Imaginary Basketball Season (Or: The Quest For A Theoretical Title)

July 12, 2013 - Source: Bob Levey/Getty Images North America

As time ran out in the NBA Finals, an intense feeling of despair washed over me. Partly because a Heat victory looked more and more inevitable, but primarily because this would be it: the last NBA game until late October. That sport I've cared way too much about would be floating away for four months. As a recent college graduate still looking for work, I had -- and still have -- absolutely no idea where my life will be the next time I watched a meaningful basketball game. A few days later, I perked up. The season was replaced by something almost as good: the offseason.

Or, as I like to call it, "Imaginary Basketball Season."

Every day for a solid month (the first two weeks being the most intense), we hear about an endless string of signings and deals in the basketball world. Then, until October, we get to fantasize endlessly about how it will actually work! Until we're burdened by the reality of whatever actually happens, we can speculate endlessly about each move. And that's fun. Is the mere presence of Andrea Bargnani going to submarine the Knicks, or does he revive his career as a valuable sixth man? What if the Jose Calderon-Monta Ellis back court in Dallas works really well? (Aren't they a perfectly complimentary pairing?)

All notions seem entirely possible. Plausible, even. And that's the thing -- Imaginary Basketball is not about realities or truths. It's about plausibility and ideas. And the quest for plausibility leads us to the greatest goal of Imaginary Basketball Season: winning an imaginary title. Basketball is easily the most hierarchical of the four major U.S. sports. Teams can win Super Bowls and Stanley Cups simply by getting hot at the right time, and any team who reaches the playoffs could potentially win the title. But there are only a select few of teams who have a real shot winning a championship in basketball. And usually, we have a pretty good idea of who those teams are, even when the season begins. Naturally, the ultimate goal of any general manager is to win a title -- but another, perhaps equally important goal? Get that team to the point where they could theoretically win a title. Continue reading

John Hugar
John Hugar is a writer who dreams of electric sheep. His work can be found at The Classical, Buzzfeed, and many other outlets. He has seen every Simpsons episode, probably.

2013 Summer League: Demystifying the Oddities of the LVSL

summer league coverage

Hey, everyone! We've been taking a bit of a break for the start of summer, but we're back. Our three main writers -- Aaron McGuire, Alex Dewey, and Alex Arnon -- are all slumming it in Vegas to cover the haps and antics of this year's Las Vegas Summer League action. Arnon and McGuire have been in town all weekend, putting together a cornucopia of miniature stories and notes for later digestion. This post represents a throughout-the-day effort by Aaron McGuire to de-mystify the strange and unreasonable tournament structure that the powers that be imposed on the Summer Day's concluding proceedings.

• • •

BRACKETOLOGY, SUMMER LEAGUE EDITION

After years of inconsequential Summer Leagues, the NBA has decided it's time to stop messing around. It's time to get serious, folks. This year, they're attempting to institute an NCAA-style tournament for Summer League competition, leading to an actual Las Vegas Summer League "champeen" (as our lame-duck commissioner might well intone). In it, Summer League's 22 teams will face off for the most illustrious of basketball honors. Summer League Champion. Which team has the heart of a champion, dear readers? Which of these world-beaters will be named the greatest of all the death machines? Who, at the end of the day, will be able to count their rings?!?

... alright, I'll stop. I tried. I'm a statistician, not a hype-man.

Barring some end-state where the summer league tournament is a practice run for a future implementation of the Sports Guy's "entertaining as hell" tournament, just about everyone collected was mystified upon hearing of the hastily-constructed tournament restructuring. This widespread mystification became all the more apparent when the media and fans congregated at Summer League, sat themselves down, and started to look at the schedule to plan out their week's coverage.

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"Wait, what?"

Cue widespread confusion. "Who's going to be playing on Wednesday?" ... "When do our beat writers need to go home, exactly?" ... "How bad do you need to be to become the #22 seed at the NBA's Summer League?" Lots of questions, few answers. But have no fear, my friends and neighbors -- we've got you covered. As Tuesday's game action rolls forward, Gothic Ginobili will be solving the NBA's seeding crisis and giving you the juicy details on who's playing who. By the time the day's over, we'll know exactly who is seeded where and the final schedule for Wednesday and Thursday's action.

And we'll look good doing it, too.

• WHAT'S THE BRACKET? •

The bracket can be found here. For your sake, here's a repost of the bracket image.

LV-bracket

• HOW'S THE BRACKET SEEDED? •

The seeding system -- while rather annoying to calculate -- is reasonably easy to explain.

  • The first criteria teams are seeded on is overall win-loss record.
    • Given that each team will have 3 games, it's quite likely there are ties in overall record.
  • Assuming a tie in overall record, the second tiebreaker is a point system related to the number of quarters that individual team has won. The system gives teams one point for a quarter they won, half a point for a quarter they tied, and zero points for a quarter they lost.
  • If there is a tie between both overall W/L record and their "quarter points", the third tiebreaker is the team's head-to-head record -- if the tied teams had previously played each other in summer league, the winner of that game gets the higher seed.
  • The fourth tiebreaker is point differential.
  • And the final tiebreaker, in the unlikely event that EVERY SINGLE ONE of these criteria is tied, is a coin -- seeding would be determined by coin flip.

Piece of cake, right? (Jokes aside, it's a reasonably well designed system given the constraints. Good job, NBA.)

• WHAT DO THE STANDINGS LOOK LIKE? •

Here's the most relevant part of this post for those still reading. What do the standings look like? Who's going to be playing who?

SUMMER LEAGUE STANDINGS 1

What do these standings tell us? A few things. On Wednesday, seeds 12 through 22 will see action -- that means none of the top 11 teams will be playing Wednesday. (Related: Wednesday may end up being the worst day of basketball in the history of the human race.) Due to that, any team that's locked into the bottom 12 will be playing on Wednesday no matter what. There are a few teams that are locked-in to be playing on Wednesday. They are:

  • MIA, LAC, NYK, ATL. Even if every team below these four teams loses, they don't have enough quarter points to win a tiebreaker with any of the other teams that have clinched 1-2. Since 10 teams have already registered two wins, only one spot in the top 11 is available for a possible 1-2 team to snag it. Minnesota, Toronto, Dallas, or Sacramento would be the team to grab it -- not any of these four. The WAS/MEM/POR/DEN quartet is also in the mix for that spot, but they'd need to dominate their games today, which looks unlikely for Memphis (Phoenix is fielding a good summer league squad) and unlikely for Portland (as Chicago currently rates out as one of the "elite" summer league teams, insofar as a summer league team can be categorized as such.)

Conversely, there are a handful of teams that have clinched a bye on Wednesday. These are teams that you definitely won't be able to see on Wednesday. These teams are:

  • CHA, CLE, LAL. The Spurs and are also unlikely to be playing on Wednesday, but there's a fringe possibility they slide into the #11 seed if Toronto and Dallas both win their games today (and win 3 or more quarters) and the D-League manages to win at least two quarters in today's matchup. This is also contingent on Phoenix and Golden State both winning a quarter in their games.

Seeding-wise, things will clear up significantly as the day goes on. Obviously. To that end, I'll be updating these standings to reflect new data. Don't worry, guys. We've got this. We're going to know the schedule before anyone else does. It's going to be a secret between you and I, dear reader. You and I.

UPDATE: Well, I've been updating my lucky Twitter followers of all this thick and juicy breaking news all day. Make sure to follow me on Twitter, as I am clearly the only journalist courageous enough to tackle the real tough questions on Las Vegas Summer League Tournament Seeding. Here's the scoop with three of today's games in the book:

  • The Warriors have clinched a seed of three or better.
  • The following teams will be guaranteed to be playing on Wednesday: MIN, ATL, NYK, LAC, MIA, SAC, WAS, MEM, POR, DEN.
  • The following teams are guaranteed a bye day and will not be playing on Wednesday: GSW, CHI, CHA, TOR, CLE, LAL, MIL.
  • The following teams are still up in the air: PHX, D-League, NOP, SAS, DAL.

LIFE IS SO CRAZY.

SUMMER LEAGUE STANDINGS 6

Here are the updated standings as of the end of Q1 of MEM/PHO and CHI/POR.

-- Aaron McGuire

• • •

authenticity

FINDING AUTHENTICITY IN THE MOJAVE WASTELAND

There's a sort of paradox that lies at the root of all team sports. Consider the underlying juxtaposition: the dynamism and entertainment of team sports alongside the dismal grind of the athlete's preparation. "He's an exciting, dynamic player" must be said, regurgitated, challenged, and deconstructed at its core before a team decides to take a chance on the player through waivers or trade or draft. The player's excitement and dynamism only emerged because of an enormous sacrifice of hours a day in training. Relentless decades in the video room, relentless self-analysis, relentless self-betterment.

I look at my endless, sprawling drafts and songs and -- alas! -- drawings. They're scattered. Various hard drives, scratch paper distracted from original function, Christmas albums published and unpublished, blogs with two entries that I really got enthused about and forgot the next morning, and all the sordid rest. And there are still days I wake up and can't seem to compose a sentence that anyone else on Earth can understand, at least to the extent that I want them to. It's dispiriting. And there are days I wake up and all the experiences, even those I'd previously classified as useless, are consummated together within my soul. And my prose flows freely. Comprehensible, understandable, stark. And most days are in the middle. If I'd worked at it less, I'd have more days like the former; if I'd more, I'd have more days like the latter. That's what I tell myself. And at the core of competition with the self, that's what we all have to tell ourselves. It's a conversation with ourselves that can be fraught with delusion, but it's a conversation about substance, and there's some sort of empirical measure to answer for.

"This isn't brilliant, but it's publishable."

"This isn't publishable, but it's fluent."

"This isn't fluent, but I kept the rhythm and the intonation. I can feel proud of this, given...".

Some of these players get paid millions of dollars to play a game, and in our culture we tend to get all righteous about this when teachers and firefighters and so on do so much more for our society and all that. With good reason. And then the counter: should we REALLY be determining what people can earn based on what others can't? Is there not room in a perfect society for a million-dollar athlete and a properly-valued million-dollar teacher? And the elephant in the room, the baseline here, might be that we tend to see sports as fun, above all else. But it's also a sort of strange evidence one can put forth of our incompleteness as a society, an unaccountable waste of time and resources, or at the very least a tasty side dish to the main course of life.

Sort of like... Las Vegas.

See what I did there? Confession: being in Vegas makes me feel authentic by juxtaposition. I can resist the casinos with placid frugality. I can resist the nostalgia of the nebulously blended together "Fifteen to Thirty-Five Years Ago aka When Those Of You That Can Run a Tab Were Young" with naught but vigorous activity. I can resist the desire to make myself worse, to forget, to spend, to be false. I can resist. I can resist. I can resist. I can feel superior and get drunk on my own apparent superiority and it's actually cheaper than literally getting drunk. But I know it's a lie and I know it's a fictional narrative designed to increase perception of my own value and character. I didn't become a better person because I surrounded myself with more vice. What's more, I know dismissing it all as vice is its own form of inauthentic rabble.

