Draftial Chaos Theory: Dan's Choice

Posted on Fri 28 June 2013 in Uncategorized by Adam Koscielak

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?

Continue reading

Adam's Weekly Nettles: Turnovers, Callouts, and Dwight Howard

Posted on Thu 14 March 2013 in Adam's Weekly Nettles by Adam Koscielak

kobe bryant

This week, we're trying a new column proposal from Adam Koscielak, our Poland correspondent. The gist? Adam is an angry contrarian man who hates everything and everyone. Virtually everything in the known universe annoys him. Given this, every week, Adam has dozens and dozens of weekly grievances and complaints. Even about things like the NBA, which he actually enjoys! In this new feature, Adam shares with the world his top three NBA-centric complaints of the past week, as well as a single positive statement in a hopeless effort to retain what little humanity he has left. Enjoy.

Grievance #1 – Fans Ignoring Turnovers (AKA the Bryant conundrum)

I really dislike Kobe Bryant. I don't enjoy watching his game, despite the skill involved. See, even when he passes, I don't really feel any sort of team spirit within him. That team spirit drives my love towards basketball -- why do you think I like Steve Nash so much? And while I'll readily admit that I hate players like Kobe PARTLY because I'm never going to be a player capable of being like Kobe, I'll also note how even in a great game, Kobe Bryant still manages to get away with the deadliest basketball sin of them all: the turnover. Or, in the case of Bryant's Friday game against the Toronto Raptors, a whole nine of them.

As with every game, I ended this one on Twitter, discussing the results. Many swooned over Bryant's incredible 41 point 12 assist performance, but I did not -- I sat back and kept staring at his nine turnovers. Usually, the main reason a critic would harp on Bryant is his tendency to shoot too much and too inefficiently. This time? The turnovers just bugged me. I got into a few heated discussions about this, with others telling me I should just let go and enjoy his wonderful performance. That, though, would mean I don't want perfection in basketball! And that would mean I'm not myself. So, I decided to look at it from a less Twitter-centric point of view. I decided to look at what exactly a turnover does to the score. And you know what? Not enough people realize this: Basketball is about points. Not about clutch, not about dunks, not about flash -- it's about points. Doesn't matter when you score them so long as you outscore the other team.

The Lakers succeeded in doing this, led by Kobe, in an epic 15 point comeback. But what people don't realize is that if Kobe didn't turn the ball this often, odds are the Lakers wouldn't have needed that comeback to tie the game. Want proof? Let's use some stats. Now look, I'm no statistician, and Aaron will probably kill me for all the simplifications that will come with these calculations (Ed. Note: Aaron is seen looming in the background, casually whistling as he sharpens a blade), but I want to show a basic logic I use in harping on turnovers, rather than the specific math behind it. Even if I wanted to, it'd probably be impossible, seeing as I barely passed math in high school. (Ed. Note: What.) With that said, let's get to it.

First, I will be only counting the 8 turnovers Kobe made in regulation, since the theory here is that had Kobe not turned the ball over this much, the Lakers would've had an easy win. Since I do believe that it's understandable to have 3 turnovers per game when you're handling the ball as much as Kobe, I will count this out only for 5 turnovers. So, I used nbawowy.com to see how Kobe and the Lakers faired against the Raptors generally that night. It's a bit of a flawed approach, given how the turnovers themselves affect the stats, but since the game had 88 possessions with Kobe on, I will let it slide. I could always use general Lakers data for this, because of larger sample sizes. But I wanted to see precisely this game.

Basically, the Lakers generated 1.114 points per possession during the game, meaning that the 5 turnovers I'm taking into account lead to the forfeiting of around 6 points based only on that trend (Ed. Note: ....................). This already means that if Kobe doesn't turn the ball over more than 3 times, the Lakers win handily in regulation. Add to that a 28% chance of getting an offensive rebound off the shot, the points may grow as high as 10 (Ed. Note: ............................................). Once again, I don't know enough math to draw it out to make sense, but you get my point. Turnovers are the worst play in basketball. If not for the turnovers, Kobe Bryant wouldn't have to make a giant comeback, or hit a clutch three. He'd handily win against the Raptors, who actually helped him by killing themselves with an overuse of Rudy Gay. (Ed. Note: Hey, don't criticize. You're about to be killed by an overuse of "stats.")

Now, I'd just like to ask fans and media alike to remember that NBA basketball is played for 48 minutes, not just for the last five. This is why the refs did not screw you by taking away two points in the last minute of that game a few weeks ago, and this is why a magical half-court shot isn't what won the game. The team won the game, by scoring more points.

Basketball is about points. Really. You can look it up.

Grievance 2 – Let Us Mock Brandon Knight

Remember the night Manny Pacquiao got knocked out? I do. It was fun. Very fun. But then came along a group of people who hate fun, and decided to call everyone that laughed at poor Pacquaio out as heartless, callous people. Which is fine, until you realize that it wasn't the pain Pacquiao was in people were laughing at, but the total and utterly shocking defeat he'd just suffered at the hands of Juan Manuel Marquez. It could be funny. Entering that ring, Pacquiao decided to accept his fate in the ring, and decided that as long as it was game-legal, he'd take a beating from Marquez with the assumption he could dole it back.

Sunday night, Brandon Knight was given the basketball counterpart of a knockout. He was posterized by DeAndre Jordan, after which he dropped on the floor like a sack of potatoes. He was fine, nothing happened, so people laughed. And then came the fun-haters, who pointed out it's a jerk thing to be laughing at poor Brandon. After all, he was just trying to prevent an easy bucket, he was just trying to help his team. We get that, but we'll still laugh. You know why? Because we like laughing. Are we not allowed to laugh at something that looks funny without having to hear about the consequences of such laughter, especially when no one was hurt? Hell, even if he WAS hurt -- the person that was hurt accepted the possibility of that happening! Pacquiao knew he could be knocked out, he's been knocked out, and he knocked out people before. Brandon Knight knew he could get dunked on, he's been dunked on and he dunked on people before. Let's just have fun with that without having to think whether he was making the right play, ok?

Oh, and as a postscript... if we're going to criticize people for laughing at that, we might want to send apologies to Frederick Weiss. He made exactly the right play in the Olympics, but still ended up going through what must've been the most awkward moment of his life courtesy of Vince Carter. Karma's a jerk.

Grievance 3 – Dwight Howard is a total and absolute *insert negative epithet here*

Look, Dwight Howard isn't a horrible person. He's just an annoying person with a terrible PR team. He's a manchild with no self-awareness whatsoever. I'd tell you more, but I don't want to swear, so let me just say this to players who may end up in similar situations later on:

Tip 1 – Don't make "yo mamma jokes" to fans

Tip 2 – Don't make "yo mamma jokes" ever, actually.

Tip 3 – Don't say irredeemably bad things about your ex-teammates.

Tip 4 – Actually... just don't speak, at all. Just be nice and leave full page goodbye letters.

The Non-Grievance of The Week

I've already told you about how much I'd liked the DeAndre Jordan dunk on Brandon Knight, right?

