The Outlet 2.01: "Easter passed, though."

As advertised in our Prognosti-ranking series, we're bringing our formerly retired series of daily vignettes -- titled "The Outlet" -- back for the playoffs. "Don't call it a comeback." Though, you can call it series 2, as we are in the title. Every day, we'll try to share two or three short vignettes from our collective of writers ruminating on the previous day's (or weekend's) events. In this case, the previous few days. Should be a fun time. Today's introductory Outlet covers the first weekend of playoff action, and includes the following two pieces on the Grizzlies/Clippers opener and the Mavericks/Thunder opener.

  • "A New Easter Sunday for Christopher Paul" by Aaron McGuire
  • "Building a Legacy, one Bounce at a Time" by Jacob Harmon

For more, click the jump. Continue reading

Prognosti-Ranking the 2012 Playoffs: Part II

Continuing from Part I of this series, I’m going to prognosticate which teams will be the best in the playoffs. I started from the predicted worst first-round out, and I'm going to go all the way to the team I think will raise the Larry O’Brien this year. Thus, a prognosticated ranking. A... prognostirank! (I’m still bad at words.) For each team, I’ll do my interpretation of why they should be higher than they are, and why they should be lower than they are. Yesterday, I went over teams 16 to 11. On with part two of our preview, from the 10th best projected team to the 6th best -- in other words, the two best first round losers, and all but the best of our projected second round losers.
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Prognosti-Ranking the 2012 Playoffs: Part I

I wasn't entirely sure how we should do playoff previews here at the Gothic. I knew how they were going to start, with Thursday's piece about the New Orleans Hornets and how one of my fondest wishes was that there was one underdog in the 2012 playoffs that approached the contest with the dedication and grit with which the Hornets approached their doomed season. That's a start, but certainly not a finish -- I do have picks, after all, and opinions as well. I tried to think of original ways to present my picks, and settled upon this not-particularly-creative way to do it. Here's what I'll do. I'm going to prognosticate which teams will be the best in the playoffs, starting from the predicted worst first-round out to the team I think will raise the Larry O'Brien this year. So, a prognosticated ranking. A prognostirank. (I'm bad at words.) For each team, I'll do my interpretation of why they should be higher than they are, and why they should be lower than they are. Not particularly original, I realize, but it gave me a platform to share my oh-so-dear opinions, and hopefully, it'll be of interest to you guys. On with part one of our preview, from the 16th worst projected team to the 11th worst. Continue reading

Maturity, Tanking, and Ideas of Consequence

The most telling sign of maturity is to accept the consequences of our actions, whether those consequences are accidental or essential to the nature of the action. Since it's generally hard to deny the essential consequences of our actions (if you steal something or assault someone, you are pretty much by definition hurting the victims), most immaturity takes the form of denying the accidental consequences. "I meant to <steal from, scare them, block them> them, yes, but I never wanted it to get out of hand like this. They weren't supposed to <move into the path of the knife, retailiate, faint, etc.>," is the essential refrain of the immature, and as we get older it becomes more and more unsympathetic. We all take risks in life, and owning the negative accidents of those risks is just as important as owning the negative essence of those risks.

This definition of maturity also applies to the accidental and essential consequences of our words, systems, and ideologies. In the recent NFL bounty scandal, Gregg Williams and the Saints were wrong because their actions had essentially negative intentions and consequences. To use a phrase from our deceased Guru, the Saints were "violating, straight up and down," the spirit of professional athletics. There is no excuse -- even in a violent sport like football -- to hurt players intentionally in structural ways. You try to win, and you try to play hard (even if inflicting pain in the short-term is part of that). But the second you try to hurt someone structurally you become an assailant, little different from a common criminal. Continue reading

God Bless our Sovereign Hornets

You'd think, in our introductory post of the Gothic Ginobili playoff preview series, I'd be talking about the overall composition of playoff defenses and playoff offenses. Something about coaching, perhaps? A look at the matchups at hand. Some interesting statistical tidbits, some oddities that keep us intrigued. A look at how past champions did? Aging metrics? A mournful introduction to a disturbing fictional take on the situation by Alex or Jacob? The possibilities are endless. Must be one of those. ... Well. You'd think. But you'd be wrong.

