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Zen Master Comes Full Circle.

“Basketball contains larger truths for Jackson, and the triangle is the key to unlocking those truths. Any team that hires him should be prepared to install it and commit to it. Anthony is a beautiful scorer, an underrated passer/cutter, and a viciously dangerous catch-and-shoot player. He has the all-around skill set for the triangle, with its cuts, dribble handoffs, and instant reads. He can fit into the Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant pinch post role, directing the offense and making reads from the spot at which those guys made their scoring careers. The rest of the roster is an awkward triangle fit.”

With Phil Jackson apparently on the verge of returning to NYC, Grantland‘s Zach Lowe breaks down how his hire as Team President could impact the Knickerbockers. “[T]he Knicks clear the Bargnani, Chandler, and Amar’e Stoudemire contracts off their books in the summer of 2015 and hungrily look to replenish. And this is where Jackson’s great value might lie — as a Pat Riley–style free-agency magnet.”

Even riding a five-game winning streak, this season looks lost, especially given that we don’t have a first-round pick. So I can’t really imagine Jackson having much of a short-term impact, especially since he’ll be spending most of his time in LA. Still, I guess it can’t hurt to have him on the payroll, and there’s something very Zen about finishing the journey where you started.

Celtic Red (or Green for Gene.)

“I had never met Debs…[but] ever since he came there he is considered a man that is actually a saint or a Jesus Christ because when the night comes and the work is over, he goes into the yard where all the men, the criminals, come around him, and for each one he has a word to tell them. For each he has word to awaken in them a human spirit, the feeling that has been lost for years and years… I am sure it is actually a crime to keep a man of that type behind iron bars.”

Also in recent NBA news and by way of a grad school friend: Larry Bird may be the “Basketball Jesus,” but he wasn’t the first Christ figure from the Hoosier State: Former Celts Bill Walton and Larry Bird visit the Eugene Debs Museum. “Walton and the Birds spent a full hour and a half visiting all three floors of this great museum. This was not a step in, step out visit for them.”

Obviously She’s Not a Golfer.


“Lipinski glided around the rink in a white v-neck and bathrobe, all while holding a White Russian. Yes, there is a beverage there, man. I like pretty much all things Lebowski-related, so I support this, but feel compelled to call bullshit on that not being a real White Russian. Unless they just used really heavy cream in it, which would be very Dudelian.”

Can’t say I’m a big watcher of the Olympics — I don’t think I saw a single second of the London games in 2012, but I was in dissertation mode then — and particularly the Winter Olympics. But you know what would get me to partake? More Lebowski-themed numbers. Tara Lipinski channels the Dude for Jimmy Fallon’s last week at 12:30 (who, Roots be damned, bid his farewell with Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem.)

Not Too Distant Mirror.

“The ritual, by now, is well-established. President Barack Obama will travel to the lower house of the national legislature from the executive mansion, and…give a long speech extolling the nation’s virtues and present circumstances — the state of the union is invariably described as ‘strong’ — and laying out the regime’s priorities.”

A day before the big show, Joshua Keating’s consistently funny If It Happened There column at Slate looked at the State of the Union. “Members of the opposition typically do not applaud, though they occasionally join in with approval of paeans to the nation’s powerful military, the leaders of which typically sit stone-faced in front of the gallery.”

Which, of course, is exactly what happened. There are innumerable things Congress could be doing right now to create jobs, spur opportunity, expand the frontiers of knowledge, and generally make life better for families in America. Some of them — raising the minimum wage, ensuring equal pay for women, investing in infrastructure and early childhood education, admitting climate change is happening and proceeding accordingly — were even mentioned in Obama’s remarks, not that we can expect much in Year Six of this presidency (and an election year to boot.)

But with all due respect to Sgt. Remsburg’s sacrifice, when the only thing all of our nation’s legislators can get effusive about is venerating Americans wounded in battle, the republic is in a bad way indeed. As James Fallows put it: “[W]hile that moment reflected limitless credit on Sgt. Remsburg…I don’t think the sustained ovation reflected well on the America of 2014…the spectacle should make most Americans uneasy.” That it should – The last refuge of scoundrels and all that.

“This Sunday, the eyes of millions of Americans will turn to a fetid marsh in the industrial hinterlands of New York City for the country’s most important sporting event — and some would say the key to understanding its proud but violent culture.”

ICYMI, If It Happened There has aptly covered the Superbowl also. “The ethics of such an event can be hard for outsiders to understand. Fans, who regularly watch players being carted off the field with crippling injuries, are unbothered by reports of the game’s lasting medical impact on its players. Nevertheless, fans and the national media can become extremely indignant if players are excessively boastful at the game’s conclusion.”

