Saturday, April 28, 2007

Doubt Is A Four Letter Word.

"I'm 28 now. I shouldn't miss a free throw down the stretch, but it happens. We're all human. If we were all machines, it would be boring. Emotions play a factor in a big game like that."

"I think anyone who says they don't get tense is lying," Nowitzki said. "In big games, you've just got to find ways to stay loose and relaxed. I've been doing a decent job of not letting the pressure get to me and still enjoying the moment.

"I love to have the ball at the end of games. That's what it's all about, that your teammates trust you and you have confidence in yourself that you can get it done. It's a great situation to be in."
-Dirk Nowitzki

"Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen."
Michael Jordan

The definitive excellence of Michael Jordan was in his ability to consistently meet-and raise-expectations. Reaching the pinnacle of success is a lonely and perilous journey. The air gets thin up there. A successful reputation is twofold; the more successful one is, the more seriously they will be taken and the more cautious opponents will be in their plan of attack. For some, with continued success comes a fear of failure. A fear of exposure, belittlement, infamy. They know that players don't gracefully descend this mountain, they are thrown off by someone hungrier, and recovery isn't promised. Only the strong survive.

It's never shown in the box scores of a game, but the psychological and emotional advantage are just as important as the actual point totals. The playoffs are a battle of wills, and any sign of weakness is exploited. To doubt one's own will can make even rudimentary exercises such as a trip to the line excruciatingly difficult. Ask Nick Anderson, Karl Malone, or Gilbert Arenas. By definition, free throws should be easy, but in a tight game situation it's that very assumption of simplicity which complicates the process. It's also the reason there often isn't a repeat champion. Maintaining a competitive edge in this league is difficult enough, but the added burden of expectations can absolutely cripple a player and a team.

It's one thing to perform well during the monotonous redundancy of the eighty two, but to sustain that effort amidst the pressure and finality of the playoffs is something else entirely. Ask the '94 Sonics or the '99 Heat. In a game of synergy and snap decisions, the physical and mental manifestations which spring from a seed of doubt are anathema. Hesitancy or over thinking, lead to bated breath and quickened pulses, which produce dry mouths and sweaty palms. Nerves. As the crowd roars and the lights shine, the ears plug, the throat closes, and the vision blurs. Passes and rebounds are mishandled, defensive rotations are missed, jumpers get short armed, and games are lost. It's called choking, and once it starts it's hard to stop.

That's the beauty of being an underdog. They can't choke, they can only induce it in others.

"We will not sweep Miami"

-Andres Nocioni

He knew what he was doing. He knew the defending champion Heat were no strangers to injuries or 2-0 deficits. He knew Miami's talent and experience could fuel a rally and that many would in fact, expect that to happen. The Bulls were not the favorites in this series, and wouldn't be unless they won game 3, which is why Chicago withstood the inevitable Heatwave (womp, womp....) with a marked composure. Miami came out aggressive, took excellent care of the ball and led by seven at the half. They were riding an eight game home playoff win streak, and had won 26 consecutive playoff games which they led at halftime. The Bulls were uncontrollably turning the ball over and the Heat carried their lead into the fourth quarter. It all fell apart in one possession.

The Bulls raced to the other end and Hinrich attacked Shaq with a floater in the lane. The doubt O'Neal had instilled in Chicago with his earlier dominance was supplanted by confidence. A few possessions later Gordon would also lob one in over the Diesel, and that began a parade to the paint which resulted in a 15-2 run of nothing but free throws and easy buckets for the Chi. Miami lost their composure, the game, and now are looking not to be the first defending champs to get swept in the first round.

Why didn't Shaq dunk the ball in that earlier sequence? After he elbowed Ben Wallace in the head to clear his way to the basket, he certainly could have. Maybe he was just shocked he got blocked and rushed his followup. Or maybe he rushed that follow up because he was scared of the line. He and Dwyane Wade were a combined 7-22 from the charity stripe (The team shot 19-35). Miami's bid for another title is essentially over because they couldn't make their free throws. Karma's a bitch, ain't it?

"Dirk said that they gave us the championship last year. But he's the reason they lost the championship, because he wasn't the leader he's supposed to be in the closing moments."
-Dwyane Wade

"You look at what happened to him last year in the Finals. You can't let your team give away games like that, in the biggest series of your career. Look at what he did this year in their biggest games. When they played Phoenix, he made bad decisions, he made stupid plays late.

"And then he admitted to feeling pressure. He admitted it. That's the worst thing you can do is say, 'The pressure got to me.' My God, even if you feel that, why would you say that?"
-Rick Barry

"I'm coming back with a bunch of schmoes"
-Don Nelson

The whispers started a while ago, and he didn't do much to quiet them. 'Is Dirk a clutch player?' Hmmm... If there ever was a time for the 'we have nothing to lose' routine, this was it. He's openly acknowledged that he can be rattled and that anything less than an O'Brien this year is a letdown, so why wouldn't Nellie apply the pressure? His barrage of compliments towards Dallas are an obvious ploy, and so far they're working.

They're younger and more athletic, but Golden State's strength is in their fearlessness. They ain't no punks to begin with, and they're coming off a 13 year playoff drought? Against a team they took three from already this year? Sheeeeeeeeet..... S-Jax'll tell ya, "Toss that muthafucka up there and let's get this shit poppin'!"

That emotion can get the best of them, as it did in Game 2, but when questions arose of whether the Warriors would completely unravel, it was Dallas who lost their cool in the following game. This was supposed to be a five game series, six at the most. That prediction might actually prove true if the Mavericks don't find themselves. This is a 67 win team? This is the MVP? Everything is on the line and everyone is watching, how will he respond? If his first few shots don't fall, will he fall apart? Has there ever been a shakier 90% free throw shooter?

Observance changes that which is being observed, and tomorrow night the delicate flower that is Dirk Nowitzki will be our latest case study. He will either prove to be a shrinking violet, or his leadership will finally blossom before the world. In order to be effective he needs to exhaust the versatility of his game. He may be pestered by smaller, quicker players, but he can shoot over them, and post any one of them up-which should provide scoring opportunities for teammates. Either way, Dallas will live or die with him and he can't lead with the same self-effacing blather he's been spouting all year. It's time for him to drown out the whispers with a battle cry of ...

