As our summer mainstay, Aaron's writing a 370-part series discussing almost every notable player who was -- as of last season -- getting minutes in the NBA. Intent is to get you talking, thinking, and appreciating the myriad of wonderful folks who play in our favorite sports league. Today we continue with Patty Mills, Kris Humphries, and James Anderson.
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Follow Patty Mills on Twitter at @Patty_Mills.
While most people have heard the word "aboriginal" before, not everyone knows exactly what it means. Let's explain with a short history. Aboriginal refers to indigenous Australians -- essentially, the aboriginal people are to Australia what the Native Americans are to America and what the Aztec civilization was to central Mexico. They were there before Australia became Great Britain's puzzling dumping ground for the worst criminals they could find. Just as Britain brought European plagues like measles, smallpox, and tuberculosis to America when they settled, so too did they bring the same to Australia -- throughout the 19th century, non-native disease was the primary cause of death among the aboriginal people. Gradually, the European settlers took over Australia, slowly pinching the water supply and the land ownership of the aboriginals -- although they nominally had the right to vote, in practice those of aboriginal descent were denied a vote unless they renounced their culture and joined the "mainstream" of Australian culture. And then, the kicker. The Stolen Generations.
There's so much we don't know about the process -- how many were taken, how many were killed, why exactly it happened. There are theories. The Stolen Generations resulted from the codified removal of children from aboriginal households -- after the Aboriginal Protection Act of 1869 (a positively Orwellian twist of the tongue, given the content of the legislation), tens of thousands of aboriginal children were forcibly removed from their homes and placed in group homes, orphanages, and Catholic-run boarding schools. The children were told by and large that their parents "didn't want them" -- in practice, this was a lie. The manner in which children were taken was unbelievably barbaric and cruel -- often rending the children from their mother's arms and driving away without looking back. The authorities kept lacking documentation, as well -- when the act finally was repealed in the 1960s, it was found that piecing together the lives of many removed children was essentially impossible. The parents weren't always kept track of, sometimes keeping even their first names out of the records of the stolen child. Children's names were regularly changed once they were removed, and oftentimes never changed back to their former surname.
In America, no matter our political affiliation, we tend to think of both sides of our politicians as having perfected the denial of facts and legitimate argument to a level no other country could reach. I think many Australians would disagree, especially those sympathetic to the plight of Australia's indigenous people -- there's a massive faction of the Australian Conservative Party that simply refuses to accept that children were removed without just cause. They outright deny it, bluster about it, and refuse to accept that historical events actually occurred. Or, if they choose to accept it, they call into question the idea that there was any malicious intent, or actively question whether forcibly removing 10-20% of all children from their natural homes properly constitutes a "generation." I really hate America's political system, and I can't stand the ideologues on both sides. I can't cut corners, though -- the outright denial of Australia's historical atrocities among large factions of their right-wing party really bugs me. I mean REALLY bugs me. I just find it actively insane -- it's as though every man in the U.S. Senate was Trent Lott, or as though occasional bills get pushed through congress questioning whether the trail of tears actually happened. It rubs me the wrong way.
So. What all does this have to do with Patty Mills? Well, the story of the stolen generation is a very personal one for Mills -- in fact, his own mother was taken from her family at the age of two. Mills doesn't talk about this aspect of his history often, but when he does, there's a definite sense of venom and disgust in the way he addresses it. And as he says in the above-linked article, Mills carries a massive chip on his shoulder. He knows that an entire side of his family never got to watch him play, and he thinks he represents more beyond the Australian flag. As Mills once said, "not only do I wave the Australian flag, but I wave both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander [flags as well] and that's something that means more to me than most things." He represents more than simply another of the many Australian players in the NBA -- he's become something of a national icon, one of the country's most famous basketball players. He was the star of the Australian national team, and every step Mills takes to become more and more of a globally recognized player is that much more of a step forward for Australian race relations, a step forward for good families, and a step past this dark chapter in Australian history.