Speaking of the handegg finals — as usual, also not lacking for tawdry paeans to militarismcongrats to the Seahawks on a convincing Superbowl XLVIII win. As I said on Twitter, I had no real dog in this fight – I was just happy to see the two states with sane marijuana laws karmically rewarded for their forward thinking.

The Knicks’ll Take Her.

“I mean, do you want context? Do you need it? Can’t you just enjoying this incredible GIF of First Lady Michelle Obama dunking a tiny basketball on LeBron James?”

What DCist said. Sorry if this 3.3MB file just crashed your browser, but, c’mon now, this is the First Lady dunking on LeBron — kind of the thing GIFs were made for. Enjoy — preferably with a Subway $5 Footlong, since they could use some love now that the crazies have declared a jihad on them, for all the usual reasons.

Still the Blue and Orange.

“The idea was to mix two sports and redesign their logos. Being a fan of both football (or soccer) and basketball, I decided to redesign NBA logos and make them look like football logos. Every logo you see is color correct and matches the idea of the original logo.” Making the rounds of late: NBA logos, football-style.

Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang.

“‘I kind of had in my stomach that we were going to get Germany,’ U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. ‘Obviously it’s one of the most difficult groups in the whole draw, having Portugal with Cristiano Ronaldo and then Ghana, who has a history with the United States. It couldn’t get any more difficult or any bigger.’”

The World Cup 2014 groups are announced, and — alongside Germany, Ghana, and Portugal in Group G — the US look to have a tough go of it. The silver lining: “There is actually some evidence that if the group of death doesn’t kill you, it can ultimately make you stronger.”

Take Berk Out to the Ball Game.

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but you can help them pick up a new pastime or two. On account of Pups in the Park night at Nats Park, Berk got to take in his first MLB game Saturday night: Phillies over Nats, 5-4. FWIW, he seemed to quite enjoy the experience, most notably all the many other dogs around and the bag of peanuts in the seat in front of him. The folding chairs, not so much.

Scholar, Journalist, Cop, Hoopster.

“‘I would say that my ideal of writing history is to give the reader vicarious experience,’ Professor Morgan told The William and Mary Quarterly. ‘You’re born in one particular century at a particular time, and the only experience you can have directly is of the place you live and the time you live in. History is a way of giving you experience that you would otherwise be cut off from.’ Edmund Morgan, 1916-2013.

“Well I never knew it was a man’s world! I never accepted that. I thought I had an education just as good as a man’s. I deserve to have the same opportunities and advantages. So I antagonized a lot of people, but I fought for women’s rights and blacks’ rights and civil rights. Discrimination against women was very bad. There was no reason to accept discrimination. No reason.” Helen Thomas, 1920-2013.

“‘My personality was formed by Chicago,’ he told Cigar Aficionado magazine in 1999. ‘It’s very American, very straightforward. If you can’t find it, or make it there, you won’t make it anywhere. It’s a very honest place.’” Dennis Farina. 1944-2013.

“I was the Knicks’ third-leading scorer [8.1 ppg], I also finished third in the league in assist average [2.0], and my salary was 60 dollars per game. Ha! These days, the players make about sixty dollars a minute. Don’t get me wrong, though. I have no jealousy or resentment over how much money these guys make today. I think they’re the best athletes in the world, and they’re worth every red cent. I’m just proud to have been one of the NBA’s pioneers.” Ossie Schectman, 1919-2013.

The Don, the Survivor, and the Coach.

“Anybody who had even the slightest contact with Gandolfini will testify to what a great guy he was, how full of life he was…whether he was feeling well or poorly, or living smartly or stupidly, there was always something about the guy that you wanted to embrace. You could feel it shining through the screen, that warmth and vulnerability, that broken yet still-hopeful humanness.” James Gandolifni, 1961-2013.

“‘I hate the word horror,’ the author told fantasy editor and writer Stanley Wiater for the 2009 video doc Dark Dreamers. “To me, the word horror is visceral. Terror hits you in the mind. You don’t have to show anything to scare a lot of people.’ Just the wail of an invisible child, or the face of a furry gremlin…on the wing of a Twilight Zone plane.” Richard Matheson, 1926-2013. For the next generation of kids to be touched by Richard Matheson’s stories, what nightmares await! What dreams may come!

“‘He was the most successful coach of the 1960s, and it could be said he still was in the 2000s,’ Caldwell said. ‘His ability to be successful at the same place over such a long period is unparalleled.’” Harry Parker, 1935-2013.“‘It really is like God died and nobody knows what anything means now, because Harry was the sport,’ said Bruce Smith, executive director of Community Rowing.”