It's Hornets time, folks. Continue reading

Not Six, Not Seven, Maybe One: Revisiting Miami's Future

In 2008, the Boston Celtics won an NBA title. They won it on the backs of three aging all-stars players, an excellent coach, and a killer defensive system. In subsequent years, the surrounding pieces changed, but the team continued to contend far past their star trio's refreshingly crisp salad days of yore into the significantly-more-wilted salad days of today. Entering this year’s playoffs, the Celtics are playing extremely well. They may have one last title run left in them, though it'll certainly take some luck. That said? Very few would honestly say they can see the Celtics keeping their team together next year. They'll have cap room if they give up some of their stars, and it IS a business -- it's unlikely that this year's Boston team returns for another go-around, no matter how successful their swan song.

In 2010, the Miami Heat won an NBA offseason. This too you may have heard about. They were able to keep their home-grown finals MVP and add to that a young and versatile all-star finesse large forward and the reigning two-time MVP -- by most accounts, one of the greatest basketball players on the planet. Like the 2008 Celtics, the 2011 Heat got to the NBA finals in their first year as a dynasty-by-design. Unlike the 2008 Celtics, they didn’t win. They of course have their own advantages, though, not least of which the mysterious allure of the unknown. As everyone’s quick to note, the stars assembled in Miami are significantly younger than the ones that set up shop in Boston. Their time together will be larger than that of the Celtics’ big three, if they care to keep it going. Given that, and the fact thatMiami’s stars are (in a general sense) better basketball players thanBoston’s, wouldn’t one have to expect greater things from their collective? Not necessarily. That may be our expectations, but having seen this team for two years, I’m of the view we’re approaching a full-scale revision of the generally understood “ceiling” of this Miami team. Here's why.

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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

Help Us Save Hardwood Paroxysm: a Bloggissist's Plea

EDIT: Call off the dogs. Matt was able to recover everything after a lot of hard work. We can stop cache-hunting now -- although I have to state that I'm pretty impressed we were able to collect over 525 posts in the email inbox of our cache-dump email account. Excellent crowdsourcing. Sorry it ended up being unnecessary, but had the website been unable to be recovered, it was pretty important that we get things from the cache before the caches expired. Thanks to everyone who was a part of this, and my apologies for anyone who feels it was a waste of time.

I woke up today and went to Hardwood Paroxysm, intending to look up an old piece I read every now and then for inspiration. Imagine my surprise when I found, well... nothing. I immediately checked Twitter and heard the news -- server got hacked, entire blog was deleted, things looked grim. Very sad story. I've actually had limited experience trying to recover lost websites before. Specifically, I had a forum I ran in high school whose website was unexpectedly wiped. We tried to save as many posts as we could, but we didn't get much. Most of it (including the tales of Spiderdude, a bro-ified Spiderman knock-off that only a high schooler like me would find funny) was lost to the endless ether of the internet. In trying to recover everything, though, I became at least a little more knowledgable in figuring out how to go about recovering a site when the server-side data unexpectedly vanishes. To the uninitiated, here are two key points to keep in mind.

  • Caches have everything. ... Sort of. There are three main cache servers that spider virtually everything on the web and keep records for varying lengths of time. Google, Yahoo, and the Wayback Machine are my three mainstays -- there are quite a lot more, but those tend to have everything you need (with the others coming into play only later in the process). The process of accessing files cached by Google is simple -- you search for something, hover over it, then click on the "Cached" link that comes up on the right side of the page. As seen below, on the far right side of the image.

  • Time is of the essence. This is why I say "sort of." Caches have a catch. They've got a relatively quick churn rate, and because of this, a webpage that no longer exists only stays cached in Google for a limited amount of time. The time varies based on how popular the website is -- I'm not sure what the algorithm is, exactly, but after a certain amount of time if the webpage no longer exists the Google cache picks up on it and removes the file. The Wayback machine doesn't work like that, however, it picks up historical data quite a bit less often than the Google/Yahoo caches. So it may not be as useful for this exercise.

