Juwan a Blog? #3: Ball Don't Lie

Posted on Mon 07 November 2011 in Juwan a Blog? by Alex Dewey


Ball Don't Lie - written by Kelly Dwyer, Eric Freeman, and Dan Devine - is The Quintessential Work-A-Day Blog™ for the NBA. Featuring news, analysis, and regular features, BDL is the blog you go to when everything else feels stagnant. If you are a young writer and you ever feel discouraged, you can always go back to Behind the Box Score for a look at how it's done and how it should be done from October to June. A few too many gimmicks and some annoying tics, but overall an exceptional blog that goes out of its way to be down-to-earth and personal.


Kelly Dwyer - Dwyer is the twee alpha-dog of this blog. Mixing in anecdotes of a life spent in ridiculousness, simplicity, and Midwestern earthiness, Dwyer is the fan's fan, and the writer's writer. My praise can scarcely go higher for his basketball acumen. Imagine: Someone that can actually understand and describe the Triangle, someone that actually knows what Jerry Sloan's offenses are, someone that has seen the successes and failures of every ownership group since 1997. Someone that can give voice to Scottie Pippen's brilliance when Pippen cannot find the words himself, someone that was doing the same thing during the last lockout, someone that has seen it all but is too young and fresh and invigorated to be cynical. Someone that can feel passion for a player without needing to rank them, someone that can empathize with a player but still end up on the other side. Someone that doesn't need a definitive MVP.

I don't know that Kelly Dwyer - outside of his basketball brilliance, of course - is actually a great analyst when it comes to the lockout, contractual issues, and so on. Sometimes it feels like he (if only for political reasons) gives the too-often tabloid hack Adrian Wojnarowski far too much credit. Sometimes Dwyer descends into his own frustrated, Woj-like rants about players that just don't wash. But for the most part, I trust his judgment, he's a great writer, and - Kelly Dwyer really seems like an exceptionally compassionate and empathetic person when it comes to the people he writes for, with, and about.

Eric Freeman - The Free Darko alum is a knowledgeable and thoughtful blogger. He mostly does the daily roundup of news with some analysis thrown in. His analysis - and his knowledge of obscure annals of basketball - is often exhaustive. Which is good, but it usually feels a bit too exhaustive: "On the other hand" should only be used to balance an issue, not to create an opportunity for two or three misdirections and blind alleys. This isn't a Gregg Popovich or Doc Rivers misdirection play and I shouldn't have to check the blog's author field to be sure I'm not being flare-screened by Kevin Garnett. I'd prefer clearer, simpler (though not simplistic) takes and more solid justification for his conclusions, especially when his conclusions rely on...everyone in the audience being exactly as liberal as him. While I may not like his style, and sometimes I wish he would defend his ideas more (because it would improve both ours and his ideas), I can't deny he's creative, he knows his stuff, and he is deserving of our respect as NBA fans. Overall he is a reliable, solid thinker that takes the news and turns it into a solid, readable daily tally of NBA events.

Dan Devine - The comic relief of this blog, Devine is exactly 85% as good as Trey Kerby, and that's a surprisingly high compliment. If Trey Kerby is Tim Duncan, then Dan Devine is Pau Gasol or something - the peak isn't as high and he's not an historical-level game-changer. Most importantly - he's not taking control of the blog anytime soon. But Devine does what Kerby does, extremely well and efficiently. Like Kerby, Devine has a good ear for humor, a good ear for character writing, an irreverent knack for perfect sentences and paragraphs. Also, like most humorists just has a good sense of the human condition. I don't usually read the caption contests much (his main feature), but I rarely set out to read a Devine piece and end up disappointed. I should note that Devine's Juwan Howard dialogues for playoff previews were awful, which is kind of symptomatic of the general "absurdity for absurdity's sake" role of the comic relief blogger.* The dialogues violate fundamental rules of drama and comedy, and are doomed to fail as stand-alone vignettes. That's really his problem: his features are contrived in premise, and it's hard to make a bad premise work as humor. During the season, there's more news to go around and his role feels a bit less contrived. And Devine's occasional lengthy, serious journalistic features are always worth reading. On the whole, solid as hell, no major complaints.

*A role I know all too well. You know, it's a goddamn tragedy. First you're writing good and wholesome humor about basketball. And it's good... for a time. Until your editor comes along and demands more wackiness. Soon every day is a living hell, every second filled with ironic, irreverent takes on the Supersonics moving. [Editor's Note: Alex is taking a personal day. In the meantime, Alex wants you to guess: Which otherwise quiet rotation guard for the Blazers actually sounds __exactly like Bill Simmons if you get to know him?___ Details after the jump. Which is where you are, already. Whoops._]


Excellent news coverage and they're good at summarizing news sections from much longer, more exhaustive sites. Their links posts (daily during the season; almost nonexistent during the lockout) are superb. Having managed biweekly links posts for several months on the precursor to this blog, I know it's a bit more stressful and time-consuming than it seems (after all, you have to read far more than 10 sports articles if you want to link 10).


As you may have...Devined... from my description of Dan, the features are kind of hit-and-miss. I really love the in-season chat rooms. Usually run by Dwyer, KD answers any and all questions that people are wondering about - while it isn't exactly personal, KD gets to every question posted in the first 20 minutes, and has funny, intelligent answers. Behind the Box Score is Dwyer's signature feature, and it's the feature that takes BDL from a good roundup and analysis blog to...a fun, exhaustive experience that contextualizes almost all the games. Get this: KD writes a little something about every game that happened the night before, whether it's a feature Sunday or Thursday, or a jam-packed, 15 game Wednesday, (though he doesn't do it 7 days a week, it's still impressive). Usually in this feature KD gives us a few gems from his years of watching and covering such a large percentage of games over the years. And KD gives us various spot special features during content-poor months (like positional rankings: Who are the top 15 SFs entering this season?). Freeman's "What They're Saying On Twitter" feature and Devine's Caption Contest are the definition of blog filler, and I usually skim or skip them. This is a blog surprisingly vulnerable to the lockout, and the filler is what is left as a draw to BDL, along with the same 5 stories a day that every other basketball newsblog is covering, with a slightly different take.. You'd think Dwyer's great body of experience could be used to really take us into some vintage basketball, but I don't know that that's justified by the blog format or its administrators at Yahoo! Unfortunate, but them's the breaks of the game.

Overall this is a great blog when the season is active, one of the best, and arguably the most essential.

Thanks for reading.