Golden State so disappointing. Michael Jordan broke through in 1991 after struggling for years to get out of the east and rewrote the end of his story. LeBron James went to Miami, learned how to be truly great, then came home and did the same.

No matter how many championships KD wins as a Warrior, he’ll never be the leader of his team the way MJ and Bron were. The Warriors belong to Steph Curry. Durant going along for the ride will only diminish respect for what he accomplishes.

 

img_3186 Devon Singrey is a Portlander and creator of the college football blog, Making Sense of Saturday. His interests include basketball, football, history, mythology, funky music, and all things Prince.

Turning the Thing Around (again)

Two Friday nights ago, while scouring the internet for new and exciting content, I discovered that the Mavericks were playing the Lakers just four train stops from my mother’s house. I debated whether or not to go, but then figured it couldn’t hurt to at least see if I could get in the building for less than 30 bucks.

I was hoping to find a ticket for 20, but ran upon a deal I couldn’t pass on– an upper terrace seat (worth 70 dollars) for 30 dollars. Some scalpers were trying to get rid of $30.00 face value seats for up to 200 dollars. I just kept walking.

I hadn’t been to a Mavericks game since they’d played in the old Reunion Arena, back when Ross Perot Jr. owned the team (coincidentally, the first basketball game I ever attended was with my father was the 1984 playoff game against the Lakers–the only won they won that series).

By the time that Mark Cuban bought the Mavericks fifteen years ago, I was no longer living in Dallas. The Mavericks were a joke of a franchise, and the punchline of many jokes. Even people in Dallas took the time to ask the query, “Who’ll win more games this year, the Cowboys or the Mavs?”

Their ineptness led to my detachment (why in the hell would I invest my joy into a bad product?) and my detachment led me to watch other teams in the NBA, and not become a homer for any team (I think it worked out for the best).

Mark Cuban is not only one of the best owners in sports, he is also a glaring example of how one person can change the culture of a whole city. The city of Dallas doesn’t suck as much as it did when I was growing up there, and I’m sure Mark Cuban has at least a little bit to do with that.

Ever since Cuban bought the Mavericks, the city of Dallas has gotten a new basketball arena (they share the venue with the hockey team), a light rail that runs towards the outskirts of the city, and a massive growth of skyscrapers and condominiums downtown.

All that can’t be accredited to Cuban’s purchase of the Mavericks, but you also can’t tell me that the success of the franchise over the past 15 years has nothing to do with the city’s economic growth.

One of the things that makes Mark Cuban one of the best owners in sports, is that the man has attention for details. The American Airlines Center is one of the nicest venues you could ever attend an event.

It feels like a luxury hotel with a basketball court and stadium seating. Everything is immaculate, and state of the art. You will not find a single piece of trash lying on the ground, or in the arena.

The arena staff I encountered were all courteous and professional. I’ve even heard visiting players like Shaquille O’Neal say that the visiting locker room at the AAC is one of the most hospitable stops in the NBA–with a post game spread that resembles a luxury cruise buffet.

Pregame was pretty hype. The Mavs’ announcer worked hard to keep all the fans engaged. The Mavs were introduced to “Eminence Front” by the Who and fans got into that (I’m a little shocked that no rapper has ever sampled that intro and spit bars to it–I’m sure its a hard sample to clear). There were cool graphics up on the Jumbotron, and the two massive scoreboards.

The game didn’t live up to the hype though. It was the day after Christmas, and it seemed like everyone was hungover; including the fans who could barely muster any audible advantage for the home town Mavs.

Kobe sat on the bench wearing a really nice black suit (another reason why the 200 dollar asking price was laughable), and the flow of the game was really klunky. There were a lot of “Sportscenter” worthy moments, with lobs and deep 3 pointers, but the flow was just off. Both teams were in the 70’s at one point into the 4th quarter.

On balance it was still fun. Mark Cuban understands that NBA games are a product, and everything revolving around the team shapes the perception of the product. The Mavs’ drum line, the dancers, the DJ, the PA guy, and arena staff are as part of the product as the basketball team.

Mark Cuban’s comprehensive approach to handling the team (from hiring the right coach and general manager to the way he takes care of his players) is why he is one of the most innovative owners to ever buy a sports team.

Major League Baseball made a serious mistake by not selling Cuban one of their franchises. Cuban is one of the reasons why the NBA is such a progressive sport, especially compared to the NFL and MLB.

Even the most casual of fan can have a good time at an NBA game, and the reason is because the NBA is always looking forward, not in the past like baseball–a sport steeped in archaic rituals and traditions.

If you haven’t figured out what separates good franchises from bad ones, don’t focus solely on the players. Go directly to the ownership group, then look at who gets hired for drafting and personnel decisions, then watch their track records with head coaches.

In any successful organization, it all starts at the top. Being a great leader/supervisor/coach means having the confidence to hire smart people to work on your staff and allowing them to do their jobs. This is what separates the bad, mediocre, and good from the great.

Big shout out to Mark Cuban, the Dallas Mavericks arena staff, and all those Mavs’ fans out there who stuck with the team even when they were the laughingstock of the league. The NBA is more fun to watch now that they are good again.

These games tho:

Monday

Wizards-Pelicans
Anthony Davis continues to have insane stat lines and the Wizards continue to have entertaining games against the West. I’ll check out this game until the Los Angeles “Cakeshow” rolls into Portland and the Thunder-Warriors Part Duex commence. I feel confident that this will be the Good Ass Game of the Week.

Tap that Vein Tuesday begins and ends with Cavs-Rockets. Tuesday would be a good night to rest up if you were recovering from a hernia surgery. As the cops used to say back in the day, “Move along now. Nothing to see here.”

Wednesday

The LOL Lakers versus the Clippers. It is always fun to watch the Lakers lose to their housemates.

Thursday
Miami vs. Portland You sure you’re recovered from that hernia surgery? “Tap that Vein Tuesday” has now become “Tap that Vein Thursday”

Friday

A slew of Good Ass Games. The Grizzlies beefy front line are going to put a hurting on Anthony Davis and the Pelicans.

Bulls-Wizards give us a playoff preview of could only be a handful of possible interesting match ups in the East. I’ll tune in until the Phoenix-San Antonio and Cleveland-Golden State games begin.

“Psssst. Take you out on Friday? Nah baby, I need to be in bed recovering from hernia surgery (wink.wink.) The doc says I should do nothing that doesn’t involve lying in bed and watching hoops.

Saturday

Dallas vs. Los Angeles Clippers Battle of two of the best point guards in the West. Can’t wait!

Sunday
Grizzlies-Suns
Cleveland-Sacramento
Portland-LOL Lakers

“Oh baby. You’ll never believe this. Doctor says I can do non-basketball related things again. It’s a Festivus Miracle! We should go out and celebrate. You should grab your wallet in case I somehow lose mine. Grab your keys too, doctor says I can’t drive.”

Buster(s) of the Week award goes to:

The New York Police Department for showing mad disrespect to the city’s mayor, police commissioner, and the families of Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, by turning their back on the mayor during his eulogy for both slain officers. #Maddisrespectful.

These men have to understand that they are supposed to be the pillars of our society. It doesn’t make poor or citizens of color feel any less distrust towards the police. I don’t see any good coming out of this situation and their behavior. It just isn’t right.

Enjoy the games and don’t be foolish with ya money!!!

Peace.

BM

@clickpicka79
bobbymickey@gmail.com