Small Market Mondays #2.04: Pacers Gonna Pace

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: the Pace Index, a Plumdog Millionaire, and THUNDERSPURS!

Hello, friends! Last time we broke our small market griddle cakes together, I was proactively celebrating next year's Thanksgiving and your small-market Trailblazers were 14-3. In the intervening weeks, I declared a silent moratorium on thanking people (YOTO) and your small-market Trailblazers followed up that 14-3 streak with a 7-1 patch (thanks, TBJ Prod! ... wait, damnit). Overall, after starting the season 2-2, the Blazers have gone 19-2 in the following 20 games. After playing 7 games, they were 5-2, but now they here. Started from 0-0 now they're 21-4. If you arranged their games in one win streak and one losing streak, they would have a 21-0 win streak and a 0-4 losing streak. If you are a computer, the Blazers are 10101-100. If you are a cat, Nic Batum has a 2-0 "owning a cat" streak. If you are dead, you do not care about Portland's W/L record because you are no longer capable of physical thought and movement. If you are Alex Dewey, write a post. (All statistics in this paragraph copyright $TAT$ LLC, 2013-2015, all rights reserved.)

So much has happened to the Western Conference leaders that it's almost hard to keep up! Which is exactly why we're going to completely ignore the Trail Blazers for the rest of today's column. Because I, Aaron McGuire, totally hate the Blazers and would never pick a Blazer for anything meaningful ever. Instead, we're going to follow the lead of our sponsor corporation, ESPN, and create something that nobody asked for but everybody secretly wanted. That's right: welcome to the Pace Index, your one-stop-shop for Pacers news and reviews! Bask in the glory of your beloved Champacers underneath the not-particularly-bright musty neon lights of Jollywood, VA. Appreciate Paul George's regal last name and Roy Hibbert's funny Parks and Recreatweets. Jest with the best or get left with the rest. We're getting turnt up 24/6, because we take Sundays off because we live in Indiana. Get ready to rumble!

Upcoming Pace Index features include:

  • THE RACE FOR 48: A bi-weekly counter updated to track Indiana's progress towards 48 wins. Some people might say that 48 is arbitrary. Well, some people, #48 is Jimmie Johnson's NASCAR number. And given that this is a "race" to 48, folks, you simply can't get more racist than NASCAR. ... Just a second, folks, getting word that "racist" does not mean "pertaining to car races." My bad.
  • THE SCENE: Our boots-on-the-ground reporter will give us the skinny on what's going on in Indiana's all-too-active downtown scene while the Pacers are pacing their way to the league's best record. One problem with this that I can already see is that our boots-on-the-ground reporter is actually a pair of boots on the ground, and I don't think he can write things because he is not an animate object. Maybe I'll trade up for that one toaster kid.
  • PARKS AND RECREATWEETS: This is going to be a twitter list composed of nothing but actors who play major roles on Indiana's hit T.V. property, Parks and Recreation. I didn't come up with a joke here, I just wanted to put them all in one place. It's funny stuff, guys.

Warning: Pace Index feature will exist exactly as long as this joke remains funny.

Warning #2: Actually, it wasn't funny to begin with, so it never existed.

Warning #3: Given the previous two warnings, if I remember Back to the Future right, your computer might start fading into nonexistence right after you read this and it'll be totally our fault. Sorry about that.

• • •

rip miles

Phoenix Citizenship and Immigration Services presents the "Surprise! You're Arrested!" Miles Plumlee MVP Watch

Okay, okay. Phoenix isn't really a small market, at least for our purposes. It's a city of 1.4 million people that ranks as the sixth largest city in the nation. At 4.1 million people, the Phoenix metropolitan area is the 12th largest in the nation. It makes up almost 2/3 of Arizona's population by itself! So calling Phoenix a small market based on city characteristics falls flat. But I feel passably comfortable calling it a town with a small market mindset -- Robert Sarver's penny-pinching ways are the stuff of legend, and the way he let Steve Nash's supporting cast trickle away during the franchise mainstay's prime is one of the saddest low-key stories in sports. But, much like the Pacers, you'd be hard pressed to find any particular wealth of people who give a crap. Don't get me wrong -- you've got your respectable diehards, as you do in any market. But the franchise endures constant struggles at the bottom of the NBA's attendance ladder (and like with the Pacers, regardless of team quality -- even in the mid-aughts, they were a middling team attendance-wise who tended to draw much better on the road than at home) and the amount of hype Phoenix give its sports teams is seemingly inversely proportional to the city's size.

Best possible example of this: I gave out Halloween candy in Phoenix this year. I was wearing a Tim Duncan shirt. Given the Spurs/Suns rivalry, I figured I'd get a few callouts from trick-or-treaters. Nothing doing -- the only callout I got was from one kid dressed up as Kobe (specifically catcalling with "the Lakers are waaay better than the Spurs this year bro, we're gonna roll you in the playoffs") and one kid who was apparently the world's saddest Pistons fan (specifically despairing with "I miss the 2005 finals"). No, seriously, that's it! No Suns fan made fun of me for, needled me for, or otherwise gave a crap that I was handing out candy wearing the colors of their most bitter rival. Just confusing. This is all to say that I think we can establish Phoenix as a small-market in training, just waiting for a Detroit-esque mass exodus to scramble over the top. It'll probably happen when they run out of water.