"If we don't get out of the first round this year, it's on me!"
-Tracy McGrady

In what appears to be an effort to circumvent media pressure, TMac has played himself right into Jerry Sloan's hands. It's unclear whether McGrady doesn't trust Yao enough, or if he's simply overzealous, but what's quite evident is that the Jazz are running to minimize Ming's effectiveness and his teammate is allowing it to happen. Despite playing only seven more minutes than his center (154-147), Mac has taken sixteen more shots (87-71). This in itself is not a completely telling statistic, but Yao has taken nineteen more free throws (39-53/26-34), while McGrady continues to struggle from the field (32-87, 37% in addition to 28% from three, 6-21). He's never been out of the first round because he's never had good teammates, and now that he finally has them, they're underutilized. Why? Expectations.

And don't get me started on Kirilenko.

"I thought they played harder than we did," "And we didn't stick to our game plan like we did in the first two games. We were a step slow and we weren't in the right spots. Defensively, we need to concentrate and be in the right spots."
-Steve Nash

"We had a chance to put them away," "They shot the ball well, Kobe was on fire. Game 4 will be a different story. We normally take care of the ball, but they were the aggressor."
-Amare Stoudemire

"It was effort. You can go over execution and X's and O's all you want. What you have to have is effort."
-Kobe Bryant

Foul trouble, missing open jumpers, poor defensive rotations and rebounding, whatever. However Phoenix lost the edge in this series doesn't matter as much as how they plan to re-establish it. They must look forward, not back. They have to give that same effort that built them a seventeen point lead in Game 3, and they have to know that L.A. will match that intensity. They have to know that Laker defenders are going to continue to show and hassle Nash on the screen/roll, that they will continue to attack the basket and crash the boards. Just as the Suns bent countless opponents to the will of their fastbreak, they have to know the Lakers seek to do the same through controlling the paint. Kobe wasn't on fire, he was waltzing to the basket for uncontested layups. So was Lamar, and so was Kwame.

Phoenix might be under more pressure than Dallas this year. They're interchangable title favorites comprised of All-Star rosters, led by interchangable MVP candidates. Neither should be struggling in the first round, but Phoenix is having this problem for the second time with the same team. What will happen tomorrow if the intimidator fails to intimidate? Again? As Marion disappears for quarters at a time and they continue to be outrebounded by a wide margin, will the Suns feel an added pressure to make every shot? What if there's more foul trouble waiting for them? Will they have to forego their plans for second round rest and acknowledge that this series isn't over yet? Home court or not, do they really want a best of three with Kobe Bryant? Will they feel that dream slipping away? Again?

As the final buzzer sounded on Game 3, Smush Parker attempted a dunk that would have put an exclamation point on the jubilant roars of the Staples Center. He was fouled by Raja Bell, and Mike D'Antoni was incensed by Parker's supposed lack of sportsmanship. Or was he trying to motivate his team through this perceived slight to keep their spirits up? To alleviate the tension? Anything to keep them from remembering this?

Can it happen again?

I don't doubt it.

Friday, April 27, 2007


Thanks to whoever posted this on NT. The following are quotes from an Allen Iverson article in this months issue of GQ that is an absolute must read. I would ramble on further about A.I., but let it suffice to say that I'm looking forward to his bust being the first in the Hall of Fame with braided hair.

Allen Iverson: Football was my first love. It was my dream to play in the NFL. I didn't start playing basketball until I was 8 years old. One day my mom told my coach to come and bring me to basketball practice. I cried all the way to the door.

Dennis Kozlowski (ex-football coach, Bethel High School, Hampton, Virginia): In high school, he wasn't big as a minute - five six, five seven, 145 pounds - but he was a Deion type of player, an absolute wonder returning kicks. As a safety, he still holds the state record with five interceptions in one game. As a quarterback, he could throw the ball at least seventy yards in the air.

More from his former coaches.

Rick Reilly (writer, Sports Illustrated): After he'd begun playing with the Sixers, I drove with him one day in his black Mercedes to a Philadelphia Eagles practice. He threw a bunch of beautiful passes - he could throw it fifty yards on the button - and ran this gorgeous route. The coach was like, "My God, I'll sign him right now."

David Teel (columnist, the Hampton Roads Daily Press): He was eventually found guilty of "maiming by mob," which was a felony. This was a statute that in the cruelest of ironies was put on the books to prevent lynchings. He was sentenced to fifteen years. Ten suspended. Five years in prison. He was 17 years old. For a fight!

Douglas Wilder (former governor of Virginia; current mayor, Richmond Virginia):
The law that was used for the conviction was ancient. I couldn't see how that violation, for a juvenile, should result in such a mark being placed on him for life. Four months later, at Christmas, I pardoned him. I caught hell for it.

Coach [John] Thompson had visited me in prison and I'd asked him would he consider taking me in if I was able to get out. Fortunately, he did. They had a football program, and I remember one day asking him how did he feel about me playing football. I don't think you can write it in a magazine, what he said. I didn't think about playing football no more after that.

Smart man.

Henry "Que" Gaskins (former global vice president, lifestyle and entertainment division, Reebok): Jordan was talking trash during the game: "Look, young boy, you have to respect us." The Bulls had won championships. Allen said to Jordan, "I ain't gotta respect nobody."

Todd Boyd (author, Young, Black, Rich, and Famous): In his rookie year, Allen infamously "crossed over" Jordan. At the top of the key, Allen rocked twice, and left Jordan standing in the same spot. It was unbelievable. Nobody had seen Jordan get clowned that way in a long time. The greatest player in the game to get upstaged by this rookie.

No two dribbles in basketball history will ever be more celebrated.

Bobbito Garcia (cofounder, Bounce magazine): He had already beaten Jordan on the first dribble, but he brought the ball back and crossed him again. That's something that you see on the street - unnecessary moves to claim dominance.

He probably could've done it with a football too.

Reggie Miller (former guard, Indiana Pacers): During his third year in Philadelphia, he got his first taste of the postseason, against us. We basically murdered them. But he had a great series. And I remember when it was over, him going to the bench with a towel on his face, crying. It hurt that bad. And I said to myself, He's special. Because they had no shot at beating us. But he felt that they could. All true athletes believe they can conquer.