Well, Twitter was awesome that night. Thank you twitter, you made my week.

Continue reading

Josh Smithial Chaos Theory

Posted on Wed 20 February 2013 in Uncategorized by Adam Koscielak

josh smith tyson chandler chillin straight up

Have you ever watched Community? It's a good show. Today, I find myself inspired by an early episode, specifically "Remedial Chaos Theory" -- the 3rd episode of the show's 3rd season. As a refresher, for those who aren't familiar: due to a damaged apartment door, it's determined that somebody has to walk down to get the pizza delivery. To decide which of the seven characters present gets the pizza, a die is rolled, and six different timelines are created. SPOILER ALERT: There are only six faces on a die. There are seven people. In a seventh "bonus" reality, they realize that one of their number is conning the group. Alas. In honor of the episode, I decided to create seven different timelines for the NBA trade deadline. Rather than trading seven different players, I decided to use one alone. The events had to be mutually exclusive, after all. Who? That was the easiest part, after a well timed tweet from Adrian Wojnarowski concerning Josh Smith. It had involved six teams. Milwaukee, Brooklyn, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, and (of course) the possibility of staying with Atlanta. One more team was needed, and in a ironic twist of fate, that last team was none other than the one I'd abandoned a week ago; my former Phoenix Suns. And thus, the table's set.

Here are the NBA's seven mutually exclusive Smith-based timelines.

• • •

Timeline 1: Josh Smith to the Milwaukee Bucks

Screen Shot 2013-02-19 at 3.18.35 PM

In this scenario, Atlanta feels they need another incredibly annoying volume scorer. They get Ekpe Udoh's plus-minus too. Meanwhile, Milwaukee gets Josh Smith, to pair with LARRY SANDERS! to make for a really athletic team. This year, they even get to the 6th seed, and upset the 3rd-seed Bulls. Which is all well and good, until ~ the Josh Smith curse ~ hits them and the team collapses in a heap. This happens over and over again, through all five years of Smith's surprising extension. And so, in his thirties and depressed by a lifetime of early exits, Smith joins the 3-time champion Cleveland Cavaliers on a mid-level contract. The Cavs, of course, have LeBron back alongside Kyrie Irving. They're hyped up in the preseason as the best team in league history, which turns out to be pretty premature. The Cavs fall short in the second round the next 3 years in a row, losing game sevens in the second round each and every time, usually on a bricked Josh Smith jump shot.

Eventually Smith retires, disheartened, while LeBron ends his final season sans-Smith with a last championship to top off his career. It later turns out that Josh Smith had been cursed back when he decided to declare for the draft rather than to go to college. The curse stipulated that Smith can never go beyond the second round with a small-or-mid market team. After finding this out, Smith joins the Los Angeles Lakers -- now with Shabazz Muhammad and Damian Lillard -- and wins a championship as a veteran sixth man. Satisfied, he retires, never to be heard from in the NBA circles again.

• • •

Timeline 2: Josh Smith to the Washington Wizards

Screen Shot 2013-02-19 at 4.02.24 PM

The Wizards add a bevy of draft picks to support the rather weak core, Jordan Crawford returns to Atlanta, and Josh Smith gets to play in the nation's capital. Fun times. After the first season is lost due to the impossible playoff hole, the Wizards end up facing off with the Chicago Bulls in the second round in the 2014 playoffs. An intense series goes seven games, with an reinvigorated Derrick Rose fighting off a breakout season from John Wall and an insanely well developed Bradley Beal, while Josh Smith anchors the defence.

With 10 seconds left in a decisive Game 7, the Bulls have a 89-88 lead with the Wizards getting the final shot. President Obama is in the stands. Smith gets the final shot, a buzzer beating decoy three off the inbounds play. The ball bricks off the rim and hits President Obama's head on the way down. The impact is so strong that Obama falls over his seat, breaking his neck in the process. He dies in the hospital. America's 45th President, former Senator Joe Biden, chooses to place the blame squarely on Smith and ensures he'll be charged with negligent homicide. Somehow the courts actually accept the premise of the prosecution and convict Smith, who is sentenced to spend the remainder of his life in prison.

Coach Randy Wittman commits suicide after realizing that it was his ridiculous play call that not only lost him a playoff series, but also killed the President. President Obama is said to have died happy. Years later, an investigation shows that minutes prior to the shot, a Secret Service agent was toying around with the rims as the crowd was distracted watching cheerleaders. A thorough report reveals that President Obama ordered the rims to be tampered with to make them extra bouncy, in an effort to make sure his Chicago Bulls wouldn't lose by a lucky roll or a shooter's bounce. Josh Smith is set free and makes several completely pointless runs for the Presidency on a variety of hopeless third party tickets.

(He maxes out at 5% in the 2064 elections.)

• • •

Timeline 3: Josh Smith to the Phoenix Suns

Screen Shot 2013-02-19 at 4.17.41 PM

Josh Smith is heading to the Valley of the Sun! ... And as soon as he arrives there, he's greeted by Michael Beasley, who's just coming back home from buying some "soothing herbs." They become fast friends. For the rest of the 2013 season, Beasley and Smith play every game completely high. This unleashes their true potential, as the two Suns bricklayers suddenly forget how to miss shots. The Suns sneak into the playoffs, and the power of the wonder-weed apparently breaks Josh Smith's small-to-mid market curse. The Suns reach the NBA Finals, upsetting every big team in the book. But their luck runs out in Game 1 of the Finals -- they run out of weed, and even though Jermaine O'Neal tries his best to convince them that "Jermaine's Special Stuff" is just as good (it's oregano), they aren't fooled. The Suns revert back to their early season futility and brick right out against the Miami Heat in an easy sweep by LeBron and company, going down by about 40 points in each of the last three games. A DEA investigation later pins them as customers of many high profile Arizona dealers and locks them up in prison for 15 years. Suns fans remain completely unsurprised by what they've seen.

• • •

Timeline 4: Josh Smith to the Boston Celtics

Screen Shot 2013-02-19 at 4.29.33 PM

Josh Smith is heading to Bean Town! The Celtics throw in draft picks with that trade, obviously. A LOT of draft picks. "EVERY DRAFT PICK'S POSSIBULLLLL!" The Celtics, reinforced with a new star PF alongside Kevin Garnett, inexplicably keep winning. They advance to the Eastern Conference Finals and fall to the Heat in 7. They enter next year as contenders, with Rajon Rondo is supposedly on the verge of a return to health. They repeat the same fun script... until Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce suddenly retire in the offseason. Right at the point where their draft picks begin to be sold. Over a painful five year period, the Celtics draft exactly TWO players -- yet another long and painful rebuild. Smith and Rondo leave as soon as their contracts are up, and the Celtics are bound for another era of sadness. Whoops.

