Small Market Mondays #2.03: Thanking Ain't Easy

Posted on Mon 02 December 2013 in Small Market Mondays by Aaron McGuire

Remember our cracked-skull columnist, Alex Arnon? He hit his head, fainted, and woke up a delusional man with tidings of a world where small markets ruled all comers. Yeah, about that. Over the summer, Alex tripped while walking backwards, managing to completely reverse the head trauma that created this series. Poor guy's back to rooting for the Knicks and wishing he still had his former faith. Our editor, Aaron McGuire, has no such idle whims -- to perpetuate this baffling feature, he's developed a drug that mimics Arnon's former mental losses just long enough to go on the weekly vision quest required to write this. Welcome back, #SmallMarketMondays! This week's subjects: giving thanks, Spencer Hawes, and the best faces the best!

Boy, sometimes the world really throws you for a loop! Just the other day I was sitting around feeling glum and gloomy, watching our beloved small-market Cavaliers stumble and bumble their way to a fifth straight loss in a seventeen-point pasting at the hands of the Boston Celtics. The Celtics are woeful this season, but not as woeful as our poor Cavaliers. Just about then, when I was down in the dumps and out on my tuckus, I was visited by a ghost of Christmas past. He told me that I had just three weeks to live and that the world was a cold unfeeling hellscape unfit for human consumption! Weird story, right? Anyway, that was totally unrelated, I just followed up the ghost's arrival by watching the small-market Thunder pull out a miracle overtime win over those Californicators down in Oakland! Cheered me right up. And that got me to thinking: sometimes, a poor down-on-his-luck fella might forget to give his thanks for the things in life that make it worth striving and grinding. Let's amend that, by starting this post out with a list of incredible thanks.

I am thankful for...

  • The Indiana Pacers! Boy oh boy, these guys don't quit. At 16-1, these rascals are just the 13th team in NBA history to start a season with sixteen wins and just one loss. And that's a pretty select list! Five of those thirteen teams were NBA champions, and all but one of them made the playoffs. So I guess the Pacers are probably gonna make the playoffs. Actually, given the Eastern Conference, those 16 wins might be enough to clinch a playoff spot right now! That's right -- the 9th seed in the East could definitely have less than 16 wins! Holy Moses! Are Eastern Conference courts literally teeming with phantasms and wraiths? Probably. That's what you get for giving New York two teams, you fools.

  • The State of the Small Market Union! In fact, screw the usual second segment, I'm stating it up here. The state of the union is stronger than ever. There are currently five teams with three losses or fewer, and four of those five are a most beloved small market foursome of Portland, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, and Indiana. Isn't that just swell? Combine that with the fact that Detroit and Charlotte are bringing up the rear in the Eastern Conference playoff picture and New York's current 9 game losing streak, and you'll start to see a smile on even the most curmudgeonly small marketeer. What a world.

  • The joys of family! Alright, yeah, this one is pretty played out. But hear me out. Right now, we have a startling NINE brother/brother combos in the NBA, and that's just hilarious. Take anything you do with your family -- anything at all -- and try to imagine it being done in a family with two NBA players. It's fantastic! There's Justin and Jrue Holiday, chilling like only a Holiday can. Imagine Thanksgiving dinner with the Lopez brothers. Imagine youth soccer with the Plumlees. Tag in the park with Marcus and Markieff? How about High School senior photo day with the Zellers, then? Lord help you if you don't sneak candy bars into the movie theater with the Teagues, it's probably the best ever. Play frisbee golf a La Playa de Las Catedrales con los hermanos Gasol! Do it, jerk! Who DOESN'T play H.O.R.S.E. with the Curries... yeah, we all lose hilariously, but that's the point, right? One caution, though -- don't rob a bank with the Smiths. When the shootout starts, pretty sure J.R. would try to bank his shots off an errant backboard and end up shooting you in the chest.

Above all else, I'm thankful for my incredible go-getting timeliness. After all, this Thanksgiving post is almost 360 days early! Praise Smits!

• • •

The Philadelphia Torn-Sock Opera presents the "BOMBS OVER HALLELUJAH" Spencer Hawes MVP Watch

Figuring out who to feature for our MVP watch segment is actually one of the harder things to do around here. It has to be a player that threads the needle -- a guy who doesn't score too much (because that takes away from his teammates), doesn't get mainstream attention (because we support the little guys), doesn't play for a team that wins a lot (because he battles through adversity), and simply embodies a different class of grit and heart than most NBA guys. Not to say the NBA lacks grit -- true grit can be found anywhere, even in the most confusing places. But our small market MVP watch has to focus on the absolute creme de la creme. The grittiest, hardiest, never-say-die mother lovers in the league. You know the type. The men who could cut stone with their elbows and kick a peacock twenty miles all while blowing kisses to their adoring mother. The men for whom an eyebrow raise is a once-in-a-lifetime emotional extravagance but who will always have time to take a three hour phone call to listen to his mother spin yarns about yarn and clams. The men who eat only rocks when they aren't eating their mom's not-dissimilar-to-rocks home cookin'. These are the men we feature, here. Finding them is difficult.