It's a way for me to have a confident, judgmental stride that I haven't deserved, an easy conversational shorthand to find common ground with fellow travelers. It's awful. Sometimes I think we watch sports in its spectacle to get to this form of paradoxical blend of miring ourselves in the drama and the simultaneous feeling ourselves above the drama. Rooting interests keep us grounded, aesthetics, sportsmanship, but sometimes I just want something interesting to happen. And, put it this way: My moral sense isn't always the first one to respond to an interesting happening.

Summer League is pretty neat because there is no such pretense of anything else. The league is too meaningless to be a determining factor in anyone's career, it's a Bayesian flyswatter of slight probabilistic meaning. And the competitiveness of the product on the court is nil and arbitrary. Lance Thomas isn't exactly competing with Deshaun Thomas, even if they may both be going for the board. Sure, it would be nice for each player to snag it. It'd be worse if they don't. But they're mostly competing against their team's established rosters, which has so little to do with the direct, symmetric competition before us that they might as well just repeat the tautological mantra: "do more, do better." And thus there's a strange blend of incentives. It's an overdose of a 35-year-old-on-a-28-win-in-a-contract-year team vigor. And that blend of incentives writ large determines the game. The fans know it, the writers know it, the front office people, the coaches, the players know it.

For all the occasional on-court absurdity, it's not wearing any alibis: In the end, Summer League is exhibition, it's learning, it's competition against the self that reigns here, for every single participant. Even for the fans, who are mostly in it for a good time and maybe some free T-shirts, there's not necessarily any sort of rooting interest so much as pursuit of entertainment. They have to find out what to watch for and enjoy it. It's authentic, even when the back-and-forth sequences of turnovers can make you grimace. Summer League is a nice bridge between the dismal "how athletes are made" (which takes decades) and the fascinating "what athletes can do" (which may take a tenth of a second). It helps us understand what must go on first, and gives us a taste of what symphonies this overture of decades is building to. And best of all, it doesn't pretend to be anything different.

Except for this tournament thing. What's up with that?

-- Alex Dewey

Aaron McGuire on sabtwitterAaron McGuire on sabtumblrAaron McGuire on sablinkedinAaron McGuire on sabgithubAaron McGuire on sabfacebookAaron McGuire on sabemail
Aaron McGuire
Editor in Chief at Gothic Ginobili
Aaron McGuire works as the lead mathematician and CTO for a small financial consulting firm in Richmond, VA. As a basketball writer, he's primarily known for Gothic Ginobili's 2012 Player Capsule series, where he wrote the equivalent of 1.5 Russian novels about every NBA player around. Nowadays, he writes a weekly column on whatever he damn well feels like.

2013 Summer League: Summer War and (World) Peace

summer league coverage

Hey, everyone! We've been taking a bit of a break for the start of summer, but we're back. Our three main writers -- Aaron McGuire, Alex Dewey, and Alex Arnon -- are all slumming it in Vegas to cover the haps and antics of this year's Las Vegas Summer League action. Arnon and McGuire have been in town all weekend, putting together a cornucopia of miniature stories and notes for later digestion. This post represents our Monday thoughts... including a short piece on one of the more notable pieces of Summer League news in Ron Artest's return to the boroughs.

• • •

i love hiking!

WHAT'S SO FUNNY 'BOUT M-W-PEACE, LOVE, AND UNDERSTANDING?

Very few notable roster moves happen during the Las Vegas Summer League. If you're lucky, you'll see a few players get signed. You know the type. Your Will Bynums, your Luke Waltons, your Elton Brands. A handful of players, but few serious value adds. And fewer still happen to sign with legitimate contending teams. And given this context, imagine the shock and awe at the announcement of this morning's big-time breaking news: Metta World Peace, the recently amnestied, has signed with the Knicks! Listen to those fans, readers!

"Metta World Peace!"

"MEATY WHIRLED PEAS!"

"MELTING WARBLED CHEESE!"

Suffice to say, it was a fun moment. Especially when the collected Twitterati discovered that World Peace had made his way to Vegas. Seconds after the start of the day's first game -- an incomprehensibly fast paced matchup between the Charlotte Champcats and the Toure "Cash in a Hurry" Murry Knicks -- Metta World Peace made his way out of the tunnel to jam with Clyde Frazier and give a wave and a nod to his adoring fans.

I suppose it shouldn't be much of a surprise that World Peace made his way to Vegas -- if I was an NBA player as keen to the rhythms of the ridiculous as Artest, I'd be sure to make my way to an event like Summer League too. I mean, look at it this way: in Summer League, Toure Murry is a star. MarQuez Haynes is our player of the moment. Cory Joseph is legitimately too good. It's crazy-go-Wheaties stuff, and that's the exact place that a man like Metta World Peace thrives. I mean, Christ. He changed his name to Metta World Peace. He was made for this Knicks team.

Honestly, I haven't written much lately, and because of that I've neglected to share my thoughts on this year's souped up new Knicks roster. That's a mistake. I'm really looking forward to this Knicks team, and in an effort to help guide Knicks fans off the ledge, I'll use the Peace signing as a chance to share my grandest hopes for this year's New York Knicks squad.

SIGNING ANDREA BARGNANI

Okay, look. I don't love this trade from a future perspective for the same reason I don't love Brooklyn's trade for KG and Pierce. Given New York's general age, it's hard to imagine them suddenly getting all that much better in future seasons. Those draft picks may end up being actual assets someday. And Bargnani was an amnesty candidate with shockingly low trade value. I sincerely doubt the Knicks needed to give up that much value to get Bargnani. It wasn't a great trade, and all the Twitter hemming and hawing over the wealth of assets Toronto snagged was deserved.

All that said? I feel like this makes New York a bit better next season. Bargnani isn't nearly the long range shooter his reputation suggests, and his effort last season was abjectly awful. If he puts up that same brand of disinterested fluff-ball, the Knicks are in some trouble. But I have a feeling that's not going to happen. Bargnani may not be healthy the entire season, and he's likely to be the same sort of defensive turnstile he's been his entire career on help defense. But Bargnani has always been a semi-effective isolation defender when he's locked in, and Tyson Chandler will represent the first chance Bargnani's career to play big minutes alongside one of the NBA's top helpers. Bargnani may not fit particularly well next to Carmelo, but I can't help but think he'll play decent ball alongside Chandler and prove a useful 20-25 minute a night tool.

In the short term, the Knicks gave away Steve Novak (a lesser Matt Bonner), the dessicated corpse of Marcus Camby, and a player they signed in April of last season. In return, the Knicks receive a flawed but potentially useful piece. Bargnani -- shockingly -- makes the Knicks younger and gives them a semi-coherent big man rotation. The future is the future. In the now, the Knicks have a bit more upside and a bit more clarity. Not a bad thing, no matter how much we like to make fun of the Pastalord.

BRINGING BACK J.R. SMITH & PABLO PRIGIONI

Look. I get all the mockery. We aren't talking about skinny jeans, here -- I get it. "HAHA, WOW, J.R. IS TERRIBLE." He's not great. I'm on record as not being much of a fan, especially when he has those 3 or 4 plays a game where it becomes exceedingly obvious the kind of talent he's leaving on the table. That said... what the hell choice did they have? People act as though the Knicks passed up a ton of fantastic free agency options. Hardly. The only way the Knicks were adding players to a roster as deathly capped out as they are was resigning their own guys. Smith qualifies for that.

Beyond J.R. Smith, the Knicks had about $3 million dollars to spend. Three. To put that in context, Monta Ellis is making $10 million a year. Al Jefferson is making $14 million. Even Danny Green -- widely considered a complete steal and an incredibly cheap player -- makes $4 million a year. Long story short? The Knicks couldn't afford anything. By keeping Smith, the Knicks gave themselves the opportunity to spend their $3 million pittance on a few minor roleplayers while keeping themselves from having gaping holes in their backup guard spots. I don't love either Prigs or Smith -- I think Prigs is barely an NBA caliber player and I think Smith is one of the biggest disappointments still playing -- but for the price the Knicks got, they honestly couldn't have done better.

SIGNING METTA WORLD PEACE

And finally, we have today's signing -- "MARBLED WELDED CLEESE!" ... (I'll stop with the horrible MWP jokes, someday.) Given the amount of cash the Knicks had left after signing their guys, I must unveil a terrible secret. I don't hate this signing either. As bad as Artest looked in the playoffs last season, he spent large portions of last season playing legitimate second banana to Kobe Bryant for a 45 win Lakers squad. His defense has fallen off a cliff, but he still has a handle on that fundamental aggression that made him such a brutalizing force in his prime. He can share that, I think, with New York's younger, better defenders. (Shumpert, specifically.)

I don't think World Peace has a ton left in the tank, but I don't think he's chopped liver either. He'll give them 10-15 minutes a game of semi-coherent defense and he'll drain a few shots a night. He'll work in the weight room with Shumpert and help his defensive development stumble forward. He'll be an entertaining postgame presence. He'll get to be the first Queensbridge player to retire in Madison Square Garden. Could the Knicks have gotten any better asset with $1.5 million dollars to spend? I have my doubts. Decent signing for a team with virtually no flexibility.

Thus, my final verdict -- the Knicks really didn't do that poorly this summer. Sure, they made a poor forward-looking trade that may come back to bite them. Sure, their moves are only positive in the sense that they were completely cap strapped and utterly devoid of better options. That said? In a world with no real choices, the Knicks managed to marginally improve their team and keep their hopes alive. Didn't exactly ace the Kobayashi Maru, but at least they'll go out fighting. They have a decent shot at holding the Atlantic division and they should field a competitive team. They won't win a title, but barring decimation-through-injury, they aren't going to be much worse than they were last year (if at all).

At the end of the day, they've built a hard-fought collection of the NBA's most beloved headcases that should challenge for 45-50 wins in a pastry-soft East. Sports is what you make of it. For a besieged big market franchise with few present options, the New York front office somehow managed to mold their team into a marginally more ridiculous unit. Good for the fans. Good for the franchise. Good for the writers. God bless the New York Knicks, every one.

... "METTA! WORLD! PEACE!"

-- Aaron McGuire

• • •

GOTHIC GINOBILI DOES FASHION

In this positively glamorous new feature, Gothic Ginobili editor Aaron McGuire is going to try and comment on the NBA's jersey fashions in the 2013 NBA Summer League. Let's get it, fashionistas!

~ SUMMER LEAGUE UNIFORM GLAM RANKINGS ~

1. New Orleans Pelicans.

2 through 22. Every single other team attending.