• • •

Timeline 5: Josh Smith to the Brooklyn Nets

Screen Shot 2013-02-19 at 2.50.02 PM

Mikhail Prokhorov kidnaps Danny Ferry's family, telling him to make a deal. He offers Wallace and Blatche as a throw in to keep up appearances. Prokhorov ALSO kidnaps the families of every single person involved in Hawks operations, noting that if they tell anyone anything after the trade, he'll do it again without the whole "returning them safe from harm" part. The Hawks are devastated by the trade and fall from playoff contention in record pace, unable to find chemistry with Gerald Wallace or Andray Blatche, who reverts to his former self after suffering withdrawal effects from Brooklyn club life. Meanwhile, the Nets somehow manage to click, with Josh Smith putting back all the bricks Joe Johnson and Deron Williams heave up nightly. The Nets continue a path of destruction all the way to a surprise NBA title, after it turns out that Brooklyn night-club life was the only thing Josh Smith needed to be able to defend LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

Next off-season, Dwight Howard forces a trade to Brooklyn. Nobody is surprised. The Nets go on to win six more titles, with ESPN proclaiming Josh Smith the new greatest of all time. Meanwhile, Mikhail Prokhorov finally beats a crusty old Vladimir Putin in the first competitive election in modern Russian history, partially riding his NBA takeover as a victory over the American imperialists. But a now-18 year old survivor of the kidnapping ordeal finally reports the story to Deadspin, who (after a full-on investigation) discover the truth behind the trade. The FBI jumps right on it, and the confirmation of Prokhorov's crimes comes just as the newly appointed Russian president is visiting the States. The Americans arrest him, diplomatic immunity be damned, on charges of kidnapping and destroying the sanctity of America's sports. This leads to Russia launching nuclear warheads. America and Russia are obliterated as wastelands, and China takes over the world.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announces that the Nets are stripped of all their titles.

• • •

Timeline 6: Josh Smith to the Philadelphia 76ers

Screen Shot 2013-02-19 at 4.34.29 PM

Josh Smith is traded to the Sixers, while Evan Turner gets to grow with the Hawks. For team integration, the team decides to take Smith out bowling, where he injures his knee celebrating a strike that got him a perfect score. As time passes, Smith is day-to-day until the end of the season. He later has to retire due to the injury, stating he feels that he can't play on the level he'd want to anymore. Later it turns out that he spent his entire rehabilitation period playing games programmed by Andrew Bynum on a Kinect that Bynum also tweaked to have more "fun". Smith and Bynum keep re-injuring their knees, this way, and both eventually retired to become motion based video game designers.

• • •

Timeline 7: Josh Smith stays in Atlanta

Smith stays and resigns with Atlanta. He's joined by Dwight Howard, who chooses Atlanta in a 7 episode game show called "The Free Agency Dwight Howard Roulette Bonanza WITH CELEBRITY IMPERSONATIONS." Being old friends, Smith and Howard get along really well and pilot some of the more interesting NBA teams of recent memory. They develop a rabid national fanbase to offset the traditionally flagging attendance in Atlanta, but Smith's curse prevents them from achieving their ultimate goal. Eventually, due to their falling attendance and how little Atlanta cares about them, the Hawks make their way to London to become the NBA's first European team. This move powers Smith and Howard with the salve of night-life and prostitution, bringing the NBA's championship trophy to the United Kingdom. Mean mugging the camera as he's awarded his finals MVP, a beaming Josh Smith picks up the trophy and screams in excitement.

... only to wake up in a cold sweat a few days before the trade deadline, still waiting to see what happens.


• • •

EDITOR'S NOTE: Hey, all! We're finally back from our All-Star hangover. (No, none of us made it to the all-star game. This hangover is metaphorical, the answer is horrible, our morals are out of place and l--... I'll stop.) Tomorrow marks the return of the Outlet with a piece on last week's depressing-for-Jacob OKC/MIA rubber match and some other good stuff. Friday marks the start of a weeklong feature, an end-of-season viewing guide that handicaps the award races and sheds light on some trends and fun things to watch. Then I'll be making my way up to Boston to bring you guys some coverage of the Sloan conference. Get excited. -- Aaron

Continue reading

Marcin Gortat's Rebellion

Posted on Mon 19 November 2012 in Uncategorized by Adam Koscielak

Marcin Gortat recently had a fascinating talk with Przeglad Sportowy's Marcin Harasimowicz after his game against the Los Angeles Lakers. The interview is in Polish, but worry not, there's no Google Translate needed. Because you have me, a bilingual Pole on a mission to share the latest updates in the life of everyone's favorite Polish Gazelle-Hammering Machine. Additionally, the portal reports Gortat rejected an extension for the 2014-15 season, and might be traded, as the Magic, Mavs, Bulls and Celtics are interested in his services. Yikes. Gortat's comments are worth noting for anyone following the Suns franchise and its solid Polish center.

Here's the interview (full interview and my reaction after the jump). All credit to Przeglad Sportowy and Marcin Harasimowicz, of course.

• • •

A lot has changed in the Suns since last season.
Marcin Gortat: Unfortunately, in my case – for worse. I'm certainly not the player I was last season, I need to find my place in the new order. I'm still capable of helping this team, and regularly recording a double double, but when the ball sticks to one person on offence, it's hard to find a good rhythm.

Last season you've scored a lot of points off of Steve Nash pick and rolls. The team doesn't play that way anymore.
MG: That's true, but I can score in various situations. Finishing pick and rolls, in transition, from midrange, around the rim. There are a lot of options. Unfortunately, my two strongest plays – the pick and roll and post-ups have been taken away from me. It's not easy, we have a lot of plays that don't include me. And my chemistry with Goran Dragic hasn't been quite equal to what I had with Steve. These are things that we need to work on.

Coach Alvin Gentry told me that the main post option was Luis Scola. You, on the other hand, are number one on defense.
Unfortunately... I've been doing the dirty work all my life, and now I have to come back to that. I will fight for what's mine. I'll try to prove to the coach that I can play an important role in the offence. Unfortunately, I don't think I'm even an option for Gentry. He doesn't even take me into consideration. The situation is critical. We're playing the same thing we've been playing last year, but the truth is we have a completely different set of players. I don't think it really works. I can't get frustrated now though, I have to stay positive.

The Suns have a lot of players that create for themselves.
MG: We have plenty of players who like to create for themselves, but it doesn't always work. We don't share the ball as much as we have in previous seasons. The ball doesn't move around the perimeter – it usually stops after one or two passes. You can't play like this, let alone win. Basketball is a team sport. Nobody ever won a game alone.

Before the season you were promising a fight for the playoffs, but from the picture painted by the past few games, the Suns don't seem like a top 8 team in the West.
MG: Before the season started, I was a huge optimist. I thought we'd play a completely different game. Right now, it doesn't look good. We still have a lot to learn, and a lot to fight for. We need to fix our team defence. We can't give up a hundred points per game. We'll see how it works out. Right now, I'm not losing hope, there's still a shot at the playoffs.

Did the coach honestly tell you what he expects from you?
MG: We've talked before the season started. He said he expects me to play defence, rebound, block shots and quarterback the defence. He also said he wanted me to set up in the paint and wait for my shots. And I'm still waiting... (laughter)

What are you expecting in the coming week?
MG: After the game against the Miami Heat, we have a longer break and some time to correct some errors in practice. It won't be easy though.

