Remember our cracked-skull columnist, Alex Arnon? He hit his head, fainted, and woke up a delusional man with tidings of a world where small markets ruled all comers. Yeah, about that. Over the summer, Alex tripped while walking backwards, managing to completely reverse the head trauma that created this series. Poor guy's back to rooting for the Knicks and wishing he still had his former faith. Our editor, Aaron McGuire, has no such idle whims -- to perpetuate this baffling feature, he's developed a drug that mimics Arnon's former mental losses just long enough to go on the weekly vision quest required to write this. Welcome back, #SmallMarketMondays! This week's subjects: trouble in paradise, Nate Wolters engulfed in metaphorical flames, and a game-of-the-week slate for the best of us.
I have some bad news, my beautiful small marketeers. Word out of one of our most beloved franchises says that some of our basketballing heroes have turned tail on the small market values and virtues that sustain and nourish all of us. To wit, check out this excerpt about locker room squabbles, quoted with the necessary mad-lib style redactions to keep you guessing at the team's identity. Blue represents a mad-lib replacement of the actual word from the excerpt:
"The Argonauts held a players-only meeting following Wednesday's 29-point loss to the Basilisks , multiple sources told ESPN.com. But the meeting got contentious, and players confronted each other, according to sources. In a loss at the Den of Unholy Sin on Monday, Argonauts coach Chief who Stomps Earthquakes and star guard Sparklelord Peat-Swiller got into a heated exchange on the bench after Earthquake Chief pulled Sparklelord from the game. "
You'd think that describes the big market Knicks, right? The Nets? The Lakers?
Nope. With shame and sadness, I relay honesty -- when you remove the redactions, this excerpt is about your very own Cleveland Cavaliers. I admit, in the preseason, perhaps we really should've seen this coming. After all, the Cavaliers are starting to put on some big market airs. They entered the season expecting to take part in this mystical circus known only as the "playoffs." The path to such a land can lead you astray. Worse yet, they added Andrew Bynum and Earl Clark, both of whom bring with them the big market baggage that Los Angeles deposits with all their players.
Who can really know WHAT sorts of sins those two are sharing with the team? Bynum, in his wicked wisdom, might be teaching the Cavaliers about the existence of women. Fun fact: most small marketeers don't know about the existence of women until they're married, just like the lord intended. In fact, this whole observation probably was the first time any of you heard about them. Please wipe these revelations from your memory. Pro tip: watch some Jeff Foster archive footage and some Jimmer Fredette interviews, then return to this article. You'll forget everything. ... Thanks! As for Earl Clark, he's a known drama queen from his time with the Zhejiang Guangsha. Although the fightin' Zhejiangs [ED. NOTE: They are the Zhejiang Guangsha Lions. Saying "the fightin' Zhejiangs" is kind of like saying "the fightin' Chicagos."] gave him every opportunity he needed to succeed, the big market bully couldn't hack it in the small market Zhejiang province. [ED. NOTE: The Zhejiang province has a population of 54 million people.] Typical, huh?
I think we all know what needs to happen here. The Cavaliers need to trade Bynum and Clark, and they need to do it quickly. It needs to happen before the big market flu turns into a big market swine flu. [ED. NOTE: That is not how diseases work.] Might I suggest... Jimmer Fredette, the small market superduperstar that's woefully underutilized in Sacramento? Dare I dream it, dear readers? I do dare. Darkly Daring Dex-McGuire, the drama of wholesome deeds and delights a-plenty. Thanks, Cleveland, for bringing back my dreams. Maybe this rough patch will lead to a recovery that'll save our season. We can only hope.
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The State of The Small Market Union (Sponsored by The Memphis School of Modern Dance)
All is well in the small market union. Although our perfect Pacers lost, the Spurs and Pacers are still "pacing" the league with 18 wins in 20 tries. Portland's small-market beacons are currently outplaying the large market bullies in Los Angeles and Oakland, keeping a firm grasp on the #2 seed. And our small-market heroes in Minnesota look like a contender, sporting the third highest point differential in the league and a surprisingly stingy defense. The only small market sadness right now is in the Eastern Conference, where only two of the eight playoff teams really qualify as members of our "small market" cabal -- Indiana and Charlotte. Luckily for us, only four teams in the east are over 0.500, so it shouldn't be too hard for our small market sleepers in Cleveland, Washington, Detroit, and Milwaukee to rise up and claim their rightful throne-spots. Actually, Milwaukee is 2-7 and look like absolute rubbish. So it may be sort of hard for them to rise up. Oh well. Can't have everything, I suppose.