23 through 30. Every single other team not attending.

NOTE: I will also accept any ranking system that flips 23 through 30 with 2 through 22.

At this point, Dewey and Arnon dragged Aaron away from his computer and forced him to stop writing about fashion. This concludes GOTHIC GINOBILI DOES FASHION, Volume 1.

Aaron McGuire on sabtwitterAaron McGuire on sabtumblrAaron McGuire on sablinkedinAaron McGuire on sabgithubAaron McGuire on sabfacebookAaron McGuire on sabemail
Aaron McGuire
Editor in Chief at Gothic Ginobili
Aaron McGuire works as the lead mathematician and CTO for a small financial consulting firm in Richmond, VA. As a basketball writer, he's primarily known for Gothic Ginobili's 2012 Player Capsule series, where he wrote the equivalent of 1.5 Russian novels about every NBA player around. Nowadays, he writes a weekly column on whatever he damn well feels like.

2013 Summer League: Weekend Reflections

summer league coverage

Hey, everyone! We've been taking a bit of a break for the start of summer, but we're back. Our three main writers -- Aaron McGuire, Alex Dewey, and Alex Arnon -- are all slumming it in Vegas to cover the haps and antics of this year's Las Vegas Summer League action. Arnon and McGuire have been in town all weekend, putting together a cornucopia of miniature stories and notes for later digestion. This post represents our weekend reflections, to be updated throughout the weekend's action.

• • •

REFLECTION #1: OUR PLAYER OF THE MOMENT, MarQuez Haynes

Alright, alright. You may wonder why this isn't CJ McCollum. Or any of the myriad other players who played more minutes, produced more baskets, or just have names you recognize. You know what? Names you recognize aren't what Summer League is about. Summer League is about the journeymen who look stunningly good for a short stretch and captivate your imagination. MarQuez Haynes is one such player, at least for me. Haynes is a journeyman with a remarkably well designed website. He attended Boston College and UT Arlington, and has spent the last three years overseas with Gran Canaria and Elan Chalon. He wanted to be an astronaut growing up and considers Floyd Mayweather his favorite athlete. (On a totally unrelated aside, Floyd Mayweather stepped on Alex Arnon's feet yesterday while randomly traipsing through press row. If MarQuez wants to meet his favorite athlete, he should obviously become a Gothic Ginobili writer.)

Ahem. Back to the actual basketball. Haynes is here for the same reason most players are -- he wants a shot at playing in the big leagues. I don't really know if his performance this weekend is going to get him that, but I found it impressive as a statistical curiosity. On Saturday, he was the Washington backup for Sundiata Gaines. He registered 6 assists in 20 minutes of play, along with two made shots. Now, he missed five shots, so that's not the most impressive thing in the world, but take a step back for a moment. The Wizards made 19 baskets in yesterday's game. Haynes either assisted or scored on eight of those nineteen. That's hilarious. He also blocked the first shot that was taken after he came into the game. For the sake of my curisoity, I decided to calculate Haynes' exact assist percentage in that dreary Wizards game. In order to do this, I had to figure out every single shot his teammates took with Haynes on the court. The results?

  • Otto Porter jumper
  • Otto Porter jumper (miss)
  • Glen Rice 3PT jumper, assisted by Haynes
  • Frank Hassell three (miss)
  • Jan Vesely dunk, assisted by Haynes
  • Chris Singleton jumper, assisted by Haynes
  • Glen Rice jumper (miss)
  • Andrew Lawrence 3PT jumper, assisted by Haynes
  • Glen Rice jumper, assisted by Haynes
  • Andrew Lawrence layup (miss)
  • Andrew Horner layup (miss)
  • Glen Rice jumper (miss)
  • Frank Hassell layup (miss)
  • Ryan Thompson jump shot, assisted by Glen Rice
  • Glen Rice dunk
  • Otto Porter layup, assisted by Haynes
  • Otto Porter layup (miss)
  • Otto Porter floater (miss)
  • Chris Singleton fadeaway jump shot (miss)
  • Otto Porter jumper (miss)
  • Chris Singleton jump shot (miss)
  • Glen Rice jumper (miss)

So, when Haynes was on the floor, his teammates made nine shots. (His teammates missed 14, and he missed 5 as well, but shush.) He assisted on six of those, for an assist percentage of 66%. You hear me, NBA? Marquez Haynes assisted on 66% of his team's shots in an NBA summer league game. Perfect backup guard, right? ... of course, he followed up the 66% assist percentage game with a game of one assist, but Haynes made 4 of his 6 shots, which means he managed to shoot 66% from the floor in the game. (EDITOR'S NOTE: Immediately after I wrote this -- with 50.8 seconds remaining in the game -- Haynes made a three pointer. So, I suppose he actually shot 5 of 7. Let's pretend that last shot never happened.)

It stands to reason that MarQuez Haynes has a spiritual connection with the number 66. He may assist on 66% of the shots his teammates make. He may shoot 66%. He may snag 66 rebounds. He may play 66 seconds. He may drive to the game on Route 66. Who knows? All that's clear is that Haynes will always -- ALWAYS -- be repping his 66 roots in the box score.

Godspeed, MarQuez Haynes. May the NBA accept your 66 revolution with strong hearts and open minds.

-- Aaron McGuire

• • •

STORY IN A TWEET #1: AMARE'S MORTAL ENEMY, REVISITED

story in a tweet #1

• • •

DEWEY'S CORNER: Gal Mekel Overdrive

Trying to assess the leap from basketball's lower leagues (your NCAA, your Euroleagues, your CBAs) to the NBA presents quite the challenge for the objective analyst. How do you even project that? Summer League, even more than these lower echelon semi-pro leagues, presents different incentives that really tend to warp the frame of any analysis th -- ... Okay, let me cut this line of thought short: Gal Mekel is the next Bill Russell. Okay, hold that thought, it's really not as absurd is it may seem. After all, both of them were born on Planet Earth and have some connection to the city of Dallas. This puts Russell and Mekel in rare company; they are the exact same player, but the other is the next of the one. [Editor's Note: Dewey, where are you going with this?!?]

Holding that thought a bit more, would Bill Russell honestly dominate the Summer League of his time?  Yeah, yeah, I know, "of course he would, he was a college star. All he'd done up to that point is win." But didn't we also say that about Adam Morrison? I don't know. Yes? I was really young then. But what if Bill Russell wasn't dominant in a proto-Summer League precisely because of the things that made him great today? Would Russell -- disdainful of individual glory -- have had overawing statistics that would send us into flurries of pre-pre-season hype in 1955? Would Russell's reportedly photographic recall of every play in his career be expressed in 25 minutes of four games against gunners hoping to stand out with their jump shot and bigs trying to show off a prokaryotic back-to-the-basket game? Would Russell's mastery of the transition game and outlet passes -- a mastery that helped propel his teams to greater heights than had ever been achieved before or since -- show up in a mix-tape set to, uh... "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" by the Platters? Was that popular in the 50s? [Editor's Note: Yes, it was. 1958, to be exact. Good work.]

All of this to say nothing of the leadership abilities, rendered useless or meaningless or "a nice intangible". Sure, I'm not saying he'd fail Summer League. He's Bill Russell. The winner to end all winners. The original Trill Barton. But what if, my friends? What if the special form of incentives in Summer League didn't project Russell out as more than an average starter? Maybe his athleticism is the dominant theme. Limited offensive game, some individual talent on defense, lengthy, good timing, good feel for the game... Possibly the best player in the draft...

And yeah, that's where the comparisons with Gal Mekel begin to break down somewhat. Just a little bit. Very few people outset call Gal Mekel the best player available. [Editor's Note: Nobody has ever called him this, Alex.] It's an irrational Summer League fascination to pass the time. But maybe the next-level skills that actually translate to the NBA, the skills that transcend the limiting factors of an offense, the skills that increase in value with the skills of one's teammates, the skills that increase with time spent in the league? The skills for which teams end up paying a couple million a year extra, anyway? Maybe those skills are impossible to simulate. And maybe that's Gal Mekel's future.

Either way, Mekel was fun to watch in summer league. Great command of the floor. Good ball control, excellent floater, some very nice passes. He looks like he has a future. And yeah, maybe he's not the next Bill Russell. [Editor's Note: He isn't.] Maybe he's not the best player in his draft. [Editor's Note: He isn't.] But he's fun, he's got talent, and he's a passable backup point guard. [Editor's Note: He is.] Perhaps that's enough, readers. Not the hero summer league deserves, but the hero it needs right now.

Gal Mekel for president, 2013!

-- Alex Dewey

• • •

Cory is 5, Devoe is 13. Picture actually taken by Aaron McGuire. What? What.

FINISHING UP WITH THE BROTHERS JOSEPH

Going into the day-concluding matchup between the Toronto Raptors and the Summer Spurs, there was a single subplot I was excited for. The Spurs were starting Cory Joseph, a rotation guard during the regular season and one of Tim Varner's very favorite Spurs players. I'd gotten wind of a rumor before the game that the Raptors were going to be starting Devoe Joseph, Cory Joseph's journeyman older brother. The Elder Joe played one season with the Minnesota Wolverines and one season with the Oregon Ducks before falling out of the draft and ending up in Ukraine at BC Khimik. Both are point guards. Both are good. And both, according to someone I talked to, would be starting for their respective squads on Sunday night.

The brother-versus-brother matchup is one of my favorites in all of sports, no matter the level of competition. Neither my brother or I played much in the way of organized sports when we were young, but there was always a certain meta-game present in any sort of competition where we'd face off. Playing H.O.R.S.E., squaring off at Scrabble, exploding each other repeatedly in Team Fortress 2. Always a sort of latent energy you don't always get in a casual game. The younger brother is always hungry, trying to one-up the one who came before. Prove their place and show that they're as good as their elder.

On the other hand, there's this sort of desperate energy from the older soul. It's motivated by a lot of things -- the rigid application of familial narratives chief among them. Above all, though? It's a valiant effort to evade a brutal embarrassment. "Dude, your little brother beat you. Duuude." No older brother wants to deal with decades of reminders about that one time their little brother schooled them. Nobody's ever up for that. As a proud older brother, believe me -- every single one of us wants to avoid this.

Unfortunately for my narrative thirst, the rumor turned out to be bunk. Joseph's elder brother certainly didn't start, and in fact, he didn't even get into the game until the second quarter. He played about four minutes of first half action before subbing out, which was hardly enough time to get full coverage of the family feud. Alas.