Anyway, I really didn't think this particular Plumdog Millionaire would amount to much in the NBA. I figured there was a reasonable chance that Miles was as good as his brother Mason, primarily because Mason Plumlee has a strange dearth of knowledge when it comes to "playing the game of basketball" -- Miles was a more cerebral player at Duke, lacking the athleticism of Mason but making up for it by simply having a lot more smarts. Where Mason would jump wildly into the air for a rebound, Miles would set a clever box-out and tap it to make sure Duke got the rebound. He'd defend big guys adequately, relying on positioning and guile instead of skying for blocks. His offense was essentially nothing but tip-ins, but it's not like Mason was ever breaking out with Hakeem moves under Krzyzewski's watchful eye. Mason jumps and dunks. That's it. That's basically always been "it." So when Miles was awful and genuinely useless in the NBA last season, I figured it was more a sign that Mason would be pretty bad too than a sign that there were better things to come. Also: a general aspersion to the Plumlees as NBA quality players.

But that was not to be! By the third quarter of this season's second game, Miles Plumlee had already played more minutes in the 2014 season than he'd previously played in his entire NBA career. And he's doing stuff with those minutes, too. His defense has been textbook, showing a solid grasp of Indiana's scheme fundamentals and an NBA translation of his former focus on excellent box-outs and tip rebounds for Miles. (That wasn't supposed to be a pun, but now it is, and you're just going to have to live with it.) His offense is still quietly pretty abhorrent, but his defense has more than made up for it. And his rebounding has been an unexpected upgrade over Marcin Gortat's half-donkey'd efforts these last few years. He's added a David West-esque shot from the midrange that's been surprisingly useful for opening the floor for Bledsoe and Dragic, and his career trajectory has shot from "forgotten D-League backup" to "valuable starter that'll probably stick around on 5-6 million a year deals into the infinite" in no time flat. So he's this week's player-to-watch in our Small Market MVP segment. Who will take his place next week? I don't know! Probably me, I've got great fundamentals and as a resident of a city without an NBA team it's virtually impossible to be smaller market than I am. I bet Miles is quaking in his boots.

• • •

Small Market Mondays Game of the Night: DETROIT PISTONS at INDIANA PACERS

What better way to ring in the Pace Index than with another monstrous Pacers win? In 2011, the 62-win Chicago Bulls threatened for the first-ever perfect division record in the modern era, finishing tied with the NBA's 15-1 record (2005 MIA, 2009 BOS, 2013 MIA) with their only loss coming in an overtime 115-108 loss to the Indiana Pacers. Unfortunately for Indiana, the best they can do is tie that 15-1 mark -- as you might remember, their undefeated season was snapped a la Batman's back in The Dark Knight Rises earlier this year in Chicago. They lost by 16 points and it was hardly that close. So their divisional record currently stands at 4-1, with comfortable wins against Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, and Milwaukee bookending that grotesque loss to the Rose-bearing Bulls. With two of their games against Chicago already in the books and comfortable wins against every other team in the division, I feel safe to say that the Pacers have as good a shot as anyone of tying that 15-1 mark despite the early loss. And that will continue tonight, since they're getting to face (while rested) an inferior Pistons team that had their hearts torn out in OT the night before. Just a guess.

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

  • Sacramento at Charlotte (TUES, 12/17): If the commissioner had known that the Kings would acquire Rudy Gay: Franchise Player (imagine that each letter in the preceding four words was scribed in sparkling, animated gold print), this is the kind of star-struck night that would normally merit inclusion as a Christmas Day game. Gay, Jefferson, Cousins? Total treat to get this a little over a week in advance. Thanks, NBA!
  • Portland at Minnesota (WED 12/18): One of the stranger stories of the early season is how unlucky the Wolves have been. The team is 12-12 despite reasonably good health and a rock-solid MOV (+3.7, generally the type you'd see with a 15-9 team rather than a 12-12 team). Assuming health, they should make the playoffs regardless, but their preternaturally good health to date can elicit a little bit of worry -- these healthy moments are the ones where the Wolves should be banking wins, not breaking even. The Wolves have a generally decent defense/offense combination, so this has a nice potential for being a mutual offensive explosion type of night. Something like their game a few days ago where the Wolves put up a single-game ORTG of 112 only to fall to San Antonio's 119. Watch it!
  • Oklahoma City at San Antonio (SAT, 12/21): Okay, so, breaking character for a second, OKC/SAS is one of the best western rivalries going right now. The Spurs think they should've had 2012, the Thunder think they should've had 2013. The two teams are atop the west, both entering tonight with 19-4 records and hopes as high as the moon. If the West has a favorite right now, it's in-arguably one of these two teams. Both teams will have two-days rest, so we'll be seeing both teams at their best (barring injury in the intervening week). Even if this wasn't a dreamboat of a small market matchup, this is a game everyone should be watching. No jokes, no sly witticisms, no sarcasm. This one is what the NBA is all about. It's the closest you can come to early-season appointment viewing. 

See you next week, Small Marketeers! Stay frosty.

Small Market Mondays #2.03: Thanking Ain't Easy

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:

  • Now that my secret karaoke sesh has leaked (#shouldabeenacowboy), the only question that remains is which record labels will come calling (x)

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.

Small Market Mondays #2.02: When Cavaliers Get Cavalier

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: trouble in paradise, Nate Wolters engulfed in metaphorical flames, and a game-of-the-week slate for the best of us.

I have some bad news, my beautiful small marketeers. Word out of one of our most beloved franchises says that some of our basketballing heroes have turned tail on the small market values and virtues that sustain and nourish all of us. To wit, check out this excerpt about locker room squabbles, quoted with the necessary mad-lib style redactions to keep you guessing at the team's identity. Blue represents a mad-lib replacement of the actual word from the excerpt:

"The Argonauts held a players-only meeting following Wednesday's 29-point loss to the Basilisks , multiple sources told ESPN.com. But the meeting got contentious, and players confronted each other, according to sources. In a loss at the Den of Unholy Sin on Monday, Argonauts coach Chief who Stomps Earthquakes and star guard Sparklelord Peat-Swiller got into a heated exchange on the bench after Earthquake Chief pulled Sparklelord from the game. "

You'd think that describes the big market Knicks, right? The Nets? The Lakers?

