Monday, 26 March 2012
I love NBA League Pass. In the hierarchy of things in my life I love it goes: sunny days, League Pass, booze, women. Over at IGoHardNow.com I've started up a 32-man 'League Pass All Stars' tournament. The best non-All Star players on small/mid market teams. Check out The Sweet 16.
Friday, 9 March 2012
I've joined the team over at IGoHardNow.com and this is my first piece for that site. You can read it here. I'll be contributing to them in the future, but will be sure to update on here as well.
Thursday, 1 March 2012
Uniformly accepted around the NBA is the idea that Kobe Bryant is a ‘killer’, but what type of killer is he?
During the climax of All Star Weekend, a competitive and highlight stuffed All Star Game, Kobe Bryant had a clear path under the basket, but Dwyane Wade employed an unprecedented (for an All Star Game) “Jordan Rules’” type foul which resulted in light concussion along with a nasal fracture for the fourteen-time All Star. When news hit the internet that Bryant had a broken nose, Twitter was abuzz with Rip Hamilton-esque mask suggestions. One thread beckoned Kobe to sport a Black Mamba inspired mask which, tying in with the snake theme, led to campaigning for a Cobra Commander mask.
Suggestions continued until they reached ‘Kobe should wear a Hannibal Lectar mask’ because as we all know Black Mamba is a killer, and what greater homage to being a killer than to one of cinema’s most famous. At this point I had to chime in that if Kobe’s going to be labeled a killer from Silence of the Lambs then he’s more fit to be Buffalo Bill than the fearsome Dr. Lectar.
If we’re playing the ‘NBA player / fictional serial killer’ association game then Michael Jordan is Hannibal Lectar and Kobe is akin to Jame ‘Buffalo Bill’ Gumb – a man who has become a killer to compensate for his social awkwardness.
In Silence of the Lambs Dr. Hannibal Lectar’s brilliance borders on savant, as does his madness, which is so chilling because of the cold and calculated way he kills and literally consumes a victim. You get the sense that Lectar was spawn straight from the pits of hell as some sort of unstoppable killing machine seemingly ‘programmed’ from birth to mercilessly slaughter whomever he sees fit. Whatever is the driving force behind his actions is inherit.
Buffalo Bill, on the other hand, was not born but became a murderer over time. The killing is a result of his upbringing, and mental torment. Lectar describes him as: “Billy was not born a criminal but made one by years of systematic abuse.” Jame Gumb was not born as Buffalo Bill (the name given to him by the media) but he created the personae to try to distance his psyche from himself. Director Jonathon Demme describes the character as “a person who hated himself so much that he just wanted to make himself as far away from what he was, as he possibly could.”
When Gumb truly snapped he began murdering women, but that was not his end goal. For Buffalo Bill his victims became trophies, murdering these women to cultivate a deranged ‘woman suit’ from pieces of each victim’s skin. With each partition of skin garnered he felt he was moving further away from himself. This is where the comparison to Kobe is made: the need to amass trophies, or in Kobe’s case, scoring records, as if once owning them all he can finally be satisfied with who he is.
Now, I’m not insinuating that Kobe is a lunatic who stares into the mirror with smeared makeup on his face while performing a ‘tuck back’. But if we are going to compare killers in Silence of the Lambs to NBA players then Michael Jordan is Dr. Hannibal Lectar; a truly unstoppable force who was compelled to destroy others; and Kobe Bryant is a dangerous killer, but one not driven by the sheer act rather the achievement of accumulation. Bryant, it seems, has foregone team chemistry this year with an eye solely on collecting personal records, as if only once he’s amassed enough can he like what he sees in the mirror.
Similar to Gumb, Kobe is creating a ‘piece of work’ and will not stop until its completion. Becoming the Lakers’ all-time scoring leader felt good, but was not enough. Passing Jordan on the all-time All Star Game gave him little pleasure but was a fine addition to his work. Look at Kobe this past Sunday, this was not an exhibition game for him.
Long gone is the jubilant Kobe Bryant who awed NBA fans in his first All Star appearance back in 1998. We are left with a man more obsessed with getting the scoring record, by any mundane way necessary, than with entertaining us. All of these records are only pieces to his suit which can only reach completion once he passes Kareem on the all time scoring list.
Just as Jame Gumb gave way to Buffalo Bill, Kobe Bryant has become The Black Mamba – a killer consumed with owning records so he can be viewed as someone else.
Wednesday, 14 December 2011
“Blake is a tremendous young talent. I can see me and him becoming a deadly combination. Hopefully we can be the next [Sam] Cassell and [Elton] Brand.”