Robbing Peter to Pay DePaul.

“It all starts with the person who seems committed to win the current spirited competition as the most loathsome person in American political life: Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The same Mayor overseeing the closing of fifty-four schools and six community mental health clinics under the justification of a ‘budgetary crisis’ has announced that the city will be handing over more than $100 million to DePaul University for a new basketball arena.”

Yet another exhibit in the general brokenness of today’s Democratic Party [See also: RepubliDems, Dems without Spines]: By way of Quiddity, Chicago mayor, former Obama consigliere, and one of the Village’s favorite High Democratic muckety-mucks Rahm Emanuel — who apparently was pulling a 19% approval rating in February — tries to offset school and health center closings in his city with a giant new arena for a sub-par basketball team. (Apologies in advance for the unwieldy, shoehorned-in Angry Birds analogy in the Nation piece.)

“The only explanation for this is that Rahm is scratching someone’s back in the DePaul Catholic hierarchy of Chicago…In this case, the hottest rumor is that approval of legalized gambling is on the horizon and the convention center’s locale will be its epicenter. The arena is, in effect, a Trojan Horse for a casino.”

As I’ve said several times before about this sort of shameful behavior — and Rahm is a frequent offender in this regard — if we Democrats are just going to act like Republicans, voters might as well pull the lever for the real thing.

Seven Minutes of Fury.

“In 12 exercises deploying only body weight, a chair and a wall, it fulfills the latest mandates for high-intensity effort…into about seven minutes of steady discomfort — all of it based on science.”

To complement Calvinism: The NYT lays out a seven-minute workout that might actually work. “The exercises should be performed in rapid succession, allowing 30 seconds for each, while, throughout, the intensity hovers at about an 8 on a discomfort scale of 1 to 10…Those seven minutes should be, in a word, unpleasant.”

The Knicks Outpaced.

“‘It’s tough to go out this way,’ coach Mike Woodson said. ‘I didn’t make it happen for us and that’s what’s disappointing.’” Well, that’s that then. After the most promising season in a decade, the Knicks go down in six to the Pacers in the second round, not even getting a chance to trade blows with the reigning champion Miami Heat.

Well, we went out earlier than hoped, but I still feel pretty good about this season. For one, even though we had at least two key players — J.R. Smith and Jason Kidd — go ice-cold this series, the Knicks still contended against a big, physical team that may well give the Heat serious problems. (It likely didn’t help that both Melo and JR played hurt.)

For another, I like Mike Woodson as a coach, but his decision-making in this series was…not good. Chris Copeland should have gotten more run — a 3-shooting big man is exactly what was needed to offset the Hibbert factor — and Smith, Kidd, and Amare should all have been benched earlier on. Similarly, I know Steve Novak is a defensive liability, but he should’ve gotten a few of those minutes too. If he gets hot and makes a few threes, it spreads the floor, forces the Pacers to guard the perimeter, and allows Felton, Melo et al to penetrate. It was worth a try, given that JR was throwing up more bricks than the Stonecutters in the first few games.

In any case, Mike Vaccaro’s analogy of the Knicks being an 18 on a blackjack table is a pretty good one. The Knicks are a talented jump-shooting team, and, on the bright side, Iman Shumpert is clearly evolving into a high-impact player. But we need either a consistent second scorer or some sort of inside presence — preferably both — to really contend moving forward. Tyson Chandler is a defensive anchor, but his offense is all tip-ins and Felton alley-oops, and Marcus Camby, Kenyon Martin, and the recently departed Kurt Thomas are all aging in dog years at this point.

Which brings us back to the Amare question — Can he be the player he once was, while co-existing with Melo? — The spacing never looked right when they were both healthy on the floor the past two years. To be continued, next November.

America By Coach.

“You may have heard that the highest-paid employee in each state is usually the football coach at the largest state school. This is actually a gross mischaracterization: Sometimes it is the basketball coach.”

Deadspin’s Reuben Fischer-Baum conjures up a map of the highest-paid public employee in each state, and, yes, it’s usually a coach. By way of comparison, the college players actually bringing in all the revenue get…nada.

Back in the Game!

It’s been forty long years and we’re starvin’: So I didn’t do the usual annual NBA playoff picks this year, partly because I don’t have much knowledgeable to say about matchups like Denver v. Golden State and Atlanta v. Indiana, and mainly because, more than even most years, my bracket would be clouded over in fandom and I don’t want to bring the jinx. Suffice to say that I’m greatly enjoying the Knicks’ first year of serious playoff contention in fourteen years — basically the entire life of GitM(!)