Nope. With shame and sadness, I relay honesty -- when you remove the redactions, this excerpt is about your very own Cleveland Cavaliers. I admit, in the preseason, perhaps we really should've seen this coming. After all, the Cavaliers are starting to put on some big market airs. They entered the season expecting to take part in this mystical circus known only as the "playoffs." The path to such a land can lead you astray. Worse yet, they added Andrew Bynum and Earl Clark, both of whom bring with them the big market baggage that Los Angeles deposits with all their players.

Who can really know WHAT sorts of sins those two are sharing with the team? Bynum, in his wicked wisdom, might be teaching the Cavaliers about the existence of women. Fun fact: most small marketeers don't know about the existence of women until they're married, just like the lord intended. In fact, this whole observation probably was the first time any of you heard about them. Please wipe these revelations from your memory. Pro tip: watch some Jeff Foster archive footage and some Jimmer Fredette interviews, then return to this article. You'll forget everything. ... Thanks! As for Earl Clark, he's a known drama queen from his time with the Zhejiang Guangsha. Although the fightin' Zhejiangs [ED. NOTE: They are the Zhejiang Guangsha Lions. Saying "the fightin' Zhejiangs" is kind of like saying "the fightin' Chicagos."] gave him every opportunity he needed to succeed, the big market bully couldn't hack it in the small market Zhejiang province. [ED. NOTE: The Zhejiang province has a population of 54 million people.] Typical, huh?

I think we all know what needs to happen here. The Cavaliers need to trade Bynum and Clark, and they need to do it quickly. It needs to happen before the big market flu turns into a big market swine flu. [ED. NOTE: That is not how diseases work.] Might I suggest... Jimmer Fredette, the small market superduperstar that's woefully underutilized in Sacramento? Dare I dream it, dear readers? I do dare. Darkly Daring Dex-McGuire, the drama of wholesome deeds and delights a-plenty. Thanks, Cleveland, for bringing back my dreams. Maybe this rough patch will lead to a recovery that'll save our season. We can only hope.

• • •

The State of The Small Market Union (Sponsored by The Memphis School of Modern Dance)

All is well in the small market union. Although our perfect Pacers lost, the Spurs and Pacers are still "pacing" the league with 18 wins in 20 tries. Portland's small-market beacons are currently outplaying the large market bullies in Los Angeles and Oakland, keeping a firm grasp on the #2 seed. And our small-market heroes in Minnesota look like a contender, sporting the third highest point differential in the league and a surprisingly stingy defense. The only small market sadness right now is in the Eastern Conference, where only two of the eight playoff teams really qualify as members of our "small market" cabal -- Indiana and Charlotte. Luckily for us, only four teams in the east are over 0.500, so it shouldn't be too hard for our small market sleepers in Cleveland, Washington, Detroit, and Milwaukee to rise up and claim their rightful throne-spots. Actually, Milwaukee is 2-7 and look like absolute rubbish. So it may be sort of hard for them to rise up. Oh well. Can't have everything, I suppose.

• • •

nate wolters

The Milwaukee Towne Crier presents the "I'M ON FIRE SOMEONE HELP ME" Nate Wolters MVP Watch

Man, Nate Wolters! In our season-opening Small Market Mondays joint, Wolters was KILLING it. And last week's borderline all-time great performances did nothing to dissuade me of including Nate the Great in our MVP watch segment for a second week in a row. Check out these world-beating lines over the last week of basketball from "The Colt with the Wolt":

  • 9 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 STEALS!!! on 50-0-50 shooting in a 23 point loss to the Miami Heat.
  • 9 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal on 37-0-75 shooting in a 3 POINT!!! loss to the Orlando Magic. (In just 40 minutes!)
  • 8 points, 2 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, 2 BLOCKS!!! on 36-0-0 shooting in a 27 point loss to the Indiana Pacers.
  • 7 points, 6 REBOUNDS!!!, 4 assists on 30-0-100 shooting in a 13 point loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

... yeah, world-beating, right? [sweats profusely] Pay no attention to the non-exclamatory stats, or the fact that Wolters went a baffling 0-for-7 from the three point line this week. After all, that 0-for-7 is a GOOD thing. It actually means that Nate the Great shot 14-for-30 from two point range, which is almost 50, which is more points than anyone has scored this season to date. And after all -- his shooting percentage is rough, but I'm sure most of the NBA is shooting under 40% from the floor with a sub-20% performance from three. I mean, look at this rogue's gallery of league-leading lights. Derek Fisher's a champion! Ben Gordon is making a billion dollars! Matthew Dellavedova has a fantastic name! EVERYTHING'S GOOD, NATE, YOU BEAUTIFUL MAN.

[sobs]

We will have a new small market MVP next week.

• • •

Small Market Mondays Game of the Night: DENVER NUGGETS at OKLAHOMA CITY

Honestly, this is one of the least small-market friendly "game of the night" features we've ever had to highlight. Denver is a small market in theory, I suppose, but it's one of the largest cities in the southwest outside of Phoenix and it's one of those small-market-in-name-only cities. Luckily, the actual game is occurring at Oklahoma City, which means that Denver's not-quite-small-market status won't come into play at the contest. We'll get to enjoy all the mini-market joys of Oklahoma City's only sporting franchise. I refer of course to their pre-game prayers, the hilarious face painting for regular season matchups, and the borderline embarrassing focus on throwing t-shirts into a crowd of presumably grown adults to hype them up. ... Wait, they do that last one in every arena? God help us.