As for his game? I've kind of written myself into a corner where I can't talk a ton about it, but I can mention a few things. First, while he's emphatically a backup guard in the NBA, that's not for lack of talent. Mills is a gifted scorer, combining a highly efficient three point stroke with an excellent touch from the free throw line and an incredible amount of hustle across the court. His problems? Far too many turnovers -- although he's a relatively gifted passer, he sometimes will go for incredible highlight plays over the smart pass, and he often gets burned. Under Nate McMillan in Portland, he didn't really get the chance to make mistakes. If he turned the ball over or fouled (which he did often), Nate would pull him immediately -- Coach Pop was a bit less inclined to do so, giving him more regular minutes in the regular season. Mills impressed enough that the Spurs brought him back on a fair, million-per-year deal -- he'll be the Spurs primary backup point guard in the 2013 season, assuming Pop moves Neal to his natural spot at the two guard and Nando spends some time with the Toros. If Mills impresses, it's likely he'll be brought back as long as he's on a fair contract. Excited to see it.
The reason I discussed the stolen generations aspect so much in this capsule is two-fold. First, I think it's a story that very few people know about and that should be more commonly known. Second, I think it's actively amazing to look at Patty Mills -- by all accounts a stand-up, incredibly great guy -- and take a moment to think about his upbringing. How his mother was one of the stolen generations, and his father was a native of the Torrey Straits Islands. Consider the fact that the Aboriginal Removal Act was explicitly meant to prevent people like Patty Mills from ever existing. After all -- an aboriginal mother AND father? That's exactly what the act was trying to prevent. Mills grew up in a loving, supportive family -- the basketball league he played in during his youth, the "Shadows", was actually established by his parents in an effort to bring the game to the indigenous people. It was the first basketball club in the country that brought the game to aboriginals. It's amazing to watch Mills play and realize how much love, care, and hardship had to be overcome to get Mills to the place he's at now. It's a testament to the human spirit and the love of a good family. When I watch Patty Mills, this all tends to be at the back of my mind. Even on the Portland Trailblazers I found it impossible to root against Patty, even if the Blazers were playing a team I liked more -- Patty is that kind of a guy, and one of the most likeable people in the NBA besides. Who else makes commercials for charity that are as awesome as this one? Am I the only one who cannot at all wait for Patty to appear in an H.E.B. advertisement?
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Follow Kris Humphries on Twitter at @KrisHumphries.
Alright. Here's my problem with Kris Humphries. It's a somewhat well-known fact that I went to Duke. It's a lesser known fact that I graduated with my degree in three years, and if they'd kept me from graduating in three years, I probably would've transferred elsewhere. While I met a lot of people I liked at Duke, and had a few cliques of friends I hung out with from time to time (between work and overload classes and TAing and such), I also met a veritable flood of people I simply couldn't stand at all. Most people know the type -- they're the people that everyone thinks of when Duke comes to mind. The frat-stars, the sorority obsessives, the ladder climbers so obsessed with self advancement that they refuse to respect anyone around them as more than a tool to climb the social ladder. I met a lot of people like that at Duke, and they tended to mar my Duke experience a bit. (As did the administration, but that's a story for another day.)
Anyway. I know a lot of people that fit this archetype, and unfortunately for Kris Humphries, that's exactly how he comes across. There's this strangely decided air of superiority -- it comes from the media, partly, and how he carries himself. This sense that Kris Humphries is better than everyone around him, and that he's accomplished every single thing he's done in his life without the help of a single person. This faint shadow of a sneer, this strange glint to his stare, this strange overhanging fog of belittlement hanging over his words. Is Humphries really that bad? I have absolutely no idea. Seriously. That reality show he was on? Didn't watch it, at all. I don't keep up with the tabloid drama between Humphries and Kardashian, so I'm really not qualified to talk about that stuff. Essentially my only "interaction" with Humphries comes at the impersonal level -- how Humphries composes himself on the court, how his game is designed, how he tends to operate in his postgame interviews. And I simply don't like what I see. It's nothing personal, really, it's just a vibe. Call it a Fratty Radar if you like -- a Frat-Dar, if you won't. (Shoulda just called it fratty radar, huh?)