All that noted, it was a fun few minutes. There wasn't any of my hopeful drama-laden faceoff, but there was one notable possession where Devoe and Cory matched up directly onto the other. I was close enough to the court to hear trash talk (a fun experience, but that's a story for another day), but neither of them mussed the other to any large degree. No big trash talking, just stony faces. Both of them seemed to be trying to treat the other as they would any other opponent. Let the game do the talking, game recognize game, all that fun stuff. This one possession, though -- Joseph missed a jumper and got the ball back with Devoe matched on him. Devoe challenged him, and Joseph ended up dribbling out of the shot and passing the ball inside. Missed shot by Baynes. The elder flashed a fleeting smile before he took the ball up the court, and Cory tried not to look at him. Not exactly "one shining moment", but a fun distraction in a marginally interesting day-ender.

There wasn't a huge one-on-one matchup, and I suppose that wasn't a fair expectation. But they both had good games, in the end -- Cory had a 16-6-6 line on 13 shots, and Devoe had 7 points on 5 shots. Cory won the matchup (insofar as it existed at all), and Devoe's team won the night. The younger brother, fresh off spot minutes in the NBA Finals, played a markedly better game and looked the part of a Summer League Superstar. And the elder brother, fresh off a season in Ukraine, had himself a nice little game as a roleplaying second guard. The Raptors allowed Devoe to stay in the game for most of the 4th quarter after a 4 minute first half. Perhaps they'll show some faith in him and throw him a bone on the roster. And for one night, Devoe's team got the all-important W against his little brother's NBA finalists. Both winners, both losers.

(Just like writers who make their bread watching these ridiculous games, oddly enough!)

-- Aaron McGuire

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Aaron McGuire
Editor in Chief at Gothic Ginobili
Aaron McGuire works as the lead mathematician and CTO for a small financial consulting firm in Richmond, VA. As a basketball writer, he's primarily known for Gothic Ginobili's 2012 Player Capsule series, where he wrote the equivalent of 1.5 Russian novels about every NBA player around. Nowadays, he writes a weekly column on whatever he damn well feels like.

What the [BLEEP] do we know? ... (About Role Players)

Pretty sure this has more role players per pixel than any other image I could've possibly found, folks.

Hey, all. Please give a warm welcome to Gothic Ginobili's newest contributor, Grizzlies fan and blogger wunderkind John Hugar. His work has been featured at Three Shades of Blue, The Classical, and The Beast. He's one of the many who followed the Grizzlies on their trek from Vancouver to Memphis, and in a strange turn of events, he ended up in Buffalo. And don't jest, readers -- due to his residence, John knows better than any of us how Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo. For John's first Gothic Ginobili piece, he's examining the ever-expanding definition of a "role player" in today's NBA. Do give it a read.

The idea of the elusive role player gets a lot of mileage in NBA circles, no matter where we are in the year. In the playoffs we pontificate about how the Heat benefit from the production of role players like Shane Battier and Mike Miller. When the draft gets into the 20s, we tell ourselves that this is the part of the draft where teams find valuable role players rather than the part where it officially becomes okay to change the channel. Then, in free agency, any time a contender gives the veterans minimum to a guy who can drain a few threes we talk about how that player will help them down the stretch. We imagine him randomly exploding for 25 points in a key playoff game, and throughout the regular season, commentators wax garishly on their rare moments of positive glory. That's the way of the role player, after all. On the surface, this all seems well and good. Who doesn't love role players?

There's just one teensy-tiny problem: no one has the slightest idea what a role player is. For good reason: the definition of "role player" has widened to the point where it means whatever you want it to mean (like "hipster" or "pornography"). These are some of the definitions of a role player that I've heard at various points over the past few years.

  • Any player who is only good at one or two things
  • Any player who isn't a star
  • A nice way of describing a player who sucks
  • Any marginal backup who can put in 10-15 minutes a game on a contender
  • Any player who is often referred to as a "good locker room guy" (see no. 3)

At this point, the term is completely relative. Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant would qualify as role players if you only compared them to LeBron James. So it has to be an elastic term. It means all things to all people. I first noticed this definitional crisis was when I heard multiple people refer to the 2011 Mavericks as "Dirk Nowitzki and a bunch of role players." To anyone who actually watched that team, this is patently false. Tyson Chandler was one of the best centers in the league that season. Shawn Marion, while slightly past his prime, was still a very effective player who contributed on both sides of the ball. And Jason Terry? He was one of the best sixth men in the league. Clearly, the "bunch of role players" schlock was an exaggeration of the highest order.

But where does this idea come from? I refer to #2 on my list: the star player/role player dichotomy. The idea that anyone who isn't an All-Star must be a role player exists because... well, people are lazy! There are plenty of players who don't fit into either category, and no one wants to take the time to describe them with any nuance. Think of a guy like Caron Butler. He's a former All-Star who still makes plays on both sides of the ball. He's still good enough to be a starter in the NBA. He is Butler University's namesake. (OK, he isn't that last one.) All that said, Butler's clearly not what he used to be, and it would be vastly inaccurate to call him a star in any perceptible way. But he's not really a role player either, since he doesn't exist to fill any specific niche. He's the kind of guy you can't really pigeonhole. Of course, this doesn't stop laziness -- we're all tempted to call him a role player anyway.

If we want to talk ourselves into pretending a crummy player is any good, we can tag him with the role player label. Good thing Shelden Williams is out of the league -- we no longer have to pretend he provides any value to an NBA team ever again. His defense may have been not horrible, but he was a terribly clumsy ball-handler, and as his cringeworthy minute-or-so of play in the 2010 NBA finals proved, he's not someone you ever want on the court in crunch time. I really enjoyed how little we saw of Joel Anthony this past season, who carries a lot of the same dead weight. When the Heat replaced him with the Birdman, they became a better team, and a far more watchable one. Nazr Mohammed may or may not be part of this group, depending on how much value you want to assign to his few good games he had against Miami in the playoffs. He had a strong series against the Heat, which caused the Bulls to commit themselves to one more year of his services. Maybe Nazr makes a few key plays in a playoff series, and leads a rejuvenated Rose and company over the Heat, but it's also quite possible that he'll spend the year merely occupying a roster spot, with those few good games against Miami severely inflating his value to the team. Perhaps it's even likely.

• • •

Now, let's talk about the one definition of role player that does make a little bit of sense: the guy who only does one or two things right. In my view, this is the definition that actually fits the term; a player who is there to perform a specific task or role. Like a character actor, but for basketball. Usually, these players come in two categories: guys who are only there to shoot threes and guys who are only there to play defense. Sometimes, players can fit into both categories, like Danny Green.

Even though I'm partial to that definition, Green's performance in the Finals added another wrinkle to it: what happens when a role player is consistently the best player on the floor? Is he still a role player if he contributes more than any of your star players over a brilliant five-game stretch? In the first five games of the series, Danny Green dominated. He set a record for the most threes made in the finals, and forced the Heat to watch his every move in the final two games. After Game 5, there was serious talk of him being the Finals MVP. If you look at everyone who's won this honor over the award's duration, it's pretty much always a star player. Nine times out of 10, it's the best player on the team -- the other time, it's the second best!

Of course, Green fell out of the running for the honor when the Heat paid closer attention to him and his hot streak ran out. Had the Spurs won the series, Tim Duncan would have almost certainly been named Finals MVP. But Green's run reminds us that when an alleged role player is at his apex, he can be just as valuable as anyone else on the team. Of course, this didn't just happen in the finals -- Green was one of the better shooting guards in the league this season, shooting .429 from the field while averaging in double figures for the West's best team. Does the fact that his skill set is still essentially "three and D" confine him to a role player's fate, or does the fact that he's so ridiculously good at both put him in a different category? The term is meant to help simplify things, but when it comes right down to it, the term gives us more questions than answers.

If Green is actually a role player, he's obviously one of the best ones in the league. For some of the other guys, their value can be inflated and overstated. In each of the past two seasons, the Miami Heat won the title after a guy who had been struggling hit a ton of threes in the deciding game. Last year, it was Mike Miller. This year, it was Shane Battier. If Battier doesn't drain those six threes in Game 7, there's a fair chance the Spurs are champions right now. So, yes -- Battier and Miller are both "valuable" players to the Heat's team. But I doubt either one is irreplaceable. To be a contender, you need a guy who can come off the bench and hit open threes. That's true. But it doesn't need to be any specific guy. Does anyone really think the Heat would have won fewer games if they replaced Mike Miller with, say, Daequan Cook? And suppose we swapped out Battier with Steve Novak -- does that swing the title in San Antonio's favor? I have my doubts. Sure, Battier's six threes carried Miami over San Antonio, but he's not the only player who could have pulled it off, especially when you consider how dreadful he had been in the playoffs up until that point.

• • •

It's not that these players have no value. That's not the moral here. The moral is that real role players -- the one-to-two tool players that really fit the definition -- are fairly interchangeable. You probably do need a few random dudes who can hit threes in order to win a title, but that's what they are: random. The pool of players with limited offensive games who can still hit two out of every five from downtown is wide enough that no one should be hurting in that area. Same goes for big men who just play defense; you can find a big, scary dude who can stand in the other team's way if you try hard enough. (For teams who are interested, I hear Jason Collins is looking for a deal.)

The discussion of role players has gotten completely out of control. We're at the point where we have no clear picture on what a role player is or how much value one actually provides. The role player tag is applied to various players at completely disparate talent levels, making us over-value some and under-value others. Rather than being an efficient way of describing what a non-star player does, the term complicates thing, and makes it all the more difficult to determine a player's true value. I propose one of two solutions. Either we all agree on one definition of a role player: a guy who is only there to shoot threes and/or play defense (and we also agree that Danny Green is by far the best of these players). Or, we agree to eliminate the concept of role players altogether, and do what the folks of Springfield did with Seymour Skinner's previous life as Armin Tamzarian: never speak of it again, under penalty of torture.

John Hugar
John Hugar is a writer who dreams of electric sheep. His work can be found at The Classical, Buzzfeed, and many other outlets. He has seen every Simpsons episode, probably.

How it Could've Happened: Iguodala to the Spurs

(andre is the topic)

That's Free Agency for you. I wrote a short piece this past weekend for a 48 Minutes of Hell offseason compilation on the various options open to the Spurs. Unfortunately, in the process of finishing the compilation of the feature, Tiago Splitter was resigned and the whole thing became little more than an academic exercise. The main point of the piece was to examine the various options available to the Spurs in this offseason -- how some of the big targets would fit with the team, how the team could sign them, and the implications for future seasons. My assignment was to examine a curiosity of mine: Andre Iguodala as a Spur. The following is my Iguodala portion of this weekend's efforts, stored here for your enjoyment and for readers to laugh uproariously at me for thinking this had any chance of happening. (To be fair, I didn't think it was likely. It was just an exercise in spitballing options. Still, though. It's on me, to be a G.)