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

  • Minnesota at Washington (TUE, 11/19): This should be a good one. We've got two playoff contenders -- one surprising, one unfathomably disappointing in one of the worst Eastern Conference gauntlets we've seen in ages --  and both are duking it out for our small market love. Also: duking it out in a constant attempt to figure out who won the "Mike Miller and Randy Foye for the pick that would become Ricky Rubio" trade. Seems like a pretty fair trade to me!
  • San Antonio at Memphis (FRI, 11/22): Although the Grizzlies aren't off to a particularly many-splendored start, these two teams sort of despise each other. Well, they used to. Now it's a little one-sided, as I'm pretty sure that sweeping a team in a deep playoff run actually erases most of the animosity once held for the team, so the Spurs are probably mostly over the first round upset Memphis dealt them years ago. But these are still delightful grit-and-grind outfits, made even more gritty and grindy with San Antonio's new defensive focus and Memphis' not-at-all-new "what is offense at all, even?" focus. Taste the fever!
  • Philadelphia at Indiana (SAT, 11/23): The Sixers have been one of the most shocking teams in the league, and although they're under 0.500, they're currently firmly ensconced in the playoff picture because they lead a division that's collectively gone 19-32. That actually understates how unfathomably awful that division has been -- collectively, the average result for a game played by an Atlantic division team this season has been a little over a four point loss. Their AVERAGE result. For context, only 5 teams lost by more than four points a game over the course of the 2013 season: the Cavaliers (-4.7), the Magic (-7.0), the Bobcats (-9.2), the Kings (-4.9), and the Suns (-6.5). Seriously, it is entirely possible that every single team in the Atlantic ends the season well under 0.500. It's a hilarious but altogether real possibility. ... I'm sure the Sixers will turn it around against one of the best defenses in the last decade, though. Seems legit. Go team!

See you next week, Small Marketeers! Stay frosty.

Small Market Mondays #2.01: The Return of Milk Toast

Remember our cracked-skull columnist, Alex Arnon? He hit his head a while back, fainted, and woke up a delusional man with tidings of a world where small markets ruled all comers. Yeah, so. 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 wishes -- 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! We love you like our collective infant daughter!

"Another day, another dollar." That's what my small market uncle used to say. My family generally didn't like to see me hanging out with him, as one dollar a day is not a wage that a child should generally look up to. Even in the smallest of markets. But they weren't in my head, folks. I didn't look up to his laughable salary. I looked up to his grit and his will to win. I looked up to the aura of competence he had around him. I looked up to the way he talked to dogs and earnestly believed they'd talk back. And, above all, I looked up to the small market spirit he had floating in the air around him. The spirit to never give up even when his salary was comparable to the coins in a normal working class Joe's couch cushions. Today, as we embark on a bold new season of small marketeering in a world of dread piracy, I aim to appreciate some of the many small market heroes that embody my uncle's up-and-at-em spirit.

  • Patrick Beverley, HOU ($788,872) -- Deron Williams, the starter for this feature's arch nemesis, makes $18,466,130. He makes 23 times the salary of Houston Rockets starter Patrick Beverley. Despite being injured and having an artificially deflated PER due to this, Beverley's PER is less than one point lower than Deron's (13.6 vs 14.4). Take that, money. You aren't the boss of us! Here's to Beverley, our old friend.
  • Jeremy Tyler, ATL ($100,000) -- LeBron James probably could find a hundred thousand dollars in his couch cushions, and Jeremy's making less money than literally everyone in the NBA right now, so I think we can overlook Atlanta's actually-large-market city size and appreciate him. (Related note: someone should tell LeBron to stop using hundred dollar bills as cushion stuffing, it's really uncomfortable.) He hasn't actually played this season, so here's hoping he... wait, he got waived? I'm featuring someone who is completely without employment in this highlight? Dangit. Sorry Jeremy.
  • Orlando Johnson, IND ($788,872) -- The best thing about Orlando Johnson is that he's three small markets in one. First he's in Indiana, a favorite of this feature. Then his first name is Orlando, which evokes another small market to admire and contemplate. Then, to top it all off, his last name is Johnson. That's the most small market last name a person can have! It's not quite as popular as "Smith", but being second is something Small Market Mondays can appreciate. And to top it all off, he doesn't make a ton of money and isn't actually great at basketball. There is literally no downside to Orlando Johnson. He is my hero, and he is a hero to us all. Thanks, America.

You know, come to think of it, I have no idea what my uncle's job was. And I never saw him with his own home or apartment. And he had a hat that he'd just put on the ground next to him while sitting at highly trafficked areas, which was when we tended to hang out. And he thought he'd been abducted by aliens on a weekly basis. And he ran every time he saw a cop, and the reason I haven't seen him for a while is that he got arrested for murder or something.

Starting to understand why my parents didn't want me to hang out with him.

Editor, scratch this column. Wait, I am the editor. I don't remember how to scratch columns. These meds are rough, guys.

• • •

The State of The Small Market Union (Sponsored by The Memphis School of Modern Dance)

You know how the small market union was strong last season? It's basically made of diamond now, baby. (And when I say diamond, I mean the "diamond special" at your local IHOP, because diamonds are much too expensive for us true small marketeers.) Seriously, though, the standings right now are basically a beautiful paragon of small market appreciation and excellence. The following facts are true about the beautiful season we've been watching to date:

  • The Spurs, Pacers, and Thunder are a combined 18-2, with the top three records in the league.
  • The Knicks, Nets, Lakers, and Bulls are a combined 9-16, and none of them are in their conference's playoff picture.
  • The upstart Minnesota Timberpuppies are at 5-2, and just eviscerated the Lakers by 23 points at the Staples center. What!
  • The Bobcats and Hawks are at the 4/5 seeds in the Eastern Conference at 3-3 apiece, which is adorable.
  • Those big market bullies in Utah are 0-7, which finally gets some comeupp-- wait, UTAH?!?