As for his game, as I said -- while he composes himself in sort of a douchey way, his game only contributes to my general distaste for the man. Humphries has never met a weakside assignment he could properly cover, and he's never met a rebound he wouldn't get out of position to try and get. Against Humphries, you may not be able to get a rebound from him, but it doesn't really matter -- if you're the man he's guarding, you probably are going to get 5 or 6 open shots in the game, if not more. He doesn't get out of rebounding position to help on defense, which would be fine if he was next to a help-friendly big man that covered up his defensive failings like Bismack Biyombo, Tyson Chandler, or Marcus Camby. He's not. He's next to Brook Lopez, a center essentially allergic to the concept of help defense. There's a reason the Nets have been one of the worst defenses in the league since Williams came over, and it's not that Williams is a poor defender at his position -- even when Lopez was healthy and providing a modicum of support down low (as I'll discuss in the Lopez capsule), they were still playing no-help Humphries big minutes. His rebounding is impressive, no doubt, and the way he's reined in his errant shots since the 201o season is admirable. But I'm not going to pretend I really appreciate his game. He's a no-defense rebounding beast who's finally stopped taking that many bad shots. His rebounding is good enough to make him a starter, and now that he's reined in his broken shot, he's finally a good enough scorer to deserve starter's minutes. Is he worth $12 million a year, with defense like that? Heck no. And would I like seeing him on a team I root for?
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Follow James Anderson on Twitter at @25_Anderson.
This might end up being one of the shortest capsules yet, simply because I don't know what to say about Anderson. If I had to pick my least-favorite Spur, he'd probably edge out Gary Neal by a hair -- his agent has repeatedly said he wanted the Spurs to cut Anderson, and that does sort of leave a bad taste in my mouth. I realize Pop doesn't give Anderson many minutes, but Pop has shown many times that if you contribute in practice and work hard on your game, you'll get time. He's had two years in the Spurs system, with access to the same shooting coaches that rehabilitated Kawhi Leonard's broken three point shot, Duncan's late-career elbow jumper, and a myriad of other successful projects. The same system that's produced so many success stories with players that displayed his general skillset. The best coach in the game, the greatest mentors a player could ask for, an excellent front office with a knack for getting a good deal for the player. And yet... his agent publicly asked the Spurs to drop him, so he could get picked up by a lottery team and get more minutes. (Big Chris Kaman move, bro.)
It's one thing to ask for a trade, it's another to make the trade request public and ruin your team's ability to flip you for an asset. Is it a business? Sure. Is there anything actively wrong about what Anderson did? Not at all. But there's a certain sense of entitlement in some NBA players, like they simply deserve minutes because of their draft spot or their perceived talent. If I could talk to Anderson, I'd try to figure out what makes him tick -- what reason would the Spurs have to give him minutes, with how he's played so far? He hasn't shown any defensive ability in the major leagues (a shame, because before he came up I figured him to be a defensive plus at Oklahoma State), he's been an absolutely abhorrent shooter, he's been a turnover machine even playing in garbage time, and he didn't even play all that well in the D-League (averaging an impressive 15-5-2... but doing it on 44% shooting and 34% from beyond the arc.) The Spurs were contending for a title last year. Where, exactly, did they have room for a player like Anderson? Why make it public? How was that supposed to make Anderson more palatable to other teams, who knew immediately they could wait until the offseason and sign him outright? I just don't get it. I was higher on Anderson before last season's disappointment. But his early-career stress fracture in his foot seems to have derailed his career something fierce, and while the potential he once showed is still there, his eschewing of the opportunity to play a small role on a well-constructed development-focused contender in favor of playing a ton of minutes on a lottery team doesn't seem like a good omen for the future. Sorry, Anderson. Not a good look.
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At the end of each post, I'll be scribing riddles for the next group. Whoever gets the most right will get a shout out at the end of the next post. Tweet me your answers at @docrostov, or post them in the comments. Commenter Mike got a 3/3 last Friday -- nice guessing, Mike! Let's go Jeopardy style for today's riddles.
- A former beantown favorite, Player #106 was as prototypical a Celtic as you can get.
- Most famous for a soul-crushing dunk, Player #107 is absolutely infamous in the Toronto area.
- The original NBA Jewish-dude, though Player #108's rings may be responsible for that.