Player Capsules 2012, #328-330: Marquis Daniels, O.J. Mayo, Delonte West

As our summer mainstay, Aaron was writing a 370-part series discussing almost every notable player who was -- as of last season -- getting minutes in the NBA. As the summer dies down and the leaves turn, this quixotic quest of a series has happily reached the last third. But it's certainly not done yet! Today we continue with Marquis Daniels, O.J. Mayo, and Delonte West. Continue reading

Player Capsule (Plus): Kyrie Irving -- Showman, Structure, Star

“Mighty is geometry; joined with art, resistless." -- Euripides

On November 23rd, 2010, the Duke Blue Devils obliterated the Kansas State Wildcats by a score of 82-68. The game was hardly as close as the score makes it seem. It was a really impressive victory -- the Blue Devils (then ranked #1) were playing against a #4 ranked Kansas State team that featured player-of-the-year candidate Jacob Pullen, one of the most electric scorers in the college game and among the best shooters in the country. The Blue Devils were favored in the game, but only by the slimmest of margins and most thought it essentially a road game for Duke despite the neutral site locale. It was thought of as a given that Pullen would drop 20-30 on a permissive Duke perimeter defense, helmed by rookies and youngsters that hadn't quite grasped Krzyzewski's defensive system yet.

Not quite. Pullen shot 1-12 for 4 points, posting what may have been his worst game as a collegiate athlete. And Kyrie Irving? The 18-year-old jitterbug was phenomenal. Beyond phenomenal. A revolution, a revelation, a reincarnation of all that's good in basketball. A vertical Rothko in three shades of blue, disrupting almost every single shot Pullen took and making everything he touched work better. He even had a poor shooting night, missing his two threes and numerous wide-open jump shots off his pet pick and roll sets. It didn't matter. He still dominated. Nothing he did in that game was anything short of a wonder. He had four games of college experience. Four. He was facing one of the greatest scorers in the history of the college game, in his first true away game as a pro. He had jitters, as he later admitted, but it simply didn't matter -- sometimes you're just too good for jitters.

After the game, what was the topic of conversation? It wasn't really about Irving at all. Some highlights, some features, some general pats on the back for a game well-performed. But little focus on how dominant Irving was in the contest, because that simply isn't how Duke teams are traditionally understood -- instead, commentators sprung for the usual well-worn cliches, continuing to beat the drum on the idea that Duke was the most talented team in basketball and nobody was really anywhere close. Unbeknownst to most at the time, this wasn't true. At all. Without Irving, the 2011 Duke Blue Devils were a lacking bunch with scant cohesion, flawed chemistry, and a tenuous grasp of the defensive end of the court -- and even Nolan Smith's flukishly-good season didn't obscure that once Irving went down. By the time he came back at the end of the year, the 2011 Blue Devils had been exposed as something of a fraud, and Irving was relegated to being an everyday Duke player -- good, decent, and maybe a perennial all-star. Perhaps. With his dominance forgotten, his flaws overstated, and his game misunderstood, people continued to assert rank inferiority of a draft class that's ended up being (potentially) quite a bit better than the 2 or 3 that came before it. And Kyrie Irving sat, in wait, ready to be the transformative player that he knew full well he'd be.

Can you be a star when they don't know who you are?

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Player Capsules 2012, #325-327: Kyrie Irving, Wesley Matthews, J.J. Redick

As our summer mainstay, Aaron was writing a 370-part series discussing almost every notable player who was -- as of last season -- getting minutes in the NBA. As the summer dies down and the leaves turn, this quixotic quest of a series has happily reached the last third. But it's certainly not done yet! Today we continue with Kyrie Irving, Wesley Matthews, and J.J. Redick. Continue reading

Player Capsules 2012, #322-324: Sundiata Gaines, Marcus Thornton, Martell Webster

As our summer mainstay, Aaron was writing a 370-part series discussing almost every notable player who was -- as of last season -- getting minutes in the NBA. As the summer dies down and the leaves turn, this quixotic quest of a series has happily reached the last third. But it's certainly not done yet! Today we continue with Sundiata Gaines, Marcus Thornton, and Martell Webster. Continue reading

Player Capsule (Plus): Kobe Bryant and the Memories of Man

War does not require bombshells and brigadiers. It does not require bloodshed and hardship. War requires a single thing -- conflict. Overwhelming conflict, traditionally between two large bodies composed of untold masses of souls lining up obediently for the cause. That's all. We don't need two large bodies to have a war. All we really need is a single large body and a small group of rebelling forces with enough pesky guile to incite the larger body to make war. That's it. Perhaps you'd think this new type of war implies a recent phenomenon. One that rose with the advent of terrorism, small cell resistance groups, weapons of mass destruction.