• • •

What should the Spurs do with Manu Ginobili? ... While I'm as big a Manu fan as anyone (see: the capsules!), there comes a time when every sporting legend fades to black. That time is now, for Manu. That said, I'm still a proponent of bringing Manu back if he'd accept a much smaller deal. He can still have occasional flings with dominance, but only on short minutes with a score of backup options. If Manu would accept $3 million a year I'd be happy to see him back. Any more and life begins to get messy, although I could be sold on anything up to $5 million without too much hand-wringing. [Ed. Note: I'm still on board with the $3-5 million mark. Hoping that he'll take the low end to allow the Spurs the room to go after one of the high-tier agents like AK47, but if the Spurs decide to resign Manu and Neal and use their full MLE, I'm also OK with Manu getting a one-year highly inflated salary to repay him for all the seasons of salary sacrifice to help San Antonio contend.]

What should the Spurs do with Tiago Splitter? ... I don't think the Finals necessarily mean the Spurs need to dump Splitter to the curb. After all, this is the man who roundly destroyed the world in San Antonio's lopsided romp through the Western Conference, despite the mid-playoff injury. Does he work against Miami? Perhaps not, but if he's effective against every other team in the league, he's still a worthy player. That all said, I do think the Spurs are going to be inevitably priced out of the Splitter chase. If Splitter could go for $8 million or less, I'd be happy with the Spurs resigning him. Anything more than $8 million, I'm wary. Anything more than $10 million, I'm adamantly opposed. [Ed. Note: Yes, I know. He got $9 million -- less than my "adamant opposition" point but more than my "happy with it" point. As such, I'm not too happy about it. That said, given the normal contracts that get handed out to above-average two-way bigs? I'm fine with it and accept it. Keep in mind, this is a league where Marcin Gortat got $7 million a year after less than a season's worth of 12 MPG play.]

The Spurs should target... Andre Iguodala. In Iguodala, the Spurs would be playing into the way Pop likes to play. Both Iguodala and Kawhi Leonard can act as excellent small-ball fours with their rebounding and defensive acumen, and Iguodala's passing could fill the post-Manu role of Parker's secondary creator nicely. While Iguodala's three point shot has been on-and-off his entire career, I have a sneaking suspicion that Chip Engelland's tutelage could rehabilitate it nicely. And for all his faults as a singular star, Iguodala would represent the best perimeter defender to suit up in a Spurs jersey since Bowen. He's a constant defensive player of the year candidate for a reason. Few defensive trios in the league are as fearsome as a theoretical Duncan/Kawhi/Iggy. Iguodala represents a nice bridge to the immediate Parker-led future, and a guaranteed trio of talent in the immediate post-Duncan years.

How does it work? ... I don't believe Andre Iguodala will attract a max contract this summer, but I imagine he'll come relatively close. As Iguodala made $15 million last season, a max deal for Iguodala will run a team $16.4 million per year. I suspect Iguodala's final deal will end up around $14 million per year, with some unlikely incentives to push up his possible numbers. Assuming the Spurs can quickly convince Manu to return at $3 million per year and allow Splitter to leave for fiscally greener pastures, they would have just $12.7 million dollars in available cap room. The Spurs could chip away at that number by renouncing Gary Neal's $1.1 million cap hold or pulling off a sign-and-trade for conditional second round draft picks to send him to an over-cap contender that needs him. (Indiana, perhaps?) They could look into possible trades for Matt Bonner, as well -- if nothing else, they could certainly amnesty him. Assuming a Bonner amnesty and Neal's departure, the Spurs would have $17.7 million dollars of cap room available to sign Iguodala. [Ed. Note: Hey, at least I was right about the $14 million, right?]

What are the immediate after-effects of an Iguodala acquisition? ... If Iguodala were to agree to a $14 million dollar starting salary, Iguodala's final deal would likely be a 4-year $60 million dollar deal. [Ed. Note: I forgot. Defenders rarely get paid.] The Spurs would end the previously proposed wheeling and dealing with $3.7 million dollars of cap room, perhaps allowing them to register a semi-competitive offer for Gerald Henderson, Chris Copeland, or Matt Barnes. Or any of the other small-tier free agents -- those are my three favorites, but I trust the Spurs front office more than I trust myself there. If the Spurs chose to use that cap room, they'd have only the "Room" Mid-Level exception available for further roster building, a two-year $2.6 million exception allotted to teams who have used cap room to sign players during their offseason. My best guess is that the Spurs would look into a few different options for the cap room and the exceptions, in the end settling with one reasonably young big or wing on a $3.7 million dollar contract and an unused MLE, counting on D-League call-ups to fill out the remaining three roster spots. Overall, the Spurs should end the spending spree nominally under the cap, in reasonably good shape to keep their books clean going forward.

How would this impact San Antonio's future cap situation? ... I said their books would be clean. I didn't say they'd be flexible. While it looks unlikely the Spurs are going to dip into the luxury tax any time soon no matter what San Antonio does this summer, it's rather unlikely the Spurs are going to have significant roster flexibility in the next 3-4 years. Whether the Spurs resign Tiago and Manu or sign a top-tier free agent, any contract they sign is likely to be a long-term deal. They won't have significant cap space in 2014 unless they sign this summer's haul to one-year deals -- the Cuban gambit. In 2015, the Spurs are nominally flush with room. In practice, though? They'll have expensive contract extensions to bring Parker, Leonard, and Green back into the fold. That keeps flexibility low. All told, those three are likely to demand something in the neighborhood of a combined $35 million dollars. Whether you sign Tiago, Manu, and a Redick-type shooter for $17 million or Iguodala and Manu for $17 million, any of this summer's signings will already put the Spurs in spitting distance of $50 million in 2015 salary commitments if you assume that they intend to bring Leonard/Green/Parker back at that juncture. And that's just a handful of players! The Spurs won't have significant cap room in 2015 unless they choose to blow up their core, and they'll be hamstrung for a few years after that -- this year's potential room represents San Antonio's best chance at a marquee free agent in the next half decade. They've handled their roster expertly, and this is their big chance to fill in a piece that will keep the Spurs humming in the post-Duncan era. I'm of the view that Iguodala is the best option of all the players out there. Does he want to be a Spur? Does the front office see things the same way? We'll see.

... And thus we saw. The Spurs did NOT see things the same way, and Iguodala isn't even getting quite as much as I thought he would. C'est la vie. I still think it'd be fun to see a Duncan/Kawhi/Iguodala/Green/Parker lineup -- defensively, that just seems amazing to me. And the smallball offensive opportunities are fun to envision. But there's value in retaining corporate knowledge if you're the Spurs. And there's value in Splitter's ability to help Duncan rest. And all this said? If they amnesty Bonner and get Manu to agree to a $3 million dollar contract, they can still have up to $8 million in cap room to pursue someone like Andrei Kirilenko or Gerald Henderson. The Spurs could still, in theory, add a major piece to the team that made the finals last year.

The eternal death-defying pretzel cart of the San Antonio Spurs hobbles onwards.

• • •

One final note -- you may have noticed a dearth of posts by me in the aftermath of the finals. This is on purpose. I'm taking a several week sabbatical to recover from an emotionally exhausting Finals gamut and -- quite frankly -- working far too hard on my hobby. I'll be back in a little over a week with some Summer League coverage, and I'll be starting a new capsule-related series later this summer. No, I'm not doing rewrites of last year's 370 capsules, but I'm doing some work on a 45-or-so part series that's almost as useful! Fun times for everyone. Until then, though, I'm going to take some time off and play Fallout 3 as Pau Gasol. No, really. I'm playing Fallout 3 as Pau Gasol. (In a related story, Fallout: Phil Vegas will return sometime next season. We have features galore, guys! FEATURES GALORE!)

Aaron McGuire on sabtwitterAaron McGuire on sabtumblrAaron McGuire on sablinkedinAaron McGuire on sabgithubAaron McGuire on sabfacebookAaron McGuire on sabemail
Aaron McGuire
Editor in Chief at Gothic Ginobili
Aaron McGuire works as the lead mathematician and CTO for a small financial consulting firm in Richmond, VA. As a basketball writer, he's primarily known for Gothic Ginobili's 2012 Player Capsule series, where he wrote the equivalent of 1.5 Russian novels about every NBA player around. Nowadays, he writes a weekly column on whatever he damn well feels like.

Grim Fortuna: The 2013 Draft's First Ten

Alternate photo of Otto Porter.

Every year, the NBA Draft offers promise and despair for fans and front offices around the association. Fans watch with rapt attention and bated breath [Ed. Note: Just playin', they read Twitter] as David Stern ambles to and from the podium, smirking as he holds their teams’ fates in his frog prince hands. They oscillate from cheers to cries as he unveils their pick, knowing that with it their organization’s final call has been laid bare for the world to see. For NBA fans, every year’s draft (however deep or diluted) holds simultaneously the implied promise of a brighter future and the grim reassurance of their doomed fates. How appropriate that the 2013 draft, an occasion we collectively wrote off as likely being one of the more uninteresting in recent memory, ended up being the most exciting. Boos and jeers rained down, Stern smirked, the names slowly filled the board, and we're left to sort through the debris. We stand amidst it, left to wonder “Wait, how did my team actually do?” With respect to that question, at least for the first 10 teams in the draft, your friends at Gothic Ginobili are here to assess your grim fortune:

• • •

1. Cleveland Cavaliers – Anthony Bennett – Power Forward
After recovering from the initial shock of the pick, I’m actually not totally against this pick. This’ll be the second year in a row the Cavaliers took an unconventional choice with their top-5 lottery pick, and if I was a Cavs fan I’d be much more comfortable with this pick than last year’s. Bennett is a versatile forward with excellentsize and length. Offensively, he reminds me of Charles Barkley minus the back-to-basket game. Of course, the question on everyone’s mind concerns what position he’s supposed to play. I don’t think this is a tweener concern in the traditional sense -- with proper conditioning I think Bennett could handle limited time at small forward, and with a fast-paced small ball lineup is perfectly suited for the 4 spot given his skill in transition and offensive versatility. The problem is that Tristan Thompson exists, is on the Cavaliers, is a power forward, and is on a rookie contract. Thompson can’t play small forward, and I’d have serious doubts about replacing Alonzo Gee with Bennett for any length of time, so I’m interested to see what Cleveland is going to do here. Given the already shaky injury status of the Cavaliers frontcourt, I understand why they passed on Noel. Why pass on Oladipo though? His addition presents no more of a logjam at shooting guard than Bennett’s does at power forward, and his ability to defend multiple positions solves an issue more immediately pressing to the Cavaliers than Bennett’s scoring does. Another interesting choice from an organization with a history of interesting draft choices.

AARON MCGUIRE'S HOT SPORTS TAKE

Bennett's name features a "triple double" composed of the letters "e", "n", and "t." Bennett will average a triple double.