Maybe you should have an honest conversation with Coach Gentry?
MG: I don't know if it will change anything. But I'll surely have a chat with him.

While in Los Angeles, have you talked to Steve Nash?
MG: Yes, he came in for a visit in the locker room. I can only sigh – too bad he isn't with us any longer...

• • •

Just to mention it: This isn't the first time that Marcin has said something stupid in Polish thinking nobody would know. A few years back on a kid's camp in Poland, Gortat took a minor dig at Robin Lopez. Innocent, but nevertheless not the nicest thing to do to your teammate. Now, he's taken it to another level. And look, almost every Pole knows English well enough to tell an English speaker he's whining about the coach. And there are many people beyond me who can translate the interview in its entirety. Make no mistake, Gortat's comments will reach Coach Alvin Gentry, and make no mistake, the coach will not be happy. This is not what a leader does to a team. This is not going to help a team struggling for chemistry and cohesion. Gentry's rather obvious lack of trust in Gortat's offensive prowess aren't good excuses to go up in flames with this kind of an interview. And with the changes in the starting lineup Gentry has announced are coming, a part of me fears Alvin will punish Marcin by replacing him with Jermaine O'Neal, further hurting the team. That wouldn't be a good decision by Gentry, but Gortat is putting Gentry in a difficult position with these comments, and so some of the blame has to go to Gortat if this happens.

In the context of the Suns' current struggles, it's worth noting that Gortat makes a lot of good points. At the time of the conversation, which took place after the loss with the Lakers on Friday, the Suns were 4-6. Today, they're 4-7, as Gortat continued to struggle to get touches, despite being in prime position to finish off a nice play at times. Note that the Suns haven't won a game yet without Gortat scoring in double digits, and it's not easy to get to double digits when you get six shots per game. Now, this might seem to be a quibble, but note that when he's on the floor, Gortat tends to lose out on shot opportunities to Luis Scola and Michael Beasley, both to poor effect. Beasley has an atrocious command of pick-and-rolls as the ball-handler (.55 on 31 possessions per Synergy) and every possession Beasley uses in the two-man game is basically wasted. Compare Beasley to teammate Goran Dragic's stellar .95 mark on 63, good for fifth in the league. You could also point to Luis Scola's poor chemistry with Gortat (they occupy more or less the same range and Gentry hasn't found plays to capitalize on the Gortat-Scola tandem). And, in Gortat's favor, Gortat has proved that he can lead a decent team (last year's Suns) in scoring. Gortat is extremely potent moving off the ball. He can get easy opportunities and open up opportunities for his teammates in the process. And while Steve Nash is no longer there to spoon feed him, I'm more than certain Marcin can work with the entire team at getting baskets. Even viewed as a Nash product, Gortat is perfectly capable of scoring without Nash, and that alone makes him worth a shot. A shot that Gentry fails to give him.

The substance of his comments is solid; the inflammatory nature of his comments is not, and perforce puts the Suns into a dilemma. By giving Gortat what he wants, they might make the offence more efficient, but they will show him he can bully them. Or they could keep him unhappy, potentially ruining his upcoming contract. Or, of course, there's the nuclear option alluded to above: They trade him for youth and finally give up on whatever was left of the season [Ed. Note: Since there are three options this is technically a trilemma, not a dilemma. Anyway, there's the door, I'll show myself out. -Dewey]. Whatever the case, the Suns are suddenly at a crossroads here, and so is Marcin Gortat. This coming week might be pivotal in deciding the fate of both the center and the team in its entirety. The Polish Hammer has rebelled, whatever comes next might affect more than Planet Orange, but the entire NBA.

Continue reading

One Year's Gone: Catharsis and Promises

Posted on Fri 26 October 2012 in GG's One-Year Retrospectacular by Adam Koscielak

Gothic Ginobili turns one today. As part of our celebration of this somewhat unexpected milestone, our writers are producing a variety of content reflecting and appreciating the journey that got us here. Here, our first added member to our extended staff waxes about his history with the blog and succinctly explains what makes writing under the iron fists of jerks like McGuire and Dewey even remotely tolerable!

One year ago today, the world didn't know much about Gothic Ginobili. (This was not surprising, as it had existed for less than 24 hours.) I was the editor of Fansided's main Suns blog at the time, Sun-N-Gun. I was trying to finish my first month strong, with increasingly insane, strangely written posts about the lockout. I didn't think I'd be where I am today, at least at the time. In fact, a part of me believed that I wouldn't even get to watch basketball until right about this time, this year.

A month later, the lockout ended. Two months later, the Suns played their first game of a season that would end up being Steve Nash's last. It was right about the start of the regular season that I realized regular, recap-grinding writing was a far more pressing constraint than I anticipated. As it turned out, I was (and still am) a terrible recap writer. So, if you by any chance wanted to mail me about a beat writer job for a Polish team, don't do it. After a few failed stabs at coherency, I resorted to grading players and giving notes. Why? I didn't know at the time, and I'm still not sure. Maybe it's because I pay too much attention to Marcin Gortat and Steve Nash. Or maybe because I don't treat basketball as a series of events, but merely a framework for discovering the people playing it, a weird, competitive social experiment of sorts. Whatever the case, two months into the regular season, I felt I couldn't really express whatever I felt about basketball on Sun-N-Gun. And so, I posted a random question on twitter of the "Yo, I'm bored writing just about the Suns, any general NBA blog want me?" sort, and Aaron and Alex answered my call.

To be honest, I didn't really read much of Gothic Ginobili before this. Mostly just scattered pieces Aaron linked me directly when we discussed basketball in between long sessions of swooning over King Crimson's "Red." Once I started flipping through, though, I was elated. With Aaron's work ethic, Alex's (positive) craziness, and their combined transcendent writing skills, I felt I was in the right place to hone my skills. I may have not done much, but I've had the opportunity to tell the stories I wanted to tell. The story of my nocturnal, basketball watching life is one, the story of my private family daytime soap being the other big one. The personal stuff. For the first time, I was putting myself into the framework, ridding myself of the fake mask of an unbiased blogger, and taking my own experiences into a weird (albeit fitting) context. It has been cathartic, it has been wonderful, and I just wish I had more time during last season to do it.

(And yes, that is a promise that I will be writing more, as if you didn't have enough of me already.)

So... I guess I have to thank Aaron and Alex for tolerating my writing-related shortcomings, my incessant overuse of parentheses, and all that other stuff. You guys are amazing. I can honestly say that being able to vote on ESPN's NBARank and Summer Forecast was one of the greatest moments of my life, and I can't say that I would've done it without this site. Meanwhile, I'm caught in a cruel twist of fate -- nearly a year after the lockout, precisely on the 1st anniversary of the blog that gave me so much, due to various problems with my mom's business (most of which I can't disclose, I wish I could), I might end up in a really bad situation, once again, through no fault of my own or my mother's.

