By Amos Manary
These are depraved times for a recovering basketball junkie. As has been noted by each and every of the innumerable mouthpieces on behalf of endless outlets, this new era of ‘empowered player mobility’ has made the NBA an industry that never quits. Gone are the days when the basketball monogamist had to wait through baseball and football seasons in order to get some action.
Unfortunately, most of the coverage is commensurately oleaginous with the vulgar times in which we unintentionally exist. While the NBA is perceived as infinitely more ‘progressive’ than its American professional sporting counterparts, it’s nonsense nonetheless. Smarter, slicker, Adam Silver’s public relations minions are indeed shrewder than the boneheads who run MLB, the NFL, NASCAR, et al, but that’s it. Every TV-talking hoop-head insists on referring to the human talents employed by individual NBA franchises as ‘assets,’ which of course they are, as are prospective draft picks, and enigmatic piles of hypothetical cash known as ‘cap space.’ I know, I know, they’re millionaires – but assets reeks of auction blocks. Again, I know professional basketball is ‘a business,’ and if there’s anything that Americans actually know it’s that it’s money and only money that makes things go and that money’s got no morality, nor should anyone expect it to. All’s fair in love and war and NBA free agency. Finally, the elite within the NBA proletariat – i.e. the only league employees who actually play the basketball which produces profits in excess of the GDP of half the countries in the world – finally, the Ghost of Curt Flood has deluged the NBA and a handful of human beings who happen to be the very best at what they do are able to choose where they work… Hooray for the U.S.A.! Adam Smith to Adam Silver, what a benign byproduct of our sacred goddamned market! It’s a business!
Except that apparently, it also isn’t – or the hoop universe ain’t immune to the bizarre, overriding hypocrisy endemic and perhaps innate to the American experiment, the central premise of which has always been: how to best pedal this crap? The metaphysical corporatism that’s tattooed to the American psyche. Serious blind spots. So while throughout showbiz, actions that might ordinarily be – according to the ethereal standards of basic decency – deemed scurrilous at best, pirate-cutthroat at worst, are excused, exonerated and elevated due solely to potential/actual profitability. Floyd Mayweather, LaVar Ball, say whatever you may, are good businessmen, and therefore must be given ‘props.’ America’s specialty has always been making excuses for good business, no matter the means by which profits are extracted. Trump or no Trump, it’s a wonder the extermination of the natives and the enslavement of Africans aren’t praised more openly, as both were extremely good for the miscalled free market. This is what we as Americans know, deep down, anything’s that’s good business can and will inevitably be not only tolerated, but chalked up to, sanctimoniously mind you, the Progress of Man.
Yet, for inane reasons too tribally infantile to utter, to half the folks earning their dime blabbing about the goings on of the few hundred fellas who earn their dime playing hoops, from former players to sideline beauty queens, Kevin Durant will always be soft, a ‘traitor’ even – as if the OKC Thunder represent their own republic. Business is just business unless you’re a black American basketball player who prefers Oakland to Oklahoma City and chooses to play for one of the best coaches instead of one of the worst; who chooses to depend on the game’s top point guard, as opposed to the one who’s literally the least reliable. It’s not hyperbole. Don’t get me wrong, Russ is fun to watch, a regular Roman orgy of creatively inefficient athleticism. But Steph Curry happens to be the most efficient, winningest point guard in the game, with the top ‘true’ shooting percentage in the league, while Westbrook rates dead last in that category. The talking heads can’t muster four phrases without spitting out something about how it’s the age of ‘analytics,’ yet none of them point out that according to analytics, Durant would have to be a bona fide moron to continue on with Bonehead Donovan and Westbrick, who definitely cares more about fashion than quarterbacking his hoop squad. And good for him and who cares.
But to badmouth Durant, insist his human flesh has become synonymous with glutinous confection, because he actually cares about the thing he’s paid millions to do… Because he wants to be the best he can be… That he wants to play for the team that’s the best because they’re the best team, for that he’s earned a Scarlet C. But the C ain’t for cupcake, as the fat-bellyaching blabbering we might call the Collective Charles Barkley Underbelly of Unconsciousness, insinuates or outright insists. I for one understand why Durant lashes out at any and every Joe Fuckbrain who talks shit about his choices on social media. He might not know quite how to best express it, but the reality is that Kevin Durant is the reincarnation of Curt Flood and nobody’s appreciating him for that. The C stands for Curt. Nobody appreciated Curt Flood either. That OKC was up 3-1 against the Warriors is irrelevant – his move was nothing akin to Michael Jordan joining the Pistons; and even if it was, who the shit cares, lest you’re an Oklahoman middle schooler. Everyone needs to grow the fuck up, take a peek at the genocide your tax dollars pay for in Yemen and learn to love the Dirk Nowitzki who can guard anyone instead of nobody, the seven-foot Alex English with handles. Wake up America, the Small Forward is one of your greatest creations!
