The Final Timeout: New York's Final Moments in Knicks/Wizards

mike woodson

The following is a transcript taken from Alex Dewey's SportFU system. SportFU is based around a series of cameras Dewey placed in NBA arenas under the floorboards. After placing them, our intrepid young reporter realized that his cameras captured absolutely none of the visuals of an NBA game, on account of being underground. So he probably could've saved several million dollars by switching to audio recorders. But we won't get into that. At least they captured enough audio to be able to bring you this post, right?

 • • •

Mike Woodson is leading the huddle. His Knicks are clinging to a 1-point lead against the Wizards with 24 seconds left.

Coach Woodson: Alright, y'all. Stick with me here. It's been a rough season, but we've had a great 2nd half today! So let's make something happen! You just gotta trust and believe in your defense, man. One thing I learned in Atlanta is: gotta trust your people, number one. Y'all gotta BELIEVE you can get that stop if ya need it, y'know?

Carmelo Anthony: I believe, Coach. We can get that stop if we need it. Look, you guys, I know we've had troubles before but we can NOT lose this game.  We have to trust each other. As long as we have Tyson in the middle, we're fine.

Woodson: Actually, we don't have Tyson.

Melo: Well, where is Tyson? He's not back yet? Dang!

Woodson: Tyson's got, like, an eternal contusion fracture of the spotless mind or something. Somewhere below his knee. Day-to-day.  Look, he's still in his suit, right over there.

Tyson Chandler: Hey! What's up, guys? I'm right here. Glad you're looking at me, but maybe you want to focus on that timeout instead of me! I can't play, you know!

Melo: Hey, Tyson! Nice to see you.

Woodson: Bottom line? TC's not going to be available. Andrea, it's gonna be you in the middle. Y'all help him out. Support him!

Melo: Oh sh-... I mean, uh... Yeah, you can do it, Andrea. Just man the middle. Just like we've been practicing.

Andrea Bargnani: [consumes pasta]

Woodson: Right, so we HAVE to guard the middle. Y'all know what I mean? GOT to have a presence. We're down by 1 so I'd rather force them to 3 it, feel me? Even a long J would be fine. But no layups. I'd rather they get an semi-open 3 than an easy-ass five footer. Got me?

Melo: [nods] We got it, Coach.

Woodson: J.R., I know you care about your rep. I get that, young man.

J.R. Smith:  [looking up at the ceiling] Right, Coach.

Woodson: But this is our whole team's rep, now. I know you don't want someone to hit a jumper in your-- J.R., ARE YOU PAYING ATTENTION?

Smith: [thousand-yard stare] Do what now?

Woodson: Damn, J.R. Look... I know you care about your rep, but focus on the basket, please. Just 24 seconds. Focus on helping at the rim. Don't look at your guy at the 3-point line. Protect the rim first and foremost. Help your people under the rim if someone gets beat. They got a rep, too. Y'know?

Smith: [looking at the opposite basket] Right... shoot it at the rim...

Woodson: Look, just... pay attention on defense. That's all I'm asking.

Smith: [looking at Tyson Chandler] Right, Coach. Seriously, protect the rim, help, I'll do whatever I have to do to make sure they don't score.

Woodson: [a bit touched] Thanks.

Melo: [supportively] J.R. the lockdown man! Keep it going for 24 more, J.R.! You can do it!

Woodson: And Pablo and Ray are out, of course.

Melo: Right.

Beno Udrih: So it's up to me, then.

Woodson: Right, Beno. Good chance you end up on Wall or Beal. Now, you've played under some great coaches in your time, right? You played under Pop, of course.

Beno: Right.

Woodson: So you know two things about the next possession. Simple as anything in the world.

Beno: Right... Why don't you just tell me so there isn't any confusion?

Woodson: Well, for one, they want to put up a shot so they don't leave any time on the clock, and two, they're going to go to Beal on a switch against you, probably on a dribble-hand-off.

Melo: Wait, what?

Beno: How do you know that?

Woodson: Simple. Beal's hot and he's their most explosive scorer, he's a capable ball-handler, and we'd have trouble trapping him. Plus, if he can get a switch to you (and they can easily draw that up), we have to honor it. He's too good a shooter to leave him WIDE open. You're gonna be at a slight size disadvantage, and so they'd be foolish not to try and take advantage.

Beno: Right.

Woodson: But y'all also have a trump card, right?