Even with 2012-2013′s scoring leader (Carmelo Anthony), the six man of the year (J.R. Smith) and a gaggle of seasoned, savvy veterans (Chandler, Kidd, K-Mart, Camby) on our squad, the 2013 NBA Championship clearly remains Miami’s to lose. Still, here’s hoping we at least get a chance to take on the reigning Heat in the Eastern Conference finals. So far, so good — The Knicks go into Boston, a team that swept us two years ago (albeit with Rondo), having defended our home floor for the first time since 2000. Say go New York go New York go…

Keep Running Strong.

“The Marathon was the old, drunk uncle of Boston sports, the last of the true festival events. Every other one of our major sporting rodeos is locked down, and tightened up, and Fail-Safed until the Super Bowl now is little more than NORAD with bad rock music and offensive tackles. You can’t do that to the Marathon. There was no way to do it…Now there will be. Someone will find a way to do it. And I do not know what the race will be now. I literally haven’t the vaguest clue.”

Charlie Pierce reports in from the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, which to-date have killed three and injured over 140. “Horror has no shelf life anymore. Everybody knows already. Everybody’s a newsman. Everybody’s in showbiz.”

Obviously, yesterday was horrible. Let’s mourn our dead and help our wounded. Let’s honor our first responders and civilian heroes like Carlos Arredondo, the “man in the cowboy hat.” Let’s figure out exactly what happened here and bring the perpetrators to justice. And then, let’s hold our heads high and work to live our lives without fear.

In other words, Keep Calm and Bost On. As I said this past 9/11, we can’t afford to collectively lose our minds again after these sorts of attacks. That’s exactly what purveyors of terrorism want us to do — That’s the entire point. You can see it in Iraq, where 55 died yesterday from car bombs. You can see it in all the ways we fell astray from our fundamental American values after the last attack on our home soil (notwithstanding mass shootings like Tuscon, Aurora, and Newtown.)

When we were tested in this regard after 9/11, we failed in far too many ways. Let’s all try to do better this time. We must love one another or die.

Update: What Martin Richard said.

Five Men of Harvard…

gained victory today. (Sung to the tune of this.) Per tradition, I was out in Seattle over the past weekend for my college group of friends’ annual March Madness festivities. And, for the first time since…well, ever, Harvard actually won a game. This more than makes up for an otherwise sleepy set of second/third round match-ups — the most exciting by far was Butler v. Marquette — as well as my already busted bracket. I inexcusably bought the Gonzaga hype.

The Shawshank Bowl.

“‘It’s startling to see a stadium will be named after them,’ Libal said. ‘It’s like calling something Blackwater Stadium. This is a company whose record is marred by human rights abuses, by lawsuits, by unnecessary deaths of people in their custody and a whole series of incidents that really draw into question their ability to successfully manage a prison facility.’”

Our culture veers even closer to self-parody upon the news that Florida Atlantic University will name its stadium after a private prison conglomerate. “GEO Group reported revenues in excess of $1.6 billion in 2011, income generated mostly from state and federal prisons and detention centers for illegal immigrants.”

What the?! Honestly, how shameful is it that we ostensible lovers of freedom — mainly on account of our ridiculous incarceration rates (for anything other than white-collar crimes) — not only have a private, for-profit prison industry flourishing in our country — one that routinely maintains substandard prisons and undercuts workers’ wages by outsourcing their captive labor force — but that we’re sufficiently unembarrassed about it to start naming stadiums after them? Pathetic.

Update: FAU students make their displeasure known.

The Otter Rim.


In the Moment of Zen department, a geriatric sea otter takes up basketball. Nice inside moves — and I don’t want to be a jerk about this — but given the way the game has evolved, Eddie probably needs to work a little harder on his midrange jumper if he wants to get some run. (Also, try not to get traded to Bright Water.)

Djettison Django?

“Basically, Django Unchained is a B movie. A damn fine B movie, but still a B movie…Despite its slavery setting, Django Unchained isn’t an exploration of the subject. It offers no critical insights into the circumstances, no nuances exploring the political realities (as Lincoln does). In the end, slavery is a prop to excite audience emotion and motivate the action.”

Continuing his recent renaissance as a cultural critic, Kareem explains why the otherwise entertaining Django shouldn’t be an Oscar contender. I agree with the take-films-seriously sentiment, but, at least as far as Oscar goes, that ship sailed decades ago (and he’s too charitable to the excellent-but-also-flawed Lincoln.)

Also making the round today, Christoph Waltz and the SNL gang’s Djesus Uncrossed. A funny idea almost redeemed by Waltz, but as with so much SNL fare the execution is less clever than it should be.

