Saturday, November 27, 2010

An Awkward Conversation With My Greg Oden Bobblehead

We're moving to a new house next week. So I went down to the basement today to figure out what to pack and what to get rid of. Near a shelf of old books and CD's, I had an unexpected encounter with my Greg Oden Bobblehead doll. It was awkward, to say the least.

I'd forgotten he was even down there, honestly. I'd stashed him after the celebration in Pioneer Square following the 2007 Draft- the golden days before everything fell apart. I was convinced he'd be worth something someday.

Needless to say, a lot of stuff has happened since then, bad stuff- catastrophes this miniature figurine was completely unaware of. His eyes gleamed with hope.

GOB: Hey, man! So good to see you!

Me: Oh. Hey.

I shifted my weight back and forth and averted my eyes. He stared and fondled his basketball nervously.

GOB: How long have I been down here?

Me: Three years.

GOB: Three years? (long pause) So what's going on with my career? Am I an All-Star yet?

Me: Uh...not exactly.

GOB: Why? What happened?

He wasn't going to let me off the hook.

Me: Well...damn. Shit. Fuck it, I'm just gonna tell you everything. You get hurt as soon as the season starts. You keep getting hurt after that. At one point, you get hurt getting off your couch. You gain a lot of weight. You grow cornrows. You have a permanent sad face. People compare you to Sam Bowie and Erick Dampier. It ain't pretty, man. Oh, yeah, I almost forgot- you text some chick your dong and it ends up on the internet. You have to publicly apologize. Not for the dick. Everyone gives you major props for the dick. But you apologize for the sexting. It's called sexting.

GOB: Sexting?

Me: Sexting. And Kevin Durant, the guy taken immediately behind you, turns into a superstar who leads the league in scoring every year. Your name becomes synonymous with FAIL.

At this point, my diminutive friend broke into tears, his head bobbling dejectedly.

Me: Hey, it's okay, little guy. It's not all bad. When you did play, you played pretty well. And someone will probably pay you a lot of money soon to try again. It might not be here in Portland, though. People are skittish about you here now.

Then he was suddenly angry and defensive.

GOB: Why'd you leave me down here so long?

Me: Honestly, you kinda bum me out. You remind me of what could have been. Look at you- all lean and hungry. You can barely move these days. It's really, really, really sad.

I struggled to find the right words, comforting words. He broke the silence instead.

GOB: What are you doing down here?

Me: We're moving. I'm trying to figure out what to throw away.

GOB: Are you gonna throw me away?

Me: I have a kid now. And you're bad news bears, man. It's like there's a curse on you, like the tiki idol from the Brady Bunch Hawaii episode. I don't want you around my daughter.

GOB: That's some fucked up shit.

Me: I know. I'm sorry.

Yet another cringe-inducing silence.

GOB: Congrats on your daughter.

Me: Thanks.

GOB: Are you getting rid of me right now?

Me: No. We don't move for another week. I'm just seeing what's down here.

GOB: Cool. Thanks. Seriously. I appreciate the second chance.

Me: No, it's not really a second...

GOB: (interrupting) I won't let you down this time.

Me: (sigh) I know you won't, Greg. I know you won't.

I patted his little head like I would a puppy's. He lowered his gaze and stared at the floor.

Then I went back up the stairs. I could hear his tiny sobs and the click-click-click of his neck as I reached the top step and shut off the light.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

NBA's Weakest Links

A good gameplan is invaluable in the NBA. It's the difference between a win and a loss most nights.

More often than not, the gameplan is built around attacking the other team's weakest link. It's like a nature show- the predators circle the herd until they can single out the old, clumsy one to be their dinner.

Here's a team-by-team listing of who opposing coaches consistently try to exploit:

Mike Bibby. The dude couldn't guard me, much less NBA-level point guards. When Jamal Crawford enters the fray, he becomes the target.

They don't really have an Achilles Heel to speak of. Maybe that's why they keep going the Finals.

DJ Augustin wears a bullseye every night. Boris Diaw is soft like cookie dough.

Derrick Rose has improved a bit but is still viewed as a favorable matchup by most coaches.

Anyone not named Anderson Varejao will do but Mo Williams and Antawn Jamison are usually the focal points.

Kidd and Dirk both get isolated a lot on the perimeter because of their lack of footspeed.

Whoever Al Harrington or Melo guards has a big night.

Ben Gordon and Charlie V both play D like cancer patients.