Beno: [looks around to team] ...Sure, Coach. Why don't you tell everyone so we can all know what you're talking about?

Woodson: The foul to give. We have a foul to give. I can't stress this enough. We have a foul to give.

Beno: Right.

Woodson: If the Wizards try anything before, say, 3 seconds are left (and make sure one of y'all call it out if Beno can't check the time), you should foul them. Make them draw up a whole new in-bounds. That should screw up whatever they want to get, enough to give us the best chance of winning.

Beno: Okay. You know what, I CAN do that, Coach!

Woodson: That's all. Just remember. Trust and believe. Believe and trust. Just do the simple shit that I'm asking of you and we'll win. And, if we don't win and y'all do all of that, y'all can blame me in the next huddle.

Melo: Coach, you're doing great. This is all great stuff.

Woodson: Thank you.

The Knicks gather their hands into the middle of the huddle. 

Team: One, two, three, BREAK!

Legitimate intensity, to a man. Even J.R. looks totally engaged, a terrifying, but beautiful, sight.

James Dolan: Hey, what's up, everyone?

Everyone groans.

Dolan: You can't spare a moment for the guy that signs your checks?

Melo: Come on, James, not now. We're right in the middle of a g--...

Dolan: Controversy, right? Felton for Lowry, who says no?

Woodson: Raymond is a fine young man, can we talk about this later?

Dolan: I just got off the phone with Phil Jackson. Do you want to know what we talked about?

Woodson: Not especia--...

Dolan: I told him I planned to hire Pat Riley and Ettore Messina to co-coach the Knicks next season. Laughs aplenty.

Melo: Look, Coach is who he is. This isn't helping anyone, James. I don't know what you think you're doing.

Dolan: Hello, Andrea.

Andrea: Hi, James.

Dolan: Some fascinating trade rumors are leaking out today. Most of them involving you. Can you think about that for a few moments and tell me what you think after the game?

Andrea: What... why?

Dolan: It's not that you're not working out. You are, but you know how life is. If you don't have your hand on the trigger at any moment, you're always one step away from missing the dream of a lifetime.

Woodson: Come on, James. What is this even about?

Melo: Yeah, Dolan. What's your problem? Let's just run the play. 1, 2, 3, BREAK!

Dolan: Wait! My favorite movie is "Heat". I listen to the Eagles. I'm a kind, compassionate individual. I've had trade offers just today to send J.R. to Moscow!

Smith:  [perking up, stares with attention at Coach Woodson] Moscow? What the hell?

Dolan: Nothing very serious, but you have to keep abreast of these things... "Heat"... "Princess Bride" was good, uh... "The Godfather" was a good movie. "Alien 4" was good.

Smith: [completely losing interest] Never mind, man. I'll score if I get the ball, Coach, if that's what I'm feeling.

Dolan: Beno Udrih for Mike Bibby, Mike Bibby for Orlando Johnson, Orlando Johnson and Bargs for Roy Hibbert, Ryan Anderson, and Omer Asik. Three trades. Who says no?

Woodson: YOU ARE KILLING THIS TEAM, JAMES.

Melo: [sobbing] I just... I played a great game and did everything you asked of me, Coach. Why now? Why this timeout? Why couldn't it have been just three minutes later, James?

Woodson: Nobody knows, Melo.

Dolan: We can compete in the East or West, in the North or South. I sometimes pretend I'm Billy Joel or Bob Seger or Pitbull. I have a band and I like playing in it. I will never trade you, Melo. I will pay you so many dollars, and you will be mine, forever.

Official: Come on, guys. We have a game to play. It's been more than a minute. Commercials are back. If you don't get on the court in 20 seconds, it's a tech.

Woodson: Just... I... yeah, just go, guys. 1, 2, 3, break.

 • • •

But now all the Knicks look worried or disinterested. They all heard the ref, but barely beat his 20-second deadline as they wade over to contest the inbound pass.

The Wizards run a dribble hand-off leaving Beno Udrih guarding Bradley Beal. Beno - with sudden thoughts of retirement (or worse, being traded for the retired Mike Bibby), is unfocused and doesn't foul when Beal makes his move with plenty of time. Beal easily slips past Beno, and the rest of the team is caught unawares, expecting him to foul.