“Anything is possible!!!!” was the cry heard from Donald Sterling when the, once rescinded, Chris Paul to LA Clippers, trade was finalized. You have to give it to the Clippers organization, for once they showed some ‘sticktuitiveness’. Now they have arguably the best point alongside unarguably the most talented and promising young forward in the league. Chris Paul made David West a two-time All Star, so imagine what he’ll turn Blake Griffin into (Karl Malone infused with Amar’e?). Let’s hope the ‘Clipper curse’ doesn’t find its way into Blake’s knees, or Chris Paul’s knees for that matter. Think about how much better Blake will be with the best playmaker in the game at the helm. This summer everyone was salivating over, newly minted NBA champion, Tyson Chandler. The same Tyson Chandler that New Orleans traded for Emeka Okafor. The same Tyson Chandler who played five forgettable years in Chicago. The same Tyson Chandler everyone had written off before he teamed with Chris Paul. Now Chandler has joined the Knicks and is heralded as the answer to all their defensive liabilities. In addition to the insane pick and roll nightmares Paul and Griffin create, don’t forget about Tyson Chandler Redux – DeAndre Jordan. The Clippers traded everything but the kitchen sink to get Paul. Luckily this kitchen sink is 6’11 and hates when you try to score on his basket.
“The city of New Orleans has been great to me these past six years. We’ve been through a lot together, but I think the thing I’ll miss most is the drunk tourists on Bourbon Street.”
Once the original Chris Paul to LA (Lakers) trade didn’t go through, I thought the team hurt most was New Orleans. As they stood to lose Paul but gain Lamar Odom, Luis Scola and Kevin Martin, a very solid Nuggets-esque team makeover, before David Stern vetoed the trade. Stern’s shrewdness seems to have paid dividends once again. The Clippers lost a perennial All Star, but gained a former All Star in Chris Kaman, a future All Star in Eric Gordon, an athletic wing in Al Farouq-Aminu and a possible franchise player with Minnesota’s (bound to be lottery) 2012 draft pick. That’s a wealth of talent for a player who was adamant about going to either New York or LA. Originally, it probably didn’t dawn on Paul how good of a fit he’d be on the other LA team. He’s now one-two with a beastly power forward, as opposed to an aging, albeit great, shot-happy two guard. The question heard ‘round the Internets is “are the Clippers better than the Lakers?” In short, we don’t know, and no one will know until both teams have finished making moves. Two important variables for the LA teams: will Bynum’s knees hold up, and how much will Griffin improve in his second year? If Bynum is healthy and fully mobile than he’s a force and one of the best centers in the league, but if he can’t stay on the court then the Lakers are in trouble. Blake impressed/surprised everyone at how good he was as a rookie, and if he continues to make leaps and bounds then the Clippers as a whole will be an absolute force.
“Besides being in Los Angeles and playing beside Blake, I think I’m most excited about receiving point guard tutelage from coach Del Negro.”
Good thing the Clippers were able to maintain the services of DeAndre Jordan because with a Timberwolves-like four legitimate point guards they’ll need someone to protect the rim. After the initial trade to the Hornets fell through the Clippers signed Chauncey Billups, then the revised trade had them shipping two-guard Eric Gordon instead of Eric Bledsoe, and don’t forget about Mo ‘LeBron look what you’ve done’ Williams. The Clips now find themselves stockpiled at the one-spot with four guards who are all better than Vinny Del Negro ever was. Due to amnesty rules, Chauncey can’t be traded so look for Bledsoe and Williams to be shipped out of town – and hey, has anyone signed Jamal Crawford yet? This is the most exciting time to be a Clippers fan since, well maybe ever. While he’s only locked in for two years, Chris Paul playing alongside Blake Griffin for a reinvigorated franchise has unlimited potential, and alters the landscape of the Western Conference. One thing you won’t be hearing Chris Paul say anytime soon “I want a trade.”