That would be wrong. It's not new at all.

Warfare of the second type -- a large body against a smaller, self-sufficient group -- has always been a factor in society, and always will be. And not in the way you think. Weapons of mass destruction have always been ambling about -- the nuclear bomb is the belated antecedent of weaponized knowledge. Destruction can be wrought from grim dictate of the pen and the rogue idea, in the hands of a brutal tyrant or a careless fool. The biological weapon is a diseased form of an idealist's contagion. The terrorist is the next step in the artist who uses their words to incite fear and loathing among the sycophants who follow. These weapons began with the advent of independent thought. Their rule can be cruel and unusual. The tyranny of a good idea can -- and has -- ruled the world in its history. More than any one man could ever hope to achieve. Continue reading

Player Capsules 2012, #319-321: Mike Dunleavy, Rip Hamilton, Kobe Bryant

As our summer mainstay, Aaron was writing a 370-part series discussing almost every notable player who was -- as of last season -- getting minutes in the NBA. As the summer dies down and the leaves turn, this quixotic quest of a series has happily reached the last third. But it's certainly not done yet! Today we continue with Mike Dunleavy, Rip Hamilton, and Kobe Bryant. Continue reading

Stern vs Popovich: Little White Lies and a League of Stars

Gregg Popovich acted in bad faith in resting his starters the way he did. Pop should have been more discreet and subtle about sitting his four best players. The message here isn't that teams can't rest players. They can, and they will. But be discreet about it. Be smart about it. Communicate it. And show some concern for the sometimes futile, often unfair exercise known as the NBA regular season, without which no championships can be won and no dynasties formed.

This is an attempt at summarizing the general point against Coach Popovich's decision. It's a set of arguments that deserves examination, both on their numerous merits and faults. Ken Berger's piece is an excellent summation -- "keep up appearances" even if it is slightly dishonest. You can tank, but dear god, don't say you're tanking. Don't say you're taking nights off and that the plane has already left for San Antonio. Keep them around, report an injury, keep it hush-hush. When I read the tone of this general argument, I disagreed fundamentally and didn't quite know why. Sure, Berger's tone in certain passages serves to undermine his argument to the casual reader (For instance... "But let's play along for a moment, shall we? Let's play along better than the Spurs did." What? How is that anything other than inflammatory?) But it's an overall solid take on the situation, and one that you can't ignore. Continue reading

Small Market Mondays #5: Sanctimonious Sanctions

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!"

"This was an unacceptable decision by the San Antonio Spurs and substantial sanctions will be forthcoming."

That's what commissioner David Stern had to say before fining the San Antonio Spurs a quarter of a million dollars because the best coach in the NBA, Gregg Popovich, rested his stars on a long road trip. Yes, that's right, resting your older players is an unacceptable decision in the eyes of Mr. Stern. But overstepping his bounds and vetoing a trade that both team GMs involved approved? Sure, why not, that happens all the time! But it's alright, the Hornets got the 1st pick in the draft after the trade got vetoed -- you know, the draft for which the choosing of the order takes place behind closed doors and isn't shown to anyone but people on the NBA payroll. Continue reading

Player Capsules 2012, #316-318: Brendan Haywood, Klay Thompson, Landry Fields

As our summer mainstay, Aaron was writing a 370-part series discussing almost every notable player who was -- as of last season -- getting minutes in the NBA. As the summer dies down and the leaves turn, this quixotic quest of a series has happily reached the last third. But it's certainly not done yet! Today we continue with Brendan Haywood, Klay Thompson, and Landry Fields. Continue reading

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