The Knicks aren't way out of position, at this point, but Bargs is angry at Dolan's sudden leak to the public about his lack of faith and refuses to man the middle. J.R. Smith, worried about going to Moscow (and a little intrigued, which occupies his attention even more), stays on his man in the corner even after Beal beats Beno. J.R. is not going to let someone shoot over him and give Dolan the ammo to send him to Moscow.

Beal gets an easy, uncontested lay-up on the Knicks' basket. The Knicks have three time-outs, but Mike Woodson has checked out of the game at this point. He refuses to call time-out, and Melo, the only one left to care, heaves a desperate shot.

NOTE: After the game, James Dolan trades his 2022 first-rounder to the ether for Ben Wallace.

The Long Con -- David Stern Strikes Last

stern and 2chainz

The Long Con -- David Stern Strikes Last

The contents of this post are entirely fictional. Any resemblance between the persons and events of this post and those of reality is an absolute miracle.

David Stern reclines in his cavernous underground office. Bats fly from wall to wall. He is waiting.

STERN: Any minute now...

His comically oversized old-timey phone vibrates loudly. And rings. <RING RING RING>

STERN: [picks up phone] Hello? ... Yes, yes. Thank you. ... Yes, I'm sure. I do want Mauer and Foster on the call. ... Yes, they have their orders. Yes, I know what this means. ... Oh, really now? [Stern pauses, unfurling a Grinch-like grin] You can send him down, if you'd like. Perhaps he'd like to hear it directly from me. Appreciate it, Maurice.

Stern hangs up his work phone. He leans back in his chair and plays Candy Crush Saga on his iPad. He has bought every power-up. It was a business expense. About half an hour later, Adam Silver walks into the room. He stands over Stern's desk, hands on his hips, seething. Stern makes no indication of noticing his presence.

SILVER: [coughing] Ahem.

STERN: [unmoved] Beverly! My old friend.

SILVER: What?

STERN: Sit down, Adam. What took you so long?

SILVER: It takes twenty minutes at a minimum to get down here from the deputy commissioner's office. You know that, David. Nobody knows why you built this. ... Or how you built it, actually.

STERN: Oh, don't be a spoilsport. It'll be your office soon enough. What do you want?

SILVER: I want to know why you're f***ing me, David. I want to know why you're pounding this.

STERN: Explain.

SILVER: Look, David. Stop playing games with me! WHY AREN'T YOU GIVING ME MIAMI?!

Stern grins a cheshire grin.

SILVER: And if you don't stop that friggin' grin I will end you I swear to God.

STERN: Adam, let's take a walk.

SILVER: B--...

STERN: Now.

• • •

The two wizened men saunter across the expanse of Stern's ludicrously huge underground cavern. There are various trophies in glass cases to their side. They pass by the game ball from LeBron's last game in Cleveland. A framed copy of the stat sheet from DAL/MIA, 2006, G5. A signed photograph of Yao Ming shaking Stern's hand on draft night. A life sized Muggsy Bogues wax figurine. An enormous mound of Michael Jordan's gambling chips. A newspaper commemorating Boston's 16 titles. An orange.

SILVER: Okay, what?

STERN: Shush. ... OK, here. Stop. Look at this.

Silver looked up and down. It was a newspaper commemorating the 1983 sweep, Sixers over Lakers.

SILVER: ... yeah? What about it?

STERN: This is what I inherited, Adam. This is what I came in with.

SILVER: I fail to see the problem. You had the Lakers. You had Magic. You had Moses. HUGE ratings. Second best ever to that point, right?

STERN: Adversity comes in many shapes, Adam. In 1984 we put together a new CBA. We added a salary cap. We added drug testing. We added all sorts of things to bring the league back to par. We needed to bring our viewers home. We needed to expand. And me? I added a little something else. Something on the backend. A small note in the margins. Do you see it, Adam? Look closely.

Silver squints.

SILVER: ... "no more sweeps"?

STERN: Yes, Adam. No more sweeps.

SILVER: Explain.

STERN: Look. The NBA had a lot of problems when I took the reins. Our players were using, their effort level was pathetic, and our marketing was bunk. But the 1983 finals typified one of our biggest problems. We didn't manage the games. Sure, we don't flip games. But we need to at least massage them a bit. In 1983? Nothing. NOTHING. The Sixers shot a billion more free throws and the Lakers never had a shot at taking any of the game. At least in 2007's sweep the ratings blew. In 1983, the ratings were great. They were phenomenal. We NEEDED those extra games. We NEEDED that extra leverage in our TV deals. Where was O'Brien? He was asleep at the wheel. And I took over.