But, hey. Whatever happens in next year's extended installment of Gothic Ginobili's absurdist reign over the odd, the offbeat, the outright strange -- I know one thing. I'll be able to talk about my troubles and trials here, put it in an odd context, and (eventually) have a catharsis. And that's what makes this experience great, for better or for worse. And with this, I end my rant, once again promising to actually deliver some content on a regular basis.

Let's just hope I'll have some ideas this time.

EDIT: This post was written on Tuesday. The problems? They seem to be resolved positively. I couldn't really talk about them, but I'm sure y'all would've supported me if I could, so, hey, thanks. Cheers. – Adam.

Continue reading

The Outlet 3.02: Drums and Play-by-Plays

Posted on Sat 13 October 2012 in The Outlet by Adam Koscielak

Our offseason edition of The Outlet is back, in full-on preseason mode! Don't call it a comeback, we've been here for, well... bit under one year. Still. Sit back, play David Bowie's "Changes," go to your shrine of David Bowie in the other room with all the candles, ask David Bowie's effigy to make haste with the start of the season, go back into your computer room, play "Changes" a few more times, and then read some fresh takes on the preseason. We're almost back in the swing of things. In fact, go ahead. Call it a comeback. The Outlet is back, and soon, in its tow, so will the season. Get ready, fansketball.

  • DET v TOR -- The Dunking Drummer (Adam Koscielak)
  • WAS v NYK -- Beal's Frustration and Burden (Jacob Harmon)
  • SAC v PHX -- The Play-by-Play of a Lost Friend (Adam Koscielak)

• • •

Andre Drummond

The Dunking Drummer (by Adam Koscielak)

What a surprise. What an enigma.

Coming into last night's Raptors-Pistons game, I wanted nothing more than to see some Jonas Valanciunas action and to swoon over the ever-improving Andrea Bargnani. Instead, about all I'd find from the Toronto end were some vintage Jose Calderon offensive talent, a new and improved DeMar DeRozan, and last but not least, a shockingly non-trigger happy John "The Human Cannon" Lucas III.

No, the real shocker came from Detroit in the form of one Andre Drummond, gliding o'er all, singing many deaths, reigning down with a barrage of alley-oops, and generally looking the part of gleeful athletic madman, rather like Kenneth Faried in his preseason debut. Just how good can Andre Drummond become? Or to ask perhaps the harder querstion: How good is he right now? I have no idea. Last night, Drummond played to his strengths, doing what he knew how to do: Dunking, rebounding and swatting. Yes, qualifier barrage: it's preseason, yes, and the Raptors' defense is once again only getting into gear with Dwane Casey over their heads with a whip. I don't know what, but whatever it that Andre Drummond has was something to behold last night.

As twitter proudly noted, Andre Drummond has a boatload of potential. And it's a boat filled with the apparitions of seasons in which Drummond has become the best player in this league. That's a mouthful, but before we have to spit some of it out, let's gather the evidence: He's bigger than Dwight Howard and at least as athletic. Fast, furious, big, athletic, and raw. And that's the kicker. He's so raw that he can be molded in a lot of ways, and so raw that we can build nightmarish potentials around his actuals. His actuals, right now? DeAndre Jordan 2.0. But he can grow to be Dwight Howard 2.0. That is the madness that made him a player that could've been picked absolutely anywhere in the 2-15 range of the NBA lottery. Every team had to ask themselves: "Can we develop this kid? Do we look for that fertile end of rainbow?" The Pistons have given him a chance, no doubt hoping to have instantly an envious frontcourt of two top-30s (at minimum) in Drummond and Greg Monroe. But will that happen? And what comes next for the Pistons? I have no idea. Drummond is raw in basically every aspect of the game save for dunks, rebounds and blocks. A good coach and system can teach him how to harness the space he creates to post up, to know when to pass and how to pass, etc. A bad coach can leave him scrambling for minutes as another big man comes in, a big man more suited to bad coaches: With little potential to grow, but skills that make him more immediately valuable and workable than an undeniable beast of nebulous future.

And let's not make this about coaches: The NBA is a grind: What happens if Drummond is ever forced to play out of that personality, is ever forced to post-up and lead (or passably maintain from his position) an offence? Who knows how he would react? And how long will he last in the now-information-besotted NBA before hack-a-Drummond becomes a prominent feature of the anti-Pistons gameplan? These questions aren't going to go away unless he proves he can deal with it. His current value is in large part based on how he handles himself on the floor. After all, not even Lawrence Frank can force him into posting up and shooting midrange jumpers. That's his choice. And his choice might greatly weigh on what he becomes.

And that's the thing with players like Drummond — you just don't know.

• • •

Beal's Frustration and Burden (by Jacob Harmon)

Responsibility is a difficult thing. Growing up, we're often given the impression that at some point we'll simply be qualified for it; that having graduated from childhood to adolescence, and then adolescence into adulthood, we'll be at least marginally prepared for the expectations and pressures of our adult lives. But of course we know this isn't the case. There is no threshold to be crossed, final examination to pass; no orientation to complete that ushers us into the personal spotlight of true adulthood and all that it entails. At some point we all willingly accept our relative trial by fire: some set of responsibilities for which we feel not entirely prepared and from whose achievement, in spite of that feeling, springs confidence. Well, that and realizing you don't know anyone at your old high school anymore. Most of us often find our individual trials aren't insurmountable. Most of us aren't Bradley Beal.

Most of us aren't being given joint responsibility of a franchise, expectations of thousands of jaded fans, the mocking eye of the media and country at large, and - in the final tally - baggage from decades of utter failure and dysfunction. Our trials are somewhat overlooked; our expectations adjust without notice. Not so for a high-lottery-pick rookie: These guys come in young and take on the immediate burden of typically-floundering teams in dire need of their services. But most of those teams aren't the Washington Wizards. The expectations upon Kyrie Irving are enormous, and he's responded in spades, but at least there's a template: The Cavaliers have had plenty of glory in recent memory. Sure, LeBron never delivered a championship, but you can't sniff at years of deep playoff runs and a Finals appearance. The Bobcats are mocked for their incompetence, but they're young, and fans have stuck by the team can console themselves with the notion that things basically can only get better.

But what do you say about the Wizards, whose brightest moments have been the brief comet that was Gilbert Arenas and the high expectations for a 38 year old Michael Jordan? Whose John Wall has been, if not a disappointment, thus far in danger of being severely overhyped? Whose national attention last season came mostly at the Youtube-worthy antics of JaVale McGee? On the floor against the Knicks, near the end of what was a optimistically strong game for Beal, I saw a flash of rookie frustration that gave me pause. After nearly a whole shot-clock of wasted ball movement, a blown screen, leading to a wild chucked 3, a wide-open Beal stood at the top of the arc, lifted his arms and shrugged his shoulders in dismay, before running back on defense shaking his head to no one in particular. It was familiar primarily because it was the body language John Wall wore almost permanently throughout last season. The Wizards are ostensibly a much improved team this season, having shipped out much of the bad blood and brought in some legitimate talent to accompany the Wall/Beal backcourt. But with Wall and Nene both out early, the newest high draft pick looks to confront a situation not unfamiliar to Wizards fans. Beal may have many frustrating nights ahead of him. I only hope it's not the case, as his talent and degree of controlled confidence on the court indicated a player deserving of much better.