Okay, scratch that last one. Wait, I forgot again. I'm the editor. Damnit. Where's my backspace key? How do I delete things?

• • •

nate wolters

The Milwaukee Yoga Farm presents the "Namaste Cow Moos Twice" Nate Wolters MVP Watch

Handsome. Trustworthy. Brunette. These are all words that have never in our natural lives been used to describe Nate Wolters, the small marketeer point guard filling in for Milwaukee's Knight of the Brandon table. These are all words that I will be avoiding in my short description of Nate's amazing play for the Milwaukee Buckaroonies. The Bucks are hardly a great team -- they're currently 2-3, and they were lucky to get an upset win over the Cleveland Cavaliers to pad that 2-3 record. But if it wasn't for the up-and-at-em play of this "young Buck" (yes, I will be arrested for crimes against words someday), they wouldn't even be 2-3.

Wolters is currently averaging 9-6-4 for the Bucks, and we have some new stats that give us context for Nate's splendor. According to NBA.com's "SportsVU" statistics, Wolters is currently throwing 56.3 passes per game. That's 19th overall in the league, despite the fact that he's 21st overall in assists per game! That means his passes aren't leading to quite as many assists as the rest of his peers, which is another sign of Nate's never-say-die attitude. Why generate a ton of flashy assists when you can demonstrate to your fans the true meaning of existential worthlessness by completing beautiful pinpoint passes to players that can't finish? Nothing is beautiful and everything hurts. Great performance, Nate. You're our first "Small Market Mondays" MVP candidate. Keep it up, handsome!

... wait, I said I wasn't gonna use that word. Seriously, how do I delete things?!?

• • •

Small Market Mondays Game of the Night: MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES AT INDIANA PACERS

The Grizzlies haven't gotten off to quite the season start they were hoping for -- they're currently 3-3 with a strange mix of blowouts, bad losses, and good wins. As I mentioned earlier (and will probably get more into next week), the Indiana Pacers have gotten off to their best start in decades. They're undefeated! Tonight's game, defensive slog though it may be, is really going to be a no-lose scenario for small marketeers like us. If the Grizzlies win, they're the small market David that's slain yet another Goliath, and they'll return to the Western playoff picture -- where they should be. If the Pacers win, they stretch their 7-0 start to an 8-0 start and further chisel their ridiculously strong start into the annals of league history. It's great! Here's hoping the game is even remotely watchable!

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

  • Toronto Raptors at Memphis Grizzlies (WED, 11/13): Although Toronto isn't technically a small market, their history of futility and general status as the only NBA team in Canada evokes the same sort of "only game in town" feeling you get from a small market team. So we'll count them for now. Should be a barnburner, if you're one of those weirdos that burns down barns every time they watch Rudy Gay and Demar DeRozan chuck indiscriminately against an excellent defense. If so, please turn yourself in to the authorities. Thanks in advance.
  • Milwaukee Bucks at Indiana Pacers (FRI, 11/15): This is one of  those rare early season treasures that most people inexplicably never watch. Don't make that mistake. Nate Wolters is our current Small Market Mondays MVP choice, and Paul George is a reasonable "actual MVP" choice. The Pacers are probably gonna roll over the Bucks, but it's hard to sleep on that Wolters/Pachulia/Neal core. ... Okay, I retract that, it's pretty easy to sleep on them. But don't! Please?
  • Detroit Pistons at Los Angeles Lakers (SUN, 11/17): This is your obligatory "small market mainstay" versus "big market monster" of the coming week. The difference? The Pistons are probably going to be favored! It isn't just possible that they win, it's actually likely! Should be fun to watch the Pau Gasol revenge game to try and get the Pistons back for the 2004 Finals. Pau has a lot of saved up fury over that series, probably. Expect a 60-40-20 game from Pau "Laker for Life" Gasol, staved off only by a vintage 30 point 30 assist Chauncey Billups performance. (I live in a fantasyland made of snow cones.)

See you next week, Small Marketeers! Stay frosty.

Small Market Mondays #16: How the Mighty Have Fallen

Remember our cracked-skull columnist, Alex Arnon? He hit his head a while back, fainted, and woke up a delusional man with tidings of a world where small markets ruled all comers. Over the past month, Arnon has been dealing with "personal matters", a thinly veiled cover-up for Arnon's voyage through the Serengeti to produce his new TV pilot for the local access channel: "What Blue Wildebeast Wants to Be A Millionaire?" (I tried to tell him it wouldn't work, especially with a total production budget of $3.54, but Arnon is a freakishly determined young man who doesn't need my sass.) Regardless. He's been kidnapped by a rampaging horde of zebras and is being ransomed off for drugs and money, even though zebras don't have the opposable thumbs necessary to do drugs or the credit score to spend the money. Until I can patch together a resolution to the situation, I'll be taking the reins to our Small Market Monday feature. Just let me knock myself in the head with this small market butter churner and I'll be right with you.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Gaze upon them, young small marketeers. Once, this team was the league's holy-of-holies. The team that the modern league juts out and features more than any other. The team with a market bigger than its britches and stars upon stars upon stars. But stars can't match grit and heart and guile -- not like you see in teams like the 29-48 Washington Wizards or the 24-52 Cleveland Cavaliers. No, this team of star power and free agent shuffling isn't a lock to win anything.

I refer, of course, to the Miami Heat.