SILVER: So what did you do?

STERN: I pushed it. Have you been following the Obama administration? Have you been keeping track of his Department of Justice, and the slow drip as the public realizes he's approved more extrajudicial power than Bush did for his DOJ? Have you watched as he's leveraged every little power his predecessor left behind, and strengthened them at every turn?

SILVER: Yeah. So?

STERN: That's what you've got. After the 1983 finals, we greased the wheel. We guaranteed the TV folks that we'd keep our finals competitive. No more sweeps. Six game minimum, except in extraordinary cases. We figured out ways we could shift the odds towards the underdogs when we needed to. I don't care who wins. Nobody cares who wins. They just care about two things. Who's playing, and how close is it? How many games do we get? How many ads can we show? In the 80s, we had the who. We had the how. We developed that. We fixed it. And the league took off like a freakin' ROCKETSHIP, Adam. The league took off. It exploded. The NBA always had the tools it needed, O'Brien just wasn't man enough to use them. He believed in the integrity of the game. I believe in it too, mind you, but the almighty dollar has to have some consideration. Has to be some wiggle-waggle room. You know the score. You've been here before.

SILVER: Alright, cool. So why in God's name are you using that to keep me from getting Miami?

STERN: Because Larry O'Brien wasn't an idiot, and neither am I. The board of governors don't know if you're their man yet. They don't know if you've got those teeth, Mack. O'Brien could've extended the 1984 finals a bit, given me some extra wiggle room. He didn't. He wanted to see how I responded. For better or for worse, I went the other way and I increased the league's profits while casting doubt into the machinations that ran it. I could've said "it's a sport, it happens." I made promises instead, and I manufactured the power I needed to keep them. I'll give you a great Finals. Maybe Peter's team takes it. Maybe Herb's team takes it. Should be fun basketball. For people who like defense.

SILVER: So, like, ten people in the United States.

STERN: Hah! Funny man. But that's your job. I made my decision regarding series length -- I skewed to the game to draw out our final salvo. Get us more ad time. Keep our T.V. deals humming. Now, though? I've left you in a bind, Adam, regarding the markets that play in our finals. And you, like me, need to figure out how the hell you're going to get through it. I'm sentimental to the small markets, personally. And I think the NBA gains more than people think when teams like San Antonio make the finals and contend for years on end.

SILVER: What? How?

STERN: There are two ways you make money. You can either draw a lot of people all over the United States... or you dominate individual markets and completely bleed them dry. Both can work, if you do it right. In small markets with only one professional sports team, like San Antonio, you destroy the ratings. Even as the national ratings were so-so for Memphis vs San Antonio, that series completely destroyed everything else in the San Antonio market. Virtually everyone who had a screen was watching. The city was tuned to every layup, every free throw, every defensive switch. In a larger market, you don't get that kind of bleed-through. You get a good concentration. But you don't obliterate the market. You still get your Dodger fans, your Red Sox fans, your Yankee fans who can't bear to turn off the baseball. You get your football guys who are so tuned in to their football team they don't give a damn about any other sport. Your pressure to watch is less localized.

SILVER: So you get larger ad revenue when you can dominate a market?

STERN: Hah! No. Not larger. But you can still make a lot of money that way, and the difference between a small-market team and a large-market team becomes marginal. You just need to be able to negotiate it right and advertise it correctly. That was O'Brien's lesson, when he left me with that annoying sweep. He wasn't trying to tell me that he was a moron -- he was giving me a difficult argument but giving me the tools to make it. Yes, sweeps aren't great for advertising revenue. But they aren't the end of the world for the broader league. You just need to advertise your historically dominant teams. You need to manufacture publicity around the long win streaks, the incredible intensity, et cetera. You need to ham up the "seventeen titles" angle with the Boston Celtics, even if ten of the titles were skeevy as all get out. You need to learn how to advertise your product.

SILVER: But you didn't.

STERN: No, I didn't. You can take the easy way out and manipulate it. Which I did. It's difficult to give back the power once you've taken hold of it, Adam. Look at the DoJ. Look at Soviet Russia. Look at me. But, that's your choice. O'Brien gave me a choice, and that idiot was smarter than he looked. So, yeah, Adam. I'll leave you Indiana. Pacers vs Spurs! Only on ABC! All the glitz and glamour of a melting glacier. And you'll spend the summer sweating these T.V. negotiations, trying to make the honest argument. Or you'll go into those meetings with your head held high, and four little words that'll grease the wheel and guarantee that NBA money.