Rick Fox (former forward, Los Angeles Lakers): After we won Game 4 to go up three games to one, I remember seeing him being driven down the tunnel in a golf cart to the press room - which is a short walk. I remember thinking, You're MVP of the league, and you've been fighting valiantly, and you're so banged up you can't even make it from your locker room to do press? He is a true warrior.

Tyronn Lue (guard, Atlanta Hawks; formerly with the Los Angeles Lakers): The next season, we got into it again. I came right up to him and said, "You keep talking about how you're gonna give me fifty - well here I am mutha ." And he was like, "I don't even know who you are. Who are you?" I was like, "I'm the same person who won the championship ring last year." The first play, he went backdoor and scored, and he was yelling, "Gimme the rock, we can do this all night." And I was like, "It's too late. You shoulda did it during the finals." After that we started talking more, and we became cool.

Iverson: I've got a problem with people who play scared. Tyronn Lue took it as a challenge, like a man.

Jordan was one thing, but a friendship grew out of this?


Patrick Saunders (staff writer, Denver Post): On December 19, Philadelphia traded Iverson to the Denver Nuggets. Prior to his first game, we had a hude blizzard. Nobody knew for sure when he was going to get in or whether he was going to play. He had only five minutes of warm-up. The arena was electric.

Carmelo Anthony (forward Denver Nuggets): It was the biggest thing around here since Elway won the Super Bowl.

Partick Saunders: Carmelo, who was suspended at the time, was home watching the game. He was standing up; he couldn't sit down. Iverson would pass the ball to a teammate, and Carmelo would pretend it was him. He was in his living room flipping his wrist like he's making the shot. He got all psyched, so he drove up in his Range Rover and invited Iverson to dinner.

Iverson: I'm six feet. Legit.

Of heart.

And now here's something we think you'll really like...

I kid.

Allen Iverson Sportscentury.

the rest...

"Young Man Those Aren't Regulation Shorts!"

Guess who?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Incarcerated Scarface?

“He looks determined without being ruthless. Something heroic in his manner. There’s a courage about him, he doesn’t look like a killer. He comes across so calm, acts like he has a dream. Full of passion.”

“You don’t trust me, huh?”

“Well, you know why.”

“I do. We’re not supposed to trust anyone in our profession anyway.”

What up, yo. Time is runnin’ out.

AP-“It was really embarrassing to come in here and lose such an important game the way we lost it,” Odom said. “…We need to think about some things as a team. It’s kind of sad, but I don’t know that we’re as close as a team right now as far as camaraderie and things like that. That’s the only way you lose games like this — when you’re not close.”

Bryant downplayed the impact of losing by such a large margin.

“In the playoffs, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “It’s a loss, either way you cut it.”

As an unabashed member of Laker Nation, I currently find myself unable wade in the shallow waters of ‘the right way’. I’m incapable of concealing my feelings for the Purple and Gold, and any attempts to marginalize them to project a sense of even-handedness are half-hearted and ultimately counterproductive. You’re not here for that, and neither am I. Right now, I’m not a sportswriter, or even an aspiring one. I’m a fan. Fans pick a side and stay there.

That being said, we’re fucked.

As hard as it was to watch, there was a hint of foreshadowing in the fourth quarter of last night’s game. (I took around three quarters worth of notes, but I don’t have the stomach to go through the autopsy right now, and I doubt anyone wants to relive such bloodshed. Except Suns fans, and well, fuck them.) Kobe Bryant, the same player accused of tanking last year’s Game 7, left the bench to subject himself to more ridicule-and a twisted ankle. What was he doing in the game? Maybe trying to develop some synergy amongst his teammates and give them something to build on for Game 3. He certainly wasn’t going to sit there and watch. After subsequently leaving the game for treatment, the Lakers plodded on. Phoenix’s entire rotation had been taken out of the game and replaced with the likes of Marcus Banks, Jalen Rose, Eric Piatowski, and Pat Burke. The Lakeshow countered with Shammond Williams, Sasha Vujacic, Mo Evans, Brian Cook and Andrew Bynum.

As a team trailing by upwards of twenty points-and one healthy star- in the fourth quarter of a Game 2, it seemed L.A. should’ve conceded the inevitable and gone to their garbage players too. Except those are the Lakers garbage players. Seriously, there are no lower men on the roster. These are some of the same guys who have been playing all year, and will be logging significant minutes for the rest of this series.

Half assed crews get demolished and bruised.

As Phil and Lamar were getting lifted in the staircases after the game, Kobe was left to simmer and contemplate his latest nickname. The incarcerated Scarface.

As a certified Kobeologist, I’ve blessed him with an assortment of aliases, (Anakin Skywalker, for obvious reasons. The Prince, for his eternal second banana status, Machiavellian image- and similarities to Pac, a.k.a Makaveli-another talented soul who tried too hard to be someone he’s not. There’s more, but don’t get me rambling…) however this one is probably the most appropriate given the circumstances.

As any self assured, goal oriented, immigrant would, Kobe’s natural inclinations when cornered are to go down swinging. No surrender, no retreat. Long ago, his focus on a dream materialized into a red beam willing to take out anyone in front of it. That focus is legendary, but hazardously singular. But isn’t that Kobe’s current dilemma, that he’s all alone? He has a definitive legacy to consider and needs to win, yet he’s surrounded by neophytes and ne’er do wells with nothing to lose. Yo, they be foldin' like envelopes under pressure, like Lou Ferrigno on coke. Compounding his problems are a considerable phalanx of character assasins in the form of a rabid media, ready to pounce on him whenever his shot totals exceed their comfort.

As we all know, through a well published-and well spun-series of events, three years ago Kobe was essentially branded as a villain. The bad guy. A man high on a power trip, considerate of no one and respectful of nothing. He either shoots too much, or his extraordinary achievements are belittled by a lack of resulting postseason success. He is in an inescapable situation, attacked from all angles and unable to fire back. He has been shackled, or incarcerated if you will. Six shot attempts in the last three quarters of Game 2.

As the media continues to ignore the hypocrisy of craving team play in a star driven league-and from a star with no team at that-from the agendaless perspective of a fan, I can see quite clearly. This team may fall, but not without a fight, especially from the only man who will be held accountable. Kobe is about to explode.