David Stern has become a despot. Dictating and unilaterally vetoing trades which benefited the entire realm of the NBA – owners, players, and fans. Stern, acting as de facto owner of the New Orleans Hornets, passed on a trade that would have Chris Paul moved for *intake of oxygen* Fariq Al-Aminu, Eric Bledsoe, All-Star Chris Kaman, and the Minnesota Timberwolve’s first pick in the upcoming draft. Rewind a second, “All-star” Chris Kaman? Yes, the ‘Hornets’ rejecting this trade and demanding more assets from the Clippers borders on ludicrous, but I’m more interested in the moniker I heard a writer assign to more-than-serviceable-centre Kaman. You can’t argue that Kaman was selected to an All-Star team (2010). Referring to players of Kaman’s caliber as an ‘All-Star’ irks me, much like hearing ‘Academy Award nominee’ next to a serviceable actor’s name who was fortunate enough to be attached to a fantastic film - or a film with fantastic marketing (usually the latter) - and landed a fluke nomination. Oscar nominations are similar to All-Star bids in that talent and skill can be second to marketing and timing. To overhype a talent, an analyst, team official, or agent may refer to a player as an ‘All-Star’ even when they don’t necessarily have the pedigree. Hollywood studios love to throw the ‘Academy Award Nominee' label next to an actor, even when an actor’s talent is not synonymous with what an Academy Award stands for (whatever that is these days). I’ve gone through the ‘Best Supporting Actor/Actress’ nominees since 2000, and hand-picked six who earned nominations/awards, but few would label as talented actors. Then cross-referenced them with NBA All-Stars since 2000, and created three categories.
The Biopic Crash’s
Actors: Joaquin Phoenix (2000) Gladiator / Jamie Foxx (2004) Collateral
Joaquin Phoenix is to River Phoenix as Puff Daddy is to Biggie Smalls. Scathing hyperbole aside, Phoenix is a talented actor and for a few years had cornered the 'angst-ridden effeminate male' market, but was he one of the best actors in Hollywood? His nomination for Gladiator, that year’s Best Picture winner (uugghhh), can be chalked-up to the studio’s marketing blitz. Joaquin was later nominated for his portrayal of Johnny Cash in Walk the Line. Fred Durst could have played this role and been nominated. The Academy has a soft spot for biopics about nostalgia-era musicians.
Jamie Foxx is a talented comedian, and serviceable dramatic actor and musician, but does he belong in the same category as Morgan Freeman (2004’s Best Supporting Actor)? 2004 was Foxx’s year, as along with being nominated for Collateral, he won Best Actor for his portrayal as Ray Charles in the aptly named Ray. Again, the Academy has a soft spot for biopics about nostalgia-era musicians, and his award is more indicative of that than his acting talent.
Brad Miller (2003) (2004) – A deft passing big man with soft touch. like Jamie Foxx, Brad Miller peaked in ’04. During this time he averaged 13/8 and 14/9 on very solid Indiana and Sacramento teams. His All-Star selections, are a reflection of those teams, much like Joquin Phoenix’s Gladiator nomination is a reflection of the Academy's love for the film.
David West (2008) (2009) – Chris Paul is to David West’s All-Star selection as Michael Mann is to Jamie Foxx’s nomination for Collateral.
Andrei Kirilenko (2004) – A long-time fantasy team All-Star, Kirilenko was selected based on his defense and ability to fill a stat-sheet. In 2004, your team was in good shape if Andrei was your third best ‘fill the holes’ player, but in rough shape if he was your only All-Star.
Anthony Mason (2001) – This is a ‘body of work’ All-Star selection (The Academy Awards love handing these out as well). A defensive stalwart of the ‘90s Knicks, Mason had an impressive NBA career but is maybe best remembered for his awkward free throw release.
The Indie Film Darlings
Mark Ruffalo (2010) The Kids are All Right / Catherine Keener (2005) Capote
Mark Ruffalo is handsome and affable, and he’s something Bill Simmons would refer to as a ‘bring to the table guy’ – he brings positive attributes to a film without detracting anything - but an elite actor he is not. Ruffalo’s nomination came on the wings of the indie, same-sex marriage drama, The Kids are All Right.
As far as legit ‘momshells’ go, Catherine Keener is a stunner for her age. Much like Ruffalo, she is attractive and likeable with a smile that puts you at ease. She was nominated for 2005’s biopic Capote, where she did a remarkable job of complementing Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s harrowing Truman Capote by basically staying out of the way.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas (2003) – You’re 7’3, now report to the All-Star game. Lithuania’s response to Frankenstein’s monster, a seven-footer with shooting touch, and peanut butter for knee cartilage.
Mehmet Okur (2007) – The man can flat-out shoot, but if he’s taking the bulk of your shots, you’re in trouble. Okur’s most suited role was the supporting one he played with the ’04 Champion Detroit Pistons. Like Keener, he’s best served complementing legit All-Stars.
Devin Harris (2009) – Apparently pissed off for being traded, Harris was a man possessed his first year-plus in New Jersey. Harris’ performance impressed Nets brass so much that they imported legit All-Star point guard Deron Williams.