The Milwaukee Towne Crier presents the "I'M ON FIRE SOMEONE HELP ME" Nate Wolters MVP Watch
Man, Nate Wolters! In our season-opening Small Market Mondays joint, Wolters was KILLING it. And last week's borderline all-time great performances did nothing to dissuade me of including Nate the Great in our MVP watch segment for a second week in a row. Check out these world-beating lines over the last week of basketball from "The Colt with the Wolt":
- 9 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 STEALS!!! on 50-0-50 shooting in a 23 point loss to the Miami Heat.
- 9 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal on 37-0-75 shooting in a 3 POINT!!! loss to the Orlando Magic. (In just 40 minutes!)
- 8 points, 2 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, 2 BLOCKS!!! on 36-0-0 shooting in a 27 point loss to the Indiana Pacers.
- 7 points, 6 REBOUNDS!!!, 4 assists on 30-0-100 shooting in a 13 point loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
... yeah, world-beating, right? [sweats profusely] Pay no attention to the non-exclamatory stats, or the fact that Wolters went a baffling 0-for-7 from the three point line this week. After all, that 0-for-7 is a GOOD thing. It actually means that Nate the Great shot 14-for-30 from two point range, which is almost 50, which is more points than anyone has scored this season to date. And after all -- his shooting percentage is rough, but I'm sure most of the NBA is shooting under 40% from the floor with a sub-20% performance from three. I mean, look at this rogue's gallery of league-leading lights. Derek Fisher's a champion! Ben Gordon is making a billion dollars! Matthew Dellavedova has a fantastic name! EVERYTHING'S GOOD, NATE, YOU BEAUTIFUL MAN.
We will have a new small market MVP next week.
Small Market Mondays Game of the Night: DENVER NUGGETS at OKLAHOMA CITY
Honestly, this is one of the least small-market friendly "game of the night" features we've ever had to highlight. Denver is a small market in theory, I suppose, but it's one of the largest cities in the southwest outside of Phoenix and it's one of those small-market-in-name-only cities. Luckily, the actual game is occurring at Oklahoma City, which means that Denver's not-quite-small-market status won't come into play at the contest. We'll get to enjoy all the mini-market joys of Oklahoma City's only sporting franchise. I refer of course to their pre-game prayers, the hilarious face painting for regular season matchups, and the borderline embarrassing focus on throwing t-shirts into a crowd of presumably grown adults to hype them up. ... Wait, they do that last one in every arena? God help us.
Other quick-hits for great small-market matchups in the coming week:
- Minnesota at Washington (TUE, 11/19): This should be a good one. We've got two playoff contenders -- one surprising, one unfathomably disappointing in one of the worst Eastern Conference gauntlets we've seen in ages -- and both are duking it out for our small market love. Also: duking it out in a constant attempt to figure out who won the "Mike Miller and Randy Foye for the pick that would become Ricky Rubio" trade. Seems like a pretty fair trade to me!
- San Antonio at Memphis (FRI, 11/22): Although the Grizzlies aren't off to a particularly many-splendored start, these two teams sort of despise each other. Well, they used to. Now it's a little one-sided, as I'm pretty sure that sweeping a team in a deep playoff run actually erases most of the animosity once held for the team, so the Spurs are probably mostly over the first round upset Memphis dealt them years ago. But these are still delightful grit-and-grind outfits, made even more gritty and grindy with San Antonio's new defensive focus and Memphis' not-at-all-new "what is offense at all, even?" focus. Taste the fever!
- Philadelphia at Indiana (SAT, 11/23): The Sixers have been one of the most shocking teams in the league, and although they're under 0.500, they're currently firmly ensconced in the playoff picture because they lead a division that's collectively gone 19-32. That actually understates how unfathomably awful that division has been -- collectively, the average result for a game played by an Atlantic division team this season has been a little over a four point loss. Their AVERAGE result. For context, only 5 teams lost by more than four points a game over the course of the 2013 season: the Cavaliers (-4.7), the Magic (-7.0), the Bobcats (-9.2), the Kings (-4.9), and the Suns (-6.5). Seriously, it is entirely possible that every single team in the Atlantic ends the season well under 0.500. It's a hilarious but altogether real possibility. ... I'm sure the Sixers will turn it around against one of the best defenses in the last decade, though. Seems legit. Go team!
See you next week, Small Marketeers! Stay frosty.