Julius Irving, Larry Bird, Scottie Pippen, LeBron James, Kevin Durant. Cheryl Miller, Tamika Catchings, Diana Taurasi, Angel McCoughtry, Maya Moore. If you’ve got something bad to say about any of these human beings you don’t have the brains you were born with. You’re not Big-Game James Worthy of uttering Kevin Durant’s good name.
The venomous hatred (still) being hurled in KD’s direction, like that for LeBron (but worse) when he went to Miami, is the epitome of madness. Of all the pro athletes who bash their wives’ faces in or have been involved in other instances of criminally actionable violence, it’s black guys who switch teams of their own volition who catch the most heat. If you’re one of these (likely proud) ‘haters’ who’s just added a picture of Boogie Cousins to your dart board, then the Samuel L. Jackson character from Django Unchained is undoubtedly your cinematic hero, lest it’s Leonardo DiCaprio’s character from that same film. You’re favorite word must be uppity.
By the way, the sports world hardly made a peep when every great white baseball player in the ‘90s cut their hair, shaved their beards and joined the Yankees.
Now that Durant on the west coast is such old news, the new charge against him is oversensitivity – for some unfathomable reason, we want our entertainers to be perfect. As if being sensitive is a flaw. It isn’t. It’s a tell-tale sign of humanness. Kevin Durant’s sole ‘crime’ is that he’s all too human. And like Arthur Rimbaud, absolutely modern.
The NBA itself – meaning the players, coaches, teams, style of play – has never been better. But the actual basketball warrants nearly nary a mention amid the mountainous coverage devoted to what someone Tweeted, which outlandish outfit Westbrick wore, what Snoop thinks of LeBron’s business acumen, what Kawai Leonard didn’t say, along with quieter innuendos pondering the validity of the so-called Kardashian Curse, aka wondering whether Reality TV alpha-sex-kitten-witches will steal Ben Simmons’ soul and thereby derail the Sixers’ vaunted Process. (Speaking of those demonic lunatics, expect Simmons to have a down year. The Kardashian Curse – that shit’s real.)
Process, assets, business, Orwellian notions of perception is reality – that’s what it all boils down to, apparently.
Like everything else in the American death it calls life, the soul, spirit and science have been stripped from all equations. Go outside the mainstream, it can at least get somewhat fun: the crowd convinced the NBA (and all sports with money at stake) are all rigged as pro wrestling, and who assert that furthermore, it’s just as obvious. My favorite among this subgroup are those few precious Youtubers dedicated to complexly convoluted theories that all NBA outcomes are predetermined by Kabalistic Gematria wizards salaried by Illuminati honchos to ensure every final score pays homage to Horus or some other god of Babylonian Mystery Religion lore. I’m as conspiracy-minded as they come and don’t for one second think the days of Tim Donaghy are dead and gone, but this business that they put in number 12 with 12 seconds on the clock so he could nail a 12-foot jumper from the short-corner to bring the losing team’s total to 112 so as to lionize Allister Crowley (and his son, Barbara Bush) – I don’t think they’re right.
But Barbara Bush, may her soul rest well in hell, was probably Crowley’s son.
Lookout for the Lake Show: in defense of JaVale
I don’t care what anyone says, the Lakers look good to me. All this nonsense about ‘colorful characters’ who can’t shoot. This pervasive presumption the Warriors can only be beaten at their own game is patently false. As in 2015 (73 wins be damned), the same two dudes represent the only real threat to GSW supremacy: LeBron and Kyrie. Loads of people are picking the Celtics to make it to the Finals, some saying they’ll prevail. Nobody’s giving the LeBron a shot to make his ninth straight Finals. Luke Walton won’t survive if the Lakers miss the playoffs. Well, I’d think not! Miss the playoffs? Are people fucking nuts? They may wind up the sixth or even seventh seed, but come May, when LBJ’s had many moons to figure out how to utilize his new Cabinet… Look the fuck out.
The Warriors’ vulnerability resides on the glass and in the paint – and kooky as Stephenson, Beasley, Rondo and JaVale have been painted, in reality they’re all scrappers who’ll be tough to keep off the boards and out of the lane. But the pundits on TV seem to agree – these additions are curious, dubious or just plain dumb and doomed. Much has been made of this collection of ‘personalities,’ media-speak for cuckoos, which Magic Johnson and Rob (Lowe?) Pelinka have assembled to surround LeBron and the Lakers’ ‘youth core.’ Everyone’s lamenting their lack of long-range snipers. Even if it’s true that the Lakers are merely embarking on a one-year experiment and will tread water until they can ‘acquire’ a Name Brand To Be Named Later, I’m betting Steve Kerr feels like he’s in Back to the Future – it’s the dawn of the ‘80s all over again, the Lakers and Celtics ready to reclaim the league.