"What!" you say, exclaiming in shock. "But Aaron, didn't they just win a flippity-gibbit of games... in a row?" Yes, readers, I looked it up -- they did indeed. But when I turned on my nationally televised grit-n-grind matchup between the plucky Charlotte Bobcats and the flagging Miami Heat, I couldn't help but feel bad for the boys in the gross-looking black and red jerseys. Sure, they had LeBron and Wade -- once. But they're gone now. And Chris Bosh can't play the entire game! Just look at some of the lineups Coach Spolestra was forced to play now that the team has lost their two stars!

  • Norris Cole / James Jones / Shane Battier / Rashard Lewis / Chris Anderson (Outscored CHA by 4)
  • Mario Chalmers / James Jones / Mike Miller / Rashard Lewis / Joel Anthony (Outscored CHA by 1)
  • Norris Cole / James Jones / Shane Battier / Rashard Lewis / Chris Anderson (Outscored CHA by 5)

Look at those lineups! Isn't that wild? Somehow, Miami's D-Team gutted out a win against the good ol' Bobcats -- it was tough, but the Bobcats took pity on those hilarious lineups and decided to lay off the gas a bit. But we all know who's going to be laughing in the end. Just goes to show you, really... there's no such thing as a shortcut to a championship. You need to play terrible basketball for enough seasons in a row to luck your way into a franchise-changing superstar, potentially playing poorly enough that you alienate one of the NBA's best fanbases and force your team to move to a different location where the team will blossom into a perennial contender and cast the ire of the fanbase scorned, strengthening the resolve of the players that had little to no control over the move in general! That's how you get a ring in the NBA, not with this "free agency" stuff. Because if LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are "free" to "agent" for the Miami Heat, they're also "free" to "not-agent." And this is clearly -- CLEARLY -- what they have chosen to do. Good luck getting past the Eastern Conference Finals without your stars, Miami!

... wait, the Knicks are the 2nd best team in the east? OK, maybe they'll still get past the ECF. STILL THOUGH.

Continue reading

Small Market Mondays #15: The Second Standings

Remember our cracked-skull columnist, Alex Arnon? He hit his head a while back, fainted, and woke up a delusional man with tidings of a world where small markets ruled all comers. Over the past month, Arnon has been dealing with "personal matters", a thinly veiled cover-up for Arnon's voyage through the serengetti to produce his new TV pilot for the local access channel: "What Blue Wildebeast Wants to Be A Millionaire?" (I tried to tell him it wouldn't work, especially with a total production budget of $3.54, but Arnon is a freakishly determined young man who doesn't need my sass.) Regardless. He's been kidnapped by a rampaging horde of zebras and is being ransomed off for drugs and money, even though zebras don't have the opposable thumbs necessary to do drugs or the credit score to spend the money. Until I can patch together a resolution to the situation, I'll be taking the reins to our Small Market Monday feature. Just let me knock myself in the head with this small market butter churner and I'll be right with you.

Hello, friends! Welcome to the comeback edition of Gothic Ginobili's mainstay Monday feature, Small Market Mondays. Today, I'd like to talk about the NBA's big race that everyone is talking about. It's what some people call "the second standings." I know it's what I look at first when I see a big slate of standings. Some strange people spend the late season examining playoff position. Others look at the race for pole position in the lottery. But the real NBA aficionados know that there's only one race that matters. That race?

Why, the race for the 14th pick, of course!

All throughout history, the 14th pick has been an absolute sweet spot for teams looking to snag the lowest priced barely-rotation young player who is technically still a lottery pick. And the announcers won't ever let you forget it, either! You want to forget that Marcus Morris, Earl Clark, and Anthony Randolph were all technically lottery picks? Too bad! Every single time those players visit the franchise that drafted them, they'll be inexplicably referred to as "lottery picks." Every time, for the duration of their entire career. For a small market team with scarce funds in the coffer and a need for a convenient scapegoat, there isn't a better pick in the game. It's great! It doesn't matter that every pick from 10-20 is roughly as valuable as one-another -- picks 10-14 pick have the additional cachet of being lottery picks, and 14 has the additional cachet of being the last one! When they inevitably fail to draft anything remotely approaching an NBA starter, the management can point to their cheap-yet-poor draft selection and cast a wool over the eyes of their adoring fans to hide from their terrible free agent strategies. It's brilliant! As the race stands today, here are the main competitors for that elusive last lottery pick:

  • THE FAVORITE: The Utah Jazz! Led by the "stormin' Mormon" Jimmer Fredette, these Utah Cowpokes ain't a sight for sore eyes! [ED. NOTE: Fredette isn't on the Jazz. Also: they aren't a sight for sore eyes BECAUSE THEY'RE A TERRIBLE BASKETBALL TEAM. Also: why am I leaving an editor's note for myself?] They wrangle the snakes and keep the lid on the butter-churnin' mayhem over at the Ener-Gee-Whiz Solution Farms-n-stuff (or, as some call it, "EnergySolutions Arena"). They're the overwhelming favorite to check into their summer vacations with the 14th pick in tow.
  • THE SNAKE IN THE BUSHES: The Los Angeles Lakers! True to form, the Lakers are trying to play spoiler to Utah's race for the 14th pick. It wouldn't be a real NBA race if there wasn't a big-market snake here to try and take away the small-market spoils now, would it? The Lakers are currently 2 games out from the #14 pick, but if they're terrible enough down the stretch, they could clutch victory from the jaws of defeat and pull out the requisite mediocrity needed to rip it out of Utah's hands. Oh the humanity! Fun fact, though -- even if they DO steal it from the Jazz, they won't actually get the pick. The Phoenix Suns own the Lakers' pick if it falls in the lottery. Take THAT, large markets!
  • THE UNDERDOG FORGET-ME-NOT: The Dallas Mavericks! Some might consider them the favorites, given that they entered today tied with the Jazz at a record of 34-36. But I don't! They're a better team than the Jazz, sporting a slightly better point differential and a far better roster at this stage of the game. Unfortunately, their closing schedule is quite a bit harder than Utah's. They're one to keep an eye on, but they're an unlikely winner for the 14-spot when all's said and done.