As the countdown to Game 3 passes, he thinks of LBJ, Nash, Dirk and others who will be showered with the praise of May. At that point, Kobe will pause and say to himself, “You’re all a bunch of fucking assholes. You know why? You don’t have the guts to be who you wanna be. You need people like me so you can point your fucking fingers and say ‘That’s the bad guy.’ So what does that make you? Good? You’re not good, you just know how to hide. Me? I don’t have that problem. I always tell the truth. Even when I lie. So say goodnight to the bad guy! It’s the last time you gonna see a bad guy like this again, I tell you…

Michael Jordan’s playoff record of 63 points will fall before this series is over.

I seen it. Like a 27 inch Zenith. Believe it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Women I Would Settle For, Vol. V, The Miami Heat Have the Lig's Best Fans.

This is not up for debate.

My 25 Favorite Hip Hop Albums.

Don't know if Straight Bangin' is still tallying numbers, but here's mine anyway. If this was supposed to be a list of the best, then it'd be completely different. But these are my favorites. For now...


"I'm just tryin' to do the opposite of left, as long as there's the opposite of death. You test and I just might bring the opposite of life, until there's no one the opposite of right."


"I lack the necessary tools to help me get right. So take your place as the temporary savior, while I'm lookin' at your face like I'll be tested on it later. I bet you like to fuck, but you love to argue. Poke a hole into my chest and pull my heart through, up to my room for cigarettes and cartoons. Or we can sit right here and try to guard these barstools. I'll take you any way that I can have you. Bring along your ethics, and your issues, and your taboos...."


"Lemonade was a popular drink and it still is. I get more props and stunts than Bruce Willis."


"I'm better than your favorite rapper, but it don't take much these days for you to master the mic. Most of these rappers, trapped in the hype. They makin' whole albums, but only half of it's tight. So they never really have an impact on your life. That's why 3:16 was genius..."


"Don't talk about my moms, yo."


"The American Dream, though it seems that it's obtainable, they're pullin' your sleeve, don't believe cause it'll strangle you..."


"Meanwhile, back in Queens-the realness, the foundation-if I die, I couldn't choose a better location. When the slugs penetrate, you feel a burnin' sensation. Gettin' closer to God, in a tight situation..."


"These cats drink champagne and toast death and pain, like slaves on a ship talkin' bout who got the flyest chain."


"Aw shit! Say Starkologist! Starksologist! Fried fish halibut!"


"Me without a lyric, is like a nigga without a beeper..."


"Olympic sponsor of the black glock, gold medalist in the back shot, from the soverign state of the have nots..."


"You need to be more aware of your surroundings. Reality at times is astounding enough to get your heart pounding. It's safe to assume, in all confidence, that I'm one of the illest on the seven continents. You on my dick? Thanks for the compliment. You'll be fucked up by my table of contents..."


"I find it's distressing, there's never no inbetween. We either niggas or kings, we either bitches or queens. This deadly ritual seems immersed in the peverse. Full of short attention spans, short tempers and short skirts. Long barrel automatics released in short bursts. The length of black life is treated with short worth. 'Get yours first. Them other niggas secondary' That type of illin' that be fillin' up the cemetery..."


"...and the crowd goes wild, as if Holyfield has just won the fight. When in actuality, it's only about 3AM, and three niggas done got hauled off in the ambulance. Two niggas done started bustin'. And one nigga done took his shirt off, talkin' bout, 'Now who else wanna fuck wit Hollywood Colt?'"


"....and even after all my logic and my theory, I add a 'muthafucka' so y'all i'gnant niggas hear me..."


"Nigga, I seen it. Like a 27 inch Zenith. Believe it."


"Even if it's jazz, or the quiet storm, I'll hook a beat up, convert it into hip hop form. Write a rhyme in graffitti and every show you see me in deep concentration, cause I'm no comedian..."


"This ain't a movie dog..."


"Whoever said illegal was the easy way out, didn't understand the mechanics and the workings of the underwold. Granted, 9 to 5 is how you survive. I 'aint tryin' to survive, I'm tryin' to live it to the limit and love it alot..."


"Dedicated to babies who came feet first!"


"I got techniques drippin' out my buttcheeks. Sleep on my stomach so I don't fuck up my sheets."


"Now the little shorties say it all of the time, and a whole bunch of niggas throw the word in they rhymes. Yo, I start to flinch, as I try not to say it..."




"Not no Parkay, not no margarine. Strictly butter."


"My ryhmin' is a vitamin, held without a capsule. The smooth criminal on beat breaks, never put me in your box if the shit eats tapes. The city never sleeps, full of villains and creeps, that's where I learned to do my hustle, had to scuffle with freaks. I'm a addict for sneakers, twenties of buddha and bitches with beepers. In the streets, I can greet ya, about blunts I'll teach ya. Inhale deep, like the words in my breath. I never sleep, cause sleep is the cousin of death. I lay puzzled as I backtrack to earlier times, nothin's equivalent to the New York state of mind..."

Monday, April 23, 2007

David Halberstam 1934-2007.

Damn. This man was as insightful a reporter and natural a writer as there has ever been. He was boundless, covering practically every aspect of a continually evolving American culture. His work cannot be duplicated, nor rivaled. It can only be admired.

Saturday Nights Are For Drugs & Alcohol.

In case you missed it...

That dress alone made it three minutes well spent.

Good impression. Bad skit.

That woman is priceless. Who cares about grape stomping in the first place? And why do it on an elevated platform? She sounds like she's trying to cross breed seals and dogs down there. God bless the internet.

*Coincidentally, this happened leaving the SNL after party. I just wish she would have made those same noises again...

I would have done the same thing.

You're the only silky haired cracker I'd ever let get away with that. Actually, I'm lying. Jessica Biel could show up at my door in nothing but a trenchcoat and blackface and I'd still stop to think about it. What did Kanye say? 'Now that's a white girl you can take to the mosque'....

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Grey Matter Clusterfuck, a.k.a Suns/Lakers Game 1 Notes.

Here we go…

I can see the Suns plan on doing alot of flopping to counter interior play of Lakers.
Expecting plenty more bitc-um, Rajaing. God, I hate that dude.

Lamar Odom has to continue to play the post like that. If they come at him with any kind of double team-which they’ll eventualy have to-he’ll kill them with his passing.