SILVER: "It won't happen again."

STERN: Yep. You'll have the power, Adam. You'll have the phone book. You'll have the calls. But me? I won't sweat it. I'll call in Foster and Mauer for one last merry-go-round, and watch one last finals as the man in charge. You mentioned those ten fans who like gritty defensive back-and-forths, didn't you?

SILVER: Yes, sir.

STERN: I'm one of them. Now get back to work, baldie. I've got money to count.

• • •

stern and silver

Fin.

Richard Jefferson, the 40th Greatest Player Ever

richard effortson

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following is a fictional tale. It marks the return of "John", Alex Dewey's alternate reality San Antonio ballboy. This story is set after the recent Golden State win over San Antonio's backups.

I was wandering the halls aimlessly when Richard Jefferson stopped me in the halls to explain something. "John, here's a doozy."

"What is it, RJ? I'm busy," I said. I wasn't even being sincere, I was just being a jerk so he'd hurry up. RJ had a tendency to could go on interminably. Without my terse influence checking him at every turn, that is. "Hurry up, RJ!"

"Frig, okay, so one time they got together this panel of Hall of Famers and league observers to choose the 50 best players of all time."

I had heard of this. "Yep. 50 greatest players of the last 50 years? Yeah, I know all about that. James Worthy was there, but I think someone got snubbed, right? Something like that."

"No, not that one," Richard said, and I immediately grew skeptical. "No, that one was in... like, 1996. I'm talking about 2009, when I was with the Bucks."

"Oh. I don't remember that. So what?"

"I was ranked, like, #40, John." Continue reading

The Jefferson Play, Part I: Negotiation Breakdown

richard jefferson last laugh

The following story is entirely fictional. Any resemblance to persons or situations real or fake is entirely coincidental, and entirely awesome.

Fumbling an ice tray to the ground in the Warriors' break room, the thought struck me: Richard Jefferson must have been frustrated. As Richard is most interesting when frustrated, and as I have an uncanny gift for frustrating him, I smelled opportunity. I unexpectedly tapped Richard on the shoulder with my ice-cold hands and asked (in a deliberately annoying, lilting inflection) "How are you today, R-Jay?"

Though startled, Richard's response immediately convinced me that the end of days was at hand. The first thing I noticed was that Richard's eyes had a cartoonish glint to them, and even his teeth and nails seemed whiter. His skin was childish and immaculate as always, punctuated only by the occasional bump on the noggin received in the course of things. But today there were not even bumps, there were not even doubts: Richard exuded an uncharacteristic confidence as he turned to face me, wiped the proverbial dirt off his shoulder, and drowned out all the haters of the world. To my shock, there was even enthusiasm in his voice as he began one of his stream-of-entirely-reasonable-consciousness rants. "I'm actually doing just fine, John. How are you doing? How are your studies. You are an adolescent, and you know, that means that you must study in school much of the day. I hope you are learning things of import. I was a youngster, too, back in the Reagan Administration..." Jefferson trailed off amicably and smiled with the glee of precisely-aimed self-deprecation that nevertheless left him potent and confident.

I felt like the Grinch when Whoville didn't get all pissed off after someone stole their bikes.

"Why are you okay, RJ? You messed up with the ice tray and then I startled you with my hand. That's not right, RJ."

Richard kept at it. "Haha, whoa, John. You sound mad! Just a little bit, but I can taste it. 'U mad, bro?' I think that, you know, that's what the kids are saying these days, heh."

"Frig." I said clumsily, before receding my eyes at the seemingly reversed roles. I was mad, I thought. I am a basketball journalist that oozes confidence (my holy mantra being "smooth, suave, and sophisticated"), and I have watched Richard with fastidious amusement for four years of his absurdly reasonable demeanor while he unfortunately attempts to play a sport. And now, for once, he is unequivocally happy, and all I can do is stumble over my words in bafflement. So I tried to get an explanation. "I mean, what happened, Richard, did you get an extension? Did Mark Jackson say you were starting? Or maybe not playing at all? I'm never sure what you actually want, heh. Did, like, you find out you're a prodigy at a sport that you're *not* declining at? Did you get three 50-50 balls in a row for the first time in your life? Are you in love?" I asked everything I could think of, each one strangely insulting in its own way.