2. Orlando Magic – Victor Oladipo – Shooting Guard
In my opinion, this was the best fit of the draft. It speaks highly of Oladipo that this likely would have been the case no matter which team took him. Were the rumored Bledsoe deal to take place, Orlando would be looking at a formidable athletic core and a dangerous 1-2 punch in transition. However, I don’t buy that Oladipo puts Orlando back in the conversation as a fringe playoff team. For his relative completeness as a player I see his value for the Magic lying more on the defensive end. That said, Moe Harkless looked awfully effective for much of last season. There’s reason to be optimistic for Orlando fans.

AARON MCGUIRE'S HOT SPORTS TAKE

If you add an "n" and a "r" to Oladipo's name, you have "Orlandipo." This means he will be Orlando's very best Scrabble player.

3. Washington Wizards – Otto Porter – Small Forward

Next to Oladipo, this is my pick for most likely to quickly improve their team. Washington’s small forward rotation is a disaster, and Porter’s length and ability to move without the basketball should, with time, make him a valuable upgrade over Martell Webster. His length and quickness makes him look like he’ll develop into quite an NBA-level defender, and the Wizards were already looking like an elite defensive squad in the latter half of the 2012-2013 season. Porter should only improve that. If Beal continues to improve, and Wall can stay healthy, Otto Porter and the Wizards look like good bets to be fighting for a playoff spot come next spring.

AARON MCGUIRE'S HOT SPORTS TAKE

Otto Porter represents the second Airplane! star to "make it" in the NBA. He was the pilot.

4. Charlotte Bobcats – Cody Zeller – Center
The above represents one reaction to the Bobcats pick. Cody isn’t the stereotypical stiff the name Zeller often brings to mind, as evidenced by his draft combine stats and college performance. He’s a stellar athlete, especially in transition, who’s capable of converting those transition opportunities into points. I’d project Zeller fitting reasonably well into Charlotte's framework of a fast up-tempo super-small-ball team helmed by Kemba Walker and Ramon Sessions. That said, he’ll pretty much have to, since he doesn’t promise to bring much to the table defensively. He’s got a small wingspan for a big man despite his size and frame, and though he’s quick on his feet those arms are going to limit him as a defender and rim protector. If the Bobcats want to win games with this lineup they promise to field (which isn’t as bad as you think: did you know Kemba Walker was statistically better than Damian Lillard in 2012-2013?), they’re going to want to run their comparatively old and busted Eastern Conference foes into the ground. Zeller looks like a nice fit for the kind of team it seems like they’re trying to build, and that’s the first time I think I’ve ever said that.

AARON MCGUIRE'S HOT SPORTS TAKE

Cody Zeller's favorite fish is cod. His favorite game is Call of Duty. He owns a city in Wyoming.

5. Phoenix Suns – Alex Len – Center
Len is a prospect I love for his physical attributes and skill-set. He's also a prospect I’d be terrified of taking, at least with his injury history. Stress fractures are no joke when it comes to big men, and even for an organization with a supernaturally effective medical staff like the Suns, its reason to take pause. That said, the Suns are in dire need of anything resembling upside, and if they can keep him healthy, Len shows promise of a Hibbert-esque force in the paint. With Gortat looking ready to catch the first flight out and Jermaine O’Neal being where he is in his career, the center position is as good a start as any for a Phoenix organization looking for a long-term piece.

AARON MCGUIRE'S HOT SPORTS TAKE

Fun fact: Alex Len is a boy, not a girl! Woah! National Basketball Association? More like National Boys Association.

6. New Orleans Pelicans – Nerlens Noel – Center
Wait, scratch that.

6. New Orleans Pelicans – Jrue Holiday – Point Guard
Since Noel got flipped to Philadelphia, this draft pick becomes more about the acquisition of Jrue Holiday. I’ve seen some frustrated thoughts on both ends of the spectrum, but I see this as the rare trade where things worked out on both ends. Jrue will presumably start at point guard for the Pelicans, creating a formidable backcourt tandem with Eric Gordon (who, to his credit, seemed pretty excited about the move on Twitter). That’s a heck of a lineup, particularly if Davis can gain some weight and become more comfortable playing a small-ball 5 next to Ryan Anderson. That’s a squad that can run you ragged up and down the floor in transition AND execute from the perimeter and on the pick and roll in the half-court. Give them some time to gel and they’ll be a tough out. The wild card in this whole scenario is Grieivis Vasquez, who the Pelicans will presumably want to bump to sixth man. Vasquez [Ed. Note: He led the league in assists] was one of the more underrated players in the entire league [Ed. Note: which he led in assists] last season [Ed. Note: a season which culminated in him leading the assist leaderboard], and his combination of size and skill [Ed. Note: at assists, which he led] make him a versatile and potent option for a team to have in its second unit. But being the sixth man can be touchy for guys [Ed. Note: especially guys who led the league in assists], and there’s no way of telling how Greivis [Ed. Note: Who also led the league in assists.] will feel about potentially playing that role [Ed. Note: He also led the league in assists last season]. Regardless, this is still an exciting Pelicans team that I’m going to be making some trips to New Orleans to check out.

AARON MCGUIRE'S HOT SPORTS TAKE

If the Pelicans regret this acquisition, they should take a Holiday in order to Jrue their decision to trade for him. (I am horrible.)

7. Sacramento Kings – Ben McLemore – Shooting Guard
One of the few predictable picks of the draft, McLemore was one of two “sure things” available (next to Oladipo). There was no way he was sliding past the Kings, who’ve never met a scoring guard they didn’t like. Jokes aside, this is a great fit for the Kings roster assuming Tyreke makes on his way out the door. Though he’s a restricted free agent, it’s unlikely the Kings opt to match an offer on him. Despite his disappointing decline since his stellar rookie season, Tyreke still has plenty to offer for a number of teams that need a complimentary backcourt piece and have the money to pay for it. The McLemore pick seems to reinforce the notion that the Kings are looking to change up their rotation at two-guard. And I can’t fault the pick at all. Athletically gifted, talented and fundamentally sound shooter, NBA-ready body; McLemore has it all for a team looking to add a ready contributor. McLemore’s shooting ability should open up a new dimension for the Kings’ offense. My only concern would be that the Kings’ biggest problem hasn’t really been their offense. They find ways to score, usually. Rather, their biggest problem has been their completely non-existent defense. Whether that’s the result of coaching or personnel, I’m not qualified to say, and it’s hard to look at the dismal state of the Kings roster and say they should look at defensive big men to complement Cousins rather than someone who can contribute more tangibly. But it’s certainly food for thought going forward.

AARON MCGUIRE'S HOT SPORTS TAKE

You can't spell "McLemore" without "More Mel C." I agree, Sacramento. You can't get enough Spice Girls.

8. Detroit Pistons – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – Shooting Guard
I haven’t heard a ton of chatter on this pick, but it strikes me as one of the better picks in terms of roster suitability. The rap on Pope (Is that right? Or is it Caldwell-Pope every time?) is that he’s a shaky ball handler and not much for driving the rim. He’s more of a perimeter creator, possessing excellent touch from long-range and a good eye for getting his shot off of screens and shaking loose to create spot-up opportunities for himself. Luckily, the Pistons already have two ball handlers in Calderon and Knight, one of whom is capable of spacing the floor at an elite level and the other serviceable at creating opportunities at the rim. While Caldwell-Pope is a shooting guard, he’s got great size at 6’6”. He may be a liability on defense at the NBA level due to his small wingspan, but he’d likely be an upgrade seeing minutes at small forward over Kyle Singler. The Pistons have accumulated a number of surprisingly promising young pieces, particularly their frontcourt lineup of Monroe and Drummond, and I’m hoping Maurice Cheeks will see the benefits of giving Drummond time on the floor over Jason Maxiell. Fun fact: Maxiell remained an NBA starter in the year of our lord 2013. Cheeks’ head coaching record isn’t sterling, but he’s also been placed in some unfortunate situations personnel wise. This is his first real shot with a young and talented roster. Let's get it, Pistons.

AARON MCGUIRE'S HOT SPORTS TAKE

Pope is 76 years old. What kind of a handle can you really expect to have at that age, anyway? Dumars strikes again.

9. Minnesota Timberwolves – Shabazz Muhammad (via Trey Burke)– Shooting Guard
Going into last season I was reasonably confident that the Wolves could be a playoff squad in the Western conference. I penciled them in as a fair shot at the 8th seed, at least. Then there was the Love injury, Rubio’s recovery took longer than expected, and things sort of flew off the rails. With the news that AK47 (an underrated contributor to what success the Timberwolves mustered last season) has opted out of his contract, even healthy the Wolves’ prospects look a little dimmer. But Muhammad adds a dimension Minnesota hasn’t had in quite a while: a legitimate scoring wing. And despite the media fallout surrounding his personal life and his underwhelming performance over the past year, I’m still a believer in Shabazz’s prospects as a real NBA contributor. If nothing else, he adds depth at a position the Wolves sorely need depth at.

AARON MCGUIRE'S HOT SPORTS TAKE

Excuse me, Mr. Harmon, we do not use curse words here at Gothic Ginobili. For shame. His name is "Shabutt." Get it right.

10. Portland Trail Blazers – CJ McCollum – Shooting Guard
Injury issues aside (a broken foot isn’t anything to sound the alarms over when it comes to small guards), the criticisms of McCollum going into the draft centered mainly around his status as a scoring guard in point guard’s clothing. Luckily for him, the Blazers are quite set at both point guard and backup point guard, and instead are much more in need of a capable shooting guard or a scorer off the bench. I doubt he’ll start over Wes Matthews' steady hand given his smaller size, but his game screams “bench spark” and that’s a role he should be able to perform to expectations with this season’s Blazer squad. Given the Blazers had virtually no bench in 2012-2013, those expectations shouldn’t be that high. Notably, Portland recently snagged Thomas Robinson, making it fair to speculate a Blazer bench mob pairing the two. But one should be careful in speculating the ultimate destination of that ill-fated Kansas forward, as he travels about the Association helping to set cap space right which once was wrong, leaping from team to team, hoping each time that this is the final leap home.

AARON MCGUIRE'S HOT SPORTS TAKE

CJ represents the very first former White House Chief of Staff to make it in the NBA. They call him The Jackel.

Jacob Harmon
Jacob Harmon is a writer and basketball fan from the Alabama Gulf Coast. His hobbies, outside of watching basketball, include driving around all day in a big white van and wearing cowboy boots.

Draftial Chaos Theory: Dan's Choice

2013 NBA Draft Lottery

A few months ago, prior to the trade deadline, I wrote a piece entitled Josh Smithial Chaos Theory based on an episode of NBC's Community. The episode "Remedial Chaos Theory" sees a group of seven friends forced to decide who is going to pick up the pizza they ordered, thanks to a broken buzzer. The groups de facto leader, Jeff, determines that the fairest way is to roll a die to decide who goes. Of course, the die has six sides, and there are seven people. Jeff rigged the game so that he'd never lose. Right as Jeff is about to roll the die, the group's pop-culture maniac notes that by rolling the die, the group is creating six different timelines, all of which are later shown in the episode, with various degrees of shenanigans ensuing each time.