Only Dorell Wright defends. Take your pick from anyone else.

Kevin Martin and Aaron Brooks have a rep for only playing one side of the ball.

Mike Dunleavy. Too easy.

Another toss up. When you can score easily on everyone, why bother singling someone out? That's just cruel.

Derek Fisher. Fish has had trouble staying in front of PGs for ages now. Russell Westbrook devoured him in the playoffs last year.

Z-Bo has blocked one shot this year. He might as well cherry pick on every possession.

Carlos Arroyo is the Puerto Rican Mike Bibby.

Cory Maggette and defense go together like vodka and milk. Drew Gooden also loses interest when he's not shooting the ball.

Again, too many options. All you need to do is move the ball around. Kevin Love makes Brad Miller look like Usain Bolt.

Devin Harris' guy can take it easy and let everyone else feast. Trout and Bropez take the most abuse.

New Orleans
Marco Belinelli has inherited geriatric Peja's role as 'one-dimensional shooter who can't defend for shit.' It's amazing to me they're winning so much, honestly.

New York
Why is Amar'e so aggressive on offense yet so passive on D? He's got the physical tools to be a great defender but lacks the grit. Can you imagine Charles Oakley in Stoudemire's body?

Last year, their D was great. This year, not so much. I refuse to believe Shawn Livingston was the difference.

Rashard Lewis, Vince Carter and Jameer get lots of attention. Problem is, all three have the best defensive big man in the game behind them to erase mistakes and blown assignments. A nice luxury.

Elton Brand even looks like a hobbled old water buffalo. Try him first.

Steve Nash, all day, every day.

Brandon Roy's knees are reportedly bone-on-bone. Go after him. Or Andre Miller.

UPDATE: Roy missed tonight's game. Ruh roh.

Beno is Slovenian for 'help.' Just kidding, it actually means 'rapist.' Still kidding. I have no idea what Beno means in Slovenian.

Tony Parker, DeJuan Blair, Matt Bonner. In his career, Tim Duncan's covered up more mistakes than the Pentagon.

Last year, Andrea Bargnani proved he was too earthbound to check centers. This year, he's too lumbering to stay with power forwards.

Al Jefferson's currently playing out of position at C. Go inside early and often.

Gilbert's a notoriously crappy defender. So's Yi Jianlian. And Al Thornton. And JaVale McGee. No gameplan necessary.

So there you have it. Now you can be an NBA coach.

Before signing off I'd like to point out that advance defensive stats don't always support my selections. But with as much covering and helping as happens in most NBA games, it's rare that the initial matchup is what results in the made basket. A typical play would be more like this: Bibby's man beats him off the dribble, gets into the paint, dishes to a wide open shooter, scrambling defense rotates, open shooter dishes to even more wide open shooter, made bucket- all because Bibby couldn't keep his guy out of the paint. Statistically, Bibby doesn't get 'credited' with giving up the basket because two passes occurred after his blown assignment. But he's the reason the defense fails, whether stats show that or not.

Pictured: Bibby in familiar territory- trailing the play, ten feet off the ball with his hands down

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Daughter 1, Basketball 0

First off, let me apologize for not posting anything in months now. My newborn daughter has taken up most of my time (yes, I'm already blaming her for my shortcomings). The little munchkin has prevented me from watching my usual regimen of games. My basketball fandom exists in fifteen minute increments now- catch a quarter of basketball while she's napping, tweet a few witty comments, then get back to the rocking, bouncing and diaper changes.

And I've been missing some really terrific writing opportunities, too. The first month of this season has already produced a profound fall from grace for LeBron James, a resurgence of the left-for-dead New Orleans Hornets, Rajon Rondo's John Stockton impression, KG calling Charlie V a "cancer patient" and Kevin Love's absolutely ridiculous 30/30 game. Juicy plotlines galore.

I'm also interested in exploring what's wrong with the Thunder. Or why Baron Davis is such a slug. Or how Steve Nash could have a baby one day and get a divorce the next. Or what it was like for Joakim Noah to grow up with famous parents.

And I'm DYING to do a piece called 10 Things You Didn't Know About Reggie Evans.

These things intrigue me. But not nearly as much as making my little girl smile. I might be lost for good. I might be in transition from hardcore to casual fan. This blog might be an afterthought. Or I could teach her to love basketball as much as I do. We'll see...

All I can say at this point is follow me on Twitter. I'm good for a couple jokes a day.

Pictured: my ruin