The Outlet 3.03: The Perkins Play and Mike Brown Minutes

Posted on Mon 05 November 2012 in The Outlet by Jacob Harmon

Fans' emotions are vacillating between unreasonable optimism and abject panic on a nightly basis, so you know what that means: The 2012-2013 NBA Season has officially begun! And with the return of the season, comes the return of The Outlet! You might even say we're back in the swing of things. Usually we preface these posts by reminding you not to call it a comeback, but go ahead. Call it a comeback. The Outlet is officially back, whenever we see fit to publish one, and recently that seems to be more often than ever! It's truly a bright new age of semi-regular Dadaistic sports interpretation. Get ready, fansketball.

  • OKC vs ATL: A Brief Examination of the Perkins Play (by Jacob Harmon)
  • LAL vs DET: Mike Brown Minutes and the Essence of Comedy (by Alex Dewey)

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Written by Jacob Harmon

Pre-game, Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Outside of those tense moments of crunch time, these were the moments Kevin Durant relished most. The little routines, the excitement of the fans, the anticipation of what’s to come, giving his mom a kiss on the cheek for good luck. The Thunder’s pre-game ritual, one chiefly designed years prior by he and Russell, was well known. They’d had to speed it up a little bit, what with the league’s new rules regarding game delays prior to tip-off, but they’d made it work. The handshakes, the bumps, the hand to God, they could fit it in. But there was one part of the pre-game ritual that was less publicized; an unspoken part. In fact, Kevin wondered whether anyone was aware of it besides him. And though he smiled and regarded it with his usual friendly demeanor, the truth was that it was this part of the ritual that was most uncomfortable for Kevin.

This was the part where he had to have “the talk” with Kendrick Perkins.

As he arced another perfect jumper through the bottom of the net and adjusted his warm-ups, Perkins approached. Just like he always did, he spoke. “Hey Kevin, I’ve got an idea for the first quarter,” Perk chirped cheerfully. Though he had a reputation as something of a tough guy, anyone who came to know Kendrick soon found he was a softy, cheerful and friendly, almost childlike in his obsequious demeanor towards those he considered friends. Kevin considered Perkins words, nodding thoughtfully,

“Oh yeah? What do you got my man?” This was his usual response. No matter how many times they had this discussion (and they had this discussion before the tip-off of nearly every game), it played out the same way. Kevin wondered whether Perkins was in on the routine, or whether it was only he who noticed. No one else had ever asked him about it, and he wasn’t the type to talk behind his friends’ back. Perkins idly clanked a jumpshot, then turned back to his friend.

“I was thinking, you know, the offense doesn’t really use me much. It’s mostly you, Russell, and now we got K-Mart right?” Perkins paused, expectantly. Durant nodded.

“Yeah, yeah. So what’re you thinking?” He already knew what Kendrick was thinking, but such was the dance.

Perkins continued. “So like, we’re playing Horford this game, and you know that guy’s soft. I figure we set up a post-up, you feed me the ball down low, I’ll go to work on that dude. Show him the old-school moves. What do you think?” Kevin let Perkins’ words hang in the air for a moment as he looked into space, affecting a thoughtful expression, as though considering something new and intriguing. He stroked his goatee several times, for effect.

This was the routine, the ritual. Perk would always approach him, so friendly and expectant and eager to please, armed with his exciting new offensive strategy for whatever the team of the night might be. It had never mattered the opposing center, not once. There was always a reasoning, and it was always unique. And it never worked. Of the times KD had fed Perkins the ball in the low post, he could remember offhand maybe once or twice that it had actually ended with a basket rather than the defender pulling the chair, or a clanked hook shot. Assuming, of course, that Kendrick even successfully caught the ball. Kevin had never seen someone quite so poor at catching a ball from a stationary position, then so dismal at holding onto it. Many of the passes were simply bobbled out of bounds. Kevin estimated that his assist to turnover ratio, the one major statistical hole in his game (or so the pencil pushers told him), could primarily be traced to his devotion to this ritual. Finding himself lost in actual thought, he suddenly realized Perkins was still awaiting a response.

“Alright my man, that sounds good. We’ll give it a try, might catch em off guard.” Kevin smiled as he spoke, patting his buddy on the shoulder. Perk’s mouth spread into a broad grin at the scoring champ’s faith in his abilities, and he bounded off towards the locker room. Kevin smiled, and shook his head ruefully. The ratios would have to stand, because no matter how much he refined his passing game, he could be certain of one thing. He would feed the ball into the post to begin yet another game. After all, who could say no? You score points, grab boards, collect assists, win games, and fight for titles, but at the end of the day, wasn’t the real gold in the friends you make along the way? As he swished another jumper, he looked up to see his mom smiling warmly at him from the first row.