Buy the Ticket, Pitch the Game.

The two drank screwdrivers. Smoked marijuana. Talked through the night. Eventually, Ellis fell asleep. Possibly for an hour. Probably less. Around noon — maybe earlier — he took another dose of LSD. Meanwhile, Mitzi flipped through a newspaper. ‘Dock, you better get up,’ she said. ‘You gotta go pitch!’” For ESPN’s Outside the Lines,” Patrick Hruby and Joe Ciardello offer a lengthy contemplation of Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis, the only fellow in history to (ostensibly) throw a perfect game with a head full of acid.

I actually haven’t read this whole piece yet, but the presentation of this article is amazing. Here’s the same curtain.js script from its source — this time involving lorem ipsum and kittehs.

Secrets of the Five Toes.


We were once the greatest endurance runners on earth. We didn’t have fangs, claws, strength or speed, but the springiness of our legs and our unrivaled ability to cool our bodies by sweating rather than panting enabled humans to chase prey until it dropped from heat exhaustion. Some speculate that collaboration on such hunts led to language, then shared technology. Running arguably made us the masters of the world. So how did one of our greatest strengths become such a liability?

From recently in the NYT, Christopher McDougall makes the case for barefoot and minimalist running. YMMV of course, but at least for me, I’ve felt less injury prone since making the switch a few months ago. “‘Barefoot-style’ shoes are now a $1.7 billion industry. But simply putting something different on your feet doesn’t make you a gliding Tarahumara. The ‘one best way’ isn’t about footwear. It’s about form. Learn to run gently, and you can wear anything. Fail to do so, and no shoe — or lack of shoe — will make a difference.

Keeping an Eye on the Ball.


It sure sounds like a fair place for two hostile opponents to meet. Half the basketball-related income goes to the owners, half the basketball-related income goes to the players and millions of pro basketball fans celebrate their first victory of the season in the form of, you know, a season. But in the end, there’s nothing fair about awarding 50 percent of BRI to the people who amount to 100 percent of the reason there’s any BRI in the first place.

This, this, a thousand times this. As talks continue and games disappear, Ian O’Connor summarizes the central issue of the NBA lockout: the owners bring no value to the table — they’re basically leeches on the system. “LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose — they don’t play in the NBA. They are the NBA. The entire league. The workforce and the product. The owners? They’re just along for the ride.

Now, the better owners, I think — Mark Cuban, say — understand this. They get that an NBA team is a luxury asset that makes most of its money when it it sold, not as a day-to-day enterprise. And they have a good time playing the owner game and getting to hang around with basketball players.

As an aggregate, however, the NBA owners here are the problem. They’ve been lying about their financial straits, and then trying to pin the “downturn” on their employees. Just because the employees are reasonably well-compensated in this instance doesn’t change the fact that this is classic bait-and-switch behavior by management.

If there’s a reason the NBA is doing poorly at the moment — which, again, is an open question due to all the accounting shenanigans — it’s because unemployment is at 9% and poverty is at 15%. We did not get here because Eddy Curry ate his way to the bottom of a ridiculous contract. Besides, it is not Curry’s fault that somebody wants to pay him $100 million a year for riding the bench anyway. It is the fault of whoever paid him – cough, James Dolan — that exorbitant price. So now, owners want to be bailed out by the powers-that-be for their own terrible business decisions? We’ve seen this movie before. Classic corporate-socialism at work.

I expect the players will probably fold in the end, since, like labor in most situations these days, they don’t have much leverage. But, however it all pans out, let’s remember: The players have the skill set. They create the product. There is no product without the players. In an perect world, the owners should give players a generous share of the revenues (since they’re 100% of the value of the operation), and then be happy they get to own a basketball team. Now, let’s play ball.

Update: “One is, historically, you’ve seen franchises appreciate in value and that appreciation has more than outstripped any cash-flow losses that you’ve had…Secondly, it’s a lot of fun to own an NBA franchise…[B]y and large, NBA franchise ownership has been a good investment. You can’t base long-run projections on how you did in the biggest financial downturn of the last 50 years. On that basis, there are no good investments out there.

Karl Malone’s gonna play the way Karl Malone can. And Kevin Murphy’s gonna sort out this lockout like Kevin Murphy do.

Half- and Half-Man Marathons.