The Slumdog Millionaire’s
Mark Wahlberg (2006) Departed / Mo’Nique (2009) Precious
In ten years, when reflecting back on these nominations, even the people who voted for them will wince. Mark Wahlberg did a remarkable job of playing himself, if he were a cop, in 2006’s stellar ‘The Departed’. Nominating Wahlberg as a foul-mouthed prick from Boston is like nominating Eminem for his portrayal of a white low-class aspiring rapper in 8 Mile: art imitates life, imitates art, imitates…
No one can deny Mo'Nique's powerhouse supporting role, in one of the best movies of the last ten years. I’m speaking of course, about Mo’Nique’s portrayal of Cheery in the criminally underrated comedy Beerfest. Marky Mark and Mo’Nique forever synonymous with excellence in acting.
Chirs Kaman (2010) – In early 2009 he was Western Conference player of the week, on a Blake-less Clippers squad. Kaman has solid footwork, and nice touch around the hoop, but is a prime example of anybody can put up good numbers on a bad team.
Dale Davis (2000) / Antonio Davis (2001) – No they aren’t related, but yes they are the same person. Back to back All-Star bids. Antonio Davis as an All-Star Center (all 6’8 of him) proves ‘you can’t teach height’ (no literally, look at the guy).
Jamaal Magloire (2004) – A Center who averaged 13/10 while shooting well below 50% from the field, but hey he’s an ‘All-Star’. How's that Smash Mouth song go? "Hey now, you're an All-Star..." something like that.
Wally Szczerbiak (2002) – Must be the eyebrows.
Friday, 9 December 2011
A few weeks ago I lobbied for the NBA to integrate a reality show formula when deciding which players would go down to the D-League. David Stern has taken this idea of incorporating reality show rules and added Big Brother’s ‘the power of veto’ to the NBA; setting the sportsworld ablaze with an unprecedented unilateral move blocking a trade sending Chris Paul to the Lakers . Everyone thinks the Hornets/Lakers (with a side order of Rockets) trade was vetoed because the owners were vehemently opposed to it - especially Mark Cuban, but especially Dan Gilbert. Take a minute and think about why the trade was vetoed. If Stern is going to turn the NBA into a reality show then he can’t have his biggest reality show star, Lamar Odom-Kardashian, playing for a struggling New Orleans franchise. Word is, the producers of ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’ were the ones behind the trade veto – who knew Ryan Seacrest’s power grip extended so far. Just a few weeks ago we entered the ‘Nuclear Winter’ of the league and now it seems the NBA has risen from the ashes, this time with a reality-show twist, leaving fans feeling like they are living a Surreal Life.
Why this trade was vetoed, and not the ‘Pau Gasol for a still-infant-Marc Gasol and pocket change’ trade, is beyond me. The Rockets would have inherited Pau Gasol, a deft passing big man tailor made for Rick Adelman’s offense, and draft picks. New Orleans was receiving a breadth of talent in Kevin Martin, Luis Scola and Lamar Odom, leaving them flexible with an overstock of talent at both forward positions. Actually, Los Angeles was coming out the weakest after giving up their most valuable asset (yes, even more valuable than Kobe), size, length and depth [wow, that came out wrong]. Even though it was assumed Dwight Howard would eventually La-La-land with the Lakers, if he didn’t – keeping in mind it was a large ‘if’ – the Lakers would have been left with a depleted frontcourt. Kobe and Chris Paul aren’t going to ‘Isaiah/Dumars’ the Lakers to a championship (Luke Walton is no Dennis Rodman). The trade was beneficial to all teams, but owners were afraid of creating another Miami-like 'Super Team' - although if memory serves me correct, I don't believe any 'Super Team' is yet to win a championship.
You know when you go through the ‘make-up/break-up’ phase at the tail end of a relationship? That’s what this feels like. Sure, we have NBA action getting underway this year, but many of the issues which caused the lockout are unresolved. Until the NBA can get all the owners on the same page, the relationship with the fans is going to look less like Khloe Kardashian and Lamar Odom, and more like Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries.