• • •

A Play-by-Play of a Lost Friend (by Adam Koscielak)

As you probably all know, not all preseason games are televised. Some local stations just decide that the broadcast costs of a preseason game as opposed to the quality and intensity of a game are not really all that worth it. When that happens, fans of some teams get quite irate. Kinda like I did, when I found out that the Suns game was not televised on NBA TV as advertised, and was instead put into radio only mode. And rather than watch (and cry) at Steve Nash no-look passes against the Blazers, I decided to go all-imagination using NBA.com's play-by-play feature to "watch" the Suns in their first game without Steve Nash. In some ways it was easier: I did not cry. I did not weep. I just watched the stats and made comments, pretending I knew what the hell was going on.

But even so, even with Steve Nash being in a completely different city, with a completely different team, as Goran Dragic and Kendall Marshall passed through the game and their pictures flashed before my eyes, I refused to accept that Steve Nash wasn't on that team. Marcin Gortat making good offensive plays felt like it. Michael Beasley's suddenly efficient jumpshooting felt like it. Wesley Johnson on a scoring tear felt like it. I just can't wait to see if Goran Dragic is something of a second coming for us (though I might just be crazy). Steve Nash's spirit was still in that Suns jersey, and the fact that I couldn't watch them in his absence helped me go further into denial.

Continue reading

Steve Nash and a Crime of Must

Posted on Tue 10 July 2012 in Uncategorized by Adam Koscielak

My parents separated when I was 10 years old. To this day, I remember vividly the moment my dad shut the door behind him, a stuffed and angrily packed suitcase in tow. Nothing was really the same for young Adam since. Had this not happened, I might've never been the person I am today. Actually, scratch the might -- I'm pretty damn sure about that.

A few years later, my dad would get a lucrative offer from an American company. The problem? He'd have to live in the US, and would only be able to come to Poland once a month. Even though I cried and begged him to stay, (thinking he was the cool parent, the one I'd rather spend my time with) he still took the offer. After all, it would only be six months or so. Still -- these six months ended up being pretty bad. My mom was pretty depressed after the divorce, and my childlike self savoured the time spent with my dad. He'd play video games with me, take me to lunch to my favourite Tex-Mex place, everything. Every weekend was great, which only made me appreciate him more when he came back for good.

Of course, that was then. Ever since, my dad managed to completely ruin all those memories, and make them into a melancholic journey. You see, in Poland, child support -- due to the reluctance of people to hire college folk -- is held up until age 26. This is for divorced couples, and married ones alike. The only difference is that divorced couples know exactly how much they have to pay. My dad did. And he wanted to change that. So right around my 18th birthday, my dad sued me. I ended up having to deal with all the blowback from the divorce, contacting lawyers, appearing in court, calling executors. It wasn't fun. It wasn't enjoyable. It wasn't right. At least I won, though. We only met once after the trial, for almost exclusively business reasons. Oh, and so my dad could say some mean things about my mom, of course. Then, once again, my dad vanished. It turned out later that he'd left for Canada along with his wife, and my step-brother. I'd only found out because my friend chatted with my step-brother. I didn't even get a proper goodbye, and when I'd mustered up the courage to send him an angry e-mail, I received an answer that somehow blamed me for being angry.

• • •

All of that stuff -- the email, et cetera -- happened a year ago. It was one of the reasons why I started watching basketball. To escape, to live vicariously through the players I liked. Perhaps that's why I was so emotionally invested in it. And never was it displayed better than on the morning of the 5th of July. I came back home exhausted, after a LAN party with my friends. We had fun, we screamed, we ate pizza, and then went back home. As I exited the subway, I decided to check my phone for updates on twitter. The internet was running slow, but I managed to read a bunch of tweets mentioning me, wondering how I would react.

Oh well, Steve Nash must've signed with the Knicks. I was expecting this all day. Meh. I thought to myself, as I got into a bus. When I got home, it turned out I'd been wrong. Very wrong. Steve Nash signed in the one place he shouldn't have signed. And all the emotional involvement boiled over into an angry stream of all caps tweets. I said a lot of dumb things, after all, all excuses seemed stupid. I actually cried. And it wasn't a "Raymond Borque lifting the Stanley Cup" cry. It was a "WHYY?" cry. It was like Darth Vader.

Fortunately, I was exhausted, so I went to sleep rather quickly, and when I woke up, I'd gained some distance. It was just basketball, after all. Then I read all the interviews with Nash, and felt stupid. Stupid for blaming him for making an absolutely understandable decision. Stupid for insulting him, even if it was just an angry rant on twitter. And with every day passing, with more and more interviews coming, I just felt worse. I've defended LeBron and Dwight based only on my suspicions of internal problems stemming from young age, while not giving a single second of thought to my favourite player of all-time.

Anger creates stupid things, I guess.

Either way, almost exactly a week removed from the event, I find myself standing in awe of Steve Nash once again. But it isn't a behind the back pass, or a amazing shot that awes me this time. It's Nash's priorities as a person and basketball player. I am awed by the fact, that he'd make so many enemies, sacrifice some money (and mind you, this isn't a player that has been paid max money for all his life), the ability to come to his home country or favourite city, just to be able to see his kids once a week. There has been a lot of discussion about how genuine this is coming from Nash. Is he really doing it for the kids? Or is this an excuse? I think to accuse a man like Nash of using his kids as a cover for a business decision is rather ridiculous. Dumb, even. Perhaps not as dumb as sending him death threats and burning jerseys, but still... really, really dumb.

As a person who's had a lot of ups and downs from his own father, I can only appreciate Nash for sacrificing popularity, money and a chance to go to his homeland for his kids. And while I may end up loathing every dime Nash drops to Kobe Bryant, every pull up three off of a Pau Gasol pick and roll he nails, every beautiful alley-oop to the lurking Andrew Bynum, I will also try and remember the fact we all seem to forget. Basketball players are people with families and problems. Steve Nash may be the next in a line of basketball villains for many, but his villainy is a sacrifice he'd made to be a hero to his kids. It's a crime of must, if you will. A crime that shouldn't in one bit take away from the fact that Steve Nash -- all his basketball aside -- is just a wonderful human being that everyone should try to emulate.

Continue reading

Dwight Howard: Villain, Victim, Human Being

Posted on Tue 03 July 2012 in Uncategorized by Adam Koscielak

"They didn't let me push them around." could be a summary of Dwight's plea to the NBPA. Twisted, turned and hyperbolized, Dwight came out accusing the Magic of blackmail, while another collective "LOL" and "WUT" descended upon the twitterverse. Had this been the pre-Web 2.0 Dark Ages, the editors would've probably double-checked the story before printing it in tomorrow's news. But today, as information becomes moot with every minute, those with sources have no such restraint. They'll throw whatever their sources tell them out to the masses, which will be subsequently reposted, reinterpreted in a thousand of ways.