To follow up on items mentioned here:

  • Two weeks ago, I did in fact finish the Baltimore Half-Marathon: Total running time was 2 hours, 3 minutes, 35 seconds, so I clocked in at just under nine and a half minute miles. I’m totally fine with that, especially given that I only got in six weekend-warriorish weeks of training beforehand. And, other than not being able to walk so well for a day or two afterwards, no serious damage done – I may be up for another long race as early as December. (This is quite a contrast with my failed attempt to run the DC Cherry Blossom ten-miler earlier this year: Then, my feet fell apart. I’m now an enthusiastic convert to the Vibram toe-shoes.)

  • Also, after a slog through A Feast of Crows in particular, I am now totally caught up with George R.R. Martin on A Song of Ice and Fire. And, well, there is a definite drop in quality after the first three books: Four and five are far more meandering (Martells and Tyrells? 1100 pages and Tyrion still hasn’t met up with Dany?) and repetitive (drink every time somebody says “words are wind“) than they need to be. Still, I’ve read worse: Count me in for Winds of Winter, if and when it ever drops. In the meantime, I’ll be ensconced in Steve Erikson’s ten-tome Malazan Book of the Fallen.

Tricksters on the Borderlands, on the Throne.

A few days ago I was watching Touch of Evil, Orson Welles’ fevered monument to America’s fear of and fascination with the Border, which opens with that famous three-minute tracking shot…It hit me (weirdly, I guess, but I spent way too much time thinking about sports) that this shot contained everything you needed to know about the U.S.-Mexico soccer rivalry.

In Grantland, Brian Phillips looks to the border for insights into the US and Mexico soccer teams. To be honest, I’m not really sold on ESPN’s Grantland experiment just yet. Too much of the site exudes the terrible taste and fratgeek sexism of its editor-in-chief, “Sportsguy” Bill Simmons. Frequent contributor Chuck Klosterman is another red flag to me, for the same reasons. Both consider themselves pop culture arbiters and both are compulsively readable but – Simmons on the NBA notwithstanding — they’re also usually irritating and often wrong.

Still, Grantland does publish worthwhile culture pieces now and again — Hua Hsu on Watch the Throne today is another good one. And, speaking of good Watch the Throne commentary, Matt at Fluxblog has a particularly keen observation on it: “Kanye can’t help but project his intense insecurities – he’s emotionally transparent at all times, and it’s part of what makes him such a fascinating and magnetic pop star. Jay-Z, however, is the radical opposite – his every word and movement is focused on controlling your impression of him…In this way, Kanye is analogous to the Marvel Comics model of whiny, introspective, persecuted superheroes [Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Hulk] and Jay-Z is more like DC Comics’ Superman and Batman, who thrive when creators trade on their stoic, iconic qualities.

Lockout Time Again.


As we slink toward the brink of an NBA lockout — if you have a doomsday clock in the family room, five minutes ’til should do the trick — we ought to look at the latest proposals to get a sort of ‘state of the negotiations.’ And while I’d love to be the one who does that, I simply can’t get over how insane the league’s recent major proposal is. That proposal would cap player salary at $2 billion a year…What the $2 billion cap does is re-route all future growth of the league’s revenue straight to the owners’ pocketbooks.

With an NBA lockout looming tomorrow, SBNation‘s Tom Ziller explains what, exactly, the owners are trying to achieve. (Hint: It’s management’s usual approach to labor.) “There definitely need to be some tweaks, perhaps to contract length…Instead, the league wants to end the reasonable percentage-based split of revenues with players — who are actually the labor and the product in the industry — and ‘guarantee’ $2 billion a year in salary and benefits.

In very related news, as the NBA owners claim large losses (and yet don’t show their books), Deadspin‘s Tommy Cragg dissects how sport teams usually hide profits through a weird tax quirk that defines players as depreciable assets. “Every year, taxpayers hand the plutocrats who own sports franchises a fat pile of money for no other reason than that one of those plutocrats, many years ago, convinced the IRS that his franchise is basically a herd of cattle.

Banjos, Blood, and Baseball.

In the trailer bin of late:

  • A frog-without-fear does his best to defend Sector 2814 in another parody trailer for The Muppets, with Jason Segal, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, and a cast of many. (It’s the Muppets. I’m in.)

  • A shirtless barbarian takes to beheading like it’s his business, which I suppose it probably is, in this violent R-rated look at Khal Drogo Conan the Barbarian, with Jason Momoa, Ron Perlman, Rachel Nichols, Rose McGowan, and Steven Lang. (Hard to imagine this being better than the classic Oliver Stone-penned original. I presume this’ll be hagga.)

  • And the Oakland A’s get the Aaron Sorkin treatment in Bennet Miller’s adaptation of Michael Lewis’s Moneyball, with Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright, and Darryl Strawberry. (Looks…Sorkin-y. But definitely maybe.)

Gratz to the “Mavaliers.”