Turiaf. WTF? I just hope no one says anything um… ‘unnecessary’ about his hair.

The Lakers are showing amazing discipline in attacking the low post, plus controlling the paint and pace.

Kobe. Ew. Got my face all scrunched up. Don’t hurt ‘em dude.

Lakers up by a dozen.

Lamar should’ve passed the ball to a streaking Kobe, instead attacks for a dumb charge.

Phoenix ties it up by exploiting fast breaks off of turnovers, rebounds and loose balls. Lakers transistion D is just stuck.

Kwame being Kwame. Dunk the damn ball, you’re seven feeet tall.

Phoenix ties the game, but the Lakers are still intent on controlling pace.

Kobe being Kobe. Can’t give him an inch of space. Twenty-six footer.

Nice D Kwame, but recover the ball. Sick oop from Nashty to Trix.


Kwame and his small hands. Cant secure rebound, another two for the Suns.

KOBE! Twenty-eight footer over two Suns to end the half.

If the Suns dont score 100 can they win this game?

STAT aggressive at the rim comin out in the third.

Luke Walton is another player that can play the post in this series. Especially with his passing skills. This really could get interesting.

STAT again. Kwame’s doing what he can, but not enough to stay with him.

Kobe. Another jumper.

Kwame almost blows another one.

Nash is focused. Man. Tell Farmar to holla at me man!

Kobe moonwalking huh, M. Jax? There’s too many inapporpriate jokes to be made. Must focus on game.

Kwame, with a shot clock violation-directly under the basket. Wow.

Suns are focusing on the paint early in third but still killed on boards

Kwame loses ball. His confidence cant be high right now, and L.A. needs some productivity outta him. Smart of Nash to bait him into posting, then coming with the double team. Then a charge on other end. Kwame’s getting frustrated! (Geroge Costanza is still that dude. No matter what Kramer did.) Lackadasical body language. Lashing at teammates who correct him. The Lakers essentially traded Shaq for this guy. (via Caron Butler.)

Bullshit charge in Nash’s favor. Still moving and Farmar had the angle to the basket.

Bullshit call on other end on Farmar.

Bullshit out of bounds on Odom. Marion touched it!

Biased much?

Doubt is a four letter word? Lots to be said on that. For Kwame and Suns.

Kwame another stupid play off the inbounds.

Kwame gotta make those free throws.

STAT is so quick off his feet. Even in congested areas.

Farmar has playoff nuts. Fully developed.

Horrible Suns communication on D, easy Odom dunk.

Horrible Lakers communication on D, easy Nash three.

Amazing how Kobe keeps his heat even with minutes between shots.

Farmar getting hosed. Gotta sit. What will Smush do?


STAT over the back, but no call. First offensive board in a min.

Walton earning his keep.

Barbosa too. He’s quick, but not that quick. C’mon! Smush Parker couldn’t keep a wheelbarrow full of pussy in front of him.

Tempo and psychological edge turning dangerously towards Phoenix at 2 min mark.

Nash is quite clutch. Never tightens up on that open shot.

Phil looks so funny in that chair. What’s in that cushion? Phone books?

Odom showing great patience in the post.

Those charges are so weak. Barbosa for tres. Momentum change?

35 points in the third from the Suns! 39 in first half.

Lakers should stay hot cause theyre taking 10 footers. Suns? More jumpers?

Uh oh. Barbosa again.

Evans is not thinking. Reverse pivot fadeaway over two Suns with time left to get a better shot?

Barbosa killing Smush. He gave away this lead. I fuckin’ hate him

Kobe we need you at the basket.

Great pass Kobe. Bynum needs alot more touches. First assist?

Leinenkugel’s Berry Weiss is the best beer ever. Today.

Suns free throws?

Wow. These refs are outta control. Kobe ges no call but Marion and one? Show some consistency.

Lets see how Kobe responds.

By sitting down?

Phil showing real confidence with 7 minutes left and down 5. Youngn’s need that show of support I guess.

Kwame stupid foul. What was the point in shoving Marion when he could’ve just boxed out? He had the angle. Dumbass.

Odom with a strong response on the block. Sticking to gameplan and holding it down on boards too.

Mo Evans is about as useful as Kwame Brown in a bakery right now. Or Kwame Brown on a fucking basketball court for that matter.

Odom’s gotta nail that layin. Would have helped.

Whew! Barbosa missed a bunny too.

Barbosa right back at em! Steve who? Oh, right.

Dumb three Kobe.

Barbosa lucky pass. STAT right place, right time. Dope nonetheless. Why aren’t there more words like that? afterthefact? Nah.

Role reversal in second half. More turnovers for Lakers and too many jumpshots down stretch. Suns turned into interior team. Must’ve shot at a much higher percentage.

Fug cheerlaeader.

Barbie killed Vujacic and Smush. Backdoor cuts, pure speed, jumpers. However.

No charges for Lakers. Despite playing the whole damn game in the paint, only half as many free throws for Lakers and twice as many foul calls. No consistency from refs.

Kobe taking ridiculous shots. Well, I guess they’re not if they go in-it is Kobe. But they didn’t.

Ten points in the fourth. Damn.

I don’t see either team budging much from their gameplan in this series. It may come down to who can control the paint. And the refs.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Suns v. Lakers Series Preview.

* I already posted this over at The Starting Five, just putting it here anyway.

What to Look For
: Somethin’ biblical.

At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. . . . For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect –- if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time (Matthew 24:10-13;24 NIV).

They were thisclose. Thisclose to an upset. It didn’t happen. Instead, Kobe Bryant was accused of a cardinal sin, quitting on his team in a game 7, an accusation that will linger in the air of this entire series.

They were thisclose. Thisclose to being upset. It didn’t happen. Instead, Steve Nash maintained his mystique and may hoist another MVP trophy during this series.

Obviously, last year’s playoffs don’t actually count towards this years award, but to think that they aren’t remembered is a bit naive, no? If the Lakers had won that series, Kobe would have been absolved of practically all previous transgressions and would have finally shed the image of a brooding loner. If the Suns had lost that series, the deification of Nash and Phoenix would have been proven to be a ruse in the worst possible fashion. Instead, Nash is still praised for turning a team with two other All Stars-one of them also a candidate for DPOY- a former coach of the year, and a candidate for sixth man of the year into division champions. And Kobe Bryant is still a Judas.