Friday, 2 December 2011
When the lockout began I painted a picture of David Stern as an ‘abusive’ commissioner, pondering if I should get out of this ‘relationship’. Then I begged the question of, could a relationship withstand the strain of infidelity [the lockout], and if so, was it even worth saving? Well, call me a glutton for punishment, but the NBA is back, with trade rumours in full-swing, and I’m welcoming it back with open arms and couldn’t be more in love. Now my friends are reminding me of the ‘bad times’ and heartache I endured recently in my relationship with the league, but “they don’t know him like I do.” My feelings for the NBA are all encompassing and unconditional. Sure, the NBA went on Lockout and now instead of an 82 game season we’re getting a condensed 66 game season, but the NBA explained to me that if I don’t make it mad then it won’t hurt me. So in a way, the lockout was my [the fans’] fault, for making it mad and not giving it enough money in the first place. At first I was upset about the shortened 66 game season, till the NBA said, “what’s the matter, 66 games ain’t good enough for ya? Huh!?? What, you rather have a puny 50 game season. You think I like having to only play 66 games!??” To which I replied, “No, no, I’m happy. I know you work hard, and 66 is a lot, I’m sorry. Thank you…thank you.” I’ll just use some concealer to cover up my bruises and put on a big smile. I had to stop watching college ball because the NBA found some PVR’d games I had recorded when it was gone, “what’s this, huh!!?? You cheating on me? Who the hell is DePaul…answer me!!!” I’ve learned my lesson; I won’t cry and gripe when the NBA is gone anymore. I’ll just be happy for any attention it gives me.
I continue my recap of the definitive ‘Sobriety Strike Standings’ with the West Coast. Again, the teams have been realigned into three Drink Divisions and ranked within each division depending on how appetizing the drinks I had for them were:
Red Stag Division: A black-cherry flavoured bourbon, Red Stag isn’t a drink you can have all the time, but delicious on the right occasion, and will get you blotto all the same. Smooth liquers and premium vodkas in this division with very few low-quality drinks (save for the Colt45 I had opening night to ‘pour out some liquor’ for the league).
LAL - Colt45, Goldschlager, Stoli, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Mount Gay, Lowenbrau, Vanilla Stoli, Fireball Whiskey, 42Below Vodka, Labatt Blue
DAL - White Russian (2), Red Stag, OV, Vanilla Stoli, Churchill, Hpnotiq, Crown Royal, Stoli, Jack and coke
OKC - Colt45, Jack and coke (2), Famous Grouse, Stinger, Canadian Club, Rusty Nail, Zubrowka
LAC - Alize, Jack and coke(2), Pabst Blue Ribbon, Crystal Head Vodka, White Russian, Vanilla Stoli, Heartbreak cocktail, Rusty Nail, Red Stag, Mount Gay
MEM - Alize, Laker, Jack and coke (2), Vanilla Stoli, Bud Light, B52, Hpnotiq, 42Below Vodka
Canadian Club Division: The whisky made popular during prohibition, Canadian Club is now the most common dark liquor you’ll find in Canada. A fine drink that goes well with ginger ale or cola, but lacking that quality to ‘anger the blood’ which all great whiskeys have.
SAS - Labatt Blue, Red Stag, Mount Gay (2), Lowenbrau, Famous Grouse, Zubrowka (2), Sidecar
NOH - Jack and coke, Pabst Blue ribbon, Hpnotiq (2), Bud Light, Labatt 50, Godfather
POR - Lakeport, Jack and coke, Pabst Blue Ribbon, El Dorado, Famous Grouse, Manhattan (2), Hpnotiq, Zubrowka, Labatt Blue, Mount Gay
GSW - Goldschlager, Labatt Blue, Mount Gay, Lowenbrau, Alize, Bud Light, Churchill, Labatt 50 (2), Budweiser
UTA - Coors Light, Laker, Jack and coke (2), El Dorado, Canadian Club, Cuba Libre, Rusty Nail
Smirnoff Ice Division: Not nearly as unpalatable as the ‘Jack n’ Grind’ division in the East, but what it lacks in potency it more than makes up for in effeminate correlation. If Budweiser is ‘The King of Beers’ (a truly detestable King who is unsympathetic to his people) then Smirnoff Ice is the ‘Queen of Drinks’.
DEN - Lakeport, OV, El Dorado, Vanilla Stoli, Bud Light, Canadian Club, Rusty Nail, Jack and coke, Red Stag
PHO - Stoli, Jack and coke (2), Pabst Blue Ribbon, El Dorado, Canadian Club, Heartbreak cocktail, Labatt 50 (2), Old Fashioned, Labatt Blue
HOU - Coors Light, Labatt 67, Jack and coke, Budweiser (2), Alize
MIN - Labatt Blue (2), El Dorado, Mezcal, Smirnoff Ice, Sidecar, Budweiser, Bud Light,
SAC - Labatt 67, Labatt Blue (2), Mount Gay, Budweiser, Mezcal, B52, Smirnoff Ice, Sidecar, Labatt Blue