Fun times! We'll be keeping you posted on 14th pick news over the next few weeks of Small Market Monday action. Keep an eye out! Continue reading

Small Market Mondays #14: Appreciating an All-Star Papacy

Long ago in a distant land, Alex Arnon was watching a Kings/Suns preseason game when he became so furiously enraged at a Tyreke Evans double-teamed isolation jumper with 19 seconds on the shot clock that he hit his head, fainted, and woke up a delusional new man. To my understanding, he's now wholly ensconced in a bizarro world where some guy named Xenu created the Earth, Segways changed the very core of how people get around, and small markets make up the vast majority of NBA coverage and traffic. So just remember the motto we've provided our cracked-skull columnist: "No superstars? No problem!"

The All-Star Game is back, baby!

Well, okay... All-Star weekend is back. After all, who cares about a bunch of overpaid ninnies refusing to play defense in a cash-grab by that devilish Stern? What really matters this weekend are the true main events: the dunk contest and the three-point shootout! In the dunk contest we've got Gerald Green, James White, and and Terrence Ross representing the East. You all know how I feel about Terrence Ross' Raptors but let's talk about James White for a moment. While he does play for the biggest of big market bullies, the New York Knicks, I believe a small-market heart beats within him. White started his career with our beloved Spurs back in 2006, but he didn't catch on there and had to play in Turkey, Italy, and Russia in order to make his way back to the NBA. He's demonstrated three very small market traits on his way back to the NBA: hard work, determination, and a devout hatred of communism. When he played for Saint Petersburg in 2009-10 he made absolutely sure that they didn't win a single accolade so that those dirty commies wouldn't be happy. It's surely no coincidence that Saint Petersburg won the Russian cup the year after he left!

The dunk contest ALSO has small-market saviors Jeremy Evans and Kenneth Faried participating, which is neat. But let's be real. Dunks are flashy, with pizzazz and artistry. Who has time for pizzazz and artistry in a small market? Not me, that's who. There's only one thing that REALLY matters during the all-star weekend: the good-old fashioned three point shootout. And what a doozy this year's event is going to be, friends! The West's main attraction is the peerless Matt Bonner, a man who once made, shot, and consumed 25 consecutive sandwiches from halfcourt. The Red-haired William Shatner lookalike will have Stephen Curry and Ryan Anderson alongside him in the West, but what I'm truly excited for is his competition in the East. Steve Novak, white-guy extraordinaire, will be a tough one to beat. Paul George is the object of affection for small marketeers everywhere and surpassed by only one man. The last man in this year's 3 point shooting contest and surely the one to will win at all, just as he's won our hearts? Kyrie Irving. Experts worldwide are expecting him to score a perfect 25/25 while showing everyone in the dunk contest by making his last attempt a dunk from the three-point line. Because if there's one man who can do it, it's Skyrie Irving.

One last note - I wasn't originally gonna talk about this, but the main page for the Skills Challenge has "Fundamentals" as the first word in its headline so I feel rather obligated to include it. There's a skills challenge! Several actual NBA players will compete to see whose definition of the word "skrillex" is closest to the actual definition, assuming they don't fall asleep during one of Kenny Smith's monologues. Can't wait! Here's hoping Coach B teaches his protege Tony Parker a bit about the fundamentals of the game (and a bit about skrillex) to help him repeat! Continue reading

Small Market Mondays #13: Off to Canadia

Long ago in a distant land, Alex Arnon was watching a Kings/Suns preseason game when he became so furiously enraged at a Tyreke Evans double-teamed isolation jumper with 19 seconds on the shot clock that he hit his head, fainted, and woke up a delusional new man. To my understanding, he's now wholly ensconced in a bizarro world where some guy named Xenu created the Earth, Segways changed the very core of how people get around, and small markets make up the vast majority of NBA coverage and traffic. So just remember the motto we've provided our cracked-skull columnist: "No superstars? No problem!"

Friends, I still can't get over the week's most wonderful of news! Rudy Gay has finally left behind our beloved Grizzlies, and we replaced him with Tayshaun Prince! You may be wondering why I'm so happy that the Grizzlies lost their "best" scorer, and there's quite a simple reason why. Rudy Gay is a Big Market Bully, someone who eschews teamwork for his own personal gain; Tayshaun Prince is a Small Market Sacrificer, someone who would do anything for his team.

It makes sense then that Rudy Gay is on his way to Toronto (a place in Canada) to play his me-me-me game in a fancy pancy wannabe-European big market. Honestly, who espouses arrogance and self-centeredness more than the French? When you remember that Toronto is the capital of Ontario which is a state in the province of Quebec [Ed. Note: Ontario is not in Quebec, Alex] which for a reason unbeknownst to me tries to be French and not American even though we're right next to each other... then yeah, folks! It makes perfect sense that Rudy "16 shots per game" Gay now plays for their home team. He never really fit in with the Grizzlies' true American grit and hard work "grind", instead relying on isolation mid-rangers and stand-alone reverse pivot jump-o's instead of running the tried and true pick-n-roll or hop-n-pop. [Ed. Note: Why do you write for a basketball blog, again?]

It also makes sense that Tayshaun Prince will now play in the heartland of the good ol' USA for America's team. In Detroit he's done nothing but sacrifice: he shot less so Brandon Knight could develop, he passed more to Greg Monroe so he could do cool big-guy stuff, and he kept his facial bones intact so that Rip Hamilton could be the only guy on the team with a sweet mask. Surely he's going to be a consummate teammate as always, offering to teach Marc Gasol better English (and hopefully Tony Allen along the way), going out and decidedly not beating anyone up with Zach Randolph, and also doing whatever cool trickaroonies he does on a basketball court.