Once again, both men stand before us to be judged.

Sooner, rather than later, we’ll all see who the prophet is.

Phoenix Strengths/Weaknesses: Phoenix has continually baptized opponents in the streaking fire that is their fastbreak, flames fanned by outrageous team percentages in field goals (49%), threes (40%) and free throws (80%). Nash & STAT will pick n’ roll the damn air outta the ball and the Suns unselfishness as a unit always creates an open shot. They get the job done. On one side of the court. Their inefficiencies on the other end are just as well known and equally deadly. This team has plenty of athletes, and two of the league’s premier defenders in Bell and Marion, however Nash’s inability to contain anyone allows easy penetration and subsequent fouls on interior help defenders. This team isn’t that deep to begin with, so any foul trouble that forces adjustments in the lineup will either tire out the remains of an already overworked crew, or force them to rely on players outside of their regular rotation. Despite a formidable front line, the Suns were consistently out rebounded this year, including three of the four games against the Lakers. A team that can’t be depended on to rebound or play defense better not miss often.

Los Angeles Strengths/Weaknesses: Kobe/Anyone not named Kobe. That’s the consensus. Before they were plagued with injuries, the Lakers were showing signs of cohesion with a 30-19 record. But February was quite a while ago, and currently this team is a hot ass mess. They’re just like the Suns, on the wrong end of the court. Porous defense and out boarded. Offense has been a completely different story altogether. Depending on who you ask, Kobe is either Moses, leading a weary tribe into the promised land, or Pharaoh himself. The cohesion of this seasons past is definitely needed, but the question at hand is whether a young, inexperienced-and depleted roster can muster such a collective effort on demand. Which Lamar Odom will emerge in this series? Does Smush want a contract or a victory? Can Radmonovich repeat last years playoff heroics? Can Bynum & Turiaf establish themselves as a post presence? Can Kwame… be counted on for anything? The Lakers will play amidst a parted sea of questions that can cave in on them without any faith in each other.

How They Match Up: Despite the glaring differences in talent, these two teams should play each other pretty evenly. Neither team will put forth a sustained defensive effort, so expect plenty of Nash blowing by Smush and vice versa. Phoenix is obviously flush with shooters, so Walton, Radmonovic and Vujacic need to remain an outside threat for the Lakers. Everyone will need to stay at home on their defensive assignments rather than chasing penetration since both teams are infatuated with the trey. Stoudemire will get his, but he can be countered by the Laker big men who together should thrive in a half court setting. Marion probably won’t get any plays called, and Odom will attempt to punish him on the offensive blocks, so if he tires and disappears again like he did in last year’s series, things will definitely tighten up again for the Suns.

The X Factor:
This could be the biggest series of Kobe Bryant’s life. It almost would have been better for him to have been blown out last year than to be called a quitter. Twenty four minutes of basketball weighed more in many minds than all of his miracles in the past two years, and because of that he is still proclaimed to be the author of vanity and deceit, leading the game away from it’s essence. Those last twenty four minutes of basketball weighed heavily enough on his mind for him to wear them as a constant reminder on his chest, and now he has come full circle. Fair or not, Kobe’s legacy will be affected by his decision making in this series. Will he trust his teammates completely or will his leadership abilities be undermined by a desire for personal vindication?

Series Prediction:

And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. (Revelation 19:20, KJV)

Lakers in 7.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Chickens Coming Home to Roost?

That's about all I have to say about that.

Monday, April 9, 2007

“I Don’t Think He’d Wear Yellow…”

The Lakers lost today for the fifth time in their last seven games and slipped to seventh place in the Western Conference. Today was another example of the inconsistency in Lamar Odom and Smush Parker, who regularly alternate despondence and brilliance. Giving up 115 points today inflated their PA average to an unacceptable 103.2, deeming them inferior to the defensively inept Phoenix Suns (103.1). This is the worst defensive team Phil Jackson has ever coached and with another loss after today, it will be the worst record he has ever finished a season with. Today Kobe Bryant showed why he should be this year’s MVP.

A couple weeks ago, Phil said that the Good Lord himself couldn’t save the Lakeshow. This Easter Sunday, Kobe Bryant couldn’t either. But despite all of this year’s obstacles, because of Kobe the Lakers can reclaim sixth place with a win over Denver tomorrow and keep a playoff date with the Spurs whom they’ve taken two outta three from so far. What would Jesus do?

Kobe’s critics and his supporters will both look to today’s game as fuel for their respective arguments, but the chasm between them is the context. The prevailing logic among the pharisees is that the mark of an MVP is in team performance and Nash’s statistical dominance contributes to wins while Kobe continues to lose. Bullshit.

A teams record is reflective of their performance as a unit, but making it the primary factor in an individual award presupposes that every team is equal in their capabilities, which certainly isn’t the case. Including substitutes, this year’s Western Conference All Star squad had six sets of teammates, led by the Suns with three All Stars. Only Kevin Garnett(32-44), Ray Allen(31-46) and Kobe Bryant(40-37) represented their teams alone. Of them, only Kobe will make the playoffs.

The Suns (58-19) and Lakers (40-37) records may be laughable by comparison at face value, but a more revealing statistic lies underneath. Those same six teams that have multiple All Stars (Dallas, Phoenix, San Antonio, Utah, Houston & Denver) are all ranked ahead of the seventh place Lakers. Against those teams they have posted a respectable record of 9-11. Comparatively, Phoenix is only 10-9 against Western Conference teams above .500. Dallas is an impressive 13-7, led by MVP favorite Dirk Nowitzki, the beneficiary of an even deeper, more disciplined unit. The Lakers are one of the youngest, most inexperienced teams in an undeniably strong Conference. In addition to learning the mysteries of the Triangle, they’ve have also been confounded by a litany of injuries to their starters, who combined have missed more than 80 games. Their starting point guard could be back in the NBDL at any moment, and his backup was just there.

Kobe Bryant’s only deficiency this year was his inability to sustain a superhuman effort to curtail the losing streaks of a team ripe with shortcomings. He’s keeping a woefully substandard roster competitive with the league elite, yet he’s asked to do more? What more could he have done? When the team was at full strength he was taking seven less shots per game and they were battling for homecourt advantage. When Phil cut him loose he made league history and singlehandedly kept the team on track. Missing two or more starters, could any other player put together a five game winning streak by himself with 50 per?

