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!
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The State of The Small Market Union (Sponsored by The Memphis School of Modern Dance)
As they always do, small markets are dominating the NBA standings right now. In the east, small-market Indiana currently sits atop the leaderboard of teams-that-aren't-Miami, known in some circles as the NBA's "sacrificial lambs." Not much sacrificial about THESE lambs, folks! ... you know, unless you're referring to the likelihood that the Eastern Conference Playoffs are a brutal slaughter where Miami obliterates three terrible teams in a row by margins heretofore unseen by man. Because that's probably going to happen. Wait, THAT'S what that phrase means? Oh, blast it, I always thought people were literally talking about human sacrifice. Leave it to McGuire to mistake jokes for reality. Classic. Looks like I'm gonna need to call my lawyer.
In the western conference, we have a veritable small-market choke-hold on the top two seeds of the playoffs from Oklahoma City and San Antonio, two small townships whose collective population could fit in a 1,951,725 person thimble. I'm... I'm really not sure what sort of a factory would actually produce that thimble, and that's actually a terrifying thought, but that's a question for another time. Meanwhile, the race for the 3rd seed is a classic big-medium-small showdown between small-market Memphis, medium-market Denver, and big-market Los Angeles. Currently Denver is up one game on Memphis and a half a game on Los Angeles, with Memphis sporting the hardest remaining schedule and Los Angeles locked into a top-4 seed by dint of playing in one of the worst divisions in the game. Here's hoping the Grizzlies tough it out, yeah?
Also, it really makes sense that the Pacific is struggling so much. You can't have that much legalized big-market California chronic without it eventually ruining basketball. We all know Ice Cube's immortal words that are only tangentially related to this situation, after all! "It's ironic, Joe had the brew and Gavin's chronic / Seattle stole the SuperSonics." Really insightful young man, that Ice Cube. That wasn't the only time he predicted something well in advance. Just look at a few unreleased lyrics from Ice Cube's rarely-heard underground followup to "It Was A Good Day", aptly titled "It Was Not A Very Good Day":
Did you know, that in the future
Billy Mays will die someday and it will tear out my sutures
Also Steve Irwin will get stabbed by some fool stingray
Also Chuck Hagel will get confirmed for Defense Sec-Re-Tarr-Eee but not without casulat-ays
OK what am I even doing this is beyond terrible why can't I write anything anymore
what is happening to me
Sperry's Space Stuff presents: "Rocketing To The Top!" Chandler Parsons MVP Watch
I'm torn. The general point of this feature is to highlight the REAL MVPs, the players who "understand their limitations" by covering up their inherent MVP stylings and stop shooting the ball in order to give their teammates something to be proud of. That's what Glorious Small-Market Generalissimo Alex Arnon would've wanted, I think. Chandler Parsons -- although originally a brilliant choice for this award -- may have reached an uncomfortable point in his career. That point? He's too good to be a small-market MVP. Parsons is currently averaging 18-4-3 over the month of March, shooting 50-45-76 on 13 shots a game. That's ridiculous! Parsons fits all of the other criterion for this award well. He's dashing, he's funny, and he's currently making less than one-tenth the Gross Domestic Product of the island nation of Tuvalu (their GDP is $37 million, so, he's making less than $3.7 million). But he's losing track of the name of the game, and he's performing too good to be the real small-market MVP. That brings me to you, readers. Who should be featured in the season-ending spate of incoming small-market MVPs? Criterion include, as I just mentioned...
- His salary must be less than $3.7 million (that is, less than one-tenth of Tuvalu's GDP.)
- He plays in one of the 10 smallest markets in the league (define small yourself -- it's fungible).
- His stats must indicate a player deferring much of his talent for the good of the team (except for rebounds, hustle, and assists).
Help us out, readers! Leave ideas in the comments below.
Small Market Mondays Game of the Night: MEMPHIS AT WASHINGTON
This particular match-up on the trusty Washington gridiron pits against one another two teams that are small market mainstays for different reasons. For Memphis, they're a small market the traditional way -- they're a team in a hilariously small market. Memphis isn't quite as small as San Antonio or Oklahoma City, but don't mistake that distinction for large-market wares. The city's main attraction is a daily tradition colloquially known as the "Peabody Ducks" -- every morning, five ducks march into the fountain in the Peabody Hotel to the sound of John Philip Sousa's King Cotton March. Then, every evening, the ceremony is reversed and the ducks march back to their rooftop home. I thought attraction was ridiculous enough that it had to be completely made up, but it's not. It's been going on since the 1930s. Let me drop the airs for a second, here: if "ducks marching in a hotel" ranks as one of your town's primary attractions, you're a small-market hero to me.
As for Washington, they're small-market by attrition. The District of Columbia is a pretty large market, if you're only looking at size -- but the team's been so comically bad for so long that they've just sort of transformed into an NBA small-market team. Thanks, world! Welcome to the big-time, Washington. This game should be pretty fun, given that the Wizards are 20-16 with John Wall in the lineup and the Grizzlies are fighting for their 3rd-seed lives. Be sure to check it out. Also: if my first sentence was accurate, they'll be playing a basketball game in a football stadium, which makes this a definite must-watch. HOW WILL THEY DO IT?
Other quick-hits for great small-market matchups in the coming week:
- Minnesota at Detroit (TUE, 3/26): This was the 2nd place choice of the small-market hero who picked -- out of all 30 teams -- a Minnesota/Atlanta matchup as his "must watch" matchup in the befuddling new NBA commercial. Who WOULDN'T want to see the battle of the Greg's, Monroe vs Stiemsma? A must-watch for sure.
- Los Angeles Lakers at Milwaukee (THU, 3/28): An important game for Utah's pursuit of the elusive 14th pick. If the Lakers can dig deep and find it in the depths of their blackened hearts to lose this game in their customary inexplicable/hilarious manner, Utah's hold on the 14th pick could become quite a bit more tenuous.
- Charlotte at Philadelphia (SAT, 3/30): Look, the question here isn't "why would you watch this game?" The REAL question is "why in the world WOULDN'T you watch this game?" See, I heard that if you get aggressive and flip the premise of the question, you can get people to ignore the fact that you have absolutely no argument. It worked, right?
See you next week, Small Marketeers! Keep your ducks in a row.