Also apparently this deal was really good for Memphis' "cap space" but Tayshaun's and Rudy's heads look kinda the same size to me so I dunno what all that hullabaloo is about. Whatever, though, that's just another way the Grizz win this trade (besides not being located in the country of Canadia, of course). [Ed. Note: IT'S SPELLED CANADA.] Continue reading

Small Market Mondays #12: Eminent Domain

Long ago in a distant land, Alex Arnon was watching a Kings/Suns preseason game when he became so furiously enraged at a Tyreke Evans double-teamed isolation jumper with 19 seconds on the shot clock that he hit his head, fainted, and woke up a delusional new man. To my understanding, he's now wholly ensconced in a bizarro world where some guy named Xenu created the Earth, Segways changed the very core of how people get around, and small markets make up the vast majority of NBA coverage and traffic. So just remember the motto we've provided our cracked-skull columnist: "No superstars? No problem!"

Last week we discussed the All-Star candidacy of Rajon Rondo (related: why haven't we made bionic ACLs yet? Get on it, Doctors!) and Kyrie Irving (WHOO I LOVE YOU BABY). All was made right this week when Kyrie Irving was named as an All-Star reserve. And due to Rajon Rondo's extraordinarily unfortunate injury, he should be the starting point guard for the Eastern Conference! Not even a small market backer such as myself can condone the slightest of injuries to the biggest of big market players. Doing so would be quite big market bully-esque. I refuse. Get well soon, Rondo!

You know who won't be playing in the All-Star Game this year though, no injuries required? The traitorous Joe Johnson, of course! Having played in Small Market Mecca Atlanta since 2005 ("CAW CAWWWWWW"), he was rewarded by the Gods that be with 6 straight dubiously deserved All-Star appearances from 2007 - 2012. Note how I said 2012 and not 2013. Hah! Joey J made his way to the fakest of all big markets this offseason -- Brooklyn. They're not a real big market! They just moved from small-market-at-heart New Jersey this year! They parade Jay-Z around to pretend like he's a real owner. Come on! The man barely owns 1/15th of 1 percent of the franchise, just so they can be relevant... wait, hold up, I'm being told that's worth over a million dollars. That also happens to be much, much more than what I'm worth. Blast it all. You win again, Jay-Zed.

But that's all beside the point -- Joe Johnson broke his streak of six straight All-Star Games by moving from Atlanta to Brooklyn. In fact, not a single Brooklyn Net is playing in the All-Star Game this year, even though they're 26-18 and it's well-deserved. Unless anyone was paying attention when Nets owner Bruce Ratner used eminent domain to displace hundreds of citizens in order to make over a billion dollars. There's no way that happened, right? Oh. It did? Well, dang. Speaking of which, how the heck did they use a law of Eminem's domain when Jay-Z is their part owner rapper?! There's got to be some beef there, right? Something's rotten in the state of Brooklyn, Horatio. Anyway. How about this -- we as fans need to use our power of eminent domain or whatever it's called to take back every All-Star spot ever awarded to them from the Nets and ensure that none of those poseur big marketeers ever make it in? Seems reasonable to me.

Hopefully, thanks to us, an All-Star spot will never be an (emi)Net's domain. Continue reading

Small Market Mondays #11: Hey Rondo, You're An All Star

Long ago in a distant land, Alex Arnon was watching a Kings/Suns preseason game when he became so furiously enraged at a Tyreke Evans double-teamed isolation jumper with 19 seconds on the shot clock that he hit his head, fainted, and woke up a delusional new man. To my understanding, he's now wholly ensconced in a bizarro world where some guy named Xenu created the Earth, Segways changed the very core of how people get around, and small markets make up the vast majority of NBA coverage and traffic. So just remember the motto we've provided our cracked-skull columnist: "No superstars? No problem!"

Remember Smash Mouth's smash hit "All Star"? Having made that song my life's motto many moons ago, I was incredibly disappointed recently when I learned that the absolute poetry which legendary frontman Steve Harwell blessed our lives with isn't 100% true.

With All-Star Game voting concluding recently, I had latched on to one lyric in particular - only shooting stars break the mold. What an astute metaphor that was for the wonderful game of basketball, I thought. Only rising small market superstars could break the big market mold. I knew that the unholy liberal elite New England media stranglehold was going to incessantly push for stat-padder and all-around petulant child Rajon Rondo to start in the All-Star Game. I also knew that small market darling and future greatest point guard of all-time Kyrie Irving was much more deserving than Mr. Rondo as is evident by a quick look at their Player Efficiency Ratings: Kyrie is 2th among all point guards in the East, behind only Kyle Lowry who has played 329 minutes less than Kyrie, whereas Rondo is 6th among Eastern conference point guards. This is surely incontrovertible evidence, right? Wrong.

You see, I forgot to factor in the fact that those uppity liberal elites would stop at nothing to win! The All-Star Game is a popularity contest voted on by the unwashed masses and who else but big marketeers would have millions of these cretins in their city? As you probably know by now, Rajon Rondo will be starting for the East in this year's All-Star Game and not Kyrie Irving. Smash Mouth lied to me. Smash Mouth lied to us all. I've been spending the weekend making all of my friends promise not to eat anything associated with Guy Fieri or listen to Insane Clown Posse records (which, granted, no one should be doing in the first place) because of the resemblance they all bear with the Mouth's lead singer. But I guess only one thing truly matters now:

Hey Rondo, you're an all-star. Continue reading