The best player should by definition considered more valuable, yet we use different criteria to judge the two. Only two players this season are averaging 25, 5 & 5-Kobe and LeBron, who has admittedly sleepwalked through the Eastern Conference at times. If not for injury, Dwyane Wade and Tracy McGrady would certainly round out this list- which would also be the consensus of the league’s best overall players. There would be no argument amongst them about who’s number one. There are undoubtedly other statistical marvels in the game, but their effectiveness is dependent upon support. Are we as certain that Nash or Dirk could work their magic on any roster? Only a few can carry a team on pure will, giving us glimpses of the games evolution in their dominance. That’s an MVP. It was in that spirit that Wade was awarded 2006 Finals MVP and Kobe has exhibited an equally impressive performance in leading this M*A*S*H* unit into playoff contention. How long will we sit in awe of his ability and historical greatness yet continue to proclaim someone else more valuable?

Besides Jesus.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Let The Chips Fall Where They May...

I'll be staying here for a while.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

The Shit End of the Schtick.

He's immortal now. Omnipresent. A source of inspiration for faithful legions, a daunting thought for non-believers. He haunts all who dare take the path to greatness, his face flashing before their eyes, his name ringing in their ears. Michael Jeffrey Jordan may still draw breath among the rest of us in this mortal coil, but Michael "Air" Jordan ascended to the height of basketball deity long ago.

There will never be another. I hope.

The distinctive legacy of Michael Jordan is reflective of much more than late night workouts and last second heroics. It is built upon satellites, sneakers and sports drinks. Upon savvy marketing. Jordan used his rocketing stardom and a sprouting media to cultivate and manipulate an image that made him more than an icon. He became a brand of his own.

Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made, by David Halberstam--First and foremost, David Stern was determined to turn around the league's image. Stern believed that the league's financial and psychological stability depended upon its corporate connections. he saw and envied the tight, almost symbiotic connection between the National Football League and corporate America, so skillfully engineered by Pete Rozelle. He desperately wanted some of the same corporate endorsements to give his shakier league some badly needed legitimacy. He wanted the best of America's heartland companies as his sponsors, nothing less; he wanted companies such as Coke and McDonald's, signature companies of the postwar nation. If they came aboard, so would everyone else. And so he set out, very early on, to try and bring those companies in.

But when he visited the offices of the nation's great advertising firms, the gatekeepers to the great name-brand companies whose sponsorships he coveted, he found a stone wall of resistance, though many were enthusiastic sponsors of college basketball. One Madison Avenue agency representing an auto company was particularly blunt about it-the ad man said he had been instructed by the head of the auto company to sponsor college ball because the pro game was too black. The answer came back, yes, we know your surveys, but the head of the company-my boss-thinks you're too black. When Stern tried to show the demographic studies that the league had put together, studies that showed that the audience for the professional game was not that different from the college game and that blessedly the viewers were young, he received the blankest of stares. Perception, Stern realized was everything, and the general perception of blue-chip American companies was that the game was tarnished, too much a reflection not of sports but of something most Americans wanted to know as little as possible about: black America...

...The college game was almost as black, but perceptions were important, and the college game was perceived, perhaps, unconsciously, as still operating within a white hierarchy, under powerful white supervision, a world where no matter who the foot soldiers were, the generals were still white. (That was at least part of the reason why many people in the world of sports did not like John Thompson and his Georgetown team, a sense that the white hierarchy did not include or control his particular team. Not only was Thompson himself black, but despite Thompson's insistence that all his players go to class and graduate, the team projected a sense of nascent black consciousness.)

...Stern, like Welts, was absolutely convinced that the core of the resistance was

about race. He believed that if the NBA could show some discipline and limit the worst, or at least the most noticeable, of the current excesses, then people would be able to see the truly compelling parts of the game: the unmatched athletic ability of the players and the fire with which they competed...

...For better or worse, by the eighties America exported not its machine products or its cars but its culture: its fast foods, Cokes and Big Macs; its more relaxed and informal dress codes; its popular music, movies and television shows. And its sports. The ascending new sport in the world, one that was winning ever greater popularity with the young, was not soccer, though that reigned supreme in many parts of the world, but basketball...

...In retrospect, it was inevitable, therefore that the player catapulted forward as the signature commercial representative of this great new athletic-cultural-commercial empire would be an American and a basketball player. The other dominant American sports were eliminated because of the nature of their footwear. There were no international commercial battles to be fought over football cleats or baseball spikes like those waged in the eighties for the right to be the sneaker king of the world. Nike and Converse and Adidas were ar war with each other, and the NBA was the beneficiary. Hamburger and soft drink companies followed...

...As Nike and other companies featured individual players as stars, and as the league and the network became co-conspirators in the promotion of stars, a major new direction, barely understood at the time, was being charted for the league. It was part of a larger new phenomenon taking place in sports, and in society in general, but most nakedly and obviously in basketball. The game and its top people made a fateful choice: They would go with this modern way or their league would perish as a big time sport. Individual players were now being promoted rather than teams. Something that would have been anathema to owners, coaches, and many athletes in the past, the cult of personality, was now, however unconsciously, becoming mandatory as the sport sought to broaden its fan base. Its advocates, owners, and sponsors no longer saw themselves competing against rival teams or even rival sports. Now they were competing in a far larger and more cutthroat arena-against rock stars, movies, and all kinds of other forms of modern entertainment-for a slice of the entertainment dollar...

...So it was that when Michael Jordan came in the league, a vast number of changes were already beginning to take place in terms both of technology and of international economics that would affect his future and of which he was to become a principal beneficiary. David Stern himself later noted that he had barely noticed Jordan's arrival because he was so caught up in the mundane legal and commercial issues that dominated the daily calendar of a commissioner. In fact, what he remembered most about the draft that year was fining Portland for tampering with Akeem Olajuwon. Still, the arrival of Jordan in the very prime of Stern's career was to be one of the great determining factors in the commissioner's singular success. If Stern had sought no just success but a new kind of respectability for his league, then the arrival of Michael Jordan was like the answer to a Dream.