Richard laughed at all of these suggestions. "No, no, no, and no. None of that happened. You know, I'm still a pretty bad basketball player, all considering," Richard shrugged, still with confidence, "and I'm too reasonable to try other sports that might find me injured, and hence nullify my contract. I mean, definitely I'm still on the downswing. I didn't win any 50-50 balls ("Not even one, Richard?" I thought better than to interject), and I'm not in love. I'm not starting but I will be playing, but not much. Just like before. But," and Richard smiled once again, "I did have quite the recent experience."

"What in God's name happened, Richard? What in God's green Earth happened to provoke this? You know as well as I do that you should not be so happy." and Richard averred this with a shrug.

"Do you really want to know?" Richard asked with an amused look of genuine curiosity. "I mean, I'm not even a front-page player anymore. I won't really get any hits for your blog."

"RJ, I know nothing about what this story is but I will publish it, live, in real time. Just tell me. Please," I begged pathetically, somewhat to my own surprise. Like a dog, I recalled from Kafka.

"Are you sure?" and now Richard Jefferson was mocking me and I wasn't sure how to respond, except to note from the tenor of his voice the only possible explanation.

"Richard Jefferson, did you win at something, finally?"

At this Richard smiled silently.

"You might say that, John," and he began to tell the story. Continue reading

Bonnersanity, the Magic Microwave, and the Raddest Breakfast Ever

Running down an unfamiliar mountain at dawn near his New Hampshire home, Matt Bonner stops suddenly and plots the remainder of his journey down the mountain. Breathing a bit heavily, he spies an uncharacteristically icy grotto. His sense of adventure piqued, Bonner steps into the grotto's entrance. To his astonishment, he notes that the entrance is lined with stringed beads! There might be mountain people living there! Being something of a mountain person himself (he chuckles to himself as he prepares his mountain-man dialect), Bonner steels himself for any sort of encounter. The "room" he enters is rather dark, and a river runs through it, and it is hot and humid like a sauna. Its walls are the mossy rocks of the mountain, its floor a tangle of giant, velour carpets. Feeling his way around the room, Bonner notes statues along the wall that are just mouths and cheeks and throats, invariably bearded. The beard is black and the skin is brown, surprising the lily-white Bonner in the heart of New Hampshire. He makes his way through with just a flashlight and finds another beard statue, now hundreds of feet from the entrance. To Bonner's astonishment, this beard statue seems to be made of different material.

"Hello, Matthew," this beard statue proclaims in a totally indifferent voice. Matt Bonner is not shocked by this at all. Par for the course, Matt Bonner reflects, having seen much stranger things in hermits' mountain grottos.

"Hello, gentle mountain-man," Matt Bonner says diplomatically, "Who is hosting this occasion, and how do you know my name?"

"I am whom they called Gilbert Arenas, Matthew. Now you may address me as Agent Zero, or, Hibachi."

"Hello, Agent Zero. How are you?" Matt Bonner says to his one-time opponent, trying to encourage an atmosphere of trust. Continue reading

Mike Brown Invents an Offense

The internal monologue of Lakers head coach Mike Brown was always full of cuss words. Much like our own spatial universe, the space that Brown's cusses inhabited was both infinite and always expanding. Also extremely confusing. Tonight - after midnight in his busy den - the cuss stream burst audibly from his blowfish-esque brown cheeks. I can't honestly say that I'd fare any better in his dilemma, though. Consider that just weeks earlier, the Lakers had signed Steve Nash, perhaps the greatest floor general that basketball had ever seen. This in addition to the Lakers' franchise player Kobe Bryant, perhaps the most skilled isolation player that basketball had ever seen. In addition, several of the Lakers' cornerstones intimately knew the Triangle Offense, the most successful team offensive concept that basketball had ever seen. The team's four cornerstones (Nash, Bryant, Bynum, Gasol) came from four different countries, four different cultures, and four different skillsets, each a genius of athletic achievement in their own respective ways. Most coaches would be ecstatic at this development.