For cruel and unusual reasons, media ringleaders have chosen to forget or ignore the competency JaVale McGee displayed during his stint with Golden State. Somehow, McGee’s reputation has been illegitimately reverted to its previous status quo: Chief Galoot. He’s no Kareem, but I’d take him over Tristan Thompson in a heartbeat. Like the NBA PR slogan says: JaVale cares. He gives a shit how his team does; does so without ego. He probably won’t play too much, but he’ll contribute something and won’t harm the Lakers a lick.
Everyone says the only way to beat the Warriors is to D’Antoni them to death: take and make more three’s than the Splash Brothers. Hmm. The reason the Rockets took the Warriors to Game Seven (besides the absence of Andre Iguodala), was the Warriors’ inability to slow the flow of uncontested Clint Capella dunks and Chris Paul midrange jumpers. The Warriors have trouble with muscle. Counterintuitively, guys like P.J. Tucker, a loose-ball-grabbing master, can be weirdly troublesome. By 21st century standards, the W’s two best players are extraordinarily skinny. Durant’s revealed himself to be a fantastic defender and Curry’s defense has been unfairly maligned, but their slighter frames can be shoved aside. Draymond can’t guard everyone. The legs of Iguodala and Livingston won’t get younger. The key to beating the Warriors is physicality – nobody’s gonna out-finesse them, you gotta pound them in the paint, bludgeon them with put-backs. Move the ball, take it to the hole; disrupt their flow, force turnovers; get as many of their all-stars in foul trouble as possible. Switch everything, shoot more free throws; get more dunks.
Last year the Cavs traded half their roster, essentially, for the players the Lakers no longer wanted. Now LeBron gets to play with the guys Magic Johnson (no dummy) thought were worth keeping. Consider that until Tyronn Lue finally gave Rodney Hood some minutes (after the Finals had long been decided), LeBron had played the entire playoffs without a single teammate who could create his own shot. LeBron needs a Kyrie Irving, a (somewhat younger) Dwayne Wade, far more than he needs Mike Millers or Kyle Korvers. Josh Hart can play Kyle Korver much better than Kyle Korver. The combination of Rondo, Stephenson, Beasley, Ball, Kuzma and Ingram add up to at least half a Kyrie/Wade. All those guys can make something good happen with the shot clock already wound down. If nothing more, the Lakers as currently constructed are infinitely better than last season’s Cavs.
Plenty of folks assume Luke Walton won’t survive the season because he’s not ‘Magic’s guy.’ Personally, I’d love to be the son of Bill heading into next season. All his guys have a lot to prove, and except in Lonzo’s case, not much to lose. Whoever ends up coaching them, they’re are in much better shape than anyone other than hopeful Laker/LeBron fans are envisioning. They’re a hard guard; a lot of guys who can get to the cup. Kinda crazy maybe, compared to say Kyle Korver, but LeBron thrives in chaos, and if the colorful characters exude as much chaos and contentiousness as everyone seems to think they will, Magic, LeBron and Luke will figure out how to channel that energy towards Warrior slaying. Lonzo will shoot better and his father will shut up or the son will be benched, traded or have his star status permanently relegated to the reality show realm.
Don’t underestimate Magic and his Non-Brons. They might end up with Kawai or Anthony Davis or Jimmy Butler before the trade deadline, and even if they don’t, should the Lakers and Warriors square off in the playoffs, I promise you LBJ won’t get swept again.
That being said, whether Boogie’s Achilles heals or not, the Warriors will win it all again next year and nobody less invested will be more pleased than yours truly. If they stay healthy, all other prognostications will be quickly rendered obsolete. Klay won’t go to L.A. Durant ain’t leavin’. Hate the Warriors? Grow up, get used to it, jump out the window – it’s not gonna get any better for you anytime soon.
Speaking of KD, have you seen him play basketball?
Read what Andre Iguodala said recently – he’s right, Durant’s the most efficient, versatile scorer ever. Without weakness, he never goes backwards, even on fade-away step-back jumpers. Even when he reverts to the iso-habits honed under Scotty Brooks and Bonebrain Donovan, he never takes ten dribbles over eight seconds without going anywhere. John Wooden loves him from heaven. Positive step.