His singular talent made him an immediate draw, but it was his upbringing that laid a foundation for his marketability. Jordan was the child of an upper-middle class family that stressed hard work and education. He was a product of the NCAA's basketball monastery, North Carolina. He avoided any public dialogue on racial matters and was decidedly apolitical, effectually rendering himself appealing to everyone . He learned from youthful mistakes like wearing his Nike warmups and gold chains in the '85 dunk contest. The veterans saw him as a prideful rookie and Magic allegedly conspired with Isiah to freeze him out of the All-Star game.
SLAM 46, Nov. '00--Common interacted with pro hoop royalty while working as a ball boy for the Bulls from '83-87, just as Jordan entered the League. Common's tale of MJ's first day is a classic: "When he first go to the locker room he was playing 'Friends' by Whodini on this little red radio. They weren't really into him playing rap music in the locker room so they asked him to stop. After a good two exhibition games he could have played 'Fuck The Police' if he wanted to.

But he didn't. Not that he should have, there was money to made. Popularity alone didn't make superstars, Jordan understood the value of a neutral image. His thick Carloina accent, the fur coats, the chains and the music all disappeared, replaced with measured tones and immaculately tailored suits. He maintained a natural ease with the camera and a constant awareness of the public eye. Any chance encounter with Michael Jordan was to be not only a brush with athletic excellence, but a contemporary lesson in style and grace. That is what makes a superstar, talent coupled with the illusion of an unattainable superiority.

What didn't make a superstar in the 80's was hip hop. For a player headlining a league that was striving to escape the onus of being "too black", hip hop was plague. Or was it?

The sneakers were fresh. Functional, groundbreaking technology and luxurious material. Wilford Brimley could have sold them, but the Mars Blackmon ads are among the most popular in television history. A celebrity of Jordan's magnitude promoting products with hip hop was certainly a first, but the actual genius of those commercials was having Jordan play the straight man opposite Mars. It gave them true universal appeal, a nod to the buying power of the 'urban' dollar without Jordan blatantly pandering to that audience, something that would have been embarrassingly inauthentic and counter to his role as the charmer of middle America. In just thirty seconds, he had effectively cornered a demographic while avoiding its stigmas.

Mars Blackmon was a character from Spike Lee's first movie, She's Gotta Have It. Mars was diminutive and obnoxious, coincidentally identical to corporate America's perception of hip hop. The scene was still perceived as a passing fad and was relegated to the fringes of pop culture. These ads were cutting edge for their time and established Jordan as the in vogue pitchman, while boosting the worldwide popularity of hip hop culture.

In the summer of 1989 Lee released his second film, Do the Right Thing. It was a scathing critique on modern race relations that forced the discussion on the American public in a way they weren't used to. Lee's loose tongue only fanned the flames of media speculation about rioting. It was controversial, unapologetic and certainly immersed in a 'nascent black consciousness'.

It was also another Air Jordan advertisement.

The ensuing controversy regarding the movie never left a stain on Nike or Jordan, in fact, it only pushed the shoes popularity toward cult status. To the point that kids were killed for them. Nike and Jordan offered genuine concern for the victims, but not much else. The commercials continued with much success and Jordan continued to gorge on the benefits of global exposure without any of the accountability.

Michael certainly valued winning above all else, but he also knew it could only heighten his profile with corporate America. He was clean, articulate, stylish, and well mannered. He was already the most popular player and personality in the league, recruiting casual fans with an assortment of competitive snarls and reassuring smiles amidst his nightly acrobatics, but only a championship would complete his resume. After he captured his first title in 1991, Michael Jordan got what the rest of us truly craved-his own theme song.

But what was Mike really like? Sam Smith was determined to find out. The Jordan Rules was released in the middle of the following season, much to Michael's dismay. The book was stuffed with tales of Jordan's egomanical tirades against teammates and management, including the times he punched Will Perdue for an overly aggressive pick and openly derided Bill Cartwright's abilities as a man and a basketball player before attempting to freeze him out of games. The book was a comprehensive study on the ugly side of Jordan's competitive nature and the desire for these details made it a best seller. But Smith's arms were too short to box with God.

Halberstam--Michael Jordan was not pleased with the book, but he was also aware of his near invulnerability to criticism-the nature of this fame left him largely immune to any assault by a print reporter, in no small part because his team kept on winning. He had long since graduated to a world where the real media world for him was nothing less than network television, and where many television reporters, hungry for access, became as much ambassadors from their networks to him as journalists. What mattered for him was image, and his image glistened; facts were less important, because the only real fact that people cared about was that he and his team kept winning and he remained quite handsome.

Michael Jordan had become an unprecedented economical presence, growing stronger with the success of another championship and the global spotlight of the Olympic Dream Team. He had shaped himself into the mold of the consummate graceful warrior, with the attendant messages of morality and sportsmanship. Years of an appreciatively cooperative media had allowed him to ignore the consequences of building such a false image, but that very image would soon consume him. Jordan had built such a demand for himself and his sport that the once minuscule press corps he had such a camaraderie with could no longer contain it. The game had grown to be covered by an endless phalanx of media, and some did not seek to praise Michael, but to demystify him.

Michael Jordan and the New Global Capitalism, by Walter LaFeber--He told Sports Illustrated that he always tried to be a "positive image" and a "positive influence." "I never thought a role model should be negative," Jordan declared. "If you want negativity, then you wouldn't have asked for Michael Jordan. You might've asked for Mike Tyson or somebody else."

Even if only in small circles, for an athlete of any magnitude to be known as a compulsive gambler is to bear a scarlett letter of suspicion. There is no telling with absolute certainty that they wouldn't bet on their own games, or influence the outcome of games, and people tend to fear for the worst. So for the face of the league-a man of legendary competitiveness-to be known as a compulsive gambler was to risk being burned at the stake. But Michael Jordan was positive. Positive that he would win, if he didn't he was positive he could afford it. If word about his gambling spread, he was positive it wouldn't matter because of his positive image. So when the losses added up, and the word got out, and people dared question his character, he was absolutely, positively appalled.


Women I Would Settle For, Vol IV. "Less Than Twenty Four Hours Left..."

Tarantino & Rodriguez must be a Laker fans. Rose McGowan’s character had to be inspired by Kobe, who has a gun for an arm. See you at midnight ladies. But do me a favor, wear something a little more revealing. Sex sells you know...