Juwan A Blog #6: Dear Dikembe

Dear Burke Nixon,

Recently you pointed us to your blog (Dear Dikembe: Open Letters to the NBA). The blog's premise could strike someone - like me, for instance - as quite strange. Oh, it's interesting: on Dear Dikembe, you incorporate all the myriad reports and information out there about NBA players into your own experiences as fan and teacher. And then, when you have something interesting to say about a player, you address him directly in a long, open letter (like this one), generally made from long, open sentences (like this one).

What's odd about this premise is a bit hard to express. I write fictional pieces all the time about these same players and it doesn't feel strange and I can't really account for the difference between our approaches. Maybe it starts with the asymmetry of the fan experience: While this is so obvious it's barely worth saying, it's rare when fans are themselves objects of fandom (and especially rare when it's by the same celebrities they're fans of). So - for the most part - public fandom of players simply doesn't go both ways, or if it does, the "mutual" part is usually overly generalized for the players ("my wonderful fans") and overly individualized for the fans ("Marry me, Dirk"). It's a glaringly asymmetrical relation. King-Subject, King-Jester, Patron-Artist, etc. Continue reading

Juwan a Book? #1: 101 Basketball Out-of-Bounds Drills

Lately I've been reading George Karl's 101 Basketball Out-of-Bounds Drills. This is a virtually unavailable book from 1999: I only found it through the Borgesian library of the Internet's darker channels. It's not impossible to find, but if (work with me here) 100 of you went out and bought it, I feel like that would actually prevent the next 100 of you from trying to get it. But despite this, I think Karl's book is worth talking about, if only as a lead-in to talking about halfcourt offense as a whole. After all, the book delivers exactly what its title promises, nothing more, nothing less -- the whole thing is about 115 pages long, and about 14 of those pages are non-drill pages, if you catch my drift. And while each of these pages contains a "drill," the drills are mostly full, workable descriptions of set plays with a couple extremely helpful diagrams per description. Continue reading

Juwan a Blog? #5: I Go Hard Now

"Review forthcoming. Not a joke."
       -- Me, December 4, to I Go Hard Now.

Well, I wasn't joking, but I may as well have been! Starting today, I'll be giving points out for effort here at Juwan a Blog? (but only for me), and, in this new paradigm, I'm going to go ahead and award myself an "A" for this entry, despite having just 40 or so words so far. See, these 40 words were preceded by at minimum 10000 others, in dozens of edits. My eight-day quest to write this is nothing short of heroic: Since starting this review, I've read about 50 basketball drills, probably 200 other blog entries, the entirety of "A Season on the Brink," and about a quarter of that one hockey memoir. I also found time to save a lot of people from various fires. All of this in an attempt to understand this one neat NBA blog centered around the Cavs. (To that end, I read their last 5 months of content as well.) But all my heroism counts for practically nothing without results: Most of the people I saved died from smoke inhalation, and after 8 days I still only have about 200 words and an endless graveyard of GG drafts within and without this review.

Long story short, it's a tough world we're living in. A tough world... rather like the Cavaliers are living in right now!* And I Go Hard Now is a blog about this tough NBA world. Named after Christian Eyenga's terse summary of everything, I Go Hard Now is a slightly longer summary of slightly fewer things. Fewer things like...the NBA! The Cavs! The experience of sports fandom, especially towards a troubled small-market team like the Cavs! MSPaint drawings of Micky Arison doin' stuff with a steak! Really sad, important stuff!

* Transition brought to you by impromptu speeches from Alex, age 8.

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Juwan a Blog? #4: The Classical

For several years, the recently retired FreeDarko blog took a groundbreaking and individualistic perspective towards the NBA as a whole -- a perspective rooted as much in critical theory as in hip-hop.  FreeDarko's main strength was that it collected some of the best minds in basketball out there - both readers and writers - into a single, content-rich site.  Its main weakness was that it sometimes felt like the New York Times covering hip-hop: alright, we get it, you think this player is good at basketball and fun to watch...you don't have to abuse the word "profound", if you dig me.  But on the whole?  The collective added a lot to the community in so many ways, obvious and subtle.  The most tangible contributions were the group's two books, the first decent but uneven, the second a classic of sportswriting.  On the blog, the underratedly apt commenters and authors frequently expressed (or tried valiantly and interestingly to express) their best interpretations of what was going on in the Association and the new lenses they were bringing to bear on it.  In the final tally, FreeDarko brought us some of the great sports conversations of the last decade in basketball, and the collective has a lot of credibility.

Since the blog's retirement, many of FD's authors have stayed in touch and teamed up for spot projects after the main blog started to wane.  Their first really substantial project - called The Classical - is the first true sequel, though.  The closest analogue (though it pains me to make the comparison) is Grantland - in terms of their longform, firsthand, unorthodox takes on the great stories mainstream and forgotten.  The talent pool is quite different and the differences in content will become quite clear a couple of months from now, but for now, the comparison fits.  Also, Bill Simmons doesn't write for The Classical, generally a positive thing.  I digress.  Right now, The Classical is in preview mode.  If the content is representative (and it appears to be), then we have fodder for our fourth installment of "Juwan A Blog?".  In general, for this feature we'd like to use blogs that are well-established, but the FD group has enough credibility with the community that we're going to allow it.  And they even got quite a few new established authors that we can dig into immediately.  So, let's.

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

Overview:

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.

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Juwan a Blog? #2: Joe Posnanski's "Curiously Long Posts"

DSCF0553Joe Posnanski will use every detail in this picture - including
Joe Posnanski (left) - to disprove the viability of the intentional walk  

As a recurring feature, Alex will be reviewing and analyzing various blogs and hoops sites. No number ratings or anything silly like that, just a good overview of the sites at hand with their strengths, weaknesses, etc. To see an index of previously reviewed sites, click here.

On a chilly day before dawn, I love a great essay or a short story.  I just love that feeling when the piece ends, you know, when your neck shudders a little bit and you're the only one awake and the sky gets a little brighter?  I don't care if the piece ends with fire or with insight - it ends with something meaningful, and something meaningful opens up in me.  The heat of the sun gets my cold wet arms a little drier and warmer.  I feel like I own the new day, and I see clearly what is real and earnest in life for awhile, and I see a little bit further ahead in my life.  I just love that feeling.  That's why today - just before dawn here - I want to talk about Joe Posnanski.  But first I want to talk about Michael Jordan.

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Juwan A Blog? #1: Wages of Wins

As a recurring feature, Alex will be reviewing and analyzing various blogs and hoops sites. No number ratings or anything silly like that, just a good overview of the sites at hand with their strengths, weaknesses, etc. To see an index of previously reviewed sites, click here.

The way many fans tell it, the field of sports statistics is a conspiracy against their favorite player (*cough* Kobe). For others, sports stats is a conspiracy against the fan experience.  For many beyond that, sports stats is a useful and instructive field still in its infancy that often makes claims far above its pay grade and level of sophistication. For a fourth group, sports stats is absolutely perfect with no flaws. Now, most people are in the third camp, largely because of the way I worded that paragraph to make it seem most reasonable. Obviously you can find good examples of the first two groups on any sports comment section or any basketball forum.  Of course, no one is really in the fourth group this brings us to Wages of Wins, by process of elimination.

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