New Negative Norm
I know why, but still must groan why when I see the new preferred format for televised sports talk. Shows like ESPN’s First Take and Fox’s Undisputed have decided the best way to maximize ratings is to seat some former sorority queen in mammary-accentuating dress between two or more blabbering debater-dingbat-dudes and meekly, maternally referee the monkey-mind vomit they spew screamingly. Here I must insert mild praise for ESPN’s The Jump and its hostess Rachel Nichols, who’s a relative Georgina Plimpton when juxtaposed against the aforementioned useless floozies, worst of which is always the potential Playmate of the Month who sidekicks for Colin Cowherd like a lobotomized, Caucasian Robin Quivers – and boy is Cowherd no Howard Stern. Though perhaps never has a man possessed a more apropos moniker – he literally herds the cows.
Kareem was also right when he recently dismissed the who’s the GOAT question out of hand, calmly as only Kareem can, explaining that since basketball is a team game, consisting of athletes who play with different teammates, for different coaches, in different eras, comparing them directly without consideration to their diverse circumstances, is absolutely useless. As stupid as comparing Bob Marley to Beethoven.
The most idiotic topic I’ve heard explored:
“Michael Jordan’s legacy dinged by LeBron’s philanthropy.” Yes, in terms of social consciousness, Nike (evil sweatshop corporation) shill LBJ does trump Nike shill MJ. And Putin ain’t no Stalin. So fucking what. It’s great LeBron builds schools and calls Trump a bum – but to act like he’s Muhammad Ali, Bill Russell or Kareem, to infer there’s one iota of risk to his so-called outspokenness is like making Anderson Cooper out to be Harvey Milk, or to say Cari Champion is rather similar to Ida B. Wells. Or better still, it’s like saying Omarosa is the modern day equivalent of Harriet Tubman.
Best Offseason Footage Findable on Youtube
Coach Pop playing spirited dummy-d against the Team USA in drills. Looking spry at nearly 70, it’s no wonder the recent widower has been so successful – he loves what he does. It’s the most underplayed aspect to the Lone Superpower, villainous-for-no-reason (beyond their top-to-bottom competency) Warriors: Coach Kerr’s revolutionary emphasis on Joy. Popovich ain’t known for fun or funniness, lest it’s the deadpan sarcasm he employs to belittle the imbecilic questions the league forces him to field. Watch for DeMar DeRozan to have a career-year for the Spurs – and more fun than he’s had in years, in spite of the Spurs’ legendary no-nonsense approach.
James Harden performs no differently in the Drew League than he does with the Rockets. What a strange goofy-footed genius he is – and what a horrific defender. His favorite thing to do, no matter the venue, is to catch the ball and hold it for a relative infinity, jab-step nine or ten times, and then shoot a long three without ever having moved, with his four teammates left with no other choice but to watch, along with the rest of us. In the NBA stats are like profits and nobody can resist lauding the giant margins guys like Westbrick and Hardshot post each quarter. My vote for last season’s MVP would have been: 1) LeBron 2) Durant 3) Curry. Anthony Davis would be in there. All awards suck. Pointless, useless back-slapping. I pray the NBA drops its new Oscars’-esque nonsense. Regular season honors should be granted immediately after the 82nd game.
Bringing it all Back Home
Last potshot at those who laud the NBA as more enlightened than the NFL – it’s like saying Trump is better than Pence because the President’s fascistic tendencies are more secularized, or those who prefer Pence because he’s never once uttered pussy with an ovarian connotation. NBA players kneeling for the anthem? Out of the fucking question – standing in worshipful attention for the anthem has always been absolutely obligatory. The last NBA guy who tried to sit for the anthem got run out of the league faster than you can think assalamu-alaikum. Do yourself a favor and learn what happened to Chicago Bulls sharpshooter Craig Hodges after he wore a dashiki to the White House and dared present the first President Bush with a letter detailing his civic concerns in the wake of Rodney King.
Things have gotten much worse since the days of Rodney King. Beatings like the one he somehow survived are less common. Now they just shoot to kill. Or beat you to death for not putting out your cigarette after not putting on your blinker to change lanes. In the America of Sandra Bland, people have their panties in a knot over guys on one knee during the song by Mr. F.S. Key. The National Anthem should be changed to ‘This Land is Your Land’ and everyone should get on both knees and pray to Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse et al for undeserved forgiveness. It’s only the most gargantuan genocide ever, but the NFL team in the nation’s capital city will always be the Redskins. Think of a Berlin soccer club and its fans insisting it be allowed to call itself the Kikes.
Basketball remains the most democratic of sports – and in the Association, the best team always wins: the team that’s chemically most cohesive, which is most similar to a great jazz quintet. Players, like musicians, oft possess egomaniacal traits, but in order to succeed, those tendencies must be sublimated for the greater good. So if one has the childlike nerve to honor fun as part of the reckoning, the Warriors are even farther ahead than their insane assemblage of talent would indicate.