“‘This is a true team,’ Carlisle said. ‘This is an old bunch. We don’t run fast or jump high. These guys had each other’s backs. We played the right way. We trusted the pass. This is a phenomenal thing for the city of Dallas.’

Way to shield the hated Heat…Proving once again I know nothing about basketball, the Dallas Mavericks win the 2011 NBA title over the team America — and especially Cleveland(rightfully) loves to hate, the Wade-Bosh-James Miami Heat. Congrats!

As for my picking Dallas to lose in the first round to Portland, clearly I never factored for (1) Dirk being even more unbelievable than usual, (2) Tyson Chandler giving Dallas a legitimate defensive anchor, (3) J.J. Barea weirdly slicing through the Heat D at will, (4) Jason Terry actually hitting a lot of the ill-advised shots he puts up, and (5) LeBron disappearing once again in the clutch. In the end, it’s starting to seem like the Knicks dodged a bullet last summer, and no mistake.

Fan-Tastic 2011.

Since it’s that particular Saturday morning in April again, time for this year’s NBA playoff picks. (Note: accuracy of picks may well be impacted by the return of the Knickerbockers after seven years of ignominy.) Here we go…

[2000|2001|2002|2003|2004|2005|2006|2007|2008|2009|2010]

The East

Chicago Bulls (1) v. Indiana Pacers (8): What a difference a year makes. This time in 2010, Cleveland was the Court of King James and the Eastern powerhouse everyone was watching, while Chicago was the lowly 8-seed that everyone expected would just be happy to be there. Now, Cleveland is fighting it out with Minnesota for lottery balls, and it’s Derrick Rose’s multifaceted Chicago Bulls with the targets on their back. As in the past several years, the Eastern Conference 8-seed is an iffy squad — Indiana went 37-45 and are coming in on a 2-game losing streak — so I don’t expect Chicago to be tested here. Chicago in 4.

Miami Heat (2) v. Philadelphia 76ers (7): This was looking like a return to the Knicks-Heat series of old before New York went on a late-season streak and the Celts faded down the stretch. Anyways, the Heatles (Wade, LeBron, and Bosh — does that make Mike Miller Ringo?) have been a combustible squad all season, and, after watching LeBron mentally check out of the Boston series last year, I have much less faith in his multi-ring playoff potential than I used to. Still, they were designed with the post-season in mind, and the Sixers are only slightly better than Indiana. Gonna have to go Miami in 5.

Boston Celtics (3) v. New York Knicks (6): Hey, look, it’s the Knickerbockers! Now, all the smart money has the Celtics in this match-up, and my head tells me that’s probably true. In fact, they’ll probably take the Knicks in five or six — New York is still a work in progress, and we’re really one more star and 2-3 more role players away from really contending. Still, after an ugly March, Amare and Melo seemed to be finding their groove in the last few weeks of the season, while Boston — a team I’d root for in most other situations — has looked haggard and ornery ever since they traded Kendrick Perkins away at the deadline. And, hey, it’s been seven years, so why not say New York in 7.

Orlando Magic (4) v. Atlanta Hawks (5): Like the Mavericks in the West, Orlando is a team built around a force of nature (Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Howard) that I’m starting to think is never going to put it together. That being said, they’re facing a team they swept last year, and one who has been struggling (10-17) since the All-Star break. Orlando in 5.

The West

San Antonio Spurs (1) v. Memphis Grizzlies (8): Much credit to the Spurs — Their transition has been extraordinary. Even as Tim Duncan’s era of dominance fades, the Spurs have been consistent all season and even managed to win the West. I don’t see them having much trouble with the Grizzlies. San Antonio in 5.

Los Angeles Lakers (2) v. New Orleans Hornets (7): Ironically, this is the first season in a long time where I might have rooted for the Lakers. Should they manage to make it to the Finals versus Cleveland, sure, I’d root for Phil Jackson to get his twelfth ring. But, like Boston, they have been showing their age down the stretch, and Bynum being hurt — again — doesn’t help matters. They’ll beat Chris Paul and the Hornets, but I’m thinking they won’t make it to June this year. Los Angeles in 6.

Dallas Mavericks (3) v. Portland Trailblazers (6): As I said in the Orlando section, I have my doubts that they’re serious contenders anymore. Unfortunately for Dirk, who’s a consistently impressive and gutty player, I’m starting to think he’s going to end up like Barkley or Ewing, a star without a ring. Especially when they’re facing a young, hungry, and dangerous Trailblazers squad, the team nobody wanted in the first round. Portland in 6.