Why is this relevant? We can still backup Hardwood Paroxysm. There are two ways we can do this -- either through sifting through the RSS feeds of people who don't delete old articles, or by downloading articles based on cache data. I've already started the second process, but given the incredible amount of material amassed by the Hardwood Paroxysm crew, there's absolutely no way I can do it alone. And that's where you come in. After the jump, I outline the ways that you can help save Hardwood Paroxysm's archives and preserve the content of one of the best basketball blogs to ever grace the web. Let's get to it. Continue reading

HoopIdea: the Incurable Abyss of Gamesmanship

One of the many tiny, awesome moments in this NBA season came when a team was making intentional off-the-ball fouls on DeAndre Jordan. It was one of those all too familiar "Hack-A-Shaq" moments where everyone stopped and shrugged their shoulders. The announcers slyly analyzed the strategy and talked about the free throw shooter's form and psychology. The audience grimaced at the spectacle. But -- meeting a dismal wall with a force of light -- Chris Paul used this moment to out-think the universe. See, just as the intentional foul on Jordan occurred, Chris Paul (manning the point and far beyond the top of the key) shot an insane, improbable 40-footer. Do I even need to specify? It was good.

I love that. I mean, I've watched a lot of basketball and I'd never seen that, at least when the foul was so blatantly intentional. In one stroke CP3, a preternaturally cerebral and gifted player, used his fantastic shooting ability to more than neutralize -- to actively punish -- the absurdity of Hack-A-Shaq with an equally absurd rejoinder. Unfortunately, the officials -- probably with the same puzzlement as everyone else -- didn't give Paul the benefit of a four-point play for his teammate to finish and Jordan simply went to the line. I'm pretty sure the sheer novelty of Paul's actions were the only reason they didn't get an and-one. In any case, every off-ball foul I've ever seen that was called during a made basket has led to an and-one. This one didn't. But the silent rebellion of a superstar against the most commonly dismal strategic ploy in the book remained. Continue reading

Stephon Marbury: the Riddle, the Wolf, the Champion

When I was 16, I wrote an "essay" that I locked away for a year without reading. It was a stream of consciousness ramble a la Joyce that went on for a good 5,000 or more words before I cut myself off and went to sleep. The intent was to strike brilliance through a mental dump of everything on my mind. Had to be something in there I wasn't accessing, right? Like many other teenagers who thought they were something special, I looked back a year later and realized that I'd failed miserably. There was no humor and no intelligence at play -- it was worthless fluff in every extent of the word. I eventually figured out why. I used to be an extremely uninteresting person. I remain that way, to an extent. Back then I was a teenager who buried himself in work and barely got out of the house. I am now an adult who buries himself in work and barely gets out of the house. The depth of my experience was skin deep. I wouldn't describe myself as that anymore, as I've lived a lot in the last few years, but I'm well aware that if I tried to do a Joycean mind dump today, it'd probably be almost as boring. My delusions are gone.

But if you want to employ a Joycean mind-dump successfully, there are one or two things you need. You don't need writing talent, really -- you can be an awful writer and still succeed at it, if you follow these two prescriptions. First, you need to be interesting by your very nature. You need to be a person who seeks out interesting experiences. Second, you need to be smart enough to have too much on your mind to properly organize. Joyce is engaging precisely because he combines an inordinately large depth of experience with an inordinately large capacity for random facts and subject-matter knowledge that most people simply don't have. Ulysses wouldn't be interesting if Joyce hadn't spent his life seeking out experiences. And it wouldn't be interesting if he wasn't incredibly smart. Because he's both, it works. I don't think I'll ever be able to approach Joyce's level of experience with the human condition, nor do I think I'll ever be smart enough to unconsciously frame it if I did.

So, all that said, I'd like to talk about Stephon Marbury. Continue reading