"That is, until they ran the numbers and figured out what all of that actually means," Brown said joylessly. The task before Mike Brown was monumental, and whatever he decided would require innovation on his part and adaptations for his players. A lot of dismal days of patient frustration lay ahead for the Lakers. Still, with his trademark persistence, all the problems of an NBA offense started to make sense to him over the course of the night, and all the mental jetsam discarded in his den's gigantic novelty royal-blue recycling bin started to look better and better until they became literally reusable in Brown's new sets and schemes. From the white boards, a well-used protractor, and forgotten tomes of Phil Jackson strewn about the study, Mike Brown cussed out an entire offense that night. He wasn't confident at all in what he'd invented, but it would have to do, he supposed. At dawn, drinking some coffee and doing a compulsive ritual before the front door, the inventor of the Circle Offense hurried to a 9am presentation of his offense. Soon, he supposed, the Los Angeles Lakers would have to learn to form the Circle at a moment's notice. Continue reading

Rajon Rondo, the Margin of the Moment

Rajon Rondo sighed as the game reached its inevitable resting point. Down 4 points with 2.2 seconds left, the game was as good as done. As a rule, man's reach exceeds his grasp, Rajon thought, but tonight Rajon knew he had grasped something new. He simply couldn't wait to see how he'd tilted the balance. He walked in the other direction -- towards his locker -- after a half-hearted inbounds pass. Rajon paid no mind to the ball's trajectory, or the remote possibility of a win. The buzzer sounded. It was over. Continue reading

Nothing Ventures, Nothing Gains

The game between the Spurs and the Thunder approached its conclusion. Ritualistically, as he sat on the bench waiting for the buzzer so that he could leave, Richard Jefferson reached a hand over his shoulder and received a piece of paper. He glanced down at the paper, holding his stats for the night: Exactly 24 minutes, 10 points on 8 shots, 4 rebounds, 2 turnovers, 2 personal fouls, 1 assist. Half the game he'd been on the floor in a 20-point loss, and in his 24 minutes on the floor his team had been outscored by 10.

Jefferson smiled at the other stats: all zeros the rest of the way. Every zero Jefferson saw in his statline was like an injection of a mind-shattering drug that sent him to the center of the universe, to the Void. Even the non-zero stats - such as the points, the rebounds, and the assist - were aligned in asymptotically-perfect balance - barring the allowance of fractions into the statsheet, Jefferson had been as neutral as humanly possible in the defeat: He had neither contributed nor been a detriment to his team. He was the Void.

Richard Jefferson was Nothing. Continue reading

Trading Spaces with the Jester and the Knight

With no definite purpose, JaVale McGee stepped heavily upon the March snow that lined the Denver streets. He told his new teammates that he needed a day to himself, to look for houses and neighborhoods. But if you could just see his face -- could follow his gaze as it moved upward to the vague mountainous altitudes in the distance -- you'd never see a glance to a realtor's name or the height of a ceiling.

Now JaVale was walking along a smoothly paved sidewalk. As he walked along the perfectly smooth concrete, JaVale nevertheless felt no surprise at tripping slightly over his feet every fifty paces or so. That was custom for him. But on his brows were gratitude and shock. For despite all his customary tripping, he hadn't yet fallen and scraped his knees. This was something new. Continue reading

Mike Brown and Mike Woodson Talk Shop

At the deadline on Thursday, the Spurs made a trade for Stephen Jackson that also ended the Richard Jefferson era. I started writing and seriously covering what the Spurs were doing right around the original RJ-to-San-Antonio trade in the summer of 2009. After an seemingly endless series of varying horrible and decent pieces, I finally "broke through" with some quality pieces that winter. The following piece - written in January 2010, to an audience consisting solely of Aaron and myself - is probably my favorite. It tells of the story of Richard Jefferson's off-season courting by Mike Brown (who was coaching LeBron's Cavs at the time) and his doppelganger coach of the Hawks, Mike Woodson.

I was reading SLAM tonight, and I came across the following passage, in which Hawks coach Mike Woodson addresses his team before an important Mavs road game:

“...I don’t give a shit about the offense; you guys can score more than enough points to win games. The offense isn’t the problem. But you have to get stops on defense, and if you’ll listen to what we’re telling you, I promise you’ll get stops. The shit works, okay? The shit works, but you guys just have to have the pride and the heart to buy into it and do what we’re asking you to do every time down the court.”

Reading this reminded me of a little-known incident a few years back. Almost immediately after the 2009 Finals, Milwaukee small forward Richard Jefferson was being scouted for a possible trade to either the Cavs or the Hawks. Jefferson therefore had to make two private appointments with the head coaches of those teams, Mike Brown and Mike Woodson. Continue reading