Last night was draft night, and the Cleveland Cavaliers stood to make a choice.  Chris Grant and Dan Gilbert seemed  to have no idea who they should draft with their first pick. Every player has their pros and cons. Unable to find a draft day trade they'd like, they enter the Barclays Center. Soon afterwards, they hear David Stern speak the now-dreaded words. "Cleveland is on the clock." As minutes tick away, they scramble to find a solution, and eventually, not being able to find the right answer, they turn to their ultimate good luck charm, Dan's son, the awesome Nick Gilbert. Nick pulls a die out of his pocket, along with a list of six names the Cavs could draft. Dan nods and rolls the die. The universe is giddy at the thought of six different timelines being created.

Disclaimer: Adam is not a draft analyst. He's just a blogger. Do not treat this as draft analysis. DO NOT.

Timeline 1: Cleveland selects Alex Len

Dan Gilbert sighs with relief. At least he got a big guy. He wouldn't go against luck, not after winning two draft lotteries, anyway. And so, Alex Len becomes the first Ukrainian born player to be drafted first overall. Hooray! Nobody in Kiev or Lviv really cares, though, since they're busy fighting off an semi-autocratic regime.

Len immediately contributes as a pick and roll player, working very well with Kyrie Irving and finally leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to the playoffs. The problem? They're the 8th seed. LeBron doesn't care about the boos, as the Cavs are swept away. After the series, a disappointed Len bashes James, saying that him leaving Cleveland was dishonourable and that it would never fly in the Ukraine. In response, an agitated James tells Dan Gilbert that he's not coming back to Cleveland unless Len is gone. This immediately leaks and Cleveland is unable to find a good trade for Len, as the other teams recognize the desperation of the move. Eventually, Len is sold for two second rounders to Houston, as Daryl Morey laughs manically. LeBron doesn't come to Cleveland anyway, announcing that he's keeping his talents in South Beach. Irving eventually leaves as well, disappointed with the way the front office handled his time there. Dan Gilbert, meanwhile, suffers a panic attack anytime he sees a die.

Timeline 2: Cleveland selects Nerlens Noel

Dan Gilbert sighs. Another year of tanking, as Noel's ACL isn't ready for play, at all. The Cavs have an extremely mediocre season, ending up with the 10th spot in the lottery... Lo and behold, they win it, and follow it up by drafting Andrew Wiggins. LeBron James signs with them in the offseason, and the 2014-15 Cavs obliterate the league on the way to their first franchise championship. The happy riot after the win is so huge, however, that the city is utterly destroyed, forcing the Cavs to relocate to Seattle.

Cleveland never gets another NBA team.

Timeline 3: Cleveland selects Victor Oladipo

Dan Gilbert sighs. They didn't need a wing, but once again, Dan Gilbert is hardly one to go against fate. Oladipo is apparently either the next Tony Allen or the next Dwyane Wade. Whatever the case, on twitter, a war between Conrad Kaczmarek and Matt Moore erupts over whether Oladipo should play over Dion Waiters, continuing throughout the season, dividing all of basketball twitter. As they play alongside each other. Cleveland barely makes the playoffs and gets ousted by Miami. LeBron James signs with Cleveland, intensifying the twitter war over who the wings should be. Nobody even notices that Mike Brown played all three along each other, with LeBron at the 4. The war eventually destroys "basketball twitter" as Cleveland wins the title. Since all Cavs fans were too consumed with fighting each other, there is no riot, only an empty arena. Adam Silver is still booed by the empty seats, though.

Timeline 4: Cleveland selects Ben McLemore

Very similar to the Victor Oladipo timeline, but McLemore is immediately recognized as an excellent complement to Irving and Waiters. He puts up one of the best rookie three point shooting seasons ever, cementing his reputation as the next Ray Allen. This time, though, due to a butterfly effect LeBron James decides not to sign with Cleveland after ousting them from the playoffs, staying in Miami. This leads the Kyrie Irving Cavaliers to a rehash of the early 90s, as the hyper-talented Mark Price Cavaliers were constantly ousted by Jordan at various stages of his power. These Cavaliers are ousted by Miami at various stages of LeBron's power for several years, eventually leading to a disappointed Kyrie Irving's sad departure.

Timeline 5: Cleveland selects Rudy Gobert

Rudy Gobert? What? For reasons passing understanding, Nick Gilbert wrote the super-tall Frenchman's name down on his sheet. Dan Gilbert panics, trying desperately to act against fate, but even as he tries to write down "Alex Len" on the card submitted to the league office the ink smudges and Gobert's name still appears. After a rant for the ages, Conrad Kaczmarek quits twitter and becomes a Boston College blogger full-time. Cleveland has a nightmarish season, with Gobert quickly becoming the all-time laughing stock of the league's rogues gallery of failed #1 picks. Shades of Kwame Brown, perhaps. Even though they're in line for another first overall pick, fate doesn't respond kindly to Dan Gilbert's attempts to cheat it. Cleveland ends up at #4, the lowest possible draft position, and Chris Grant gets a bit too cute and drafts Przemek Karnowski. The reason? Unfathomable, even to him. Karnowski busts similarly to Gobert. Kyrie Irving demands a trade in a furious angry rage, and the team's beleaguered owner inexplicably decides to grant his request. Gilbert trades Irving to Houston for Daryl Morey's loose change, and moments later, sells the Cavaliers to Chris Hansen. And we all know how that ends. Hansen moves them to Seattle immediately. Cleveland gets an expansion team to soothe their pain, but it never wins a championship, the city's dreams shattered by close calls year by year. Dan Gilbert, meanwhile, ends up in a mental institution for the rest of his life, haunted by even the passing mention of dice.

Timeline 6: Cleveland selects Otto Porter

Otto Porter turns out to be a perfect pick for Cleveland, getting them to the 4th seed in their first year. After a second round upset of Miami, the Cavs cruise to the Finals, where they're beaten in seven games by a strong Thunder side. LeBron doesn't want to join the side that beat him, leading to a back-and-forth Eastern Conference Finals rivalry between the Heat and the Cavs that lasts for the better part of the decade. The East is finally interesting! Impossible? Not in this timeline! The fun ends only after LeBron retires at age 42, leaving lifetime Cavalier Kyrie Irving to rule in his prime as the sole proprietor of the East. (Along with his sidekick Otto, of course.)

Timeline... 7?

The die is stuck on it's side, as the two Gilberts and Chris Grant stare at it blankly. What does it mean? They should probably make their own choice, right? The clock runs out, and just as Stern is about to announce the Cavaliers have ceded the #1 pick to Orlando, they send their pick to the presses. It's a lock. After all the drama, the hand-wringing, and the confusion? The Cavaliers have chosen Anthony Bennett, the board-hungry Canadian straight out of Las Vegas. How does this timeline end for Cleveland, then? Of all possible worlds, is it the best? The worst? The bratwurst?

As luck would have it, that one's ours.

So I suppose we'll just have to wait and see, won't we?

Adam Koscielak
Adam studies law in Poland, which is odd considering he considers himself Canadian. Writes everything that comes off the top of his head, including but not limited to rants, appraisals and love letters to Steve Nash and Marcin Gortat.

A Case of the Small Market Shakes: Kevin Durant Signs with Jay-Z

durant and jay z

The NBA Finals have come and gone. I haven’t had much to say about how they played out since Game 7, and it’s probably best for all of us if I keep it that way. However, if you’re really curious, it’s accurate to say that the fan in me was displeased. Yet here we are! The wounds remain but the hardship is momentarily over for those of us whose teams were not destined for golden glory. It’s that most wonderful time of year, the off-season! Soaring hopes! Speculation! High crests of cheering excitement and cavernous voids of crushing disappointment. Hey, come to think of it, it’s actually exactly the same NBA fan experience one endures the rest of the year... only with front office dudes in suits rubbing their foreheads instead of sick dunks.

Huh.

Well, here we are. We’re only a brief time away from draft night, and we’ve already seen some intriguing trade developments regarding picks and coaching staffs. But those topics are complex, and deserving of their own posts. Here I’m going to stick to a subject you probably stopped caring about two weeks ago, if you even cared in the first place: Kevin Durant’s signing with Jay Z's Roc-Nation.

Should we be concerned that Kevin Durant chose to change agents? Should Oklahoma City fans be quivering in small market inadequacy at creeping thoughts of the star fleeing for the bright lights of one of the coasts? If all that sounds kind of silly, it’s because it is. (It's also because I’m laying it on pretty thick.) Despite this story breaking amidst one of the most exciting NBA Finals in recent memory, the questions it apparently raised in the minds of both Thunder fans and the larger public have gained a surprising amount of traction. Why would small-market hero Kevin Durant abandon Rob Pelinka and join the unproven glitz of Roc-Nation representation? What does this mean for Durant’s future in Oklahoma City? The answers may surprise you.

• • •

First, I don’t think anyone should be shocked Durant decided to seek new representation. People who track these sorts of things have noted that in this past season, KD had more nationally televised ad appearances than any other NBA player. I’m willing to take that claim at face value; I’ve seen that Sprint commercial with the shrunken up PJs and watched KD ride a bicycle real fast in a dorky helmet enough times that I see them on the back of my eyelids when I go to sleep. Plenty of people defending Rob Pelinka’s representation have used Durant’s high number of appearances to argue that KD should be more than happy with his current situation, and has no reason to leap to an unproven partner like Jay-Z. (Related note: there’s a surprisingly large contingent of online commentators with deep-seated investment in the success of high-profile sports agents. Who knew?)

I think the idea that Durant "should be happy" requires a little critical examination. What commercials do you remember seeing Durant in this season? There are the ones I mentioned, with the pajamas (by far the family favorite), and there’s the disappointingly un-prescient Gatorade ad with Wade. There’s that one BBVA one where he spends much of his time in background while the camera’s attention stays firmly focused on some guy that looks like Gary from FX’s Justified. There’s the one where he rides the bicycle. Supposedly there’s the “KD is not nice” advertisement, but I’ve never seen that air once on television and wouldn’t know it existed were it not for YouTube.

Now, compare these campaigns and appearances with Chris Paul’s “Cliff Paul” line. That campaign was EVERYWHERE. It had charm and creativity; it featured Chris Paul foremost in a quirky situation. It had an alter-ego (a classic staple of any advertisement using an NBA player). It was played out in gags at nationally televised games, in social media, and achieved the kind of crossover appeal you only see from really catchy campaigns. My grandmother hasn’t watched an NBA game in her life and barely knows who Michael Jordan is. She still asked me about Chris Paul after being charmed by those ads.