... except for right now, because oh my God, Spencer Hawes is having a downright hilarious season. Dude is just going nuts. Although he's shooting the most he's ever shot in his career -- generally a disqualifier here -- he's shooting less than Thaddeus Young, Evan Turner, and Michael Carter-Williams. And on a per-minute basis, he's shooting less than the newly nicknamed "Mike Dan" Tony Wroten AND Lorenzo Brown, so I'm OK with that amount of shots for the guy. By a hilariously large margin, Hawes is leading the Sixers in shooting efficiency (Hawes has an eFG% of 59% -- second place is James Anderson at 51%), rebound-gobbling (10.1 a night, making him three points off from the NBA's only 20-10 line), blockin' (2 blocks a night, with Daniel Orton posting a slightly higher rate in way fewer minutes), and bandz a make ya dance (I count at least 10 so far this season, making his BER -- Bandz Efficiency Rating -- a league-leading 0.625). All the while, he's sharing hot takes like these on Twitter:

So hot! So feisty! So... amphibious! How could our MVP watch look at anyone else, I ask?

The answer: it can't. Not this week, at least.


• • •

Small Market Mondays Game of the Night: INDIANA PACERS at PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS

Not a whole lot of games tonight. Luckily, one of them is fantastic! Indiana's lugging their weighty 16-1 record into the den of the 14-3 west-leading Trailblazers. Fun fact -- both Indiana and Portland played in Los Angeles last night, Indiana against the Clippers and Portland against the Lakers. Both were tense, close contests decided on a few late game blunders, although the Portland game was about a billion times more hilarious than the Indiana game. If they were being efficient, they might've taken the same plane back. Or they could be even more efficient and just squat to play the game in Staples Center. I bet that would aggravate the sensibilities lifelong Laker Nick Young. Who knows? Anything's possible with these two teams who -- combined -- have three more wins than the entire Atlantic division combined. No, really. They're combined for a 30-4 record. The five-team Atlantic Division currently combines for 27-59. Spoiler alert! The Atlantic division is really unfathomably awful. Anyway. It's a big game. If Indiana manages to win, they'll have an opportunity to play two west-leading teams in a single week, as they'll face off with the Spurs in San Antonio on Friday. While that's obviously Friday's game of the night, we have a few other nice matchups this week. Let's look at them!

Other quick-hits for great small-market matchups in the coming week:

  • San Antonio at Minnesota (WED, 12/4): This one seems like a featured game even before you find out the best part. After all -- the Spurs are great, the Wolves are awesome, and both are fun small markets with excellent offensive attacks and... well, okay, a single great defense between the two of them, but still. They're good! But get this -- this game isn't being played in Minnesota. It's actually being played in Mexico City. Isn't that amazing? Noche Latina, taken to the furthest possible extent! Is there anything more small market than losing one of your home games in favor of a random regular season game in a random arena in a foreign nation? I don't think so, no!

  • Milwaukee at Washington (FRI 12/6): Milwaukee is reeling from injury and has lost 11 of their last 12 games, all of which in an utterly unwatchable manner. The Wizards have been bad, but in the east, differentiating "bad" from "raging grease fire" is the difference between a solid playoff team and a fringe playoff team. Okay, you know what? There's no sugar coating this one. This game is going to be completely unenjoyable. I have no idea why I made this a game of the week and I apologize for my sins.

  • Cleveland at Atlanta (FRI, 12/6): Although Atlanta isn't a small market, their so-called "highlight factory" arena and generally tepid fanbase make them an honorary member of our small market brotherhood. Cleveland needs no such honorarium, of course, and this game pits one of the East's most disappointing teams in the Cleveland Cavaliers against one of the East's most "Atlanta Hawks" teams in the Atlanta Hawks. I'm using Atlanta Hawks as an adjective in the previous sentence, because I don't think there's a single adjective that adequately describes how typical of the franchise this season's results-to-date are. The Hawks sit at 9-9, second in their division and entrenched in the third seed while a threat to no one in particular. They have a marginally negative differential but a 0.500 record because they've beaten eight teams with records below 0.500 and narrowly squeaked out a one point win over the Mavs after a complete fourth quarter meltdown from Dallas. They are mediocre but marginally overachieving simply because everyone around them is markedly worse than mediocre. In other words, the exact same thing that's been true about the Hawks since 2009. Ladies and gentlemen, your Atlanta Hawks!

See you next week, Small Marketeers! Stay frosty.