Oklahoma City Thunder (4) v. Denver Nuggets (5): With a legitimate second option in Russell Westbrook and a playoff veteran manning the paint in Kendrick Perkins, it seems about time for Kevin Durant’s OKC to make the leap. Still, after watching Gallinari, Felton, et al play for the first half of the season, I have a soft spot for “Knicks West.” Denver in 7.

The Rest

Chicago Bulls (1) v. Orlando Magic (5): One would think Orlando might have a slight advantage here because they’re a playoff-tested team. Unfortunately, they’ve failed most of those tests. Meanwhile, the Bulls enjoy the benefit of a great and hungry coach in longtime-assistant Tom Thibodeau, a superstar floor general in Rose, a dangerous set of second and third options (Boozer, Deng, Noah), and guys who know their roles all the way down the bench. (For example, Brian Scalabrine will happily wave a towel, Kurt Thomas will pay 10 minutes, flagrantly foul Howard, and scowl, etc. etc.) Chicago in 6.

Miami Heat (2) v. New York Knicks (6): See, this is what being a Homer gets you. Now I have the Knicks outperforming the first round only to play the hated Heat in the second. And damned if I’m going to pick Miami — particularly this Miami team, the most easily dislikable since the Mourning-Hardaway outfits of the late-90′s — to beat New York, even if, you know, that probably makes a lot more sense. New York in 7.

San Antonio Spurs (1) v. Denver Nuggets (5): Like I said, I like this Denver team — but they’re gunners. If the shots aren’t falling, they are going to stink up the joint. And when you move deeper into the playoffs and the tension builds, those rims will start to clank more often than not. Plus, I have a feeling, even if the Spurs are built on speed attack these days, that Gregg Popovitch will figure out how to close Denver down with not much trouble. San Antonio in 5.

Los Angeles Lakers (2) v. Portland Trailblazers (6): WIth or without Bynum, I suspect Kobe has the killer instinct to put LA on his back and get them past the Blazers (or, at the very least, he’ll yell at Pau Gasol until he does it.) Still, LA may win this season, but Portland is going to tire them out, and that’s going to be a factor in the next round. Los Angeles in 6.

EAST FINALS: Chicago Bulls (1) v. New York Knicks (6): Ok, I think here’s where reality sets in. Even if New York makes it this far, they will have had to knock off two of the three main contenders from the East. Meanwhile, Chicago has had a pretty easy road of it — nobody’s really imagining Indiana or Orlando to go anywhere deep. Plus, let’s face it, the Knicks have a lot of exposed holes still…like Denver, they rely on offense and offense only. But wait ’til next year — Chris Paul will look great in the blue-and-orange. Chicago in 6.

WEST FINALS: San Antonio Spurs (1) v. Los Angeles Lakers (2): You again, I see — The two best teams of the last decade meet for yet another go-round in the Western Conference finals. And, this year, Tim Duncan has more fresh legs on his side than Kobe. San Antonio in 7.

FINALS: Chicago Bulls (1) v. San Antonio Spurs (1): Ok, they’re both one-seeds, but a lot of you have the Heat and/or Lakers here, right? Anyways, it’s hard to bet against Gregg Popovitch and Tim Duncan in the NBA Finals. But it’s also hard not to like this Bulls team, who are both well-rounded and deep. I’ll keep it real for the East and say Chicago in 7.

So, looking back on this, I actually find myself rooting for the Bulls and the Lakers at various points. Strange times we live in, strange times. Anyway, Game 1 is starting right about now, so let’s go to it! The NBA, it’s faaaan-tastic.

The Coming of Carmelo.


‘Wow, just had the craziest 12 hours of my career,’ Anthony said on his Twitter account last night.” That late-night booyah! sound you heard the other night? That was Knickerbocker Nation reacting to the happy news that, after a half-season of crossed fingers at the Garden, the impressively over-performing Amar’e Stoudamire will get some much-needed help in Carmelo Anthony (not to mention veteran Chauncey Billups, who will take over for Raymond Felton at the point…at least until Chris Paul can get free…)

To make this dynamic duo happen, we had to give up Felton, streaky scorers Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler, 7-foot prospect Timofey Mozgov, X-factor-gone-bust Anthony Randolph, the ghost of Eddy Curry, some future draft picks and some cash…For the record, I am totally ok with all of this.

As ESPN’s Ian O’Connor writes, “This is a great deal for the Knicks, a greater moment for their fan base…[I]t’s one of the best trades this team has made since Eddie Donovan acquired Dave DeBusschere in 1968.” Let’s hope events bear out this sportswriterly exaggeration — The Carmelo Era at MSG begins tonight at 7:30.

Omsbudsdog Emeritus

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