He knew that it was worth it.

Final Score: ATL 104, OKC 95. Kevin Durant put up 22 PTS/12 RB/8 AST/3 STL/6 TO.

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Written by Alex Dewey

First of all, let's briefly cover the game. Andre Drummond looked alright at times but mostly like an incredibly unpolished rookie, and Greg Monroe actually played some decent defense on Dwight Howard. [Ed. Note: Dwight Howard made 12 of 14 shots. --Aaron] Monroe has seemed to have made some strides defensively, which is nice, because defense is the only thing between Greg Monroe and that vaunted "franchise" label. Kyle Singler and Jonas Jerebko had some weird chemistry and occasionally the Pistons even passed the ball very quickly. And then we all collectively closed our eyes, shook our heads from side to side for a couple of seconds, and opened our eyes. They were now bloodshot and glaring, for we had remembered that the Lakers have somehow put together Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Dwight Howard. And... yeah, that was pretty much game. Complete laugher, only saved from lasting notoriety by the sheer fact that the Pistons apparently have 10 NBA players and the Lakers only have 5.

Anyway, let's get to my favorite story of the night: Mike Brown's substitution patterns. Get this -- the Lakers were up 21 after one quarter, up 28 at the half, up 31 when the fourth quarter started, and up 29 when the game ended. Read that sentence a few times. Now remember how minutes work: There are 48 minutes in a basketball game, and 12 in each quarter. 24 in each half, and it takes 36 minutes to get to the end of the third quarter. Alright, we have all of this down? Good.

None of that was meant to be condescending. I wrote that arithmetic primer for myself... because I keep reading the above paragraph over and over, and glancing over at the box score on my other monitor, because there must be some sort of mistake... I mean, maybe there's an error with the box score, but... no, I saw it with my own eyes. So it must be an arithmetic error on my part. I must have had a minor stroke while watching this game or I must have some sort of weird tic that prevents me from comparing specific pairs of numbers correctly, because I don't think I have fundamental problems literally reading the box score and I'm not totally misremembering what I saw. And I'm pretty sure a regulation basketball game has 48 minutes, still, which -- ...

Okay, Alex. You're not insane. Calm down. Start over. Get back to the facts. The Lakers were up 21 after one quarter, up 28 at the half, up 31 when the fourth quarter started, and up 29 when the game ended. Now, there are 48 minutes in a basketball game, and 12 in each quarter. 24 in each half, and it takes 36 minutes to get to the end of the third quarter. Okay, I'm doing good. All facts so far. Now, Kobe Bryant literally played 32 minutes in this game. Pau Gasol literally played 33 minutes in this game. Dwight Howard literally played 33 minutes in this game. These are three of the most valuable people in the Los Angeles Lakers' organization, and (one supposes) the propensity for fluke injuries which would flip them from assets to liabilities in one second is more or less directly proportional to the number of minutes that these players play. Three quarters of the game is 36 minutes, and these players had already played an unreasonably large proportion of the game (at halftime their minutes were: Dwight 22, Kobe 19, and Pau at 17).

But in the fourth quarter, Coach Mike Brown actually put the starters back in and kept them in, finally taking them out at the last possible moment (about 4 minutes remaining) with no apparent principle other than the mathematical exhaustion of possible combinations and Kobe putting pressure on his coach to leave him in. Besides stunned confusion and doubting my own senses more than Descartes, ultimately I found myself laughing uncontrollably at the situation. I would look away and look back at the game, and suddenly Dwight Howard was back in the game, or (this has been the running gag of Brown's tenure) Pau Gasol was still in the game, for absolutely no reason. Or Kobe was refusing to come out of the game, and because of that, Mike Brown also left Dwight and Gasol in the game. Then he would take Kobe out, but leave Gasol out there, and... I just was cracking up. Mike Brown played his starters the entire first quarter, more or less (only the older two, actually; he subbed Dwight out with about 2 minutes left in the quarter and then played him the entire second quarter).

As a Spurs fan, this was beyond anything I could possibly imagine. There are tics in substitution that coaches have - Why isn't he playing Faried more?, Why is he literally playing Roger Mason Jr.? etc. - but rarely are those tics quite on the level of classical thought experiments and Uncle Vanya-_style character humor and _Airplane-level sight gags (e.g. every shot of Mike Brown standing or saying anything), all simultaneously. The only way this could be funnier if this turns out to be the team that literally wins an NBA championship in seven months. Somehow I suspect the Lakers only have a chance because the studio producing this high comedy demanded a happy ending, instead of the gritty satirical ending in which the aging geniuses of our sport are overworked or injured by the end of the season, and useless as more than fodder for a healthy team.

Whatever the case, Steve Nash should be back in a few weeks and we can see what a dangerous team the Lakers can be.