And as the story of Dwightmare 2: Electric Boogaloo unfolded, I wanted to write an instant reaction, just as many others. Because waiting? That means that the interest goes dry. Waiting means that people probably already said what you've wanted to say independently. Fast wins, and when a few days later something changes, you always have an excuse for your too-quick reaction post.

All things considered, I've narrowly avoided that.

• • •

Now that a bit of the fog of war has cleared, we know one thing. He never said "blackmail". And while it might be an unimportant detail in the big picture of his treatment of Orlando, it's also a tweak to his image. Still egoistic, but not insane. Still a child, but not as annoying. The rationality of his argument, the intent of his actions seemed to hinge, at least to me, on that one word. Suddenly, my whole perception changed; he went to get advice, rather than to blithely attack the Orlando Magic. He was just looking for a way out of this situation, rather than doing stuff best described as "literally insane." What's the truth? How should I know? Unless Dwight Howard is our source, it's all speculation.

All that said, Dwight remains our villain. He gave Orlando hope just because he didn't want to be shipped out anywhere else but to New Jersey. He could've left in Free Agency, yeah. But a 5-year contract was -- evidently -- just as important as reaching the promised land. It's really hard to empathize with an annoying dude earning millions of dollars, especially when he's acting like a spoiled brat. Still, I don't really feel significant anger towards Dwight. Not as much as pity.

Dwight is a part of a rare (and dying) breed in the NBA. He's a superstar drafted out of high school, he's been a superstar since day 1, and he's probably going to be a superstar when he retires. As I mentioned in my recent LeBron James piece, while a lot of people probably think that it's fun to earn millions at the tender age of 18 (and doing it through the sport they love, too!)... I don't really think so. Not with the scrutiny of today's sports world. It's much akin to a life of a Hollywood celebrity, only they don't get death threats for missing free throws instead of passing on a role in a deranged fan's favorite reboot. While these celebrities fall into addiction and depression as the result of their fame, NBA players generally don't. Maybe it's because they're famous at a different level, or in a different way, or maybe because they don't spend their lives having to pretend someone that they're not. I don't know. But for the most part, NBA players deal with it.

So, here's Dwight, an 18-year-old baller, making decisions. These are decisions that change his life. I remember when everyone around me told me that my IB Diploma exams could ruin my life. I can't even imagine what a choice between going to college and going pro must've been like, even if it seemed easy on the outside. After all, everyone in his big family wants a piece of the cake he'd bring home. From there, it's just more and more people banking their hopes on him, some financially, others in a fan-capacity, but whatever it is, it's always pressure. And it's not just Dwight*.

* I'm not trying to suggest that the early-entry is to blame for Dwight's behaviour. This happens to one-and-doners, two-and-throughers, juniors and seniors all. It's just that it seems to me that college is a very good adjustment period for the fame to "kick in", if you will, an adjustment period that Dwight, LeBron, Kobe and others never had. They were thrown into the deep waters straight away, and that's not all that easy, I feel.

• • •

I've already discussed LeBron, noting how the decision and a post-heartbrake outburst were the biggest gaffes of his career thus far. One of them, I'd always felt, was an unintentional faux pais. I doubt that LeBron, with all his faults, would want to rub in the faces of Cleveland. Or maybe he did. The conference seemed to me to be the plea of a frustrated man, and beneath the venom, there was a snippet of truth. Almost everyone was surviving a moment of Schadenfreude at the expense of one man that never really wronged us, but simply pissed us off by teaming up with some other good players.

(It's only wrong if you're younger than 30, mind you.)

And LeBron's not the only one struggling with his own ego, Kobe had a Battle Royale with Shaq and more than a fair share of outbursts before he matured, while Kevin Garnett seemed to focus all that negative energy into his on-court persona. In Dwight's case it's not an outburst, or a weird on court persona. It's not a single gaffe or a big P.R. misstep. It's something much more fitting his goofy charm -- it's this spoilt, child-like conviction to get what he wants no matter the cost. When someone stops him from doing so, he seems to play the victim, losing sight of rationality.

And in all that? Dwight just seems lost. Just like it took time, mass hatred, and a myriad of defeats for LeBron to develop, Dwight needs more time. He's a victim of fame, as much as he is a villain. He will be hated by Magic fans, and people who hate to see behaviour like this, and (in time) Dwight will be loved by the franchise he commits to. And in time, he'll realize what he's done wrong, and rather than beg forgiveness, take a lesson for the next time he'll be in a similar situation. Just like a regular human being, which must be said. After all, think of how often we forget, that these marvels of athleticism and skill we observe through our magical machines, are people just as much as we are.

So no, I don't hate Dwight, and neither should you. You may dislike what he does, or his approach, but in the end, we should cut him some slack. Not despite him being a famous basketball star earning millions of dollars. Because of it.

• • •

Stealth reminder from Aaron: tomorrow, we'll be doing a fourth-of-July Statistical Q&A. For those wondering what those are, check the first installment of the series. General discussion topics will be the cap, free agency, and next season's predictions. These Q&A sessions are only as good as the questions we get, so we hope everyone comes up with some great ones. You can start sending questions today on twitter -- just send them to @docrostov or with the #gothicginobili hashtag. See you tomorrow!

Continue reading

LeBron James and a Trip to the Humbling River

Posted on Thu 21 June 2012 in Uncategorized by Adam Koscielak

Nature, nurture, heaven and home
Sum of all and by them driven
To conquer every mountain shown
But have never crossed the river
Braved the forest braved the stone
Braved the icy winds and fire
Braved and beat them on my own
Yet I'm helpless by the river

Angel, angel what have I done?
I've faced the quakes the wind, the fire
I've conquered country, crown, and throne
Why can't I cross this river?

In terms of raw talent and ability, LeBron might be the best player to have graced our game. The questions always concerned his psyche, his drive, his motivation. He won trophies, accolades, but always lacked the one attribute everyone associates with the best – those damned rings. With expectations from his rookie season, being a star from age 16, it’s hard to say whether he ever found himself within the huge body he inhabited. I know that when I was 16, I was pretty confused, and I didn’t have a documentary about me anywhere. I’m not a student of psychology. I don’t know LeBron. But from my (albeit limited) experience, I can tell you: that much attention, that much hype, that much expectations? Never does good for a person’s personality, never. Especially one that never had much of a life aside of them. And yet, he played through those, and yet he dominated, with no regard for human life. And the new basketball great showed he was ready to become the new basketball legend.

• • •

But in Cleveland, he failed. I’ve never seen it, blame lowspeed internet and lack of exposure in Poland. But I’ve heard. The comparisons to Jordan and Kobe, the resulting Decision, a rather ill-fated attempt at a charity event, and then? The most annoying welcome party ever. It seemed like the unstoppable force entered the NBA, with the arrogance of an annoying prizefighter, we were ready for a new era. LeBron climbed all the mountains, but he couldn’t pass that one river that separated him from the championship. Nothing illustrated that better than his struggle in the Finals last year, and his rather shameful “y’all gonna live the same pathetic lives” skit. The frustration and pain was evident, and the ever-present narrative of “not clutch”, magnified. With the lockout looming, it looked like we’d be hearing a lot of it without anything to counter, while LeBron went to work on his game even further, expanding it into something that is legendary.