How about Adidas’ campaign for Derrick Rose? You know, The Return? Hashtags on hashtags? That guy didn’t even end up returning, and it was STILL one of the most successful and culturally successful campaigns pitched in a long while. Appropriate for a dominant Bulls star, it went beyond simple cutesiness or sight gags, aiming instead for myth-making. The melodrama and production of it all was evocative of classic Jordan ads, a throwback to a time not-so-long-ago when a players’ brand and advertisements were carefully cultivated to establish fantastical mythology of the highest order. It was the kind of ad not interested in marketing Derrick Rose, the player you haven’t seen in a while here to tell you about his new shoe, but instead in marketing D-Rose, injured warrior training through the void of night in a darkened gym, obsessively striving to rescue a city plunged into stasis by his tragic undoing. He wears cool shoes while he does it, but it’s beside the point.

Both these are examples of classic advertisement choices made by Paul and Rose’ management respectively. Creative Arts Agency made Chris Paul a family name. BJ Armstrong made Derrick Rose (at least temporarily) more myth than man. Rob Pelinka made Kevin Durant that guy the dad in the Sprint commercial turns into, where the pajamas don’t fit? Shocking that he might think Jay-Z could have a fresh strategy for his career. Simply shocking. Of course, then there’s that other nagging question, made more real for Oklahoma City fans and small markets everywhere by the possibility that Jay-Z will succeed in expanding Durant’s exposure and personal brand: what if this means Kevin Durant will leave Oklahoma City?

Maybe he does. But anyone panicking about it should remember he’s not a free agent, and has multiple years left on his contract. Between now and then, who knows what could happen? Maybe Oklahoma City seals a championship, propelling both the team and Durant’s career to new heights, and the idea of him leaving becomes preposterous. Or maybe the team has imploded after seasons of missed opportunities, injuries, poor front office decisions, and Durant’s decision to leave is entirely understandable. There's simply no way to peer into our crystal balls and divine what the future will hold for the Thunder or for Kevin Durant’s best interest, we can only exist in the now.

So here’s what the now is: Kevin Durant chose a partnership with a successful businessman who he both holds in high personal esteem and recognizes as skilled in cultivating a successful personal brand. He likely recognized that while Jay-Z the agent is “unproven,” Roc-Nation the agency is not, being nothing more than a new component and brand of Creative Arts Agency. I mentioned them earlier as being the representation for Chris Paul, but they also are responsible for players like Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Tony Parker, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, Michael-Kidd Gilchrist, and others. Successful players all, they occupy small and big markets alike. What Kevin Durant made was a rational business decision, nothing more. Anyone having a case of the small-market shakies shouldn’t lose sleep over it. After all, Wade probably won't even get the chance to block us.

Jacob Harmon
Jacob Harmon is a writer and basketball fan from the Alabama Gulf Coast. His hobbies, outside of watching basketball, include driving around all day in a big white van and wearing cowboy boots.

Humor and Pain -- A Farewell to the 2013 Spurs

If Alex Dewey stepped on an NBA court, Kenyon Martin would say this. (Thanks to Trey Kerby of TBJ for the pic.)

Both in writing and in person, I make a lot of self-deprecating comedy. That's just how I frame my existence. I could give you an example, but I accidentally screwed up my computer by banging my elbow against it. While slipping on a banana peel nearby. This actually just happened. I'm typing on my phone, really slowly. The ambulances will be here shortly. But that's not gonna help anything. Because nothing can help me. Look, I already dropped my phone. Aw, frig. It's broken too. Aaron publish this piece immediat--

Look, I'm just fine. None of the previous paragraph actually happened. Still, while I'm sure someone was disturbed by that last paragraph, I was enjoying it. Because I just never win, and others need to know about it. No matter how close I get, at the moment of truth even my noblest endeavor is stymied. Every time I think of a joke it turns out Rodney Dangerfield beat me to the punch. In 1935. But I can laugh about it. My mom came up to visit and declared my apartment uninhabitable and proceeded to clean for 10 minutes and got it cleaner than it had been since I'd moved in. I was so happy but I couldn't figure out the words to thank her. So I settled for "Happy Mother's Day." [Ed. Note: Now I understand why Dewey tells me "Happy Editor's Day" every time I edit his pieces...]

See, folks, I can laugh about my foibles because I have so many of them. I laugh at my foibles the way others laugh at my hair follicles - because a) there's so many of them, b) they're so unbefitting, and c) I screwed up trying to condition them. Heh. See what I mean? You have to shut me up or I'll go on like that forever. I'm sorry. I'm like one of those old Energizer Bunnies, except I never have any energy and when I'm tired I annoy the crap out of anyone I interact with using my inscrutable stream of consciousness ramblings and an abjectly terrible sense of humor. I'm always tired, so this is my always: this is my basic condition upon the Earth. Started at the bottom now I'm here. Which is not much improved, I'll just say, and the food's just a little better. I write a hundred sprawling essays on every minor indignity that visits me, and I do so with a smile on my face.

 • • •

Look, I'm not going to argue that the Spurs couldn't win solely because I was rooting for them, in some cosmic comedic sense. Yes, that thought flashed across my mind as the Spurs began their inbound to Kawhi with about a minute left. That would be silly and irresponsible. There's no way I was solely cosmically responsible. Surely something called chance intervened and made futile the Spurs' best efforts, and then, when the tide in the affairs of Spurs had receded, the Heat took advantage of the confusion and fled with their trophy. Surely it wasn't entirely my fault, in a cosmic sense. Surely my reverse-jinxes and postgame comments (meant to be classy, but probably just came off as irritating like everything else I do) were innocuous. Surely I wasn't literally affecting events in Miami with my own magic gift to make everything I touch break down or suck. But to be honest, the only reason I don't think I affected the outcome is that I can barely get my phone to work.

I've said it before: As Micky Arison spoke after Game 7 at the podium, I was regurgitating my dinner and dry heaving through tears. I like to think that this was a reflection upon Arison (whose name is making me wretch from conditioning to type). But it's probably a reflection upon sadness. Sadness for the fallen Spurs. I don't think I've been that sad in a pretty long while, because I'm not that emotional, except when I'm trying desperately to rationalize my most recent mistake. Maybe it was just that the curry I'd made was not very good. But I went to sleep, said probably a hundred times on cyberspace and meatspace how it was "Just how the ball bounces. Congratulations to the Miami Heat." and then I went home and watched "The Tree of Life" and played "Simple Twist of Fate" a hundred times, huddled beside a blanket.

Everything happens to me. Poor me. Well, okay, it's closer to "I happen to everyone I come into contact with. Poor them." The Spurs had a perfect chance to seal the deal and even then I couldn't accept it. Like a neurotic I said outright "This game is far from over" on Twitter when the Heat were down 5. When Ray Allen hit that 3 there was a delay emotionally because I kind of expected something like this to happen, to me, again. I couldn't just be crushed, I had to lose hope right when things were most probable, right before there was any reason to lose hope. I said I was really happy with the quality of play this series, and I meant it. But then, I also hid the part where the Spurs losing the best series I'd ever seen would be totally crushing. Put yourselves in their positions: The Spurs had done everything right up to that point, for a freaking decade. They'd rested their starters, developed their shooters, developed a system on both ends and made the best player in the world seem for about 240 minutes like a relative non-factor on the backs of smart acquisitions and brilliant trades and brilliant coaching. Tim Duncan has deferred and asserted, deferred and asserted, done everything he needs to do, and now they just need to close the last few seconds of, again, a decade of hard work.

And then it doesn't materialize and the Spurs are goats. "And then, Ray Allen. And then, LeBron James." The only way to deal with that is as the punchline to a joke. The Spurs were made to feel they already had the trophy. But 25 seconds took what was in sight, and then another 53 finally brought to logical conclusion an existing fact - the Heat were not better, but they were getting bounces, and suddenly, those bounces were starting to chain together into some sort of unstoppable dribble machine, and LeBron simply took the reins, took care of business, and here we are.

 • • •

I've never had a lot of self-confidence. Usually, I don't lack for self-confidence, either. I'm basically average. But I'm pretty introspective, probably to a fault. Take it all together, add a sense of humor, and I'm someone that can accurately see the foibles of everyone I interact with, internalize them, and move on with an innocuous laugh. And I can see my own foibles, and I can look more deeply and see my own failures that underlie them. Just to name a couple: chronic underachievement, prodigal talent constantly wasted in a mire of disorganization and flighty attentions. I see my own unstructured life with comedy and look deeper and see a life littered with the memories of pain that make this structure more difficult. I see the people I love returning to me after an adolescence where they had to leave me because I was sort of pushed aside by the world and relationships that have always been bigger than me. I see a decade in which it's been all development and scrutiny for me, and yet, at the end of it all, I feel (probably falsely) that most people like me but no one really understands me. [Ed. Note: Except for me, his Virginia-bound brain double.]

And my favorite team lost after four years and roughly 260 games watched. And it wasn't just the games I watched - I wrote dozens of articles, along the way learning whatever I could about all of the players, the system, the league in which they were positioned, the subtle stories that a simple trip down the SI Vault might miss. The Spurs lost after four years of my intense attention when they had a 1.5% chance to lose. Lost after they had the sea of probability practically parted for them. The Spurs were a historically elite team this postseason, outplayed and outscored the Heat (at one point for 4 out of 6 games (this is supposed to be a great team itself)), and yet, the Heat saw that sliver of uncertainty, slipped in at the single highest-leverage moment, and attacked, and won. Won like I knew they would, even when it was 98.5%. Won because that's what I'm accustomed to. Won because I don't know how I'd be if I ever won at anything. And so I'm in a dark apartment eating Greek yogurt and watching existential films and listening to "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" and writing it all down.

And all of this is funny to me, as well it should be. I know it to be the case, because I've never been one for sob stories or wallowing in pain for very long. That's just not my nature. I've got the mindset of a coach, in a lot of ways, and I do remember things for a long time. So I suppose the Duncan bunny will weigh upon me for a long time. But in the end I'm far more neurotic about the immediate past and the immediate future. What everyone else may call the pain of a decade I call a minor setback and frustration. What others call a chip on my shoulder I only call another thing I have to freaking carry. No, whatever pain you want to ascribe to me only weighs upon me in dreams and in bank deposits. And I'm awake right now. So I suppose I'll be alright. I've already written one sprawling essay about this subject, and surely that will be the end of the story for me.

But I sure wish the Spurs had won.

Alex Dewey
The co-founder of the blog, Alex is an unemployed jack of all trades, if you redefine "all trades" to mean "computer science, not owning a car, and mathematics." Writes ace book reviews as well as disturbing Lovecraftian horrors. Has a strange sense of humor that's part Posnanski, part coyote, and part Butta. "See you space cowboy."
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