Fast forward one year, and LeBron sits before us, having exorcised his demons. In sports, winning cures everything, from softness to unclutchness, from indecision to the Decision. The most annoying narrative in sports turned into a redemption tale. LeBron, from angry, to calm and happy, from arrogant to humble, from his haters “returning to pathetic lives”, to “the only thing that matters is that I’m a champion.” Tonight, LeBron passed the river, humbled, and with a burden off his chest. He’ll probably go back and forth across it a few more times, sometimes falling into the deep waters, sometimes going back over it again. It's the way of the game.

But as he said himself, he won’t do it out of spite, he’ll do it out of love.

• • •

Pay no mind to the battles you've won
It'll take a lot more than rage and muscle
Open your heart and hands my son
Or you'll never make it over the river
It'll take a lot more that words and guns
A whole lot more than riches and muscle
The hands of the many must join as one
And together we'll cross the river

Puscifer - The Humbling River [Lyrics: Maynard James Keenan]

On the night of June 21st, 2012, a Midsummer Night’s Dream came to be for a group of men. One of these men just placed his first step on the path to a heavenly basketball throne, killing one narrative, while creating several others. He is no longer the angry, lost young man that told us all to screw off last year. He's changed, a bit. He's now a confident, calm and happy person -- that, more than anything, might speak more than any of his evolution on the court. And in all this mess and commotion, one quote stands out above all.

_“_About damn time.” LeBron James: Champion.

We'll look back someday and chuckle. It was only a matter of time, after all.

Continue reading

The Outlet 2.05: Why Can't Everyone Be Like the Spurs?

Posted on Thu 10 May 2012 in The Outlet by Adam Koscielak

To bring our playoff coverage up, we’re bringing our formerly retired series of daily vignettes — titled “The Outlet” — back for the playoffs. “Don’t call it a comeback.” Though, you can call it series 2, as we are in the title. Every day (or, rather, every day we aren’t doing a larger and grander piece), we’ll try to share two or three short vignettes from our collective of writers ruminating on the previous day’s events. Should be a fun time. Today’s Outlet covers Adam discussing his confusion at the peculiar success of the Spurs system and Alex discussing the peculiar everything of Pierre McGee.

  • “Why Can't Everyone Be Like the Spurs?” by Adam Koscielak.
  • "JaVale's Good Game and the End of Days." by Alex Dewey.

Click the jump for today’s two gems.

• • •

Why Can't Everyone Be Like the Spurs?

Adam Koscielak

The ball moves around as if it were on a tight string. On some possessions every player touches it, on others only two. Whatever happens, however, you can be pretty sure that it's going to swish through the net sooner rather than later. With ruthless efficiency and a wide array of talent, the Spurs are making Suns and Mavs fans remember the heydays of Steve Nash. Ruthless, efficient and (perhaps most surprisingly) beautiful to watch. But their Steve Nash is Tony Parker. Quick, agile, but not exactly known for his playmaking prowess, and utterly lacking in Nash's magnificent shooting stroke. Their big time forward is an all-time great, but at age 35, he's not the Tim Duncan we used to know. All that while their elite wing player isn't even playing 25 minutes per game? The rest of their roster are, if you will, pure role-players, from rookies to washed up vets. The truth is, the Spurs don't have the most impressive roster in the league. Despite that, they remain the most impressive team.

They murder teams with an artfulness reserved for thriller-ish serial killers. Yes, Gregg Popovich is a genius, nobody will deny that, and yes, the Spurs management has done a great job of finding diamonds in the rough, but my question is: Why isn't this replicable? Pop manages to get everyone to buy in, all the time. Nobody takes stupid pull-up jumpers out of the rhythm of the game, nobody breaks up a play to get an ISO, unless he has a mismatch, everybody plays their roles without scoffing about it. It's beautiful, it's what basketball is about.

My question is this: Why can't everyone be like the Spurs? Why can't the Heat, with all their talent and might, just make an offence work? Pop is a wizard, surely, but I'm pretty sure that if Erik Spoelstra watches film of the Spurs, he can get his team to run the plays, particularly given the very similar makeup of both teams (Wade can be very Parkeresque in his game, after all, and LeBron is... Well... LeBron). Why can't the Sixers start moving the ball instead of relying on Lou Williams to bail them out in the ugliest of ways, why can't the Lak... You get the point.

Perhaps coaches in the league are lazy, and so are GMs. The front offices make reckless decisions based on bad research and stick with them, while the coaches decide to go the easy way out and focus on the individual rather than the team. Players are signed and played based on reputation rather than facts, systems are built for stars not around them, killing the beauty of teamwork and cooperation. Am I really supposed to believe that the players are so boneheaded that they don't do what coaches tell them? Am I really supposed to believe that coaches will automatically get fired if they try to get their team to listen to them?

I don't want to believe that. I want to believe that everyone can be like the Spurs... All it takes is a little thought.

• • •

__JaVale's Good Game and the End of Days
___Alex Dewey_

"Hang on to that game ball, JaVale," Craig says indifferently with that powder-blue outfit that - despite the overtures of a tailor - just looks to JaVale McGee like an indivisible morning sky above the mountains. With only the basic hesitation of finding a place to throw it, JaVale more or less immediately hurls the ball into the emptiest, lightless corner of the Staples Center.

Later, JaVale would dream of morning sky. In the dream, the sky's shapeless clear powder blue would crack into crystalline factions of the same hue and would never reform: upon cracking, the sky would crumble down, bringing violence to the mountains and to the people: cracked blue shards of rock candy. In the dream JaVale would look for cover, or maybe try to save his mother, or one of those other urgent motives of dreams, he'd notice - that instead of the familiar and infinite blue ceiling that could crack and crack forever with our triumphs to an even deeper shade of blue, JaVale would see only the perfect black airlessness of space amid the cracks. JaVale would wake in the middle of the night, impatient for twilight.

The only thing better than a game-ball was sixteen of the same, JaVale would suppose sadly. And yet - on this solid balcony overlooking the Denver mountains, JaVale would still wait on the morning sun because - like even the most apocalyptic of nightmares - the shattered ceilings and broken ambitions of yesterday would mercifully be forgotten and the once-blackened sky would seem just as blue and the day would hold just as much time and energy for all his endeavors.

When they ask him - right after the game - why he'd thrown the game-ball he says he'd have to think about it. Later, sipping coffee on a glass deck-table that held cold and wet condensation, JaVale would feel as hot as the sun, burning lakes under his feet and sending the light of his soul up to the sky for all to behold and to derive strength from.

• • •

Fun times. Join us tomorrow for more coverage, and be sure to watch tonight's slate -- it should be fantastic.

Continue reading